Fiona Levings shares her experiences as a visiting children’s book creator in two Tasmanian primary schools; sharing her work and inspiration in the development and publication of Now and Then, a fascinating historical fiction picture book title set in Margate. Fiona’s school visits were supported by the Workshops in Schools Program, a CBCA Tasmania initiative in partnership with the Department of Education Tasmania.
When I create a picture book I tend to think that I know it quite well. How could I not? I’ve spent countless hours ruminating on the words, working the character sketches, painstakingly composing each page. By the time it’s printed I’ve read it, proofed it, checked it, re-checked it, read it backwards, forwards, out loud and probably upside down. Then I take it into a classroom … and what I think I know about it suddenly becomes a minor part of a much greater whole. When I share my book with kids they show me what I’ve really made.
|© Fiona Levings - sharing Now and Then with students
Bringing Now and Then into schools with the CBCA Creator-in-Schools Program has been an exceptional experience. Being able to interact with kids, to see their eyes light up because I talked to them and took them seriously is a gift. Watching them engage with my book, be inspired by it, recognise the parallels with their own lives, press their noses to the page to examine the detail of the illustration or triumphantly spot the easter eggs I hid for them is a joy. A book that has less than 300 words can take up to an hour to read, such is the level of engagement, dissection and discussion.
In June I visited St Aloysious Primary in Blackmans Bay and worked with three separate Year 2 classes. We had nice long session times and I thought I was safe but I still blew out because we were talking too much. Fortunately, we had enough time in the schedule to start some drawing work together. It never ceases to amaze me what 7- and 8-year-olds can come up with when you ask them to imagine how their future homes might look. Underground houses, offshore sea farms, moon bases and flying houses with robot dogs are just the beginning.
In Book Week I was honoured to be invited out to Westerway Primary, a school even smaller than the one attended by Doug in 1940 in Now and Then. Westerway is a town that has seen many changes over the years and it was fascinating to talk to the kids, to hear their perspectives and tease out their vision for how they think their home town might continue to change in times to come. Once again, they saw things in my book that I did not realise were there; in return Now and Then gave them a fresh perspective on the everyday history present in their world.
|© Fiona Levings - talking to students about book creation
The synergy of author and audience at a school visit is very special. Both parties giving, both receiving; I love every minute of it. And I am so grateful, as a creator, to the CBCA Tasmania for the opportunity to learn about my book from these wonderful young muses.
|Now and Then, by Fiona Levings
Fiona Levings is a Tasmanian-based author and illustrator of children’s picture books. Now and Then, published by Forty South Publishing, was listed as a notable book in the 2020 CBCA Book Awards. Copies are available in bookstores or online at www.fortysouth.com.au.
Editor's note- find out more on the inspiration and historical research behind the book in an earlier post by Fiona: Now and Then...And Then Again.