Every day should be a learning day, but there are some days that you learn far more than others.
I’m just back from a magical few days in Sydney where I attended the SCBWI Australian & NZ Conference at the Hughenden Hotel (as an aside, if you are looking for a warm-hearted boutique hotel in Sydney, you can’t go past the Hughenden).
I’ve been to lots of book and writing conferences over the years, but I still have so so so much to learn about writing, about the industry and about life in general. In these few days I’ve learnt dozens – maybe hundreds of new things, some big, some small. But lest I overwhelm you, here are just ten things I learned in Sydney.
- Even if you haven’t seen a friend for two years – or three, or even four – sometimes it feels like you’re just picking up a conversation from a few moments ago. No awkwardness, no need to reintroduce yourselves, you just know each other.
- Sometimes that ‘old friend’ is someone you’ve never actually met in real life but number 1 still applies. You’ve emailed or Facebooked or tweeted so well that you really do know each other.
- Most people like hugs, but some don’t, and that’s okay, though sometimes you can convert them.
- If you must write a story in rhyme, you need to test the storyline by writing it out in prose for yourself to ensure that it works. Sometimes a rhyme can lead you off on tangents. (As someone who has had a rhyming picture book published, and worked on several more, I must confess I’d never thought of that, though I do always have the plot in my head)
- The thing you think you’ll learn or benefit you think you’ll get from a session is often not the most important thing you do learn in that session. It can be something incidental, but something just right for you.
- Not everyone knows what a verse novel is. Actually, I already knew this, but it still surprises/saddens me. (Must do more to spread the word).
- Not everyone likes poetry (again, I know this, but GOSH it is sad). Hopefully through my writing and doctoral project I can make a small contribution to changing this).
- That new technological/technical skill you’ve been procrastinating about acquiring will be the one mentioned by numerous speakers and delegates, sometimes in passing, so that you leave inspired to go and learn to do it. For me, this skill is Skype visits, so watch this space.
- In a crowded conference space it’s okay to step away for a few minutes, take a deep breath, stretch and be alone. It not only energises you ready to dive back in, but it can also make you a nicer person (I hope).
- The tips you get and the ones you share in the coffee breaks/lunch breaks/bar are often not directly writing related but can be incredibly valuable and start both conversations and friendships. In Sydney I evangelised about my comfortable shoes more than I ever thought I would, and learnt about stationery, iPad apps and so much more
I said there were only 10, but I’m a writer and counting is not my forte, so here’s one more: it doesn’t seem to matter the size of a conference, there are always people who you don’t get to spend enough time with. There were so many wonderful friends who I feel I hardly said more than hello to. With a packed conference programme and so much wonderful conversation taking place, you don’t always get hours to spend with each friend – old or new. But you know that, in two years, or whenever your paths cross again, you’ll be able to pick up again. And, in the meantime, we are so lucky to live in a time when technology means keeping up with friends is a daily thing, even when you’re miles apart.