As I attend our third sub-branch SCBWI meeting for the Sunshine Coast, I am reminded yet again at how fortunate we are to be a part of such a talented and generous community. We begin our meeting by introducing ourselves, our latest projects and discuss the many trials and tribulations of the creative life. I am sure we can all relate to everyone’s experiences, whether it be the challenge of balancing writing time with family, excitement around an up-coming New York writing conference, and Peter Carnavas’s thrilling CBCA 2018 nomination.
After our introductions, Taryn Bashford guides us through the ins and outs of creating an author platform, focusing particularly on website development, social media and how important it is to maintain a consistent and engaging online presence. I am always amazed at the expertise within our group, not only on writing, but across the wide skill set that is required to be a children’s author.
Next Margaret Gibbs waves her polished teachers wand by providing us with an in-depth insight of what teachers are looking for in an author visit. Her unique expertise was invaluable as she communicated the necessity to inspire, enlighten and motivate children. Marg also gave us five key points to communicate to the children;
- ‘Ideas come from everywhere.’
- ‘Share your ideas with others.’
- ‘Reading is essential.’
- ‘Don’t give up.’
- ‘You need to edit and re-edit.’
Finally, Peter Carnavas shared his experience with UQP in editing his children’s novel The Elephant. It was fascinating to hear how The Elephant was originally a versus novel and then gradually took its current format after structural edits. We heard how Peter altered his writing style by describing gestures and expressions more that he normally would have for picture books and how he was guided to avoid unintended rhymes. Peter also shared specific points that he focused on during his editorial process, such as simplifying seemingly uncomplicated words, like changing the word ‘beneath’ to ‘under,’ and always making sure there is a strong underlying ‘point’ to your story.
Thank you so much to Ali Stegart for your organising and Renee Irving-Lee for arranging the lovely room. I would whole-heartedly recommend SCBWI members to attend our informative and supportive community meetings. We will have our Queensland SCBWI leader Sheryl Gwyther at our final meeting for the year on Sunday 28th October from 2.30 – 4.30. (Venue to be confirmed.)
Some insightful hints from the wonder, Dee White to help strengthen your manuscript. They certainly worked for me, 😉
I’m so thrilled to welcome Dimity Powell and Nicky Johnston, and their beautiful new book The Fix It Man to my blog today.
First, congratulations Dimity and Nicky on such a beautiful book.
Now … About The Fix It Man.
Back in early 2013, Dimity sent me her draft manuscript, The Fix It Man, and asked if I would help her get it ready to submit for publication. It was already a truly beautiful manuscript. The moving storyline was there and the language was lyrical, but I did have a couple of suggestions.
This is how the story originally started:
My Dad can fix anything.
No job is too difficult. No repair is too big. Or too small. Sticky tape…
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SCBWI at the Productivity Commission Hearing in Brisbane
written by Sam Sochacka, Children’s Literature Advocate, Aspiring Children’s Author, ESL Educator
The children’s and young adult literature industry was well represented at the Brisbane hearing of the Productivity Commission’s Intellectual Property Arrangements Inquiry. 9 out of the 11 authors who presented were representing the children’s and YA literature industry. Morris Gleitzman, Sheryl Gwyther, Michael Gerard Bauer, Angela Sunde, Candice Lemon-Scott, Christine Bongers, Melanie Hill, Caroline Magerl, Dimity Powell, Pamela & Peter Rushby, and Sam Sochacka attended the hearing on Monday, June 20, 2016. Morris, Sheryl, Michael, Angela, Candice, Christine, and Melanie all made presentations to the Commission.
Two crucial points were made by the Commissioners as speakers made their presentations. The term of copyright will not be reduced to 15 – 25 years, nor was it a recommendation of the Commissioners. This figure came from a finding that they made; that creators derive the most financial benefit in the 15 – 25 years after their works are created. Creators will retain copyright for the current term of death plus 70 years. This is great news!
There was further confusion as to whether or not the Commissioners had recommended that parallel import restrictions be lifted. It had been reported in the media that this was the case, however the Commissioners explained that their terms of reference instruct them to investigate the transitional issues associated with lifting the parallel import restrictions. Therefore it was not a recommendation, but a decision that the Government looks set to enforce. The Government had asked the Commissioners for advice on how it would work, not an opinion on whether or not the parallel import restrictions should be lifted. This is not such great news. At all.
Key points that were made, often repeatedly, included the need for Australian kids to access Australian stories with Australian locations, language, spelling, cultural references etc.. Morris Gleitzman spoke on behalf of children as consumers of books and pointed out that for young people, the relationship with story – a young character discovers a much larger problem than they have ever encountered before, is key, and that this must be provided in an Australian context. Through reading children need to do research, they develop interpersonal skills, they learn to enlist help, and develop the capacity to empathise. Reading develops problem solving skills, personal development and growth. The central character’s journey in story mirrors the educational and social progress that young people need to make. Stories reflect what is happening in the culture and environment of young people.
