From Page to Stage

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SCBWI Success Stories: Kelly Hibbert

As creators, we find inspiration in many different ways. In words, in overheard conversations and people we meet. But have you ever stopped to consider how your creation inspires others to create?

Perhaps you have.

I hadn’t. I often wonder who might be reading my book at a given moment, I imagine the feeling I may experience when I come across a copy donated for sale at a school fair. But I’ve never stopped to reflect on what I do and how that may inspire others.

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Fancy Pants began its journey at SCBWI SA's October Retreat Critique Sessions in 2014. Much to my delight, it became a book in 2016 and was distributed for free to 42000 preschool children across SA in 2017/18 with another 42000 copies set to be provided for families in 2021/22.

After that, all it took was a shared vision, internationally-acclaimed musicians, the Australian Youth Orchestra Ensemble and sixty of the most amazing students to turn this story into something else.

Something magical.

Something special.

Something beyond a book.

This is what can happen when exceptional people like Emily Gann from Connecting the Dots in Music and music teacher, Lucy Standish have a vision, apply for and win a council grant.

Not to mention the connections built between industry innovators.

Enter Belinda Spry from publisher Little Book Press.

The Music for All Project is a unique music education program that will see students with disabilities and/or vision impairments from three schools collaborate across a weeklong composition project. Inspired by the joyful South Australian story, Fancy Pants by Kelly Hibbert and Amanda Graham, this project seeks to demonstrate the deep potential for an inclusive, community-based model of music education that positions students of all abilities at the centre of the creative process, mentored and guided by world-class musicians.

Fancy Pants. A performance? With music? On a stage!

And as if that wasn’t enough.

Super brilliant library staff got busy making multiple large print and braille format to ensure access for all. Students also have access to audio books - the first with narration by the author.

Super brilliant library staff got busy making multiple large print and braille format to ensure access for all. Students also have access to audio books - the first with narration by the author.

My second favourite way to create. The whole family got involved and made lagerphones (aka Murrumbidgee River Rattlers), gumnut drumsticks and claves using only nature's materials (almost!) ready for school visits.

My second favourite way to create. The whole family got involved and made lagerphones (aka Murrumbidgee River Rattlers), gumnut drumsticks and claves using only nature's materials (almost!) ready for school visits.

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Author visits to SASVI (South Australian School for the Vision Impaired) and Suneden Specialist School complete with fancy pants aplenty.

Author visits to SASVI (South Australian School for the Vision Impaired) and Suneden Specialist School complete with fancy pants aplenty.

These two lovely ladies, Lucy Standish and Emily Gann, either side of me are the brains behind this innovative initiative. Here we are snipping and sewing together at the Cove Civic Centre during the Intergenerational Sewing Circle to help make a pair of fancy pants for every student appearing on stage.

These two lovely ladies, Lucy Standish and Emily Gann, either side of me are the brains behind this innovative initiative. Here we are snipping and sewing together at the Cove Civic Centre during the Intergenerational Sewing Circle to help make a pair of fancy pants for every student appearing on stage.

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In preparation for the Fancy Pants performance, students worked with this amazing human,  Paul Rissman , from the London Symphony Orchestra, to not only learn but to assist with the music composition and songs. And they learnt the signing too. All in under a week!

In preparation for the Fancy Pants performance, students worked with this amazing human, Paul Rissman, from the London Symphony Orchestra, to not only learn but to assist with the music composition and songs. And they learnt the signing too. All in under a week!

This performance did more than delight an audience .
Much more than bring people together through music.
So much more than put smiles on faces and leave barely a dry eye.

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It inspired.

It inspired one audience member to compose and perform a poem at a Friendly Street Poets' meeting.

It inspired another to begin taking violin lessons again after an extended break.

It inspired the nomination of teacher Lucy Standish from Kilparrin for the Community Engagement Award, SA Public Education Awards.

It inspired people to make the most inspirational comments.

"This show was the best thing I have been to for years. Tears, laughter, hopefulness, joy and all because music brings our souls together in such a powerful way. The children’s faces, the staff delight and the musicians’ smiles said it all and the audience just beamed because they knew they were watching something truly human. Wow so special." KirstyCommunity member.

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And it inspired me beyond words.

Once we take the opportunity to sit and reflect, realisation kicks in that what we create is far beyond just a book.

Here's the video which showcases the amazing collaboration and is featured on the Department for Education website.

SCBWI Success Story - Katrina McKelvey

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It has been twelve months since I booked and planned to attend the highly successful Narrate Illustrate Meditate SCBWI Author and Illustrator Retreat held mid October, 2017 near Wilton, NSW. And I am now able to officially announce I have a contract thanks to that opportunity!

So how did this publishing offer come about thanks to this retreat?

The retreat was designed so authors and illustrators could come together, develop a piece of work, and learn from and listen to industry experts and each other.

