NSW Writers’ Centre Kids & YA Festival 2014
by Georgie Donaghey
The NSW Writers’ Centre 8th Kids & YA Festival was organised by Director, Aleesah Darlison. This year's festival was Aleesah’s first year as Director and after giving birth to her fourth child only two weeks prior, I believe that entitles her to a medal.
Boori Monty Pryor, the inaugural Australian Children’s Laureate, opened the festival as keynote speaker and had the audience hanging off his every word. He had us hugging ourselves and the person next to us. Boori enticed us with stories that touched our hearts and will stay with us for a long time to come. The boy, the teacher and the library was a particularly moving story that received a collective sigh around the room at the conclusion of its telling.
Boori guided us through his Shake a leg picture book describing subtleties within the story, I for one had not noticed. All were thoroughly entertained listening to this gifted storyteller.
The program was filled with sessions to cater for everyone. Culture, Place and Identity in Children’s Literature ran concurrently with The Art of Collaboration. I attended the later and was enlightened by the process of how authors, illustrators, editors and publishers work together to bring a book to life.
Next, From Page to Stage and Screen, which was a hit with Wendy Orr, Isobelle Carmody and Felicity Pulman talking about the highs and lows of pitching, selling and converting a book into a stage production or film.
I sat in the adjoining room with The New Breed and listened to the stories of up-and-coming authors Lesley Gibbes, Jodie Wells-Slowgrove and illustrator Graham Byrne about their publication dreams. The everyday opportunities that present themselves should be grasped with both hands as we are the ones that guide our own destiny.
Lunch offered a Mexican feast and a chance to network and catchup with other writers and illustrators. Throw in a book launch for Tony Flowers and Nick Falk’s Billy is a Dragon series, and we were all pumped and ready for an afternoon of education and fun.
The session with industry leading publishers and what they are looking for was particularly educational. Suzanne O’Sullivan (Lothian Children’s Books), Zoe Walton (Random House), Sarah Foster (Walker Books) and Rochelle Manners (Wombat Books) talked about the rise of the e-book versus traditional print. While it is clear the market has cooled on vampires publishers are looking for stories with subtle messages and a unique voice.
Next it was time for Writing, Pitching and Publishing a Series with Jacqueline Harvey, Wendy Orr, Catherine Jinks chaired by me. The panel discussed the process of writing. To be in the company of these talented authors and get firsthand information about their writing and pitching techniques for publishing a series was invaluable.
It was great to be able to provide the audience with this firsthand experience and reveal secrets from the other side of the writer’s journey. And the lollies we provided were a big hit too.
One of the many highlights of this festival for me was personally getting to meet Boori Monty Pryor. Boori and I are endeavouring to coordinate a time for him to visit me on The Author’s Shelf very soon.
I was particularly proud of the opportunity for Creative Kids Tales to sponsor the Picture Books pitch session at the conclusion of the day. A variety of talented authors at various stages of their career pitched to a packed room, not to mention the Publishers. The expert panel of Rochelle Manners, Jeanmarie Morosin and Suzanne O’Sullivan listened intently and offered constructive comments to the pitchers. The winner of the session was published author, Katrina Roe.
The day flew by all too quickly. The audience left with a wealth of tips, information and tools to assist them on their journey to publication.
A BIG thanks to Aleesah Darlison and the NSW Writers’ Centre for extending me an invitation to chair and for organising a wonderful festival. Here’s to 2016!!
Presenters included: Sarah Davis, Sarah Foster, Matt Stanton, Zoe Walton, Kaz Delaney, Felicity Pulman, Wendy Orr, Jacqueline Harvey, Pamela Freeman, Matt Stanton, Wendy Fitzgerald and the list goes on and on.