CYA Conference 2014

by Georgie Donaghey

The annual CYA Conference is an excellent opportunity to escape the daily Sydney routine and immerse myself in the Brisbane writing world. This year’s CYA Conference was my second, and it held a special place for me. I had been shortlisted in the Primary Picture Book category.

With the task of head tweeter before me I knew I would have my work cut-out. Each time block had two concurrent rooms presenting and in some instances three rooms. With all the running between rooms, sadly new shoes were not the right choice for this day.

The conference co-ordinator, Tina Marie Clark opened the conference to a packed auditorium at the Southbank Institute of Technology.

Indigenous presenter, Terry Saleh had the room enthralled with his didgeridoo playing and stories from his upbringing.

The room erupted with applause for this year’s CYA Competition winners and after the individual photos and certificates were awarded it was off to the first sessions of the day.

Slashings of Editors and Pamela Rushby’s, Structuring a Story kicked off the program.

With a panel of publishing experts such as Sue Whiting, Karen Tayleur, Suzanne O’Sullivan, Rochelle Manners, Leonie Tyle and Alex Adsett it was interesting to hear the types of manuscripts each different company is looking for.

Sue Whiting (Walker Books) likes quirky stories where the reader can enjoy the ride. Stand alone are popular with publishers over series at the moment. Rochelle Manners (Wombat Books & Rhiza) looking for stories with a light message that entertain but not preach. Suzanne O’Sullivan (Lothian) is looking for new voices in YA books that feel real. Leonie Tyle (Tyle & Bateson Publishing) is looking for words that shine off the page.

Over in the art studio Terry Saleh was Breaking down the cultural barriers with his class on Aboriginal Influenced Illustrations. The kids in this session, along with a few adults learnt many new skills to take with them. The vibrant colours exploded off the page from their individual creations with Terry exclaiming there is an artist in all of us. Even for this self-confessed stick figure expert I found this session a lot of fun.

A quick refuel at morning tea, and we were back Crowd Funding with Aaron Pocock. This was a fun fast paced session with lots to learn about the rollercoaster ride that is crowd funding. We learnt that crowd funding is not for the faint hearted but if you have a little marketing flare and a lot of belief in your product success is not impossible. You only have to ride the wave for 30 days but hang on tight as nausea is a given with this form of fundraising.

Next up was Rebecca Timmis with Self-publishing: Is it really just a Plan B and Karen Tayleur’s Picture Book session.

With the mind fed, it was time to fill our tummies and enjoy the fruits of a networking lunch.

My fingers, now lighter than when I started tweeting, were happy to take a break and catch-up over lunch with some of the Creative Kids Tales family; Dimity Powell, Caylie Jeffrey and Jackie Randall.
Aaron Pocock led the charge for the afternoon’s art class in the art studio. Dragons and trees were the order of this session and the results stood for themselves.

Drawing is like life; you should always break it down. Aaron Pocock.

Wendy Orr was Building Characters from the Inside Out with her master class, and Peter Carnavas was educating his audience with Let your pictures do the talking.

All I have to give is the gift of my experience. Peter Carnavas.

Peter began with giveaways and lots of them, always a guaranteed way to capture a room. The closed eye drawing was tricky enough but giving the responsibility to your non-dominant hand resulted in lots of giggles from the participants.

We read from left to right. When illustrations go from right to left if feels like the character is running away from us. Peter Carnavas.

Wendy Orr led her audience in character formation and also encouraged them to step outside the comfort zone with non-dominant hand drawing.

A recognisable characteristic doesn’t have to be a visible scar. It can be an internal characteristic such as she always carries a knife. Wendy Orr.

Afternoon tea was the quick sugar rush we were all craving.

Sue Whiting rounded off the afternoon with her session on Endings Matter. Being a big fan of Sue’s I temporarily resigned my tweeting responsibilities to sit in on the entire session. I was not disappointed.
Here are some quotes from Sue that paint the picture of this session.

We work so hard on the beginning and run out of steam for the ending. Don’t! The story must flow, keep the momentum going throughout.

Don’t give the editor the excuse not to publish you. Ensure your story takes them all the way to the end.

Your ending is your gift to the reader. It brings everything together. You want to thank the reader for reading your book. Leave them with the OMG feeling.

Lay your foundation for your ending in the beginning. Don’t fake your endings.

Avoid clichés. You can get away with anything as long as you tell it in the right way.

All too soon we were back in the auditorium for the wrap up and to hear CYA Success Stories. The panel of Stella Tarakson, Karen Tyrrell, Caylie Jeffery, Cassandra Webb, Samantha Wheeler and Kathryn Apel talked about how dreams really do come true. Again the common theme was put yourself in situations where opportunities payoff for you as an author.

Another winner at this year’s conference was the Illustrators showcase. With a record number of pieces on display, the work was truly exceptional this year.

With a communal spelling out of C Y A with our arms, reminiscent of the YMCA song the conference was over for another year.

Tina, Sam, Ally and the team have promised their 10th will be even bigger and better. Keep an eye on the website for more information www.cyaconference.com

And with over 200 tweets for the day I was done!


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