Hooray for conferences, hooray for making new connections, hooray for cementing old ones and for getting creative with the creatives!
Being at a SCBWI conference is like cramming months of excitement, information and geeky book stuff into a couple of days.
This was my third SCBWI Sydney Conference and every time more things click in place, are reinforced and some new words of wisdom find their way. I have condensed the conference and masterclasses down to a few insights that especially resonated with me:
Like last conference, I was part of the team of the SCBWI Roving Reporter with Dimity Powell our esteemed Papa Smurf. For more detailed information on each session read the SCBWI blog!
But, the most brilliant moment was when my conference roomie, friend, and author/illustrator Katrin Dreiling received the recognition she so deserves. Being a creative and especially being a full-time creative in the children’s publishing industry is hard. It takes perseverance, dedication, and many hours of questioning whether the low income is worth pursuing the passion while the rest of the family has to sacrifice some of their lifestyle along with yours.
Over the years we’ve had these discussions over coffee with the books of Where the Wild Things Are and Avid Reader as our backdrop. We’ve pulled each other out of a few dark holes and high-fived each other during brief bouts of sunshine, because after all, deep down, we knew it was going to be worth it, that in fact, we didn’t want to do or be anywhere else.
So, when during the dinner dance the Illustrator Portfolio mentorship awards were announced and Katrin received a mentorship award from Harper-Collins with editor Lisa Berryman, I together with the entire Queensland contingency screamed the place down, while Katrin quietly and totally overwhelmed walked up to the stage to express how grateful she was to have her work noticed.
I am sure many more doors will open for Katrin and I am thrilled that more Australian children and the world beyond will be able to enjoy Katrin’s art. You can find more about Katrin and her books on her website.
Many thanks to Susanne Gervay and her team of volunteers for putting on another successful conference!
A surreal fairy tale is what it felt like to see my story 'A Starry Christmas' launched this Friday night.
The story goes for 7 minutes and is animated and displayed via a spectacular light show on City Hall, King George Square, Brisbane. The story is displayed every 15 minutes from 7.30pm to midnight every night until Christmas Eve.
This is the second year that Brisbane City Council has commissioned a local author to write a story for their Christmas light display. The project is sponsored by Gold Lotto.
The story was animated by the talented team at The Electric Canvas. (I will follow up with a story on the animation process soon.)
The launch on Friday was followed by a Channel Nine story on Saturday Night as part of their special on 'Christmas in Brisbane'.
'A Starry Christmas' is an adventure quest to save Christmas. It features a lonely child named Jeremy, a Christmas fairy, two cheeky elves, Captain Gingerbread, a marshmallow paddle steamer and more. The story is set around many recognisable Brisbane landmarks and finished on King George Square, incorporating the newly designed Christmas tree and star.
You can watch the full animated story below!
Seeing a crowd of people gathered at King George Square in front of me waiting for the story start while I chatted on stage with MC Courtney Thorpe about writing was a fantastic highlight of the night.
We also visited the Enchanted Gardens and we can't wait to see the Christmas Parade! Brisbane City Council has many more excellent Christmas events on this year!
I was fortunate to have my family, lovely friends and their children as well as close writing friends to share the event with.
It made for a magical evening!
And below is the Channel Nine report on the story and the animation.
I'd like to thank Brisbane City Council and Gold Lotto for giving me this wonderful opportunity!
Get ready for the Brisbane City Hall Animated Story, written by 'moi' and animated by Electric Canvas! Check out their amazing work!
Come along to Brisbane's King George Square on the 8th of December at 7.15pm for a 7.30pm start for the launch of this event and a story with a quest to save Christmas!
And on the 9th of December you can watch the Channel Nine Christmas Special from 7 to 8pm which has interviews and a look at the creation of the story and animation.
I wonder if I'll look as nervous as I did during the filming!
I'll be back with more on the story and the event and how it came together (from my perspective at least)!
I had the opportunity over the last few weeks to work with the amazing Jenny Stubbs and the Ipswich District Teacher Librarian Network as assistant to Jenny in organising the StoryArts Festival Ipswich.
The StoryArts Festival Ipswich began in 1995 as the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature and has been held every two years since then. The festival offers free sessions for children and low cost sessions for adults and young adults with an interest in children’s literature such as teachers, librarians, and emerging writers and illustrators.
