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

Sunday 30 September 2018

Creative Networking with the Hobart CWIlls

Fiona Levings is our guest blogger this week and she provides details on a wonderful informal group of authors, illustrators, and those testing the waters in this creative field, that gather in Hobart. It is heartwarming to see such a vibrant network of Tasmanian creators that enrich the children’s and young adult publishing palette. Read on and learn about the vibrant Hobart Children’s Writers and Illustrators (CWIlls)
We all know the feeling. The one where you have to take a long walk into a room of people who all know one another but whom you’ve never met. Once or twice in life I have come across enlightened souls who genuinely consider strangers as nothing more than friends they haven’t met yet. For the rest of us, though, turning up cold to a group gig is hard to do. When I arrived at the State Theatre Café one Tuesday evening a few years ago to my first meeting with the Hobart Children’s Writers and Illustrators (CWIlls), I was worried. Not having met any of these people before I didn’t know which group in the Cafe to approach. How embarrassing if I tried to join the wrong table! It was a minefield. I had to grit my teeth.
I am really glad that I did.
The world of writing and illustrating can be opaque if you are standing on the outside looking in. There is plenty of information out there but many things come at a cost and how do you know what investment is going to best meet your needs? What are your needs? There are sharks in these waters, too. Success is rarely straight-forward and, even at it brightest, it does not cure the isolation of the role. This is not the kind of job where you can vent to your colleague in the next cubicle; there are no team-mates to lean on. The relation between anxiety and creativity is a topic too broad for this post but it lies at the heart of why groups like CWIlls can be so important: because creators need colleagues too.
The Hobart CWIlls is an informal group that meets once a month to chat, slurp warm beverages and eat cake while exchanging information, ideas and opportunities. Occasionally, we extend to other events – such as hosting the Children’s Book Nook at the Tasmanian Writer’s Festival in 2017. Our group has no formal membership; there are no required qualifications, no fees to join and no obligation to attend. We have evolved over a decade to boast a contact list of over 40 participants and now include a number of established (and award-winning) authors and illustrators, emerging and aspiring creatives as well as a broad group of artists, hobbyists and folk with a passion for the art form. Most importantly, CWILLs is a group of humble, good-humoured, generous people who genuinely support each other in their creative endeavours and who whole-heartedly welcome new-comers. If you care about writing or illustrating for children or young adult literature and you are looking for a forum to share your experiences, extend your contacts in the Tasmanian writing community, to ask for advice (or discuss frustrations) then this is the group for you. Grit your teeth and give it a go. You will be really glad that you did.

Fiona Levings is the co-ordinator of the Hobart CWIlls. The group meets regularly on the third Tuesday of the month, 5pm at the State Theatre Café in North Hobart. For more information, or to add your name to the mailing list, please contact Fiona at fiona.levings@gmail.com.

Monday 24 September 2018

Shine Mountain Gleams in the Limelight

Book launches are special – a magical way to gain insights into a book through the eyes of another. This week, Patsy Jones shares her recent Hobart book launch experience for Julie Hunt’s much anticipated Shine Mountain – and exposes a little bit of herself and of the book launcher as well. Is there such an entity as a book launcher? – it creates visions of a book rocketing off into space or, in this case into…Gleam Land.

