Last week I drove up to Castlemaine, to the SCBWI regional meeting held in Stoneman's bookstore. A real old-fashioned bookstore it was, full of nooks, crannies and interesting finds. If you are ever in the area, make sure you check it out. John was a great host, even providing us with a showbag. I'm using the sleeping mask that was in my relaxation kit every night...
We heard from two different speakers, Bernadette Kelly and Glenda Millard, with two different approaches to their writing. Bernadette spoke about her determination to be published and how she used every opportunity to become involved in the trade. She did volunteer work and in one project, worked with primary school students to edit and publish books of short stories. This successful venture continued for a number of years. Bernadette is the author of the Riding High and Pony Patch series of books and also writes non fiction.
Glenda Millard had us all in stitches with her descriptions of local life and growing up in Castlemaine. She had a little snippet of gossip about everyone and made me feel as if I'd grown up there too. I'm looking forward to reading some of her work as she has such as sense of character, time and place. Her book 'Perry Angel's Suitcase' is shortlisted for this years Patricia Wrightson Award.
During the break, we were treated to a reading of Claire Saxby's new picture book 'There Was An Old Sailor.' This is a fantastic book and is sure to do really well for Claire. Growing up, I always enjoyed books that were not only entertaining but where I learnt something too. Claire's book excels on both counts. A variation on the old rhyme, there was an old lady who swallowed a fly...Claire's sailor swallows a krill....of course 'it'll make him ill!' A succession of sea creatures are swallowed by the sailor to catch that krill. Claire says that although she had the scaffold of the original rhyme, she had a lot of work to do to find creatures and rhymes that would work. The endpapers are a delight, with funny facts about the sea creatures. Cassandra Allen's illustrations are perfect. The sailor never looks daunted by the creatures he swallows and we are amazed as he manages to fit them all in. This is such a great read aloud book that every home and school should have one. I'm looking forward to Claire's launch in a week's time.
The first book launch I attended was for Leigh Hobbs at Books Illustrated. This was when I was just an aspiring writer with a dream. Upstairs was jam packed and I was flattened against the stair railing, glass of champagne in hand. It was fantastic to be able to see the artwork for Old Tom as I didn't at that stage have an appreciation of the visual side of picture books. Seems silly doesn't it, now I write picture books!
Anne Haddon and Anne James have now moved from the Gasworks but now operate a gallery for illustrators by appointment. It means they can have more time off. Anne Haddon spoke at the SCBWI meeting about some of the things they had been doing recently, including preparing tours of illustators work for regional areas. Anne H prompted by Anne J also gave us an insight on their trip to China and what that country is looking for in terms of books... and the sometimes difficulties of setting up exhibitions without and interpreter.
As always a drink afterwards, unfortunately half of us were on febfast. What a silly month to have it!