Report on SCBWI Event - 14 March, 2015

It was a full house at the Melbourne SCBWI event on Saturday 14 March. After some highlights of members’ successes and new book announcements, award winning Young Adult and children’s book writer and illustrator, Gabrielle Wang talked about her publishing journey, from inception to today.

Gabrielle traced her love of illustrating back to a childhood gift of a set of 72 Derwent colour pencils, admitting that, as she struggled at school, it never occurred to her that she might be able to write the stories she illustrated. After writing about a dream she’d had, and some prompting from Hazel Edwards at a workshop, Gabrielle decided she could write the stories too. Her books are drawn from her dreams, as well as her family history as goldmine generation Chinese-Australians. Her favourite readers to write for are 8-12 year olds, the target readership for her acclaimed Pearlie books in the Our Australian Girl series.

Acclaimed artist Anna Walker told us that she always wanted to illustrate picture books, and has kept a visual diary of all her ideas and story possibilities since she first fell in love with pictures – ideas that can result in a new book years after they were first jotted down. One of the scenes from her picture book Peggy was influenced by the vision of a bird trapped in a shop window in Paris, which she’d captured in her visual diary more than a decade before. She often turns her exquisite drawings and artwork into soft toys and three-dimensional models, and is constantly experimenting with new techniques and media.

International bestseller James Phelan was the last speaker. In his presentation he attributed his writing talent to an “overactive imagination” prompted by reading books by Roald Dahl, Paul Jennings, and The Hobbit, among other iconic stories. Believing that writers were “old men” he pursued a career in architecture to fill his days until he would be old enough to join their ranks. He obtained an MA and PhD in literature with the same plan in mind, but continued to write in his spare time, producing the first of many successful thrillers that launched his career. Since then, he’s written more than sixteen books for teens and young adults, including the thirteen-book series for Scholastic, The Last Thirteen.

Nicole Hayes is the author of The Whole of My World (Random House 2013). Her new novel, One True Thing will be published by Random House in May.