My last in person tour of Words and Pictures is tomorrow afternoon at 2pm (Saturday 17th November). We will meet and depart from The Gift ( A raft) in the Australia Collection in the Queensland Art Gallery. Please RSVP by firstname.lastname@example.org if you are able to make it.
A mega thank you to the QAGOMA for the opportunity to create the Words and Pictures Spring Season responses. I loved every moment of creating these pieces and then sharing them with the public, as well as my friends, family and writing friends.
Magic Fish Dreamingmy poetry book for children, illustrated by Helene Magisson, is stocked in the QAGOMA shops and I will be reading some works from this book, and maybe from the Spring Season, at the Asia Pacific Triennial, Summer program in January, 2019.
I hope one day to develop some books out of the poetry and stories contributed to Words and Pictures and will let you know of my progress here on the blog.
Review of June Perkins’s Words and Pictures Tour (Queensland Art Gallery, Sept-November 2018)
French artist Edgar Degas (1834 – 1917) famously said ‘Art is not what you see, but what you make others see’.
This was truly my experience when I joined June Perkins’s tour of Words & Pictures. June’s interactive journey through the Australian Collection features poetry and micro stories inspired by 12 different artworks. Her responses are written for visitors of all ages, with particular appeal to children and families; a delightful glimpse of art through the eyes of a poet and children’s author.
Words & Pictures is part of an ongoing project to increase engagement with artworks in QAG. Local artists and writers are invited to respond to artworks in the Australia Collection. June was thrilled to be commissioned to do this work. ‘This was one of the best emails in relation to my work I’ve ever received,’ she said.
June had complete freedom over her choice of artworks. Each response was limited to a maximum of 80 words and everything had to be completed in three weeks with a couple more weeks for editing! She spent a lot of time in the gallery, finding works that appealed to her, thinking of a child’s perspective (choosing works above and below their eye level and in a variety of media) and developing a concept for her poetic responses. The result is engaging, inspiring and easily accessible to children and adults.
June’s poetry appears in a display adjacent to author information beside each artwork. Each poem carries a delicate feather motif. This is a reference to an imaginary character that June created – Perceval’s Angel, inspired by John Perceval’s Herald Angel, a richly glazed sculpture.
June imagined the tour like a giant picture book with Perceval’s Angel guiding viewers through the pages. June was delighted to tell John Perceval’s grandson, a friend from her university days, that she was using the angel in her creative pieces for the gallery. Some of her poetry pieces begin with a quote from Perceval’s Angel who speaks directly to the viewers, guiding them to the next artwork or helping them interact with it.
‘Hop on board’ the angel invites viewers of Yvonne Koolmatrie’s Hot Air Balloon, and June adds: ‘Take yourself to the balloon’s edge, Feel the breezes, through the sedge’
This is an enticing invitation to adventure and travel, and lets the imagination ride free in this sedge grass, coil woven work suspended in space.
On a time travel wall displaying different artists’ approaches to the Australian landscape, the angel says: ‘Listen to the music of landscapes through the portal of Australia’s artists’
One of June’s choices on this wall is Rosalie Gascoigne’s Lamp Lit, a large work made up of letters and shapes from cut up road signs. June’s response draws on the personal experience of destruction and loss wrought by Cyclone Yasi in 2011 when a road sign ended up in her front yard; or as angel says: ‘But the real question is what will you design in response to loss?’
And so, the adventure in art continues, stopping by at Ian Fairweather’s Epiphany, Sydney Long’s romantic and ethereally beautiful Spirit of the Plains, Sonya Carmichael’s colourful Baskets of Culture, Fred William’s vivid EchucaLandscape, Irene Chou’s suggestive Universe within Our Hearts, William Delafield Cook’s amazingly detailed and skilfully toned A Haystack, and Ray Crooke’s Woman with blossoms, reminiscent of Gauguin. June said she saw her identity in this particular work.
Our tour ended as it had begun with an invitation to travel on in the imagination, this time on a representation of Ian Fairweather’s ramshackle craft; the one he used at the age of 60 to make a potentially suicidal 16 day crossing of the Timor Sea from Darwin to a remote coral island west of Timor in 1952.
June’s verse reads: ‘You can do anything, be anything travel anywhere…’ The child in her poem makes the sacrifice necessary to travel to Kudusur – a reference to the dramatic mural visible through the hole in the craft’s sail. Painted by Torres Strait islander Alick Tipoti, it references paddling a canoe, seasons, ocean currents, journeying between islands and spiritual ancestors – the universal journey through life.
