The next decade

Hey cHEwY gum gums

Welcome to 2020, a fresh new year/decade!

I’m back from my Summer break, spent a bit of time in Victoria to watch Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, and settling into a new place (I’m still surrounded by boxes haha). I also played a part in the #AuthorsForFireys initiative to raise funds for the VIC Rural Fire Service, which raised close to half a million dollars. I was overwhelmed with how many people in the book industry, from manuscript assessors to festival organisers, all pitched in.

Last week, I was a guest speaker at the Strive Scholarship Ceremony in Bankstown. These kids have got a grant to go towards their education and I was there to inspire them with my story of doing my dream job. I opened with the line that I’d been an author for 10 years now.

How time flies haha.

It’s a neat coincidence that the start of a new decade also means the beginning of my second decade. Let that sink in. So how do I feel about the next 10 years of my cHEwY journey? So let me explore that with a series of questions that I’ve been reflecting on.

How will I stay fresh as an kidslit author?

As I get older wiser, I wonder if I’ll still be hip and groovy with the kids when I’m at schools or events. Maybe if I don’t use words like hip and groovy haha. I admire authors who are still writing after 20-30 years, and it’s easy to see how they’ve stayed relevant. Some authors branch off into writing other genres with much success. Others keep pumping out killer series after killer series, knowing that their own name is a brand that will give them a massive outreach.

One huge perk of being a kids author is that it gives you permission to be a kid yourself. This kidslit industry really is a fountain of youth 🙂

How will the industry evolve?

The physical, paper book will never die. The whole kindle/e-book battle of 2008 turned out to be a misunderstanding, and now e-books, along with audio books, are allies. But now books face another media onslaught in the form of smartphones, social media and streaming. Books and screens can co-exist (I’m a gamer at heart) but I think screens are winning the battle of our leisure times. The golden age of TV over the last twenty years has eroded our reading sessions. Yes, the books are always better than the Netflix adaptation, but the show can be accessed in a jiffy.

The kids books industry has always been quite resilient, especially when it comes to paper books. The picture book genre is an art form that continues to evolve. But the tradition of grandparents and parents buying books as gifts can only continue if they were lifelong readers themselves. I wonder how many of the next gen will be still be readers when they leave school?

Even if keen readers/bookworms/kids want to buy their own books, it can only happen if bookstores and department stores are still around. I felt a bit sad when I heard Big W was closing some stores, not only because they stock my books (ha!), but they’re also one of the biggest booksellers in Australia. Will kids buy books from the app store? Or will they still see screens as an non-text entertainment system?

Like I said, books will never die, so I’m looking forward to the next Harry Potter phenomenon to keep the book industry chugging along hehe.

Will I still be a children’s author?

This is probably the one that keeps playing at the back of my head. I know how hard it is to stay relevant, especially when you’re writing for kids. You’re only as good as your last book.

I’m grateful for each step of my cHEwY journey, knowing that it could all end some day. I can’t take any of this for granted. I’ll say it now, if I’m still writing books at the start of 2030, I’ll be one happy chappy. Imagine if I kept my blogging streak for that long hohoho.

It’s nice to have those hoop dreams up there; movie adaptations or being published in America. Closer to home, I could branch out into writing other things like for TV or even a book for adults hehe.

Even if I wasn’t writing books anymore, I’m sure I’d still be involved in this kidslit scene, that’s the thing about this community, there’s so many things you could do to promote children books. Start a podcast. Run a book club. Be a writer in residence. Be a mentor.

I know some people dread having a ‘forever job.’ But that’s what a dream job is, right? It’s something that you want to do for the rest of my life. So yeah, here’s to the next decade. I wonder what the next 10 years will hold for me…and I hope you’ll be there to follow me too 🙂

O.W

About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree