Faber Writing Academy Alumni by Georgie Donaghey
I am proud to say I am an alumni of the Faber Writing Academy.
Although the children's writing community is wonderfully supportive, it can be soul-crushingly isolating. When you hit one of your writing goals, your writing family is there to celebrate your achievement. But the road to those achievements can be few and far between for the most part of your journey you will travel alone. As we sit down at our computers or stare at that blank page of our notebook, we quarantine ourselves from the world. It can be depressing.
I have been wrestling with my own writing funk of late and decided to go back to basics.I enrolled in the Faber Writing Academy course, Getting Published as a Writer for Children. With already a couple of books under my belt you might ask why I would undertake a beginner's course. I am of the firm belief you can never have too much knowledge about this industry. Sometimes it is just a word or a phrase that someone might share that will resonate with you and spark something new. That's what I needed that something new and boy did I get it!
Jane Godwin is knowledgeable! There is no fluff she knows her stuff and is happy to share what she knows. Her career spans years as a publisher and highly acclaimed author with over twenty books to her credit. She has worked with and championed some of the Australian children's writing industry elite. Being able to take a glimpse into her world is the equivalent to receiving that coveted Christmas gift.
Jane covered everything from agents, book designers, identification with a brand, illustrators, advances, self-publishing, mainstream publishing, pitches, unlocking your inner child, character and plot and the all-important common mistakes writers make.
I took with me what I thought to be one simple question. I had been desperately seeking direction on it for some time even attending two other courses in search for the answer. I left with not only my question being answered during the group session but also a one-on-one chat with Jane during a coffee break.
Davina Bell from Affirm Press was electric - her passion contagious. In fact, I was so hypnotised I forgot to take notes. She talked about her experience in the industry as both a publisher and author.
Davina is the winner of the 2016 CBCA Crichton Award for New Illustration and the Australian Book Industry Award for Smaller Publisher's Children's Book of the Year.
Jane and Davina have collaborated on a number of projects and it was good to hear how they worked together and any challenges they faced along the way.
Davina talked about the differences with small versus large publishers and what she is looking to achieve at Affirm. I was able to steal a couple of minutes with her and discuss a picture book series I have been working on.
Liz Seymour joined us after lunch. From all the conferences and courses I have attended over the years I've not heard from the designers. These people work so hard to bring us the eye-catching covers that grace our shelves. Their covers entice the buyer to pick up our book, so getting insight into this side of the business was great. Liz has a long-standing career with over 20 years' experience and has won numerous awards. Liz is the designer on the Griffiths and Denton Treehouse series.
As part of the course, we were invited to pitch one of our stories and also submit a picture book or the first chapter of a story for feedback. The pitch part scares me. I've never pitched before, and I was asked to pitch first. I don't remember much as I was blinded by my insecurities, but Jane commended me during my one-on-one feedback session on my written submission.
I have attended lots of courses, conferences, and festivals over the past 20 years and I have to say this is in my top three. Never have I taken so many notes.
Oh and that whisper you might have heard about the 'golden' email address is true. I can't reveal any more; you'll have to enrol in a Faber Writing Academy course to find out for yourself. But it is worth it!
Today I am writing again. Best of all I am smiling and that feeling of isolation although I know it will return for now is replaced with confidence.
Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin run courses in Sydney and Melbourne. https://faberwritingacademy.com.au/
Most interesting Georgie, and I agree there is merit in going back to basics, and recognising there's always something new to learn in this business! I'd like to have discovered moe specifics of what you learned, but maybe one day I'll do a Faber course! And discover that you meanly the golden email?? However, good insights into the complexities and the reality that a cover can make or break a book. Best wishes.