I’ve just come across a fascinating YouTube clip directed and produced by Dennis O’Rourke, which explores some of the modern issues confronting traditional customary practise in shark-calling villages of New Ireland Province (PNG).
It goes for 50 minutes but is well worth watching.
Yesterday I was fortunate to return to Breaksea Island, long ago home of ‘lighthouse girl’ Fay Catherine Howe. The weather was perfect. After circling the island, Rainer our pilot landed on the helicopter pad just below the lighthouse.
We circled the ruins of the original lighthouse then walked down the hill to visit the old cottages. Each time I visit I have a strong sense of Fay in the furthest keeper’s cottage, particularly in one of the front rooms.
Just before this visit there’d been robust discussion, accompanied by some impressive forensic laptop studies of several old photos at the Albany History Collection. We were looking at a photograph of a young woman outside this furthest cottage. I’d always hoped it was Fay, but had been told it was an earlier keeper’s wife, however… it now seems it may actually be Fay. More on that in a later post. The young woman is standing by the cottage steps (below), with two donkeys, dogs and goats.
A highlight of the trip was hiking down the old zigzag donkey track to the jetty. I hadn’t been to the jetty since the original research trip over ten years ago, long before there was the helicopter option. There have been a few changes; with a safety cage around the swinging boat access ladder, but otherwise it all looked similar.
Part of the zigzag track
Looking back to Albany
On the way to the jetty
It was great to see Elephant Rock again as that appears in the story.
Our allocated island time whizzed past and soon it was time to climb back into the chopper for the short trip back to the mainland. I’m already looking forward to next time.
The West Australian Young Readers WAYRBA have announced their three shortlists and I’m thrilled that The Shark Calleris included amongst the 16 titles in the 2016 Older Readers’ category. I’m in good company; the list features six international books, nine from Australia and one fellow West Australian title; Norm Jorgensen’s fun The Smuggler’s Curse. There are also lists for Younger Readers and Picture Books with terrific Australian titles on both.
Being shortlisted for a children’s choice award is a wonderful thing. Committed teachers and librarians make up many judging panels, but when the power to choose is handed over to kids it makes being selected such an honour. Young readers make honest critics. As part of the judging process they’re asked to read titles on the lists and evaluate them as ‘terrific’, ‘good’, ‘okay’ or ‘awful.’ Fingers crossed that my ‘Shark’ doesn’t receive too many of the latter!
For WA creators there are still challenges involved in bringing a book to the attention of readers – there are so many other great books from interstate and overseas. The annual WAYRBA lists help ensure that Australian settings such as ‘Abalone Cove’ (Greens Pool) and Broome, which appear in The Shark Caller, reach a wider readership. Thank you to the organising committee for their hard work behind the scenes and teachers, please help your students access the WAYRBA titles, encourage them to vote – and to be gentle with the ‘awful’ slips…
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 schools 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 was 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 …
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.
So 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!
Black Swan Theatre’s production of ‘Lighthouse Girl’ will open in Albany in April for three shows before a two-week season in Perth. Hellie Turner’s play captures the essence of both Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boyand I can’t wait to see Fay’s story come to life on stage. Fay will be played by Daisy Coyle.
More details appeared in Saturday’s West Australian – between Green Day and Jerry Seinfield 😉 and can also be found on Black Swan Theatre’s website. Hope to see you at one of the shows…
Susanne does so much for the children’s writing community in so many ways. This is a thank you shout-out to her, Deb Abela, Marjorie 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 Jackseries. 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 Butterfliesare 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.
Thank you to all the wonderful students and teachers who hosted me for Bookweek. With schools ranging from inner-city Perth to Tom Price and Paraburdoo, this year’s theme certainly resonated with my travels …
‘Australia! Story Country’ was a fun theme and the 2016 displays seemed even better than usual. Granny Grommet and Me, Lighthouse Girl and The Kid whose Mum Kept Possums in her Bra worked particularly well with the Aussie theme.
Here are some of my favourite Bookweek photos.
Thanks again, Newman College, Mel Maria Catholic Primary, Paraburdoo Kindies, Tom Price Year 7, Presbyterian Ladies College and IONA Presentation College, Albany’s Australian Christian College (and next week Brighton Primary).