This sounded like a great plan, so I booked it. I don’t apply for most writing retreats - you know, the ones where you get free accommodation and meals for a week while you write uninterrupted with a mentor on tap. My kids are still quite young, and honesty, I don’t want to leave them that long anyway. This retreat was nice and short so I could sneak away for a few days, fairly guilt free, and ponder a few writerly things.

After I’d passed through Sydney from Newcastle as school came out (huge mistake!), I got a little lost. Maybe this was due to having the navigation on in the car as well as the phone. Who does that? Two voices were coming through my bluetooth saying different things! As I was sitting in peak hour traffic trying to work out which one to believe, I realised I had no idea who would be attending. But my manuscript was packed and I was ready to resuscitate it - once I got there.

After arriving, I calmed down quickly as I said hello to lots of familiar faces. I knew half of the attendees in the end. And I had the best roomie - Deb Abela!

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Then I was like a sponge, gathering hints and tips from anyone who shared them. Zoe Walton (Penguin Random House), Nancy Conescu (Walker Books Australia), author Tania McCartney, and illustrator Bruce Whatley gave out plenty of golden nuggets over the weekend. Bruce was a highlight, showing us inside his newly released book, Ruben. What a clever man!

I also had a manuscript critique with Zoe. She was so lovely and encouraging! Our half hour chat in the gardens was another highlight.

While this learning was happening, the main focus of the retreat was to develop a writing/illustration project in a supportive and professional environment. Peer critique sessions were regularly planned throughout the 3-day retreat to keep everyone on track. I had multiple copies of my manuscript ready to go.

On day 1 we were put into our critique group for the weekend. I didn’t know any of my group but meeting them was highlight number three. Thanks Nicole, Reena, Victoria, Lynne, and Meiling! At the conclusion of the retreat, most of us decided to stay as a group and become an offical SCBWI online critique group. We are still working hard and critiquing each other 12 months on.

During the first critique session we read our manuscripts. I knew my manuscript had a concept that was attractive - four publishers had confirmed that - but I couldn’t get the story right. Maybe these five sets of fresh eyes was what my manuscript needed. I devoured all their suggestions and then I let them rumble around in my head for the rest of the retreat.

I remember having an ‘a-ha’ moment on the last day during the last critique session. My manuscript took it’s first new breath. I was now ready to do a major rewrite once I returned to my familiar studio. I’m not good at writing when it’s scheduled into a program.

I didn’t want to sabotage my submission to a publisher by rushing my rewrite out the door, so I paid Sue Whiting to assess it. She did a wonderful job of pulling it apart and asking me lots of questions about what was driving my main character and what was the core of the story. She gave me all the scaffolding I needed to dive into yet another rewrite.

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Once I was absolutely convinced it was as good as I could make it, I sent it to EK Books in February. I had sent an earlier version of this story to them three years earlier. Yes, three years! After another five months of waiting and sorting out a few behind-the-scene matters, I signed the contract. So here’s the offical announcement:

Isla’s Family Tree will be illustrated by Prue Pittock (www.pruepittockillustrations.com) and published by EK Books (www.ekbooks.org) in 2020. This will be my fifth published picture book, my third with EK Books, and my first with Prue.

Yay! There’s always hope - especially if you grab every opportunity that passes your way with both hands. My first file for this manuscript is dated 28.02.14. I signed my contract 13.08.18. Four and a half years later my story has found a home. We won’t see it until May, 2020, but the six year wait will be worth it. There’ll be a huge party, so save the date!

Thanks to the SCBWI Aus East/NZ committee for giving it’s members such wonderful opportunities to grow and succeed. I look forward to seeing lots of members at the SCBWI Conference in Sydney next year.

Katrina McKelvey

SCBWI Success Story - Dee White

From Sydney to Paris

I always set conference goals, and my major one for SCBWI Sydney 2016 was to take advantage of the opportunity to pitch my manuscript idea, Beyond Belief, to a publisher panel. 

I was hoping to get interest in my story to help me with a VicArts funding application I was about to submit.

I was desperate to spend a month in Paris researching a true story I had discovered about Muslims at a Paris mosque who saved Jewish children during WW2. I had spent all my money on a research trip to Europe in 2015, and it would be years before I could save for another.

But this story had to be told, and I needed to visit the mosque to do it.

Pitching a story idea that had very personal connections for me was terrifying, but if I could get that grant, it would be worth the angst.

All the publishers on the panel were so encouraging, and Clare Halifax from Scholastic generously wrote a letter to support my funding application.

Thanks to my pitch at the SCBWI conference, and Clare's belief in my story, I was successful in getting the money for my trip and in April 2017 I spent an amazing month at the mosque, in synagogues, at a wine market (all in the name of research) and exploring the Paris sewers. Being able to immerse myself in the world of my story has added a new layer of richness to it.

It has been an amazing journey. I have uncovered secrets, spoken to Holocaust survivors, drunk mint tea in a beautiful mosque, and sat in the oldest synagogue in Paris.

Thanks to this opportunity at SCBWI Sydney 2016, Beyond Belief will be published by Scholastic Australia next year.

Dee White