‘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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SCBWI Queensland’s Gold Coast meet a great success

Inaugural SCBWI Queensland Gold Coast Regional Meeting 

Report: Sheryl Gwyther, SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor

Another SCBWI Queensland regional members’ meeting was held on Saturday 24th August – time time, at Tallebudgera Valley on the Gold Coast. It was splendid to see authors and illustrators traveling from as far away as north of Brisbane to south of the Queensland/NSW’s border.

Twenty-five writers, illustrators and librarians, SCBWI members and non-members talked, listened, shared morning tea, lunch and then afternoon tea, networked, shared recent successes and other news, and generally had an excellent time at the home of Angela Sunde, SCBWI support team member.gold coast gig9Our guest speaker, Judith Rossell presented a powerpoint of her work, especially her recently published picture book, Oliver.judith r 2 Of great interest was her journal of drawings she worked on at her May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Residency in Brisbane. The story is set in Victorian England and her pen and ink drawings are sublime.

SCBWI Assistant Regional Advisor, Sheryl Gwyther also presented a slide show, Dinosaurs, Research and Writing … turning a trip through time into a novel, talking about the journey of her children’s novel, Secrets of Eromangasheryl_presentationThank you to Angela Sunde and husband, Rob Brown for their generous hospitality, and to Judith Rossell who generously donated her fee back to SCBWI Qld. And thank you to our wonderful members who once again proved that they are the best bunch of people this side of the Black Stump. 🙂

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NEXT SCBWI Qld MEETING: Gold Coast area


Beautiful one day, perfect the next

Beautiful one day, perfect the next

Everyone is welcome to attend our meeting at the Gold Coast

  • 2nd Presentation: Sheryl Gwyther, author … DINOSAUR BONES & other BITS & PIECES, the search for a story

It’s also the chance to catch up with friends, network and meet new people who share the same passion.

WHEN:  Saturday, August 24th 10.30am – 3.00pm

WHERE:  Burleigh area. Contact Angela Sunde (our Gold Coast SCBWI correspondent) at angelasunde @ live.com.au for the meeting’s address

Tea and coffee/morning tea will be provided but BRING some LUNCH TO SHARE

RSVP ESSENTIAL  –   22nd August  queensland@scbwiaustralianz.com

COST:    SCBWI members  $5        Non-members $10


Better late than never! Here’s a guest post from SCBWI West’s Reporter-at-Large and Regional Advisor, Frané Lessac, illustrator, and Susanne Gervay, SCBWI Australia/NZ RA and author. Thank you, FranéSCBWI_2013_NY_blog headerHave to admit, I was a wee bit anxious leaving an Australian summer for sub zero temperatures of the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York. I need not have worried. The Conference hotel was conveniently located smack bang above Grand Central Station with gazillions of restaurants, shops and public transport right downstairs.

The bonus of attending SCBWI New York is that many of the top US children’s book editors, agents, publishers and art directors get involved. With 999 attendees, 17 countries represented, and 45 US states, it was a constant thrill in the elevators to find out who was from where. When they realized WA wasn’t an abbreviation for the state of Washington, West Australia always got the biggest wow. 🙂 new-york-new-york_Frane-

Meg Rosoff gave the first keynote entitled “So When Are You Going to Write a Real Book, You Know, For Adults?” She was hysterical when she translated that into a list of people she wanted to punch in the face for asking. Most celebrity authors were targets. Jay Leno’s book, IF ROAST BEEF COULD FLY had a roasting for sure.

I must have heard Shaun Tan speak over a dozen times. He never ceases to amaze me. Every time his talk is different – even if he’s talking about the same piece of art. He received a standing ovation, not only from me, but by the other 998 attendees too!

Another keynote was by NY Times bestselling mother and daughter writing team, Julie Andrews and Emma Walton. Although their presentation was heavily scripted, it was a highlight seeing Mary Poppins in person.

Mo Willems gave the closing keynote – inspiration and infotainment at its best.

