My first big gathering of this year and so many friends to catch up with. I have now been back from the conference for two weeks and I am just coming down from the clouds. It really was an amazing event. As always the exhibition was full of children’s publishers showing us their latest wares and sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. It is always such a pleasure to meet up with these wonderful people and to come away with such goodies to read.
One of the things we love about children’s book conferences is the opportunity to meet and listen to so many stimulating and exciting speakers, both writers and illustrators, as well as the amazing Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow books. As always we were treated to a generous amount of cake over the weekend, washed down by cups of tea and coffee.
The weekend started with a truly inspirational talk about poetry by Sarah Crossan, the author of “Weight of Water” and “Apple and rain”. As small children we are totally surrounded by rhyme, from nursery rhymes to the work of people such as Julia Donaldson and Lynley Dodd,but as we get older poetry is moved within a fence that many find difficult to overcome. There are some authors who use rhyme in their novels but it is a concept that we need to get back to. If we look at the history of storytelling we find that many of the major cultural tales are told in a poetic form; just like song lyrics, which we find easier to remember.
Saturday morning started with a session on writing non-fiction, with a panel of Nicola Davies, Nicola Morgan and Marcia Williams in conversation with Zoe Toft. All three authors have carved out a niche for themselves in this area and although they have very differing styles, they all appeal to their intended audiences. Nicola Davies writes narrative non-fiction and approaches the task in the same way as writing fiction. Nicola Morgan on the other hand feels that the two disciplines are very different and that over the years she has “lost the fiction muscles in her brain”. Marcia Williams was enthused by a teacher who would read out loud to the class. All three described how they had gradually developed their writing style and what influences had affected them.
The next session was with Tom Moorhouse who has written “The River Singers” and “The Rising”, about a family of water voles. Tom is a naturalist by profession and spoke about the reality of life for these animals as opposed to the images from books such as “Wind in the Willows”. It was a fascinating talk and I know it will have made many new converts to his books.
The afternoon was taken up by the larger than life characters of Kjartan Poskitt, Philip Ardagh and Simon Mayle. All three authors write humourous novels for primary age children, although Kjartan is renowned for the way that he brings maths alive to his audiences. Our speaker at dinner was the amazing Frank Cottrell Boyce who was celebrating the launch of his latest book “The Astounding Broccoli Boy”
Sunday morning was another action packed session with a talk by Kate Wilson about Nosy Crow and how they have developed both their apps and the hard copy versions of the books. It was great to hear that books are still a top priority, not least because they are such a variable size and format, whereas with technology you are limited by the size of the screen. The other two sessions were an Illustrators’ panel with Rob Biddulph (Blown Away), Sophy Henn (Pom Pom gets the grumps) and David Shelton (A boy and a bear in a boat) and then a young adult panel with Non Pratt (Trouble), Alice Oseman (Soliaire) and Lisa Williamson (The Art of being Normal). We then finished off with discussions with Steven Butler and the really great Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood and Co.).
By this point were were all totally exhausted but very happy at having attended such a stimulating and very friendly conference. I have still only looked at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the books I brought home, but I look forward to many hours of great reading.