When parallel import restrictions are lifted, Australian children will suffer as they will not have access to as many, by quite a margin, Australian stories as they do now. Morris also expressed concern about where the next generation of writers will come from if publishing houses will not have the capacity to invest in new writers, something that will occur if publishers need to compete with foreign editions of foreign, and Australian, works. He explained that Australian publishing houses will not be able to compete with foreign edition remainders as they would be sold at a much lower prices than the Australian editions. He concluded by saying that, “Australian children need Australian stories”.
Sheryl Gwyther spoke on behalf of the 1200 members of SCBWI. Sheryl spoke to two main issues, making the following points:
- ‘Fair use’ exception to copyright – fears these proposed arrangements will go beyond fair, especially in schools. Disadvantages original creators. Destroys the principle what we own what we create. Authors and illustrators fear that grants will be the only thing left.
- Parallel importation – will not enable publishers to take on new authors, let alone support their current ones. Dumping of foreign published Australian author’s books into Australia will flood the market with cheaper, foreign editions and publications. Books will have been altered with spelling, expressions, places, ideas, and thoughts. Australian consumers expect to be able to buy books with Australian culture, idioms, experiences, values, ideas, and landscapes. Australian children need to be able to connect with Australian stories.
Michael Gerard Bauer spoke about his book, “Don’t Call Me Ishmael”. He pointed out that if parallel import restrictions are lifted, his Australian publisher would be competing with foreign publications. He asked the Commissioners if international publishers should be able to capitalise on the hard work of Australian editors/publishers and undermine them in our own market. He stated that there would be fewer Australian writers with the removal of PIR and that fewer Australian writers would mean fewer Australian books for consumers looking for Australian content. He said that Australians must see their language, culture in texts that they read. On school visits, Michael finds that students often have UK/US versions with all Australian’isms taken out.
As a senior literacy teacher, Angela Sunde said that the removal of PIR would detrimentally affect child literacy. Angela pointed out that children’s share of the printed market in the world is 35%, but 50% in Australia. And that Dymocks had a 30% increase in children’s book sales since 2010. She explained that this was due to strong local content, which supports curriculum in identity, helping children to develop a strong sense of self. Australian content and spelling in books is crucial for Australian Children. Angela stated that Australian kids need books that reflect their culture, and language. Strong content will be lost with removals of PIR. There will be fewer books published here.
As a bookseller, Candice Lemon-Scott spoke of how bookshops will be affected by the lifting of PIR. She made the following points:
- Can’t derive enough income from writing to support her family. She took a second job is as a book trader. A sole trader.
- As an independent bookseller it’s hard to compete with department stores.
- Australia has the largest independent bookshop industry in the English speaking world. 900+ independent bookstores. 1.1 billion contributed to the economy.
- Under PIR changes she won’t be able to compete with department stores, won’t be able to return unsold stock.
- Small business sector would lose again: jobs.
- A bookshop forms more than part of the retail sector. It forms part of the fabric of society. Where people can come and get personal book recommendations. Where authors can come and promote their new works.
Christine Bongers spoke of dissent and dismay at the removal of territorial copyright. She said that her novels are quintessentially Australian. And that the only way that Australian authors can make a living is by selling territorial rights to their books overseas. Government subsidies are not a viable option as government funding can be withdrawn at the drop of a hat.
Melanie Hill spoke about the change in copyright laws and said that we would become a country that imports, instead of exporting, innovation when PIR are lifted. She pointed out that the most important determinate in education is literacy, and that Australian children will suffer when copyright laws are changed, and PIR are lifted.
Christine Bongers read an impassioned statement from Isobelle Carmody who was unable to attend the hearing due to illness.
Thank you, and congratulations, to all those who put their case forward to the Commissioners. It was great to see such strong representation of the children’s and YA literature industry at the hearing.
As children’s authors, we often live the lives of our heroes vicariously. It’s much easier, safer and cleaner that way. However, part of me still relishes the breathy feeling of discovering the missing link for myself, trekking down the baddies armed with nothing more than a sharp pencil, and surviving a mutant alien invasion with all of my limbs intack. It’s thrilling stuff living in the heart of your own adventure and being your own hero, and the reason choose-your-own-adventure style storytelling is so popular with young and old alike. It’s also why I decided to ‘choose’ a different path in my story creation, for a short while at least.
Last year I embarked on a writing adventure that challenged my ability to pen such a story suitable for the digital format. Story City is a FREE downloadable app using GPS and geocaching technology to inspire people to get active and physically immerse themselves in real-life choose-your-own-adventure stories. It ingeniously unites our modern-day love affair with technology and the need for fast access entertainment with a solution to stave off obesity and anti-social behaviour that can be associated with our overuse of modern devices. In otherwords, it gets us out there on the streets living and breathing stories in the real world.
