Creative Kids Tales Writers’ Festival
of the CKT Writers' Festival on Saturday, 17th March 2018 at Gymea Tradies
Our Presenters were Susanne Gervay, Sue Whiting, Tristan Bancks, Clare Hallifax, Sarah Davis, Wai Chim and Georgie Donaghey.
In my week leading up to the CKT Writers’ Festival, my youngest turned seven, I took my eldest daughter to her first concert, Ed Sheeran and I attended a friend’s book launch. Since the festival, it’s been just as hectic with birthday parties and post-festival tidy-up, so I hope you’ll forgive me for my late post about the festival.
What began as an idea for a small CKT members get together, quickly morphed into a writers’ festival. And as the sole organiser, I only had nine weeks to pull it all together! I love a challenge.
Adopting the theme, Prepare to be Inspired, I invited those in the industry who have and continue to inspire me – Susanne Gervay, Sue Whiting, Tristan Bancks, Wai Chim and Sarah Davis. With some carefully selected topics, I was confident with their wealth of knowledge they would be the perfect fit for our festival.
Of course, no festival would be complete without Clare Hallifax offering authors her expert advice via manuscript assessments.
I wanted to cover a variety of topics that catered to children’s writers no matter where they are on their writing journey:
- A Beginner’s Roadmap to the Children’s Writing Industry.
- How to give your manuscript the best chance of a contract.
- What happens once your manuscript hits a publisher’s desk?
- What publishers are looking for.
- The marriage between author and illustrator to produce a successful picture book.
- Rejection – Why it isn’t a bad thing.
- How to write a successful series.
- Writing about what you know.
- Making a difference with your stories.
- Marketing yourself and your work.
- And more.
Opening (Pre-Lunch) Sessions
On the 17th March 2018, emerging and published children’s authors and illustrators travelled from around the country to the scenic Sutherland Shire, to celebrate the Creative Kids Tales Writers’ Festival. As the Southern Cross Room quickly filled, it was time to get the festivities underway.
Susanne Gervay opened with her top tips - the 4 R’s.
Research – Read – Rethink and Relate.
Research - Make you stories believable by researching even when writing picture books.
Read – Don’t make excuses not to read. Reading books from your chosen genre also forms part of your research.
Rethink – Utilising critique groups for feedback can help weed out any problem areas in your story.
Relate – Tapping into your own experiences will give your story a realistic flavour and is a good place to begin.
Weaving her personal writing and publishing experiences into her presentation offered the audience a well-rounded view of her writerly life. Susanne is the meaning of the word inspiration and the perfect choice to open our festival.
Then came my session, how could I share all that I had learned over the past 20 years in only 35 minutes? By offering A Beginners Roadmap to the Children’s Writing Industry, I hoped to reveal a clearer path to publisher’s front doors. From Why You Want to Write for Children and Where you fit in to How to go about Learning to Write. I could see I had the room’s attention. I then moved on to the value of Manuscript Assessments, Critique Groups and Writing Competitions which Susanne also touched on during her talk.
The Do’s and Don’ts when Submitting to Publishers and Why Rejection isn’t a Bad Thing had the audience madly taking notes.
What to expect from Festivals, Workshops and Conferences helped open the eyes of those just beginning in this industry. Then it was time for the serious topics of Building your Author Platform, A Contract, Now What? to Let’s talk Social Media to Marketing Yourself and Your Work before finishing with Author Etiquette.
A key point I wanted to share with attendees was that no-one owes you anything, so it’s important to always leave a good impression.
With a few questions from the audience to round out the session, it was time to hear from Wai Chim.
Wai shared her experiences on Writing About What You Know. For instance one thing that writers have permission to do is take a tiny seed of an idea and lie. Use what you know as the foundation for your story and build on that foundation using a lie to create structure and make the characters feel real and their situation believable.
Wai suggested adopting the following when writing: Research, research, research. Focus on the human experience and write about something that makes you passionate.
When you write about what you don’t know, expect and accept criticism. Most of all learn from it.
Lunchtime was a chance to replenish our energy.
CKT members proudly wore their member's badges and were able to connect with other members and share their thoughts on the morning's program.
After a quick bite, everyone quickly settled into their seats for Tristan Bancks’ session on How to Write a Successful Series and Marketing Yourself and Your Work.
Tristan’s a huge fan of morning pages, writing three pages of uninterrupted writing before you begin your day. I’ve heard him refer to this writing exercise many times and glad he shared it on the day. Many of his story ideas were born within the contents of his morning pages.
