Gregg Dreise is a gifted storyteller and musician, and he features the didgeridoo and guitar in his performances at schools and festivals. He is a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Yuwalayaay people of south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales.
He is the award-winning author and illustrator of Silly Birds (winning awards and being showcased in Australia, Italy, U.K. and the U.S.A.); Kookoo Kookaburra (winning awards and being showcased in Australia and Germany); Mad Magpie (Longlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards 2017); and the soon to be released Why are you Smiling. All of these stories are about teaching morals. They address friendship, kindness, tempers and bullying.
Gregg is also the illustrator of Di Irving’s retelling of the classic story Tiddalik the Frog, and Elaine Ousten’s second megafauna picture book.
1. Have you been to the Sandcliffe Festival Before?
I have performed at schools and libraries in the area, however these are my first performances at Sandcliffe.
2. What are you looking forward to and how did you become involved in it this year?
I am looking forward to making some students giggle and some teachers learn some new things (maybe a giggle out of them too). I was approached through Speakers Ink.
3. What will you be doing for the festival ?
I perform story telling with the use of art, a guitar, didgeridoos, and really daggy dad jokes – sorry, but they are daggy 😛
4. If you could choose to be a favourite literary character, who would you be and why?
I would be Tintin. When I was in primary school, I enjoyed the adventures of a young brave guy.
You can find more information about Gregg on his website
On April 23rd the Brisbane Square Library (which is funded by the Brisbane City Council) hosted three deep thinking authors to examine the theme of “the Outsider.”
The event was organised by Society of Women Writers Qld Inc. , promoted and advertised by both the SWWQ (and lots of other people) and the Brisbane City Council, and the Brisbane City Council through The Lord Mayor’s Writers and Residence scheme provided funding for the event.
The Councillor who attended on Sunday representing the Lord Mayor was Cr. Steven Huang from Macgregor ward and the librarian representative who tied it all together was Nadja Beliemier. They both gave warm welcome speeches acknowledging the Elders living and past before speaking. Nadja focused on the role of libraries and urged people to join if they were not already members, and she gave some background on all the speakers. Councillor Huang reflected on the books he had loved growing up. One book which particularly moved him was To Kill a Mockingbird.
After an articulate introduction, quoting the story of The Epic of Gilgamesh, Lauren asked Melissa to read an excerpt from Mulimbimbyand read an extract from Veny’s latest book, Travel Under Any Star.
Melissa after greeting us in Bundjalung language, stressed the strength of her central character, Jo in Mulimbimby, and explained the context of the passage she read.
The four questions (and I am paraphrasing here) asked by Lauren were:
1) How has your family background enriched or influenced your writing?
2) How has your journey been moving between worlds?
3) What do you think the main personality traits of a writer are? Are they all outsiders?
4) How do you write the ‘gaps’ and mysteries of life?
Melissa shared the story of her Russian and Bundjalung heritage. The Bundjalung was hidden to prevent them from being removed from their family. Her mum was poor and had no books, but the library was a savior and a wonderful place to be educated by books. Of course now Melissa has been able to connect with her Indigenous background and communities.
Veny shared that for him there was an initial feeling of two worlds, one of Little Sicily (full of food, love, family), and the other of Australia (the nightmare zone, school). There existed a schism which began with his very long name, which was shortened by a teacher to Veny.
He felt his family didn’t accept Australia as much he wasn’t accepted. But he felt although childhood had its moments, not living in a comfort zone can make you into a great writer.
Melissa then discussed the idea of centre or margin. Who is the centre? How you see yourself depends on how much power you have. She described a difference between Indigenous people who were settled onto missions and those who were able keep a stronger tie to country and come and go and see others come and go. She gave the example of Wesley Enoch and quoted from him.
Veny felt that he came from a much most privileged background, than many Indigenous people experiencing being outsiders. And at one point in Brisbane being Italian actually became cool. Especially through the Rocky movies. Girls who hadn’t wanted to date ‘wogs,’ now asked Italian boys out.
