Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Back from the road and other stories

I look back on my life pre-Melbourne and wonder how on earth I had the time to blog.  People don't understand that to blog seriously, and to blog well, one must devote sizable amounts of time and energy.  I don't have either.  Hence the tumbleweeds that blow through Persnickety Snark...

And yet I am reading YA blogs more than ever - hmm.

I am about to celebrate my eight month as the Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature.  It has whizzed by.  It seems an eternity ago that I was stepping into the library on that warm day in January excited to be making youth literature my entire focus.  The enormity of the building once scared me.  That lasted approximately a month and a few wrong turns (thank goodness for the dispatch guys).

Three months ago I was wrapping up the Reading Matters conference - the single biggest deep end one can imagine starting a new job.  Reading Matters is a biennial conference for youth literature professionals here in Australia and it went exceedingly well thanks to the tireless efforts of the team.  Attendees had a great time, the presenting authors were pleased and it was a great feeling to have been a part of it.

Melina, Liz and Christie 
In the past three weeks I have been taking on new aspects of my role.  Regional tours and chairing lit panels.  It is what I love most about my job - it's always something different. During Book Week (August 22-27th) I spent the week driving award winning authrs Elizabeth Honey (That's Not A Daffodil, Remote Man) and Melina Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi, Froi of the Exile) throughout regional Victoria.

Liz is a creative person in the best sense of the word - she draws, she writes and she emits an energy that only comes from people in tune with their surroundings and their artistry.  Watching her teach regional students how to approach sketching and painting a model with watercolours was incredible.  Kids who were reluctant due to their assumed lack of skills dove in and had a go.  The results were incredible - the country kids are a talented lot!

Melina's workshops were a different beast.  Students were shown the different covers for her works from across the world, as well as some covers that will never see the light of day.  Her writing workshops focused on making dialogue punchier or the considerations in adapting the Jellicoe prologue for the screen.  (Yes, the kids read and remarked on the opening scenes of MM's Jellicoe screenplay.)  Her activity on substituting words in an action paragraph, soft consonants for harder ones, was particularly insightful and thought provoking.  I read a lot but I will be the first to admit that I don't realise the thought and effort that can go into a single sentence.

The other highlight of the tour was having a local element to each country school.  A local author would join Liz, Melina and myself and conduct an extra workshop for the students.  We were graced with four lovley individuals in the form of Tim Pegler (YA author, ghost storyteller, Five Parts Dead), John Romeril (playwright, funny fellow, 'Miss Tanaka'), Christie Nieman (playwright, Liz's muse, 'Call me Comanchi') and Lorraine Marwood (author/poet, sweetness and light, Star Jumps).

I would flit from one workshop to another but I did get to attempt a watercolour (thankfully there seems to be no evidence of it), write a poem with Lorraine as inspired by an image and learn fascinating tidbits about Melina's original Looking for Alibrandi submission.  Did you know Alibrandi was original set over three years and much, much longer when she first submitted it to publishers?  The infamous slush pile has been an element in all the authors paths to published works and it was fascinating hearing their individual tales.

Another element that was fantastic was the country factor.  I grew up in country areas, in country schools, surrounded by country kids.  I loved it and it shocked me how nostalgic it made me being back in similar environments.  We spent time in small towns where pubs where the only place to dine and we ate some of the best (and not so great) meals in the presence of interesting characters.  Communities like - Wedderburn, Charlton, Murrayville, Sea Lake (no sea but there is a lake), Manangatang and Ouyen - were thrilling to visit.  Wedderburn of the many op shops, Charlton with the flood line still evident on its buildings and Ouyen's search for the perfect vanilla slice were all fun places to explore.

As soon as I was back from driving across silo-spotted-countryside it was straight into Melbourne Writer's Festival.  CYL partners with MWF for the schools programming which means CYL staff chairs a portion of the panels.   A full run down of CYL's coverage can be found here.  I was able to chair panels with Maggie Stiefvater, Penny Tangey and Sally Rippin/Gabrielle Wang which was a great honour.

We've also announced the shortlist for the 2011 Inky Awards.  The Inky awards are Australia's first teen decided youth literature prize and we're into the fifth year.  We have two awards - the Gold Inky (Australian authored) and Silver Inky (International authored) - and voting has now opened for 2011.  The teen judges did a fantastic task of whittling down the longlist and it is a truly varied shortlist in terms of genre and voice.  I hope you take time to vote on your favourite YA titles of the past year.  Voting is open until midnight October 14.

On the weekend I was also able to attend the Ballarat Writers Festival.  It was a joy to sit back and relax, taking in the author panels.  BWF had a great line up that consisted of - Tim Pegler, Penni Russon, Kate Constable, Carole Wilkinson, Karen Healey, Kirsty Murray, Gabrielle Williams, Chrissie Keighery, Karen Tayleur, Maureen McCarthy, Kim Kane, Steph Bowe, Ebony McKenna, Leanne Hall as well as a host of editors, illustrators and middle grade authors.  It was an incredible line up and a pleasure to met people of whose work I have read as a blogger.  Well done to the BWF crew, it was a lovely celebration of all things children's and YA.

By no means is this my typical fortnight.  But it has been a busy, thought provoking and fun time with people that are also passionate about Australian youth literature.

Regional Tour - blogs from the road Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 and Day 5
MWF panel summaries - Maggie Stiefvater and Penny Tangey (thanks to Steph from My Girl Friday for blogging about them).  Also my interview with Maggie just prior to the panel which was a hoot.
Inky shortlist and voting
Ebony McKenna's blog post on BWF


Miscellaneous-Mum said...

You're doing a fine job, Adele. Congrats on eight months! So excited also for Jordi :)

If you ever need a panel chair, do keep me in mind. Would love to help, if I can.

Marg said...

Gosh! I am exhausted just reading about your fortnight! Bet it was loads of fun though.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it's been 8 months. Know how incredibly proud I am of you. You're moving, shaking, and making things happen there at CYL, and I'm sure that they're so lucky to have you (even in the midst of the busy-ness). =)

Would've loved to be a fly on the wall during those panels, during the conference, and visiting those kids!

Martina said...

Sounds like you had heaps of fun