Round Up of The Childrens Media Conference #tcmc

I had not heard of the Children’s Media Conference, annually held in Sheffield, until the Awesome Jeff Norton @thejeffnorton invited me to be on a panel about publishing. (Thanks, Jeff!)

Meet the Commissioners Panel at The Childrens Media Conference 2012. Thanks to @raffers

It’s a conference where all the sectors of the entertainment world come together… with publishing being the eager Jack Russell nipping at the heels of the giants of the film, TV and video game world.

For context, last year, the publishing industry generated £3.1 billion. According to Games Workshop/Lara Croft co-creator, Ian Livingstone**, the gaming industry alone is predicted to generate £90 billion by 2015.

The first draft of Lara Croft, first known as Lara Cruz. Thanks to @chrisoshea:

So, when I was at the Pizza Express networking dinner, surrounded by people who make CBBC programs, or when I was watching an excellent Dragon’s Den style live pitching session for real money, I tried not to put my foot in it and to listen as much as I could.

Luckily, being a conference full of people that do children’s entertainment, I was among like-minded people. (As one BBC producer said to me, “We’re not doing it for the money.”) And, it seems, whether it’s TV, online gaming, video games or publishing, we’re all looking for the same thing: BRILLIANT STORIES.

Meet the Commissioners, Commercial TV
Meet the Commissioners, Public Service TV
Working with CBBC
Meet the Commissioners, Publishing

Other things I gathered:


  • There are at least three schools in the UK that are using tablets to learn from.
  • The tablets are a learning tool being embraced by teachers who said repeatedly in a recent study that teaching through tablet devices allowed them to empower their students, worry less about resources and get better results.
  • South Korea and Turkey have government initiatives to give ALL children tablets. In India, the same including solar powered ones. (Contrast that with our government’s approach to education!)


  • Rovio built more than 50 games before they built Angry Birds… We’ve got to experiment.
  • @ian_livingstone says, basically, code or die. We used to make things with our hands, but now we have to use our brains and the medium is code.
  • He also says that companies have to own their own IP.
  • @dinoboy89 is doing some excellent stuff in his role as Publishing Director, Media and Entertainment, at Penguin Books at Penguin.


  • When pitching at Dragon’s Den, have a great idea, great visuals and never accept the first offer. There is always more money to be had!
  • When pitching to a publisher while walking down a crowded hallway and out into the rain, do just like one young aspiring writer did with me and keep smiling, nail your two minute pitch and have a business card to hand over! (Can’t wait to read that one!)

Writing tips from Patrick Ness:

  • If you get a good idea. Wait. Sit with it. See what other ideas it attracts.
  • You don’t want to think, “What would a teenager like?” You can’t know. Write a story, not a “YA” story.
  • Fear is the enemy of creativity. Don’t ask permission. Just do it.

Let me know the most interesting/useful part of this round up, and I’ll try to expand on it.


** (Ian also was the first to bring Dungeons & Dragons to the UK and wrote the Fighting Fantasy game books, with a new one coming out next month. So, while you’re picking the brand new Hot Key Books, you can pick up his new one, too!

And someone in the audience asked how he writes his non-lilnear, interactive stories and he said, “It’s a bloody nightmare.” Then he eloborated to say, it’s like writing a flow chart. He has 400 numbers laid out and starts with the opening as number 1. Then, somewhat randomly, 72 is the left turn and 112 is the right turn. When he realises that he needs a key for number 89, he has to go back and find the right place to put it in.)


7 responses to “Round Up of The Childrens Media Conference #tcmc

  1. ‘Fear is the enemy . . .’ is a section well worth expanding, Sara. How do you know whether to surge forward with an idea, when your critique group, your kindly writer friends and accepted wisdom say it’s absolutely not the thing kids will read, or publishers take? Self-belief or self deception? The courage to be new, or just plain stubborn?

    Hollow laugh at the thought of solar-powered tablets in soggy Britain!

    • A really good question.

      I don’t think any writing is wasting your time, so if you have a story you are burning to tell, despite what other people think about it, keep trying to tell it. Even if it doesn’t find it’s way to publication, you’ll have learned so much. And the possibility is that you would have made something totally new that could be just the thing to shake things up in the right way.

      Definitely definitely do not write for what you think pulbishers will take. Write the stories you need to tell.

      Just like that digital advice, you’ve got to be willing to experiement and willing to fail. Write what you are interested in writing, and good things will come of it.

      • saraathotkey

        And sorry for the slow reply. This got caught in delivery because of the tunnel just outside Marylebone Station.

  2. Sara – I love the thought of a publisher replying the same day, and considering it slow . . . !

  3. I was one of the bloggers at CMC this year. This is a brilliant post about the few days. Sadly I wasn’t scheduled to the session you were on the panel for. I did see another session that the awesome Jeff Norton presented though – he’s a great guy.

    The sessions I went to were brilliant. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is (a Dragon’s Den-esque show) was exciting and hilarious. I eventually got to meet some of the contestants – one of which was the creator of Waybuloo.

    I was thrilled to see so many book publishers attending too. It’s brilliant that Hot Key Books was represented also. I first heard about you guys a couple of months ago. I’ve read a proof copy of Constable & Toop. I can’t wait to read more books you’ve got in the pipeline.

    Nina x

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