The festival increases awareness of the value of the arts in relation to writing and illustration and helps build and maintains increased audiences for children’s literature. The festival inspires young people to buy and read more books and to gain an appreciation of the processes involved in writing and illustrating while also enthusing teachers and parents about the value of stories and encourage them to promote literature to young people.
The festival has grown to be the largest children's literature festival in Australia and wouldn't be able to run without the support from many volunteers from the Ipswich Teacher Librarian Network and Write Links.
As an author I got to present to hundreds of school children in the Prep to Year 2 School Program and Year 3 to Year 4 School Program. For me, this is by far the best part of being an author, to be able to share my stories and enthusiasm for writing and creative arts with children.
As part of my sessions I revealed some of the stories which weren't in Meet Sidney Nolan and for my picture book Oliver's Grumbles I worked with groups of children to act out the story including flying cereal!
The StoryArts Festival has its own dedicated team of volunteer bloggers reporting on most of the festival sessions covering at least one session of each author and illustrator who was in attendance.
Maria Parenti-Baldi wrote this lovely post on one of my sessions with the Year 3s to 4s at the revamped StoryArts Festival website.
Last week I attended two amazing events, the first, the Narelle Oliver Lecture of Children's Literature, by Libby Gleeson.
And the second a symposium on children's literature centres in Australia. Book Links, an amazing organisation, with at its head, Jenny Stubbs, organised both these events. Book Links' aim is to establish a Children's Literature in Queensland and Book Links hopes for this to become a reality with the assistance of the information gleaned from the speakers at the Symposium.
I have written a blog post for the Book Links website on the lecture with Libby Gleeson. For me this lecture came at the right time. For a while now, I have been fascinated by how brain development (and child development and psychology theories) influence how we write for children and how it has set the agenda on how we view picture books in particular. During my own research I hope to share more information on these topics in the future.
Look out for Book Links' next blog post on the Sympsiom by June Perkins.
Patreon is a simple way for you to contribute to my goal of becoming a self-supporting author and illustrator and for you to receive great rewards in return! Find out more at www.Patreon.com/Yvonne
Here is some of what you can expect, from my Patreon page:
Here I am. Looking for patrons, how old-fashioned.
But what else is a grown woman to do when she has resigned her job (other than hawk her body, which admittedly is a teensy bit past its prime.)
Here I am, because I have found my passion. How lucky I am. Right?
Let’s try that again:
Here I am, because I have found my passion, in my late thirties, around the same time that I popped out my last child. Still lucky, but not as convenient.
‘Ooh, that is going to need stitches!’
‘I want to write and illustrate children’s books!’
Well, it went something like that.
Inconvenient, because my passion is not accounting, or engineering, or real estate.
My passion is in the arts, literary and visual and with a fetish for picture books. If I was in my twenties, sharing my house with some kooky housemates with no responsibilities other than to prove myself artistically, things may be different.
But, my kooky housemates are my three sons, my husband, our dog, our run-away cat and our 30 or so tadpoles. And we have bills to pay. And an artistic passion to follow. Dose of guilt anyone?
So here I am, trying to entice those quirky philanthropic billionaires to share some of their wealth so I can continue to follow my dream. If that doesn’t work, I am happy to accept patronage from anyone who would like to support the arts. Unless you are a struggling student in the creative arts. Then you need your vitamins, go and buy a bag of apples instead.
So what can I entice you with?
How about I share my experiences as a struggling self-employed author/ illustrator. I’ll try not to make it depressing and share my thoughts EXCLUSIVELY (imagine that word on a sign surrounded by flashing lights, ooh, and perhaps a touch of smoke machine for that magic touch) with my patrons.
Or, if you would just like to follow me, without the patronage, go ahead, I’ll share some of my illustrations and general going-ons on a regular basis, but without the soul-searching-midlife-crises-esque-slap-stick thoughts. The boring version so to speak. With pretty pictures. So pretty good, really.
I've also thrown in some behind the scenes-looks and opportunities with special rewards and discounts. I'd love get an idea of what other rewards you are interested in, so please let me know.
That’s it. That is all the enticing that I’ve got in me.
Want to ask me a question? I am sure you can do that somewhere on this page. And I’ll answer.
After I pick the kids up from school.
My mother passed away from the complications of breast cancer in August last year. I am so thankful that I had the chance to stay with her and my father for a few weeks in Amsterdam last year, to talk, to reminisce and listen to their memories.
