Did you know that there is a gathering especially for writers and illustrators happening in Auckland at the start of October? There is! The Storylines Hui looks set to be an invaluable opportunity to catch up, learn from and hang out with your fellow authors and book industry folks. Leonie Agnew helped to organise it: here’s why.
Nobody is an island.
Well, unless they’re a children’s writer or an illustrator. We tend to work alone, at least during early drafts, and even the editing process happens through emails. But when it comes to our national conference, we stumble out of our burrows and blink at the sunlight, prepared to mingle. Some sort of natural instinct leads us to the workshops, seminars and, in some cases the nearest bar … ah, memories.
But I digress.
This year, I’ve helped organise the Storylines National Children’s Writers and illustrators’ Hui in Auckland from October 6-8. I won’t lie to you, it’s lots of work. But every two years, an idealistic bunch get together and hold a conference in NZ, burning the late night oil in the hopes of creating an event that will benefit NZ’s writers and illustrators.
Though I’ve never organised one before, this will be my fourth. For some of us it’s a few more, while others recall the first hui in 1992 at Joy Cowley’s home in the Marlborough Sounds. One thing is clear, most of us enjoy a chance to meet up and swap notes. The main reason speaks for itself – collegiality. We get the chance to meet those whose work we admire, catch up with old friends and make new ones. It’s a place for discussing woes and celebrating successes, after all no one else understands the terror of rejection slips or the endurance race which is the ‘final edit’.
It’s a place for discussing woes and celebrating successes, after all no one else understands the terror of rejection slips or the endurance race which is the ‘final edit’.
But that’s not the only reason. For me, workshops are another key benefit. No matter how long I write, I’ll always have more to learn. Once you’re published it’s hard to get feedback and other professionals have fascinating insights into their own processes, which help to develop my own.
We’re a diverse bunch in the children’s book community. For a start, some of us prefer the autonomy of self-publishing while others choose traditional methods for sharing their stories. This year we aimed to design a programme that would focus on the shared interest of both groups – the desire to hone our craft. We believe this is reflected in our programme with fabulous NZ speakers such as Joy Cowley, Tessa Duder, Stacy Gregg, Brian Falkner, David Elliot, Gavin Bishop, Kyle Mewburn, Vasanti Unka, David Riley, Maria Gill, Melinda Szymanik, Fifi Colston, Paula Green, Donovan Bixley and many more.
We also wanted to focus on opportunities, so once again Storylines has organised a publisher’s pitch slam and, for the first time ever, invited overseas agents Pippa Masson and Kendra Marcus to speak about the Australian and US territories. There was great excitement when we found out Creative NZ could fund their visit through the Flying Friends programme, but I’ll refrain from waxing lyrical. If you’re interested to know more about our speakers or the hui, there’s plenty of information at www.storylines.org.nz.
Just one last comment – I hope we see lots of beginners at the hui, too. All authors and illustrators started with a pocketful of ideas, some random jottings and a desire to make a story happen. I remember my first workshops and the utter awe I experienced meeting real authors and working alongside others who shared my ambitions. (Now that I am an author, I still get the same buzz.)
All authors and illustrators started with a pocketful of ideas, some random jottings and a desire to make a story happen
We all have so much to learn from each other, new and experienced, we’re all climbing the same mountain even if we choose different paths. Together we all take steps closer to realising our goals and, I believe, this is what good conferences are made from – dreams and hard work.
The Storylines National Children’s Writers and Illustrators Hui will be held in Auckland Friday 6 – Sunday 8 October. For registration and information on the programme, visit www.storylines.org.nz.
Leonie Agnew is a New Zealand writer to watch – with each novel she explores intriguing new territory, and surprises her readers’ expectations.
Formerly a copywriter for ad agencies she is now a primary school teacher. In 2013 she was the University of Otago College of Education/Creative New Zealand Children’s Writer in Residence. Her second novel, Conrad Cooper’s Last Stand, (Puffin 2014), won a Storylines Notable Book Award and the LIANZA Esther Glen Medal for Junior Fiction.
The Impossible Boy followed in 2016, receiving a 2017 Storylines Notable Junior Fiction Award and the UK David Fickling Master of the Inkpot Award. Leonie lives and works in Auckland.