#Gr8tblogs

How Do You Face Your Fears?

As an introverted author I’d rather sit at home in front of my computer and write, but the reality is sometimes we have to help people know about our stories if we hope to sell any books. In life, we all have certain fears.

For kids, it might be fear of the dark, for an adult it might be a fear of huge creepy crawly spiders or slithery snakes. What is your fear? We all have them in one way or another.

But we have a choice :

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I recently bought and read a beautiful picture book by fellow Canberra author, Mitch Frost, all about helping kids facing their fear of the dark. The Ultimate Survival Guide to Monsters Under The Bed, is superbly written and vibrantly illustrated. With ten ‘scientifically proven,’ reassuring steps to prepare for bedtime, no child will ever be afraid of monsters creeping out of those dark places in their bedroom again. Kids will learn to face their fear in a humours look at the bedtime routine that will even tickle a parent’s funny bone. Kids previously afraid of monsters, and their parents, will have a much better night sleep. I recommend this book for parents of any child 3 and over that is too frightened to turn out that night light or sleep in their own bed.

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A couple of years ago, I too, wrote a picture book to help kids learn to face their fears. Frazzled Freya was a frill-neck lizard who had to learn to face everything and rise, but not before she continued to forget everything and run. Freya had to make a choice, and step out of her comfort zone if she was ever going to join her friends and play and have fun in the desert sun. She too, was afraid of monsters, but her monsters were very different to those hiding under the bed.

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This year, I have been more determined than ever to take my own advice and stop running, face my fears and rise to each occasion that presents itself. That means showing up at conferences and festivals, mingling in person. Taking more risks to put myself out there, not only with manuscript assessments but talking more about my established body of work. Talking about myself and my books with and to my peers does not come easy for me. that’s why agreeing to talk to a room full of teacher librarians at our recent CBCA ACT meeting was rather daunting. But instead of running from the experience, I took a few deep breaths and faced it head on. Once I started, I relaxed and to my surprise, with my notes in my hand as a safety net, I didn’t need to read them at all. I admit, once I sat down and allowed myself to breath again, I remembered I had forgotten a couple of things, but overall I did a pretty decent talk, I was able to give myself a well earned pat on the back. It wasn’t so scary after all. The best part of doing this, was sharing the experience with five other awesome local Canberra authors, Samantha Tidy, Shelly Unwin, Krys Saclier, Mitch Frost and Cate Whittle.

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The next step, was to embrace making a short video clip. At first this felt majorly impossible. Take after take, my tongue tied and my throat dried up. I had a brain freeze and forgot my lines so many times. I almost gave up, the flight receptors in my brain were at an all time high. But I had made a promise to myself,, this was the year I was going to fight those fears. I sought an alternative way to make the video. I can’t give away too much just yet, suffice to say, I did it. I still wasn’t completely happy with it, I admit I did stumble a few times, but I did the best I could and sent it off. Keep a lookout on my Facebook page, I’ll be able to reveal it there soon.

My five take home points for facing your fears are:

  1. Find helpful books to read..

  2. Take one small step at a time.

  3. It takes practice to conquer your fears.

  4. Remember to breathe - Deep, slow breaths.

  5. Just have a go, regardless of the outcome, be prepared to put yourself out there.

What are your worst fears?

What are some of the tips or strategies you could share to help others overcome their fears?

I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments section below.

Where Do You Find Ideas for Stories?

Stories , like people, come in all shapes, sizes and genres. Each one is different and unique in its own way. With the exciting cover reveal of A Lighthouse in Time, Book 2 of the Adamson Adventures, my new chapter book for middle grade readers this week, I thought we might take a look at finding story ideas.

In case you missed it, drum roll please…. here is the cover for - A Lighthouse in Time. The Adamson Adventures. Book 2.

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When I do school visits, one of the questions that kids always ask is, ‘Where do you find your ideas?’

My answer, basically, ‘Stories are all around us. You just have to look and listen.’

Story ideas can come from - talking to other people. Kids, have amazing imaginations, a conversation can spark a fabulous idea. I have often been heard to say, ‘There’s a story in that.’

- everyday life experiences. The things we see and do can inspire a great adventure. Just sit, listen and observe people. It’s amazing the ideas that will spring to mind.

