Friday, 25 May 2012


Wow, I've had a terrific response from authors and illustrators offering their tips on how to get the most out of your SCBWI Conference. Now over to them...

When I attended the CBCA conference in Sydney a few years ago, I felt very overwhelmed – not only from the insanely good programme, but from the crowd. I was relatively new to the children’s book industry at the time, and although I knew lots of people by name or in a virtual sense, I had never met them in person, so found myself foundering a little when it came to networking.

In hindsight, I would have spent more time tee-ing up with people, asking them if they were going and if we could meet up at some stage. If you do find yourself immersed in the book-loving fray of a conference without a networking buddy, look for someone in a similar position and introduce yourself.
They may also be relieved to have someone to chat and share their experiences with – and you may even make an amazing new friend.

If you are established and heavily networked and notice someone sitting on the ‘I’m lonely’ bench – reach out and introduced them to people. Feeling included and welcome can mean a much richer conference experience for all delegates.

Unpublished writers:
* Do bring business cards.
* Do think about a story you've been working on so that if a publisher asks you, you can be succinct and enticing.
* Do be prepared to introduce yourself to people.
* Do listen to the stories of others, while realising that experiences can differ markedly
* Don't bring copies of manuscript to give publishers
* Don't go into great detail about your manuscript, unless specifically asked
* Don't apologise for being unpublished.

Published writers (some of the above apply as well):
* Do bring business cards
* Don't bag publishers even if your experience has been negative

LESLEY VAMOS, illustrator:
Don't decide that this will be your big break and subsequent launching pad to your career. Expecting too much from a conference usually leads to putting too much pressure on yourself as well as major disappointment which can mean the small wins aren't counted. 

Relax, be in the moment and enjoy the experience of being around people that share your passion.              

SUE LAWSON, author:
1. Choose food carefully. Balancing a drink and a potentially messy morsel can end in disaster! Those greasy marks are never a good look.

2. Network! All attendees share your passion. Children's book people are incredibly friendly and generous.
3. Keep your pen and notebook or iPad handy - there is always so much brilliant information your brain will struggle to absorb it all unless you take notes.
4. If flying, pack light - I guarantee you'll return home with many new and signed books.

For published authors/illustrators - Say hello to everyone you collide with at the SCBWI Conference. Lifelong friends are made at Children's Book gatherings. 

For pre-published, do the same, you'll just need to be a little braver. I think that often we return from conferences or seminars maybe feeling we should have asked that burning question (but didn't because we were too shy to put up our hand), gone up to that famous author or illustrator and introduced ourselves (instead of being tentative or terrified) or walked up to that table, the one with only a single spare place and asked if we could join the group. 

Only exception is making sure we give publishers and agents the privacy they deserve when they are doing things like eating breakfast or using the bathroom.
I often find that it's after returning home that the benefits jump out and scream at me. I always take notes, all the important bits, and revisit the experience again, working things out as to who fits where and who works for which publishing house. All you need is an email address and you can keep contact with those new acquaintances.
Most of all, drink in the atmosphere and enjoy the experience.

Besides the obvious that I'm sure everyone has said (be professional, regardless of whether you're talking to an industry representative, a presenter or a conference attendee), be prepared and always have a 1-sentence and a 1-minute summary of your manuscript in your head. 

Even if you never get to use it out loud, it's a good writing exercise to be able to reduce your story down to a sentence or paragraph. 

I think it was Darren Groth who gave me this advice years ago and I have always remembered it. (Thanks, Darren!). Other than that, have fun being with a room full of like-minded people - book lovers! (Julie, it was Darren! I remember the occasion and how clever he is at grabbing the essential..Ed.)

• Standing on the edge of a crowded room heaving with bubbly people who all seem to know each other can be intimidating – but people who work in children’s publishing (whether as authors, illustrators, designers, editors or publishers) are some of the nicest and friendliest people on the planet! And you’re all there for the same reason – a love of children’s books. 
Take a deep breath and join the nearest group! Remember, everyone started from the same position you’re in.
• Try to book a room in the hotel if you can. As much schmoozing is done at breakfast or in the hotel lounge or out on the terrace (often into the wee hours) as at the conference itself.
• Try to condense the outline for your latest masterpiece down to one or two sentences, so you can tell people (including interested agents or publishers) about it succinctly when they ask you: So what are you working on at the moment?
• Bring along some business cards or post cards to hand out.
• If you are a sax player or a drummer (with lounge lizard tendencies), please let me know immediately!
• Most importantly, have fun!
This will be Meredith’s fourth international SCBWI conference, and she can’t wait for it to begin!        

