Feedback

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As an author doing school visits, it’s difficult sometimes to judge how a session has been received. So it’s always lovely to receive feedback from the students. I love all these responses, but I’m particularly fond of this first one: ‘We sang and danced with Claire Saxby’.

It’s true. We did. Sing and dance that is. It was wonderful.

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I quite like my new blonde-haired, blue-eyed look here too.

It’s also true that I did display my drawing skills. I can report that these renderings of Emu are much more skilled than mine was. They were very encouraging too, that my drawing was a ‘good try’. Can’t ask much more than that.

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Book Week: before, during and after

Koala 400

‘Koala’ was an Honour Book in this year’s CBCA Awards, in the Eve Pownell category. What a thrill to be in Brisbane with illustrator Julie Vivas for the Award announcements, along with Linsay Knight and Steve Spargo from Walker Books Aus.  The CBCA, both state and national, work so hard to champion books and their creators. It was wonderful to join the Award celebration dinner with so many champions, and to hear speakers talk about influential books from their childhoods. Guest speaker, Lisa Shanahan, captivated us all with stories of shoes, eavesdropping and the wonders and dangers of the shopping mall.

There’s a balance to be maintained between ‘getting on with the job’ of making books and stopping to celebrate – it’s hard sometimes to work out where that balance should be. Some books find their place in the sun, while others take longer, or never find that spot at all. I have had two emails from parents recently looking for books that are no longer in print. Both reported that these books have become such household favourites that borrowing from the library is no longer enough. Fortunately in both cases, I had copies I could send.

Book Week is a loose term these days, as who can contain celebration of the book to a single week? Not me. There are only five school days in Book Week and it’s been a relief to see schools spreading the book love well beyond this pivotal week.

I am happy too that PNG has their own Book Week at the beginning of August, meaning that it is possible to eat cake and have it too. There may be footage around where I lead early years students in spirited renditions of ‘Baby Shark’ ‘Galumpf’ and other delights, but I couldn’t possibly confirm. In fact, it’s difficult not to sing and dance with students who are so happy to join in, and who pick up new songs so easily and generously share familiar ones. They are also creative writers. One exercise we gave the writing club as homework produced a very adept new story that incorporated traditional cultural, familiar fairy tale (fractured) and contemporary elements, all effortlessly intertwined. A writer to watch. I enjoyed a week of warmth in our ‘near-north neighbour, a country of such wonder. So grateful for the opportunity.

In addition, there have been school visits locally, regionally and interstate. I have also been editing drafts, trying to capture new ideas, drafting poems, taking photos, reviewing and working with a new local writing group at HB Libraries (waves at Rachael). And a tiny bit of quilting.

‘Koala’ is also short-listed for an Educational Excellence Award.

 

Ballarat and Willylitfest

I headed up the Western Highway this week for two days working in Ballarat. The first day was 3 sessions with the Young Writers, selected upper primary students from 6 Ballarat and regional schools. Sue Lawson and I conducted writing workshops and local teachers conducted sessions on technology and writing. It was a very rewarding day at the Soccer centre, and despite a little oops when the students accessed the wrong outdoor greenspace, everything went really well. The students saved some of their best questions for the wrap-up gathering.

The following day I started young, with a combined community and a fathers-led playgroup. The rest of the day was spent with Sebastopol Primary School students, exploring history, the high alps and discovering just how un-ergonomic my paper plane/bird was. But it did, with the assistance of some able pilots, achieve the aim of traversing the 300 years covered in Bird to Bird and facilitation discussion about what happened in which century. The art from the final group (Prep, Yr One and Yr Two) of Dingo and her habitat, was fabulous.

Home again, home again jiggedy-jig. After a day of birthday celebrations out of town, Sue Whiting and I joined the fun of the Williamstown Literary Festival. Sue gave away 5 fab tips for picture book writing, and then she and I interviewed each other about the impact of other jobs on our writing craft and career. The weather was perfect for staying indoors – in this case, the Williamstown Town Hall, where all manner of sessions explored the myriad ways of story.

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Bird to Bird and Bird

On Saturday ‘Bird to Bird’ visited Newport Libraries for a launch/welcome event. Michael Lang, librarian was on hand to host. It was Michael who first seeded the idea for this book and it was great to be able to share it with him and his lovely family. I talked a little about how this story developed then after a reading, it was over to the children to make and decorate their own ‘birds’.

Once they were done, it was time to see how far their birds would travel. Markers on the floor indicated the passage of the more than 300 years covered in ‘Bird to Bird’. The winning bird travelled 275 years. Impressive. No one made it into the future, but perhaps that’s appropriate!

Michael and family had themed their outfits to ‘Bird to Bird’ – though one family member chose an ancient cousin in the dinosaur. Spectacular. But one young man starred with his bird outfit. Well played, young sir!