- memories are powerful tools. We can reflect back on the past, growing up as kids ourselves or from observing our own kids grow. Our memories make our writing voice more authentic and original.

- special events. Christmas, birthdays, even a wedding can create possibilities and help present stories of cultural diversity.

- other books. When you read a lot you travel into new and different worlds. A line from a story can set you off on a completely different tangent, leading to exploring and making discoveries of your own.

- prompts. I belong to a Facebook group that has a one word prompt every week. It is the 52 Week Picture Book Challenge. We are one month into the next year and I already have the ideas for four intriguing stories. By the end of a year, I should have the beginnings of 52 new possible stories. How exciting is that! They won’t all be necessarily picture books, some might be chapter books, the possibilities are endless.

So, where do my specific story ideas come from?

Let’s start with my new upcoming children’s chapter book for ages 8-12 years, A Lighthouse in Time.

For me, the ideas tend to come from memories and experiences. A Lighthouse in Time is no different. For as long as I can remember I have been intrigued by lighthouses. On many a driving holiday around our magnificent Australian coastline, if I spot a lighthouse, I must visit it. To explore inside and climb the winding stairs all the way to the top, is even better! I’ve collected lots of photos and statues of lighthouses from every one we have visited. Imagine my curiosity when we discovered the remains of the Cape St George lighthouse only 2 1/2 hours drive from home.

Our boys were in their early teens then and every January we had a camping holiday at Merry Beach on the NSW South Coast. Mr B being a surfer from way back, was always in search of that perfect wave. So we would explore all the beaches within a days drive of our campsite. To my delight we found and spent time at Caves Beach and the lighthouse. The more visits we made to the area, the more my curiosity grew. Caves on a beach, an area called Wreck Bay and a mysterious old lighthouse. What more could a children’s author ask for? I had to learn more about why this lighthouse had been demolished. I could see the seeds of an idea growing. The lighthouse had to be haunted. Slowly, with careful nurturing the idea grew into something a little more substantial.

Cape St George Lighthouse as it remains today.

Cape St George Lighthouse as it remains today.

An artist’s impression of the lighthouse in the 1800’s.

An artist’s impression of the lighthouse in the 1800’s.

When Elephant tree Publishing offered me a contract for Secrets Hidden Below and asked whether I could use the siblings to make a series, I immediately thought of this partially written story. I hope when you read it, you will enjoy the adventure as much as I did writing it.

Most of you know by now the story behind the idea for Secrets Hidden Below. Again it evolved from memories and experiences. It was a holiday to Bali with the family many years ago where it all began. I loved the culture and was fascinated by the geography and wanted to write a story for children about this beautiful island that they could enjoy while on holidays. Mr B had already spent several years working in and out of Indonesia, so the family was familiar with Bahasa. After our incredible holiday in Bali, it seemed a natural progression for me to extend my teaching by learning Indonesian and become a LOTE teacher. After further study on Bali and writing, I became confident I was equipped with the language, experiences and knowledge to be able to write Secrets Hidden Below. I recently found an old photo album of that initial Balinese holiday and would like to share a few memories here with you. Just a note, these were taken back in the mid 1990’s, so the quality is not as good as today.

Tanah Lot Temple

Tanah Lot Temple

Offerings to the Gods at the Temple. Balinese people are very superstitious.

Offerings to the Gods at the Temple. Balinese people are very superstitious.

Ubud

Ubud

Inside a Woodcarving shop at Ubud.

Inside a Woodcarving shop at Ubud.

Mt Batur Volcano

Mt Batur Volcano

Mt Batur Crater Lake

Mt Batur Crater Lake

Curious about the third book in the series? The seedlings from another life experience are growing. Where are the Adamson family heading next? Hint : There is no surf in sight, Dad will not be happy, but Zac will be living his wildest dreams. That is, until they become Luke’s greatest desires instead. The title for Book 3 of the Adamson Adventures is Fossil Frenzy. Can you guess where it might be set?

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Now it’s your turn.

How do you come up with story ideas

Are they similar to my suggestions or do you have alternative methods? Let me know in the comments section below.

I'm Not Much of a Goal Setter, but Here I Go!

