Category Archives: festivals

From Book to Play – Black Swan Theatre’s adaptation of ‘Lighthouse Girl’ and ‘Light Horse Boy’

I started this blog post a month ago – it’s been busy – and although late, I wanted to share my response to the wonderful Black Swan Theatre adaptation before my next post about Nanna’s Button Tin

On Saturday night (29/4/17) I sat in the darkness of the Albany Entertainment Centre and watched Hellie Turner’s wonderful adaptation of my books Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy. I laughed and cried and experienced a lovely shiver each time I heard my own words woven into those of Hellie’s.

black swan publicity

Hellie Turner is an award-winning WA playwright. It was an honour to entrust my stories to her creativity. Hellie says that writing a first draft was ‘a gruelling joy’. Gruelling in that she needed to be immersed into ‘the carnage of war’ and a joy because she was ‘reminded of the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.’  Hellie’s words resonated for me, as writing the books was also like that.

The Perth opening was as exciting as the Albany Premiere, albeit a little more formal, with Her Excellency The Governor and other dignitaries attending. Our seats were closer to the stage and offered an intimate viewpoint as events on stage unfolded.

This is the first time that I’ve watched the same play three times and so it was interesting to experience different audience reactions. Each night there was almost visceral connection between those on stage and those watching. And that connection varied. People laughed and cried at slightly different places. The shared breathing in and out held small differences which was fascinating. As an author you don’t get to witness that intimate connection with a reader.

I loved so many things about the stage adaptation of Lighthouse Girl/Boy; the actors each gave excellent performances, capturing small character nuances helped by effective and lovely costuming (Fay’s large overcoat was perfect) and Lawrie Cullen-Tait’s set was masterful. Her clever design enabled the audience to imagine the one space as a lighthouse-keeper’s cottage, an island outcrop and a pyramid (as well as other things). The design was influenced by Albany’s rocky landscape, the diamond leadlight shapes of the Breaksea Lighthouse while suggestive railings paid ‘homage to the countless dead’. Joe Lui’s evocative lighting added to the mood throughout the play and Brett Smith’s sound/music design was beautiful, particularly the final haunting rendition of The Girl I Left Behind.

Congratulations to Stuart Halusz for directing the talents of these creatives, and others not mentioned specifically, to make this production so special. Stuart was inspired by memorials in small towns across Australia and in particular an artefact found in a small museum in Beechworth near my home-town Albury.

Thank you to BST Publicist Irene Jarzabek for making both Opening Nights so special, my agent Clive Newman and to all at Black Swan Theatre and Fremantle Press who helped bring Lighthouse Girl to the stage. Finally, my heartfelt thanks to Garry Snowden, General Manager of the Albany Entertainment Centre, whose enthusiasm and ongoing belief (over many years) has brought this project to fruition.

Ring in the new…

Happy New Year !

After five years working on PhD research; my two novels (The Shark Caller, The Dog with Seven Names) and the accompanying exegesis, “Crafting Animals Characters in Fiction for Young Readers”, it’s a wonderful (and somewhat fizzy) feeling to be able to at last be free to give attention to other projects which have been circling in a holding pattern. The first being Light from a Broken Lantern (working title).

Between final drafts of the exegesis I’ve been researching this manuscript; the third (and final?) book in the Lighthouse/Horse Boy series. The story steps back to explore the early WW1 years from the perspective of English nurse, Rose before she meets Jim (Light Horse Boy). This early stage of shaping an historical story is exciting in that research reveals all sorts of potential leads, some of which will be followed and woven into the plotline while others slip quietly back into history. I’ve been keeping a scrapbook journal of progress and notes, so that I can revisit some of the quieter snippets in later drafts.buttons-proofs

In early June, another long-term project, Nanna’s Button Tin will be released by Walker Books Australia (and Candlewick for the U.S. market). Heather Potter’s beautiful illustrations hold lovely details which add multiple layers to the story. I can’t wait to share more details in a following post.

2017 also brings exciting events linking to Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, as well as festival and school bookings. Here are some details for those:

