Next in my catch-up series of what I've been up to in recent months, is a little write-up of the Kid Lit Vic Conference that was held at the gorgeous Melbourne Town Hall building in May. Boasting an impressive line-up of authors, illustrators, and publishers Kid Lit Vic is a leading event on the calendar for children's writers and illustrators.
The opening address by Leigh Hobbs had just the right balance of candour, encouragement and humour, and was the perfect way to kick off KidLitVic 2018. It is hard to imagine that there was a time that his work wasn't published but Hobbs revealed the struggle of his early years in the children's book industry. I was spellbound as he shared an anecdote that detailing exactly the toll that rejections had taken on him, with Hobbs having to stop the car one driving on a highway one day as he felt physically sick. But Hobbs didn't give up, and that was the powerful message he delivered to the room of aspiring, emerging and established creatives in the room.
The winning combination, he said, is talent, luck, and perseverance. And Hobbs is certainly proof of what can happen when these three things align. After his first book was published by Penguin, Hobbs has gone from strength to strength, with 17 books with that publisher, and highs such as Mr Chicken goes to Paris now being sold at the Louvre, Horrible Harriet brought the stage, and Hobbs named Australian Children's Laureate for the 2016/2017 term.
Hobbs explained that a driving factor in the path to success is more than just wanting to keep creating characters and stories, but the fact that you actually "can't not do it". The address finished on a motivating note, with Hobbs speaking of the desire to create being like a pilot light and that we need to "nourish, protect and keep that light burning bright".
Donna Rawlins' workshops came highly recommended in the lead-up to the festival and I've got to say, the intel was spot on. The 'Directions in Art Direction' workshop was filled to the brim with enthusiastic, talented illustrators who were absorbing as much information as they could in the workshop. Rawlins' has an absolute wealth of knowledge on illustration and art direction having been in the book industry for over 38 years as an illustrator, writer, editor, and art director, having founded Scholastic's trade publishing list, working at Walker Books Australia for the past 10 years, and also teaching illustration at the Centre for Continued Education at the University of Sydney.
A key concept to keep in mind when it comes to illustrating children's books, suggested Rawlins, is that it is "more than just picture-making, it is storytelling." The workshop explored the toolkit that Rawlins suggests illustrators keep on hand to be able to be able to add subtext to the story, continually improve their work, and push through blocks and difficult periods. Speaking with honesty, warmth and humour, Rawlins provided helpful guidance and encouragement, perfect to guide me on the right path as a fledgling illustrator.
With presentations, workshops, panel discussions, publisher consultations, and an Illustrator Showcase, there is something for everyone at KidLitVic. I had such a fantastic time meeting publishers, soaking up all the knowledge on offer, and catching up with writer/illustrator friends from all around the country. I left feeling very inspired and motivated to continue on my journey in the children's book industry and can't wait to see what the future brings.