Recovering from a Writers’ Conference

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So – I’ve just come home from my first Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s conference, and I really enjoyed it! There were some great talks and workshops, some lovely food, books to buy and lots of friends – old and new – to chat to.

But – as you may remember, I was pretty nervous about two particular aspects of the conference. Firstly, the meeting with an agent (at which I’d be able to get some feedback on my writing), and secondly, the Fancy Dress (or should we say, ‘Flipping Daunting’) party.

The first of these two things that I tackled was the meeting with the agent, which took place on Saturday afternoon. As soon as I sat down at her table, I immediately noticed the long list of notes that she had in front of her. I tried to surreptitiously read them up-side-down, but it wasn’t easy, so I had to wait for her to tell me about them, one by one. There were quite a few things about my work-in-progress that she felt could be improved, and as she dropped her pearls of wisdom into my waiting ear, I scribbled furiously, determined not to miss anything important.

When I came out of the meeting, I sat down in a quiet corner to read through the notes I’d written, feeling slightly disappointed. She certainly hadn’t told me that my work-in-progress was the best thing that she’d ever read, and she definitely hadn’t begged me to let her represent me. But, once I’d had a little bit of time to think about it and had talked it through with a friend, I felt pleased that I’d got some very clear and solid advice that I could use to make my writing better. It was all good stuff for a writer who was determined to improve, so – with the agent meeting out of the way, I got straight on to the next thing on my ‘List Of Things To Worry About’; the Flipping Daunting party.

After a lot of thinking, I’d decided to go as Professor Trelawney (from Harry Potter). The big event took place that evening in the town’s main library, and, as my friend and I walked in, all my worries started to drop away. There were some people in normal clothes, there were some people in really wacky outfits, and there were loads – like me – who had a relatively low-key outfit that fitted loosely in with the theme, without calling the attention of everyone else in the room over to us. I even found someone who had come as Professor McGonagall, so there was a fellow Hogwartian there for me to chat to, as well.

The nibbles were nice and so was the wine, the speeches were great and the cake – made to celebrate the members of the Society who had had a book published during the last twelve months – was simply amazing, with tiny versions of all of their books, iced onto it.

There were more talks and workshops to go to on the Sunday morning and afternoon and it wasn’t until Sunday evening that I got home; the dog giving me his ‘where do you think you’ve been?’ look, as I came in the door. I was pretty exhausted, and after I’d given him (and the rest of my family), a big hug, I put away my notebook (bristling with new ideas), to look at the next day.

So – did I learn a lot? Yes I did, and on top of all the writing tips I picked up, here are three non-writing-related facts that I learnt, over the weekend –

  1. Fancy dress parties aren’t as Flipping Daunting as they might at first seem.
  2. Winchester graveyard is pretty creepy at ten o’clock at night, especially right after Halloween.
  3. If someone drops a Carnegie medal on the floor, it probably won’t break.

And would I go again? Definitely!

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The amazing cake!

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