  • Feb: Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy will be included in an exhibition of Australian and New Zealand Children’s picture books called Anzac Stories Behind the Pages – held in Brisbane libraries.
  • March: I’ll be filling in for Warren Flynn while he takes leave from his position as English tutor at the Albany UWA campus. I’m looking forward to working with first year students on texts including Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Art Spiegelman’s Maus.
  • Also in March: Between the Lines Writer’s Festival is on again in Busselton. I’ll be talking about The Shark Caller as well as sharing ideas for creating animal characters.
    • April 21 and 22 : Time to frock up for Black Swan Theatre’s premiere of Lighthouse Girl in Albany. Playwright, Hellie Turner’s terrific adaptation also links to Light Horse Boy.black-swan
  • April – May:  Black Swan Theatre’s season of Lighthouse Girl continues in Perth.
  • June : Nanna’s Button Tin will be released by Walker Books Australia (and Candlewick).
  • August: For the first time in many years, Children’s Bookweek will be spent in Albany and the Great Southern, coinciding with the Albany exhibition of Anzac Stories Behind the Pages. As well as Albany and Denmark sessions, I’ll be travelling to smaller communities and schools across the Great Southern.
  • Repeat bookings are always lovely and in 2017 I’ll be revisiting some favourite schools and places including; St Marks, The Literature Centre, Woodthorpe and Margaret River Library. More about dates and details in following posts.

Until then, thank you for your interest in my books and this blog. I enjoy receiving feedback, so please feel free to send me a message. In 2017, I hope to post more regularly, let’s see how I go …

 

Ring out the old…

a 2016 has been a whirl, with so many highlights, as well as the challenge of balancing study, writing and work commitments.

With just a few tweaks left to finalise my PhD research (Crafting Animal Characters in Children’s Literature), I look forward to working on several new projects over summer and launching a new book in 2017, but first I’d like to say a heartfelt thank you to the schools, festivals and libraries that hosted me in 2016. Here are some of the highlights:

  • The inaugural 7 Rooms 7 Stories Writers Festival in Busselton was fabulous and I’m thrilled to have been invited back in 2017. Boasting a sparkly new name ‘Between the Lines’ this festival is sponsored by Dymocks Busselton and will be held in March at Mary MacKillop College.
  • A few weeks after 7 stories, and further south, I enjoyed mixing with local creators and interstate visitors at Great Southern Grammar’s Literature Festival.
  • Meeting readers during school visits and returning to  IMG_7022schools I’ve previously visited is especially rewarding. In the first half of the year that included St Stephen’s, St Mark’s and Lakeside SHS (Perth) as  well as St Josephs College in Albany…
  • Travelling to Wickham in the Pilbara, celebrating Granny Grommet and Me being part of Better Beginnings Recommended Reads for 4s & 5s was fun.
  • So was revisiting NSW’s Riverina. Thank you Albury and Lavington Libraries for organising school visits last May.
  • Each Winter brings the excitement and anticipation of the SCBWI WA Rottnest Retreat. This year was as fabulous as ever, spending time reading, writing and workshopping with friends as well as being inspired by visiting legends Erica Wagner and Craig Smith. Thanks to the SCBWI organisers…
  • July brought the long-anticipated launch of The Shark Caller, a YA novel that was ‘in-production’ for about ten years. Some books take longer than others! To celebrate there were two launches; one at the Albany Surf Club and the other at Perth’s fabulous Aquarium (AQWA). Both were wonderful evenings.

 

  • Between these two launches, my sister, Karen and I went on a road trip/writers tour of Esperance and the Goldfields region where I enjoyed meeting students at Esperance SHS, Esperance Anglican Community School and Kalgoorlie’s John Paul College.

The second half of the year is when things get busy for children’s authors and 2016 winners & r up2was no exception. The excitement began with Albany Library and Penguin Random House helping to organise a Shark Caller Haiku Competition. The entries were delightful and I met with the winners to enjoy a milkshake meeting.

  • Then it was Bookweek. Thank you Iona, Newman, Mel Maria, PLC, Southlands Albany and Brighton Primary. As well as Rio Tinto for organising a full day trip to Paraburdoo …
  • In September I was honoured to join Maria Gill, Aleesah Darlison and Neridah McMullin on a panel session at the Australia/NZ SCBWI Conference in Sydney and a follow-up event at The Children’s Bookshop in Beecroft with my panel buddies as well as Hazel Edwards , Penny Morrison, Emma Allen and John Heffernan. Thank you to the amazing Susanne Gervay for organising these events and the lovely Deb Abela for offering me her spare room 🙂
  • bookshopBeing in Sydney also gave me the opportunity to spend the day with Penguin Random House publicist, Zoe Bechara visiting local bookshops to talk about The Shark Caller.
  • After flying back to WA, it was into the car and straight on to Toodyay for a session at the Avon Valley Writers Festival.
  • Then in October (and November) it was time to celebrate Fremantle Press’s 40th birthday. What a fabulous milestone for an independent publisher!
  • In October I also enjoyed an amazing week in Bunbury and Busselton as part of The Literature Centre’s Talented Young Writers’ Programme facilitated by one of the Centre’s motivating Education Officers, Beck Blaxell. Each year the TYWP programme reaches hundreds of budding creators, giving them unique opportunities to develop their skills. It was a pleasure to work with these highly committed high school students.
  • One 2016 regret was having to cancel sessions at Bremer Bay Primary due to urgent family illness. Thankfully my Mum is now okay and I hope to visit Bremer early 2017.

light horse girlSo that was my 2016. Thank you again to all of the schools, festivals and libraries that hosted me this year. After the adventures above, my 2017 resolution was going to be to slow down and enjoy each moment…  however with some exciting events coming up, this might be a challenge!

