story, science, technology and creativity

Leave a comment

How you can make the most of a writers festival or conference: Part 3

After a very funny lunch with the girls

Conferences can be hard work, and great fun

How can you best prepare for a writer’s conference or literature festival? This is what worked for me…

It’s crunch-time

I’ve prepared my presentations and printed my business cards.

I’ve worked out what I want from the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore,

Time to put all that into action.

Once you’ve done all your preparation, go forth and be yourself. Enjoy the conference, enjoy the people. That’s certainly what I did.

Thanks to my conference prep, I met dozens of interesting people, gave out nearly 100Cristy Burne business card business cards, thoroughly enjoyed presenting my two sessions and received great feedback. I feel I really achieved my goal of cementing myself as a writer of children’s science and non-fiction, and I had a great time doing it.

So what’s Tip #4?

Tip #4: Allow yourself to stray from your goals

Being at a conference is like a caffeine bomb to the head, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Follow your game plan, make choices based on the list you wrote back home, but don’t be afraid to jot down new ideas, even if they stray from your goals.

Don’t wait till you get back home to come up with ideas: I took notes at every session, and then brainstormed on the spot to apply those notes to my career. Some ideas worked in with my goals, others didn’t, but by following that stream of consciousness, I arrived at some even better ideas.

Example: conversation with me and my session notes

What is the session about? Blogging more effectively. Writing posts that will help your reader answer their questions.
My brainstorm: Could I blog about encouraging children to read? About diversity in children’s fiction? About the importance of non-fiction in the classroom? About how to get the most out of attending a writer’s conference?
Result: Ta da! You’ve just read the result. And watch this space, because I’ll be implementing some of those other ideas too.

And finally…

Tip #5: Follow-up!!

Remember all those people you met and the business cards you gathered? Remember all the notes you took and the ideas you jotted? Remember all those goals you listed? Well, the conference is over, baby. It’s time for the real work to begin.

For me, it’s time to follow up on leads, implement ideas, motivate myself to achieve the things on my list.

And that, dear reader, is the most important tip of all. The whole point of dancing round the conference, filling your notebook with ideas and your wallet with business cards, is to put a rocket under your career. So go to it! Get started!

What is next on my list?

More writing. I’ve a non-fiction manuscript to edit, another to write, a fiction manuscript to rewrite and some freelance deadlines to fill. So, to work!

See you at the next conference!

Part 1 of How to make the most of attending a writer’s festival or conference.

Part 2 of How to make the most of attending a writer’s festival or conference.



1 Comment

How you can make the most of a writers festival or conference: Part 2

Know what you want to achieve from the festival.

Know what you want to achieve before you arrive

You’re off to an important conference or valuable writer’s festival.

How do you optimise your time? How do you make the most of the opportunity? 

Before you jump on that plane…

I’ve shared my experience in preparing to attend and present at the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content, and I hope it was useful. Now let’s talk about how to make the most of your time at a literature festival.

Optimising your time at a conference requires you to have done most of the preparation early [see Tip #1]Then, you need to work out why it is that you’re attending.

Tip #2: Write a list of what you want to achieve in your career and in your life

Before I parachuted into the sometimes overwhelming stimulation of the conference environment, I wrote a list of the things I wanted to achieve in my writing career and in my life.

Don’t wait till you’re at the conference to do this. Conference environments can be like having 50 coffees: they’re massively stimulating but they can also be distracting. Make sure you don’t go off down a rabbit-hole because it seems like a good idea at the time. Write your list, and decide what is important.

Tip #3: Write a list of what you want to achieve at the conference

Now, having assessed the bigger picture in Tip #2, I wrote a list of what I wanted from the festival. What little-picture steps could I take at the conference to further my big-picture goals?

Example: conversation with me and my list

What is my big-picture goal? I want to strengthen my position as a writer of children’s science and non-fiction.
Little-picture conference steps: Focus on my science writing rather than my fiction writing; include my science background in biographies and on my business card; give priority to attending sessions relevant to my science writing career.
Result: My passion for children’s science shone through. I met some terrific writers also interested in creating non-fiction for children, I was approached by conference organisers about speaking on children’s non-fiction at other events. I viewed sessions through my non-fiction lens, and so I learned a lot that is directly applicable to my non-fiction writing. Also, I feel true to myself. I know where I’m going and I’m confident that attending the conference really helped me achieve that.

And so voila! I know where I want to be and how a literature festival can help me get there.

But, knowing where you want to be isn’t the be-all and end-all. Sometimes, when a rabbit-hole beckons, you just really need to jump down it.

Which is why you need part 3 of the game plan…COMING SOON.


Leave a comment

How you can make the most of a writers festival or conference – Part 1

How do you make the most of a professional conference?

How do you make the most of a writing conference?

Picture this: you’ve saved your money, or you’ve scored an invite, and you’re off to a potentially career-changing conference or festival. What to pack? How to network? Which sessions to attend?

Here’s the thing:

You can’t be everything to everybody, and you can’t be in 20 places at once. If you want to optimise your time at a literature festival or writer’s conference, you’re going to have to prepare a game plan.

Preparing your conference game plan

When I walked into the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, I was under-slept (who ever sleeps their first night in a hotel?), over-burdened (laptop, jacket for the aircon, jacket for the rain, cords, chargers, a dozen pens) and nervous (did I mention nervous?).

Why nervous?

Well, for a start, I knew only 10 of the 2000 people expected to attend. Even thinking about that makes me sit up straighter.

Plus, I had to choose sessions. There were four separate streams and dozens of topics in multiple venues, as well as a public program, masterclasses, and (note-to-self: don’t forget!) the sessions I was presenting. What if I chose the wrong session?? How could I make the best choice?

Finally, I was presenting two sessions on vastly different topics: topic one, scary stories and topic two, children’s non-fiction. And let’s face it, preparation can combat nerves, but not entirely. I was stressing.

Would I sink or swim?

I was quietly nervous in the weeks and months leading up to the conference. I wanted to make optimal use of this opportunity, but how?

Well, here’s what worked for me. I hope it works for you too…

Tip #1: Write a list of what’s stressing you

I wanted to turn my useless nerves into actionable points, so I made a list. Months before attending the AFCC, I listed the things that were stressing me, then I worked out why they were stressing me, and I did something to make them less stressful.

Example: conversations with me and my list

What is stressing me? My non-fiction presentation. Will it work? Should it be funnier? Or more academic?
Combat stress: Get off your lazy rear and develop your presentation until you’re confident it will work.
Result: Oh wow…I’m a million times less stressed now. In fact, I’m downright happy. Yay!

And again…

What is stressing me? I’m rubbish at networking. I’m embarrassed by my business card.
Combat stress: Create a business card that expresses what I do and who I am. Work out what it is I want to achieve when I’m networking.
Result: Yee ha! I’m in love with my business card and I can’t wait to give it away.

Cristy Burne business card

Thanks to the amazing Brett Canet-Gibson from TWINE – IDEAS THAT BIND for the great portrait.

And voila! The months and weeks leading up to the festival became a time of excitement instead of nerves.

But that didn’t necessarily help the under-slept, over-burdened still-nervous me walking into the festival on Day 1….

…Which is why you need part 2 of the game plan


Leave a comment

Asian Festival of Children’s Content: rice bowls, networking and see-you-soons

Smiley coffee

Ahh… Thank you AFCC! You’ve been great!

Alas, the official part of the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content is over.

The best, however, is yet to come as we see links strengthened and partnerships born. I’m looking forward to seeing how things develop.

Thanks to everyone for a great festival. I learned so much, laughed so much and didn’t sleep quite as much as nature would probably have intended.


EDIT: OMG! Check out the Book Council’s Judi Ho’s beautiful piano composition. Gorgeous!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Leave a comment

Asian Festival of Children’s Content: non-fiction, first pages and the undeath of dystopia

AIMG_3940nother great day at the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content!

My session today was on children’s non-fiction, chaired by friend and reviewer Marjorie Coughlan (editor of soon-to-be-launched Mirrors Doors Windows), and paired with friend and history buff Mark Greenwood, author of beautiful books celebrating true stories from our incredible history.

I also went to two terrific sessions on YA (and no, dystopia isn’t dead; it’s only that publishers are sick of reading it :-)) and a very interesting hour called First Pages, where the bold and brave allowed a panel of experts (editor, agent and publisher) to comment on their first 100 words.

I found this session extremely empowering: pages I loved, the experts didn’t like at all. Pages they loved, I would have edited heavily.

So…it just goes to show: write what you love, people! Write what you love.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Leave a comment

Asian Festival of Children’s Content: giant moths, awesome authors and fear of spouses


IMG_3457The 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content is in full swing, and I’m loving it.

(So is my head.)

I’m loving the torrential rain and giant moths and spicy food, the old friends and new friends, the fever of book-loving and humidity and passion for children’s literature and words. No wonder I love Singapore!

Today Mahtab Narsimhan and I presented a packed session on telling scary stories… Mahtab lives in Canada, so with the 12-hour difference, our 4pm session was the equivalent of a 4am session for her, and after an all-nighter too. How’s that for a scary story! 🙂

Luckily, thanks to our cunning Skype planning sessions and natural wit and charm, the session was terrific. Lots of interesting questions and willing volunteers. Lots of secret phobias and unusual ones too (fear of spouses!?!). I’m looking forward to tomorrows sessions even more now! Whee!

Thanks so much to WritingWA for the chance to be here, and to the Singapore Book Council for organising.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

1 Comment

Connect with 1.5 billion children: Countdown to the Asian Festival of Children’s Content

Want to connect with 1.5 billion children?

Need to discover new markets for your writing and producing?

Want to learn more about what’s going on in Asia in terms of creating content for children?

Think you could benefit from building a network of creatives from across the globe?

Or just want to make a difference in the world through your work?

Erm…all of the above.

Singapore Writers Festival Words Go Round 2013

Me and the awesome kids from Bukit View as part of Words Go Round 2013.

Whee! Thanks to the amazing WritingWA, I’m going to the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content, to do all this AND soak up some of Singapore’s fabulous food and entertainment.

I’m presenting and participating, and in my usual style, I’ll be attending absolutely everything I can, squeezing the most out of every opportunity until my eyes are bloodshot and all I want to do is write, write, write.

I ADORE Singapore. I was there last year for the Words Go Round festival, and everything was amazing. Everyone was so welcoming and encouraging and helpful and I said I’d go back in a flash.

Well, FLASH!
And THANK YOU to everyone involved in making the AFCC great.

I seriously cannot wait!

Catch me (and so much more) at the AFCC 2014, Singapore

I’m presenting Whatever Happened to Non-fiction, on non-fiction for children. It’ll be a fab, fun session, followed by Mark Greenwood presenting Breathing Life into History, and I’m telling you, he does it well! Looking forward to it!

I’m also co-presenting a session on scary stories for children, with Canada’s Mahtab Narsimhan. Mahtab’s TARA trilogy draws inspiration from Indian mythology and is maybe a million times scarier than TAKESHITA DEMONS. I’m scared just writing about it! I can’t wait to meet her and present our session: Are YOU afraid of the dark?

See you there!


– BARGAIN for U.S. readers: Takeshita Demons hardcover copies selling on Amazon at 80% off!

– Interview on One Writer’s Journey: Check out this interview with me on the One Writer’s Journey blog.

– Society of Women’s Writers workshop: I attended a fun and useful plotting workshop, run by John Harmen and partly funded by the Society of Women’s Writers (thank you both!). John used THELMA AND LOUISE as a plotting example and even reading the plot summary made me teary. What a great film! Wouldn’t you love to write something in that vein?

– Script debut: I’m thrilled that my short script, SHELTER FROM THE STORM, is being performed next month in Queensland, by the Miles Regional Arts Council. I’ve always wanted to write something slightly absurdist with a sting in its tail. I haven’t quite been able to make it  work for children’s fiction, but an adult radio play? Sure! Why not?


Mahtab Narsimhan: she’s scarier than she looks!

– Asian Festival of Children’s Content: I’m also excited to be preparing to present at the 2014 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore. I’m jetting over there thanks to WritingWA, who are just fantastic at spreading the good word on writing opportunities in WA.

I’m presenting Whatever Happened to Non-fiction, on non-fiction for children. It’ll be a fab, fun session, followed by Mark Greenwood presenting Breathing Life into History, and I’m telling you, he does it well! Looking forward to it!

I’m also co-presenting a session on scary stories for children, with Canada’s Mahtab Narsimhan. Mahtab’s TARA trilogy draws inspiration from Indian mythology and is maybe a million times scarier than TAKESHITA DEMONS. I’m scared just writing about it! I can’t wait to meet her and present our session: Are YOU afraid of the dark?

Perth Writer’s Festival: And of course….this weekend is the Perth Writer’s Festival!!! My favourite time of year! If I could, I would camp at UWA all weekend with my notebook and pen, sucking up ideas and inspiration and caramel milkshakes with lots of ice. Instead, I’m dragging my children from tent to tent and hoping they’ll stay still/quiet/dry enough for at least a couple of ideas and inspirational moments, and about 50 milkshakes.

Hope to see you there!