Of course many of the multi-genre and variously rated stories don’t take place in the real world as such. Themes are as diverse as your imaginations but they all share a common thread; their settings are based on real-world locations giving users a fascinating sense of place. Users can choose stories that most appeal to them, then from a starting point, they are in full control and can choose where and how the adventure unfolds. Each tale has several endings. The beauty of this style of storytelling is that there can be no true disappointing ending. If you aren’t satisfied with the path you chose, go back and choose another! Even if you choose the same direction over and over again, chances are the location will evoke a different sense of reality for you; the weather may be different, the sounds, smells and people surrounding you may have altered subtly. The scope for continued enjoyment is off the Richter Scale with Story City! Ultimately, it’s plain old-fashioned fun, suitable for young and old, Luddites and techno junkies, locals and tourists.
In addition to this, Story City uses local writers, illustrators, musicians and voice-talent to produce the stories. There is nothing better than homegrown to add a delicious dollop of authenticity and pride.
When I was accepted to be part of the Gold Coast team, I was thrilled to be part of the Story City family which has live working stories in Adelaide, Brisbane and the Gold Coast with more planned for other regional and capital centres and a notable list of commendable authors and artists including fellow SCWBI members, Isobelle Carmody, Kim Wilkins, Tim Baker and Trent Jamieson to name just a ridiculous few. But I also shivered with panic (on the inside where nobody would notice, mind) I mean I usually struggled to come up with one acceptable ending, let alone up to eight!
Despite scathing deadlines and a collection of plot lines more convoluted than a bowlful of spaghetti and the odd dejected child wondering when she was getting her next meal, I managed to produce The Chapel of Unlove. Mine’s a quirky, spoof type tale based in the surreal surroundings of Sanctuary Cove at the north end of the Goldie (where I live). It’s fantastical, fun, and kid-and-family-friendly but touches on a few of the delicious life-parodies one can encounter here on the Gold Coast which naturally involves pirates and Elvis impersonators. What more could you ask for?!
I encourage anyone with a passion for adventure and a quest to be their own hero to experience the stories of Story City. If the chance to be a contributing artist or writer comes to your town, I urge you to consider pouncing on it. Preserving the art of storytelling in a multi-sense way whilst actually making stories immediately accessible in the hands of our audiences is a marvellous opportunity not to be missed. I learnt a lot. I’m edging over into the realm of plotter vs panster thanks to this project. And I had a heap of fun along the way.
Over the next month or so, I hope to divulge more of the hows, whys and whos behind my Story City Creation. You can follow those posts at Dim’s Write Stuff. Visit the Story City website to register your interest as a future contributor or simply learn more about the team behind the stories behind the adventures!
Story City Gold Coast is presented by Story City and funded by the Regional Arts Development Fund. The Regional Arts Development fund is a Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast Council partnership to support local arts and culture.
Dimity Powell is a published children’s author and SCBWI member residing just around the corner from Bat Man on the Gold Coast. She is the official Blogger coordinator for this year’s 2016 SCBWI Sydney Conference. You can follow her reviews on Kids Lit at Boomerang Books Blog or visit her at Dim’s Write Stuff.
Republished from Sheryl Gwyther‘s writers’ blog …
When I run writing classes, people often ask for hints on how to become better writers (and so do children – thankfully, for a future of great stories still to come!)
These are the essentials I pass on…..
Have an active imagination. Always ask, WHAT IF?
Be an acute observer of people, nature, places and things. Learn how to develop an ‘artist eye and ear’. Be aware of all your senses, totally.
Read voraciously (like a foraging seagull) with a hunger for story.
Learn by osmosis, and from the wise advice of the experienced and the successful; to glean more information on how to do it better from books and the web, and also from workshops run by those who have been ‘through the mill’ themselves, and who’ve gained much knowledge from their wide experience.
You will face manuscript rejections – regard them as your apprenticeship. Even experienced writers get manuscripts rejected. We are a small market in Australia. Unfortunately, a fact of life.
Never give up. If you are truly meant to be a writer, perseverance and toughness is essential at those most vulnerable moments of painful rejection or ‘so-so’ reviews. But you will pick yourself up, learn from the experience and start editing and re-writing to make your story even better.
- Join a small writers’ group you can trust in – everyone there will understand the mountains we travail in this job; they will support, just like you would do in return.
- Join a support network like the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators … a global network. We have an excellent regional group here in Australia and New Zealand.
ENJOY THE JOURNEY!
Image: Johannes Vermeer’s portrait of a writing woman in 1670-71. One of his beautiful studies of women in the sublime light of his studio. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Writing_a_Letter_with_her_Maid