On Saturday 7th of September around 140 enthusiastic and aspiring young writers and illustrators, aged between 9 and 13, arrived at Berkley Intermediate, in Hamilton, to take advantage of the 2019 Young Authors Conference. This biennial event had a fabulous cast of 12 talented authors, illustrators (and entertainers) from near and afar- including some New Zealand favourites: Des Hunt, Melinda Szymanik, Feana Tu’akoi, Amy Harrop, Sarah Johnson, Sharon Holt, Deb Hinde, Judi Bilcliff, Maria Gill, Lewis Morgan aka Zeebong and Raymond McGrath.
Each student attended three 1 hour workshops throughout the day to help hone their literacy skills and learn a few ‘tricks and tips’ of the trade from those in the know.
At the end of the day each author or illustrator addressed the 140 students (slightly more enthusiastic, now inspired) who congregated in Berkley’s Cultural Centre. These special guests shared aspects of their own lives, their struggles on the way to authorship, words of encouragement, a few laughs as well as several books and drawings which were given away as spot prizes. Thank you also to Sandie from Scholastic for donating a significant number of children’s books as spot prizes thus ensuring that not many children went home empty handed.
The highlight came at the very end of the day during the ‘autograph session’ where dozens of children lined up to have their books signed by their favourite author or illustrator- something akin to what you might see after an All Blacks or Black Caps game. Great to see hero worship alive and well at a children’s literacy event.
Thank you to all who gave up their time to be involved in the organisation and supervision on the day- it was well worth the effort. Many of these authors had begun their writing careers later in life after ‘always wanting to be a writer’ so just remember, it is never too late…