CBI Conference 2018 – Tips from Authors and Illustrators

The theme for this year’s Children’s Books Ireland International Conference was Dreams and Nightmares. To help new writers and illustrators on the path to achieve their dreams, we’ve compiled a list of hints and tips from those who’ve come out the other side! 

Be Your Own Poet – Sarah Crossan is our reigning Laureate na nÓg and her mission statement is #wearethepoets. She’s determined to get young people interested in poetry again and has released black out poetry to get your creative juices flowing. Simply scribble out the words you don’t want to use and you’re left with a fully-fledged poem in minutes!

Stare into Space – UK Children’s Laureate Lauren Child wants to encourage children to step back from screens and look around. If you sit in silence, your mind wants to find something to do and new ideas are born!

Listen to Your Gut – Lydia Monks book I Wish I Were a Dog was rejected for 2 years before finally getting published

Write Everything Down – Patrice Lawrence, author of award-winning Orangeboy, read from her diary she wrote age 13 complete with chart documenting every time a boy she had a crush on interacted with her. Cringeworthy but definitely a good source of inspiration when you’re trying to get into the mindset of a teenager

Get Outside – This sentiment was shared by M.G. Leonard, Lauren Child AND Abi Elphinstone so it must be good! Going outside without earphones in and looking all around you for inspiration. Try writing down the snippets of conversations you hear and making up the rest. Elphinstone is inspired by nature and her new book Sky Song is no exception, as it’s set in the icy wilderness

Turn your Biggest Fear into your Greatest Strength – M.G. Leonard overcame her fear of insects when she began gardening and has gone on to become an advocate for all things beetle related through her Beetle Boy She now travels around schools sharing her passion for beetles and changing children’s perceptions of insects!

M.G. Leonard with Dave Rudden

Think of the Children! – Author and illustrator Peter Brown considered himself a slow reader when he was young because of how long it took him to finish a chapter, and it turned him off reading. To combat this, his Wild Robot series have short chapters so readers of all levels can feel a sense of accomplishment

Think of the Grandparents! – There’s something unique about sharing stories, particularly across different generations. This year’s CBI Reading Campaign highlights the bond between grandparent and grandchild. In our Inis Reading Guide, you’ll find a specially-curated section on the theme of intergenerational connections. For any aspiring writers out there, think of the ways elderly people are represented in some of your favourite children’s novels and if you would’ve written them differently…

Draw Different Poses – Peter Brown told us how he used to play and pause films like The Jungle Book over and over again to draw characters in different positions and hone his craft

Don’t be Intimidated – CBI shared the stage with an array of new authors in a section called New Voices to give us a taste of their work in both English and Irish. There’s always room for more authors, so get writing!

New Voices L to R: Emma Quigley, Brendan O’Donoghue, Rob Maguire, Aga Grandowicz, Caoimhe Nic Lochlainn, Cethan Leahy, Tina Callaghan, Alison Healy, Kelly McCaughrain and Pádraig Kenny

Create a Compelling Villain – Louise O’Neill spoke about her YA novel The Surface Breaks and how writing her villain, Ceto the sea witch, she drew on the part of herself she does not express to make the character as engaging as possible.

Being Banned isn’t Always a Bad Thing – Melvin Burgess told us about how his books are the most stolen from libraries, and how his newest book, The Lost Witch was rejected in the U.S.

Design a Board Book –Steven Lenton, illustrator of Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam and the first ever picture book of The Hundred and One Dalmatians, suggests upcoming illustrators should make their own board book to have as a small portfolio for publishers.

Support your Local Library! Remember how important the library was to you when you were young? At CBI, we do! With this in mind, the recipient of the CBI Award 2018 was volunteer librarian Eve Molony. She was nominated for the award for her outstanding work setting up a library in Scoil Ailbhe, Thurles, while her sons were attending the school in the nineties. Sadly, Eve’s husband passed away suddenly, and she moved back to Dublin to be closer to family. But Eve never cut her connection with the school. She has been travelling down week in, week out for over 20 years to take the entire school for library classes over two days. She has fostered a love of reading in the thousands of boys who have passed through the school and makes every child feel special and unique. Her influence is evident over the generations of boys who have left Scoil Ailbhe with a firm love of reading and a belief that is a treasured skill they will hang on to for all their lives.

By Aoife O’Ceallachain