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.
“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’.
Some 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.
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.
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)