Yesterday I attended my first Kids and YA festival at the NSW Writers Centre. It was my fourth festival overall, but there’s something really exciting about attending a festival that specifically caters to the age group for which you write. Like all other festivals preceding it, there’s an atmosphere which is difficult to describe. I imagine it as a beehive’s collective hum, imaginations running wild, all working together in creative harmony. Because that’s the most awesome thing about writers festivals. The positivity.
We are reminded on a daily basis that times are tough in the publishing industry and that only the best of the best books will make it. You’d think that would foster an environment of mistrust. That published authors would be looking over their shoulders, squirreling away their best writing secrets. That aspiring authors would all be eyeing each other off like malnourished jackals approaching a bone. But it’s not like that. At least not in my experience.
From what I can see, there’s a common understanding. We’re not doing this for the money (heaven help us if we were). We all simply love writing. For the established authors, that means passing on their wisdom. For the emerging writers – well, we are just so excited to be in the company of other people who share our love for storytelling. We network, encourage and offer each other advice. And yes, when one of us ascends to the almighty status of published author, we feel a pang of envy. But then other feelings creep in too – good feelings.
I think ultimately, we are happy to see our peers get published. If not to simply reassure ourselves that people do get published in this day and age (and someone we know personally, no less!), then to get excited. After all, if they’ve written a damn good book, then -huzzah! – that’s one more book for our to-be-read pile.
Now, you may have noticed that this post is brimming over with happy vibes and that’s because I had my own small victory yesterday. My name was lucky enough to be drawn out of the box for the pitching competition (first up – aargh!). I could barely breathe during my pitch, and in my eagerness to reply to one of the judges’ critiques, I started answering her before she was finished (“Feedback” she said to me firmly; I immediately shut up).
But, I won!
Now I know that this is just a small pebble of success on the road to publication, but it’s a shiny piece of encouragement all the same. Today I have something I didn’t have yesterday morning. I have three editors who know my novel is on it’s way and have expressed an interest in seeing the manuscript when it’s polished. And I’ve got 5 hours with a mentor (that was the prize – it couldn’t have come at a better time). I’m quite simply: stoked.
Here’s a photo of me with the judges, looking really awkward:
By the end of the day (in addition to the above), I’d made a couple of new friends and reconnected with the sister of a longtime friend. It didn’t quite deliver the same high as the moment each of my children were born, or the day I first met my husband, but it was up there. If you have a chance, check out the twitter feed used for the festival #nswwc. Many of the main points were tweeted. I especially loved the session on diversity in YA and Kids’ books (speakers were Boori Monty Pryor, Sarah Ayoub and Wai Chim).