The Children’s Books Ireland conference took place last weekend. Basically it involved much tea and geeking out over kids’ books with some of my favouritest writerly and bookish people ever, so that was quite nice. Some of the shiny bits:
- Sarah Ardizzone talked about translation, noting the length of time it can take for books to appear in translation but also how it can change reading patterns dramatically if there are translated works of major stories (e.g. Harry Potter). She also addressed the benefits of using translation exercises in schools, almost as a way into creative writing.
- Hervé Tullet was quite mad and French and had played The Big Bad Wolf in the previous session. I admit to swooning. His books are really innovative and engaging – they leave room for readers to add their own stuff. Definitely worth checking them out for pre-school/early school types.
- Was really interested by John Boyne, who was interviewed by the ever-magnificent Robert Dunbar. He spoke about his writing process – writing one book for kids, then one for adults, although he tends to think more in terms of the character age than intended audience. (Though he did note all his kids’ books were third person, while adult ones in first.) The idea for the next book comes in the late, tidying-up days of the previous one; he couldn’t jump between projects. In terms of his training, he didn’t find English (at TCD) useful at all, but his seven years at Waterstones as a bookseller made up his “real books education”. He also found the Creative Writing MA at East Anglia incredibly useful – noted it wasn’t so much about the work you did as your reading of other people’s stuff, learning to read in a totally different way and analyse it sentence by sentence.
- There was a very cool comics panel with Sarah McIntyre, Rory McConville, and Alan Nolan, where the idea of comics going beyond just the funny stuff and superheroes, talking about comics and graphic novels being a format rather than a genre.
- Confession: I almost skipped Alex T. Smith’s session because he writes for 5-8-year-olds and I was sure I’d be bored. Ha. He puts innuendo in his books, and also talked warmly about his grandfather and the influence he had on him and his writing. Then there was drawing. It was all rather lovely.
- Sarah Crossan kicked off Sunday and offered up some very honest insights about her writing process. She noted that some of her own issues from childhood slipped into her debut, The Weight of Water, but that she hadn’t been aware of that, and also noted that she didn’t think good art can be therapy. Kasienka’s strength was something she would have liked at that time in her life, though. Her plotting/outlining stuff was really interesting – there were fancy slides! – and the amount of work, thought, care, time, and energy she puts into her novels was very evident.
- The Edge of the Page session had numerous speakers in 5-minute bursts talking about Irish authors/illustrators they hoped wouldn’t be forgotten. My main memory of this one is Gráinne’s crush on Eddie Lenihan.
- Owing to flight issues, the next panel was something completely different – Deirdre Sullivan and Sheena Wilkinson interviewed by their lovely editor, Elaina O’Neill. The issue of rebellious characters came up – Sheena noted that they were more interesting (in the case of her Declan), and Deirdre spoke about how Primrose’s rebellion comes out of sadness, as is often the case with teenagers. There was a lot of talk about gatekeepers – what you can leave in and how it has to be handled, how often having something without making it The Main Problem can be tricky.
- Jon Klassen was utterly adorable and brilliant. He took the audience through a number of his projects, including bits from his animation work, and then the different picture books. Favourite thing said: “We’re not promising the universe is on your side. ‘Cause it’s not, a lot of the time.” Also about how problem-solving is a creative skills, and how working with your limitations and then figuring out ways around them is actually very useful.