Folk don’t often become writers, illustrators or editors without possessing a reasonable degree of introversion: it is necessary to get the work done. However, creators are in need of communion with their people. Often this happens informally: we meet up at festivals, or are introduced through fellow artists, or at book launches. Here in Western Australia, organisations like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, WritingWA, the Literature Centre and the ASA also provide forums and courses where creators at all different stages of their careers can get together, exchange information, and drink a lot complain about contracts bemoan the state of publishing talk.
In Australia, though, there is nothing like Kindling Words.
Seventy five established writers, illustrators and editors, lucky enough to have been chosen from a lottery system, gathered at the Essex resort in snowy Vermont to discuss, over three glorious days, what we do when we make stories for children and young adults. The rules are strict: no pitching to the editors and no sharing personal information about others. The focus is on deeply contemplating the craft of what we do: no discussion of contracts or book deals, just the real stuff. Each day there was a keynote speech by a writer and then an illustrator. There were readings. There were shared meals and conversations over those meals about Everything. There was warmth and intensity and a palpable creative charge. In the afternoons you could retreat to your room to write (as I did), or join in whiteboard discussions instigated by participants in various locations around the resort.
I cannot do justice to the level of inspiration that gathering generated, nor can I adequately describe the warmth and kindness with which I was treated by all the participants, and in particular by the organisers. The weather was also an experience: minus twenty five, with snow so cold you couldn’t make snowballs.
Stay tuned for the results.