For the past five days, I have been immersed in the wonderful world of writing and reading at the Brisbane Writers Festival. It was my first-ever writers festival, and I’m so glad I finally got my act together to dedicate time to the craft of writing. Here are my festival highlights.
Receiving feedback on my manuscript
As my regular readers know, I was fortunate enough to be selected for the 20 pages in 20 minutes session. In this session, I received personalised feedback on my YA manuscript Tangled (the first 20 pages and synopsis) from Farrin Jacobs, an editorial director of HarperCollins who focuses on contemporary teen fiction. Farrin gave me heaps of feedback, both positive and constructive, and I walked away overflowing with thoughts and ideas about how to improve my manuscript.
I’m not going to share the specifics of Farrin’s feedback because I want to get feedback from my first group of beta readers before I make any major decisions about necessary changes and I don’t want to skew my readers’ judgement. But I will say that the session did a fantastic job of opening my eyes to how Tangled would/could be viewed from a commercial sense and that the feedback was simultaneously uplifting and challenging, not soul destroying. 🙂
Improving my industry knowledge
On Friday, I attended a four-hour masterclass on the Australian writing marketplace, and on Saturday, I attended a three-hour masterclass on publishing in the young adult and children’s market. These sessions were chock-full of information about the Australian (and international) industry and included Q&As with multiple authors, agents, editors, publishers, publicists, ‘future of the book’ experts and publishing contract specialists.
Although much of what I heard in these sessions, I’d already learned from posts by my wonderful blogging friends, I also gained a lot of new information that I’m sure will help me when (not if! ;-)) I receive that first publishing offer. Rest assured, I’ll be blogging these hints and tips in the near future.
One of the most inspiring parts of the festival was listening to authors speak about their journeys, their books and their writing processes. Some of the authors I heard from were Ann Patchett, Anita Shreve, Kate Morton, Christopher Currie, Ashley Hay, Emily Rodda, Kári Gíslason and Linda Jaivin. There were a lot more writers at the festival including many others I would’ve loved to hear from, but unfortunately I couldn’t attend every single event on the schedule!
Some of the things I discovered (or re-discovered) from these talks were:
- Every writer’s journey is different. In saying that, almost all authors I heard from were rejected at least once before they landed a publishing deal.
- Every writer’s process is different. Emily Rodda hates detailed plotting and planning – she likes to tell herself the story as she writes. Kate Morton adores detailed plotting and planning, and she spends four to five months on researching and developing her stories before she writes chronologically from beginning to end.
Over the five days, I met so many wonderful people and made a number of connections that will hopefully one day help me succeed as a writer. I attended a networking event one night – alone. Daunting? Yes. Worthwhile? Absolutely. Although I had a few awkward moments of standing on the fringes wondering if I should just go home, I managed to strike up conversations with a few publishers, authors and fellow book lovers. I also managed to meet a few people who I’ve previously only known on Twitter – always nice to connect a real person to the Twitter account!
One of my most exciting connections took place before I even entered the networking tent. As I waited for the doors to open, I struck up a conversation with two women sitting beside me, assuming they were attending the event too. They were actually there to support their sons, who were part of the singing group Voices of Birralee – our entertainment for the evening.
It turned out their sons are both in year eleven or twelve and are avid readers. I now have two teenage male beta readers who will be providing me with a reality check for my teenage male protagonist – hooray! 🙂
(On a side note, the singing group’s performance was amazing, surprising, touching and beautiful. It added a wonderful dimension to the evening.)
What have you been up to this week?