CYA 2019 – Everything’s a Genre

This post is the third (and final) in a series, feeding-back from my attendance at the 2019 CYA Conference. Click the links to read last week’s post with the CYA notes, or a sum-up of the PB Bootcamp. This week we cover ‘Everything’s a Genre’.

Opening Panel

Lucy Bell (Pantera Press)
Considers all adult commercial fiction and issue-based non-fiction

Anna Solding (Midnight Sun)
Chasing international sales at Bologna/London book fairs

Danielle Binks (Jacinta di Mase Agency)
Mostly what they do is the contract stuff. Yes submissions/quality control.
Join QWC and ASA.

Carolyn Martinez (Hawkeye Publishing)
Recommends ‘On Writing’ – Steven King

Angela Meyer (Echo – Aus imprint of Bonnier Books UK)
Particularly fond of crime fiction and historical fiction

Sophie Hamley (Hachette)
Mostly open to adult submissions
Involved with mentorship programs

Julia Carlomagno (Black Ink – Quarterly Essay)
Non-fiction that contributes to national conversation. Includes history.
Also small literary fiction list.
Not a lot of YA.

Belinda Murrell – The Reality of publishing from an author’s perspective

Despite the doom and gloom, more books are being published than ever. (Nielsen Book Scan)
Book industry was worth 1.18billion dollars in Australia in 2018
CYA 29% of the total market, with 28million children’s book sales in Australia.
5000 new titles in Australia (kids/YA/adult) in 2019

Big W is closing 30% of its Bookstores

(Shared during other sessions …
Market down 2.6% but children’s writing up 1.2%.
Middle grade has been booming for 4-5yrs. Is doing really well.
YA is down. Publishers trying to bring YA down to your middle grade.
Stand alone beautiful middle grade.)

Picture books are becoming cheaper to produce.
Heart, hope and humour – PBs
Penguin Random noted that 80% of submissions received are for PB alone.
YA is currently the toughest field to get published in.

Bologna – (April 2019) Publishers actively seeking – trends for next year:

  • diversity
  • #metoo
  • feminism
  • teenage thriller
  • gritty realism (YA dark/edgy contemporary issues – refugees, homelessness)
  • friendship & kindness
  • environment
  • girl power

Growth of micro publishers and self-publishing:

  • 2,200 micro publishers in Aus (1 book/yr) – independent authors
  • 1300 small (2-5)
  • 200 mid (5-100)
  • 28 large (100+ titles)

Big Publishers – Belinda’s experience

  • The Top 5 have 72% of total market, Penguin Random (20%)
  • They are publishing new and aspiring authors.
  • Big publishers have efficient distributions
  • More money for marketing/promotion/support (bookmarks/standings/banners/bunting/craft activities/crafts/merchandising, etc …)
  • Publishers are not the enemy! They are passionate, kind – and don’t get paid much.

Writing fulltime:

  • Belinda suggested you need 10 books to make a living from writing.
  • Children’s sales are driven by school visits.
  • Things to do to promote your books:
  • Teacher notes
  • Character Profiles
  • Recipes
  • Activities
  • Things you didn’t know about me

Christine Well – Bringing History to Life

What is historical fiction?

  • A fictional account of real events
  • journey of a real person from the past
  • fictionalised characters against background of real events
  • fictionalised characters in a fictionalised past
  • speculative fiction – with a thread running through the past

There are no historical fact police.

Developing a Story Idea:

  • Write about something that evokes emotion in you
  • Use a real person as inspiration
  • Sticky facts – quirky twists to bring to the narrative
  • personal interests, eg; medicine, law, parenthood, women’s rights
  • write a brief synopsis
  • read round the era / test/refine

Immersion: (Gaining confidence in the period)
Traditional research … (Primary sources/secondary sources)
Watch movies/documentaries to immerse yourself in the era. Use it as an idea spark , then VERIFY through research. History texts don’t bring in textures/aromas/etc …
Read fiction and plays that were written AT the time!
Think about social class, region, background , personal history, eras before and after the ‘present’ of the story. (Manners and morals)

Questions to anchor your writing:

  • Who are you writing for?
  • What is wonderful about this era?
  • What’s frightening about the era?
  • What’s romantic? What will heighten romantic conflict?
  • What is fascinating?
  • What has not changed since this time?
  • Is this the right historical period for you story and your voice?

Characters are key! Write strong, vital characters with agency.
Leave out the bits people skip.

Edwina Shaw – Writing Memoir

Focus it around some segment of life
What is the central question – to propel the reader through.

What is this story about?
What is this story really about?
What is this story really about?
(Ask it three times – to get to the heart of the story)

When you start writing – just start writing.
When rewriting, look for the shape/theme.
Think in scenes. Showing – and a little bit of telling.
Characters – and you are one of them.
Dialogue doesn’t have to be exact. The gist …
Doesn’t have to be chronological. You can reorganise structure to give narrative drive.

