Coral Tulloch, our very well-known Tasmanian author-illustrator, has frequently been involved with the Literature Centre in Fremantle, which is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year. She tells us about her experiences and some of the celebrations so far.
Twenty-Five years is an anniversary in any language, and in the language of the celebration of literature it is a milestone that deserves recognition. If you have been fortunate enough to attend any of the events at the Literature Centre in Fremantle, Western Australia, (formerly the Children’s Literature Centre) you will have been richly rewarded.
The Centre exists because of the passion of Lesley Reece and has been the heart of many celebrations through these years, including extraordinary exhibitions, festivals, lectures, school visits, conferences, professional development, youth literature days, travelling authors and illustrators, touring exhibitions and teacher support. Along with a fabulous bookshop, it is a residency that has not only housed visiting authors and illustrators, their families and friends, but also been the home to so many friendships and collaborations that have ended up on our bookshelves.
I was fortunate enough to be taken to the Centre and introduced to Lesley by Ann James 20 years ago, on my way to Antarctica. Ann was staying at the Centre and I jumped at the opportunity to stay with her whilst the other voyagers waited for the call to board the Aurora Australis, from a hotel down the road. I loved the Centre instantly and the enthusiasm of Lesley and her incredible staff. Frané Lessac and Mark Greenwood held a dinner for us at their house and introduced me to many people, and the first of many great dinners.
Several years later, Lesley saw me giving a talk on Antarctica, and the largest exhibition (in space and time) was planned. Apart from material on the book, both non-fiction and fiction, there were polar pyramid tents and stuffed huskies…along with the mice at night trying to attack the ration boxes of chocolates!
It was also at the Centre that I met the incredible people that are AISWA (Association of Independent Schools Western Australia). I have travelled widely in Western Australia and overseas for school visits and conferences both through the Centre and with AISWA and I have the most wonderful family of friends who have challenged me, supported me, nurtured me and encouraged me throughout the years. It is also through the Centre that I have met some of the most wonderful people within our industry, who have become some of my closest friends.
But it is not just me. They give everything to support us all as creators and give the same support to teachers to share with their students and colleagues. This has sparked so many ideas and so many collaborations - incredible and close friendships. There is no other place like this in Australia.
Just over two years ago, at dinner one night, Mark slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out three stones - all meteorites, two magnetic. Mark’s storytelling is both legendary and addictive, and I was hooked. He then took me to his work-room, a room I had walked past so many times over the years…but the door had always been shut. Before me was a cavern of stones, some brilliant, some with the dust of millions of years clinging to them, sharp, beautiful, craggy and musty, too rare to hold, too fabulous not to! We had left Terry (Denton) and Frané lingering over melting desert, for what seemed hours, and our book was born, The Book of Stone.*
I had planned to come over to work with Mark on our (now contracted) book, and happily, it coincided with the Twenty-fifth celebrations on April 6 and 7. Luckily I was to be there anyway and so was Boori (Monty Prior) - also there for school visits. Many authors and illustrators were to be a part of the celebrations, including a great open mic night for us and the Centre’s staff and board of directors – culminating in a fabulous free (ticketed) open day for families, where many of us gave presentations.
It was an opportunity for us to get together again and also the opportunity for Lesley to inspire and encourage us to give thoughtful and inspirational presentations. Lesley asked Mark and me to present with regard to our current collaboration. It is rare to be given the opportunity to share a collaboration at this stage, fascinating for us and for anyone interested in books. Lesley promotes these interesting ideas, often pushing boundaries, believes in creators and with this behind you – both presenters and audience alike are always inspired.
I encourage anyone to register for a conference or festival at the Centre. It is a family and one you will feel instantly a part of. Not only will you see wonderful, inspirational presentations, but the presenters are as much a part of the festivities as you are. It’s a great opportunity to form professional contacts, gain extraordinary professional development and talk with all the presenters informally.
Producing literature can be so incredibly isolating and the time that we can spend together is so valuable. The books on our bookshelves are a gift in themselves, but often the collaborations and friendship that have bound that book together does not show in the final binding, but in the essence of the background that brings the story to life in the voice of the creators, and the people behind them that have supported them.
*Coral is currently working on a book with Allen & Unwin and her collaborative work with Mark Greenwood, The Book of Stone, (Walker Books), are both due for publication in 2019.
Tasmanian Illustrator and Author, guest blogger
Editor's Note: The launch of Coral’s latest book: Bouncing Back was held at Melbourne Zoo on April 3rd with the Threatened Species Commissioner holding both book and bandicoot. She and author Rohan Cleave also created Phasmid: saving the Lord Howe Island stick insect which in 2016 was awarded an Honour Book in the Eve Pownall Award for Information Books category in the Book of the Year Awards. Both titles were published by CSIRO Publishing.