Don’t miss this Words and Pictures journey. Grab a child or find your inner child; help yourself to the drawing board, paper and pencils, and create your own responses.
You can take yourself on a tour anytime between 10 am to 5 pm, until the end of November.
June’s final in person tour will be on November 17th 2 pm(contact email@example.com for more information).
You won’t regret it. All those attending on 17th Nov are invited to sponsor Magic Fish Dreaming books to go to PNG.
Dr June Perkins is a Brisbane-based poet, blogger and children’s author, of Indigenous Papua New Guinean and Australian background, raised in Tasmania by Baha’i parents. She utilizes multiarts and multicultural stories to inspire an enriched sense of belonging and compassion in those who encounter her work. She was recently invited to share Magic Fish Dreaming at the Asia Pacific Triennial, Summer Program 2019 and became a member of Mana Pasifika research Institute. She maintains an interest and dedication to promoting diversity in the Australian literary landscape. Her first children’s book was the award-winning poetry collection, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016) illustrated by Helene Magisson.
Renee Hills has always loved words and writing. A founding member of Write Links, she writes picture books (Turtle Love was published in 2017); flash fiction (Proof was published in Short and Twisted,Celapene Press 2017); and a short fantasy is to be included in the Rainforest Writing Retreat Anthology 2018.
The last few months I have been revisiting picture book drafts and short stories, that didn’t feel like they were quite there yet.
Something special was missing. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. But I didn’t want to give up on the potential.
I had to have a huge break from them to see these pieces with a new heart. I attended a few workshops and made tips lists for myself. I read books on writing. I read books I loved. I waited and then I leapt back into my stories with hope!
What was I really trying to say in them? How could I give them the life they deserved and make them leap off the page into the reader’s imagination?
I reflected on where do I want to go with my writing? Where do I want to take the reader? How can I invite them to a conversation without a set idea of the answer? How can I make them care about the characters?
Here are the top ten techniques that have been helping me find the heart of my stories.
Visualising the scenes and story boarding the works, including consideration of the turns pages to keep someone reading.
Ensuring a story is played out to a length that allows me to do everything I intended without limitations (some picture books are short stories!)
Changing the perspective the story is told from but retaining the overall scene and setting.
Adding a sense of rhythm in the language from poetic techniques and keeping that going throughout the piece so it is a musical sound to the ear.
Recognising when I am in the mood to work on a particular piece and going with the call of the muse. Especially when it comes to hearing the music of words in my head.
Removing the ‘thought verbs’ and rewriting the scenes without these.
Playing with point of view, by extending it, restricting it, moving from first person to third person until it feels just right
Adding the back story and pulling the back story out and hinting at it.
Leaving the stories on a tricky point and day dreaming options to resolve that.
Changing the title to a key phrase in the story that I can use as a motif throughout the work.
So far, so good with this methodology. One picture book became a short story and was successful in making it into an anthology.
One picture book remains a picture book, but the characters are so much closer to what I wanted them to be, and this one feels almost ready for submission.
Another three picture books are in the process of rewrites and again may be short stories, or short chapter books.
One flash fiction piece, from the ideas for my much longer memoir, made a long list for the Brisbane Writers Festival. I will go back to the piece again and work on it and submit it somewhere. Maybe I have lots of flash fiction pieces ready to go!
Another picture book is a definite chapter book and is progressing well. This one had a change of perspective
My utmost thanks to Gabrielle Wang, Isobelle Carmody, Virginia Lowe, Giuseppe Poli, and Trent Dalton, for enabling me to press on in this journey with something they said in a talk, a tweet or a workshop, or something that they wrote that sparked a renewal of this journey, and also to other people who regularly read my work and give me some ideas of how to develop it.
Some people are great sounding boards, as I tell them the story the solutions begin to just pop out of my brain, so thank you to anyone being that.
Today I have a whole day to write and revise. I might even begin to tackle unfinished novels. Whilst I love revising, I keep jotting down new ideas and give myself space for free writes.
One series of new ideas, free writes, is just called Australia’s Maya Angelou, and in this space I can write anything mostly from memories, I am not sure if I will ever share it, but it is a place where anything goes with my writing, and I just experiment with all of the things outlined. I think in these free writes there are more stories, poems and even one day finally that elusive memoir that might mean something to others.
