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So, what did I think of my first ever writing conference?

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OMG!

I can’t believe I’ve never been before! I’ve been on tons of writing courses with lots of different people at lots of different stages in their writing journey. It’s always really fantastic to spend time with people who love writing like I do. What was different is the fact that the conference is over a weekend so there’s more socialising and everyone there (including me, of course!) are passionate about children’s books.

The conference was well attended with authors, agents and people who are there to help you get published. You can book a one-to-one with an agent to get feedback on a idea you’re working on, things like that.

While there was still a good breadth of interests from picture books to YA as well as many illustrators, everyone is close enough in their interests to engage well together and enthuse about what they love doing. It’s not quite the same when you’re with someone who writes chick lit, or horror. They have slightly different agendas.

There were key note speeches from highly respected and experienced authors, illustrators, agents and editors each with important messages to pass on. There was a wide variety of groups and sessions that catered for all aspects of children’s writing, illustration and marketing yourself.

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A lot of what I heard in key note speeches and group sessions wasn’t new but, for some reason, this time round for me it really sank in. I found myself scribbling away in Cliff NcNish’s Heroes and Villains groups fleshing out a couple of chapter sketches for stories I am working on and finding a new clarity in my planning. Something has finally fallen into place (I think!). I have wondered since why that is? Perhaps Cliff is a literary genius whose passion (he’s an engaging, funny chap) and thought processes have rubbed off on me? Or perhaps his approach and thought process reflects how my own mind works? Maybe it’s that this weekend has caught me at the right time in my own development curve as a writer? Who knows!? Frankly, I don’t care. I really feel as if this weekend has launched me forward as a writer. It’s given me a turbo boost that I hope will propel me into 2017 and beyond.

I met loads of fantastic people, felt honoured to be discussing writing techniques and actually developing stories with traditionally published authors who I hold in high regard. I was in awe of those, who, on Saturday afternoon, had the guts to get up on stage in front of 200-300 people and pitch their books to a panel of four literary agents akin to Dragons Den. That is gut-liquefying stuff right there. Not just the getting up and speaking part but handling the irritating little voice inside that was, most likely, taunting each and every one of them – Ha ha, you’re making a fool of yourself, you can’t write! Your stuff is rubbish! All five of them are legends in my eyes, all of them writers.

I met a chap there called Patrick. He is just starting out with his writing journey and he has begun in just the right way. I encourage anyone embarking on a life of writing to throw themselves into a conference. I wish I had done so years ago. You will meet people who will inspire you, point you in the right direction and you will see many others who have toiled away at their laptops and sketch pads for years and have succeeded, just like you will if you get involved with others looking to achieve the same things.

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But I won’t know anyone there, you say? That may be true before but I promise you it will change by the time you leave… and you’ll want to go back. You can even dress up!

What more can you ask for?

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