Thursday 8 October 2015

10 favourite quotes from Tinderbox 2015

1. "I write where my heart wants to write " - Susan Kaye Quinn (on Skype from Chicago) about "having a life that is fulfilling and creative and finding your place in the world."

2. "Get them to do what you want in a way you're not expecting" - Andy Griffiths on the trick to working with illustrators (actually, the whole of his speech was made up of quoteable moments).

3. "I'm pretty sure we all tell stories; we all gather and compose, whether in words or images; we share the same desire to create layers of meaning" - Penny Fitt, Toi Whakaari...

4. ... who also quoted from How to fly a horse by Kevin Ashton: "Creators must expect rejection. The only way to avoid rejection is to avoid making anything new. Rejection is not a ticket to quit. It does not mean the work is bad. It does not mean we are bad... Rejection is about as personal as gravity. At its best rejection is information. It shows what to do next."

5. "If you know your destination, it gives the journey more shape" - Mandy Hager's workshop on Iceberg thinking.

6. "Our job as writers is to feed the emotional word and take the reader's heart on a journey to the end of the story, so the character lives on in the reader's mind" - Mandy, again.

7. "Think of yourself as people who traverse both printed and digital worlds" - Alexandra Lutyens on the possibilities provided by social media.

8. "You've just got to be confident to let your imagination go wild" - a schoolboy involved in one of Kiwa Digital's Slam storytelling workshops.

9. "I don't ever write for children when I write for children" - Dave Armstrong.

And lastly, one of my favourites -

10. "That's awesome, Maureen!" (as we unveiled yet another Tinderbox surprise) or was it "that's awesome Maureen"?  - either would work!

Wednesday 7 October 2015

The next best 10 things about Tinderbox 2015

I said I might need another list...

1. The Wellington weather. We're used to it. (More or less.) People coming from further afield were worried and wanted advice about what clothes to pack to cope with all possible eventualities. We provided style advice (courtesy of Adele Jackson ) - but it was hardly needed. The forecast rain didn't arrive, the sun shone and people even ate lunch outside! (OK, there was a bit of wind.)

2. Our fantastic sponsors. The Children's Bookshop, Wellington Combined Taxis, Four Winds Foundation, Gordon Harris, Forest and Bird Association, Flight coffee, Whittaker's chocolate, Skinfood, Trilogy, Healthpak - so grateful to them all for filling our conference bags, helping out our budget, topping up our caffeine levels and providing extra treats that made everything even better and more delicious.

3. Connections. Did I say that before? But it was just so good to put faces to names and profile posts. I tried to get round everyone to say hello; I think I missed about 10 or 12 people (sorry!) but I had wonderful conversations with so many others.

4. Special guest visit from Andy Griffiths, described by Kim Hill as "the punk rock star of children's literature." How lucky were we!!!!! (I know you're not supposed to go overboard on exclamation marks, but Andy Griffiths is worth a few.)

And the sessions, of course. Because I couldn't clone myself and go to everything, these are just some of the sessions that I managed to get to. I know from overhearing other people's conversations (something writers are good  at doing) that other sessions were equally brilliant, and you can read more about our speakers here. But here are a few:

5. Spontaneous Combustion, or Lightning Talks - 7 talks, 8 people (because 2 shared a spot), 10 minutes each and a very strict time keeper; great way to find out what people are doing in a short time - too short - we could have happily listened to them all for much longer (if not for the timetable) (and the strict time-keeper).

6. Sharon Holt - human dynamo - flew in for the day from another conference and  bowled us over with the story of the development of her te reo singalong books.

Book 10: KĊrero Mai

7. Social media with Alexandra Lutyens, who demystified  the whole process, told us about social platforms we'd never heard of and helped us to identify which ones might be most helpful for us.

8.   Penny Fitt, Associate Director at Toi Whakaari, talking about Stories we tell ourselves and Failure as a normal part of the creative business for all of us. ("Am I being creative at all," she asked, "if there's no risk of anything at all?")

9. The non-Illustrators among us only have photographic evidence to prove it, but the Illustrators Day on Monday sounded like a roaring success. If you were in town on Monday afternoon, that was the happy band you noticed, wending their way from studio to studio down Cuba St.

The Art Room set up ready for Illustrators Day

10. Meanwhile, any of the writers who were still in town (and not too exhausted) had a more sedate visit to the National Library, hosted by several charming librarians (thanks to Joan McCracken, Mary Skarott and colleagues). We saw the trolleys that trundle along the overhead tracks, carrying books to and from the basement shelves (apparently there's a Youtube trolley's-eye-view version, but I can't find it) and went down into the vast basement itself to see the Dorothy Neal White and Children's Collection. Afterwards there was lunch at Home cafe and more connection-building.

And now it's all over...

The last of the AV system, moving out

Or is it? The connections are continuing and I think the reverberations of Tinderbox 2015 will also continue for some time yet.

Tuesday 6 October 2015

The best 10 things about Tinderbox 2015...

... or possibly more than 10:

1. The amazing organising committee. I know they were amazing because I worked with them. Unflappable, generous, competent, helpful, friendly, welcoming - and a whole lot of other wonderful attributes.

2. The atmosphere created amongst everyone who was there. Collaboration was an underlying theme of the conference, and there was collaboration and cooperation in spades. People were willing to share what had worked (and hadn't worked) for them, and were truthful and honest about both successes and failures. Sometimes their honesty was breathtaking and humbling.

3. Inclusivity was another outstanding feature. Whoever you were - the newbie writers and illustrators who worried beforehand that they felt like "frauds", or the most experienced and award-winning amongst us - there was total equality and respect shown to everyone.

4. Connections - before, during and afterwards. People started to link up on our Facebook page and through our Sparks project from the moment that registrations opened. Some people arrived on Friday morning not knowing anyone else at all, but by Friday afternoon the conversations were buzzing and it got harder and harder to send everyone off to the next sessions on time after a break.

5. Positivity. I've been to a number of writing-related events in the last few years where the mood has been one of discouragement and uncertainty. We weren't ignoring current trends in publishing and bookselling that can lead to that kind of thinking - but the overall mood this time felt quite different: lighter, more hopeful and with a sense of more possibilities out there.

6. Creativity. That wasn't even on my original list of 10, but how can I leave it out -

What the Illustrators were busy making, hidden away in the Art Room....

7. The venue - almost as quirky as Capital House, the venue for the Spinning Gold conference in 2006 (and nobody who was there will ever forget that.)

8. The delicious food, served up for morning teas, lunch and afternoon tea by Frances and her wonderful band of Year 12 helpers.

9. The cocktail party on Friday night, hosted by John and Ruth McIntyre at The Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie; drinks, nibbles, shelves crammed with tempting books, and many of the authors and illustrators on hand to sign them; what more could you want, except for a few of John's many pearls of wisdom (and Julia Marshall, suddenly appearing in the doorway like Mary Poppins at a crucial point in his speech.)

10. The conference dinner on Saturday night: more good food and wine, even noisier conversation and the party tables still going strong when the rest of us left; Fifi Colston's hilarious talk about the story behind the Amazing Activity Book (which included ambulances, an unposted letter delivered on the spot after 15 years, a gift-wrapped parcel to Helen Clark and a secret meeting in a carpark) and an equally fascinating talk by Julia Marshall and Kate de Goldi about an exciting new Gecko project.

That's 10, and I haven't even got to the sessions yet, I think another list might be needed.