So signing off from blogville land, to go visit my characters and their worlds, with a renewed sense of joy and a willingness to craft them until they have that special something.
It was a wonderfully dynamic, interactive, educational and personal guest presentation by Gregg Dreise, an award winning illustrator and writer of books like Silly Birds and Mad Magpie, at the recent Book Links AGM at the State Library of Queensland.
Gregg is a descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe, from south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. You can find out more about him on the Speakers Ink site.
Gregg began by honouring the Indigenous people of the local area we were meeting in, and then gave the audience a sample of what he does when goes on his various visits into the community, but especially into schools.This gave us a chance to learn some of his language and sing it, and do the accompanying actions just as the students would.
Then he used a number of images to structure his talk around the memories of his upbringing, including one of his mum as a little girl, which he gave a a thought provoking back story to. I’m not going to fully detail that here, as I think that will be something Gregg may one day do himself if he ever writes a memoir or maybe if he is busy one of his family might do this. If you attend one of his presentations you will hear it directly from him as well.
Gregg gave some critique of the notion of ‘blackness’ and Indigenous identity as well how little diversity appears in Australian children’s books, in libraries, publishing and schools.
This observation was used to spring board into suggestions of how illustrators might consider including more diverse characters in their picture books.
However, it was suggested not to do this in a tokenistic way, or with stereotyping, but in a naturally inclusive way.
Later on this point was discussed further by the authors in attendance of the AGM. As authors shared with Gregg that they have little control over the work of illustrators if they are not author/illustrators. He suggested that authors could at least make a note about wanting diversity in the illustrations of their book.
Gregg said, non-Indigenous could still include Indigenous characters, but should ensure they do their research and be accurate in those portrayals. If there is an opportunity to include, do it! But just do the research.
He said often, however, there are picture book stories that require very little change of the writing to embrace an inclusive society, rather a subtle change in illustration where the main character could be Indigenous instead of Anglo Australian, or in a wheelchair instead of walking is what makes the difference. He gave us a specific example, which he had gained permission from the author to do so, to show how simple the task of inclusivity can be.
He did not advocate however taking on traditional stories, and explained that authors who truly want to support Indigenous people should instead empower an Indigenous person to tell and illustrate that story.
At times it might be relevant to consult Elders when undertaking a project, but the writer should be open to the answer being no, or yes and not try to railroad communities into assisting them with their research or books.
Mentoring is a rewarding experience, and can not only be taken on board as best practice when wanting to support Indigenous people, but can and should be acknowledged. This is also work he himself does for regional and remote students especially. Equally if writers receive assistance in research or from Elders they should acknowledge it.
On a positive note Gregg observed that in film and television there are great advances in diversity and the positive deconstruction of ‘blackness’ with films like Black Panther and also Star Wars.
He shared that Indigenous authors and illustrators should avoid stereotyping their own communities, and showed us an illustration where he represented the different skin shades of Indigenous Australia today. Sometimes ‘blackness’ is taken as a sign of Indigenous authenticity, when it is not the major indication in contemporary society.
Another very heartening aspect of Gregg’s presentation was sharing the story of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation and his work mentoring young Indigenous writers and illustrators.
So far we have gifted more than 260,000 new books to over 250 remote Indigenous communities where books are scarce. Working with more than 30 generous publishers, we gift culturally relevant books to schools, libraries, playgroups, women’s centres, youth centres and other service organisations. We have books available for babies through to adults, 40 per cent created by Indigenous authors and illustrators, with a new catalogue released each year.
He is hosting a group of talented Indigenous creatives in Sydney soon and taking them to Google and Hachette so they can aspire to become writers, illustrators and more. It’s all about the doors that writing and books can open and broadening the horizons for Australia’s Indigenous people. This work is made possible through a bequest from Pamela Lofts.
He showed us an example of a beautiful book co-produced with a school, which exemplified the kind of work possible.
I was very blessed to have a fantastic earlier discussion session with Dimity Powell and Gregg where we discussed the potential of picture books and poetry to contribute to social justice and unity in diversity in the Australian literary community and how we might advance that happening.
It was a highly uplifting and inspiring conversation for all three of us, and we will be continuing our conversations as like minded, but very diverse background humans.
There were of course many more things shared during the presentation and this day, so this blog is only highlights that particularly struck me.
Book Links will be sharing a blog of the day with several comments from participants in the AGM. I will add the link to this post when it goes up.