1. The amazing organising committee. I know they were amazing because I worked with them. Unflappable, generous, competent, helpful, friendly, welcoming - and a whole lot of other wonderful attributes.
2. The atmosphere created amongst everyone who was there. Collaboration was an underlying theme of the conference, and there was collaboration and cooperation in spades. People were willing to share what had worked (and hadn't worked) for them, and were truthful and honest about both successes and failures. Sometimes their honesty was breathtaking and humbling.
3. Inclusivity was another outstanding feature. Whoever you were - the newbie writers and illustrators who worried beforehand that they felt like "frauds", or the most experienced and award-winning amongst us - there was total equality and respect shown to everyone.
4. Connections - before, during and afterwards. People started to link up on our Facebook page and through our Sparks project from the moment that registrations opened. Some people arrived on Friday morning not knowing anyone else at all, but by Friday afternoon the conversations were buzzing and it got harder and harder to send everyone off to the next sessions on time after a break.
5. Positivity. I've been to a number of writing-related events in the last few years where the mood has been one of discouragement and uncertainty. We weren't ignoring current trends in publishing and bookselling that can lead to that kind of thinking - but the overall mood this time felt quite different: lighter, more hopeful and with a sense of more possibilities out there.
6. Creativity. That wasn't even on my original list of 10, but how can I leave it out -
|What the Illustrators were busy making, hidden away in the Art Room....|
7. The venue - almost as quirky as Capital House, the venue for the Spinning Gold conference in 2006 (and nobody who was there will ever forget that.)
8. The delicious food, served up for morning teas, lunch and afternoon tea by Frances and her wonderful band of Year 12 helpers.
9. The cocktail party on Friday night, hosted by John and Ruth McIntyre at The Children's Bookshop in Kilbirnie; drinks, nibbles, shelves crammed with tempting books, and many of the authors and illustrators on hand to sign them; what more could you want, except for a few of John's many pearls of wisdom (and Julia Marshall, suddenly appearing in the doorway like Mary Poppins at a crucial point in his speech.)
10. The conference dinner on Saturday night: more good food and wine, even noisier conversation and the party tables still going strong when the rest of us left; Fifi Colston's hilarious talk about the story behind the Amazing Activity Book (which included ambulances, an unposted letter delivered on the spot after 15 years, a gift-wrapped parcel to Helen Clark and a secret meeting in a carpark) and an equally fascinating talk by Julia Marshall and Kate de Goldi about an exciting new Gecko project.
That's 10, and I haven't even got to the sessions yet, I think another list might be needed.