Friday, 6 July 2012

More notes from the sessions

Notes taken by Charlotte Calder, Christine Sykes and Linda Stevenson

History is Selling – Pamela Rushby, Belinda Murrell, Lisa Berryman, Zoe Walton. Chair – Mark Greenwood.

Belinda: History is hot! Kids love to escape – be swept away. She used to be a travel writer – loves going on location for her historical settings. Kids love Aust history – curious.
Pamela: History has the ‘wow’ factor and the best, strangest, most vivid stories are the real ones. She ‘trips over’ her huge range of settings and periods. A trained historian – loves hanging out in museums. Advice – write hist fiction tying in with school curriculums.
Zoe: Time slip a nifty device – gives young readers a comfortable progression. But the mechanics of this can be a trap – careful system required. Need for veracity and authenticity. Speculative fiction draws lots from history. Modern fiction can incorporate history. Find your own take on history.
Lisa: Her fave genre. New curriculum favours hist fiction. Anniversaries eg Anzac Day important to publishers. Growing appetite for hist fiction helped by film and tv – resurgence of bonnet dramas, history channel etc. Kids fascinated by history.
QnAs: The challenge of writing history for pre-school and infant ages – not much around. Look for funding for historical research – Aust Council and other grants. A note on multiple submissions – let all the publishers concerned know.
(Reported by Charlotte Calder)

Reaching into the Heart – Realistic Fiction – Sally Murphy, Pru Mason, Meg McKinlay, Sarah Foster. Chair – Sue Whiting

Sue: Good realistic fiction illuminates life with honesty and truth.
Prue: Started out wanting to write fantasy. Was writing for a kids’ newspaper in the Middle East – great training. Early influence of Ivan Southall.
Meg: Considers herself an observer rather than a storyteller. Started as an adult poet – she’s a ‘collector of fragments’. Not interested in and struggles with plot. Has always written snippets and scenarios.
Sally: Tackles difficult topics. Childhood reading was reality fiction – from first reading of verse novel, wanted to do it herself. Pearl came first to her as a character rather than a situation.
Sarah: Good writing surpasses pigeon holing of genre. Looking for Alibrandi had a huge impact on her. Difference between adult and YA – YA carries responsibilities to the reader.
Sue: 5 out of 6 of last year’s CBCA YA shortlist were realistic. But of Dymock’s top 50 sellers last year, only 15 were realistic – Harry Potter etc.
Meg: Why does ‘realistic’ reach into the heart more than ‘spec’ fiction? Says she’s too lazy to invent a spec world!
Sally: Pearl made into a play. Pearl is actually her.
Sarah: The need to put heart into fiction. Importance of humour.
Meg: Her boy characters come from all her brothers.
Prue: Says she finds big humour hard – hers more gentle and ironic.
Q&As: Almost all set books are realistic. They’re springboards for discussion.
(Reported by Charlotte Calder)

Inside the Educational Book Market – Maria GillSheryl Gwyther, Lesley Vamos, Meredith Costain. Chair – Dianne Wolfer

2 types discussed
- work commissioned by publishers
- author driven and pitched, eg in school magazines
How to break into the genre – networking at conferences. Being alert to events, opportunities, upcoming anniversaries etc. The new national curriculum – lots of opportunities.
Importance of adhering to publishers’ requirements. Can be v prescriptive, strict word limits, precise referencing. NB Deadlines – often v short. Author may have to suggest or even provide illustrations – carry a camera. Your words will be changed.
Illustrators – research the market, write letters and send portfolios. Show ethnic diversity. Let people know what you do. Persevere!
(Reported by Linda Stevenson)

What do the publishers say – picture books – Tegan Morrison, Karen Tayleur, Jeanmarie Morosin. Chair – Frané Lessac.
Each publishes between 9 – 15 pic books a year. Random House and Five Mile Press looking at revamping their pic book lists this year. Authors and illustrators encouraged to approach publishers at events such as this – flowers and chocs help!! Authors encouraged to provide assistance after publication with blogging, social media and schools and events appearances. All publishers try for overseas sales. ABC have had recent success in Korea and China with Oz pic books. Current  pic book gaps are Anzac Day, humour and universal themes.
All found the Illustrator Showcase v useful – some illustrators will be approached.
Only submit your best story. Don’t provide directions for illustrators.
(Reported by Christine Sykes)

What do the publishers say – children and YA – Sarah Foster, Zoe Walton, Jill Corcoran, Lisa Berryman. Chair – Wendy Blaxland.

Q:  What’s important?
Lisa – freshness, quality of writing
Sarah – Able to take feedback on board v important. Delete illustrations for pic books and don’t get a friend to provide illustrations! Don’t tell publishers your visions for the marketing of the book!
Zoe – Make sure your letter is professional.
Jill – You always know straight away when you like a book. Not interested if there are lots of comparable books. Always Googles an author.
Q: What’s important in a working relationship with an author or illustrator?
Sarah: Professionalism, commitment to project + loyalty, a long-term relationship.
Zoe: Ditto. She loves conversations with her authors.
Jill: Is an editing agent – important for client to be able to work with an editor. Loyalty – be upfront about changes and planning.
Lisa: Discretion – relationships important.
Q: Digital publishing – how is it affecting publishing?
Jill: Most digital work starts out digital. Advances are going down. Publishers are insisting on e-book rights.
Lisa: Digital is opening up myriads of opportunities for republishing and self-publishing.
Sarah: E-book publishing very expensive
Jill: Right now YA most e-affected.
Zoe: Ditto. It’s not all Amazon here, unlike US and UK – dilemmas are being worked through re pricing.
Jill: Puzzling situation
Q: Are you optimistic?
All answered ‘yes’
Sarah: Not enough editors being trained in-house.
Lisa: Do allow room for illustrators’ input in pic book manuscripts.
Q: piracy?
-          Hackers one step ahead; publishers doing everything poss to stop it.
-          Public needs to be educated to pay for the earnings of artists.
(Reported by Charlotte Calder)


  1. Some good insights. Sheryl you've done a fabulous job of relaying the SCBWI conference to those of us who couldn't make it. You've also made me determined to make the effort next time. Lots of great guest posters on this blog and thanks to everyone for sharing the information :)

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