Sunday, 25 November 2007

Writer's Day : the Joy of Children's Writers

I’m sitting up in bed at my Bed and Breakfast in Winchester, a pillow on my lap to stop the laptop inflicting third degree burns on my knees.

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


  1. Hi Candy, I was there! Loved your talk and truly it was an inspirational day!

  2. Hi, Candy!

    I really AM going to start following your blog, even if it ISN'T on Livejournal! (This is a big step for me...) Can I do an RSS feed to LJ so I can be more lazy?

    Nice job yesterday! You totally know your stuff, way to go! Let's see if we get any new takers on the SCBWI blog. Maybe someone will write their mermaid self portrait.

    You're the best,
    Sarah xx

  3. make me a little logo for the community blog and i'll put it on my blog! i'm working on my mermaid self portrait but i've got a big tail.

    >can i do an RSS feed?

    yes you can i think i am supposed to have rss but i think i forgot to put a button when i redesigned the blog. why don't you use the subscribe feature (on the right panel) and get it emailed to you when and IF i update the blog.

    great to see you yesterday!

  4. hi jon! thanks - and yes, wasn't it just so inspirational?

    now catching up with the washing that wasn't done while i was away ... and cleaning the oven.

  5. Hey Candy - promised to poast and now I can (thanks Sue) I am doing! Saturday was great - you are so right that it boosts you up - even an awaiting rejection didn't get me down today - well, not much....Onwards and upwards folks.

  6. thanks cathy! remember what david almond said - it will happen!


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