A major US children’s bookseller had some good news to share. In her opinion: The library and school markets are healthy. Schools have money to buy books, although mostly paperbacks. They’re looking for short stories, fairy tales and folktales relating to the curriculum, and narrative non-fiction. Also the go: action packed novels, bullying, movie tie-ins, war, survival and diversity.

There are funds for author school visits with Skype visits on the increase. Bookstores are coming back and the balance is changing. In the future, stores may be used as showrooms, as people buy an ebook after viewing the print version. The balance will never be equal again, but children still want a book to hug.

Frane in America1

Frané keeping company with pumpkins.

If anyone would like more information about attending the New York or Los Angeles SCBWI Conferences, please feel free to contact Frané Lessac.

Conference blog link: http://scbwiconference.blogspot.com.au/

1001 ways to ignite young imaginations

Countless parents, teaches and children’s authors know the secret to finding 1001 ways to ignite young imaginations – read aloud and tell stories to children.

Today’s guest post is from SCBWI Queensland member, Dimity Powell. Dimity is the author of children’s stories. Her qualifications for this role include Professional Children’s Writing Courses, Motherhood, Director of Marketing in the Leisure, Boating and Hospitality Industries and travelling around the world a couple of times. Dimity’s ‘fond of the real world but especially love imaginary ones.’ For her, to Read, Write and Inspire rank as high as wining and dining. Take it away, Dimity!

Dimity Powell, author

Dimity Powell, author

One thing that I am emphatically unashamed to promote out loud and that I believe is the critical essence of our existence as writers and illustrators for children is the art of storytelling. Stories exist in many forms: physically in dance, visually in colour or via the written word, through music and even as bumps and raised dots. But perhaps, for me, one of the most joyous ways to be part of a story is to hear it being read – out loud – by another human being. And I know quite a few people under the age of 10 who agree with me.

Read to My Child is an exciting new web site for kids and their carers and parents created by Jasmine Berry. Jasmine developed this site after identifying the unfathomable capacity under-five year olds have for hearing the same story being read to them again and again. Being time-poor is a modern day dilemma for many working parents and electronic babysitting is not the most nurturing or inspired of solutions. This site combines the convenience of self-help with the lovely organic involvement of hearing and seeing a real person, read a real book with real interaction.

The collection of books featured are stories that many young children will adore; classics from the likes of Jackie French, Hazel Edwards and Janeen Brian. The site in no way replaces parents reading to their children, which is a precious experience for parent and child alike, but rather, it is another option at those times when something just needs to get done (like ironing the school uniforms and making the dinner!).

Read to My Child offers an alternative to putting on another kids show on TV. If your child particularly enjoys some of these stories, you can purchase them for their next birthday or Christmas straight from the site. Stories are selected to be both educational and absorbing for children.

Jasmine is always keen to expand the selection of books she can share with others, so if you are an author who wishes to contribute one of your books to be read on the site please contact Jasmine at: contact@readtomychild.com.au


Here’s Dimity’s web page for kids. Kool Kidz Stuff

LIFE AFTER WRITING … Is there such a thing or do old writers simply write themselves off?

Nette Hilton

Nette Hilton

SCBWI Qld is thrilled to welcome our guest blogger this week – author, Nette Hilton. Nette’s work includes the brilliant, edge-of-seat and beautifully written YA novel, The Innocents.

Thoughts of a baby-boomer who was a child bride (twice) and is still saving up for when she gets old.

This isn’t something I’d pondered intentionally. Stuff happens and then you die. Not very philosophical but it was working for me. Then my mate, Jo (Horniman) – a woman with whom I

  • shared angst and mangled manuscripts
  • more angst and mayhem when we were overlooked by the CBC (how could that happen?)
  • then smirking delight when the Premier and the Prime Minister found us (how good was that!)

Then my mate (who had shared coffee and cakes and obscure blue-grass bands – not the members, only their music, in all sorts of boonie based coffee shops) said she’d quit! No more writing, she said. And with a girlish giggle went on to declare that there was, in fact, life after writing.

I mean, we’d been handmaidens for Paul Jennings. Mature hand-maidens, given, but at the end of a grueling tour and late nights cavorting with press agents, festival organizers and the entourage we were probably all he could have handled. As it was, I nearly killed him in my little sports car as we roared over a hill on our way to Lismore – heady days!

