Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Valuing our local literary talent

Coral Tulloch, award winning illustrator of
Bouncing Back & Phasmid.
Latest publication The Book of Stone.

As the school year draws to a close, Tasmanian illustrator, Coral Tulloch, highlights the value of the current CBCA Tasmania Authors and Illustrators in Schools Program and how this has helped expose Tasmanian schools to local talent rather than relying on visiting authors from further afield to enrich children’s reading experiences. Coral also provides some thoughtful ideas to maximise the success of author and illustrator visits. Find out more about her work in this CSIRO article on Coral’s contributions to scientific literary non-fiction. 

I’d like to sincerely thank the CBCA Tasmanian Branch for their initiation in providing the visits to schools of Tasmanian Authors and Illustrators. I am certainly not trying to speak for everyone, just for myself, but I do feel from experience over the years that too often we are viewed as not being as important, exciting, or perhaps exotic enough as we live here, so anyone, from somewhere else holds so much more charisma and interest. I am told this by my peers who live on the mainland and who never get asked to come to their local school, too many times, so perhaps it’s not just Tasmania.

But the ability to be able to visit schools within our own state has a certain beauty, a real attachment for our creative place and to inspire students and teachers here. For me, the most valuable visits from the CBCA Tasmania grant is that small schools, small communities could benefit from having creators come to visit, something that they said is so often not viable for them. This was the greatest gift, to be able to spend time in a school community, work with them, leave material with them for future use and to hopefully be useful for the teachers to take ideas and hopefully inspire further written and visual narratives in all of their work.

It is all fine to organise a large auditorium and give a presentation, as worthy and as important, fun and inspiring as it might be, but it is really a show and tell and all too often a school may try and cram every student into a presentation. This is not only difficult for the students, but also for the presenters, as the language, the presentation itself should be tailored for the audience to achieve the best possible, and this is curtailed by the idea of a whole school presentation.

When visiting smaller schools, or where the schools literally looked at the presenters they wanted, and gave time to the grades that would benefit, (not try and get every student to see the visiting author and illustrator) are the ones that are really, really valuable. We all produce variable work and have varying expertise with varying presentations and workshops, so the ability to be able to contact the school first and to work out what would be best, suit their needs etc, was a terrific way to proceed.

Again, thank you to the CBCA Tasmanian Branch for this initiative…and I hope, that if this happens again, more smaller schools will take part and consider the great value of having a creator work with their school community for the day, for both their students and their teachers.


Coral Tulloch
Tasmanian illustrator
FB: @cloudyseas https://www.facebook.com/cloudyseas/

From the editor: CBCA Tasmania blog readers have been treated this year with posts from children’s book creators that have participated in the program in 2019. Revisit posts from Christina Booth and Julie Hunt & Dale Newman. Consider also Why You ShouldMeet Your Heroes. Hopefully, as the program continues into 2020 some of the recipient schools will also share their experiences for our blog audience. Contact tas@cbca.org.au for more information about participating in the program.

Friday, 29 November 2019

Accidental Author

It was a treat to meet Sharon Booth at a recent local school library meeting and to listen to her speak about her work as an author and illustrator publishing under her pen name, Sharon J Yaxley. The Tasmanian settings for her stories provide a strong sense of place and her love of the Tasmanian landscape shines through her work.
People dream about writing a book, some start, some procrastinate, some finish.
I procrastinated for years not knowing where to start or what to write.
On the death of a dear friend, I thought I would write a little story for her great grandchildren to remember her by.  Among many talents, she was a pilot, a maker of bears, a traveller and storyteller. Dunstan is the bear she made for me and Theodore the stuffed dog who viewed the world from the rear console of the car and then the loungeroom floor. He ended up on the conveyor belt at the tip.
My characters were born. The rhyming verse woke up with me one morning and I captured it on a piece of paper on the bedside table. It was edited and beats counted on fingers and drummed on the desk numerous times. Written from the heart. That was easy… the illustrations took another 6 months. I procrastinated. Where to start?
It was my brother that said, “Just start. Draw a line on the page, draw what you don’t want the characters to look like. Just draw.”
I found the perfect Theodore character in a soft toy and with the purchase of chalk pastels, I started drawing. Having never used chalk pastels before it was trial and error and loads of fun layering colour and texture onto the page. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. Long into the night, chalk dusted fingers and table and clothes and cat’s paws. 
I intended on making a few photocopies when I had finished and binding them. By the time I had inundated my work colleagues at school with drawings and drafts the book had become popular and there was a demand for copies.
Through a family friend I was introduced to Warren Boyles who was the past owner of Forty South Publishing. He kindly offered to publish the book and introduced me to Cate Lowry to do the design work. I did a small print run of 200, sold out reprinted another 200, sold out and decided to do a big print run. By the time the reprint of Dunstan and Theodore was ready, I had written and illustrated Theodore Swims in the Sea. I wrote Hide and Seek next but had no confidence to illustrate it, so I put it aside. By the time Theodore Swims in the Sea was ready, I had finished Set Sail, an adventure with all the yachts I had sailed on from my childhood and recent past. It had been suggested that Forty South Publishing should take over the role of publishing as my enthusiasm for creating stories escalated. Lucinda Sharp and the team have also been wonderful.

