Friday 25 November 2011

SCBWIs Conference # 2

Australian Aborigines say that the big stories — the stories worth telling and retelling, the ones in which you may find the meaning of your life — are forever stalking the right teller, sniffing and tracking like predators hunting their prey in the bush.(Robert Moss, Dreamgates) This was one of the quotes used in Frank Cottrell Boyce's keynote speech, which was both amusing and inspiring. Like everyone there I will never think of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in the same away again! He talked about reading raising expectations, which is so true. As writers we can provide the 'tools [for readers] to read this world carefully and critically' ('Learning to Read', Children's Literature Assocation Quarterly, 1997 Vol 22 No 3). It is a chance for us, as writers, to provide readers with a vicarious experience allowing them to make decisions on how they might react in certain situations - for more information on this idea see my PhD and Andrew Melrose's new book Here Comes the Bogeyman. Cottrell Boyce also pointed out that children's books lead you towards adulthood. But, as he said, reading is about so much more, it is about wanting to share something wonderful and passing it on. It is about having a story that they want to read in the first place. It is about having a narrative that makes them want to turn the page and finish the book. It is about great books. Frank continued by saying: 'A tale isn't beautiful until it has been added to!' (Very pertinent to someone who teaches textual intervention)

 In which case, may all of you potential writers that attended the SCBWI Conference (or couldn't make it this year) find that big story that is stalking you and make it into a beautiful tale that has been added to. For more information on Anthony McGowan's sessions on plotting and controversy check out Laura Atkins' brilliant blog and These were both fantastic sessions but I really couldn't add any more to these excellent posts.

 The SCBWI conference was a great place to remember why you write stories for children. For a start, it was a great leveler as you were surrounded by aspiring authors, multi-award winning authors, illustrators, publishers, editors and agents, but you couldn't always tell who was who as everyone is too busy chatting to worry about who someone might be. Though I did wonder if Anthony McGowan thought I might be stalking him as I attended both his sessions - it was pure interest honest! It was also a great place for Facebook Blind Date - or rather a chance to meet 'for real' all those people you have been talking to for months via fb. Also, if you need a reminder as to how welcoming and apparently buoyant children's publishing is make sure you become a member of SCBWI and then attend next year's conference. Part three on The Edge Panel to follow shortly!

 Here is another Ed Sheeran song because it is very relevant to my PhD. And I hope one day soon both parts of which will be books ;-)

Monday 21 November 2011

2011 SCBWI Conference

Or you know when you've been SCWBI'd when:*

1) Your head is buzzing and you see inspiration around every corner. 
2) You meet up with many fb friends find that they are just delightful in ‘real life’.
 3) You are told by an author, who you have admired for years, “but you know more than I do!” Even if he didn't mean it, it felt good!
 4) You get to lie down on the job….or rather you get to play the denouement for Anthony McGowan!**
 5) You meet an agent who doesn’t bite your head off and spit it out. And also doesn’t say ‘What on earth makes you think you can write?’
 6) You are surrounded by like-minded people who get just as excited as you about writing for children.
 7) You hear Frank Cottrell Boyce say ‘A tale isn’t beautiful until it is added to.’**
 8) You hear a member of the industry panel say ‘Don’t look at what’s selling, write what you want.’**
 9) You hear a group of authors who write ‘Edgy’ YA fiction who all spoke so passionately about a subject that is so important to me.**
 10)You get to read Candy Gourlay’s speech which makes you realise what is possible and not to give up. (Wished I could have heard it but the body had other ideas as it always seems to)
 11) You can’t wait to get back to the computer to start writing as, and going back to where I started, you see inspiration round every corner.
 *with thanks to Nick Cross
 ** There will be more detailed posts on these at a later date
 This is Ed Sheeran with his Lego House, just because he is my new favourite and I have just got his CD!

Friday 11 November 2011

Full Stop - the PhD has finished

Yesterday I received my PhD at our Faculty of Arts graduation.I thought I would tell you about what an amazing day it was. It is always a spectacular event. For 3 days Winchester is full of excited graduates in black and purple robes (PhD robes are glorious, they are red and purple). Proud families sit outside the numerous cafes chattering and laughing before going in.

Our graduations always runs like clockwork thanks to all in Registry and it is held in the Cathedral which, and I'm sorry but there is no other word for it, is awesome! A great deal of pomp and circumstance goes on. I was very lucky to have my family there to share the moment (including my three and half month old grandson who was beautifully behaved).

It always starts when the senior management and lecturers plus those receiving honorary degrees (Phillippa Forrester and Tony Palmer, who both gave fantastic and inspirational speeches) process down the aisle to the front where they take their places on the dais. Once there all the students are presented to the Chancellor, Dame Mary Fagan, who congratulates every single one of them.

The PhD students come last. This year there were just the two of us in this particular ceremony. Myself and Graham Spencer, who started his PhD at the same time as me so it seemed fitting we should be together. Debbie Welham who also started with us (but finished earlier as she was full time) was ushering and there was a great deal of reminiscing going on! It had been many years since we used to all be sat together on a Monday night doing Research Training.

Many of my friends from the University managed to be in the cathedral too (if you are on facebook you can see many photos!). Plus Sally Ballet, who is a casual verger at the Cathedral (and yes she is quite offended by the title) and like a family member. She and I have been friends for over 20 years so it seemed fitting that she could be there too.

This was the year I particularly wanted to graduate as it was the first time that I had students graduating who I had taught from the first year through to the end. They were a great group and I was so proud of them.

The usher at the end of our row was also a great friend, Leonie, I was just surrounded by friends. It was wonderful. She gave me the biggest smile ever as she pointed me in the right direction. I waved to my students as I walked by. It is quite an impressive feeling walking up the aisle of the Cathedral to the front where I was my met by my Director of Studies, Andy Melrose, who taught me as an undergrad, then during my MA and finally getting me through my PhD. I am lucky, he has become a great friend along the journey too. He greeted me with one of the biggest grin I have seen from him for a long time. He had to present me to the Chancellor as my name and the title of my thesis is read out. It is all quite formal...

But then it happened, a moment, I will never, ever forget throughout the whole of my life. As I walked (limped) up the stairs so I could hear the clapping start then my children whooping. Suddenly the roof came off the cathedral as the clapping became a crescendo of cheers from my students, friends and colleagues. It was just incredible. The Chancellor said 'Everyone seems very happy about your degree!' When Andy helped me back down the stairs he just said 'Did you hear that?'

Outside I was met by another of my supervisors who happens also to be Senior Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Liz Stuart, who handed me a feather, which will mean nothing to most of you but to those who know the story of my Mum and feathers will understand how important this was. There were more hugs and photographs and many, many delighted students who came to see me.

The day continued on that sort of a high as I received so many congratulations. Many of my friends joined me for drinks before I took my family for a meal. It was a way of saying thank you as I owe these people so much. They have been great friends and such a support throughout the process.

I was on Cloud 9...and still am.

This has just really been mere details I have found it impossible to explain to you how truly amazing the day was. It seems ironic, I am a writer, yet sometimes words fail to appear when you are trying to describe a perfect moment so am going to end on this song for no other reason than I love it.