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.

CYA – No Cows Illustrations

Meeting Cath (@SquiggleMum) was a wonderful thing.


Two weeks ago I flew to Brisbane to attend the CYA Conference – for those in the Children’s and Young Adult’s publishing industry. The main reason I dropped everything and flew is because my verse novel manuscript, ‘Bully on the Bus’ was winner of the published author category of the CYA Competition.

If you’ve missed that news, you can read more On Verse Novels, Bullies and Wonderful Wins. I’m still smiling – but have also been busy applying insights gained from my face-to-face meeting with Zoe Walton (Publisher – Children’s & Young Adult Books at Random House Australia) who judged the published author section. It’s amazing the big difference that small details make.

One of the many wonderful things about attending the CYA was being able to view first-hand the artwork that my story, ‘No Cows!’ had inspired in the Illustration section of the CYA competition. Now you too can see it, because the pics have been posted to the CYA website. Want to see a whole lot of rural Australian illustrations, with beefy cows, stockhorse and cattle dog – and a bird in the herd that stalks as it walks, eating slugs and the bugs that the herd stirred…?

Click here –>  No Cows! (& other illustrations) – CYA 2012

Love those beefy cattle! 🙂

Click to look at artwork inspired by No Cows!

CYA Later – Darwin to Brisbane… and Back!

Kat @ CYA

Kat @ CYA

One of the holiday highlights for me was without a doubt the CYA Conference, held in Brisbane in conjunction with the Brisbane Writers Festival.

Problem being… while normally I’m 6 hrs up the road – this year I was halfway across the country!


But some opportunities can’t be missed. So, after driving 4000km (and almost as many days) to reach Darwin, within 12 hours of our arrival I was in a plane (at 1am – yee-uch!) and winging my way back to Qld. (How c-razy is that?!)


The CYA Competition gave ‘This is the Mud!’ a jumpstart to publication when it won the inaugural Preschool Picture Book Manuscript category in 2006. In 2009 – the year of it’s release – I was invited back for a muddy celebration at the CYA.

A hundred children’s writers, illustrators and publishers in one place at one time. What fun! Putting faces to names – and wicked personalities! Meeting authors who’ve impacted on my journey… Talk, talk, talk, talk, talking… And attending workshops too, of course.

How could I resist?

Kim, Dee, Kat & Sheryl

With Kim Miller, Dee White and Sheryl Gwyther... Let the celebrations begin!

For me, the unforgettable highlight was the session I shared with Dee White (‘Letters to Leonardo’) and Kim Miller (‘They told me I had to write this’), when we got to celebrate the launch of our CYA success stories.

For a while I felt like the rose between the thorns (I like that!) sharing the celebration with two YA novels – with two ‘letters’ books at that. (And muddy me, squished in the middle.) But don’t let that analogy scare you off Kim and Dee’s writing. Yes they address some prickly issues – but in their own unique styles, they both do it so well. (More on that in another blog.)

Kat & Mud

A slideshow of rolling images tell their own story... as Kat reads to the kids-at-heart.

The CYA would have been brilliant for the workshop alone. But it offers so much more to Australian children’s writers and illustrators! There’s that fantastic competition that offers feedback to every writer. And networking with a range of prominent industry professionals. Friendships… Inspiration… Great food!

Tina and Ally - time for a chat at last!

Tina and Ally - time for a chat at last.

And this year, there was that not-to-be-missed opportunity to extend the celebrations and fling some more mud around. But more importantly, to acknowledge the mammoth amount of work that Tina Clark and Ally Howard – with their team of volunteers – pour into the CYA each year. I for one am extremely grateful!

You thought I was tall before? I tell you, I was HIGH that day!

Kat is Back!

Welcome Back!

Oops. Sorry – it’s me who’s been away. Hmmm… Well, I’m glad to be back… and blogging… and you’re certainly welcome back to my blog!

For those who may have missed it, I’ve been on holidays. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, I’ve been doing research – because I’m sure there’s a whole swag of stories and articles about to unroll after our recent travelling experiences. Just give me time…

Australia is a HUGE, vast nation (yep – both those!) rich in rugged beauty. I am still in awe of the landscapes – the colours and textures. The enormity! The open spaces – and the cavernous gorges. Roads that stretch as far as the eye can see. Again and again and again…

There’s so much to see and soak into your soul. Truly, how fortunate we are to call this place our home.

Kat Outback

Over the next couple of blogs I’ll share a couple of holiday experiences with you – starting with my looooong trip to the CYA conference, and a crazy katch-up with some more kids (and YA) writers and illustrators. (What a fantastic bunch to be a part of!)

Check back on Friday for that. And if you’ve missed my two quick posts whilst on the road – scroll down below…

For now… I’m off to write!
(If you can imagine the kat that stole the cream… that’s me grinning right now. It’s been too long.)