By Caylie Jeffery
We children’s writers and illustrators love it when a Conference like CYA (Children's and Young Adult Writers and Illustrators Conference) comes up. For so many reasons:
1. Networking: this is the place where you can meet other writers and illustrators, a few agents and perhaps a publisher or two. It’s where you can hand your freshly printed business cards around and perhaps, if you’ve already successfully published your own work, show your books to your peers. You might casually mention that you need help with your rhyming couplets to the winner of last year’s poetry competition and find yourself in an impromptu lesson about word play. You might have your art portfolio with you and a budding writer decides you are the person to do beautiful pictures for their next book.
2. Socialising: As writers and illustrators, we spend an awful lot of time by ourselves in front of a screen, a drawing board or a book. Despite hours and hours writing about and drawing people, we rarely see them. The conference is a time to meet, greet, embrace and get to know old and new friends in the field we’re all so passionate about. Social networking has certainly helped, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the joy of seeing a familiar face and sharing a laugh or a tear in person. There are dinners and lunches and tea/coffee opportunities to hang and chat, and I guarantee that you’ll come away richer for the people you’ve met.
3. Learning: To sit and listen to your peers sharing their processes, their work-life balance, their publishing successes (or how they pick themselves up from their non-successes!), how to present work to children and the public, how to market their products and where to go to get assistance, is more valuable to writers and illustrators than days surfing the internet. Real information coming from real people who’ve been there and done that, will give you so many tools for your kit.
4. Motivation: After a day of learning, socialising and networking, every single volunteer, organiser, speaker and attendee is exhausted! But that shattered feeling is juxtaposed with a euphoria and elation about your own writing and illustrating process. After a good nights’ sleep, you’ll wake up after the conference and your previously laborious job of editing your last book or inking your last picture becomes a joy and a thrill as you inject all of your new-found knowledge into the process. Conferences like CYA fill your wings with air and your eyes with light again, to motivate you forward in your endeavours.
5. Publisher meetings: These elusive people are on hand to sit down and tell you what they think of your manuscript or portfolio. Having sent it in to the organisers a few months before the conference, your selected publisher will have had time to read (yes, READ) or view your work before your meeting. They’ll critique it, they’ll talk with you about it and they’ll let you know where to go from here. Whether or not they love it is not the biggest draw card. It’s the feedback, and the steps towards publishing success that really give you value for the money you pay for that meeting. Be prepared with your spiel, know your work intimately, and set your expectations for ‘a learning opportunity’ because you will never be disappointed with the results.
6. Thrills: yes, you’ve entered several pieces into the competitions, and that’s the biggest reason you’re at this conference. You want to know how your stories fit in amongst those of your peers. You want to know whether you are way off the mark with what you’ve been writing/drawing or whether you have exactly what it takes to be a children’s writer or illustrator. We all want our babies to win in the competition. We all want our story and art work to be put in front of respected publishing houses. We all want to sit at the top of someone’s slush pile. But I’ll warn you now... we can’t all win and the majority of the people attending don’t! As you’ll remember from your childhood, “It’s not about winning, it’s how you play the game that counts”. The most valuable thing I get from entering these competitions is the feedback sheet I receive from the adjudicators after the conference for each story I submit. At least two respected authors or publishers will have read your stories, and they’ll tell you exactly where you went well and what you need to do to get better. Similarly to the publisher meetings, the words you hear will either push you faster along a path you’re already on or direct you towards a different path, one that may suit you better.
Every cent you spend towards the CYA conference will be worth it, for any of the above reasons. We all need people, we all need feedback and we all need encouragement. Very few of us are looking to become millionaires. We write and draw because we are passionate about what we do. We might make a living out of it one day, and of course, that’s what we’d all like, but that’s not the driving force behind why we’re here. We have a skill that needs to be honed and shared.
So, get those stories written and those drawings drawn. Review them, edit them, give them to trusted colleagues to proof and critique and then get those entries in! Book your publisher meeting and be prepared with your self-promotion.
And don’t forget...
· Bring your business cards and hand them out to people you meet
· Bring your portfolio... you never know who might want to have a look
· Bring copies of your books to show off
· Bring your preferred method of recording new information... laptop or paper/pen
· Wear a smile!
And I’ll see ya at CYA on the 4th and 5th of July!
Caylie Jeffery (Write Links member)
To find out more about Caylie and her new release 'Bedtime Stories for Busy Mothers' check out her website: http://www.cayliejeffery.com.au/