This was my second year attending the excellent CYA Conference, organised by a savvy team of wonderful women headed up by Queensland author Tina Marie Clark. Held in Brisbane, the conference is attended by a cross-section of the Australian children’s book industry, from publishers and literary agents to established authors and illustrators, up-and-comers and fresh arrivals to the world of children’s writing.
The conference started with a fun networking night full of inspiring people, drinks, chats, prizes and laughs. The following day was jam-packed with sessions and workshops. First up was a panel talk of success stories stemming from an association with CYA, one of my favourite parts of the conference. This year, we heard from Georgie Donaghey of Creative Kids’ Tales about her path to publication with Lulu (an adorable rhyming picture book about a dancing polar bear), who said ‘rejections fuelled my passion and inspiration’. Illustrator Helene Magisson shared her story and said ‘put all your passion and energy in it and doors will open’. I also really loved first-time author Jennifer Loakes’ story about her writing journey with her picture book Mate and Me, complete with dismay at its’ low competition placing before revising and reworking it – hope for us all!
I attended YA author Kaz Delaney’s highly personable session that focused on the oft-neglected ‘saggy middle’ of a narrative that can let down an otherwise amazing beginning and ending. Next, it was the exuberant Meredith Costain’s masterclass on creating hooks or page turners, with some really practical advice and examples. The other major session of the day was a talk by Morris Gleitzman on everything from his writing processes (copious amounts of green tea are a must!) to ideas on characters and the importance of problems in a narrative. ‘We are deeply curious about the problems of our fellow humans,’ he said. As writers, ‘we want to envelop the experience of that problem.’ He explained that characters usually come to him as an embodiment of a problem, and that we ‘sometimes need to let characters fail for their own good’.
The day was a whirlwind of ideas, note-taking, coffee-swilling, book-purchasing and connecting with like-minded people. I’m so impressed with the way Tina, Ally, Sam, Debbie, Natalie and the other volunteers pulled together another great conference, providing encouraging words along the way as we attended nerve-wracking pitch sessions and feedback appointments on our work.
Post-conference, there was time for dinner with my YA manuscript winning friend and conference roommate Cat Mojseiwicz, then a riverside breakfast and whirl around the art exhibitions at GOMA the next morning before flying back to 10 degrees colder Sydney, armed with inspiration overload.
P.S. Here’s my write-up on last year’s conference: 5 things I learnt at CYA Conference 2014
P.P.S. Author Dee White has published some great posts following this year’s CYA: Why attend writer’s conferences and Preparing for a writer’s conference – a post for unpublished writers