Happy New Year to all my readers. Welcome to a bright new year here at Sandy’s Story Chair. I hope you enjoy the stories I have for you again this year.

First up is a blog hop with a wonderful group of bloggers who I have been lucky to call virtual friends in recent years. We are starting the year with our blog posts of ‘What I hope to accomplish in 2019 even if I don’t win the lottery.’

The start of a new year is like a blank slate, and we don’t know what will be written upon it. Even if we don’t hold that winning lottery ticket, there are loads of things we can engrave upon it.

My writerly pals and I are sharing our hopes - on the writing road and in our family life - for 2019 in our #Gr8Blog hop: “What I Want to Accomplish in 2019 Even if I Don’t Win the Lottery.”

Please have a read, and then visit the other #Gr8Blogs linked at the end of this post for more smiles and inspiration.

I’ll admit I’m not much of a planner. a bit like my writing, I tend to go with the flow and see where the road takes me. It is somewhat difficult to make plans at the moment with Mr B working overseas in PNG. He tends to have meetings all over the place and his plans are changed at a moments notice. I try to fit my plans around him to be available to catch up where we can, whether that’s in Port Moresby, here at home in Canberra or any other city in Australia. Makes things difficult at times, I have to be ready to fly somewhere at short notice, but that’s life for now and have laptop will travel. At least I can write wherever I go.

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So what are my goals other than trying to see hubby as much as possible?

  1. Finish editing ‘A Lighthouse in Time.’ Book 2 of the Adamson Adventures and send it to my publisher asap. The manuscript assessment came back between Christmas and New Year. It was so helpful, I can’t wait to get stuck into my revisions. With all the wonderful family visitors this time of year, I haven’t had the time to sit down and take it all in.

  2. I have begun plotting Book 3. The next Adamson Adventure is going to be a lot of fun. I hope to start writing it soon too. The decision on title has to be made, I’m torn between two, perhaps you can help me choose. Which title do you think a child would find more enticing?

    a) Fossil Frenzy

    b) Panic on the Plateau

  3. I am looking forward to seeing two of my short stories published in this years Creative Kids Tales Anthology. I had set myself the goal of writing 3 stories for this, but the 3rd won’t be ready in time. See, I told you I am not good at goal setting. I have to be realistic and face the fact I don’t have time to finish it before the Feb 1 deadline. The first story is titled ‘Save it For a Rainy Day.’ It fits the enchanted theme. A small child finds an enchanted star and hides it away for a rainy day until she needs it to do something special for her family. The second story fits the ‘Things that go Bump in the Night’ theme. Two brothers can’t sleep for all ‘The Thumping’ that is going on under the house. They seek to find the answer to all the noise and discover a wonderful surprise.

  4. That 3rd story, I have set myself the goal of making it into a picture book instead. I would like to see it published one day. Maybe not this year, but one year. Daisy Dewdrop is a little rain fairy that can’t manage to bring rain to the drought stricken farm alone. She goes off in search of a few essential friends to help.

  5. My PB ‘Penelope the Playful Platypus’ is finished and ready to be revealed to the world. My goal for her is to have her published this year. Whether my publisher takes her on or whether I Indie publish, she will be published. Penelope has a fantastic imagination and longs to play with other creatures in her habitat, but sometimes making friends isn’t easy and she must learn to accept not to be too quick to judge.

  6. I intend to travel to Bali this year with the hopes of doing a book tour with ‘Secrets Hidden Below.’ It has been well received by a book store chain there who does author readings and signings in their Seminyak store. I would like to see if I can add to that a few more places as well, including the International school in Sanur.

  7. I intend to continue to improve my self confidence in this writerly life by attending more conferences. I have already committed to attending the second Creative Kids Tales Festival in Sydney in early April and will also commit to attending the bigger CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) conference being held here in Canberra in June.

  8. Meanwhile I will continue to attend as many SCBWI ACT and CBCA ACT branch functions as possible. Late last year I was approached to be a guest speaker this year for the Romancing the Stars CBCA evening later this year here in Canberra. I might even stretch myself out of my comfort zone and do it.

