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On honkferencing

What a perfect way to end my launch month! It was a huge privilege to take part in this year’s inaugural ‘honkference’ put together by the amazing social team from the Golden Egg Academy.

Every year since the Golden Egg Academy opened its doors the team have hosted a glam birthday soiree at the Saville Club. I’ve been able to go every year, but of course thanks to the need to socially distance it wasn’t possible to party together this year. So, the team put together something EVEN BETTER: two days of free to access, unlimited entry panels on some fantastic subjects all to raise money for the incredible 'Seven Stories’.

Read more about the events below and the panel that I was a part of, all about Undiscovered Voices - the SCBWI run bi-annual competition set up to elevate new writing voices and which led to my work being ‘discovered’ and eventually published.

The Events

There were so many events that it was so difficult to chose from. With incredible speakers from all ends of the KidLit spectrum. Publishers. Agents. Picture Book authors, Middle Grade and YA. Panels covered broader topics than many conferences, with sessions on Mental Health in literature, and mental health for writers too; productivity hacks and information from ‘behind the curtain’ (things we wish we’d known before we were published). My two favourite sessions we co-scheduled but I was able to attend both thanks to the crowdcast technology (signing up meant I didn’t need to watch live).

First, Barry Cunnigham (Chicken House) gave an enlightening talk on points to consider when converting a story from book to film/television.

Second, Kevin Brooks, Juno Dawson, Holly Bourne and Kiran Millwood Hargrave (chaired by the beautiful Jane Martin) spoke with brilliance about Writing and Mental Health - a subject very close to my heart. Given that the entire conference was free there were hundreds of people from all across the world dialing in. It was a huge gift and I hope the team at GEA can be persuaded to run it again. Seven Stories gained a great amount of support and I know had a spike in donations that weekend, so if only for that it was a great success!

The Undiscovered Voices Panel

Joining this panel was such a joy. Between us Simon, myself and Annalise represented Shortlisted winners from the last three anthologies, from 2016, 2018 and 2020 respectively. ‘Undiscovered Voices’ is a competition run every two years to find (usually) 12 new writing voices from UK KidLit.

Those who are shortlisted have their extracts, along with notes from the judges, published in an anthology that is then available to all and also is sent to influential agents and publishers. If you look back at the anthologies there have been over 100 books published from authors ‘found’ through this process. There are even more writers who are longlisted - even this can lead to future publication. It’s a great process, even if longlisting or shortlisting isn’t the outcome - I learned so much just preparing for entry. Honing the 50 word synopsis was one of the most important things I did, as it made me really find the heart of the story.

For the panel I surrounded myself with a halo of printed copies of The Boy I Am poured a nice hot cuppa and got to chatting with three of my favourite people. Sara walked through the history behind creating UV and the process of entering, before Simon and I talked about our journeys, giving back to the writing community through programs like UV (I mentor, Simon supports the selection process), and the benefits of entering. We’ve all had such different journeys and reasons for entering the competition. For Simon James Green, “[Undiscovered Voices] really seemed like the kind of thing that could turbo charge things for you a bit… in an industry where things go really slowly.” Whereas for me, “I was ready to write another story. I thought, I cannot put it in a drawer, because it keeps talking to me, it keeps wanting my attention, I have to have an ending. And so I thought, actually I won’t win a competition, I’m going to enter SCBWI Undiscovered Voices.” UV has their kick-off event for the 2022 anthology on April 22 !

Me (top left), the amazing Sara Grant (top right), unstoppable Annaliese Avery (bottom left) and ineffable Simon James Green (bottom left)

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