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

Saturday 27 July 2013

Graphic Novelisations - from Tehani Wessely

As a teacher librarian, one of the things I’ve done in all my schools has been to build up the graphic novel section of the collection. I’ve read comics since I was a kid, though never on a serious fan level; I would read a cereal box rather than nothing, so anything with words that told a story was a bonus for this kid from the country.

I loved Teen Titans, Wonder Woman and Batman and the Outsiders, X-Men and Firestorm and Dial ‘H’ for Hero and Archie and Garfield and anything else I came across, really! Back then, I was a fairly scattershot reader, mainly because I read so much I was always searching for new material. I’m a little more discerning now (no, really!) but I still like comics (though I generally read trade editions now) and I’m a big fan of the graphic novelisation.
While there are many excellent original graphic novels, and hundreds of trade compilations of comic issues every year, the graphic novelisation of popular books particularly appeals to me because it can be a gateway for readers into the “real” books. I’ve had several successes with students reading the first few volumes of graphic novels and then moving onto the original books because they don’t want to wait for the next installment, or simply because they want more story. It’s excellent!

I’ve seen brilliant graphic versions of classic works, including multiple versions of Shakespearean plays, stories from Jane Austen, Dracula, the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes, but easier sells to kids are adaptations of current popular books. I’ve read a number of great graphic versions that I can personally recommend (for the appropriate ages), such as:

Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer
Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz
Twilight and New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (I’m not a huge Twilight fan, but the art in this is beautiful, and NOT inspired by the film, which I really liked!)
Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
CHERUB series by Robert Muchamore
Percy Jackson by Rick Riorden
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
Daniel X: Alien Hunter by James Patterson
Cirque du Freak by Darren Shan (the Darren Shan saga)

Others I haven’t yet got my hands on that look really interesting include:

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Discworld graphic novels by Terry Pratchett
City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

One note of caution: by nature, graphic novels can be a bit more confronting in terms of violence and nudity than the source material, so it’s worth previewing books which may have questionable content. Sometimes it’s played down in the art, other times it is front and centre, so checking books out is essential.
Tehani Wessely is the current Tasmanian Children's Book of the Year Judge.

Tuesday 16 July 2013

Midwinter at Varuna

I am writing this blog on my last morning of a three week stay at Varuna – The Writers’ House in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. What a gift Varuna is! It’s a wonderful place to work; it’s both restful and intense and you feel you are being helped on every level. Writing is such a difficult business – there’s the excitement of endless possibilities at the beginning of a book, and the relief and satisfaction at the end, but the time in between – the two or three years that it takes to make a story – is rough going, so a place like Varuna is much appreciated.

It’s so important to get out and about, I find, both as a Tasmanian and as a children’s book writer, and although Varuna is a retreat, it’s a rich experience socially. Days are silent (except for the screech of cockatoos) but evenings are full of conversation in which you get to visit other genres and other worlds – Zhiling Gao’s memoir about growing up in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution; Kerri Melehan, the sleep scientist’s PhD on sleep and sex; Graham Nunn’s 70 love poems to Eleanor Dark; and much more – biography, romance, fiction, creative non-fiction. It’s a diverse mix. I’ve been the only children’s author here in the last three weeks and certainly the only person working on a comic book.

My writing desk and props and the view from my window at Varuna.

It’s strange the way the details of your environment creep into the story. In the outline of my book there was no mountain retreat, no mist and fog, no 999 steps into a ravine and no elderly women sitting in cane chairs taking the air as they look over a breathtaking escarpment, but they are all in there now.

The days are long ­– 12 working hours ­–  but I’ve had time off: a coffee with local illustrator, Beth Norling, who did the pictures for my Little Else books; and a trip to Sydney for a SCBWI meeting presided over by the ebullient (I’ve been looking for an opportunity to use that word) Susanne Gervay, who surely must have a parallel career as a standup comic. I went to the meeting to hear Margaret Hamilton speak of her journey through picture books from librarian to bookseller, publisher and writer, and a few days later visited Pinerolo Children’s Book Cottage at Blackheath. A summary of Margaret’s talk can be viewed at: http://scbwiaustralianz.com/national-blog.

