I spent last weekend in Winchester at the annual SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference, in the company of nearly 200 wonderful writers and illustrators. I’ve come back absolutely buzzing with inspiration and ideas, buoyed by meeting dozens of new people, armed with a host of invaluable tips on craft, and possessed of new insights into the industry around children’s books.
I need to catch up on family life and more mundane matters now, but here are five things I learnt at my first conference :
1 – Expect … Anything!
If a well-spoken man wearing a suit and bowtie comes on stage, do not be surprised if he starts with a clip from Pulp Fiction and invites the audience to dance along with Travolta and Thurman. This is apparently completely normal. All three keynote speakers (Sarah McIntyre/Philip Reeve, Jonny Duddle, and David Fickling) were wonderful, engaging, and interesting, in very different ways. I found myself humming the “eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep-eep” song to myself many hours later, and again as I type this…
2 – Dare to share…
Scoobies really are the warmest bunch. I met dozens of people that I recognised by name from the Facebook group. I’m a social wallflower, but the atmosphere so was friendly that it was never an issue for me, and I met so many lovely folk, including two of my online critique group who I’d never met offline. (Hopefully all of my crit group can meet up at a future event/conference.) Special thanks to Liz Miller for introducing me to so many people, and being my personal guide (not to mention transport) to the conference!
3 – Writers are people too…
When I realised that the writer of my younger son’s favourite picture book was at the pirate party, I had to box my introvert and say hello. I told him that my son (nearly 3) is a late developer in terms of language, and can’t yet say mummy or daddy… But he does try to say “no ship, no food, no way home” and other lines from Ten Little Pirates. Mike Brownlow seemed genuinely touched. One of the reasons I write picture books is to hopefully one day be on the other end of this, having inspired a similar reaction in a child 🙂
4 – Nearly everyone loves to dress up as pirates
Some had suspiciously good outfits (my personal favourite was Katherine’s treasure map dress, hand-illustrated and wonderfully detailed… even down to the location of Duddle Island)… Are there lots of secret weekend pirates in SCBWI?
5 – I need to raise my game…
The creative energy was invigorating, but a snapshot into a school visit by Sarah McIntyre and Philip Reeve – complete with songs, games, outrageous costumes, amazing illustrations and bags of FUN – sets the bar pretty high for the rest of us! Inspired by George Kirk (and Reeve and McIntyre), I’ve asked my wife for a ukulele for Christmas… Neighbours, beware!
Sadly I didn’t get to talk to everyone that I wanted to say hello to… So I guess I’ll need to go back next year and put that right 🙂
Photo is of the engaging and piratical Jonny Duddle talking about his book, The Pirate-Cruncher