Friday night kicked off with Critique Night, organised by Juliet Clare Bell. I arrived early, watched everyone gradually filter into the room, and the tables fill. Pretty soon I was surrounded by my fellow-critiquers. It was fabulous to meet an entirely new set of SCBWI writers from across the country, from writers just setting out, to those about to be published for the first time.
We got down to business, taking turns to give our critiques, strictly timed so as to give everyone a fair shout. This is most definitely the way to start if you're a newbie. So many friendly faces to connect with throughout the conference, and a concentration of useful feedback to carry away with you.
Next up was a splendid meal with the Words & Pictures team, where I met everyone for the first time. A goodly evening was had, as we hopped seats around the table, and in party spirit headed off past midnight to the Mercure bar, only to find that everyone had sensibly headed to bed.
Saturday (as far as my notes tell me) began with the Predictions for Fiction Panel - thoughts from agents on trends in fiction. Their feedback was:
Who knows what's suddenly going to be relevant? Politically, culturally ... it's impossible to predict. Chasing trends is the route to ruin. What we discuss is what's already been big. Dystopian is now difficult, but it's all cyclical, and will come around again. Ultimately, it's hard to think of a trend that was ever predicted.
We're completely at the mercy of you - writers and illustrators
The consensus appeared to be that the trend is always for great writing, great stories - stories written from the heart. Perhaps sometimes you can see trends emerging from overseas. It's good to keep an eye out, without writing to trend, to see what's doing well, so you don't miss out on easy ways to be marketable.
Next up - the State of the Nation Panel. Agents and publishers discussing the future of books in the digital age. Harper Collins have both their Friday Project - an experimental imprint, and authonomy - a digital slushpile (which I've just seen is closing on the 30th September).
Eric, of Made in Me - '...a creative studio exploring new ways for digital technology to inspire the next generation' looks at how books can exist primarily in alternative formats - films, games, tv programmes, ebooks etc. with the possibility of then going on to be printed.
Other panelists talked about finding out where kids are on-line.
kids don't search for things on google - they look for things on youtube
Hotkeys thestoryadventure.com is a site where authors and readers write together on-line, connecting both indelibly. Whilst Nobrow seeks to create visual printed books of quality, that not only look and feel good, but smell good too.
Next up was Nick Butterworth's Inspiration Perspiration. What a wonderful man! He spoke of the privilege of being involved in the world of children, who themselves live in the moment, their imagination drawing him in like a magnet. The sense of magic to be found there compensates for the rougher, gruffer side of life. To find out about your character, he advised, make a list about everything you can think of - visually, actually, and then maybe you'll find a resonant connection.
Two ideas might bump together to make a third - you'll end up discovering stuff you never knew was there
Next Sunday I'll jot down the notes I made from Cathy Cassidy's talk, Sally Gardiner's speech, and Melvin Burgess' workshop.
Don't forget to check out last week on W&P:
Monday's Agent Confidential, with new agent Davinia Andrew-Lynch
Tuesday's Blog-break - Nick asks: Are we allowing children enough time to be creative?
Wednesday's Proofreading tips from Catriona - this month it's Apostrophes
Thursday's Event report is from Barbara Henderson, on the Edinburgh Book Festival panel - How to survive being published
Friday's Illustration Masterclass Series most recent event with Sam Arthur of Flying Eye & Nobrow books - report by Shana Nieberg-Suschitzky
Saturday's Celebration of Sue Eastland's picture book - A very top secret mission
Nancy Saunders is the Editor of W&P. You can find some of her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders