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Category Archives: creative writing workshops
The Untangled Tales website is the best of the Summer Reading sites. Going over the site, was like being in one of the famous ‘But WAIT, there’s more!’ advertisements! At every click of the mouse, there was more and all of it FREE! There is something here for children of all ages [preschool, primary, secondary], for their parents, teachers and librarians. The site is gorgeous [literally] to look at, easy to navigate, entertaining in content and layout and engagingly informative!
The Celebrity Corner questions brought out the creative quirkiness of authors and illustrators in a very entertaining way and featured a very diverse group of creatives!
The Untangled Tales game is a blast – great fun! It challenges memory and prods research capabilities and informs about other cultures, their customs and attitudes as reflected in their fairytales and legends.
Check out the side tabs and their drop down menus – there is heaps and heaps of fun activity, fantastic tales, playful poetry and fanciful stories, arty opportunities, creative competitions in writing and art activities and painless learning along the way!!
I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s Summer Reading Club. I’m in Celebrity Corner with Kerry Brown, Christian Bocquee [with whom I am collaborating in our own Fractured Fairytales collection], Terry Denton, Lucia Masciullo and numbers of other wonderfully creative folk!
Andrea has gotten it spectacularly right! The CEO of Tell Me a Story launched 10 new titles on 30th June, this year. I was privileged to be guest speaker at an event that had even seasoned politicians, Ian Rickuss, MP Lockyer, and Steve Jones, Mayor, Lockyer Valley Regional Council, commenting on attendance numbers!
Assembled authors, illustrators and guest panelists with Andrea Kwast
Muza Ulasowski [Panelist] and Guest Speaker, J.R.Poulter
The audience was rapt. I have seldom been at a publishing event where everyone’s eyes shone! Andrea has the devoted support of her very wide community of readers and growing. She also has the good fortune to have a very devoted group of assistants in administrator, Rel, and local photographer and budding author herself, Jenni Smith.
Research and innovation, preparedness to think out of the box, are hallmarks of Andrea and her team. She believes stories are lurking everywhere and it just takes the right determination, editing and dedication to bring them out. That she is succeeding over and above expetaction is more than demonstrated by the sellout and reprint, within the first few weeks since the launch, of no fewer than 3 titles!
Hearty Congratulations Andrea and Team and to all her authors – keep writing!
Can’t remember when I’ve had so much creative fun with such a fantastic group of multitalented folk! 13th to 16th January we arrived in from all over – WA, NT, Vic and ‘locals’ Christian and self. We were housed in the Gatton Motel, a leg stretch away from the main venue, not that we needed to walk. We were chauffeur driven everywhere by local Minibus/taxi owner Sue.
This is the door to my room, the non-existent No. 13, on 13th January, a Friday, how lucky can you get! Interesting how many places omit room 13, floor 13 etc etc. Do folk really think we are so bound by superstition and hangovers from the dark ages that we will eschew a room or a whole floor just because of a place in a numeric sequence? Evidently it is so.
Craig and I had joint sessions with small groups of ardent attendees in a series of workshops. All interacted with us freely and kept us on our toes with their questions.
We started with a draft of my story about the cow that swam the Brisbane river during the January 2011 floods. It was over 700 words [too long for a picture book] but gave the background Craig needed to locate the story and characterise the little cow. This is a link to a newspaper article about her amazing survival swim.
It was a revelation and a privilege to work with Craig one on one as he sketched out his visual thoughts on the story with me reading excerpts and the audience interspersing with comments. I cut swathes from the text as Craig’s expert hand created wonderful image after image.
This is a glimpse of the creation process –
- A view of the Brisbane Rive in flood provided by Kim Byron from her newspaper collection on the event.
- Craig working on a charcoal image of the little cow. He has a strong feel for movement and can create a whole range of emotions with sometimes the barely there addition of a line or a smudge.
I love the way illustrators climb into the visual universe of a story. Text says a family is sitting in a kitchen. The illustrator will look over their shoulders, look out the window, go out into the next room, climb the stairs to the attic or down to the yard and see where the house is located in a community.