  9. As for marketing, I hope to do more school visits, more market stalls. and find more places to sell my books.

  10. As we say in ‘Scribbles,’ the online writing course by the amazing Jen Storer, I aim to keep doing ‘the verk!’ One day I might even finish all the course work. Is that even possible?

So I guess my word to set my goals for this year is ‘Focus.’ I need to stop procrastination and distractions and focus on all this amazing and exciting work ahead of me.

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Few! For someone who doesn’t like to set goals, there’s a lot going on here. I can’t believe how easily that all flowed out of me once I thought about it. Looks like a busy year ahead. Think perhaps I better add learning some time management strategies to that list.

What do you want to tick off your bucket list this year? Please share in the comment section.

For more inspiration, visit my #Gr8blogs pals below. (Ooooo, and we’ll let you know if one of us actually wins the lottery :) :)

If you blog and want to join us on this hop, just add the family-friendly link to your blog post in the comment section. We’ll visit and give you some blog love-:D

Thanks for stopping by!

Cat Michaels http://bit.ly/2smasqg_CatMichaels

Jacqui Letran https://rovingvegans.com/spread-a-trail-of-peace-world-tour/

Julie Gorges http://babyboomerbliss.net/baby-boomer-looks-forward-to-2019-with-exciting-book-announcement/

Shana Gorian https://authorshanagorian.com/2019/01/10/what-i-want-to-accomplish-in-2019-even-if-i-dont-win-the-lottery-blog-hop/

Rosie Russell - https://booksbyrose.com/index.php/2019/01/10/https-booksbyrose-com-index-php-kidlit-blog-by-rosie/

Carmela Dutra http://carmeladutra.com/blog-post/1354/

Rebecca Lyndsey https://rebeccalyndsey.blogspot.com/2019/01/happy-2019.html

Jim Milson → https://wp.me/p3RsfU-2kw

Corrina Holyoake bit.ly/2RlzhS2

Writing Workshops Are So Much Fun.

One of the best things about being a children’s author is that I get the chance to visit schools and meet lots of young readers. Whether that means reading and entertaining the younger ones with my emu puppet or engaging older readers in writing workshops. Either way, a school visit doesn’t have to be daunting, if well planned it can be exhilarating for the students and the presenter.

Recently, with the launch of my new chapter book, ‘Secrets Hidden Below,’ I have had the opportunity to visit two schools and work with students to encourage them with a few new writing strategies. During Literacy Week in September I had the fantastic opportunity to work with a very talented writing group of year 5 & 6 students from Forrest PS in Canberra, then at the end of October I had the incredible opportunity to work with all year levels from Prep right through to year 8 at the Ela Murray International School in Port Moresby, PNG.

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Here are my top 5 take-home points to remember from the experience.

1. Be well prepared. Being asked to present to kids ranging in age from 5 to 14 yrs means varying your workshop to suit their requirements. Even the Preps and year 1-2’s had a slightly different presentation than the other. While the majority of the lesson centred around my picture book, ‘Emma the Eager Emu,’ some fun facts (with pictures) to learn about emus and other Australian birds, I was able to ask higher level questions to the 1’s and 2’s when discussing the themes or lessons learned from the story and able to give them a worksheet that required higher order thinking than their Prep counterparts. It was the same with the writing workshops for the rest of the year levels. With each growing age group I could extend their activities.

2. Be adaptable. No matter how organised you think you are, something will always happen to make you have to change things. In some instances the scheduled time slot for a particular group was longer than I had anticipated, while others had been shortened. Remember, you are a visitor to the school and must fit into their timetable. When my time with the year 3’s and 4’s was extended from 90 min to 2 hours, it meant I could relax, slow the pace, allow more time for students to work on each writing task. It also gave me more time to read exerts from several of my books to use as examples of writing strategies instead of the originally planned one. I initially planned to demonstrate writing devices from ‘Gingerbread Aliens’ only, but given a longer time period I was able to include ‘Secrets Hidden Below’ as well. I loved seeing the students all so engaged and full of questions. On the other hand, because there was a large year 5 - 6 cohort, it was decided to split their original session in two. This meant instead of having 2 hours to work with all of them, I now had an hour each for two groups. To make this work I had to decide which parts of the workshop to skip so that they would get the most benefit out of me being there to help them. Some groups were bigger than I had thought, some were smaller. Again, if you are prepared to adapt, you can make this work. As the year 5-6 groups were so large, the teachers decided to move the lesson into the old library. Not so bad, except in 32 C degree heat with rising humidity and an air con system that seemed to be working overtime, it was a) extremely hot, I could feel the sweat running down my back and my face felt quite flushed no matter how much water I drank, and b) the noise of the air con was so loud I had difficulty hearing some of the students answers. I hope they coped better than I did.

