Workshop: Great ideas and writing texts for picture books with Kyle Mewburn
Kyle took us a high-octane roller-coaster ride of his tips and tricks:
- The story should have a rhythmic thread. Create music that people can read
- Can your story be told in 3 - 4 quick scenes?
- Keep whacking the reader with emotion. Don't be afraid to go as low as you can - the lower you go, the higher you can come back
- Obstruct your character from getting what they want
- The first couple of scenes should hint at the resolution
- The main character should have a key attribute, eg stubborn
- Have a little linguistic hook. Kids like to repeat things. Try to get a rolling rhythm
- Find words that ring in your head - "nuggety" words
Workshop: Illustrating children's books with Gavin Bishop
Gavin took us through his journey into children's books, which began with a degree in fine arts. Listening to his story was an absolute delight. Here are some of the pointers I took away:
- Take photos of buildings and landscapes for reference
- Always make story boards and dummies (Gavin does his storyboards in a journal so he can go back to them)
- Use tracing paper!
- The pictures can tell a second story
- Collage can be quite a quick way of working, and a good way to get block colours
We all had the opportunity to pitch to publishers and agents if we wanted to. I pitched to three publishers. I need to work on my pitch, but I really appreciated the chance to meet the publishers and hear their feedback.
I'm including a line about our conference dinner because our table won third prize in the 'design a label for a bottle of wine' competition! We won for 'The Little Yellow Swigger' (other possible label ideas included 'The Wine in the Meadow' and 'Duck Drunk').
Workshop: Illustration for children's picture books with Vasanti Unka
I love Vasanti's work and her workshop was really useful. Some top takeaways include:
- Don't be afraid to use text in your illustrations
- Don't be afraid to use a variety of different techniques, eg collage
- Vasanti has a design background, and the design of the page is of utmost importance to her. In this regard she's influenced by the Swiss design school style
- Vasanti is also influenced by Sara Fanelli and by Japanese artists
- Play around with the form of the book. What special things can the book do? What extra treats can you give your reader?
- You can draw or paint an element and use Photoshop to turn it into a pattern
- Try using patterned backgrounds
- When Vasanti sends different options to a publishers she makes sure she loves all the options. That way, she'll be pleased with the outcome no matter what they choose
Workshop: Writing catchy poetry for children with Paula Green
I entered the workshop with some serious FOMO (David Elliot was giving a workshop at the same time, which I missed) but Paula's session was an absolute delight.
- Poetry is play
- Think of something you want to write about and quickly write down all the words that you associate with that thing. How can you use repetition, alliteration and rhythm to create interest?
- Think like a film camera. What's in the 'establishing shot'? What's in the 'close-up'?
- Try writing three possible last lines
- Try taking the same idea for a poem and writing it three different ways.
- Paula has an A - Z of her favourite children's poets on The Sapling
The conference finished with a wonderful speech from Joy Cowley, who spoke about the power of books to affirm and empower children. It was a fabulous hui and I'm already looking forward to the next one!
- Check out Sandra Morris Illustrators Agency
- Advise these organisations upon publishing: The Sapling, NZSA, Storylines
- Talk to Creative New Zealand about your project before applying for funding
- Other resources: SLANZA, Booksellers New Zealand, bestseller lists, NZ Book Council...
- Visit Strategicgrants.co.nz for grant-writing resources
- You only get one chance when you approach an agent. Research them beforehand. Do they publish someone you admire? Let them know. Always read the submission guidelines on the website
- Income can be derived from the school speaking circuit / teaching school holiday programmes
- Enter the Storylines competitions!
- Read: Myths and legends, Robert McKee's Story