He made the interesting observation that when migrants move they take the time frame of when they left with them, meaning that the culture they have with them and keep alive in the new country is in many ways frozen in the past. But the country they left moves on! This meant that years later when he travelled to meet relatives to research a novel, they asked why he spoke the way he did, no one speaks like that anymore. I was especially paying attention to this comment, because my mum has said that her village language has shifted a lot, and I should ask my cousin for help with contemporary translation.
Melissa told us that one of her relatives had passed himself off as Italian as it was cooler than being considered Aboriginal. She felt ashamed that for a time her family had denied their Aboriginality but she understands their reasons for keeping it hidden.
In discussing the writer as outsider, Melissa pointed out the alienated outsider, and individualist is a Western construction. She wanted to focus on the outsiders who are without power, the people who are outsiders but don’t choose to be – unemployed young people, children in detention.
Veny, felt there is wide road, a middle road, a white bread, approach, and writers can challenge this by writing from outside the middle of the road. He then got into a bit of a discussion of politics.
Veny quoted an author, Colin Wilson, who writes The Outsider.‘Life itself is an exile. The way home is not the way back.’‘ He felt the writer asks questions, without necessarily wanting a definitive answer. For Veny, writing is about having things to investigate and avoiding a confusion.
Lauren bought Letters to a Young Poet into the discussion. Writing is not to solve the issue but to leave the issue to linger.
I have never heard of this book, and looking through some of the information about it online, I now long to read it!
Through the presentations of Veny and Melissa, Lauren, added some beautiful quotations, including one from Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness. Where Kurtz speaks of ‘the horror, the horror.’ Writers circle around the big questions of life. What is this horror? She also asked what can writers do when the world seems to be splitting at its seams. She was horrified by what is happening in her prior home in America, which she views as experiencing societal mayhem.
Veny argued that popular fiction, crime fiction, presents questions even when a crime is solved or answered, because the focus is on why did someone do something, and this is this deeper question that will keep people reading and coming back for more from that author.
Melissa felt her major project was to write mostly Aboriginal characters and give them humanity. She felt that humour and insight and rural settings however could make her work appeal to everybody. She is however working on some tougher satirical work.
Veny wanted to know if Lauren was asking -‘Can literature get rid of trouble?’ and he added ‘Can books get rid of Trump?’ ‘And that ‘we put great value in the power of books. First, since we’re all in this together and we all hope books will do good, but we know the limits.’
A bit of a discussion of dangerous and banned books then happened, and Veny mentioned that ‘American Psycho’ is still on the banned list of books for Queensland. There are times when those in power fear the power of books.
Nadja, from library services told us all where to borrow banned books them from! (New Farm Library.)
Melissa also mentioned the troubles Kev Carmody had with the police in the early days for simply writing the truth in songs.
There were a few questions from the floor, concerning 1) The Americanisation of culture 2) How young writers can find their own voice? 3) Is diversity represented enough in children’s literature? Do enough people see themselves in literature?
Veny offered some sage advice, that young writers will take a while to find their own voice, but can find mentor texts, that they admire, to be their heroes and help them develop their writing skills. They can enjoy the process of writing before they make up their mind about their writing identity.
Melissa said, that diversity is improving in children’s books, and children do not necessarily have to see their culture specifically in a text, but something they can identity with that is universal, but of course there could be more diversity as well, and more seeing of oneself in the stories. She also gave an example of a piece which she enjoyed except for its depiction of an Aboriginal character.
Lauren, as an American resident in Australia for 17 years, shared that she had worked with Australian Authors of rich diversity, to ensure they were published. She didn’t want to see a disappearance of the cultural diversity in the world of publishing. She pointed out that not all American literature is the same either, it has a rich diversity, which also has gradually come to the attention of the world. (Later I mentioned to Lauren, that the students I tutor at QUT have been enjoying Toni Morrison and many Australians recognise that rich diversity in American literature).
I have done my best to capture the spirit of the discussion, but welcome comments from anyone who was there. Please feel free to add your impressions. A big thank you to the organisers for bringing together a thought provoking discussion. *Thanks to both Adele and Lauren who assisted in editing this piece.
June said: This is a triolet using the prompt ‘Blurred.’ The first words that came into my head were, ‘outlines crash into swirls’.
