Those who follow my posts will know that I love the Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA), so I jumped on the chance to attend their latest bi-annual conference last weekend in Sydney. What a treat!
What's unique about a CBCA conference is that it's not about how to write (although there are many things you can take away to enhance your writing) it's not about how to get published (although there are many publishers and authors who could give you advice) it's about getting good books into the hands of child readers. And that aim is precious.
Apart from being star struck at the literary luminaries in the line up - all of whom were generous, friendly and approachable, it was an event that made me proud to be associated with an industry that is committed to quality books and to children.
The keynote address was from Libby Gleeson, and her catch-cry was "Give them the best, and then give them more.' She talked about the importance of developing children's neural pathways by providing literature that has emotional complexity and depth. Attendees were then given a glimpse into how 'the best' books were created, from a star-studded line-up of authors and illustrators. Some highlights for me were:
The picture book panel (of course)
Elephants Have Wings:
Suzanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro gave an amusing talk about their collaboration on Elephants Have Wings and the intricate detail of the words and illustrations - the importance of just the right colours and symbols, down to the detail of the placement of the elephant ornaments (not on the floor) and the search for 'spiritual red.'
I'm a Dirty/Hungry Dinosaur:
Janeen Brian spoke about the crafting of words : her love of poetry, rhythm, rhyme and play; the difficulty of finding lots of different words for 'mud'; the difference in sound between 'Sprinkle it' (first draft) and 'Spatter it' (final text); and how Ann James assisted with the line 'stomp to the swamp.'
Ann James said "play is my job" and told about experimenting/playing with media until she gets it right, and about the mishaps that can and do ensue - sometimes with unlikely helpful creative moments, like when her paper was swept into her muddy dam whilst working on 'Dirty Dinosaur', and sometimes unhelpful moments, like when her dog ate the chocolate icing-covered illustrations for 'Hungry dinosaur'!
Jundamarra and Boomerang and Bat
Mark Grenwood and Terry Denton told about the exacting research, negotiations and field trips to the Kimberly that went on to produce Jundamarra. Terry Denton explained how he found it difficult to get at the story and he produced 9 sets of roughs. Like Susanne and Anna, Mark and Terry spoke of the importance of symbols and attention to detail and they showed some slides to illustrate.
Poetry and art
Linsay Knight spoke passionately about the importance of poetry, how it allows you to share big ideas in a simple way, how it helps us to make sense of scary places/times and how sounds are experienced in our heart before our head. These concepts were echoed throughout the conference in varying ways, about the importance of art in its many forms. Like Margrete Lamond's in depth lecture on picture books and art, echoing Libby Gleeson's sentiments about the importance of quality to produce engagement and complex emotional responses. Lamond went so far as to state that quality literature fosters public health. I love that!
There were so many other moments of insight and star-struck amazement, including a panel about 'hooking' young readers with James Roy, Jack Heath, Deb Abela, and George Ivanoff. Regrettably, I missed a few legends on the Saturday - the likes of Jeannie Baker, Leigh Hobbs and Graeme Base (although I saw their signing queues).
The organisers are to be congratulated for putting together such an inspiring and informative programme which encouraged a generosity of spirit from both the presenters and the participants.
I'll leave you with a few 'hobnobbing' pictures...