A couple more pictures from MARC Lit Fest at Eildon

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There Was an Old Sailor is always great fun to share with young students. It lends itself to a whole range of language games, sung and spoken. The book has been unavailable for some time, but is to be rereleased next year.

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Old Macdonald gets a nautical makeover to become Old Man Sailor and to feature all sorts of sea animals.

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The intrepid team at end of day assembly: me, Marjory Gardner, Corinne Fenton and Mark Wilson. I am drawing the name of the winner of a copy of Bird to Bird.

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Dam fine

Annually since the horrific bushfires in 2009, with a group of writers and illustrators I have been part of a Literary Festival in the region covered by the Merrijig MARC Van (formerly centred in Yea). It was the brainchild of MARC librarian, Libby Ahern and author/illustrator Mark Wilson and included Corinne Fenton, Diana Lawrenson (until last year), Marjory Gardner and me. The region is divided into sub-regions so we’d see different students each year on a three year rotation. This year, Eildon was both new entry to this cluster and host to the Lit Fest.

In previous years, the Lit Fest has generally been held in August and is often very very very cold. Yes, sometimes snowing. Often raining. Occasionly sunny, but always cold. Yesterday, the ninth festival, we were treated to sunshine and roses (actually, native flowers, but you get the idea).

Libby and her offsider, Lyn make sure this day runs like clockwork. No mean feat when there are multiple schools travelling in from distant areas. This year, we also met Nicole, maternity leave MARC librarian. With the host school parents group and teachers from all schools, we were right royally hosted. We conducted workshops with wonderful students who worked well together despite having travelled long distances and having just met each other.

At the end, there’s an assembly where we share the day and are presented with produce from each school/region.

It can feel like an early start (okay, it was an early start – 5.30 am for me) but it’s always a wonderful day. Thank you again to all the schools attending, to Eildon PS for hosting and to Libby, Lyn and Nicole for weaving your special magic.

Summer is coming

Summer is approaching. Apparently. Yesterday it felt closer than it does today, but that’s always the case in Melbourne, where I live. Variety. That’s what Melbournians love. Which is fortunate, because that’s what our weather offers.

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This week, I received my author copies of ‘The Puffin Book of Summer Stories’. It’s a compilation of 8 picture books, including my story with Tom Jellett,  ‘Seadog’. The other stories in this collection are: ‘Summer’ by June Factor and Alison Lester; Grandpa and Thomas by Pamela Allen; My Hippopotamus is on Our Caravan Roof Getting Sunburnt by Hazel Edwards and Deborah Niland; Eve and Elly by Mike Dumbleton and Laura Wood; Castles by Allan Baillie and Caroline Magerl; There’s a Sea in My Bedroom by Margaret Wild and Jane Tanner; and Max by Marc Martin.

While I was familiar with some of these stories, there were others new to me. Very happy to be keeping company with them all!

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.

Book Week: before, during and after

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‘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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