I think the most important thing is meeting new people and sharing ideas.  Going to at least one session that is different to what you normally do is another way to make the most of a conference.

TINA MARIE CLARK, author, CYA Conference manager
My only thing to a newbie at a SCBWI conference: Don't go in there thinking you know everything, let your mind be open to all the wonderful talent around you, to the tips from the speakers and listen to what people have to say. Network.
Introduce yourself, don't be afraid to talk to the person sitting next to you. You might never know who they are. Authors, publishers, agents - don't have a tattoo on their foreheads advertising who they are!

If you would like to add your comments or hints, please join the conversation!
Many thanks to everyone who responded to this call out. 
I'm sure your hints and advice will be much appreciated... Sheryl 

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Is this your first SCBWI Conference?

You stand like that proverbial shag until you recognise someone from Facebook. Into the throng you head... (then again, you may just stand on your lonely rock until someone says hello).
2010 SCBWI Conference Dinner
For a first time SCBWI conference attendee the experience can be overwhelming.. a room filled with hundreds of people talking and laughing, happy to catch up with colleagues and friends and, worst of all everybody seems to know each other (except for you). 

I used to be very shy (still am, not that you can tell!) so I understand how difficult it can be approaching strangers, especially award-winning authors, publishers, agents and the like.... what if they ask you what you're writing? What if you'd rather battle a monster from the deep than pitch your 50,000 word fantasy novel in two sentences? What if you sound like a complete nong? Yep, been there, done that.

I was lucky on my first conference attendance - I knew several writers from an online children's writing group I'm in (here's looking at you, KWDers!) and it was great to connect with them in the real.

Authors, Dee White and Oliver Phommavanh   

This will be my third SCBWI A/NZ Conference and I can't wait. 

We're part of a very special creative industry and everyone I've ever met in this industry feels the same way. That's why we love connecting at the bi-annual SCBWI Conference in Sydney - and being with the tribe.

Tomorrow, I'll post a very useful blog - gleaned from some of Australia's best-loved writers and illustrators especially for you. Tips for Attending your first SCBWI Conference. 
Lots of great advice for not-as-yet writers and/or published. Also some great tips for us old-timers!

Do you have some extra advice for attendees? 
Remember to leave your comments on tomorrow's post...

Authors/illustrators, Lynn Priestley, Kathleen Noud, Julie Nickerson
Chatting in The Hughenden's lounge

Monday, 21 May 2012

Guest blog: GOING DIGITAL with Jeni Mawter

Jeni Mawter
Author, Jeni Mawter will be one of the speakers on the conference panel subject, GOING DIGITAL. Here, she talks about the subject.  

"Stories are shaped to fit their form. Traditionally storytelling involved, ‘Listen, while I tell you a story’. With the development of writing and printing, story structures changed and moved from their oral-aural-sensory focus to a visual focus. With print, “words became things" that could be arranged on a page. Unlike the oral tradition, these printed stories were now given closure.

Today, we’re in the midst of a technology explosion so that once again, stories can change to fit their form. I seek to take storytelling into the future by using transmedia. ‘Listen, while I tell you a story,’ is now, ‘Let’s tell a story together’.

Transmedia involves telling stories over a number of media platforms, stories that are connected in a common story world. For my transmedia novel, Kiss Kill, my character Mat’s world is the story world.

Mat’s story is a story of a boy who triumphs over a relationship with his abusive narcissistic girlfriend. It is about a disintegrating and fragmenting relationship. The story frame reflects this by combining prose with other narrative fragments such as scripts, songs, notes, poems, comics, essays, texting, photos and more. Transmedia is used through blogs, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.

Young adults are adept at reading multi-platform narratives. They are used to reading non-linearly and they are used to interacting with narrative through sharing (social media) and co-creation (for example, mashups). Kiss Kill consciously provides multiple openings into the story for co-creation and the multiple platforms allow for engagement and participation. Readers can engage with me as the author on my blog (, or Mat on his blog Facebook, Twitter (@mawter @kisskilldigital) and Pinterest are also used for sharing the story experience.

Kiss Kill readers upload their creations on Mat’s blog. They have created artwork and music and recorded their own versions for my song lyrics ‘Thought I Knew’ as well as made a YouTube for the haunting scene ‘How Do You Define a Man?’ Individual as well as community creation is encouraged so that this story can continually evolve.

As a transmedia writer I need to educate myself on multiple platform storytelling, writing non-linear narrative and, technology developments that change daily. I am not just on a steep learning curve, I am on a trajectory. 

To the best of my knowledge Kiss Kill is one of the first transmedia young adult novels published for a global market by a small publisher, Really Blue Books, on a minimal budget.