Less than two weeks after I arrived back in Brisbane she died. Seeing someone you love suffer is horrific and being far away, on the other side of the world, is terrible during such times.
My father and brother cared for her over the past years, they stayed close and surrounded her with love. And I spend many hours on the phone with Mama wishing I was closer.
Here I'd like to share one of the ways I have tried to ease my grief and which at times made me feel very close to her.
My father chose this beautiful photo of my mother for the funeral notice and funeral service booklet. It is a photo he took while they were on their first holiday by themselves in Paris. I think they were 17 or 18.
Here is what Mama had to say about the time the photo was taken:
In 1966 gingen papa en ik voor het eerst naar Parijs samen. Want mama vroeg ‘Jullie gaan toch wel op vakantie, he?’ Wel op een aparte kamer, waar ik 's ochtends net deed of mijn bed gebruikt was. Er waren wel waarschuwingen van the voren: "jullie gaan met ze tweeen weg, jullie komen ook met zijn tween terug!"
Translation from Dutch:
In 1966 your Dad and I went to Paris together for the first time. Because my Mum asked 'Are you guys going on holiday?' We stayed in a separate room where I would pretend that that the bed was used in the mornings. We did get warnings before we left: 'It is the two of you leaving, and make sure it is the two of you that return!'
When I got home from the funeral a few weeks later I drew that picture, over and over. It wouldn’t let me go. Then I started drawing my mother as a toddler, at a later age, and on her wedding day. Next I carved and printed these images through my current medium of choice, lino prints.
While I was studying her face closely for each drawing, I imaged what her thoughts may have been at the time the photo was taken, I tried to see the world through her eyes and it made me feel close.
Here are some of the images and the photos they were based on.
They were proud moments, my first picture book Meet Sidney Nolan, illustrated by Sandra Eterovic and part of the wonderful series by Random House Australia, was launched at the Story Arts Festival Ipswich last month and at the Mad Hatters Books shop this month.
Megan Daley from Children's Book Daily has written a wonderful blog post about the Random House Meet Series and about Meet Sidney Nolan in particular. I am also thankful that she took the time to officially launch the book while juggling Story Arts volunteer duties and the joys of parenting sick children.
For the launch at the Mad Hatters Bookshop, it was good friend and writer Rebecca Sheraton who introduced the book.
There were activities for the children, a reading of the book, and give-away of teddy bears wearing Nolan's iconic depiction of Ned Kelly's mask.
Meet Sidney Nolan is now available at most good bookstores and online and includes fabulous teacher's resources.
There were several blog posts and interviews to support Meet Sidney Nolan and my upcoming picture book Oliver's Grumbles. The kidlit community is one of the most supportive communities I have been involved with:
June Perkins http://gumbootspearlz.org/2015/08/10/meet-yvonne-mes-author-of-meet-sidney-nolan/
Kidlit411.com - Author spotlight http://www.kidlit411.com/2015/09/Kidlit411-Author-Spotlight-Yvonne-Mes.html
Carrie On ... Together - October Mystery Author http://www.carriecharleybrown.com/carrie-on-together/october-mystery-author-yvonne-mes
And this personal blog post was especially meaningful to me.
Melanie Hill http://melaniehill.weebly.com/blog/sharing-success
Over the last two weeks I have:
For a fabulous write-up on Meet Sidney Nolan and the Random House Meet... series you can read this post by Megan Daley.
To RSVP for my book launch at Mad Hatters for Meet Sidney Nolan you can go here.
To RSVP for my book launch at Mad Hatters for Oliver's Grumbles you can go here.
Just a quick update to let you know that I am blogging, taking photos, tweeting for Story Arts and active on Facebook as Story Arts as part of Jenny Stubb's Story Arts Festival Ipswich team. Tyrion Perkins and myself are putting up short blog updates on the Story Arts Festival Blog each day.
The school program for primary students has finished today. It was wonderful to see children so excited about books and their literary heroes who wrote and illustrated them.
At the end of each session I attended, children came out smiling and inspired. I am now looking forward to the three days of the adult portion of the festival and of course especially to the pre-launch on Sunday of Meet Sidney Nolan (Penguin Random House Australia).
You can follow the blog posts and updates here: www.storyartsfestivalipswich.wordpress.com
Here is a slide show of some of my favourite photos of Australian authors and illustrators I have taken so far.
Children's Writer and Illustrator