The value of networking
The idea of social occasions in the children’s book industry being a good opportunity to network, at first seemed quite foreign to me. In my former professional life I was a Personal Assistant, working, with a few exceptions for large multi-national oil companies, although not always involved in the oil side of things. Back then, work social occasions were pretty much that, an opportunity to get to know other staff in a social situation.
In the children’s book industry, every gathering, book signing, book launch, booking agent Christmas party, is an opportunity to make contact with other creators, agents, publishers, designers, librarians – everyone involved in some way, in the world of books for children.
About 10 years ago I was invited to a dinner (which happened to be on my birthday) and I was asked to do a presentation on the writing of Queenie. Back then, I only had one lot of dates, ship names and the names of characters to remember. Now it’s a little bit more challenging – at least trying to remember the dates and numbers is i.e. how far did Queenie walk, how long did it take Bill, his team of bullocks and his faithful dog Lady to travel from Sydney to Gundagai back in the 1860’s or where was Bob the Railway Dog’s favourite spot to travel aboard steam engines in the 1890’s?
The guests at that long ago dinner happened to be a room full of librarians and I’m quite sure I had no idea what exactly I was there for. Thankfully, two very experienced presenters came before me – Carole Wilkinson and Sue Lawson, so I had to learn to jump to the task very quickly.
For 8 years after that, I looked after the SCBWI gatherings in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania and I regularly watched networking in motion. Creating is a solitary profession and it’s important to remember that we all need to ‘get out there’ talk to people, be part of something and yes, network and we definitely need support and the camaraderie and friendship that comes with being a member or part of a writing or book group.
Yesterday I took the train down to Geelong (and worked while I traveled) to attend a book chat group and it reminded me about how important that contact with like-minded people is. There is always something to learn or to hear about, some little useful snippet or contact and who knows where that lead might take you?
In June I’ll be traveling to Sydney to present to another group of librarians at The Children’s Bookshop, in Beecroft, organised by the very capable Paul Macdonald. Illustrator, Owen Swan and I will be talking about creating our newly released picture book, My Friend Tertius – the true story of Arthur Cooper who worked in Signals Intelligence during the second world war and his pet gibbon, Tertius.
And this time around I’ll be acutely aware of how important this group are to all of us. Librarians, without them, the world would be a much sadder place.