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3. Year 7 & 8 aren’t so scary after all. I haven’t taught students of this age in a very long time. In fact, not since I graduated from teachers college over 30 years ago. So the prospect of working with them while exciting, was also a bit daunting. I needn’t have worried, they were a fantastic bunch of kids. I began the session by recognising the fact that my books are not targeted at their age level and presented them as a learning tool for examples of writing devices. The students were all very enthusiastic and eager to participate. We had some great discussions, excellent writing and a whole lot of laughs along the way.

4. Questions and answers can stretch your thinking. Sometimes the responses to questions you ask can be surprising. When demonstrating how to draw a mind map I discovered the enormous vocab students have, no matter their age. Talk about thinking on my feet, I suddenly became very aware of my spelling. To say the year 7 - 8’s tested me, is an understatement. I’m still not sure if I spelt telekinesis correctly. I’m sure they all spotted my mistake. I had some surprising questions asked of me too. Things I had never been asked before that really made me think on my feet. I enjoyed the challenge and hope I answered them all to their satisfaction. I can’t believe I did forget to mention the one thing I do everyday during my spare time, I guess because it has become more of a routine than a spare time activity. That is, walking my dog around the country hills where we live. I walk an average of 5 Km everyday with her. We look for kangaroos, echidnas, wombats, lizards and all sort of birds. You never know what I might find that may spark an idea for a story.

5. Relax and enjoy. It all goes too fast. Relax, breathe and take in every delightful moment. Watching students from all age groups write with such engagement and enthusiasm was awesome. Listening to the excitement in their voices as they shared their work with each other and myself felt wonderful. Observing students madly taking notes from every word I said and slide I presented was surprising yet made me feel quite honoured that they wanted to remember it all. It’s all over all too soon and before you know it, you find yourself alone back in front of your computer screen looking forward to the next school visit. I send my sincerest thank you to everyone at TEMIS, I enjoyed my two days there enormously. A big warm hug to you all.

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Now it’s your turn. Have you ever experienced the joy of a writer’s workshop or author visit? Whether from the author’s or student’s point of view, please leave a comment below.

Do you have any questions? I will do my best to answer.

Spring is in the air.

It’s that time of year again where we Canberrans begin to live in hope of a little warmth and sunshine. But don’t put away your winter woollies too quickly. Just when the weather feels like it has turned a corner and we can end our hibernation, the cold winds from the south return.

Late August and September did bring us some beautiful days, enough to start dreaming of Summer holidays, visiting the beach and long country walks.

Towards the end of August after a hectic bookish month, (see last months post), I escaped for a well earned rest to warmer skies. Perth already felt like Spring had sprung. I shared several glorious days with my eldest son and his wife. We explored the wonderful Swan Valley region with all its delicious offerings of wineries, chocolate factories and even a gin distillery.

I discovered like Canberra, Perth too, has a tulip festival. Their’s is set among the beautiful hills behind Perth in the Araluen Botanic Park. A hidden native garden I had no idea existed until this visit. We had planned to visit the gardens for the day anyway, when on arrival we found to our delight the tulip festival had begun. It was a perfect Spring day for meandering along garden paths under Eucalypt trees taking in the abundant colour.

Araluen Botanic Park, Perth
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Naturally, as with all my trips to Perth, we also visited Kings Park Botanical Gardens. Many of the native wildflowers were just beginning to bloom, but I did take a few lovely shots of some of the Kangaroo Paw.

 
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Springtime in Canberra means tulips, wattles and cherry blossoms. Not to mention the inevitable hay fever that comes along with all the pollen. On one of my morning walks around our valley I did stop to take a few pics of the wattle. Its bright yellow blossoms always bring sunshine to any day.

