Monday, 17 September 2012

What I did on my summer holiday in the real world - Anne Rooney

Fabulously serious logo by Sarah McIntyre
I got back from my summer holiday last night. I went to CWIG, which is not an obscure Welsh village, but the Society of Authors Children's Writers' and Illustrators' Group conference. It happens every three years in different cities, and this year it was in Reading.It was called 'Joined-up Reading'. Is that 'joined-up reading' or 'joined-up Reading'? Who knows. Maybe both.

Normally, we writers and illustrators spend our days doing what we want, bossing around people  who don't exist and skiving work to chat on Skype/Facebook/twitter about the work we should be doing. We're not used to being with other people all the time, or doing as we're told. We're not used to having to get dressed before working, eat at regular times, use a knife and fork nicely or sit quietly without telling a bunch of lies. But a conference is a proper organised thing with set mealtimes, talks to attend and other people to interact with.

So why do we go? Holiday!

CWIG is a delight. Full of old friends and potential new friends, a chance to gossip, eat, drink and whinge. If any snippet of useful information leaks in, that's a bonus.

Nicola Davies, unfazed by being
elbowed by a giant ghost - all in a
day's work for us
CWIG is just writers and illustrators - it's not somewhere to look for an agent or publisher,  no one has to be impressive, there's no point in showing off, and we can all just relax. It's a time for singing silly songs and drinking the bar out of wine. (We did that on the first night; the last time I was party to drinking a bar out of wine was in Outer Mongolia in 1990 on the day the Iraq War started.)

I loved it. And like all the best holidays, it had its grumble-points. The food was poor, the bar was hopeless, the cabaret compulsory (hah! we laugh in the face of compulsory!), the coffee undrinkable (that's serious) and the microphones non-functional. The Germans took all the sun loungers and there was tar on the beach. Oh. Hang on.

But we don't get this stuff every day, unlike, say, manager-type-people who are forever going to conferences and staying in the Scunthorpe (or Dubai) BestWesternMarriotHilton hotel. To be in a whole room of around 100 people, none of whom can be given green hair or three arms on a whim, is quite a novelty. CWIG is a weekend away in the real world.

Only our invisible friends were
skiving outside
But we can do it.

We talked about the state of publishing (in turmoil), of what the hell the government thinks it's doing with libraries (wanton armageddonising), of the progress of e-books in children's publishing (mollusc-like in its rapidity) and whether Allan Ahlberg's glass contained red wine or Ribena (who knows?) And heard the usual disingenuous comment from a publisher that there's never been a better time to be a children's writer.

Now for my holiday snaps. Don't shuffle like that. You might like to visit the real world one day.

Here is our venue: a very plausible-looking Henley Business Centre at Reading University.

We had proper signage, just like real business people. Well, perhaps not quite like real business people.

Just in case we didn't know where to walk ...

.... and where to dance, there were some stick people drawn on the floor.

(Obviously the nice people at Reading know that all writers - and  especially illustrators - speak fluent stick.)

We know how to dress. Alan Gibbons and John Dougherty, as usual, wore shirts chosen to burn out the eyes of Ed Vaizey. I won't dazzle you with those. Sarah McIntyre chaired her session in the best conference hat I have ever seen. [What do you mean, 'what's a conference hat?']

 Allan Ahlberg brought his teddy.

And he had a drink on the stage, though his wasn't see-through, like they usually are when you see conferences on TV.

We all transacted our own little bits of networking and business. I secured a promise from Catherine Johnson to translate some text into Jamaican Fairy and asked Jane Ray if I could commission a dodo from her.

So you see, we do know how to do it.

I had a wonderful time, but holidays can't last forever and it's time to settle be back into speaking stick and bossing around a steam-powered autamaton and an orphan in a boat. Sigh.

(If you would like to read a more informative account of what happened at CWIG, you could turn to David Thorpe. I'm sure more will appear, and I'll update this list later in the day/week/millennium.) 

Anne Rooney
(Stroppy Author)


Cindy Jefferies said...

Damn! I knew I should have come...but I was at The Globe, a prior time...NEXT TIME!
Thanks Anne. Glad you had fun.
Cindy xx

Lucy Coats said...

How I wish I'd been there. Instead I was wrestling with Cornish lobsters in the bath. Yes, pretty much literally, this is not a euphemism.

adele said...

I am booking my holiday at CWIG for three years hence. A lovely account. Thanks!

Penny Dolan said...

Thanks for reminding me of some of the lovely moments of the CWIG Conference, Anne, and the pleasure of meeting so many friends there.

Miriam Halahmy said...

Brilliant Anne - great snapshot and so good to see everyone who made it - commiserations to those who didn't.

Sarah Taylor-Fergusson said...

Love the photos you've taken - the elbowing ghost is superb. And your plea for better coffee - does no one know what writers need to drink?!

Linda Strachan said...

Sounds like a right proper writerish conference- wish I could have been there but I was at a wedding, which was lovely, but hope to get to CWIG next time.

John Dougherty said...

It was terrific, wasn't it? Lovely to see you there. And... a shirt to burn out Ed Vaizey's eyes? I shall get googling immediately!

Just one correction, Anne - I think that's Nicola DAVIES who's being elbowed out of the way by the ghost, isn't it???

(Oh - and I quite enjoyed the food. But perhaps you live in a better class of garret than do I...)

Stroppy Author said...

John, that's what I had, and then I panicked and thought it was the other Nicola and changed it! Aaargh. But you're right. I'll change it back!

Good luck with the shirt hunt. We'll all chip in...

Jackie Marchant said...

Lovely to see you again, Anne, albeit quite briefly, when I was complaining about the tonic water (which turned out to be soda water, not surprising it tasted awful with gin). Too many people to see, to meet, but it was lovely to briefly catch up and meet new people. For me it was my first as published author so that made it extra special.

Janet Foxley said...

Actually the food was OK if you pretended to be vegetarian.

Anny Choo said...
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Kate Harrison said...

My first CWIG conference - and lots of fun to hear such passion and I came away full of ideas and renewed zeal to help save the libraries.

Food really was pretty unspeakable though. Ran out of the veggie options on the first night (maybe because of the refugees from the meat options, Janet) and on the second I ate meat for the first time in over twenty years when what I was told was mushroom stroganoff turned out to be . . . well, beef. Or lamb. Or something. Euch.

Didn't spoil it though!!

Stroppy Author said...

Kate - I don't eat meat, but do eat fish, so ate the dried-out, shrivelled salmon the first night as the slices of pastry thing were so HUGE. I'm surprised they 'ran out' though, as they were offering it reheated for lunch on Saturday! When, again, they had no clue which dishes had meat in and which didn't.

John - I think your medals for school visiting are showing. It was school-dinner fare!

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