I’ve just been to the SCBWI annual conference in Winchester. For some reason this is pronounced Scooby not Scbwy (no, not the town, which is pronounced Winchester for all you newly confused Americans, although I do grant that a lot of English pronunciation is a bit random. Have a go at Featherstonehaw or Cholmondeley. Sorry, you’re wrong. Fanshaw and Chummly. No, I agree there’s no logic). At the beginning, since I occasionally get letters muddled up, I felt it was Scweeby, but that sounds like the annoying noise that’s made when you clean windows. Sally Gardner, one of our key speakers, objected to the use of the word like but now I’ve gone and put it in my first paragraph… sigh…sorry, Sally, but be keen on the annoying noise somehow doesn’t have the same ring. Also, getting a lot of having a weakness fors on Facebook might be a little odd. May I keep this one like? No? Then war.
Like the format was a series of like talks and workshops sprinkled with like enormous amounts of coffee, cake and lunch, which was like great for the blood sugar, but like not so much for the avoirdupois (which surely translates as to have some peas…) sorry- can’t keep this up; don’t like it. You win, Sally.
The Saturday night party was very jolly. So much so, I woke up on Sunday morning regretting that I’d been quite as sociable the night before. It would have been more efficient to have regretted it in advance, thus getting my remorse out of the way when I was feeling stronger. On the Sunday morning I was robust-challenged. However, anti-grade regret doesn’t work, as if you’re really efficient about it, it stops you drinking anything at all which then negates the need for having felt sorry in the first place. It would be a shame to have indulged needlessly in all of that negative emotion, so I’m stuck with post-party remorse; in mourning the next morning.
Nick Butterworth was our keynote illustrator speaker although that does seem counterintuitive. You’d think he would have drawn what he wanted to express, perhaps as a montage. Although slower, it would have been brilliant to watch him pour the contents of his brain onto a series of whiteboards. He did resort to drawing a couple of times and, in about 12 strokes of a pen, produced a wonderfully cute crocodile with a mournful expression. This should be technically impossible; even real crocodiles don’t have facial expressions unless you count shades of malice. In 1200 strokes of a pencil, swiftly followed by 1188 strokes of an eraser, I would possibly be able to bang out a passable stick man without expression, or an amoeba, equally expression free. It astonishes me that people have things going in through their eyes or rattling around their brain which then emerge, complete and comprehensible, via the hand. I seem to have been born without this neuronal pathway, which is presumably a form of picture blindness, not unlike dyslexia. Dyspixia might suggest I had difficulties relating to fairies but dysgraphia suggest I’m hopeless at maths. Dysdrawia might have to do.
Cathy Cassidy told a truly inspiring story, which means we all took a deep breath as she started to talk. A very modest person, she tried to pass off her stratospheric success as being a stroke of fate disguised as pushy neighbour. So convincing was she in this argument that after her talk there was a queue of people waiting, not only to have a copy of her book signed but also to ask for this neighbour’s address so they could move in next door. She spoke about not having a parallel week timewise, but was clearly lying about this as she answers all e-mails and letters, also posts on Twitter and Facebook herself, meanwhile judging her very well supported writing competitions… and writing. The talk gave me an idea for a story which concerns a struggling writer who has to live with PTSD after attending a conference and finding that superstar writers are human, but gifted with an extra 10 hours per day. The story has a happy ending, as the author builds a raft of her unsold books, sails to Switzerland and creates stories so short they count as tweets. I’m suspicious that there is a slight plot problem here. Answers on a postcard please…
Sally Gardner told her own amazing story about her early struggles with dyslexia. She pointed out that anybody who can spell dyslexia doesn’t have it. She illustrated her talk with photographs of a cat in a hat and a representation of the way a dyslexic would see the words cat in a hat. I can sympathise 100% with her predicament, although am only able to empathise about 5%. I also occasionally get stuck with words, such as on one occasion sitting in front of blank screen unable to spell any. Eny didn’t quite seem to cut it and neither did eni. Starting with the wrong letter, I couldn’t even look it up in the dictionary. I should have stopped wrestling with the concept at that point, stuck with whichever (or witchever) and chosen Eni as the name of a character in one of my books.
The volunteers had clearly been trained by Santa’s elves, running the conference smoothly, competently and cheerfully. This only deepened my depression, as by now I’d seen my inadequacies in drawing, social media, writing success and now all these happy, worthy people were adding to it. My gloom was swiftly broken by the fantastic atmosphere of positivity, which is more efficient in effect than Prozac although rather more difficult to bottle. If they could have, as a perfume it would be Eau’d to Joy.
So I will start next week raring to go, tweeting hourly, plotting intensely, reading voraciously and volunteering for anything I can think of. So, was the time spent away worth it? Definitely. New plot idea: writer has life changing event; only in my current mood it will be file changing.