Thursday, 1 March 2012

AMBER HSU ~ lovers of story, writers of words and makers of pictures gather together for Undiscovered Voices 2012

9th February, 2012 - a night of weather warnings, falling snow and plunging temperatures. But neither cold nor ice could keep lovers of story, writers of words and makers of pictures from gathering together to celebrate the 3rd edition of the now illustrious Undiscovered Voices Anthology.

 Enough to fill up a whole glorious Victorian Warehouse of a room, but one with exposed brick walls and enough vault in the ceiling to make one suspect, and even believe, that one has arrived.

And arrive we did.
For there were stories to be heard, drinks to be had and fellow book lovers to meet. In the end, a rare London snow lit by lamplight in the windows only added to the magic of the night.

But to speak of drifting snow and lamplights might make one think too gently. If force of nature is what we speak of, then blizzard’s more like it. The atmosphere was happily electric—charged, joyous, grateful. It had that sweet urgency of an evening long anticipated and soon to end. All night long, shoulders were tapped, hands held out. Nametags squinted at, looked from askance. Introductions were made, names reminded of. People were fetched and ferried from this editor to that agent over a constant chatter of old acquaintances catching up, and many, many being made anew. There was hardly a moment to sip or nibble, though drink, drink we did.

Books from previous UV winners. (Photography: Candy Gourlay)

It was wonderful to see previous years’ alumni there with new winners. They seemed like kind, guiding hands. Abbie Todd from UV2010 even organized a pre-launch dinner for new winners and old alumni. At the launch, a forest of books since published by previous winners gave testament to the talent of UV writers (and the sharp eyes of the UV judges).

For us winning illustrators we were the first lot—and with only six of us, we might have drowned in such writerly waters.

Six happy illustrators. (Photography: Candy Gourlay)
But we were lucky to have the SCWBI illustrator coordinators who steered us through the night. And we found that people who love to read stories love to read them in pictures too. I lost count at all the exclamations of delight and recognition heard as viewers came to look at my fellow illustrators’ portfolios.

Prepping portfolios before the launch. (Photography: Fenris Oswin)

An art director told me it was wonderful to finally see everyone’s portfolios—all the winning images in context and in their own bodies of work. The great thing about the images, he said, was how they seemed to form part of a story. One could see in them a before and an after, and he’d long been waiting to know what that before and after was.

Another editor told me how wonderful it was to have pictures to read alongside the excerpts, how it made the anthology feel all the more literary, like the literary reviews and journals one sees filled with stories, poetry and art. One likes to open a book and feel a world growing between its pages.

Throughout the night, we met art directors, editors and agents. Some of us got wind of potential commissions and important meetings to be had. We each had an invaluable experience.

UV Illustrators Julia Groves and Nicola Patten. (Photography: Fenris Oswin)
 Julia (Groves) recounted, “The launch was a unique experience for illustrators starting out in their careers. It gave us a rare opportunity to speak to art directors and agents. I got some invaluable advice about my work and the possibility of future commissions with a leading publisher, very exciting!”

Illustrator Shana Nieburg-Suschitzky and husband Adam. (Photography: Fenris Oswin)
Shana (Nieberg-Suschitzky) wrote, “I felt incredibly honoured to be part of such an amazing experience. And really lucky to be part of such a wonderful society as SCBWI, who made it possible.
I felt incredibly proud of us all (illustrators), because not only did our work compliment each other’s, but we all have uniquely different voices as well.”

That seemed to be an important message of the night too—voice. People gathered there not just because they had read some writing or seen some drawings, but because they’d heard voices—voices both in image and text.

Malorie Blackman OBE speaks and inspires. (Photography: Candy Gourlay)

Malorie Blackman in her address, reminded us the importance of voice and how wonderful its sound.

She and Nick Sharrat spoke about about their own paths as writer and artist.

Illustrator Nick Sharrat shares notes from his enviable career as an artist. (Photography: Candy Gourlay)
To sum up their advice: 
Talent. Hard-work. Persistence. Persistence. Persistence. 
And persist we must. 

Natascha Biebow, Regional Advisor (Chair) of the British Isles Region of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) giving her opening remarks. (Photography: Candy Gourlay)

Chris Snowdon from Working Partners. (Photography: Candy Gourlay)

As Natascha Biebow from SCWBI and Chris Snowdon from Working Partners reminded us in their opening remarks, there were readers out there waiting and hungry for voices, passionate for story. Lucky for them there are people working to find voices that are compelled to speak. I look forward to watching them as they are heard.

What else can I say? The only imperative for this guest blog (my first blog in fact) was to describe my overall impression of the night. I could have taken care of that by simply saying the night was brief but magical, and that I simply felt lucky to be a part of it at all.

 The only other thing — I might have wished the night longer. But we all had trains to catch, homes to go to, and friends and family waiting for news. So we each said goodbye and good luck, offered hopes to all meet again, and stepped back out into the bitter cold.

(Photography: Candy Gourlay)

The night was dark and cancelled trains were feared, but at least in the lamplight beneath our feet, the icy streets still glittered and glowed. It was an evening well worth the travel.

All the 2012 Winners. (Photography: Fenris Oswin)

So many thanks again to Natascha Biebow at SCWBI and to Chris Snowdon at Working Partners, who so generously sponsored the anthology and the event. 

And many, many thanks to Bridget Strevens-Marzo, Anne-Marie Perks, Loretta Schauer and John Shelley-- fabulous illustrators and coordinators extraordinaire who had the foresight and tenacity to open this door, and were so generous with their time and advice.

And many thanks to the readers of the anthology and the readers of Tall Tales & Short Stories — every one of whom proves that the passion for story is alive and kicking indeed.

Amber Hsu

Read all about the other Undiscovered Voices 2012 authors and illustrators,
here on tall tales & short stories.





The two names drawn randomly from the hat are...



Congratulations Beth and Astrid.  Please could email me via the Contact email on the blog?
Thank you! 



Dieter Jentz said...

Amber, Congratulations. As you know, I was delayed in Zurich and unable to make it to London, but I enjoyed your blog description of the night. It looked quite full of people! The work looks fantastic. I will be in London in May and we should sit down and finish our earlier conversation re: Project Tunnel. Dieter

Jason Mitchel said...

Hi Amber, great job and looking forward to yr first book! Jason

Polly said...

Congratulations - Amber, love your little characters in the world of your imagination. With the pen in your hand, a new and interesting world is in front of us. Let your imagination run wild and we'll follow you. Wish you all the success in the future.

Larry said...

Hi Amber, Congratulations ! It is very interesting to read about your " And so Chairogo Brought Forth the Stolen Voice ......" Great imagination. Looking forward to reading the whole story.

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