School Visits, Writing and Illustrating Festivals & Networking
Writing is such a solitary occupation that I strongly believe authors and illustrators, of children’s books particularly, need to interact, at all stages of their careers (both beginning and established) to talk about where they are, where they are going. They need to discuss their stepping stones or road blocks and share how they are feeling with fellow creators about the book in press, the one which has been waiting in the wings, or the one in their handbag that isn’t behaving as it should.
Sometimes these things can be discussed in established writing groups and sometimes it happens at festivals during a brief coffee break between sessions, with a fellow writer or illustrator you haven’t had time to catch up with for a while . . . those moments are precious ones.
Best friends, who are non-creative types, don’t quite get why or how we can escape into our words or artwork and be taken somewhere else, totally oblivious sometimes to what is happening about us.
As creators there are moments of doubt, wherever you are, whatever stage you are at. Sometimes in the middle of a presentation, I feel a bit of a fake – yes there are days when writing children’s books is the best job in the world (and they are by far the majority), but there are other days where self-doubt creeps in, where you wonder if you have given the school group or festival audience the sort of information they need, followed up on what their teachers have been encouraging and stressing, or whether you have answered the question that the quiet student in the back row wanted to desperately know, but was too shy to ask. You worry about the little preppy who, although he was waving his hand about for a full 10 minutes under your nose, you didn’t get time to go back to.
No matter how well you plan or how organised you are for every eventuality, there are the presentations which flow beautifully and there are others you walk away from with an undercurrent of disquiet and it’s wonderful to ‘air’ that concern with someone who understands – and that for me is a fellow writer.
As we head towards the end of Children’s Book Week, Numeracy and Literacy Week, National Poetry Week and the plethora of wonderful and inspiring festivals, we can only hope that we have left some grains of inspiration behind us, scattered some of our love of words and books and life’s experiences amongst those who listened.
And I’m personally looking forward to lots of overdue catch-ups while sipping chai lattes or cappuccinos and to talk about words, books, kids and presentations and yes, to return to that thing called writing.