We are the champions - The 2018 KidLitVic conference

Sunday, 29 October 2017

We are the champions

Children’s book illustrator Nicky Johnston knows only too well how tough and competitive her industry is. And not just for emerging artists trying to establish a foothold. Even established illustrators have a tough time adapting to a publishing and marketing landscape that’s constantly changing. So when she was approached to create an illustrative visual identity for the first KidLitVic conference held in May 2016, Nicky jumped at the chance.

Clearly she wasn’t the only one who thought getting children’s and young adult publishers, authors and illustrators together in Melbourne for a day of panel discussions, one-on-one folio presentations, workshops and networking was an idea that rocked. “The interest and the feedback was amazing,” she recalls. “It sold out almost instantly.”

Nicky is now knee-deep in plans for the third annual KidLitVic conference, alongside authors Alison Reynolds, Jaquelyn Muller and Coral Vass. (Co-founder Dee White has stepped away to focus on a writing career in full purple-patch bloom). She’s also busy launching her latest book – Grandma Forgets, a poignant story about dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by author Paul Russell – to coincide with Alzheimer’s Month. 

Following another sell-out success in May (when delegates topped 200), KidLitVic moves to the Melbourne Town Hall in 2018. Nicky says the move was prompted by the State Library renovation, but allows for an expanded program in a larger space offering more value for and greater numbers of publishers, illustrators and authors than before.

A burgeoning list of publishers has already signed on – up from 18 last year. “The publishers love it,” Nicky says. “I guess this has been our biggest feedback from publishers - they look forward to coming and they book it in 12 months in advance.” This expanded access is good news for growing numbers of industry hopefuls. “We have now got a much larger range of people who are wanting to work in the industry,” she says.

Popular features of the past two conferences will return, including moderated publisher panel discussions, the portfolio showcase, and pre-booked, low-cost portfolio and manuscript assessments culminating in 15-minute, one-on-one feedback session by publishers. New features for 2018 include a bonus meet-and-greet-the-publisher afternoon tea, masterclasses, free workshop entry, and an after-conference cocktail party.

Nicky says KidLitVic compliments rather than replaces other industry get-togethers, and adds that popular features like the portfolio showcase and assessments are spurning some impressive success stories. “There have definitely been work and contracts offered directly as a result of KidLitVic,” she says.

“It has opened my eyes to (what a) unique industry we’re in. We really champion people’s success because we know how hard it is. It’s been lovely watching the emerging authors and illustrators really develop and directly improve as a result of the information they’ve gained from these conferences. It’s so personally satisfying to see that development and improvement and growth come from a one-day conference.”

Tickets for KidLitVic and its Illustrator portfolio showcase open on November 1 at 8pm and are expected to sell out fast: http://www.kidlitvic.com/.