Shelley Point, Scamander
There was no intention of another book but my love of photography and a surfing trip to Scamander one September found my imagination running wild with sea monsters and possibilities as I walked the windy, storm ravaged shore at Shelley Point. I loved the photos and put them aside. My subconscious must have been ticking away as I woke one morning in March with a verse in my head and when it was written down I saw the possibility of a book to inspire people to view the world differently, through shadows and shapes, turning the images upside down and around. Creating stories, drawing, using natural objects to create images…imagination and monsters. To look at the environment, explore and care for what is there. 

Hide and Seek in Launceston's City Park
I convinced myself to start the illustrations for Hide and Seek when I looked at all my past artwork which was architectural mixed media. Of course, I could draw the City Park gates and the conservatory and the rotunda, so I started, and I did. After a break from drawing the characters, maintaining the consistency was a priority, and my drawing hand kept going where it left off.
The literary journey is not for the faint hearted. It is costly, as a self-published author, but rewarding. After 3 years I have published 5 books!  Marketing the books and navigating through social media and retail outlets is time consuming, but there are many wonderful operators willing to take a chance on a local author with boundless enthusiasm and a product that has captured the hearts of many children’s bedtimes. My retail background in window dressing and visual merchandising management is helpful.
There is joy in hearing feedback from customers about how much the stories and illustrations are loved. Read and reread.
 I have discovered a new world of local talent and formed new friendships. Some are writing, some are procrastinating, some are published. All of them successful in having started.
The stack of cardboard boxes branded with book titles is slowly diminishing from my family room as my art desk, camera and imagination ponder the next literary adventure.
Sharon Booth
Tasmanian children’s book creator.
Discover Sharon’s books (published under Sharon J Yaxley) at https://www.sharonjyaxley.com/ where you will find teacher’s notes and activities for Sea Monsters and Dunstan and Theodore’s own website.

Saturday, 23 November 2019

Welcoming a new addition to the CBCA Tasmania team

During the recent branch AGM it was a pleasure to meet and greet a new member of the CBCA Tasmania committee. Victoria brings a wealth of experiences revolving around children’s literature that will benefit everyone. Welcome on board Victoria Ryle.

I bring experience as a primary teacher and literacy advisory teacher many years ago in London, with a passion for the power of picture books to introduce children to the joys of literature and literacy in tandem. (I like to believe that around this time I may have contributed to introducing Michael Rosen to a certain traditional rhyme that I used to teach teachers on a language and literacy course, that was immortalised soon after in We’re Going on a Bear Hunt – he uses a similar cadence and actions in this recording

In 1996, I set up Kids’ Own Publishing, first in Ireland (where we had a close association with Children’s Books Ireland, CBCA’s equivalent), and since 2003 in Melbourne, where the organisation continues to celebrate children as authors and artists and give them a voice through publishing within their communities. 
Kid's Own Publishing http://kidsownpublishing.com/ 

Since relocating to Tasmania four years ago, I have established a creative residency space outside Hobart (visit allthatweare) and am undertaking a PhD researching the pedagogies that educators draw upon to publish books with children as authors.

I am joining the board of CBCA Tasmania as vice president at a time of exciting possibilities for bridging Tasmanian literature for children with new opportunities for literacy initiatives in the State. So, in thinking about my new role, I am curious about the separation between the fields of literature and literacy and what opportunities we can seize for those who may feel currently excluded from the world of books. How can we leverage benefits for literacy from the rich world of children’s literature and at the same time give children a stake in it? I look forward to connecting with a new generation of Tasmanian authors and illustrators through this role. 

Victoria Ryle 
Vice President, CBCA Tasmania