The Inspiration of Finn's Feather with keynote speakers Rachel Noble and Essie White

A touching observation from Roving Reporter, Shaye Wardrop during the SCBWI 2019 Conference Dinner Dance on the special relationship with US agent Essie White and Australian author Rachel Noble.

Rachel Noble

Rachel Noble

Never ignore the stories that come from your heart,’ says author Rachel Noble as she tells us the story behind the publication of her debut picture book Finn’s Feather.

I don’t think there’s a dry eye in the room as Rachel talks about the heartbreak of losing her darling boy, Hamish, and her passion and determination to honour him through her words.

After exploring different genres and using writing as therapy, the idea for Finn’s Feather came in a perfect moment. After rushing home to write it down, Rachel tells us she found a feather waiting for her on the front step and she knew she had found the story she was searching for.

My throat is full of rocks and tears well in my eyes as I listen to Rachel speak. She is passionate and strong and brave and amazing, and Finn’s Feather is a powerful and special picture book that helps kids understand death and loss in the most gentle and heart-warming way.

STORIES HELP KIDS NAVIGATE EMOTIONS - AN AUTHENTIC STORY WILL HELP YOU HEAL

It is a book for every home, every school, every library, and I urge you to find a copy and experience the powerful and magical story for yourself.

Rachel introduces the crowd to her literary agent, Essie White, of Storm Literary Agency, and Essie tells us how she met Rachel and her work.

Essie says, ‘stories can heal’ and ‘the importance of good literature cannot be understated’, and the crowd nods in understanding, knowing exactly what she means.

Essie tells us she ‘believes so much in the transformative power of literature’, that ‘an authentic story will help you heal’, that ‘stories help kids navigate emotions’.

She is so right, and we all sit quietly and ponder on these insightful words as she talks about her experience and extensive involvement in children’s literature over her career, about her love of books and her belief in the power of books to teach and guide children through their lives.

Essie leaves us with one more thought — one more piece of advice I will never forget.

Essie says,

this isn’t a profession; it’s a vocation. Do your best work because the best people in the world are waiting.’

Thank you Rachel for sharing your journey with us all, and thank you Essie for your amazing insights and powerful advice.

Shaye Wardrop

#SCBWIsyd

Creating Creative Writers - an Overview

As if participating in the One Day SCBWI Sydney Conference was not enough, I was fortunate to be included in the auxiliary conference aimed specifically for proficient teachers with the objective of providing them with a unique educational experience with some of Australia’s finest children’s book creators - Creating Creative Writers PD Conference.

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The SCBWI presenters lineup read like a who’s who of Australian Kid Lit industry’s royalty and those sessions I sat in on were rich oceans of informative, insider tips and tricks designed to enlighten teachers and librarians and equip them with better, engaging, real-life methods with which to teach the art of story telling to children.

The day, opened by Susanne Gervay, was primly organised into four separate sessions, each focusing on a particular area of creativity.

Session 1: Creating Super Storytellers

Deborah Abela led the discussion with Sandy Fussell, Yvette Poshoglian and Tim Harris on how to inspire, motivate and develop super storytellers in the classroom. The focus for this session was narrative writing and authors shared individual practices in the process of creating their own narratives and also their experiences with work-shopping with students in schools. Aspects of narrative writing explored included:

  • narrative structure and plotting

  • creating strong and believable characters

  • effective genre writing

  • vocabulary and word choice

  • the use of online visual resources to inspire and the importance of the editing process.

Sandy Fussell, Tim Harris and Yvette Poshoglian

Sandy Fussell, Tim Harris and Yvette Poshoglian

Sandy’s use of Minecraft to stir imagination and develop story plots is not only contemporary but buckets of fun.

Tim Harris encouraged us to ‘live mark’, to cease being the passive observer when it comes to promoting creativity in kids. He reminded educators to never overwhelm children when trying to get them to fix things, to simply aim at one thing to improve their writing at a time. The notion of ‘colouring in your story using language’ really appeals to this author, also.

Yvette Poshoglian suggested characters and genre as springboards to creative writing whilst Deb Abela reminded us to remind kids that;

If they can make trouble, they can write it because writing a good story is all about making trouble!

