CYA 2019 – Bootcamp Notes

Part One – Bootcamp

The first weekend in July, with thanks to an RADF Grant from Bundaberg Regional Council, I attended the 14thannual CYA Conference in Brisbane, for authors of Children’s and YA books. I attended the first CYA Conference, in 2006 – and it has grown a lot since then. Not just in numbers, but in duration. This year it transitioned from a one-day conference, to a three-day event – expanding into the adult market, with one day devoted to ‘Everything’s a Genre’ – and writing Bootcamps offered over three days. I am mightily thankful for the Bundaberg Regional Council RADF committee for awarding a grant allowing me to attend the full three days, and meet one-on-one and in small groups with publishers and editors. It was the best professional development I have ever received and I am sincerely, heartfelt thankful!

On Friday, I took part in the inaugural bootcamp – authors working with an editor in small groups to gain feedback on a manuscript; editing suggestions, and opportunity to rework the manuscript, to then receive further feedback. I was in a picture book group with Lisa Berryman, children’s publisher at Harper Collins. Over the course of the day, we shared in our small groups, but also came together for two large panel discussions, hearing insights from all the editors in response to questions posed by ‘head ranger’, Dee White.

Friday’s Bootcamp editors: Clare Hallifax (Omnibus), Elise Jones, (A&U), Lisa Berryman (Harper Collins), Kristy Bushnell (independent), Maryann Ballantyne (Will Dog), Sarah Davis (Walker) and Lauren Clarke (independent).

DW: What makes you want to read further?

CH: I need to fall in love with a character. (Author voice is character, as well.)
LB: Very much the idea – setting/genre.
EJ: A book with heart.
LC: Proactive characters
SD: Narrative. Storytelling in an image. Potentiality. What happened and what is going to happen?
MB: Always looking for the bigger story.
KB: Character and personality onto the page. The emotion. Show (don’t tell) straight away.

“Voice is a writer who is in control of his craft.”

There was some discussion about author voice. And what makes it distinctive. And if it could be taught/developed. Someone shared a Paul McDermot quote, “Most things are fixable – except voice.” Nearly everything about this discussion sparked thoughts of poetry, for me. You want to develop your voice? I say play with poetry!

Other Takeaways:

SD: Your first idea isn’t usually your best. It’s too obvious.
SD: Write an evocative text that creates atmosphere.
EJ: Place the reader – at the start of the book and at the start of each section break.
CH: Write a story – not a list. And read it aloud.
KB: Know your characters and your problems and feed them in as necessary. (Not TMI too soon.)
LC: Set the scene and give need-to-know. And a hint of tension. Peril or dissatisfaction.
KB: Personified settings. Sets the mood and tone of story. An emotional connection. (And again I was thinking … poetry!)
?: Stage directions moving the characters around. Write it subtly. (Writer in control, with the help of their publisher and editor.)

On Submissions:

LB: Stating similar titles is helpful for Sales & Marketing – and how to pitch it. Compare for things like tone/feelings.
MB: Doesn’t want illustration notes.
LB: Illustrator notes are often helpful/necessary.
CH: If the narrative hinges on illustrations, include notes.
LB: Likes an elevator pitch – the essence of the story, like a mantra.
LB: Feedback is a gift. It’s not personal. It’s not about you.

Brittany, Kat & Meredith – the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards connection.

Friday Night was the first of the Networking Dinners, with kidlit creatives converging from all over the country. Networking is so important! And also so much fun! I did a double take when I thought I recognised the face across from me at dinner… and first name matched… and indeed, it was Brittany, Poetry Awards Officer for the Dorothea Mackellar Poetry Awards, who I have had much email/phone contact with in recent months, in my role as judge. (Another reason why I have been very busy of late – reading almost 5000 poems and judging across four categories! Almost finalised. And what a task – a joyful task – it was!) Brittany and I had never met, (had seen photos) and needless to say, we each had no idea the other would be at CYA! Also in attendance was the Secondary School’s judge, Meredith Costain.

Day One done! Watch for more blog posts to follow, including … my exciting news!

If you’re in the Bundaberg Region, I will be sharing fast facts from CYA in a one hour session at Bundaberg library, on Saturday 27th July, at 10am. I’d love you to join me!

For now, head across to Carol’s Corner and muscle up on poetry… or melt on puppy love. Thanks for hosting Poetry Friday today, Carol, and sharing Rooney (and your poem) with us.


  1. This sounds like pretty fantastic PD! I love this quote: “Voice is a writer who is in control of his craft.” I really appreciated your sharing your takeaways from the panel discussions.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this “Most things are fixable – except voice.” There are so many wonderful gems in this blog post. I can only imagine how fired up and inspired you are to run off to a corner to write! I can’t wait to hear about the poetry winners. Please do let us know about them and how we can find their work. GREAT POST. Thank you!


    • I will surely share them, Linda. I am so proud of them!! (Though all I did was judge them.😂) And yes – fired up to write – and snatching every opportunity I can. But for this week, it’s back to Brisbane, for more author talks. (Which I also love!)


  3. Thank you for sharing from this wonderful conference, Kat. I will copy the words to be sure I remember. You are indeed lucky to get to go. And I’ve been a Cybils judge these recent years & thought I was reading a lot, but 5,000 poems, wow. I will look forward to your sharing the winners!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Every session was so valuable, Linda. And so many meetings with publishers/editors/agents outside of that. It was awesome! (I took 22pages of typed notes over the course of the weekend – so needing to take notes from my notes, to make up my blog posts!) And yes, 5000 poems is a lot! The number was not a surprise to me – but the reality of what that feels/looks like was!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a delight to attend all three days of the conference, to make wonderful connections, and learn so much. I’ll look forward to future updates and your exciting news!


  5. Like other’s here, I’m wowed by your experience and takeaways from bootcamp. I’m also dumfounded by the idea of reading 5000 poems and then having to judge them!


  6. Kat, your conference sounded amazing and I like the take aways and dicussions. The line I LOVE is: “VOICE IS A WRITER WHO IS IN CONTROL OF HIS CRAFT.” That is a powerful statement.


  7. Pingback: CYA 2019 – Conference & NEWS! « Kathryn Apel

  8. Pingback: CYA 2019 – Everything’s a Genre « Kathryn Apel

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