Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day One, Golden Yarns...

We gathered on Friday night for first hellos and a chat about issues that worried us. Chatham House rules applied - I could tell you what we talked about but then I'd have to kill you. We ate pizza. Thank you to Hell Riccarton for finding us and being very helpful with dietary needs and a big order. And for nice pizza.

Saturday morning we began with a talk about Te Tai Tamariki (a Trust which gathers, curates and exhibits artwork by New Zealand illustrators for children's books), The Children's Bookshop and the impact of the earthquakes on these two. The work of the Trust so far is impressive and I felt a pang of disappointment not to have seen one of their touring exhibitions yet. I hope the next one comes to Auckland. The photos from the earthquake were sobering and it is understandable that the effects of the quakes are still being felt by those in Christchurch more than two years on. The Children's Bookshop have managed to keep operating under the most trying conditions.

The second session was a talk by Gregory O'Brien about artist Graham Percy, the subject of a biography O'Brien has written. Percy worked as an illustrator for the School Journal, illustrated more than 100 children's books, did design work and produced other artworks. His work referenced the art of other New Zealand icons, and NZ itself. A prolific, humble, thoughtful, quiet hero, Percy has not received the attention he and his artwork deserve.

After lunch we had a choice of workshops. Three process workshops on First Draft Techniques, Revision Techniques and the Editor's Role. I went to the editor one with long time and extensively experienced editor Anna Rogers and was encouraged and relieved to find that I was familiar with a lot of the things she talked about. I agree that having someone else do the final edit of your work is a good idea but I know I can get my work to a fair level of readiness fixing spelling and grammar, and checking for factual, character and plot consistencies. I think I'm not too bad with the overall structure of plots either but having a fresh pair of eyes on a manuscript never hurts. I smiled when she warned against adverbial and adjectival overuse, and argued for simple dialogue tags.

Then there were the Genre Workshops - Non-fiction, Picture Books and Social Realism. I went for Picture Books with Kyle Mewburn, where he went through his process for writing his NZ Post Children's Book Award short-listed Melu. This book had a fairly long gestation and there were significant turning points in the writing of it: fundamental shifts in thinking that helped drive the action and gave clarity to the central themes of the plot. I like how Kyle continually questioned every element of the story. What did each element say, how did it contribute to the whole, could it be better? My process is quite different but I liked that questioning approach and will look at incorporating that in future.

After a break everyone re-gathered for a literary dinner at Chateau on the Park where we were wined, dined and very well entertained by Tessa Duder, Fleur Beale, Dylan Horrocks, Kyle Mewburn and Gavin Bishop. If I have missed anyone out here let me just say some wine was consumed. I then attended a very genteel after party at the motel room of some other conference attendees. Then I went and got four hours sleep in preparation for day two...

to be continued....

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