Friday, 22 November 2013
On 16/17 July, I had the funnest weekend at the Writers Unleashed Festival in Sydney (Sutherland Shire). It was a weekend of literary splendor, facilitated by a superb, dedicated (and small!) team headed by the amazing Jodie Wells-Slowgrove.
On day one, I had the pleasure of catching up with writerly friends such as Tracey Hawkins, Paul Collins and Meredith Costain (above) and also Sharon McGuinness, Mo Johnson, David Murphy, Buzz Words' Vicki Stanton, Wai Chim, Nina Lim and many others. I also met some fabulous people I've only ever known via Kids' Book Review or in the online industry marketplace.
There were two or three concurrent sessions over both days of the festival, with a stellar line-up of talent. My only problem was working out which session to attend.
My first choice was Susanne Gervay who spoke on writing authentic stories, regaling us with some incredibly moving tales--many of them inspiration for her beautiful books.
Next was a picture book master class with Libby Gleeson, who encouraged us to pen some words of our own before discussing picture book constructs and then answering questions. She also treated us to a fabulous reading of her gorgeous picture book Banjo and Ruby Red.
Emma Quay (pronounce Kway) took the second picture book master class session, in which she took us through a Powerpoint presentation of her work and how she constructs her books. Being a massive Quay fan, this was a fascinating journey.
In the lunch break, the lovely Lizbeth Klein launched her latest fantasy novel - Firelight of Heaven, with a cast of elfin characters taking on roles from the book.
After lunch, I guffawed my way through the first part of Tim Ferguson's Writing Comedy presentation, which was eye-opening and loads of fun. What a dynamic, life-filled, brilliant man. (Sshhhh--secret. He's writing some YA fiction.)
Next was YA mastermind James Roy with an entertaining chat about his processes and writing for this particular market--Tapping the YA brain. I want to tap James' brain.
The day finished off with a catch-up with friends--here I am with the lovely Tracey Hawkins (above), a fellow Canberran author ...
... and the evening was spent with my dear friend and past Kids' Book Review partner, Kelly Morton. We had never met! but she is everything I expected--and much, much more. We shared a bottle of bubbles, a great meal and lots of laughter.
What better way to start day two than with the fabulous Kate Forsyth? Here she is talking about fairytales, and stunning us with her incredibly deep and far-reaching knowledge on classic tales and storytelling.
Kate also told us that if she doesn’t write for a while, she gets cranky and frustrated and is awful to be around, and I thought ‘Kate is me’ (I should be so lucky).
At morning tea, the ever-supportive Jodie Wells-Slowgrove insisted I join the other authors to sign books--what a pleasure to do this alongside Kate, Sharon McGuinness and Lizbeth Klein. I was very spoiled. This signing was followed by
a session with author Dianne Blacklock on writing contemporary women’s fiction, which I found very interesting.
My favourite session of the entire weekend was next-–Kate Forsyth on Building your Profile Through Social Media. Now, I teach this topic so thought ‘what could I possibly learn?’ Well, I learned SO much. I absolutely loved, too, how Kate taught listeners that social media is all about building relationships and trust, ie: NOT selling books. I couldn't have agreed more.
Kate's approach to social media is really fascinating and well-considered. She talked of the A + H + I divided by SP formula (see image below), where A=authority, H=helpfulness, I=intimacy and SP=self-promotion.
I shall try to explain what this means! If you do 8 tweets in one day that are educational or enlightening through your own authority on a topic, are helpful to others in some way or offer your audience some kind of intimacy—friendship, warmth, openness—you have a saturation/respect power of 8.
If you then do 2 tweets that are fully self-promotional, you must divide your figure by 2. This leaves you with a positive audience response of just 4—or half what you started out with.
Kate likened flagrant self-promotion to being at a party. If you would hesitate to stand up on a chair and scream at the top of your lungs 'this is my book! buy me! buy me!' then you probably shouldn't tweet something similar. Authors who scream, who hammer social media constantly, who beg people to like their posts or visit their site or buy their book, quickly lose respect and a positive audience response.
I love how Kate covered this. I've always said Good Work Sells Itself, and that word-of-mouth is the most powerful, most swift and most book-selling tool in existence. To garner word-of-mouth, your work not only needs to be fabulous, you need to be respected.
The last session I attended was an amazing editor panel ‘What We’re Looking for in Adult Fiction’ with Emma Rafferty from Pan Macmillan, Beverley Cousins from Random House and Roberta Ivers from Simon and Schuster Australia.
All three women spoke of the publishing process, the way manuscripts are chosen and what their companies are producing. Fascinating.
On my way home to Canberra, I managed to grab the lovely Jodie for a quick squeeze (below). This is a woman who should be very proud of what she and her gorgeous team have achieved. The Writers Unleashed Festival was a well-run, quality production with a sensational, warm atmosphere and lots of amazing delegates as well as presenters.
I'm so there next year. Well done, gals!