I have been all over the place for the last couple of weeks, doing chores, finding out why our cat is pooing in inappropriate places and getting ready for KidLitVic2019. Luckily for you, this post is about that conference and not about the cat’s new toilet habits.
This is the fourth year that I’ve been to KidLitVic and it never fails to leave me energised, enthusiastic and wiser. This year, as with last year, it was held in the beautiful Melbourne Town Hall. There’s something so inspiring about a building that is both old and beautiful. There were a number of different panels, manuscript assessments from publishers, master classes run by publishers and, for the first time, up close and personal groups (which I didn’t do this year, but might if they’re available next year).
The best part of the conference, for me, is meeting other writers and for this reason alone I would encourage you to attend a writing conference. Meeting other people who are on the same journey as you, each at various stages of that journey, is exhilarating. Meeting people who know what you are talking about when you mention your manuscript, your hook, your saggy middle or anti-climax-of-a-climax is a relief.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the writing community is one of the most open, friendly and welcoming communities I have ever come across. I have yet to meet a writer (or publisher for that matter) who wasn’t warm, enthusiastic and generous with their time and knowledge. What’s more, being surrounded by that makes it easy to be generous with your own time and knowledge.
Conferences can be expensive but they’re worth saving for. If you really don’t have the money to put towards something like a conference (and let’s face it, it’s not just the conference but travel, food and sometimes accommodation you have to factor in), then consider being a volunteer. While you will be working, you will still be able to listen in on panel discussions and mingle with other writers and publishers through out the day.
I’m gearing up for KidLitVic 2019. This will be the fourth year this amazing Victorian conference for children’s writers is being held and the fourth year I will be attending and having assessments of my work by publishers. That means I’m busy refining, refining, refining. Writing reminds me of tumbling stones – you need to keep going to get something beautiful.
You might remember me talking about the KidLitVic conference that I attended in May. You can check out my previous post here. While there I had the opportunity to attend a free (YES!) workshop run by YA author and editor Melissa Keil on submitting to publishers (which is the way it’s usually done in Australia).
Melissa had loads of great advice, including that editors need to go on and be able to sell your book to a whole team of people. Even if the editor loves it they need to be able to say that the books is salable, how it compares with other books in the genre/age bracket and where it will sit in the market.
She also shared an in-depth example of a cover letter and made the following points:
Give context for where you have met the editor – particularly if they’ve given you their direct email – in the subject line or opening line of your letter (ie. if you met the editor at a conference, workshop, etc. remind them of that.)
Make the effort of finding out the editor’s name. These are easily found on publisher websites and social media. If you can’t, ‘Dear Submissions Editor’ or ‘Dear Children’s Editor’ is fine too.
Say why you’ve chosen to submit to that particular agent/publisher. Do you like the books they’ve published? Did you see on social media that they particularly liked a book that similar than yours? Do your research on what that publisher is looking for and what sort of books they publisher. I definitely recommend reading a few books in your genre that are published by the publisher you’re interested in.
Say what the story is about concisely. This is your ‘elevator’ pitch. Two sentences that share with the publisher who your protagonist is, what they want and what the conflict and stakes are.
Indicate books that yours are similar to, but also how it differs from books that are already in the market. (It’s fine to mention books that aren’t published by the publisher you’re submitting too. They have a thorough appreciation of what’s on the market).
You may not be published but you are a writer. You’ve written a book, after all. Not only should you claim this title but demonstrate how you’re a professional by indicating that you’ve attended conferences, workshops and/or contributed your writing to publications. Publishers want to work with authors who are professional and committed, even if they’re just beginning their career.
Include a short biography with information that is relevant to the manuscript that you’re submitting. For example, I write YA and I always mention that I was a secondary school teacher for a number of years. I don’t say that I love needle felting and drawing – it’s part of who I am but has no baring on my manuscript (unless it was about needle-felting…hmm).
Include your word count and age range.
Alway, always, always, check out the submission guidelines of the particular publisher you’re submitting to. Submission guidelines not only vary between publishers, they can vary between departments in the same publisher (between the adult and young adult departments for example).
That’s a lot of stuff to fit into a cover letter. One to one and a half pages, at the most. But it might also be your first contact with an editor, so it’s worth getting right.
To this I would also add, don’t let your age deter you. At the conference I went to there was a range of ages from people in their early twenties to people in their sixties and beyond. Publishers are looking for great books that people will buy. If you show that you are knowledgeable and professional, even at thirteen, sixteen, or nineteen, there’s no reason why that book shouldn’t be yours.
KidLitVic is happening this Saturday. It’s a conference specifically for writer’s of children’s and YA books, as well as illustrators. It began in 2016 and I’ve had the opportunity both previous conferences.
I love this conference. It’s a chance to learn new things, meet new people and have my work assessed by those in the industry. It also reminds me that, even though I’m not yet published, what I do is a legitimate career.
Until KidLitVic came up, I didn’t really know very much about writing conferences. Maybe that’s something I would have learnt about had I done a creative writing degree or the like, but I haven’t and so I didn’t attend my first conference until I was 32.
The thing is though, if you’re a young writer, you don’t have to wait. There are workshops and conferences out there specifically for young adults who write. All you need to do is hit Google to find them. For example, Writers Victoria offers workshops and information for young writers (disclaimer – I am a member of Writers Victoria).
If you do attend a conference, I suggest taking a pen, a notebook and an open mind. You never know who you’ll meet, or what you’ll learn. And don’t think that being young is a barrier, because it’s definitely not.
Have you attended a conference or workshop? What did you think?
Last weekend I had the immense pleasure of attending the first KidLitVic writers’ conference. It was incredible! I have never been to a writers’ conference before and it exceeded all my expectations. For the first time I referred to myself as a ‘writer’ in public. The audacity of it! To actually say to someone that I am a writer!
It was wonderful to meet so many like minded people, all striving for the same thing, in such an encouraging atmosphere. I felt like I really belonged and that I was part of a ‘tribe’. I’m hoping to keep in touch with some of these people and I’m so excited to see how their writing journeys continue.
I feel that my journey has taken a real step forward. I had a meeting with Marisa Pintado for Hardie Grant Egmont and she liked the initial pages of my book and asked to see more. To. See. More. Of my work! Can you believe that. I know it’s just a first step and that she might not be interested in the completed novel but…Oh my God! It really encourages me to keep on going. This isn’t the end of the journey, it’s not even the middle, but it’s a real step in the right direction.
If you’re a writer (confirmed or otherwise) and you have the opportunity to attend a writers conference then I highly recommend it. I had the most wonderful time and I’m sure you will too.
There’s something about a new year. It holds promise. You open up that new diary and marvel at all those little squares just waiting to be filled.
And I’ve already started filling them!
Among the birthdays and summer catch-ups there’s the KidLitVic writers conference in Melbourne which I have bought my ticket for. So. Ex. Cited. It makes me feel like a real writer! I can’t wait to meet other writers and to hear what the publishers and people in the know have to say.
January in Australia brings heat, fire and flood but it also brings the smell of gum leaves in the north wind, blushing tomatoes and nodding daisies. It’s easy to feel positive about 2016 when there’s such a nice opening number.
I hope your, and your loved ones, year is as wonderful as ours will be.