So let's not keeping you waiting as there is too much exciting news to share with you today!
Let me present our keynote speakers for this year's conference, who have kindly answered some questions about the forthcoming event.
Author Keynote - David Almond
Biography - David Almond is the author of Skellig, My Name is Mina, The Savage, The Tightrope Walkers, A Song for Ella Grey and many other novels, stories, picture books, opera librettos and plays. His work is translated into 40 languages, and is widely adapted for stage and screen. His major awards include The Carnegie Medal, two Whitbread Awards, The Eleanor Farjeon Award, The Michael L Printz Award (USA), Le Prix Sorcieres (France) and The Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. In 2010 he won the Hans Christian Andersen Award, the world’s most prestigious prize for children’ authors. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and lives in Northumberland.‘A writer of visionary, Blakean intensity.’ The Times.‘A Tyneside Dylan Thomas, and it is impossible not to be swept up in the power of his storytelling.’ Daily Telegraph‘A master storyteller.’ The Independent.‘David Almond’s books are strange, unsettling wild things – unfettered by the normal constraints of children’s literature. They are, like all great literature, beyond classification.’ The Guardian
What made you agree to be a key note speaker at this year's conference?I've always admired SCBWI and the energy and creativity of everyone involved. And I really do like talking about writing, about the beautiful messy process of moving from initial ideas/fragments to a finished book. And I believe we all live in a shared culture - writers, and illustrators, published and unpublished - and we gain strength from supporting and encouraging each other.
What do you hope SCBWI members will gain from your speech?I hope they'll feel a little more aware of their own talent and imagination, and that they'll be inspired to write boldly and with confidence and hope!
What’s the best piece of writing advice you can give?Just do it. Don't vacillate or delay. Put a pen in your hand, make marks, and write.
Illustrator Keynote - Leigh Hodgkinson
Biography - Leigh was born in Harare, Rhodesia in 1975 and moved to the UK with her family when she was three. She graduated from the University of Hull in 1998 with a first in graphic design and went on to study Animation Direction at the National Film and Television School. Leigh has worked in the animation industry since then making award winning animated short films amongst other more commercial projects. Leigh is passionate about writing, illustrating and making things. Since 2008 she has created a gaggle of picture books (published by Orchard, Nosy Crow and Bloomsbury) which have been translated into many languages around the world. Leigh also likes to design and make things for her Wonkybutton online shop and is quite terrible at relaxing. She writes a diary every day and likes swimming, stripes and buttons. She is not so keen on slugs, tidying or parking. She is currently art-directing an exciting new animated pre-school television show for Cbeebies which is due to hit the screens in spring 2017. She co-created the show with her husband Steve Smith (of Beakus). Leigh used to work from a nice back garden shed in Lewes, but now works in a studio with real people.
What made you agree to be a key note speaker at this year's conference?A mixture of fear and intrigue! There have been lots of completely amazing people who have been speakers before - but I am trying not to get too intimidated. I never really think I know much at all- so am always pleasantly surprised when people ask me to speak. I think quite often we take ourselves and what we do for granted as it feels natural and so familiar. So speaking to people about what you do makes you realise how we are all different and we all have different ways of approaching things and creating things. I always find that fascinating when hearing how other creative people work- so I hope an insight into how I work might be interesting and enjoyable to others. Also, I have never been to a SCBWI conference- so this was a great opportunity to be able to attend and see other speakers and interesting folk.
What do you hope SCBWI members will gain from your speech?I hope they will feel inspired to want to create or continue their own creative path. That there is no right or wrong way to do things- that you have to just make sure it is something that you are proud of which makes you happy. Otherwise there is no point. That you will get knock backs- but you have to be determined and be stubborn to move forward.
What’s the best piece of writing advice you can give?To not get too bogged down in who it is for or which format it will be.. That an idea is a tricky customer to keep almost impossible to keep hold of. Ideas are flighty- so if you have a good one.... nail it to the page quickly and don't let it escape. Don't worry about it not being perfect, or that you haven't resolved all of its' issues before you write it. I always just jump in at the deep end, if I was to spend time thinking everything through I would probably get too overwhelmed by my incompetence and never to it. A blank page is scary- much better to write something less than perfect and chip away and work on it till it is- that to try and write something perfect straight away... as that will NEVER happen!
Industry Keynote - Sarah Davies
Biography - Sarah Davies was a London publisher for 25 years, latterly as Publishing Director and on the management board of Macmillan Children’s Books where she worked with authors such as Philip Pullman, Julia Donaldson, Judy Blume, Sharon Creech, Meg Cabot, Frank Cottrell-Boyce and many others. In 2007 she moved to the USA and launched Greenhouse Literary, a transatlantic agency specializing in fiction for children and teens. Greenhouse quickly built a reputation as one of the leading boutique-sized agencies on both sides of Atlantic and is well known for discovering and helping to develop new talent. Among its clients are two New York Times bestsellers, a Morris First Novel Award winner, a Kirkus Prize Finalist, and its authors regularly achieve starred reviews and critical acclaim, as well as deals around the world. Sarah and her colleague Polly Nolan are open to all genres of fiction and represent young stories upwards through YA, but also sell picture books, non-fiction and even adult novels by existing clients. What they seek most of all is quality writing complementing a unique premise. Now back in the UK, Sarah divides her time between her new home “somewhere east of Oxford”, London, and New York, and she works with authors across many timezones!
What made you agree to be a key note speaker at this year's conference?I’ve known Candy since I launched Greenhouse and was so honoured when she asked me to speak. SCBWI is a fantastic organization, and I owe it so much. I’ve addressed SCBWI events the length and breadth of the USA, as well as Europe, but my travels and years abroad have made it harder to connect with the UK branch. Time to put that right!
What do you hope SCBWI members will gain from your speech?Seeking publication in today’s marketplace can be stressful, frustrating and dispiriting. It can be so hard to be genuinely pleased for those who succeed. Rather than focusing solely on the “destination” of a publishing deal, I would love to leave members feeling inspired and excited about the journey. Because if we don’t love writing, what is it all for?
What’s the best piece of writing advice you can give?
For me, it all comes down to the two C words! Concept and Craft. Worry less about fancy websites, building huge twitter followings, discussing the future of print books, etc etc. Instead, focus on developing a unique concept and mastery of your writing voice and craft so that you can build a rich and layered story on the page. If you can achieve that, agents and editors will find you and good things will follow.
Some excellent advice from our keynote speakers. I think this year's event is doing to be amazing. Look out for the launch of the official conference website very soon.
And finally let me present the brand new banner for this year's conference.
Isn't it gorgeous. It was designed by Leigh Hodgkinson, who as mentioned above is one of our keynote speakers this year.
Five years ago she started trying to pin her characters down onto paper. They objected, so she joined SCBWI and began writing about them instead. Since then she has been longlisted for the Undiscovered Voices competition, shortlisted for the Commonword Children’s Diversity Writing Prize and was outright winner of the Brit Writers’ Award.
A hopeless romantic, she believes that one day her publisher will come. In the meantime she writes ridiculous poetry for The Funeverse and promotes literacy for fun in her school, library, local community and anywhere else she can get away with.
Vivienne is the owner & editor of Serendipity Reviews, which she has successfully run since 2009. Voted as one of The Guardian’s Top Ten YA book blogs of 2015. as well as Champion of Content in 2015 at the UKYA Book Blogger Awards. Her blog has recently been voted No3 in the Veulio Top Ten Literature Blogs in the UK. She is presently editing a chapter book series, she hopes to send out to agents very soon.