So. Joanne Horniman. A diva of written delight. Quit! I felt like I was out there alone holding the aged writer’s banner aloft. A poor withered thing (the banner, not me) that dangled sadly in a fading breeze. The Innocents_Final Cover.inddDo we just fall out of line like weary soldiers too tired to keep marching? Is there no-one there to cheer us on? Even my agent said that a publication date had been offered, five years hence, and how old are we gonna be then? Is there no-one to organize the gold-watch – or pen, which would be more appropriate given that writers and illustrators have poor connections to time and motion – but is there no-one?

It would seem not. Jo, I must say when I gasped and clutched my fevered brow, did suggest that she might do it again – when the right book called, when the right light at the end of that dark tunnel called the duration of writing a manuscript beckoned, call it a sabbatical – and I breathed a little easier.

But not for long.

What was I going to do with my life from here to the ever-after. Simply be content to live happily-ever? My god, the thought was untenable. What about the hours of fumbling around with mind-maps and charts and midnight flashes of genius that sent you hurtling – or fumbling for the light switch in another room because spouses of writers tend to get a little bit grumpy if you constantly wake them – to grab that thought and write it down. What about the dreams? How many times have I woken to find my dream scribbled in sleep-hieroglyphics to discover that, in broad daylight with a thinking brain attached, they were a just a wee bit scrambled and the content did seem to suffer somewhat. The last one was a goody though… if only I could remember it and where I put the paper. I did share it with a kid in a class in Tallebudgera so I can track him down if I need it.

Which I do.

Dreams that good deserve to be novelised. It’ll probably go on to be a Booker. Speaking of which, I saw the wonderful, fabulous, Vernon God Little by D.C.B. Pierre on a $2.50 table in Sam’s Warehouse.

I clutched that book. I felt its terrible grey furry-papered pages and the awful little font that they’d crammed across each line minimizing the paper they’d need to print his glorious words. Shame! It didn’t faze me, though. No. Not for a second.

The next novel is already in its specially-labelled, Nette’s Planner for the next major masterpiece, book ready to go. The next picture book is already in its own special folder, ready to go. Actually, there’s a couple of novels in their own books, and at least five picture books and god-knows-how-many drawings and etchings and collections of appropriate materials and I live in fear of fading before the ideas do.

The stampede of new technology rides out with the ferocity of the Four Horsemen. It is exciting and mind-blowing and carries a language which changes and morphs before there’s time to learn it. As does the technology.

I mean, back to Sam’s. There I was, queued up with my new copy of Vernon et al and my Penguin Shower-Radio (my grandson’s eighteenth – I managed to get sunglasses to match – everyone should have a writer in the family if only to be truly amazed at what they can dream-up for a birthday present – a few days/months late usually) – and, right beside me on the chuck-out table was a digital voice recorder for the worldly sum of $10. Now, to all the new technophobes, this is a worthless object already past its use by date but for me… the ease, the possibility of such ease was outstanding. I mean, have you ever tried fumbling a mini-tape deck together in a traffic snarl to record the next line of the book and then discover that you’ve pressed the wrong button. #**!!

Oh, I ramble but there’s a lot there to ramble around.

Back to the future.

What will happen to me? Will I be the funny old thing in cabin 4 who likes a drink or two and gets a bit muddled in the midst of panel discussions? Will I drool onto my cross-buttoned blouse as I nod off when surrounded by subjects like the place of literature in an app and how much is it worth when matched to Barbie and The New Dancing Shoes.

Truly. What do I know?

I know that mastering writing is like catching water. I know that rejected writing is as wounding to your soul as it is to your pride and, as they say, if it doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger. And more determined.

I believe that story-telling and creating narrative are the most precious gifts that can be given and, like Jo, there’s a time to discover what else is out there beyond writing. A time to simply switch off – if you can.

I can’t.

Maybe it’s not time for me yet – even though I begin to feel the pull of different writing master…

So I guess, given a choice, I’ll just continue to write myself off.