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CBCA Vic Conference Geelong

I’m becoming familiar with the freeway to Geelong, travelling there at least weekly these days. So although it was early, my car knew the way on Saturday as we travelled to the CBCA Vic Conference, held at Deakin Uni on the bay. It’s a great venue, rebuilt to incorporate old woolstores. It’s modern and industrial all at once and a great place for a conference.

I was lucky enough to facilitate a session called ‘Reading Pictures’ with Ann James, Anna Walker and Nicki Greenberg. As a writer who doesn’t illustrate, I am fascinated by those who illustrate their own work and those who illustrate the work of others. So I had no problem gathering questions. I also asked my panel what questions they would like me to ask. I could have kept chatting to them for hours, trying to understand how they fill the spaces between the words and how they choose medium and style. But there were other sessions to be getting on with so it had to end.

I volunteered to help with art workshops in the afternoon too, so was able to hear a little more about some of the way these skilled and talented people work. The three illustrators above were joined by James Foley in running concurrent mini workskhops.

And because that’s not enough in one day, friend and colleague Sue Lawson and I also launched our new books, with the help of the wonderful Scot Gardner. (I bought his new novel Changing Gear on Sat and by Sunday night had finished it. LOVE his work). Sue co-wrote ‘Nganga‘ with Aunty Fay Muir (who unfortunately wasn’t well enough to join us). It’s a collection of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander words, their origins, pronunciations and meanings. It’s a fabulous book and hopefully will find it’s way into every classroom in the country. I shared ‘Bird to Bird’. Both these books are published by the wonderful Black Dog Books and Maryanne Ballantyne. Bird to Bird is illustrated by Wayne Harris. We were also assisted by Steve Spargo, Walker Books Education guru and all round good guy. Thanks to CBCA for letting us share our projects.

And then we all went to dinner in the function room of the new Geelong Library. Fabulous space, delicious dinner, good company, with a selection of authors and illustrators revealing a favourite children’s book from their childhood.

May Day

No Maypoles in sight, but plenty of running around.

Okay, so that may have been in my gym class in ever diminishing circles, but running was done, around and on the spot.

Bit like life really (she said waxing philosophical) … nah that’s it. There have been circles, and sprints, and slow downs.

We lost our lovely dog recently, the inspiration for Seadog. So there is sadness, but also huge troves of wonderful memories. Funny how the door scratches, killer pffts and nighttime possum chases seem to fade behind the loving welcomes, long walks and other joys of dogdom.

In happier news, both Bird to Bird and Dingo are finding people who enjoy them. I did a welcome to Dingo at the Altona Library during the holidays. We talked about Dingoes, completed a quiz and decorated Dingo images. We may also have howled loud enough to earn a rebuke from nearby library patrons, but the kids loved it. I met – remet – Ravi, who I’d met last at an event for Koala. He even wore a Koala pendant (he’s a huge fan of koalas). Ravi brought his lovely sister and mum with him.

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Bird to Bird will be sharing World Environment Day at Newport Library on 9 June with the librarian who gifted me his anecdote about pulling down a lean-to, and germinated the idea for Bird to Bird. Details will be on the Hobsons Bay Library website shortly.

 

I haven’t been idle …

I thought the start of the year was supposed to be a gentle slope, building slowly and calmly to the middle … you know what I mean.

Bird to Bird, illustrated by Wayne Harris (Black Dog Books) was released on 1 March and there were a few early sightings even before that. After a glitch with colours late last year, it is so beautiful, some pages almost glow with light. I’ve taken it to schools and workshops focus on poetry, history, sustainablility and how to create images when there are so few words.

Bird to Bird was followed hotly by Dingo, also racing ahead of the official 1 April release date. Dingo is illustrated by Tannya Harricks, published by Walker Books Australia. The artwork is painterly and brings to life the light of the alpine forest.

First festival of the year was at Tucker Road Primary School, always a well organised day with enthusiastic students and teachers.

I had a week in Tasmania, talking to homeschoolers, school groups, history groups, and the Tasmanian Quilting Guild. A whirlwind week that started and ended with a ferry trip across Bass Strait. Fortunately neither crossing was too wild, though I was glad of stair rails.

And if that hasn’t been enough of a start to the year, Koala (ill Julie Vivas pub Walker Books Australia) is a CBCA Eve Pownall shortlisted book for 2018. That means a sticker! Love a sticker. It is very excitng to be shortlisted in these most influential Australian book awards. Hopefully, it means Koala travels further and meets more readers.

Friend and colleague, Sue Whiting has been in Melbourne sharing her wonderful new mid-grade novel, Missing – a gripping mystery set in Aus and Panama. We called into Dymocks in Melbourne city and signed lots of copies of our books (thanks Emma). We may also have had a chat or two or three.

What’s next?

Back to the writing. Several projects need tweaking, reworking, extending, shortening, sharpening until they sing. Also hoping for some empty time into which new ideas can ferment.