Tristan too draws on his own experiences when writing but he also loves to brainstorm ideas with his audiences. Any ideas that come from kids during these sessions is recognised by adding the child’s name to the book.
Writing a series is great, but when the idea becomes old and no longer excites you, it’s time to end the series.
Promoting yourself should not take time away from your writing time, this includes social media. You should adopt an even balance. It is vital that readers and buyers can find you online, via either your website and/or your social media account. When marketing your book, use your existing skills such as planning a launch party, promote online through giveaways, create trailers, games or apps. Writers who are able to connect with their readers find it easier to be published. With that said, there is no need to spend a lot of money, but anything you do to help publishers promote you is a good thing.
Our audience noticed during Tristan’s session he was sitting alongside one of his banners. This is another excellent marketing tool. Visual aids help children remember the name of your books and who you are.
Sue Whiting held the audience in the palm of her hands for her Let’s talk Publishing presentation.
Having worked in the industry for over 20 years wearing both author and editor hats Sue’s knowledge is undeniably sound. She’s published many award-winning and shortlisted titles as well as having many of her own titles sit alongside books she published during her time at Walker Books.
With everyone on the edge of their seat for the question ‘What are publishers looking for?’ Sue’s response - They don’t know. However, they know what they are looking for when they see it. Clear as mud right? It could be as simple as finding a manuscript that fills a hole in the market or a book that makes every hair on their body stand up when they read it. Simple really.
All you need to do is write a great story from the first line. You need to get the reader to care about your characters as much as you do. Do that, and you are well on your way.
Help yourself by doing your morning pages, reading in the genre you want to write for, write, write, write and read some more.
Again, social media balance is the key – write first, social media second.
Another question on everyone’s lips what to put in the cover letter? Be professional. As with your manuscript ensure your cover letter is error free include the information requested in their guidelines such as address and brief history about your writing history and any books you’ve had published. Keep it brief. A War and Peace cover letter is not recommended.
Sarah Davis concluded the day’s presenter sessions with her talk on The Marriage between Author and Illustrator.
She opened by advising the audience that she generally ignores the author notes on illustrations. Instead, she likes to breathe in the story and work through the main elements of the text.
Sarah shared the importance of researching images, how characters come to life using body movement, their personalities and facial expressions. When faced with a challenging illustration Sarah calls on her family members to help out, explaining having her tired husband pose as a robber for her after a hard day’s work.
Sarah’s presentation was predominantly visual as she shared her different styles and the processes she uses when illustrating titles like Marmaduke Duck, Lea Dives In, That’s Not a Hippopotamus, Fearless and Toucan Can. The many layers that are applied to achieve a finished illustration and the time involved. And writers thought they had a difficult time bringing the words to life.
It was amazing listening to Sarah and how she creates illustrations that pop off the page to complete the marriage between author and illustrator.
One key point from Sarah was authors should always leave space for the illustrator and remember it’s a partnership.
Pitch ya Book! session
With the day almost over, it was time for the CKT Pitch ya Book! session.
Five lucky audience members (Dianne Ellis, Sandra Bennett, Kirsten Ealand, Matthew Shallvey and Victoria Mackinlay had their names drawn from a barrel and invited to give a 2-minute pitch to judges, Clare Hallifax, Sue Whiting and Susanne Gervay.
The pitches were of high standard, with Victoria’s taking out the top honour. So impressed was Clare Hallifax, she invited Victoria to submit her full manuscript. Woo hoo! Well done, Victoria. We’ll be watching this space for more information.
It was hard for our judges to choose just one winner, so after a quick discussion, CKT decided to donate two $100 manuscript assessments as prizes (instead of the original 1). Thank you to Harry Hartog, who awarded our third-place winner a $50 gift voucher.
Congratulations to the winners:
1st place Victoria Mackinlay
2nd place Matthew Shallvey
3rd place Kirsten Ealand
Creative Kids Tales Members Share their Journey
The final session of the day was Creative Kids Tales Members Share their Journey.
What services have helped them on their journey, who they have connected with and how their writing has grown throughout their membership.
CKT Writers' Festival Photo Gallery
Click the button below to view our Photo Gallery from the 2018 CKT Writers' Festival
Thank you to:
and all of the people who came along to make the 2018 CKT Writers' Festival a success.
All the presenters did indeed inspire, educate and entertain. It was wonderful festival and a dream come true for me.