The trickiest thing with this poem was picking the artist. Would they be someone I personally knew who painted, a fictional small child, or someone who everyone knows that paints? I thought of a famous artist who used swirls, Vincent Van Gough.
I added the dedication to help with understanding of the poem.
I imagine this poem is an art class for early childhood with a teacher who likes to introduce the children to great artists, and likes to encourage them to look beyond the surface of the painting, into what it means to the artist who paints it. I decided to name the teacher after my favourite art teacher at high school.
(Published March 3rd at Australian Children’s Poetry Blog)
ISBN 9781925335347 Hardcover Picture Book EK Books. Endorsed by Paradise Kids, Reccomended retail price $24.99
It is a challenge to cover the deeper topics in life for young children in a way that is relatable, honest and caring, but Dimity Powell’s TheFix -it-Man sets out to do just that.
Nicky Johnston’s gentle joyful and equally caring illustrations take the reader through the happy although sometimes challenging times in a family that is about to be broken by something that just can’t be fixed. A double centre spread of predominantly subdued grey colours depicting a father and daughter nestled in a bean bag, is particularly moving, and marks a shift in the narrative from the fix-it-man to a fix-it-girl.
Another especially powerful metaphor for grief in the story is the broken teddy bear, ‘Tiger’ who needs mending. Our young narrator says, ‘Pieces spill out from Tiger’s heart, as Dad takes him from my hand. ‘I can’t fix him Dad.’
(Extract from upcoming review: for the rest visit this blog in April and also watch out for a moving interview with the compassionate Dimity Powell).
pitched to an agent and a publisher at the CYA conference
made a successful ASA mentorship scholarship application and been being mentored for the last 12 months.
And those are just some of the highlights!
But one of the biggest things I love about my writing group has been the creation of some friendships that sustain me in the hours of writing. I think of writer friends: Jocelyn, Ayesha, Ali, Jillanne, Yvonne, Shannon, Sam, Rachelle, Charmaine, Andrew, and Jacqui; imagining and day dreaming, drafting, researching, editing, writing, submitting and succeeding, submitting and being rejected, and because they just have so much passion for writing doing it all over again.
Before and after the sessions today we were able to have a chat not only about how our creative endeavours are going, but also about life itself, how it inspires and sometimes challenges the creative journey.
There was so much positive energy, and there’s often some great news of breakthroughs by our members.
This group of people were so supportive of Magic Fish Dreaming, and just gave me so much confidence that I could achieve my dream to have my book produced and out there. My first supporter in the kickstarter was a Write Links member, and many, many members gave their sincere support. Everyone is honest and I know they would not have done this if they didn’t have confidence in the book. These are not only friendships I respect, but many are professionals, and have been traditionally published.
An unexpected treat of Saturday was a writer friend from Cairns, just happening to be passing by with her son. Lovely to see you Carol. The Cairns writers’ group run a fabulous festival that occurs every two year, and that I have attended twice, and they also published my poem, ‘Grumpy Fisherman’, (which became the centre piece of ‘Magic Fish Dreaming’ in my children’s poetry book) in one of their writing anthologies. It was so fantastic to say a brief hello. Carol could feel the warmth and energy of Write Links, and they in turn could sense I was seeing a significant fellow creative from my old home!
I especially love chatting with dear friend Ayesha. We both share a love of music, and poetic language. Ayesha and I are thinking of having sing a longs between writing group meetings, and discussed mindful singing. She showed me a book she thought I would like reding.
Music sustains me when I am having a challenging day writing, or in life. It is great to have other common interests with my creative friends, and I am so looking forward to reading the draft of Ayesha’s novel and seeing it in print!
I love the way we believe in the value of each other’s work and keep encouraging and supporting.
The generosity of members to share their knowledge is legendary. At Saturday’s session Karen Tyrell (long time member and empowerment author) and Luise Manning, both shared their knowledge on the grant application process at our first meeting of the year.
Anyway that’s my account of the first meeting for Write Links of the year. Only another month to wait for the next one, or should I say to write and read my way to the next one.
A big welcome to all the new members; here’s to a great year for all wherever you are in your writing journey.