On Sunday 26th November NSW SCBWI members gathered at the beautiful Woollahra library to celebrate the end of another year of book-loving, picture-making and word-wrangling with fun, facts and plenty of good food.
The celebration began with a pre-party get together where new members could meet and mingle. Taking the newbies under her wing our illustrious leader, Susanne Gervay soon had everyone relaxed and attentive with her hilarious insider insights on anything and everything author-related from crafting stories to the importance of social media.
Ramona Davey made sure everyone knew about the ever-popular SCBWI Critique Groups organised by Margaret Roc and as the rest of the members started to arrive old friendships were renewed and new ones begun as Deborah Abela popped open the bubbly and everyone dug in to a delicious Christmas feast.
With hearts and bellies full of wine and cheer we settled into our seats for the main event, a behind the door peek at the publishing world with the ever-generous and much-respected Linsay Knight, Publisher at Walker Books Australia.
Linsay spoke about the collaborative spirit in the children’s book industry, something that many of us there had experienced and a vibe that had already permeated the room.
We were heartened to learn that Walker Books is a creatively-led company, a story-led environment where an editor’s passion for a book can sometimes get it over the line when other signs hint that it might not be the most commercial option. Story is the most important factor.
I’m sure Linsay gained a lot of new fans and set herself up for a flood of submissions when she spoke with such passion about the value she placed on book creators and how Walker Books as a smaller company have ‘more time and energy to put into really looking after our writers and illustrators.’
This feeling was amplified when we learned about the collaborative nature of the UK, USA and Australian arms of the Walker Books empire and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one imagining how thrilling it would be to have a book simultaneously released by the company in all three markets.
Teasing us further and inspiring us to work harder Linsay informed us that the Walker Books team were ‘always on the hunt for the best there is.’
With only 30 books a year coming out on the Walker Books list we all knew the competition would be fierce and to show us just what kinds of books they are looking for Linsay shared with us a selection of her favourites from each of their lists.
Dianne Bate’s anthology of Australian poets, Our Home is Dirt by Sea was the first cab off the rank with Linsay, a huge advocate for Australian poetry saying she was ‘very proud to have a book like this on the Walker list.’
New SCBWI Committee Member, Sue Whiting got a delightful surprise when Linsay announced that her upcoming Middle Grade novel, ‘Missing’ was the hit of the Frankfurt Book Fair, describing it as a ‘Quite extraordinary piece of writing’ that was generating lots of overseas interest.
In case you were wondering the best way to have your YA or Middle Grade manuscript discovered by Linsay is to submit it through Walker Wednesday. Though they do not currently accept Picture Book submissions through this process there may be some hope that a plan will be put in place for Picture Book submissions next year.
If you have a Junior Fiction manuscript now might be time to get it out as they are currently low on Junior Fiction and Linsay also expressed a ‘serious interest’ in books for pre-schoolers.
After all that excitement it was time for more food and another chance to mingle and greet new and old like-minded friends before settling in for a story about two plucky picture book creators whose book came to life in a most spectacular and festive way.
SCBWI interstate member, author Corinne Fenton had come up for the party, bringing pluck and intrigue and little bit of Melbourne along to entertain and inspire us. Together Corinne and illustrator Marjorie Crosby-Fairall delighted us with the tale of how they created the picture book, One Christmas Eve, the inspiration and centrepiece of the Myer Christmas window.
We all sat there, stunned and amazed at the loveliness of what these two creators achieved with only 3-4 months each to work on the writing and illustrations and how beautiful and intricate the window dressings were with their animatronic people and moving set pieces. Surely this must be the pinnacle of what a Christmas book can achieve?
As the party wound down I’m sure I’m not the only one who was not ready to leave. The only consolation was knowing that already more amazing SCBWI events are in the works for 2018.