More about that in the next post. In the meantime, I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

 

 

Booktrailers

Book trailers are a wonderful way for readers to peek into a book and gain a quick understanding of what the story is about so they can then decide whether to buy/borrow and read.

James Foley and Fremantle Press created a cracker clip for my Light Horse Boy, and there are multiple clips linked to Lighthouse Girl (details below), however as yet, there are none for my other books. And so, my resolution for March, is to make at least one more book trailer…

There are two specific Lighthouse Girl clips on Youtube. I love the trailer that was created by Year 4 students at Rosalie Primary School in 2010 – great that it’s still out there…

Then there is my own first attempt at creating a trailer. It’s quite factual and a bit basic as far as clips go, but it gives a nice view of King George Sound and Breaksea Island.

There are many, many YouTube clips linked to the Little Girl Giant, a character which was inspired by the book, Lighthouse Girl (more details on earlier posts). Amongst the terrific clips below, is one posted by Tracey Timmins, the granddaughter of Fay (the lighthouse girl). It’s a crackly but close-up view of Fay as the Little Girl Giant at PIAF 2015. There’s also one that I posted, and others by people I don’t know.

The first waking up

Walking

Waking up to Edith Piaf      DSC_0245

A lovely soundtrack version clip linked to Lighthouse Girl is by Caddy Cooper  Her clip features a song that she wrote, The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter which was inspired by Fay.

I hope that more clips of my books will appear soon. In the meantime, you might like to check out these clips by other WA authors and illustrators:

My Dead Bunny , The Last Viking Returns, Ned Kelly and the Green Sash,  A is For Australia, Zac and Mia,

This is just a sample, you will find more on most authors’ websites…

 

Perth Writers Festival

The annual Perth Writers Festival has been a delightful blur. As a regional author, the loveliest part of the weekend is catching up with friends and colleagues. SCBWI (the Society of Children’s Authors and Illustrators) held their breakfast on the lawn meeting on Sunday. I loved exchanging news with people I don’t see as often as I’d like to …

karen and dipg

with award winning illustrator Karen Blair

The Friday afternoon Inspired Learning Program was inspirational with two streams; Primary and Secondary each with three panel sessions focusing on different aspects of literacy. Speakers included many of our talented local authors and illustrators as well as interstate  luminaries; Sally Rippin, Andy Griffiths, Carole Wilkinson and Greg Dreise.

There was (unconfirmed) talk of this being an annual event. If so, and if you missed out this year, I’d recommend it for 2017. If you are a teacher I believe you also get PD points…

An interesting part of the 2016 program was the Young Creatives Blog. Albany girl, Katie McAllister was one of the chosen bloggers. We had a great catch-up over coffee and Katie has some exciting ideas for developing the arts in the Great Southern!

FullSizeRenderI enjoyed many sessions. Simon Winchester’s presentation was informative and at times deeply shocking as was Rosemary Sayer’s In Conversation with North Korean defector, Hyeonseo Lee. I haven’t heard her TED talk yet, but will soon… My favourite session was UK’s, Katherine Rundell talk about her book, The Wolf Wilder. After hearing Katherine read the beginning, I had to buy a copy. Her story is beautifully written, evocative and surprising. I love it. (Even the cover is gorgeous!)

The PIAF Writers Festival continues in Albany this evening. Congratulations and thank you to all the organisers.

The Importance of Festivals and Retreats

Festivals: Summer in WA (and probably elsewhere) is the time of festivals. Warm evenings and writer gatherings under the stars make for a lovely combination. Perth Writers Festival and its Albany offshoot are both a whirl of inspiration; hearing other authors talk, catching up with friends, exchanging ideas and the nervous energy of presenting sessions. This year was even more exciting for me because of my link to The Giants (see previous posts).

Elaine Forrestal and Cate Sutherland helping me with a presentation at Perth Writers Festival

Elaine Forrestal and Cate Sutherland helping me with a presentation at Perth Writers Festival

After the Perth and Albany festivals, I presented at the All Saints writers Festival with WA peers as well as Jessica Watson, Isobelle Carmody and Felice Arena. It was a great mix of people – large enough to provide plenty of interesting sessions but small enough to be friendly. Staying in the heart of Fremantle at The Esplanade was also inspiring.

