9 great reasons to go to a conference

Yesterday I went to the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) National Conference here in Canberra. I’ve never been to a children’s book conference before – I’m not a teacher, librarian or even a mum. Yes, I like to write, but up until six months ago I didn’t admit that to anyone – well very few.

Did I have any business going to such an event? Well, I didn’t fit into any of the above categories but my over thinking mind ended up reasoning that since the conference was in my home town, it wasn’t going to be a huge imposition or substantial cost – and it was only for a day, so I could still do all the other things I had planned for my weekend.

To say I am ecstatic I went is an understatement.   I left the conference on a high and I am still thinking about it. One of the things I got out of it was to make a bit of time each day to write something, so I decided, I would get back into writing by make a list of things I loved about the event…

  1. Being surrounded by other people who love books
    It was very cool to speak to people who had come from all over Australia. Even cooler when you realise we all have a passion for books and children and a desire to see children fall in love with books and reading.
  2. Discovering books I’d never heard of (and severely lengthening my list of ‘books to read’ in the process)
    I am a little embarrassed to say it, and I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I hadn’t heard of Barry Jonsberg or Michael Gerard Bauer before I registered. Please don’t think badly of me. Technically it’s been a while since I was a ‘young adult’ and I really only just got back into children’s books in the last 5 years (since the birth of my oldest niece).

    When I was a kid I had awesome Aussie authors like John Marsden, Ruth Park, Robin KleinPaul Jennings and many other local writers to immerse me in my little fantasy worlds, help me gain a healthy obsession with reading and get my overactive mind buzzing.

    Now after listening to their fun and witty banter on stage, Barry and Michael feel like old friends and I desperately want to read everything they have written. 

  3. Inspirational speakers
    Barry and Michael fall under this category of course, but there were so many other writers and illustrators, artists, editors and publishers who were all open, frank and extremely entertaining, some of whom will be mentioned below. 

  4. Cool Canberra author chicks
    What a revelation! We have some very cool and talented authors in Australia, but how thrilling for me to see the ones who have strong links to Canberra. These awesome ladies – Tania McCartney, Tracey Hawkins, Stephanie Owen Reeder and Irma Gold talked about Motherhood and Mayhem.

    I have been very bad. With all the craziness of work and life in the last six months, aside from writing emails to a very dear friend – I haven’t sat down to write anything (including any real posts for this blog). In fact I’ve hardly thought about it – and this is bad because I’m always thinking of crazy stories, rhymes and nonsense ideas. These ladies have inspired me to make the time to write, and stop making excuses!

  5. Experiencing a real book launch
    It may not sound like a big thing, but until my book launch last year – I had never been to one before, so I was desperate to know how a ‘real’ book launch should go down.

    I have no complaints about how mine turned out, in fact it was actually pretty darn amazing. But it was very nice to go to a book launch for a consummate professional and Belinda Murrell did an absolutely brilliant job of launching her new book The Sequin Star.

  6. Talking to people at the trade exhibits
    There were book stalls, library suppliers and educational publications. I really enjoyed talking to them and finding out what they do – and even if I don’t have kids/run a library/teach a class, it is still very cool to know about them.

  7. Learning about Australian history and writers
    Anthony Hill another local author, spoke on a century of war, Australia’s part in war and children’s books. I was amazed to see how many children’s books there are about war, but having experienced another touching ANZAC day only weeks ago, and knowing the sacrifices many of the men and women in my family made for their country and their ancestors – it is not something we should ever take lightly or forget.

    Belinda Murrell also shared about her great-great-great-great-grandmother Charlotte Waring Atkinson who was Australia’s first children’s book author and had an incredible life story which Belinda has written about in her book The River Charm. Can’t wait to get a hold of it and read it, it’s up top of my list! Belinda’s sister Kate Forsyth is also an accomplished author and by the sounds of things, their family tree is enriched with a long line of talented and creative people.

  8. Opportunity to meet childhood heros
    Ever hear of a little book called Possum Magic? If, by some reason you haven’t read it, I could almost guarantee that you have seen the stunning and well recognised cover and/or some of the beautiful watercolour illustrations from the book that were crafted by the talented Julie Vivas.

    Not only did I get to hear her speak about the process she went though to illustrate Davy and the Duckling, but I also got to meet her and she signed my very own copy of Possum Magic. (Should I mention that I was actually shaking and too scared to say anything thoughtful or meaningful to her? – nah, I shouldn’t admit to that).

    There were other very renowned and talented authors and illustrators which made me proud of all the home grown talent we have here in Australia and leads me to the final thing I loved…

  9. Seeing other relationships between authors and illustrators
    We got to listen to two author/illustrator collaborations – Glenda Millard & Stephen Michael King and Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood (who by the way is so young, talented and such an amazingly sweet lady).

    I have actually had experience in this regard working with the fabulous Ian Coate (who spoilt me rotten by making every tiny step of our working together fun, interesting and exciting). But seeing the way these other couples produced their children’s books – in very different ways, was so good for me. I realised how important it is for an author/illustrator to get on, have a mutual vision for a book, and how when all these things align, the result can be incredibly rewarding for those involved and of course equals a win for all potential readers. I am blessed beyond belief for crossing paths with Ian and his lovely wife Sue.

I’ve always believed that a short blog post is a good blog post, and this one is now too long, so I’m going to leave it here. But I would like to say that if you have a passion for anything – you should make an effort to get yourself along to a conference with that theme. There is a very good chance it will inspire and delight.