The 2012 Byron Bay Writers Festival … impressions from a children’s writer

SCBWI Qld author and blogger, Taryn Bashford blogs on her experiences at the recent Annual Byron Bay Writers Festival. Visit her blog or website to find out more about Taryn.

Beautiful Byron Bay (image courtesy of the Byron Bay Community Markets)

Firstly, I went along as a volunteer and I highly recommend doing this if you want to save the entry fee because it’s lots of fun, you meet lots of people and you feel like you’re a real part of the Festival. I was a host and had 8 writers assigned to me (I was like their PA for a day). Just contact them via the website.

Anyhow, this was my first visit and the general impression was that the visitors loved it, thought there was a good breadth of topics and some great authors there. I was surprised at the number of children and YA authors in attendance; Morris Gleiztman, Andy Griffiths, Isobelle Carmody, Shamini Flint and Sarah Brennan to name a few.

From the standpoint of a writer though, there was very little there in terms of learning your craft. The only session catering for us writers was the pitch session (45 mins for 6 pre-determined people to do a 5 min pitch) but this was interesting as ever with publishers from Harper Collins and Harlequin Teen.

I have to say the most exciting day for me was the Sunday as it was Children’s Day. To see a whole marquee full of 5 to 14 year olds, all there to listen to authors, buy their books and get them autographed, was very exciting. We should thank these authors for attending because they are creating so much interest in reading books and that will certainly benefit those of us wishing to publish in this market – and their own sales of course!

All in all, a great venue, some brilliant authors to talk to and listen to but more geared to readers than writers.

EXHIBITION: JOURNEY OF A BOOK: Celebrating books-from idea to publication

A SPECIAL EXHIBITION at the Brisbane Square Library, George St, Brisbane city Level 2 … 13th July to August 30th

Showcasing the work of many of Queensland Children’s Authors and Illustrators – organised by the SCBWI Qld team and the Brisbane City Council events organiser, Michelle Richards.

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The Exhibition launch was held on Friday 13th July 2012 and will run until the end of August. Many supporters turned up to the launch and celebrated with the authors and illustrators.

The exhibition was launched by Jenny Stubbs, organiser of the Ipswich Children’s Literary Festival, co-ordinate the Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian Network, president of Book Links Qld and passionate supporter of children’s books and their creators.

Authors’ work is displayed in individual glass cases, and illustrators’ framed images hang on large wall spaces.

Each exhibit demonstrates how authors create books – from the first glimmer of an idea to the finished product. They feature artifacts, photographs, images, first drafts, final manuscripts and the book itself.

Featured authors:

David McRobbie – Vinnie’s War

Josie Montano – Little Penguin

Judy Paulson – Baby Tawnies

Kim Michelle Toft – Recipe for Perfect Planet Pie

Nette Hilton – The Web

Tina Marie Clark – African Orphans

Peter Taylor – Calligraphy

Katherine Battersby – two Squish Rabbit books

Pam Rushby – The Horses Didn’t Come Home

Sheryl Gwyther – Secrets of Eromanga

Jennifer Poulter – Mending Lucille

Prue Mason – Camel Rider

Angela Sunde – Pond Magic

Featured Illustrator:

Peter Allert

Lynn Priestley

Anil Tortop

Ozan Tortop

Lynelle Westlake

SCBWI Queensland heads up north

Queensland’s large geographical status means that very often SCBWI members from its widespread regions miss the contacts, networking and other opportunities those of us in southeast Queensland have.

To go some way to addressing this problem, I, as Assistant Regional Advisor, and support team member and author, Prue Mason, flew to Cairns recently to hold an informal meeting with our far north Queensland SCBWI members. Several even came some distance to attend – Port Douglas and Mena Creek, near Innisfail.


Thanks to the efforts of our SCBWI members in the region, Trudie Trewin, Ann Harth, Katrina Germein, Jacque Duffy and Kay Crabbe who passed on the information to other children’s writers and illustrators, a number of other interested writers turned up as well.

In north Queensland, SCBWI members are involved in writing picture books, fiction, non-fiction, poetry and self-published e-books. It’s clear that, even though the tyranny of distance is real for them, all are enthusiastic about what they’re doing.

Of course, as what happens when ‘the tribe’ get together, we continued talking about writing over lunch on the tavern’s wide deck overlooking the sea.

All the best,  Sheryl Gwyther

The Writing Life… it’s not all about the writing

Most people get a huge shock when you hit them with the facts – no, we don’t expect to ever earn enough royalty from our writing/ illustrating to rival JK Rowling. It’s more the case of what JK Rowling spends on her pet cat. Yearly.

Luckily, we don’t do it for money (alone)! 

Most of us have to supplement our income visiting schools and libraries, promoting reading, writing and heaven’s above, even our own books. The good side is, it’s fun! Sometimes stressful, but fun all the same.

I’ve asked author, Sue Lawson (on the occasion of the launch of her new book, Forget me not) to answers some in-depth questions about hitting the author appearance trail and how she copes with the bumps and hollows of these author gigs. 

Sue Lawson, Australian author

Welcome north of the border, Sue! I’ve got some specific questions that would interest practising authors…..

1. When you have a class group, do you plan the writing activities around your novels?

When I run straight author talks, I discuss how I come up with ideas and the writing process. It’s during these sessions that I focus on my novels.

For the workshops, I use my experiences to illustrate what I am teaching. For example, when showing students a way to capture ideas, I’ll show them my planning book with the original mind map that kicked off the story, or if we’re doing dialogue, I might show a piece of editing where I have changed a slab of text to dialogue and explain why.  I think kids become very sick of ‘in my book.’ ‘When I was writing…’

Instead I focus on books I’ve read and loved like David Metzenthen’s Black Water, Karen Tayleur’s Six or Julia Lawrinson’s Bye Beautiful for older readers and Michael Gerard Bauer’s Just A Dog or Glenda Millard’s Kingdom of Silk series for younger readers. Doing this also helps to encourage kids to read.

2. Do teachers tell you what they want you to impart?

Generally teachers will tell me what they want me to focus on before I arrive. I would much rather work on what the school sees the students as needing, rather than me come in and focus say on characters when the kids really need help with dialogue. The teachers give me the topic and I design activities around this. It’s best to stick to one area, as an hour goes very quickly, particularly when you have the kids writing and sharing their work.

3.  What type of activities do you find most useful?

That’s a tough one – the success of the activity depends on the group. I love working on character and dialogue and use pictures I’ve collected to help inspire the students. Asking the kids to share is a powerful way to teach – once the kids know you are going to be positive they fall over themselves to read, which gives you an opportunity to impart all kinds of incidental information. ‘I love how you named that character straight way.’ ‘Fantastic start – you’re straight into the problem.’ Etc.

 The best tip I can give is to ask the teacher about the students’ needs and listen to what they say. You’ll pick up all kinds of hints. While you are setting up the visit, bounce around ideas and listen to the reaction from the organiser – you’ll know straight away if your idea is a winner.

Many thanks, Sue. I’m sure these insights will be helpful to lots of us JK Rowling-cat-feed-earning authors (and illustrators)