So on Saturday 23rd February I did something that was quite out of my comfort zone and I travelled down to London – on my own – to the writers and artists event: How to Write for Children & YA conference.
It was held at Bloomsbury Publishing on the beautiful Bedford Square on a glorious sunny February day.
I was nervous about the event having never been to a writers conference or any kind of writing event. I was unsure how many people would be there, what I should wear and was just generally a bit sweaty palmed about the whole thing.
I needn’t have been. The day was fantastic. It started out with a short meet and greet in the conservatory when I first realised it was a slighter bigger event than the 12-20 people I had been expecting – when about 120 people showed up. I made small talk with some other nervous newbies before we all split off into smaller groups to undertake our writing workshops. There were the choices of picture books, middle grade, or writing for YA- each led by an author in this field. I chose the latter, as my preferred age range, and was swept off, with around 20 others, down to a conference room in the basement where we were hosted by the fantastic Katherine Webber – author of Wing Jones.
For me this was the most terrifying part of the day. As a massive introvert I became very sweaty palmed and shaky when asked to talk about myself, my writing and my ambitions for the future. You’d think after nearly ten years of teaching that I could talk to a room of people, but no. Put me in a room of children and I’m fine – but adults? Urgh…it’s a whole different ball game.
But anyway, we chatted about our current projects. I was pleased to be surrounded by so many other fantasy and sci-fi authors and it was interesting to hear of their own projects.
After a short break we recommenced with some writing prompts using elements from our lives and focusing on setting. It was so awesome to hear all of the ideas that people had generated!
After lunch we reconvened in the conservatory for a fantastic keynote speech from Alex T Smith- illustrator extraordinaire and author of the Claude series, among others. Alex talked about his life and his inspiration for drawing and creating stories. His talk was both funny and charming and also moving. A great speaker, he is recommended to everyone as a real positive patron of the arts.
Finally, the day concluded with a panel discussion from three Literary agents – Jo Hayes, Felicity Trew and Chloe Seager. The three of whom talked about their work and what they look for in submissions, as well as the pitfalls and problems that authors sometimes face. They patiently answered a plethora of questions and presented a really approachable front that made me, particularly, think that maybe, just maybe, querying might not be so scary…
Remind me that I said that next year when the rejections are rolling in!
In all it was an excellent day and highly recommended to any current and aspiring authors looking to develop their work for young people.
Upcoming Writers and Artists Courses: