What A Day! Nosy Crow Conference 2014 My Highlights

My head is still buzzing from Nosy Crow’s one-day conference ‘Everything You Wanted to Know about Children’s Publishing – But Were Afraid to Ask’.

All I can say is, it’s amazing what you can deliver in a day!

It was an incredibly friendly, motivational event packed with useful info, practical tips and advice, as well as some truly inspirational speakers. Ever get the feeling I enjoyed it?!

It’s hard talking about highlights in a day that was crammed with great speakers, but here are two of mine.

The first was hearing Louise Bolongaro, Head of Picture Books at Nosy Crow, talking about what makes the perfect picture book and giving some genuinely helpful “do’s and don’ts”. As well as showing a genuine love and passion for all things Picture Book, which was delightfully infectious – and definitely makes me want to pitch to Nosy Crow right now – because who wouldn’t want to work with someone like that!

Top tips from Louise include:

Appeal to both readers

Always bear in mind your book needs to appeal to two readers – the child and the adult who is buying it (and who will be reading it over and over and over…)

Know your audience

Make sure your story is child-centric.

Stir up Trouble

Remember to have an element of conflict/trouble in your story.

‘Do you have a problem? Good-because then you have a story…Stories are about overcoming obstacles, never, ever about everything being all right.’ Joyce Dunbar

Sell it in a line

Ask yourself if you can sell your story in one line – because if you can’t then an agent/publisher/bookseller won’t be able to either (and it’s probably too complicated for a picture book)

Build the Arc

Think about the narrative arc and the three act plot, with your set up, moment of drama and the climax and resolution. It may be a lot to squeeze into 32 pages, but then no one said writing a picture book was easy!

Do the ‘read aloud’ test

Picture books are designed to be read aloud, and predictable language and repetition where a child can anticipate what’s coming next means they feel empowered, as if they are reading it.

There were also some very useful tips on pacing, rhyme and scansion (the process of marking the stresses in a poem) – her golden rule here is be rhythmically perfect! And how to make your book internationally appealing to make sure you get those all important co-editions.

And much much more! But finally for Louise, a great picture book needs two things at its core to really stand the test of time – passion and heart!

And my second highlight? Well that was the  lovely  Tracey Corderoy. Writer of ‘Baddies, Beasties and a Sprinkling of Crumbs’, ‘Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam’, the ‘Hubble Bubble’ series, ‘The Grunch and Grouch’ Series and many many more.

You know when you sit and listen to someone and you don’t look away or find your mind wandering ? You just want them to keep on talking – well, that’s how Tracey holds you when she’s on stage. So it’s no wonder she did nearly 80 live events last year in schools, bookshops, libraries and festivals. 80!

Tracey firmly believes that live events are brilliant for the kids. As she says, ‘In the greyness of society, you as an author can bring a sense of colour’.

But they can also be brilliant for us as authors because they keep you connected to your audience and give you some valuable and honest feedback.

As someone who is just starting to think about venturing into the world of live events, I found she had some brilliants tips.

Here are just a few:

Use props

Like ‘story sacks’. These are designed to be filled with items to draw out during your event that relate to your  own book. This is genius because walking into a room or onto a stage with what looks like Father Christmas’ sack makes everyone ask themselves what’s in there! I want to know, I’d better listen.

Or puppets. Which are a great way to engage kids and can be used for storytelling by you and the kids.

Use Crafts

This works wonders. Tracey noted that kids engage with you and relax and talk so much more when you join them in an activity. And as an extra tip she said use sandwich bags to keep materials in, layered up on paper plates. It’s a neat way to store all the bits and makes setting up quick and easy (just make sure the bags are out of the way once the kids are in place for that all-important health and safety!) Also beware of allergies for food based crafts and generally ensure all materials are age appropriate.

Be adventurous

Tracey dresses up a lot and let’s face it, nothing draws a kid’s attention more than a giant white rabbit!

Be prepared

Be organised, try it out at home first and make sure you have more activities than you think you need, more materials for craft than the numbers of kids you expect.

Focus on participation

The more active and involved they are, the more memorable it will be.

Mix it up

Remember kids won’t concentrate for a whole session so read a bit of the book, get them up doing some storytelling with a puppet, make some crafty ideas, sing a song, play some music, then bring them back at the end.

Above all, go that extra mile to make it memorable. Be enthusiastic and you’ll find they will be too. (As will other people – Tracey had some great photos of booksellers joining in and dressing up!)

Tracey talked about the fact that there are some teachers you meet along the way that just have that wonderful ability to engage you and inspire you. Well, Tracey has that herself in bucket loads. And it’s not just the kids she inspires!

There was loads more in the day – Adam Tinworth on how to market yourself online, the Bookseller’s Children’s Editor, Charlotte Eyre, on ‘what’s working and what’s not’ right now, Florentyna Martin from Waterstones giving the low-down on what really makes a book stand out, as well as Hilary Delamare talking about the role of an agent.

And not forgetting the wonderful Helen Peters talking to Kate Wilson about her journey to publication. It’s always heartening to hear just how circuitous it can be!

So that’s just a snapshot of what was a really packed day. The only regret I have is that I had to leave early and didn’t get a chance to hear more than the beginning of Jeff Norton’s talk on overcoming failure, which I’ve heard was hugely entertaining. He tweeted a link by Thomas Eisenmann talking about the same issue, which is brilliant and well worth a listen if like me you didn’t get a chance to hear Jeff do his thing.

If you want to find out more about the full line-up, keep your eye on the Nosy Crow website as they did a great round up of the day last year – and I’m sure they will do the same this year.

I hope the Nosy Crow team do another event next year and if they do I highly recommend grabbing yourself a ticket!









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