Monday, August 30, 2010

Many many monkeys

Like many other children's authors around Australia, I was in schools all last week celebrating Book Week. I love visiting schools but do find it's quite a different energy to the quiet, introspective, creative place I need to be in to write. For me, it feels much more like a performance - a One Woman Show. Not having the strongest of voices, by the end of the week, despite being energised, inspired and excited by all the wonderful children, librarians and teachers I meet, I'm also pretty worn out.
Lately I have been running drawing workshops with primary students where I talk to them about developing some of the characters in the picture books I have illustrated. Then I take them through a step-by-step drawing of a baby monkey from a book I illustrated for Margaret Wild a few years ago called Too Many Monkeys. I have run this workshop with students of all ages, but today was the first time I have done it with kindergarten students. Here are some of their drawings.
The photos aren't that great because I took them on my phone, but you can still see how beautiful the drawings are. Even though each of them copied exactly the same drawing from the whiteboard, each drawing is so exquisitely unique.

Click here for a video on the Booked Out website to see an example of this drawing workshop.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Chenxi en francais!

THIS is very exciting!
I remember when I lived in France, over ten years ago now, in the countryside just outside of Bordeaux, I was desperate for any books in English, and there was only one English-language bookstore in town. One day I went in there and asked if they had any books by Australian authors, being a Penguin bookstore, I assumed that this would be a reasonable enough request. The shop assistant told me that she was sorry that not only were there none, she wouldn't be able to order any in for me either. She explained (and I will never forget this) that English and European readers weren't really very interested in Australian stories.
I was gobsmacked. And unfortunately way too timid back then to let her know all the indignant thoughts that were whirling around in my head. Is there even such a thing as an Australian story, for goodness sakes? Isn't the very act of storytelling universal, whatever culture or setting becomes its background?!
Anyway, as the old saying says, don't get mad, get even. I wish I could find that bookseller now...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Melbourne Writers Festival

This year I have three sessions at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
For bookings, go to

Wednesday September 1st
Chicks with Sticks!
Alice Pung, Sally Rippin
ACMI 2, 12.30pm - 1.15pm, Tickets $6
For Alice Pung, growing up Asian in Australia was a constant process of navigating who she was and how she fit in. For Sally Rippin, growing up as an Australian in China, the process was just the same… in reverse.
Meet Sally and Alice as they talk culture-clashes, family identity and whether being a teenager anywhere can possibly be easy.

Thursday September 2nd
Where am I?
Sally Rippin
ArtPlay, 11.15am - 12pm, Tickets $6
Where you set a story can be the key to whether your readers believe it or not. As an illustrator and an author, Sally Rippin uses beautiful drawings and perfect descriptions to communicate setting to her readers.
Today, Sally talks about capturing the essence of a particular place and how to recreate it on the page.

Saturday 4th September
Wordplay @ Artplay
Carole Wilkinson, Sally Rippin
ArtPlay, Birrarung Marr
10am - 3.15pm
Beginning at 10am each day is packed with different workshops launches and meet the author sessions, so you children can enjoy the full festival experience, all under one roof.
Each day you can write, illustrate and publish your own book in a day with the wonderful Victoria Ryle, as well as enjoying storytelling sessions from the Storyteller's Guild.
We'll be joined too by the Children's Book Council of Australia, who'll be on hand to give free, informal seminars for parents to help you guide your child around the world of books.
On 4th September our featured events are:
Carole Wilkinson – Author Presentation
Carole Wilkinson has the answer to every dragon-related question, in every dragon-related story, you could imagine asking!
Sally Rippin – Illustrator Workshops
Sally Rippin will present workshops on how to illustrate in the style of Chinese painting!
Wordplay is aimed at children from ages 6 - 13 and day tickets cost $21. Parents or guardians attend free of charge.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Shaun Tan, The Lost Thing

Speaking of amazing author/illustrators, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see Shaun Tan's animation The Lost Thing at the Melbourne Film Festival two weekends ago. Like all Shaun's work, this was a labour of love - many years of work for only ten minutes of viewing - but the result is exquisite. There is so much detail in every scene, full of Shaun's gorgeous painterly textures and colours, curious characters, signs and symbols, that I wanted to go back and freeze each frame just to absorb it all. Plus, on screen, the story seemed even more moving than I remembered.
If you missed The Lost Thing's only Melbourne viewing, don't despair, as DVDs will be available for sale in November - just in time for Christmas! Meanwhile, here is the trailer, as a taster, and don't forget to visit the website for more information.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Oliver Jeffers

Here's a great little video on Oliver Jeffers, one of my favourite picture book creators, talking about his work. You can visit his website here and while you are there you just might want to subscribe to his newsletter, which is always full of interesting little tidbits like this one.