Monday, May 16, 2011

How many publishers does it take...

The New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards are the major awards for Children's Literature in New Zealand. There are other awards, prizes, lists and residencies but these are the ones that are most likely to make your name and sell your books. Two years ago my book The Were-Nana was shortlisted and won Children's Choice - an incredible experience. Last night the 2011 Award ceremony was held and I went along. If you are serious about writing for children one of my big recommendations is joining the children's writing community. Actually I recommend joining the writing community at large. I belong to the NZ Society of Authors, Storylines (The Children's Lit Foundation of NZ), SCBWI and Kiwiwrite4kidz. Over the last 8 or 9 years (I've been committed to writing for the last 11 or so years) I've attended meetings and events, conferences, Storylines family days and workshops. I've met a lot of folk in the NZ children's book business, shaken a lot of hands, and stuttered my way through a fair few small talk conversations. And last night I discovered some of the benefits of my efforts over the last 8 or 9 years.

I knew some of the finalists - shout outs to Fleur Beale, Kyle Mewburn, Anna Gowan, Sherryl Jordan, and Diana Menefy. I met a few more last night whose names and books I already knew - hi Sarah Davis and Elizabeth Pulford. And I know of a bunch more - Ken Catran, David Elliot, Leon Davidson, Maurice Gee, Anna McKenzie, and last night's big winner Margaret Mahy.

I spoke last night with publishers, booksellers, illustrators, writers, bookdesigners, librarians and teachers, family and friends of finalists, and a bunch of just-all-round-bookophiles that I have met over the years. We were all there for the same reason - to celebrate children's books. And NZ Post and NZ Booksellers put on a fabulous event to do just that. They made everyone involved in producing children's books in this country feel special and appreciated. They even rolled out the red carpet and because we make books for kids, we got small sparkly squishy red balls as well. And all my earlier efforts to introduce myself into this community, all my earlier moments of feeling awkward and embarrassed have slowly but surely morphed into discussions about my books, other peoples books, where publishing is at, the pros and cons of attending conferences, book promotion, change and the future of books in NZ. I can truly stand behind my recommendation to join the community you want to be a part of, because after a while you do become a part of it. Last night I called it a family. The children's book community in New Zealand is very encouraging, supportive and friendly - everything a good family is. This is something you have to do for yourself - no one can do it for you. But if you can get to the NZ Post Children's Book Awards next year you should go. And if you don't yet know anyone come and talk to me. I would love to talk to you.

Last nights winners
Non-Fiction: Zero Hour by Leon Davidson
Junior Fiction: Finnigan and The Pirates by Sherryl Jordan
Young Adult Fiction: Fierce September by Fleur Beale
Picture Book: The Moon and Farmer McPhee by Margaret Mahy and David Elliot (illus.)
Best First Book: Hollie Chips by Anna Gowan
Children's Choice
Overall: Baa-baa Smart Sheep by Mark Sommerset and Rowan Sommerset
Non-Fiction: Who's Cooking Tonight by Claire and Glenda Gourley
Junior Fiction: Hollie Chips by Anna Gowan
Young Adult Fiction: Smiling Jack by Ken Catran
BOOK of the Year: The Moon and Farmer McPhee

Congratulations to all the finalist and the winners!! May your books prosper.

And because I'm in a very generous mood today here are some juicy links that I'm busting to share with you. I've never seen actual jokes about writers and publishing before - these are excellent, go and have a chuckle.

And this lovely list of what defines Children's literature over at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure is also interesting, thought provoking and maybe a little controversial in places. Go check it out and see whether you agree or have some more definitions to add.

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