Today I went along to a get-together of our Victorian SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) - it's always great to talk to other writers and illustrators and catch up on news. At today's meeting, Virginia Lowe talked about her academic text which was based on the records she kept of her two children's book reading habits over a period of about 20 years! I can't imagine being that diligent, but some of her anecdotes about how her kids related to and understood the books they were reading were very interesting.
We also listened to a member who has spent ten years in LA, and she talked about organising events for writers in a city of 10 million people. I know myself from attending a couple of SCBWI conferences in LA how 900 writers and illustrators in one room can be overwhelming. A bit like my trip to Borders today, where I stood and looked at all those dozens of shelves of books and thought, How on earth are my books meant to even get noticed, let alone sold? Then I found The Littlest Pirate and The Littlest Pirate and the Hammerheads on their pirate display and felt much better. However, Sixth Grade Style Queen (Not!) was definitely wagging bookshop duty there today!
Third speaker was a CBCA (Children's Book Council of Australia) judge. As the shortlisted titles for their awards have been recently announced, it was fascinating to hear a warts-and-all description of how the books are read, dissected and whittled down to the Notables, and finally the shortlist. I think many people there were surprised at how lengthy the process is, and how, as in any judging panel of eight people, there is rarely a consensus on what should be a "finalist". Their points system seemed both fair and unfair but, as the judge pointed out, it has to take in a dozen different criteria as well as trying to avoid subjective or emotive decisions.
My predictions for winners? Well, I'm subjective too, but I'll stick my neck out:
Picture Books (Early Childhood) - Doodledum Dancing - Meredith Costain, ill. Pamela Allen (because it's great poetry for little kids)
Picture Books (Older Readers) - The Arrival - Shaun Tan
Younger Readers Award - Bird and Sugar Boy - Sofie Laguna
Older Readers Award - The Red Shoe - Ursula Dubosarsky
Information Book - Leaf Litter - Rachel Tonkin
Now I haven't actually read all of the shortlisted books, so I may change my mind later on, but you get the best bookie's odds when you predict early, don't you?