I wonder how many of you have ever been invited to launch a book? I once had that opportunity, and was very pleased and flattered to be asked. But as the date of the launch drew near, I began to feel very anxious and unsure of my ability to do justice to the book…..So in one way I was not too disappointed to find myself incapable of carrying out the task after being hit by a horrible stomach virus on the day itself (fortunately the author was able to find another speaker at the last minute!)
Recently I attended the launch of the most recent publication of Tasmanian writer Julie Hunt  - Shine Mountain, at Fullers Bookshop in Hobart. The launch was hosted by Robin Morrow, Australian President of IBBY (International Board onBooks for Young People). I found what she had to say, and how she said it, very impressive, and felt quite fortunate that I had never actually had to expose my own shortcomings in this way!
Robin very kindly sent me a copy of her speech, and below are some of the aspects of the book that she mentioned as being of special interest to her.
A map: Because the book is set in an imaginary world, Julie provided a map at the beginning of the book (a wonderful greyscale imagining of Gleam Land, penned by Geoff Kelly). I found myself turning to the map many times during my reading of the book, and when I read other fantasy stories, I like to place the characters in their landscape as well. But Robin did not mention just Julie’s map – as well, she referred to some other favourites which also flesh out the story with a map – Winnie-the-Pooh, Lord of the Rings, and Milly Molly Mandy, for example. I expect many people in her audience made a mental note to read or re-read these books on being reminded of them…..
The characters: Robin described these as ‘memorable and varied’ – Ellie, of course, Luca and Meridian; and Nanny the goat who, despite being an animal, is so very important to the story.
The button-box: Robin’s audience actually saw a button-box, part of the support provided by a group of students who demonstrated aspects of the story for the audience. This button-box appeared to be a well-aged example of the concertina/accordion variety which we don’t see so much these days. Perhaps there are many children today to whom it is a totally new instrument!
Placenames, magic, folklore, and landscape were other elements of the story which Robin mentioned. I am sure the references to these elements provoked a broader and more intellectual response in those fortunate children who went home from Fullers with their own copy of Shine Mountain.
To me, this was an amazing example of how a book can be launched; thanks so much, Robin; and thanks to Julie, of course, without whom we wouldn’t have had this opportunity…..
Patsy Jones
Retired librarian and teacher

Sunday 16 September 2018

Wonderous Wonderland

With a bit of meandering at the start, Jennie shares her recent visit to Wonderland, Alice’s magical world in the heart of Melbourne.

I had an overnighter in Melbourne this last week that turned into an ace literary experience. The purpose was to attend a Reading Leaders event to listen to an amazing speaker, Donalyn Miller, who is a mighty advocate for reading – free choice, high interest, every day, in school and at home. She was brilliant, but not the focus of this post. So as the King gravely said: “Begin at the beginning, and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

With most of a day to fill before heading home the day after, I headed to the Australian Centre for Moving Image (ACMI) – across the road from Flinders Street Station to enter Alice’s wonderful world of Wonderland. Heading down the stairway into the rabbit hole is just like stepping into … wonderland!

With the Cheshire Cat looking on ominously, map in hand and an explanation of how it can trigger magical mirror moments I choose a door and start to explore.

Bit which door??????

“Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
Alice: ...So long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you're sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.”   

This interactive exhibition commences with informative panels about Lewis Carroll, his craft and photographic exploits. As you progress through Wonderland you move through different episodes in the story – the pool of tears, the caterpillar, the house and elixir and ...  so much more. Each area includes a loop of film mashups of different versions of Alice from 1903 to the more recent Johnny Depp spectacular. Watching a succession of young Alice’s reciting the same words in multiple interpretations was 'Curiouser and curiouser! … 

Interactive opportunities are set up throughout your journey. The narrow house to stand within to make you ‘grow tall’ and the amazing room for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – I went to tea three times – because “It's always tea-time.”

Visit the Queen’s croquet ground, decorate your map, enter into ‘the machine’ and become a soldier card on the croquet field – live the magic!

Original props and costumes, miniature stage sets, puppets, models and figurines – ACMI have done an amazing job sourcing authentic items from past film versions to compile historical research, photography and film footage. This is a unique, fascinating and highly engaging trip into Wonderland that you should try very, very hard to visit if Melbourne is on your agenda before the 7 October.

ACMI, through their vivid visualisations have exemplified Alice’s own views “And what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?” —and ACMI has made this a rich text indeed! This journey into Wonderland continues at home when you unlock the ACMI site and with the unique magic key (on your map) to access your soldier portrait and explore the world and revisit much of the information.

If you are heading to Melbourne put this on your "must do" list as it closes on 7 October before heading overseas for an international tour.

Jennie Bales
“Have i gone mad?
I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”

Friday 7 September 2018

Words, glorious words

Enjoy the magic of words in this engaging post by New Zealand's popular children’s author Kyle Mewburn. Kyle is heading to Tasmania for next week’s Tamar Valley Writers’ Festival and this post gives us a glimpse of what we can expect – captivation and lots of fun!

