So a bunch of us from the Society of Authors committee, the children's book part, put on a conference this weekend. Actually, I didn't do much more than go to meetings, show up, help move around some chairs, show people to reception to pick up their room keys, and do a couple talks. I'm not very good at conference planning, it involves way too many logistics and remembering things. But I did draw this little logo image for it:
(You might notice a parallel between the group name, CWIG, and the book I'm working on with Philip Reeve, Oliver and the Seawigs. Yes, the idea for the Seawigs came from a conversation I had with Philip after a CWIG meeting, and I was saying how much I hate acronyms and am always trying to turn them into words. These monkeys will make an appearance, too.)
I ended up doing a lot of drawing during the conference, in the name of taking notes. And when I gave a talk about blogging and social networking, I mentioned that one thing that gets a bit boring to see on the Internet is conference photos showing people standing in rows, or people sitting at tables in conference rooms. So I tried to come up with some alternatives. Here's a CWIG committee meeting we had before everyone else arrived (Enid Stephenson and Nicola Davies are also on the team but just weren't in the room then).
If I have to blog a summary of each session, I'll end up spending two days doing this, so I'll mainly just post images, and give links if anyone else has written up the talks. Here's a rather boring photo of people sitting at a table for the panel on Writers' Websites...
But here's what was ACTUALLY going on, as soon as the camera was put away. (Cameras always lie.)
Oh, and what do you know! Hot Key Books' Sarah Benton has blogged loads of things that were said at the panel and given speaker links, so you can hop over to her blog to read about it. And Katherine Woodfine from Booktrust has blogged it here!
The CWIG conference pulled in some of Britain's best writers, it was awesome. Here's the legendary Geraldine McCaughrean with her god-daughter Teresa Heapy, who was also at the conference as a writer.
And Geraldine spoke on a panel, 'Sequels and Prequels', with Patrick Ness, Charlie Higson and the Guardian's Julia Eccleshare. (My dad will read this and he may not know that song, so, Dad, here's a video of the song reference.)
Patrick Ness and Charlie Higson:
I chaired a panel called 'Glittering Prizes and Literary Festivals' with this fabulous gang: Bath Kid Lit Festival's John McLay, Book It! Cheltenham Festival's Jane Churchill, Observer Associate Editor Robert McCrum and the Southbank Centre's Tamsin Ace, who helps run the Imagine Children's Festival. (Thanks to the wonderful Fiona Dunbar for taking the photo!)
I didn't manage to chair the panel and draw at the same time, but I could see writer and illustrator Shoo Rayner (of Shoo Rayner's Drawing School video fame) doodling me from the front row. Hooray! He didn't let me look until the next day, but I think the sketches are super-fab.
Portrait sketches by Shoo Rayner
I don't know if he made any videos during the weekend, but he brought his recording equipment, just in case. Here he is with his camera and his microphone Fluffy Thing.
We had most of our events in the big main lecture hall at appropriately-named Reading University (sadly, pronounced 'Redding'), in the Henley Business School, but we had two sessions where we could break off and chose to go to a range of smaller events. I'm a fan of the sparky Vivian French, so I went to her talk with Meredith Hooper and Nicola Davies, about researching material on the Internet, and about why it's still valuable for kids to have actual, finite books for doing their research.
Some publishers sent sample copies of new books for us to give out as delegates arrived, and I was pleased as punch to see a teaser pack for my fab friend David O'Connell's upcoming book he's written and illustrated, Monster and Chips. Dave's published loads of indie comics and books, but this is his first book with a larger publisher, Harper Collins, and I don't normally say someone's going to be The Next Big Thing, but with Dave, he totally is The Next Big Thing. Monster and Chips launches on 28 Feb of next year. Oo, I outed Dave on Twitter with these photos and now he's gone and made an explanatory blog post. Hurrah! (Here's a story we did together called Airship, he's the editor of ink+PAPER, the comics magazine to which I recently contributed, and he was one of our comic artists who took part in events at this summer's Pop Up Festival.)
Oo, and look who I saw when I was doing the Meeting and Greeting thing! It's Patrice Aggs, with a copy of The Phoenix comic, with her new strip launching its first episode! Go subscribe to The Phoenix weekly comic magazine, it's FABULOUS. And don't miss Zara's Crown, created by Patrice and her son, John Aggs.
One of the highlights of the festival was a talk by beloved British writer Allan Ahlberg. Even if you don't know anything about children's books, you'll probably have seen or read at least one of his stories, including Each Peach Pear Plum, Peepo! and The Jolly Postman. In America, I grew up reading and loving Burglar Bill and Mr Tick the Teacher.