So, all in all, a rich midwinter. Many thanks to Varuna and the Eleanor Dark Flagship Fellowship for the opportunity to spend time creating, exploring and expanding.

Julie Hunt

Tuesday 9 July 2013

Please have your say!

Please have your say!
I am sure that you are all aware that the CBCA has a new management structure. Gone is the rotating 2-year National Executive term, which had its own strengths, but also many weaknesses. Instead, we now have a National Board, made up of one representative from each of the eight branches, the past National President, and a rep. from each of the following : Reading Time, the Awards Foundation, the Lu Rees Archives. The new structure may well have its weaknesses too but we are doing our best to minimise them. And hence this blog.
I am the Tasmanian representative, chosen after our original delegate Angela Briant was elected President of the National Board. In that role, Angela is non-partisan so Tasmania needed another voice. We have been working hard since the CBCA AGM last November. The National Board meets regularly by teleconference as it’s far too expensive for us all to travel to one venue for a monthly meeting, but we have had one face-to-face meeting since the last AGM in November 2012, and another is planned for August before this year’s AGM in November.
A lot of the progress has been administrative: putting in place good governance and organisational strategies to take CBCA well into the 21st century. I would like to acknowledge all the work done within the Governance and Constitution portfolios. But of course, the Book of the Year Awards process is well underway. The Australian young people’s book world is looking forward to the announcement of the CBCA winner and honour books in Canberra August 16. The next round of judging has started too, and the judges are into their demanding reading schedule.
The next major National Board task is a strategic planning day to be held at Pinerolo in the Blue Mountains at the end of July. Thanks to Margaret Hamilton for making her children’s book cottage available. For this, each board member is canvassing opinion from his or her branch membership and will be completing the same questionnaire. And so, if you would like to contribute, please do so. If you are not a CBCA member, your opinion will still be welcomed, but could you include this within your response, and please seriously consider joining CBCA and helping to promote all the organisation’s aims.  Please send your comments to maureen.mann@cbca.org.au by July 18. No names will be included so it will be completely anonymous, except the compiled report will show that it comes from Tasmania. After July 18, it will be too late to give me time to collate it and send it on.
There are 5 major areas, where I would like to hear your opinions. If you don’t have an opinion for one or more I’d still like to hear from you. Your response can be as informal or as formal as you would like. And your point of view does matter. Please try not to be one of the silent majority.
1.       What does the CBCA do?
List all the things you think the CBCA does or should do at the National level. List everything that comes to mind – no matter how insignificant. (This will help the planners determine what outside help we may need.)
2.       As an individual, what do you think ought to be the aims and objectives of the CBCA National Board?

3.       As an individual, what do you think should be the main priorities for the National Organisation for the next 3 to 5 years?
List the 5 (or less) most important goals that you consider need to be addressed.
4.       To assist with the process of a Risk Assessment, please list all risks that you perceive are facing the CBCA.
(Definition: A Risk can be broadly defined as any event that has an impact on the realisation of the CBCA’s stated objectives. Significant areas of risk include those that may reasonably present a risk to the CBCA's key assets: reputation, people, finances, infrastructure, and intellectual property.) 
5.       SWOT. This is made up of 4 subsections. The aim is to look at Strengths and Weaknesses as internal matters and Opportunities and Threats as external influences.
A.      Strengths
What does the CBCA nationally do well?
What unique resources can we draw on?
What do others (branches and other organisations) see as our strengths?
B.      Weaknesses
What could we improve?
Where do you consider we have fewer resources than others?
What are others likely to see as weaknesses?           
C.    Opportunities
What opportunities are open to us?
What trends could we take advantage of?
How can we turn our strengths into opportunities?
D.      Threats
Keeping your list of Risks in mind, please answer these questions:
What are our weaknesses?
What are other organisations in our market doing?
What threats do our weaknesses expose us to?
I realise that asking you to respond to all these points is a fairly daunting task and that some of the answers will contradict each other. Despite that, I really would appreciate hearing from as many people as possible. I’ll be happy to receive a single sentence answer but will also be delighted if anyone has the time to write several pages’ worth.
Looking forward to reading your thoughts. Many thanks to those who take the time to send me something.
Until next time, and thanks to http://www.freestockimages.org for some of the images

Maureen Mann