‘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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To enter writing competitions or not? That is the question….

Another post from Taryn Bashford, SCBWI Qld member.

Do you face this dilemma? Trying to get novels published and spending too much spare time wondering if one should enter competitions?  Is this a useful way to spend one’s writing time or is it a hurdle to distract from writing a new novel? Another delaying tactic? 

I’m aware how writers can get lost and take refuge in research for their books and delay actually writing the novel itself.  Yet everyone says if you win a competition it’s great to add to your CV; yet it distracts me from writing my novel – and so the vicious circle develops.

Having recently come to my own conclusion about this question, I thought I’d share it with you. 

I decided to enter a few competitions and so spent some time letting my mind wander and hover over new story ideas and concepts, new characters and their friends, new beginnings and new endings. It became a great way to exercise the imagination, to flex that writing muscle in the brain and free my mind to write something that wasn’t going to become a year-long project. I was able to experiment, play with tenses, with dialogue and different endings without the worry that if I did a re-write, there were 30,000 words or more to go through. This ability to freely experiment was of benefit to me as I have learnt which styles work for me. 

Taryn Bashford

The most surprising benefit, though, was it lead to a concept for my next novel. As I was writing and formulating the characters and plot for a 4,000 word short story competition, my mind grabbed the idea and ran away with it. I couldn’t stop it flying off on different tangents, collecting new chapters, new characters, new tension and climaxing moments and suddenly I had a whole YA novel in my head itching to be written.

 So I entered the competition but whilst I await the results I have a whole new novel to write.