I'm an unabashed word-aholic. I've been devouring words most of my life. I'm not at all selective in my wordy habits - any complex, meaty, inventive word or phrase will do. I've SPLASHed and CRASHed on onomatopoeia. I allegedly alliterate at an alarming rate. I have a particular penchant for puns. And I've never found a metaphor I didn't like. 
For me, the story is a basic ingredient. Just another fish caught in my imagination stream. How the story is told is what makes the difference between bland gruel and a memorable, gourmet banquet. Like Colonel Sanders, I firmly believe words are the secret herbs and spices that make a story finger-lickin' good. More importantly, it leaves the reader wanting more.

Of course, kids won't read a boring story. So my junior fiction series, Dinosaur Rescue and Dragon Knight, use the full array of super-charged ingredients: action-packed, fast-paced narrative; relatable characters; complex interpersonal relationships; and strong, yet subtle, themes. Additionally, I ensure each story is engaging and engrossing - not just gross. Every page, every sentence, must give my reader sufficient inducement to continue turning the pages. My readers should finish satisfied but not sated, and know a second, or third, reading will amply reward them.

Yet I never forget that, as a writer, my task is to conjure castles out of snowflakes, not build ablution blocks. So I strive to imbue every sentence with the power of incantation.
Words are, after all, magic.
Kyle Mewburn
Kyle' website: 

Editor’s note: Kyle is a seasoned performer and will enrapture students during her Friday Festival sessions on the 14 September, and engage a wider audience on Saturday. I’ve booked my spot – Have you? 

Monday 3 September 2018

Like a duck paddling…behind the scenes at Tamar Valley Writers Festival

This week Nella gives us the long view of an event like the Tamar Valley Writers Festival, from early planning to a mere 10 sleeps away – don’t forget to check out the program link!

At Writers’ Festivals, attendees meet beloved authors, hear stimulating exchanges of ideas, learn new skills/information to support their own writing craft, and participate in the social opportunities to meet and engage with knowledgeable and passionate authors and readers.

For school students, meeting authors and illustrators at the Festival is an experience which will remain with them, providing them with an incentive for reading. When students learn directly from the creator, the “inside stories” and the ideas behind books, the struggles and joys of the writing and publication process, they are often encouraged to try writing themselves.

How does such a program come together?  In the case of TVWF, a small committee of volunteers was meeting regularly. Discussions started in September 2016 and intense work commenced in April 2017.  

Since then, we have been busy/frantic with grant submissions, sponsor proposals, marketing plans, developing costings (and unfortunately charging entry fees for adults’ sessions) and, most interestingly for me, selecting guests and who will be moderating and organising Masterclasses.  Masterclass highlights for me are: Jodi McAlister’s The gifts of truth, the treasure of secrets: writing an engaging family history, Amie Kaufman’s Story Ignition, and one described as the Uber for publishing, Democratic Publishing.

Some publishers contacted TVWF offering newly-published authors or those who are in the early stages of their writing careers.  A small team speed-read works from these new authors. We also compiled a list of authors of books we enjoyed reading and started the long, slow process of inviting authors, and choosing moderators we felt would promote the authors, and not hog the limelight for themselves.

Selecting guests for the children’s and young adult program offered additional challenges.  With so few teacher-librarians in schools, we believe part of our function is to introduce students to new authors, to ensure representation of developing trends in children’s and young adult writing, and to ensure teachers would find our guest writers of sufficient calibre to make a trip to Grindelwald worthwhile for their students.  A tall order for any Festival committee.

And how is it going? The program has been out for a while https://tamarvalleywritersfestival.com.au/the-festival/program-tickets/. The Amie Kaufman and Grade 8+ workshop sessions on the Friday are booked out; the middle and Grade 8 + Meet the author sessions have vacancies.  By the time you read this blog, there will be about 10 sleeps till 2018 Tamar Valley Writers Festival.  I’d love to see you there.
George Ivanoff

Paul Collins

Amie Kaufman
Jackie Kerin
Jodi McAlister

Kyle Mewburn
Marc McBride
Andrew Plant
Lian Tanner
Nella Pickup
TVWF Program Committee, retired librarian – but definitely not a retired reader.