The session ended with two lively readings from soon-to-be-released books by Katrina McKelvey (No Baths Week) and Candice Lemon-Scott (Eco Rangers: Pelican in Peril)

Session 2: Creating Fascinating Factual Texts

Sue Whiting then led experts in the area of creative nonfiction, Stephanie Owen Reeder, Gina Newton, Claire Saxby and Corinne Fenton through discussions on the challenges of researching and writing engaging informative texts.The panel explored the notion of how “creative” one can be when writing nonfiction or informative texts, i.e. where creativity comes into the process? And also how students can make facts/research their own, the importance of using multiple sources, and the use of “perspective” and “borrowed voice”. Panelists provided teachers with ideas for research techniques and activities designed to motivate teachers and students alike and enable teachers to facilitate quality student research and guide students through the process of creating fascinating and original informative texts.

Corinne Fenton read her newly released picture book A Cat Called Finn for the first time. Image credit to Corrine Fenton

Corinne Fenton read her newly released picture book A Cat Called Finn for the first time. Image credit to Corrine Fenton

Session 3: Creating Passionate Poets

Discussing the trials and tribulations of trying to enthuse kids to read, write and enjoy poetry was tackled by Jodie Wells-Slowgrove and her panel of passionate children’s poets: Sally Murphy, Libby Hathorn, Meredith Costain and Lesley Gibbes.

The panel debated whether poetry should be analysed, discussed the importance of reading poetry aloud and how explored how to encourage students to dig deep and write poetry with emotional truth. Sharing their vast experience with writing, performing and work-shopping poetry with students, the poets provided teachers with a myriad of practical ideas for infecting students with the poetry bug and for the development of specific skills, such as using rhythm, alliteration, simile, cadence, metaphor and word play.

Poetry presenter dynamo and author, Alexa Moses read from the poetry anthology, A Boat of Stars.

Exceptional poets: Sally Murphy, Libby Hathorn, Meredith Costain, and Lesley Gibbs

Exceptional poets: Sally Murphy, Libby Hathorn, Meredith Costain, and Lesley Gibbs

Session 4:  Creating Vibrant Visual Narratives

Any session on illustration always intrigues me as a picture book author. James Foley and his panel of four award-winning illustrators, Sarah Davis, Liz Anelli and Marjorie Crosby-Fairall, discussed the process of children’s book illustration, focusing on visual literacy and the construction of visual narratives.

The panelists discussed their differing processes, tied by a common language – but rather than using words and sentences, their language uses the visual elements of colour, line, shape, body language, facial expression, typography, light and shadow, scale, and composition and in the case of Liz, stamps made from random objects!

Attendees learnt first hand how creativity can be expressed and how tone and mood can be altered simply by changing the thickness of a line.

DESIGN CREATES MEANING

Sue Whiting followed this revealing session with a reading from her latest picture book, Beware the Deep Dark Forest, then yours truly wound up the day with a reading of At The End of Holyrood Lane, each book depicting the various nuances of illustration and symbolism referred to earlier.

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It truly was a packed day filled with praise from over 100 attendees for its smooth facilitation and phenomenal content not to mention the value and relevance of the stimulating readings.

by Dimity Powell (Head Roving Reporter SCBWI 2019 Conference)

#SCBWISyd

Rocking Rolling Riding - Sydney Conference Kicks Off

2019 Sydney Conference Superstar, Susanne Gervay described it as a BUZZ. Sydney Trains might remember it as something more chaotic but one thing is for certain, cram a bunch of excited children’s authors, illustrators, and publishers on a train bound for Beecroft and you’ve got a recipe for LOUD!

120 people: kids lit industry personnel, families and creators were drawn to Beecroft for this event

120 people: kids lit industry personnel, families and creators were drawn to Beecroft for this event

The Event: Celebrating Books with Paul McDonald at The Children’s Bookshop, Beecroft

The Creators:

  • Christina Booth

  • Amelia McInerney

  • Meredith Costain

  • Shelly Unwin

  • Aura Parker

  • Kelly Hibbert

  • Aleesha Darlinson

  • Caz Goodwin

  • Dimity Powell

The Brief:

A speed launch of their latest work of art, aka children’s book. The variety and scope of topics was incredible, illustrating to the crowd of 120 just how diverse and awesome picture books and junior novels really are.

The hilarious, moving and insightful presentations were delivered with humility and humor and from a personal point of view, were a tremendous way of sharing the love of story with so many in such a brief but brilliant time. I found this experience immensely fulfilling, and enjoyed every second of it. What a privilege to be in the same room with so much talent.

Here are some of the highlights from the raucous trip in; the presenters; and the crowd!

We could have stayed in that bookshop all afternoon but of course, there was a Conference to attend.

Come back soon for the next exciting installment of Sydney 2019!

Rove ya later!

Dimity (Head Rover)

#SCBWISyd

www.dimitypowell

Images courtesy of RRer, Maria Parenti-Baldey and various kid lit sharers.