[more coming… I just need to sleep now…]
The Lockyer is a fascinating and fruitful area and I don’t mean just crops. They grow talent there. This was very evident at the Lockyer Arts Festival where I was honoured to be a presenter recently. All the arts were represented.
The Nolan family alone included an artist, a potter and a jeweler. KCMinis beautiful miniature 3D creations using recycled materials and Sheryl Lothian’s bread jewelry revived old arts that are ‘new’ again. Couture, millinery, original art for t-shirts, art for the garden, art on stone, art with icing, quilting, aboriginal art, lapidary work, woodwork and culinary arts were just some of the wide and wonderful variety of artistic skills displayed.
Music was high on the agenda with the Battle of the Bands resulting in a win for country singer, Reanna Leschke, and her band [Open] and runners up, Third Eye Alchemy. In the under 18 division, the very talented classical guitar trio, Un Dia Antes wowed with their original work. Winners joined the inimitable Marcia Hines as supporting acts in a first rate live concert.
The writers and poets of the Lockyer had their work displayed by local poet and editor, Andrea Kwast. Andrea’s bookshop is the Lockyer’s writing hub!
Presenters for the Festival, whose theme was focussed on ‘resilience’, came from Western Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory and Brisbane, led workshops on writing a novel, memoir writing, non fiction writing with an emphasis on culinary arts. Workshops on writing children’s books, illustrating picture books, cartooning and animation and landscape painting drew presenters from Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane. This will be discussed in more detail in another blog.
My own photo images from the Festival, focussing on the talents of the Lockyerites themselves, are reproduced below.
“Books Are Fun”
Children’s Book Festival 2011, Family Day 3rd April 2011, 10.00am to 4.00pm
State Library of Victoria and the Wheeler Centre
This free programme of ‘events’ over the Sunday was hugely popular. It was described as “the biggest celebration of children’s books that Melbourne has ever seen”. Families and children’s book lovers crammed into venues to hear a wonderful assemblage of Australia’s leading authors and illustrators. They queued for meter after meter to meet authors and illustrators and have their load of precious books signed. They waited for hours to be able to get into workshops, storytelling and performances.
The ‘Family Day’ was the brainchild of the State Library of Victoria and the Wheeler Centre who held, coordinated and promoted the various sessions. Authors and illustrators were fully utilised, most doing at least two events on the programme. [http://wheelercentre.com/static/files/assets/087ddc27/CBW_Childrensbooks_A4programme-DR7.pdf ]
Some notes from the day:
John Nicholson/Roland Harvey interview with SLV staffer
John Nicholson (architect) – author and illustrator
John started writing fiction. His publisher suggested he write non-fiction.
Working with A&U – John has an idea and approaches them with it or they have an idea and approach John. At one stage they seemed to take a turn about with this process. He now just develops ‘the ideas I want to’. He prefers to work alone now.
John agreed with Roland, in creating an authentic “Sense of place” it was important, if at all possible, to do the research for the text and images on location.
Roland Harvey (architect) author and illustrator
History was something that always fascinated him and which initially led him to writing and illustrating books.
Family activities have inspired some of his books – “At the Beach” and ‘To the Top End”. “You need to know, to “feel” the place you are writing about. To research you should “be there to be really successful”. Otherwise ther is the internet but Roland considered this sort of research “much harder” in trying to create a real sense of ‘place’.
He collaborates a lot. His latest book is a collaboration with Mem Fox which was launched at the Family Day. He doesn’t publish any more and mainly works with Penguin and A&U. He liked the freedom he had as publisher. He surrounded himself with experts in each area. He found his best books were done “against the advice of others”. It was risky but he LOVED the freedom to do what he was passionate about.
His next project is another picture book based on family travels. He is also avidly exploring Apps and is excited about this development in children’s books.
Terry Denton/Chris Morpeth interview with SLV staffer
Terry Denton author/illustrator
The place where I like to write/draw:
I have a studio in my backyard. It is quiet, no distractions.
“Gasp” is my favourite of my creations.
Denton and Andy Griffith go away for a week together when working on a new joint project to ‘get it started’.
