Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Storylines National Children's Writers and Illustrators' Hui...

One of the things I have always envied about writing greats, is their hobnobbing with other writing greats. Like Neil Gaiman's friendships with Terry Pratchett and Diana Wynne Jones. JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. And Stein, Hemingway and Fitzgerald. And many other literary groups and friendships. I can only imagine how cool their conversations are/were, and wonder whether they offer(ed) each other criticism and advice or just talk(ed) about more lofty philosophical topics. Maybe they just talk(ed) about what colour ink to use, but probably in a very exciting way. I think the important thing to hold on to here, to assuage the jealousy, is the fact that when these people formed their friendships/alliances they weren't necessarily the writing greats we have come to think of them as. They just got together to talk about their common interests.

As with any job or vocation, getting to know others in your field is how you keep your sanity, overcome issues that are hard to wrangle on your own, share information for the betterment of the group, and help and support each other through successes and failures, because if you stay in this business for the long haul you will experience both.

I always recommend to writers just starting out that they should find their tribe. You will need friends who understand what being a writer means as you make the journey. Ideally you will make friends with writers at all different stages of their careers because every stage has its own unique set of advantages and pitfalls. Most likely your group will be centered around the type of writing you do. You might belong to several groups. And late at night when you are struggling with your writing or, anything really, you will message your writery friends and they will know just what you mean and suggest ways to fix it or get through, or sympathise with the place you are at, or cheer you on.

If you don't know how to find your tribe, if you are unsure how to reach out to them, a conference (in addition to having many other benefits) is a good way to begin. Hanging out with your tribe (current or intended) is one of the loveliest things about a writing conference. There is to be a Hui for Children's Writers and Illustrators in Auckland this coming October. I'll be running a workshop for beginner writers, and there will be lots of practical workshops, pitching sessions and opportunities to meet and hang out with writers and illustrators from all over New Zealand at all sorts of different stages in their careers. If you want to find out more or sign up to attend, everything you need to know can be found here. I hope I see you there!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Touring Northland with Storylines ...

I went travelling last week. Thanks to the most excellent organisation Storylines, I toured Northland schools and pre-schools with Tim Tipene, Diana Menefy, Anne Marie Florian, Terry Fitzgibbon and Maria Gill. We talked books, reading, writing and illustrating, and their value and importance. We were wrangled by the lovely, patient, expert driver, and literature fiend, Anne Dickson, who deserves a medal or two for getting us to all the places we needed to go. I visited and spoke at 18 schools, kindergartens and related events. Group sizes varied from  22 to 225 (plus teachers). Ages ranged from 3 months to 13 years. Sometimes groups comprised a whole school, years 0 to 8. It was pretty full on. But as you can see I was still smiling on Friday.

We met a lot of children as we travelled. I talked with students at Tauhoa Primary, Tapora School, and Tomarata Primary on Monday. Mangawhai Beach School, Waipu, Maungaturoto and Paparoa (and Tinopai) Primarys on Tuesday. Maunu and Onerahi Schools, and Whangarei Intermediate (a workshop) on Wednesday. Thursday I visited Hurupaki, Hukerenui, Pakaraka and Kaikohe West Schools and in the afternoon/evening we did an event at Kerikeri High School in association with SLANZA. Friday we wended our way home via Our Place Early Learning Centre, Kerikeri Community Childcare Trust, (Makana Chocolate Cafe - not a school) and Horizon School in Snell's Beach.

We covered a lot of miles (1,812km!!) and got to see many beautiful parts of Northland (including some I'd never seen before). This is me, Tim, Diana and Anne Marie at Whangarei Heads School where Diana and Anne Marie spoke. Just the most amazing backdrop, don't you think?

I received the loveliest gift and card from Maunu School, and was sung a waiata at Kaikohe West School, and at Kerikeri Community Childcare Trust. Everyone was so welcoming everywhere we went.

I was a bit weary by the time I returned home Friday evening but the whole week was a total blast. I felt very lucky. If I got the chance I would do it all again. I had felt a little daunted by the prospect of all that public speaking in such varied circumstances but the children were wonderful, respectful and enthusiastic. My travelling companions were the best company and we had a lot of laughs. Storylines have created a wonderful thing. There will be more tours around other parts of New Zealand over the rest of the year. If you would like an author and/or illustrator to visit your school or preschool you can apply here.