I didn't manage to write down the names of some of the books he read from, but I got a good look after the talk:
Allan also brought several teddy bears, including Mr Tum:
...whom I kidnapped when everyone else was getting their books signed:
Here's some of the CWIG committee with Mr Tum: Bali Rai, me, our fabulous CWIG chair Helena Pielichaty and Nicola Smee.
We also had a great talk by writer-illustrator friends Jane Ray and Ros Asquith:
I loved seeing some of their early work, including Ros's drawings for 'Magazine for Horses, written by horses... (including Horsoscopes and 'Stallion of the Month'), and this bear by Jane:
Here's Ros with a doodling Ted Dewan. You can read Ros's blog post about the weekend here!
And Jane at lunch with Eleanor Updale and Kevin Crossley-Holland:
Here are my notes from Kevin's talk:
And we also had a talk by Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children's TV. I'd drawn so many panel speakers by that time, and I was sitting pretty far back, so I drew a squid instead.
Most of the deletes were human, but we had one small furry canine companion named Lola, who's very clever and can sniff out changes in blood sugar levels.
One more panel, here's Terence Blacker, library campaigner Alan Gibbons, Random House Children's Books MD Philippa Dickinson and Foyles CEO Sam Husain.
And my doodle notes:
Terence is a talented musician and played for us with his music partner Derek Hewlitson at an evening event called Taboo Be Do, which flew very close to the wire and upset some people. It was a walk through the history of songs which just can't be sung anymore, and some people thought it would have been more acceptable if it had been a more academic setting with discussion afterward. And it would have been a bit more academic if we'd held it in the lecture theatre, like we'd originally planned to do. But everyone had been in the theatre all day and were very happy in the bar area with their drinks, so the change of venue gave the event more of a cabaret feel. (No one knew if that would be a good idea, but it was all done with the best of intentions.)
I wasn't quite sure what I thought about all that (and I was way at the back, mucking about drawing pictures with Shoo Rayner).
But Terence joined us later in the bar and played The City of New Orleans for me when I asked, and he and John Dougherty had a great session on their guitars, with a bunch of us singing along. Actually, John brought his guitar to the bar both nights. Here he is, the night before:
I am quite a bad singer, but that didn't stop me from wailing away with the most excellent Sally Nicholls.
It was great seeing some comics people there: Patrice Aggs, Ros Asquith, Ted Dewan, Steve Skidmore, and here's
http://taves.co.uk/Octavia Raitt, whom I met for the first time at Thought Bubble comics festival, at a table with Kristyna Baczynski. She'd heard about the conference through my blog (or Facebook?) and her mum had signed her up for it as a birthday present. How awesome is that? (Thanks, Octavia's mum!)
And a few more photos... Oh, look, it's Malorie Blackman! (And she's as surprised as I am!) John Aggs is just starting to create the artwork for a graphic novel version of her Noughts and Crosses and I CAN'T WAIT to see it.
Steve Skidmore (of The Two Steves) with the Society of Authors' Jo McCrum:
Jo with Nicholas Allan (of The Queen's Knickers):
Jo Cotterill with bookmarks for her group blog Girls Heart Books.
Here's Clare Whitstone! Clare's one of my two editors at Oxford University Press, working on Oliver and the Seawigs.
An Vrombaut and Karen Ball
A big thanks to all the people who made this weekend happen! Enid, Jo, Helena, the CWIG committee (including Michaela Morgan whom I hadn't yet linked), the speakers, Reading University staff, Marilyn Brocklehurst from Norfolk Children's Book Centre and her book shop team, and Jessica Atkinson and Anna Ganley from the Society of Authors, who tweeted the whole conference from @Soc_of_Authors. If you go onto the conference hash tag, #CWIGConf2012, you'll most likely seeing more blog links pop up. And a big thanks to tech guy Mark Taylor, who had some technical hitches to deal with but handled them swiftly and gracefully. It was a big relief having him around.
Hey, another blog post just up! Read an account of the weekend by CWIG Chair Helena Pielichaty here. Ah, she's done it again; here's her second blog post. And another post by writer Celia Rees here.
So did you guess whose specs I was wearing at the beginning of the blog post? Well, they belong to the fabulous Ted Dewan, whose work you may remember from The DFC comic magazine and whose Bing Bunny is about to come to television screens near you. Keep an eye on this guy!
If you're a published writer or illustrator, do considering joining the Society of Authors. It's the closest thing we have to a union, looks out for and campaigns for issues that affect us, helps out with contracts, and puts on fab events! Membership costs £95 per year, or £68 if you are under 35. Find out more on the Society of Authors website.
Society of Authors door photo by Karen Ball, on her blog here