‘Tall Tales and Fat Tunes’ – SCBWI at the BWF

SCBWI Qld member, Dimity Powell posts her review of SCBWI’s contribution to the Brisbane Writers Festival, where five local authors and illustrators volunteered to be part of the children’s program, Alphabet Zoo. Thank you, Jacque Duffy, Lynelle Westland, Jennifer Poulter and Dimity for your fabulous contributions.bwf event1

“There were no track closures or train delays on Thursday the 5th of September, so I arrived in ample time at the State Library of Queensland; hub of this year’s Brisbane Writers Festival. At nine o’clock in the morning, the place was already humming. The book shop was choked with young readers keen to snap up the latest title by one of their ‘idols’.

bwf event7Some of their idols were already there, searching for literary gems of their own.  Legion upon legion of uniformed school kids led by teachers equally as enthusiastic as they, trooped by in orderly lines. In the absence of coffee, I drank in their palpable excitement and thus energised headed for the signing-in table.

With a bright orange lanyard in place and goodie bag slung over one shoulder, I strolled about the grounds, soaking up the atmosphere of my first BWF and the warm Brisbane spring-shine. There was plenty of time to take in the cavernous marquis, stage to a variety of artists of far greater notoriety than I including; Ben Law, Matthew Condon, John Birmingham and Katherine Howell.

bwf evetn15 Clusters of school children waited on the banks of the river for their WordPlay sessions with visionaries like Michael Gerard Bauer, Katherine Battersby and Oliver Phommavanh. Eventually I headed for the fifth floor artists’ green room, strongly recommended to me by the leagues of green-shirted, unfathomably helpful BWF volunteers. They were right. The views of the river and cultural precinct were breathtaking. And the coffees, second to none, except maybe that bookshop-foyer-buzz. But the best was yet to come.

As a member of SCBWI, I was fortunate to be invited along with Sheryl Gwyther and half a dozen other children’s authors and illustrators from all over south-east Queensland, to participate in BWF’s Alphabet Zoo. This inaugural free program was inspired by the books and art created for kids between 3 – 8 years.

The next few hours were spent in the Studio, a spacious room housing an astonishingly gigantic dragon and walls covered in art courtesy of the kids dropping in and Illustrator-in-Residence, Briony Stewart. We delivered live storytellings, readings and art classes as part of the Tall Tales and Fat Tunes activities.

bwf event16 Fresh on the heels of recent Book Week presentations, this encounter with over 60 primary aged students, their carers, teachers and parents was yet another refreshing reminder of why we do what we do. Positive gratitude was instantaneous.

One teacher couldn’t thank us enough for providing a few minutes of captivating wonderment for her students. ‘I’ve never seen them so attentive. Look at them!’

It is true: sometimes the smallest things in life bring us the greatest joy. I may not have been presenting in auditoriums to hundreds but the glint of sunshine on the Brisbane River, the moments spent sharing my words with small, ever expanding minds and being in the same green room with other authors jotting enigmatic entries into paper journals all added up to great, collective Festival joy. It was one of my most memorable visits to the Zoo ever.”

Many thanks, Dimity! (Sheryl Gwyther, SCBWI Assistant RA)

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A PERFECT SUBMISSION … from the editor’s eye

On January 20 2013, SCBWI Qld held its first 2013 Professional Development workshop for writers and illustrators for children, with a very special presenter, Leonie Tyle. Leonie lives in Brisbane and is a well-respected editor and publisher who now works freelance.
Leonie Tyle
Thank you to all those who attended. We look forward to more of these worthwhile sessions – if you missed this one, hopefully you can attend next time.
SCBWI member, Angela Sunde managed to take copious notes from Leonie’s workshop … here they’ve been whittled down for the blog. Full notes will go to SCBWI Qld members by email.
SUBMITTING:
  •  Your first page must be riveting. Don’t submit too early. It must be polished like a sparkly lake.
  • Examine your motivation for writing.. Why do you want to write? Is it that you can’t find anything to read? Is it that you just love to write? Is it because you have something to say and want to share it with someone else? Getting published isn’t the be all / end all of writing. Chill about it and have fun writing.
  • All writers procrastinate. To become a better writer, practise, practise, practise… We all have the same insecurities, some have more pressure than others because their previous books were such high quality. Eg. Markus Zusak.
 A CHECKLIST:
Check and re-check your work:
Do you have an ordered structure? (A beginning, middle and end for kids’ books.)
Does the first sentence engage the reader and hook them in?
Does the text flow without relevant information, unnecessary dialogue and too much telling rather than showing?
Does the title fit the story?
Is your grammar and spelling almost perfect?
Is the word count applicable to the age group ?
Do your characters come alive?
Is your writing a refreshing look at life?
Does it respect the child and the adult reader?
Does it have the potential to be profitable?
 big group

EDITING:
Edit!
Within an inch if its life.
Make sure your opening is as stunning as possible. Get that hook!
Make sure there is no lack of vision, and your structure, plot and execution is true to the ‘what if’ theory.
Are you telling rather than showing?
Are there long and endless pieces of narration?
Are the sentences long and convoluted?
Is the dialogue realistic/authentic?
Are your characters real and empathetic? Be in someone else’s shoes.

Extra bonus: a luscious morning tea
Books Leonie recommends:
‘Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on the Writing Life’, Anne Lamott.
Grammar Basics on the Web, sentences, push and punctuation‘, Paul Callaghan.
The Professional Writing Guide, Writing Well and Knowing Why’, Roslyn Petelin and Marshall Durham.
Business and Professional Writing’, ?
The Elements of Style’, William Struck jnr and E.B.White.
 
Leonie loves both Fantasy and Realism. She loved reading ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ by Laini Taylor. ‘The Scorpio Races’, by Maggie Stiefvater, ‘The Penderwicks’, by Jeanne Birdsill – a junior novel. She also feels there seems to be more interesting stuff coming out of the UK and USA at the moment than out of Australia.
ESPECIALLY FOR ILLUSTRATORS
Interesting discussion point. Unfortunately, we ran out of time to really explore these ideas behind working out how to price your artwork. This video recommended by Sheryl Gwyther (SCBWI Qld ARA). ‘How to Price Illustration for Children’s Booksby American illustrator, Will Terry.
The graph from Will Terry's video
The graph from Will Terry’s video
What do you think about the ideas Terry talks about? We’d love to read your thoughts about it on this blog site.