This weekend Children´s Books Ireland are holding their 24th annual conference at the Light House Cinema in Dublin with a glittering array of national and international speakers. It will kick off with the inaugural address of the new Irish Children´s Laureate, Laureate na nóg, Eoin Colfer. The conference has always been a stimulating and inspiring and fun highlight of the year for writers, illustrators, booksellers, teachers, librarians and all lovers of children´s literature.
This year the chosen theme, the F word: Failure - is intriguing. The programme says they are inviting writers “to reflect on the times in their careers where things have fallen apart, deadlines went out the window and defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.” What do you do when you are turned down by agent after agent? How do you get past the fear of failure? How do you keep going if your books are no longer finding a publisher (perhaps after years of regular commissions)? And how do you find the true grit and determination to turn the failures into triumphs, to keep going when no one actually has asked you to write in the first place? Will a book award pave the way automatically to a successful and lasting career? No doubt there will be many thoughtful discussions and a lot of laughs too. I am terribly sorry that I am so “scattered” that I will not be there.
At times when my work in progress gets stuck or I am failing to meet a deadline, I sometimes look to the wisdom of other writers and the many lists of tips and advice out there. But the one I find the wisest and the most entertaining is Anne Lamont´s timeless advice in her book “Bird by Bird”:
Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Bird by bird – that´s the way to do it. Just write the next sentence and carry on until you have finished.