Formula for Narrative Drive:  Suspense = Hope + Fear

If others are involved, you need to get them to read it as well.

 

Allison Paterson – Writing Non Fiction in the Adult World


Lesson One: Know your audience.
What do you want this to be?

Elements of Non-fiction

  • Facts – about real people, things events and places.
  • Has a major idea
  • Contains aids to reading – glossary, headings, maps, charts, diagrams,
  • Come in sub-genres, but contain elements borrowed from fiction.
  • Purpose is to inform, entertain – and perhaps convince

* some narrative nonfiction blurs the line between fact and fiction.
(Author may create dialogue based on fact.)

Your idea:

What is your purpose? Inform/entertain/persuade/all
Who is your audience?
Competitors – unique selling points?

Finding the inspiration/detail and emotion – the research:

  • Listening/observing/conversations
  • Writing – journal
  • reading nonfiction and fiction – immersing yourself
    reflecting
  • TV documentaries/movies – can bring settings to life
  • indulge your writing. Go there. Engage your sensors – visualise, imagine, walk the scene take in sounds and scents, take photos – interpretative boards
  • Google: books, maps, You/Tube
  • real people – oral histories
  • libraries – librarians love the thrill of the hunt!

Meticulously record your sources – to verify.
Know when to stop researching and start writing. (That will then drive further research.)

Apply the Elements of Fiction:

  • Engage the reader. Hook.
  • Plan – bend reality into a story arc – develop a captivating plot.
  • How do I end?
  • Think of the people in your writing as characters.
  • Develop your own unique voice.

The challenge for a nonfiction writer is to achieve a poetic precision using the documents of truth but somehow to make people and places spring to life as if the reader was in their presence.

 Simon Schama

Closing Panel – Chaired by Tina Marie Clarke

“Where on the spectrum of genre does it fit? How is your manuscript unique? What is your particular angle or hook?” (Julia Carlmagno – Black Inc)

“Genre is a reader promise which we writers have to fulfill.” (Amy Andrews)

“Genre is a slippery concept – even for those who write it.” (Isobelle Carmody)

“Genre targets readers and ensures the reader is satisfied. But a good book is more important than genre. Write a good book.” (Lucy Bell)

“Know the rules, the trope, so you can break them.” (Lucy Bell)


For some months I’ve been pondering what to call my Antarctic verse novels. I’m quite okay with them sitting across numerous genres – actually think that’s part of their uniqueness. But CYA has confirmed that they are indeed historical non-fiction verse novels. The name doesn’t changes the work! But it is good to know that’s where they sit on the spectrum.

I am grateful for the Bundaberg RADF Grant that made attendance at all these conference events possible. The networking and knowledge gained far exceeded my expectations (as did the notes and blog posts!) and has given renewed purpose, passion and direction in my writing. It was a privilege to represent the Bundaberg region at the conference, and feedback information via these blog posts, and the session at Bundaberg library, last weekend.

Thank-you also to Tina and the crew at CYA. I appreciate the time you all put into organising this conference and competition. With three competition wins over the years, and numerous placings, your conference has had a significant impact on my writing career – and my confidence. I value the friendships as much as the knowledge gained. Connections made at that first conference are still strong, and I wonder where I would be, without the impact of the CYA on my writing life.

Heidi has the Poetry Friday link-up for us today, so click over to my juicy little universe for lots of fresh-squeezed poetry goodness!

CYA 2019 – Conference & NEWS!

Part Two – CYA Conference Notes

Following on from last week’s post about the three-day CYA Event recently in Brisbane…

The actual CYA Conference started with a buzz! Competitions winners were announced and I was thrilled (and even relieved) to find that my trio of rhyming PB manuscripts won the published author competition, judged by Luna Soo (Hardie Grant) and Alyson O’Brien (Little Hare). A CYA win is a massive injection of confidence and affirmation, and I was so thrilled! It was wonderful to later have time one-on-two with Luna and Alyson, discussing my work, and hearing their thoughts/feedback. (They are both so lovely!) Thank-you to Alyson and Luna for their belief in my work, and to the whole tribe of CYA organisers and volunteer judges who bring this competition to fruition!

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

From there I went to my first editorial one-on-one, which was insightful, but also discouraging. It was a story I heard from a number of publishers throughout the conference – and have heard often before – about a reluctance to publish in rhyme. Rhyme is lost in translation – so it’s hard to ‘sell’ to Sales & Marketing. But kids (and parents!) love rhyme! And there are a lot of English-speaking countries in our world! And having written rhymed and unrhymed picture books, I know the time and tenacity taken to get rhyme right! I loooong for a Sales & Marketing department who will love (and value!) rhyming PBs like I do.

