CBCA Conference: Myriad Possibilities

Informative and inspiring! Last week I attended my first ever Children’s Book Council of Australia conference. It was such an amazing experience. With a theme of READ: MYRIAD POSSIBILITIES, it was held in Sydney over two days (20-21 May). Authors, illustrators, publishers and teacher-librarians came together to discuss the topic closest to their hearts — books for young people.

I was privileged to speak on the “Myriad Possibilities to Hook Young Readers” panel with Deborah Abela and Jack Health, chaired by the eminently entertaining James Roy. We talked about our inspiration, how we go about engaging young readers and some less relevant things, including Jack’s attempts to make nachos with corn flakes when he ran out of corn chips. Those of you who know me will not be surprised to learn that the conversation eventually turned to Doctor Who and my sonic screwdriver collection. People seemed rather entertained to discover that I carry a sonic screwdriver toy around with me; and amused by it falling apart when I grabbed it out of my bag. Much Tweeting ensued over the fact that I had a second with which to ‘repair’ the first. 🙂

I enjoyed the experience of being a speaker at the conference and getting the opportunity to meet and talk with so many wonderful teacher-librarians. But I also got a lot out of being an attendee, listening to the other speakers discussing the myriad possibilities of reading. There was such a diversity and depth to the programming. I’ve come away from the conference filled with inspiration. I want to write more! I want to spend more time talking with kids in schools! I want to spread the word about reading and just what an important, life-enhancing, empathy-building, mind-expanding, joy it is!

There were so many highlights.

  • The announcement of this year’s awards shortlist. Check it out!
  • Meeting Graeme Base.
  • Hanging out at the bar with other authors.
  • Listening to Melissa Keil, Gabrielle Tozer, Ellie Marney and Will Kostakis discuss “Myriad Possibilities for YA Readers” left me wanting to read all their books and pick up a pen to start writing some YA (it’s been a while).
  • After hearing Julie Hunt and Dale Newman talk about their graphic novel Kidglovz, I literally ran down to the conference bookshop to purchase a copy.
  • Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro had me in fits of laugher as they discussed their picture book collaboration process. These two need to put together a stand-up routine for the next Comedy Festival.

And then there was Leigh Hobbs. The amazing author/illustrator, Leigh Hobbs. Australian Children’s Laureate, Leigh Hobbs. He really struck a cord with me, speaking about some of his experiences, which were both humorous and emotional. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house when he related the story of the autistic boy who discovered joy in drawing. The perfect speech!

As a side note, conference organiser Margaret Hamilton used to be a publisher. Way back in 1999 she published my very first book, a YA short story collection called Life, Death and Detention. Finding a print-out of the book cover, she brought it along to the conference for me. What a wonderful blast from the past! Thank you, Margaret, for publishing that book and for setting me on the path to my writing career.

Many thanks to the CBCA for a brilliant conference. And for inviting me to be a speaker.

While in Sydney, I took to the opportunity to do a bit of touristy stuff, attend the “Science Fiction meets Science Fact” session at the Sydney Writers Festival (presented by author Sean Williams and astronomer Fred Watson) and have a meeting with my publisher (Exciting times ahead!).

But now I’m back in Melbourne. And it’s back to writing.