Yesterday was Writer’s Day, British SCBWI’s yearly inspiration-fest. This is my fifth Writer’s Day and my friend Miriam and I have taken to staying at the same Bed and Breakfast every year. Jackie, our lovely B&B host, asked us how we’d been since the last time we’d stayed exactly a year before to attend Writer’s Day.
Why, looking back, it’s been a great writing year.
I’ve finished another novel. I’ve won a place in the SCBWI anthology Undiscovered Voices. I’ve attended every single event that SCBWI organized and learned so much about the children’s book trade. I now have a critique group of truly dedicated writers – we are so dedicated we are all planning to go away together for a long weekend critiquing and bonding!This year, I was actually a speaker — though not as a writer but as a web obsessive compulsive (download the free handout I prepared earlier Who's Afraid of the World Wide Web: An Author's Survival Pack )Who would’ve thought that web addiction would lead to this?
This year we had a Night-Before-Writer’s Day critique session attended by 30 good writing folk. We split up into small groups, picture books and chapter books. In my own little group, we had a spider-coming-of-age story that would make a good novelty book (we imagined a spider toy on a silk ribbon attached to an elongated board book), a lyrical re-telling of an Aesope’s fable, a beautifully illustrated tale of a donkey on a journey, an edgy Cat/Arachnide fantasy which seemed better suited for a Varjak Paw style chapter book, an aeroplane story for Thomas the Tank Engine/Bob the Builder readers, and my own Theophilus Prowse, Head Louse text which I had re-written in rhyme.
There is a certain joy that seems to enthuse the children’s writer. And Writer’s Day is wonderful because en masse, that joy is a warm, embracing, amazing force. Fills you with hope, it does.
Through the years, faces have become familiar and interestingly many of the friends I met on Writer’s Day were folks I had first engaged with online. I did many double takes – “Is that you?” – it takes some getting used to, matching flesh and blood with individuals who had previously been words on a computer screen!
Looking back, I have to say that attending my very first of these conferences, with Geraldine McCaughrean as keynote, was a big turning point in my writing journey – and not just because of what I learned about the industry.
For the first time I realized that there were many other writers out there who shared my dream.
I also realized that a lot of them were very, very good – and I had to raise my game.
Clearly, this was going to be a long journey. But at least I was not alone.
Hello to the wonderful Writers' Day community and heartfelt thanks to the organizers for setting up one of the best days of my year