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Back home in Canberra our own Floriade has begun in all its amazing glory. I have had the opportunity to walk around the festival twice already this year. It is wonderful to see all the families out and about enjoying the weather and all that Floriade has to offer. Including the tulips and pansies, Floriade also entertains with an annual painted garden gnome competition, ferris wheel rides and art & craft, and local produce stalls. I found my picture books ‘Emma the Eager Emu’ and ‘Frazzled Freya’, both being sold among the stalls and enjoying the sunshine, (thanks so much to Monica of Wombat Cards & Gifts).

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We even managed our first trip to the beach this month. Although the wind was still a tad chilly, it was fabulous to soak in the sun and watch our grandson experience the sand and surf for the first time.

 
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I did do one school visit, for a writer’s workshop with year 5 & 6 students, (and a book signing too, at Harry Hartog in Woden.) but that is the topic of another blog post. Maybe next time.

With the Spring also came a bit of much needed rain. (We still need a lot more.) The paddocks have been looking very hard and dry and our water tanks have never been so low. On a positive note the rain brings the kangaroos out more to graze during the day. It is a chance to see all the cute new joeys as they begin to pop out of their mother’s pouches. We have also had deer grazing in our paddocks more frequently than ever before. I think they have discovered the green grass where our grey water waste flows. Deer are curious creatures and get up to rather a lot of mischief that includes eating the blossoms from my ornamental pear tree and pulling branches off my gum trees with their massive strong antlers.

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Spring is in the air and Summer is just around the corner. Time to start making plans for those lazy hazy days down the beach. That also includes a reading list for time spent in the shade of a tree, swinging in a hammock or lazing by a pool. Perhaps it’s time to plan your next Summer getaway? Don’t forget to include a book for the kids. ‘Secrets Hidden Below’ will take them to the beaches of Bali and beyond. Filled with adventure and surprises it just might inspire you and the kids to book that well deserved holiday.

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Have you ever been to a tulip festival?

What are your plans for the upcoming warmer months?

What is on your reading list?

5 Reasons to Attend a Conference.

The thought of attending a conference on my own makes me shudder with fear. My husband can step into a room of unknown people and before you know it he has made friends with at least a dozen of them.

I'm the complete opposite. Born in July, I am a typical crab. I like to hide in my shell. build up my walls and observe while everyone else around me talks.

In social situations where I know all the people that are invited I'm fine, but put me in a situation where I am out there on my own I suddenly dry up. I  can't find anything to talk about,  and certainly can't begin to think about joining a group where they all seem to know each other and I am the odd one out.

Sound familiar? So why would you put yourself in this situation and attend a conference of like-minded people?

In the past two months I have done just that. The first was a writer's workshop in the beautiful Araluen Valley with the amazing Jackie French. The second was the Creative Kids Tales Writer's Festival in "The Shire." The place I grew up and called home for my younger years.

I learnt a lot from these events and I am so pleased I put myself out there on a limb, took a chance and dove into the experience.

Here are my top 5 reasons you should consider attending a conference in your field no matter how introverted you are.

Developing your Network.

This could be one of the hardest for me. Online, I have no problem connecting with other authors. In person, this is a lot harder. While at the festival I had hoped to introduce myself to other authors that had also been involved in the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection. I don't think I managed to speak to one of them, until perhaps the end of the day when this photo was taken. I did connect with other authors and illustrators that were new to this publishing journey and I hope I was able to help them with a little insight of my journey so far. It was a few small steps, but at least I have now met a few more like-minded people to continue along the road with. I encourage you to do this too. You are never alone, there are always other people in your field willing to share their experiences and wisdom.

Increasing your Knowledge.

The keynote speakers at the festival were amazingly generous with sharing their knowledge. I wrote copious pages of notes so numerous I don't know where to begin. A huge thanks to Georgie Donaghey, founder of Creative Kids Tales for bringing together these wonderful writers, illustrators and editors to speak to us. Also a massive thank you to Susanne Gervay, Wai Chim, Tristan Banks, Sue Whiting and Sarah Davis for being so willing to give their time to us novice writer's so that we may learn from your incredible experiences. A few of my take-home points from their advice is as follows -

  • Do your research, read a lot, rethink your work, rewrite, make it relatable.
  • Don't be afraid to write about hard topics, but soften it with highs and lows. Add laughter as well as tears and always finish with a happy ending.
  • Start with what you know, then lie. In other words, be creative, stretch the the truth, add a twist and see where it leads. Build on what you know to find an original story.
  • When marketing think outside the square, be unique, different but always be true to yourself.
  • Write the story that only you can tell. Look at it from different angles, make it topical, be brave, bold and write from the heart.

