Tasmanian author, Nicole Gill, brings us Snapshot 2 of the recent 2022 CBCA Conference – enjoy these social highlights – don’t you wish you were there?
“A butterfly can flap its wings in Peking, and in Central Park, you get rain instead of sunshine…. The shorthand is ‘the butterfly effect.’”
Jeff Goldblum man-splains chaos theory to Laura Dern in Jurassic Park.
“Dreaming With Eyes Open” is the Book Week 2022 theme, and the enamel pins minted to mark this event are monarch butterflies. Monarchs are also known as wanderers and are famed for their long migrations in their native lands.
The social butterflies of the children’s book-loving world migrated to Canberra for the 14th national CBCA conference from 10-12 June 2022. Needless to say, chaos ensued.
Many CBCA attendees hadn’t been to an in-person conference before The Disease That Dare Not Speak Its Name ruined everything back in early 2020. Which suited many authors just fine, as they nestled into their writing cocoons to develop their latest manuscripts.
But after literally years of avoiding going outside, even the most introverted creators were forced to admit that perhaps the conversational gambits of their cats, dogs and chickens were getting a little stale, and that it might be nice to get outside and talk to actual human beings. As such, once we made it to Canberra, we were as excitable as drunken butterflies, flitting about and banging into things (with frequent breaks spent hiding in our rooms to recharge our batteries).
I was there as a presenter, lucky enough to appear on panels with kidlit nature writing legends Claire Saxby, Dr Stephanie Owen-Reeder, Dr Gina Newton and Sami Bayly, speaking about introducing younger readers to the wonders of the natural world. But I also enjoyed the opportunity to flit about the conference’s social events like a nectar-addled invertebrate, after the daytime programs had concluded.
Friday night was the Welcome Reception, replete with drinks and nibbles. The butterflies flapped their wings. Authors met teachers, and swapped numbers for visits. Teacher librarians spilled the beans on what was hot in their school libraries. Publishers eyed potential new talent, and creators gossiped about who was writing what for whom. Faces were put to names, and Zoom and Twitter friends materialized into IRL actual people.
The reception rolled into the SCBWI Friday Night Book Fest, which fellow attendee Lian Tanner recently wrote about here. Each creator had three minutes, and three minutes only, to spruik their latest book to the crowd. It was an exercise in tightly controlled chaos. Props were encouraged, and theatricality rewarded.
I’d prepared myself to talk about my new book, “Poo, Spew and Other Things Animals Do” by investing in some excellent puppets, one a border collie, the other a masked owl (“Tax deductible!”, I muttered to myself, as I frenziedly ordered one expensive fluffy toy after another from the interwebs, “Tax deductible!”). Not only did the puppets help me to explain how owls digest their food, and how dogs can be used to find where owls might be hiding, but they also answered questions on my behalf when I was too nervous to speak to people directly.
I wasn’t the only person using fluffy toys to promote their latest creation. Lian Tanner brought along her friend Rita the Duck to promote “Rita’s Revenge”, and Ali Stegart used a bush-stone curlew puppet to dance the story of “Boogie Woogie Bird”. There was performance poetry, character cosplay and even the occasional erratically thrown puppet (sorry if I hit any of you).
The following night was the official CBCA conference dinner. Once inside the venue, the butterflies emerged from their puffer-jacket cocoons, and made a bee-line to the bar, where a selection of delicious nectars had been prepared for their delectation. There was much flitting about, fluttering of hands, sipping of bubbles and coveting of other people’s shiny dresses.
Picture of the dinner from Claire Saxby’s table POV (thanks for the photo, Claire!)
Each dinner table was hosted by a creator, and decorated with their books and associated objects. My lovely publisher, Briana Melideo from CSIRO Publishing, made showbags for our table, full of books and shiny CSIRO swag, and had selflessly stolen her son’s poo emoji soft toy to add to the table’s general scatological vibes. My table was largely dedicated to my new book, “Poo, Spew and Other Gross Things Animals Do”, which I wrote with koala poo PhD Dr Romane Cristescu, and is illustrated by Rachel Tribout. I’d previously warned people that conversation at my table was unlikely to be considered polite by conventional standards. Fortunately, my co-diners were more than happy to talk about revolting animal science, owl pellets, and the terrible exploits of their household pets.
CSIRO Publisher Briana Melideo and author Nic Gill flaunt their soft toy collection at the CBCA dinner
After the main course had been scoffed down, special guests fluttered onto the stage. The Australian Mint introducing their new, Diary of a Wombat-themed one dollar coin, with Jackie French making a guest appearance, and Margaret Wild was honored with the CBCA Lifetime Achievement Award.
After the final day of the conference, a dozen or so SCBWI members got together at the Civic Hotel – a great chance for us interstate interlopers to chat to the locals, and to congratulate them on the great work they’d done pulling together some really fun conference events.
The morning after the conference, we bunched together in dribs and drabs in the hotel lobby, preparing to fly back to our respective territories. I looked down at my shirt – a rather loud number covered in a chaotic print – and noticed a flock of monarch butterflies flitting across the busy patterns. Perhaps there was some order in the chaos after all.
And in keeping with the theme... Here are some fun butterfly facts!
- Although native to the Americas, monarch butterflies can now be found all over the world. They were first recorded in Australia in the 1870’s, where they are considered to be an invasive species, albeit a relatively benign one.
- The world’s largest butterfly is the Queen Alexandra birdwing – with a wingspan of up to 30cm, this giant flapper can easily fly off with a small chihuahua*
- Butterflies can actually be quite disgusting. More than one species has been observed gorging on animal poo!
- For more information on the monarch butterfly in Australia, try this great article from Ann Jones, which also contains a link to an Off Track episode on these beautiful invaders.
* Actually, no one has ever seen them do this. But pretty sure they could take down a chihuahua if they wanted to.