SCBWI Success Story - Victoria Mackinlay

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My one year anniversary with SCBWI is fast-approaching and I feel so lucky to have discovered this absolute treasure of a group of kidlit creators.  

The SCBWI events I've attended in the last twelve months have opened the (often closed) doors to publishing houses, so I've been able to hear from publishers and editors about how to navigate the industry, and of course, the million dollar question: what are publishers looking for? (NB: It's usually the indescribable and non-specific "x-factor" (sigh)).  

Plus, I got to spend 48 hours on a SCBWI writing retreat learning from the legendary and incredibly humble Bruce Whatley. (A red-bellied black snake and scorpion were also in attendance but that is another story ...)

And to top it all off, I got to spend my birthday at Jackie French's cabin with 50 other writers, literally soaking in her every word like a sponge.

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Another way in which I've benefited from SCBWI this year is through their critique groups.  I am actually in two (greedy, I know!); one online group and one formed at the Bruce Whatley retreat.  The critiques I get from my writing buddies are like little golden nuggets.  And I know that I'm growing as a writer providing feedback to others, plus I get so much joy celebrating the multiple contracts and books sprouting out of our amazing groups.

Recently, I was the cause for celebration when I signed a contract with Omnibus/Scholastic for my debut picture book which is due to come out in 2019 (so exciting!).

I am very grateful to the SCBWI team (who are themselves producers of award-winning and best-selling books) for the knowledge and support they've offered me.  What a tribe!  And did I mention they are also hilarious?  I often leave SCBWI events with tummy-muscle ache from all the laughing ... !

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Victoria Mackinlay has been writing since she worked out how to hold a pencil and copied out the letters from a milk carton on the breakfast table.  She has over 7 years experience working for Google in Europe and APAC and as Head of Strategic Partnerships for Google APAC, Victoria led and set strategy for a team of 27 account managers who consulted with and supported websites such as Expedia and Lonely Planet on their ad serving strategies.  During her maternity leave, she became more serious about her writing, freelancing for Fairfax, News and SBS and fell truly, madly and deeply in love with kidlit.  Her first picture book with Scholastic is coming out in 2019.

SCBWI SA Winter Retreat

Creativity in the cold: Notes on the SA Winter Retreat

SCBWI SA’s Winter Retreat was a perfect escape on a cold, misty Saturday morning in the Adelaide Hills, as thirty members gathered for a day of warmth, conversation and creativity at Stirling’s Coventry Library on 21 July.

Sharing improvement: Critiques

For the eager, a small group critique session was held ahead of the main program. Groups exercised their skills in providing “sandwiched” critiques of other group members’ manuscripts, while benefiting from constructive comments on their own. An impressive amount of feedback was able to be shared in a relatively short time period, as members also made meaningful new connections.

Catching up: KidLitVic Report

A few lucky SCBWI SA members attended the KidLitVic conference in Melbourne in May, and while the rest of us still wish we could have been there, the first session of the day went some way to relieving the disappointment. SCBWI SA Coordinator Kelly Hibbert, along with illustrator Lauren Mullinder and writers Simon Andrews and David Cronin formed a panel to share their experiences of the benefits of attending conferences.

Some of the panel’s key takeaways were:

  • Every book is unique and subject to a specific contract.
  • The importance of narrative drive, and editing for one point at a time and recording emotions as you review.
  • Use your one-page cover letters to provide publishers with a 20-second pitch that can be used in acquisitions meetings – because that might be all the time available!
  • Episodic, rather than sequential, series have greater marketing potential, and publishers are often looking to kick off with more than one book to build demand, followed by releases every 9 to 12 months thereafter.
  • The importance of using voice to immerse children in your book.
  • Useful references on story structure:
    • Story by Robert McKee
    • The concept of Freytag’s Pyramid
    • Books by Linda Seger and Syd Field
  • The Australian Society of Authors is a good place to start if you have a contract query
  • The Illustrator Showcase was an invaluable networking opportunity and also a source of leads with publishers for several illustrators.

The panel was consistent in nominating the one-on-one publisher sessions as the most valuable part of the conference.

If you missed out on KidLitVic, future opportunities for development and networking are coming up at SCBWI SA’s Professional Day on 14 October 2018 and SCBWI ANZ’s conference in Sydney on 24-26 February 2019.

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Fudging it: My Creative Process with Allayne Webster

Internationally published author Allayne Webster gave an entertaining masterclass on her creative process, complete with edible props and illuminating slides. Key points amongst Allayne’s valuable advice included:

  • Find a group of trusted writer friends – don’t vent in public.
  • Discover what drives you to write. In Allayne’s case, it is often the desire to make a social comment, and there is often a backstory to that drive which also feeds significantly into character development.
  • Think about whether to take an organic or an architectural approach to planning. While she has found the latter useful for commissioned works, Allayne prefers the freedom of creativity and being led by character voice and dialogue – although this can take much longer.
  • Look up the writing process cycle (Google it!) as a useful way to think about the process.
  • Use monotonous household tasks as thinking time.
  • Maintain an ongoing connection with a manuscript to avoid wasted time re-immersing in the voice and world.
  • Hook the reader with a good beginning: include key details through showing not telling.
  • Look to create layers of conflict (internal, impact on others and impact on the world) while telling a story with heart.
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Drawing us out: Finding Your Inner Illustrator workshop with Mandy Foot

There were many dubious faces as we commenced this session with clipboards and pencils in hand. After showing us her well-loved copy of Animation by Preston Blair, published illustrator and soon-to-be published author Mandy Foot proceeded to transform a room full of reluctant writers into pleasantly surprised artists. We learned to find the basic shapes in the form, picked up some great tips on working with watercolour, and ended up with remarkably presentable versions of Mandy’s Pelican Jack. Miraculous!

Writing for magazines: practical advice from Kristin Martin and Alys Jackson

Kristin Martin and Alys Jackson are experts at the magazine game, both having been published on many occasions in a variety of children’s magazines around the world. They presented a valuable session focusing on the practicalities on getting published in magazines.

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Key takeaways included:

●     Magazines have the benefit of providing distribution for your work without any effort (beyond submitting the piece) and often pay quite well.

●     Always check the magazine’s submissions guidelines on their website, sign up for their newsletters (both for readers and for creators, although note some can send quite a lot of emails!) and check prior issues of the magazine for style and content.

●     You can either write a story specifically for a particular magazine, or find a magazine for a piece you have already written – both approaches can work depending on the context.

 

 

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Check out Alys’s blog for more great advice for writers.

A busy, informative and fun day left us all eager to sign up for the SCBWI SA Professional Day on 14 October 2018 – check the SCBWI ANZ website or Facebook group for information!

 

By Nikki M Heath