Improving your skills.

As a member of Creative Kids Tales we had the bonus of being offered a one on one manuscript assessment by either Clare Hallifax, Sue Whiting, Sarah Davis or Susanne Gervay. This was an opportunity not to be missed. Sure, you can pay for a manuscript assessment without attending a conference. You can email your manuscript off into the ether to someone and wait for a written response, but to meet and personally speak to the assessor makes the experience all the more personal and worthwhile. I truly appreciate all the advice Sue Whiting gave me for my junior chapter book. It has been a work in progress for many years. After speaking with her and listening to all her valuable advice I now feel I am on track to finally complete the story and begin the submission process with more confidence. Sue was able to guide me in the right direction where I could see I wasn't quite right but wasn't sure how to fix it.  Like anything, writing takes practice and is a constant learning curve. No matter how much you read or study, there is always something someone can teach you.

Build your resource library.

Conferences always supply goodie bags and the Creative Kids Tales Writer's Festival was no exception. There were two bags on offer, one for members and one for non-members. Inside among all the pamphlets and wonderful information were also a couple of books to add to your resource library. Inside my bag was the fabulous picture book 'I'm Australian Too,'by Mem Fox, (which is among the Children's Book Council of Australia's short listed books of 2018), and a YA novel 'The Things We Promise' by J. C. Burke. I also managed to buy for myself copies of Georgie Donaghey's PB 'Clover's Big Idea.'  Can't wait to start reading that to my 3 month old grandson. Susanne Gervay's JF,  'Super Jack' and Sue Whiting's MG 'Missing." I have already finished reading 'Missing,' it was certainly an 'unputdownable' irresistible story. You never know what fantastic things you might come home with. It goes without saying, I wore my CKT badge with pride on the day and hope to find other occasions to wear it too.

Opportunity to Challenge yourself.

As I said at the beginning I am by nature a rather introverted person. I overcame this to an extent as a teacher. Put me in front of a group of kids and I can read, teach, perform for hours, but put me in front of a room full of adults and I freeze. So the decision to enter the draw to 'Pitch Ya Book' was a biggie!  While introducing myself to people at an event is difficult, this was even harder.The idea was to prepare a picture book pitch, place your name in the box on entry to the festival and hope to have your name drawn out.  When the time came for the pitches, I actually sat there hoping my name would not be called out. My self doubt had overwhelmed me. Sure enough my biggest fear eventuated. Before I knew it I heard Georgie call my name. It felt surreal as I rose and walked to the front to take the microphone. My mouth dried up, I felt myself begin to shake as my face flushed. I opened my mouth and began to stammer. Before I knew it my two minutes to explain my latest Australian animal picture book were up and it was all over. I was left to hear the response from the panel. They gave some fantastic feedback and brilliant advice to take home to help with my edits. I always felt the story needed a different ending. I now have a new antagonist, Mr Fox is no longer. I have heard before, 'Don't be afraid to kill your darlings.'  The panel advised that a fox as an antagonist was too predictable. Foxes have been hard done by in children's stories, perhaps it would be better to find another option, preferably another Australian animal. Enter a Tasmanian Devil who brings a different slant to the story that is all the more stronger and improved. Armed with Tassie as my new baddie, my new ending became obvious to me, the story practically wrote itself. Challenging myself to attend a conference on my own proved far more worthwhile than I could ever have hoped. Who knows, I might even try to do it again one day.

So there you have it. This little crab is proud to say she has poked her head out of her shell, challenged herself and taken steps to move forward. Next Thursday night I will be attending the SCBWI ACT meeting here in Canberra. Who knows, I may even raise my hand to ask a question...but don't count on it!

Do you attend conferences? How do you feel about them?