Chris Morpeth (former teacher) author
The place where I like to write:
In a café over coffee – there are no distractions. At home, I get distracted with Nintendo and Mario. I make my stories up as I go along. I think the more you do the better you get.
Terry & Chris agreed re book writing/creation, “If it is too organised, it doesn’t work!”
Leigh Hobbs interview with SLV staffer
Leigh Hobbs (former teacher) author/interviewer
His first version of ‘Old Tom’ was rejected. This version had an angrier look and smoked a cigar. The next version, accepted, was more humorous and sly. Leigh draws the pictures for his books first as he has his ‘run of ideas’. Then he ”works“ to finish the book. He felt he wrote books of the sort he liked a a kid. He loved Enid Blyton, Treasure Island.
A lesson he learnt early, was that children want “Mums” kept within certain parameters, e.g. Old Tom’s ‘Mum’, Angela Throgmorton.
Peter Taylor, the multi-talented SCWBI Coordinator , Queensland chapter, and the Book Safari Coordinator, the inimitable Jenny Stubbs roped me in to help with the Book Safari tents at Woodlands. This was a first for me and proved to be an excellent networking and promotional activity. Opportunity abounded to talk to lots of teachers, students and other writers, illustrators, publishers and editors. In other words it was reading, hearing, viewing and doing STORIES, pretty much non stop!
Links: Another great blog on the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature –
Here is a pictorial overview from the days I was there – 2nd, 3rd and 5th of September. PHOTOGRAPHS: 1-3 Woodlands;
4-6 Editors, Presenters, Writers and more…
7-9 Illustrators and workshops…
10-13 The nomads at their tents…
14 & 15 Jenny Stubbs and the Coordinating Team outside the Jacaranda Room; MS Readathon Tent
16 – 19 The people who keep the writers and illustrators viable – the amazing folk of the BOOK GARDEN!
Words are something I play with – blend, bend, break and mend, shape, shift scape and grift into wild and wonderful patterns of saying! Words can make stories, dramas, poetry, songs, information and I work with all of these. I love showing others how to use and express themselves with words in hands on workshops.
I also illustrate the poems I write with line drawings and photography and I make jewellery. That’s me plus spouse, five kids, two cats, possums and geckos and water dragons….
I have just had my 9th book released, “Mending Lucille” with Hachette Livre, and it has had the most amazing reception! It sold out the first print run in the first week, got picked up by ASO (Australia’s biggest distributor) and within the first fortnight was a recommended book for counseling/biblio-therapy by the Australian Centre for Grief Education, Monash Medical Centre. The story in itself did not take long to write – under 15 minutes, although it was ‘cooking’ for many many years whilst I was growing up, listening and observing the devastating effects of childhood grief/loss played out in the lives of those around me. The story was important to me, so when it was accepted by Lothian (Hachette LIvre), I was keenly interested in who would illustrate my story. To be given the opportunity to find my own illustrator as a relatively unknown author was HUGE! I found Sarah on the internet – her style was perfect for the story. Sarah intuitivley saw all the layers and the result – stunning!
Sarah and I had the honour to be asked to present our story of creating “Mending Lucille” at the SCWIBI International Conference in Sydney, February, 2008. A huge deal for two relative ‘newbies’. The Conference was a BLAST! Met numbers of amazing folk and networked with amazing writers, illustrators as well as publishers from all over the globe. I highly recommend SCWBI membership to anyone!
This is an example of my illustrative work. I write poetry under my maiden name, J.R.McRae. The illustration of the tree came first, then the poem (“Fledglings”) and I added the screen of leaves to the right. I drew it with my mouse in Paint and imported the colours into the palette with the dropper tool.
The illustration can add a whole further dimension to the poem, but generally the poem and picture work hand in hand. I like the experimentation and the extension that working with line and color give to my writing.
I also make jewelry – beading and what I call RaptRocs – these are semi-precious rocks that have been tumbled to take off the roughest bits. I hold them in my hands and feel their texture, the fissures and shape, any faults – then I wrap them in silver to make pendants etc so that the best features of the rock are highlighted. Now they will say something about the wearer as well – one of them is now in Germany.