Then onto the sessions of the day – when I wasn’t popping out for one-on-one editorial interviews…

Dee White – Pitch Perfect

I have had the benefit of Dee’s attention to details in pitching. She knows her stuff – and nails it!

Elements of an Effective Pitch:

  • Hooks the reader
  • Connects the reader with MC
  • Hints at what’s to come
  • Sets context – genre/readership
  • Shows where it might sit in a bookshop / comparative titles

Do’s and Don’ts

  • Don’t introduce too many characters.
  • Hint at story arc.
  • Don’t try to tell the whole story – MC, story problem & why it’s getting worse.
  • Include themes.
  • Clear & coherent
  • Why it’s unique and appealing to readers
  • Establish personal connection – why you and why now?
  • Be proud/passionate
  • Be prepared for questions
  • Practise your pitch
  • Be prepared to take on feedback
  • Try not to read too much if asked to read a sample. (Start at the start – and edit the text so that it is punchier than the actual start to the novel.)

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

Belle Brooks – Self-Publishing
This was the most enabling presentation I have seen about self-publishing. I took pages of notes, and started to see how it could be a viable option for me and a number of manuscripts I believe in, if I run out of options (or heart) with traditional publishers. Much of my notes would only make sense in context, but here are some takeaways…

• You must have a professional editor, who hears your voice and doesn’t try to change it – but helps you bring the story out.
• Don’t fluff your book with ‘content’.
• Know your strengths. Accept your faults.
• Not everyone loves your stuff. And that’s ok. Everyone judges.
• There’s a market for every book.
• Own your voice. Own your style. You are YOU.
• When you get bigger, Amazon works harder for you – because you make them money.
• Always work on your backmatter … Leading them where they need to go. Constantly leading them to your best work.
• Three stars is a good review.

Belle’s tips on blurbs:

  • A blurb is critical to success – You can change your blurb on platforms.
  • Appeal to your reader – not yourself. (Belle writes the blurb before she writes the books – which means there is no temptation to include too much detail.)

Photo credit: Peter Allert/CYA Conference

Isobel Carmody – Writing YA

Isobel spoke freely, with no notes. Some of the gems gleaned:

To write is to be. We are a tapestry of everything we’ve ever written.

  • Or job is not to be constrained, but to stretch out beyond the edges.
  • What do you want to give the world? Nothing.
  • How do I write like a child? The child in me it’s still there. Same for YA.
  • A relief to let go of the adult world.
  • Write to your deep-seated questions.
  • Write about the ideas that are in you!
  • In children’s books, children grow – but they don’t grow up! (Margaret Wild)
  • The choices we make as children/young adults inform the choices we make as adults.
  • Writing is an attempt to believe that humans can get better.
  • Issues books – Approach your craft/subject with a humility. Don’t use it to push an issue.
  • Write your first draft. Then look for themes/issues.
  • Write inwardly. Write the book. Worry about where it lands afterwards.
  • If the story’s not working for you, don’t push through. Step away. Give your mind the fallow times.
  • Editing is an essential part of the creative process. Dig down into it for themes, nuance, etc… Create the sense of reality.
  • If you’ve written deeply from yourself, you will not get bored during editing.
  • Go deep. Into yourself. Into the moment. In your writing.
  • A great book will make it through.

CYA Closing Panel

General Takeaways:

  • Market down 2.6% but children’s writing up 1.2%.
  • Middle grade has been booming for 4-5yrs. Is doing really well.
  • YA is down. Publishers trying to bring YA down to your middle grade.

Alex Adsett (Agent):

  • It’s not an easy industry for author/illustrators. It’s not an easy industry for agents/editors either.
  • Always write what’s in your heart. Let us worry about how to fit it into the market.

Debbie Lee (Ingram – Sparks)

The Bundy Connection!

  • Wherever you’re at, work with professionals.
  • You are a business.

Davina Bell (Affirm Press)

  • Looking for more junior fiction.
  • Trends: girl power / child activism/climate change / diversity

Mary Verney – Sydney office. (Penguin Random House)

  • Lots of buyers are asking for good non fiction for kids.

Lucy Bell (Pantera Press)

  • Has mostly acquired from the slush pile.
  • Looking for activism/climate change. Haven’t published many PBs, but possibilities with non fiction/activism books.

Indie is often a stepping stone. It’s not an us and them. We’re part of the same conduit and can coexist.

Thank-you to the Bundaberg RADF committee that made attendance at all these conference events possible. There is still one day of notes to catch you up on – from the Everything is a Genre day of conference. Tomorrow (Saturday) from 10-11am I will be feeding-back in person at the Bundaberg Library. You can register here.

Margaret is collecting Poetry Friday links a Reflections on the Teche – with a teaspoon and a bit of string.