Some of the presenters at All Saints 2015

Some of the presenters at All Saints 2015

Before these WA based festivals, I was fortunate to be on the program of the inaugural Book an Adventure Festival on Tasmania’s Bruny Island. Fellow WA creators, Norm Jorgensen and James Foley were the headline act and the festival had a Viking theme tied to their wonderful Last Viking books. There’s something very special about a festival devoted solely to Children’s Literature and the wild beauty (and weather) of Bruny Island made this an exciting few days. A highlight was meeting Tasmanian and east coast authors whose books I’d read, but who I hadn’t met.

Retreats: For me Easter signals the change of season. The air has a different feel and days are shorter. Circadian rhythms shift and after the busy and inspirational summer season of festivals it seems a natural time to retreat.

IMG_1950 I’m fortunate to have access to a beach shack with no Internet or phone range. It’s an ideal place to write and walk and think… So, with a self-inflicted deadline looming, it was time to leave town…

The retreat worked. I was able to think through and implement a major shift in my WW2 ‘dog’ novel, as well as add several thousand words (hurrah) to the manuscript.

I was also deeply inspired by the forest drive to get to our shack. A couple of months after the terrifying Northcliffe fires, the tree regeneration is so beautiful, it’s worth a drive south just for that. Here are some of the images:

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IMG_2004  IMG_1936    IMG_1951  ww

IMG_2001      FullSizeRender     IMG_1943

IMG_1997  fff  o

More Retreating: Not long also until my favourite retreat; the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) annual Rottnest Island Retreat. This getaway has inspired rich collaborations between illustrators and authors and is a time to combine the inspiration of a festival (catching up with peers, exchanging ideas, sharing a red wine) with the free time and space needed to create.

Festivals and Retreats – I love them both

Inspiring Giants – Final Day

hhThousands packed the city on Sunday morning to see the Giants wake up (approximately 1.4 million people). The Lilliputians received a rousing welcome as they arrived at Langley Park on a double-decker bus.

The program began with a ceremony commemorating the Anzac Centenary. After waking to the sound of a didgeridoo, our large guests watched Don Watson, the son of Fay, Breaksea Island lighthouse keeper’s daughter, lay a wreath with his son and daughter. w

Wreaths were also laid by Graham Edwards for RSLWA and by Premier Barnett.

My parents were keen to attend the commemoration and were ready to sit on the grass inside the fenced area, but at the last moment my sister found a bench beneath a shady tree; a perfect place to view the passing of the Giants and somewhere for my family and Don Watson’s to meet after the service. Peg and her daughters gave us handcrafted poppies which will be worn proudly on April 25th in Albany, Jindabyne and Albury.;

After lighting the eternal flame and a minute’s silence, horses and riders of 10th Light Horse led the Giants on a final lap of Langley Park. After the kerfuffle of banning horses from marching in Albany last November it was wonderful to see the Light Horse riders in pride of place.

e  hhorse  llll   pppp  FullSizeRender

The Diver’s big footsteps passed so close to us and we had a wonderful view of the Little Giant’s dance. I loved her bilum dilly bag. To make the Giants move, their Lilliputians fling themselves into the air like mediaeval bell ringers. DSC_0234

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DSC_0242After their final walk, Don’s daughter, Denise, my sister and I crowd-surfed trying to get another glimpse of the Giants before they sailed away. With so many people, all we could see was a speck of smoke as the Giants’ barge reached The Narrows.

We farewelled Fay’s descendants and my daughter Sophie, then drove to Fremantle for a swim and coffee. As we crossed the old Freo bridge I happened to glance left. More magic…  a giant-sized barge was docking at East Street Jetty and sitting proudly on top were the Giants, watching a flotilla of small craft and well-wishers sailing beside them.

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The odds of crossing the bridge at that exact time and glancing left must surely be slim. We made a quick turn, stopped and had a perfect final view of the Little Girl and her Diver uncle.       I love synchronicity and there have been many ‘spooky moments’ during the ten years since I first read about Fay signalling to the departing troops. lighthouse rough2-17 The ‘luck’ of seeing the Little Girl Giant one last time, reminds me of Roald Dahl‘s words:      “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

IMG_4893It was an inspiring and overwhelming weekend. A time of chatting with strangers in the street, of celebrating special moments with loved ones from nearby and from afar. A time of a big, brash city sharing a sense of community. The Giants touched the hearts of people of all ages. Thank you to the sponsors and organisers. I was honoured to be part of it.

 

‘Two Giants’ by Eden May.