What it is like to visit Story Arts Festival for the first time

Katrin Dreiling

Story by Katrin Dreiling

Being very new to the industry as an aspiring children’s books illustrator, it was my first time attending the Story Arts Festival and the second writing and illustrating festival I’ve ever been to.

I had booked in for two portfolio appraisals with Ann James and Alan Edwards, as well as a few presentations and workshops. Sadly for me I could only attend that one Saturday and somewhat expected it to be a very hectic day.

The first thing that occurred to me was SAFI’s very relaxed atmosphere. There was no rush but plenty of time to network and have chats with your friends at the Illustrators Cafe. I loved that because I think this is where a lot of good things can start from. You could also hang around a bit and enjoy the absolutely stunning illustrations and books on display and for me that gave the whole event a beautiful framing.


Dinner at Story Arts

As I have no sense of direction I got a bit lost trying to find my first talk by Gregg Dreise and ended up in a Diversity in Children’s Literature session presented by Valanga Khoza. I loved every minute of it despite the fact its content was maybe not designed for illustrators!

Luckily I found my portfolio appraisal sessions easily and received heaps of precious information, encouragement and positive feedback. I truly appreciated the fact that Ann James took the time to look at every single piece in my folio – this is not as common as you might think. My appraisal with Alan Edwards went just as well and I was very chuffed to hear that Alan had shown my work to his team at School Magazine so that I could get even more professional opinions out of this.

At Nina Rycroft’s illustrating workshop we could let our imagination run wild creating animal characters surrounded by Terry Denton’s quirky original illustrations. The info I gathered there will help me with a couple of ideas I had in mind for future illustrations.

Photo by Nina Rycroft

Some of the illustrators and authors at Story Arts

I rounded off my Story Arts Festival day with a very informative and helpful talk on the process of publishing picture books by Karen Tayleur.  Listening to these professionals and being welcomed to ask questions, I know I have saved myself doing months of research on these topics.

So altogether I can only warmly recommend the Story Arts Festival to anyone interested in this industry even if it’s only for one day. This lovely atmosphere and massive amount of expertise Jenny Stubbs so very elegantly and apparently effortlessly (she didn’t seem stressed and looked so happy all the time) put together made the trip well worth it.

See Katrin Dreiling’s wonderful illustrations at:



Katrin's pic


One response to “What it is like to visit Story Arts Festival for the first time

  1. You could not have worded this better, Katrin. Your recollections echo my own precisely. An unexpectedly, relaxed and wonderfully informative adn positive weekend, for sure.

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