Thoughts on ELT, English and whatever else comes into my head
I have to admit I didn’t go to the first session. I had done the whole day Saturday and you know that bit where I said I was inspired and in university mode? Well now is perhaps the time to confess that as a Philosophy student, I had about 8 hours of classes a week. So the conference thus far had been roughly equivalent to one undergraduate term if you take into account all the classes I skipped.
My first session was Nick Robinson’s talk about getting published. I went because Nick is my agent which might seem strange but, as I he took me on last year after I responded to his ad, I’d never seen him in action. Plus I knew he was talking about a new venture I didn’t know much about and, partly, to be supportive.
Nick is the only ELT agent in the world but he’d be the best even if, or when, competition follows in his mighty wake. Nick Robinson Author Representation is an idea Nick came up with after attending a cookery book conference and realizing that ELT didn’t follow the usual agent to publisher model of other publishing sectors. He’s an experienced teacher, editor and materials writer, (actually I’d bought his English for Marketing (CUP) for summer school before I knew him) he has tons of contacts but also is one of those people I love – the kind who combines having ideas with doing something about them.
The agency has been going for a year and 13 out of its 19 authors have already got paid work (including me although the Graded Readers is something I did by myself). The other 6 have not been with him for the full year but, even so, this is astonishingly good going. It beats hands down most wannabe writer’s attempts at getting things to the attention of publishers. The agency can handle one more writer on its books so…stop thinking about it and check out his website.
He’s also starting up a marketplace for teachers to sell lesson plans and/or books or resources they’ve written. How it works, I will leave up to him to launch at IATEFL in April, where he’ll be speaking about it.
His talk had some choice quotes from writers and that alone is inspiring if you’re of that mindset as he doesn’t hesitate to tell the not so glamorous side of writing. He talked too about the wisdom of getting an online platform and was part of the impetus I needed to start blogging. I had done it before when I was a restaurant critic and I think, at heart, I’m a frustrated journalist so I’m loving being back in Blogland. So, if you’re reading this but don’t have a blog, that’s your first step towards becoming a writer if that’s what you want to do.
Confession II, I skipped the next one to chat to Ted O’Neill and Donna Fields which was extremely instructive for me but not so much use to anyone reading this. Ted was still wearing socks with Birkenstocks, and worse, those socks had individual toe sections; I was continuing to overlook it. I hear my missed Steve Muir’s Food for Thought workshop was brilliant so here’s a link to his blog.
And then a second dose of Fiona Mauchline which shows why I’ve given her talks their own post.
By the closing plenary with Mark Hancock’s conceptual Map of ELT, I was struggling.
That’s a very tough spot to fill but it was interesting and the graphic was Mark’s own handiwork which was impressive. Unfortunately, the presentation did provoke some of that conference type of talk from the audience where people use concepts to talk about other concepts and then take a different conceptual angle using another concept and everyone seems to forget these are not real things. I was a bit distracted too thinking that the writer of Pronunciation Games must surely be richer than Scott Thornbury since every school in the world uses that book and how young Mark looks. My mind was wandering, as I say.
And, that’s all folks.
Ahhhhh, that’s better. The torrents and whirlpools of ideas from the conference started calming about halfway through Part 2 and now I feel able to unfurl from the pirouette and totter off to get on with what I should be doing. A headspin of quite different proportions with a book proposal to come up with, a possible tranche of ipad materials to write, Graded Reader ideas to be formulated before summer, Summer School to be organised and repitching a novel to agents.
I can feel myself picking up speed and heading for the turn again…