A SENSE OF BELONGING: CBI Conference 2019, Day Two
Welcome back to my thoughts and ramblings around Day Two of BELONGING; the CBI conference 2019. After being treated to our morning coffees and teas, we were all wide awake and ready to have a magical, wonderful day...and it really was.
Our first session was a talk between two giants of contemporary childrens' literature; Julia Eccleshare is the former Guardian Childrens' Book Editor and currently holds the position of Childrens' Director of the Hay Literary Festival. What Julia doesn't know about childrens' books is not worth knowing. She was in conversation with an extraordinary author and personal favourite, Frances Hardinge. Frances is the author of 8 books (with her 9th due out any moment now), beginning with Fly By Night in 2005. Her debut novel won the Branford Boase Award in 2006. Her 7th book, The Lie Tree, took the overall Costa Book Award, the only childrens' book to do so since Philip Pullmans' The Amber Spy Glass. But the conversation revolved around the upcoming DeepLight; an incredible fantasy set in an island world still in turmoil after the time 30 years previous when its' intricate and frightening aquatic gods turned on each other and left society without direction. Now living without fear ("You only get gods if you have enough fear."), the story concerns 2 young men trying to stay alive and make ends meet (basically by conning and stealing) when a chance discovery changes their lives. Frances' imagination and ability to craft a tale has given us a story that is timeless and poignant, touching on many issues in our contemporary world while allowing us to sink into an undersea world of myth and legend. But the heart and soul of the book is the power of friendship and loyalty...and when it becomes too much.
If you haven't read Frances Hardinges' books yet, please, please read them now. Each one has the power to live in your imagination for many, many years to come.
Conor Bustutill is an Irish illustrator who specialises in watercolour and ink and has a love of childrens' picture books. A new version of that classic Irish myth, The Children of Lir, retold by Laura Ruth Maher and beautifully illustrated by Conor is out now, published by The O'Brien Press. (reviewed on this blog.)
James Butler, Irish writer and playwright; his new book, Dangerous Games is published by Little Island.
Graham Corcoran is an illustrator, art director and visual designer. You can see his work in Bank by Emma Quigley, published by Little Island and Dare To Dream: Irish Peopl Who Took on the World and Won by Sarah Webb, published by The O'Brien Press.
Aoife Dooley is a free-lance illustrator, graphic designer, author and comedian. Her first childrens' book, a delightful board book entitled 123, Ireland was published last May by Little Island.
Olivia Hope is an Irish Writer from Kerry, blogger on https://www.writing.ie/ and reviews for CBI, Inis Magazine. Her debut book, Be Wild, Little One will be released shortly from Bloomsbury Press.
Donny Mahoney is a writer and journalist. Born in America, he has lived in Ireland since 2004. His book, Colm "Gooch" Cooper was published last month as part of The O'Brien Press' Sports Star Series.
And last, but by no means least; Megan Wynne is a writer and teacher whose first novel for young people, The House on Hawthorn Road will be published any minute now by The O'Brien Press. This time-flip story for middle-grade readers adds an intriguing and unique voice to our lives, as we discover what happens when the past meets the present...and gets stuck there.
I'm going to leave you with this...because I think it's an extremely important point and Mary demonstrated it so well. She talked to us about the need to 'fit in' as opposed to the need to belong. They are, in fact two very different things. When we try so hard to fit in, we fail to acknowledge ourselves, our own uniqueness and gifts. We risk casting that part of ourselves into the realm of 'the other'. We do not really belong. And, paraphrasing Bréne Brown, the greatest barrier to belonging is fitting in.
Thank you everyone at CBI, those who put this together, those who attended, those who shared their Belonging with us. And thank you to all of you who take the time to read my meanderings.
MAY ALL OF YOU ALWAYS HAVE THAT SENSE...