Please welcome today's guest blogger, author and illustrator, Peter Taylor. Take it away, Peter...
I’ve always been a writer and artist. When still at high school, I wrote and illustrated guides to local nature reserves. Later, as a teacher, I enjoyed re-writing text books to make them easier for less-able children to understand.
None of my trade books have resulted from adding the ms to the slush pile. The first one was The Australian Manual of Calligraphy, published by Allen and Unwin in 1987 and, under a different title overseas, by HarperCollins. It was initially offered to Barbara Nichol, owner of The Pen Shoppe in Brisbane – but she said she didn’t have time to write and suggested they contact me. It pays to make friends and network! It was for adults and older children.
I didn’t try writing more books for several years, but enjoyed making up stories for my young children. My wife suggested that I should do it properly, and in 1999 I completed the ‘Diploma in Professional Children’s Writing’ through the Australian College of Journalism, with Marg McAlister as a tutor, followed by a three month ‘Career Booster’ mentorship with her. I’ll always be grateful for her encouragement as well as the content and critiques she provided.
She also told me to consider joining SCBWI, as did Jen McVeity after I attended a talk she gave in Brisbane. I joined in 2003 and I think I was one of only three or four Queensland members. We never had any contact with each other. I was very much a ‘newbie’ to the children’s book scene when I attended the first Conference in Sydney and knew nobody apart from the few Queenslanders. Susanne introduced me to a number of people and I was amazed that within minutes I was accepted into the fraternity of children’s books creators. The sessions were highly informative, inspirational and motivating – but the most lasting thing for me was being made to truly feel part of the industry.
I’ve not missed a Conference so far and I don’t intend to miss any in the future.
|Peter's calligraphy work|
This first one was the catalyst for me to immerse myself completely in improving my writing craft and also to keep abreast of industry changes and expectations, marketing strategies and gather promotional opportunities that I can share directly with other members, or through the Discussion Boards. I’ve gained lots of international friends through the Discussion Boards.
I’ve since had other trade books published and self-published a picture book, but consider myself a writer as much as an author and occasional illustrator because, as well as aiming for publication, I love writing articles, emails, blog posts, forum posts, newsletters and the occasional verse.
It would have been easy to give up trying to write more books when rejections became a way of life. I may not have kept at it without having experienced the support and encouragement of network buddies and SCBWI members at Sydney Conferences, and particularly that given by editors present who have expressed a wish to receive forthcoming mss. Without them, I would never have gone to the 2010 SCBWI Symposium in Bologna, the Book Fair, the London Digital Conference and the London Book Fair, and to research in England for my YA in progress. My new book, Calligraphy for Greetings Cards and Scrapbooking, resulted from an unplanned meeting with a publisher at the London Book Fair.
At this year’s Conference I know I’ll learn from all sessions; receive constructive, friendly and exceptionally valuable advice from editors and an agent appraising my mss and portfolio, as well as from generous members. I’ll be inspired by presenters, members and the work of illustrators; have the opportunity for my work and ideas to become known more widely; catch up with old friends and make new ones; network with publishing professionals who hopefully will conclude that I could be easy to work with if I ever come up with a story that they like.
I'll network with individuals and share experiences and information; maybe discuss a possible collaboration or two; receive genuine celebration of my successes ...and commiserations for frustrations experienced - and I’ll be able to celebrate the successes of others and give sympathy.
I’ll laugh a lot and feel plumptuous after eating a lot, be well entertained and sleep very little. But also, like so many others attending, I’ll help with the smooth running of the event when I can; share my expertise, experiences and gleanings whenever its appropriate; make newcomers feel welcome and valued (please introduce yourself if I don’t find you first), and give enormous thanks to the organisers and presenters for what will certainly be the highlight event of the year.
This Conference is not only about receiving, but also giving back to the organisation, professionals and members who have done so much to support and encourage me. But I can also guarantee that I’ll depart feeling inspired, rejuvenated and with a new zest and action plan to complete projects in progress, start new ones and market myself and my books effectively.
Check out Peter's blog: www.writing-for-children.blogspot.com