Category Archives: SCBWI

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!

 

 

Susanne Gervay

susanne

Multi-talented author, Susanne Gervay OAM works tirelessly to support children’s authors and illustrators. Last week she was in overdrive facilitating the Sydney SCBWI  Conference.

Susanne does so much for the children’s writing community in so many ways. This is a thank you shout-out to her, Deb AbelaMarjorie Crosby-Fairall and all the others who worked hard to make the SCBWI conference such a success.

Susanne writes across genres and is best known for her award-winning I am Jack series. These stories have been life-changing for children across the world who, like central character Jack, must find ways to cope with bullies.

My favourite Susanne Gervay book is the beautiful, wise and gentle Elephants have Wings. Her powerful YA titles; The Cave (the story of young men on a survival camp) and Butterflies are both books about courage. More fabulous titles can be found on Susanne’s website.

Thank you, Susanne for all you do to support children’s literacy. You are an inspiration.

 

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.

New Book: The Shark Caller

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On a day when various media report the findings of Matt Waller that sharks really like ACDC , it seems timely to announce my own good news, that my YA manuscript The Shark Caller has been accepted for publication with Random House in 2016!

The idea for this story began many years ago (Dec 2001), during a family holiday on a dive resort island near Kavieng in Papua New Guinea. My sister, Karen and her partner, Owen worked in PNG and were friends with the owners. I’d been to other PNG islands and The Marovo Lagoon (Solomon Islands) with them. Karen and Owen introduced me to the joy of diving on stunning reefs and WW2 shipwrecks. I loved watching ocean creatures and I also became interested in Pacific Island culture…

The actual Shark Caller story began a few years after that trip, but the draft  went into the ‘revise one day’ drawer. That day didn’t arrive until 2012 when I began my PhD at UWA.

I was fortunate to receive a scholarship for a PhD based on creative writing. I needed to write a linked Creative Work of 70,000 words and a research exegesis on a linked topic (in my case its Anthropomorphism in Australian Children’s Literature). Because I wanted to write for YA readers (around 11-14), I negotiated writing 2 titles for the Creative Works.

Initially these two Creative Works were to be linked dog stories set in WA; one during WW2, the other in the 60s. As my research continued I thought that to show anthropomorphic range it would be really interesting to write from a different species POV and perhaps also in a different genre.

I remembered The Shark Caller, went to the ‘revise one day’ file and have been working on it ever since. Weeks, hours, month and years. The story is semi-fantasy and this genre is totally new to me – and very challenging.

The Shark Caller is due for publication in August 2016. There are many people to thank and they will be acknowledged in the book, including: my UWA supervisors Van Ikin and Tess Williams; my family for reading endless drafts over the past three years and SCBWI WA for inviting Zoe Walton to our Rottnest Retreat and thus enabling me to connect with the wonderful team at Random House.

di in tank

I will post another Shark Caller update early in the New Year…

Book Launch for Gabriel Evans

Annie's Snails coverBeing asked to launch a book is an honour, especially when the book is created by someone who has illustrated one of my books!

In 2013, Gabriel Evans brought Annie and her snails to life for me and he has since illustrated and written several more titles. Gabe’s website is a great place to find details and workshop tips: Gabriel’s website

Last night was the Albany launch of Gabriel’s new book,The Mice and the Shoemaker, a joyful reinterpretation of the fairy tale with sweet furry characters instead of elves. The book is a delight with intricate illustrations that will stimulate young imaginations.

The Albany Library was packed with fans and well-wishers and it was great to see so many young readers coming along to celebrate. Lockie from Paperbark Merchants was kept busy, but says he still has a few signed copies at the shop.

Clare Valley with her signed copy
Clare Valley with her signed copy

The book’s themes of kindness and generosity link to Christmas and best of all… The Mice and the Shoemaker has fun pop-ups. I love pop-ups!

Congratulations Gabriel and Five Mile Press on this beautiful book.

 

Jessica helping to launch Gabe's book

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:

IMG_1975  IMG_1984  ss

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

SCBWI Louise Schofield Award

awardThis week I was honoured to be awarded the biennial Louise Schofield Award for services to the WA writers and illustrators community. It’s a great honour for me as Louise was a dear friend and wonderful supporter of the arts in Western Australia. The award was presented by her beautiful daughter Zahra which made the event even more special. Here’s a picture of me with the award.