Betty Cabral Collerson: Captivated by Nature

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Betty, the eldest of six children, was born and raised in Belém, a town on the mouth of the Amazon River, Brazil. Her childhood included some amazing incidents, like when she woke up in the middle of the night with a spider monkey prancing in  her bedroom.

At sixteen, by choice,  she went to live in Rio, where she was meant to go to University, but at 19 she married an Englishmen and went to live in England. It was the start of much travelling and moving around the world, until they finally settled in Australia in 1990 with their three children.

After arriving in Australia, Betty graduated with an honours degree in psychology by Griffith University and a research PhD in Cognitive Psychology by the University of Queensland. However, her true passions are writing, photography, and above all her four gorgeous grandchildren. 

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1. June: Tell us the story of how you came to live in Australia

Betty: We were living in Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea, from 1982 to 1990 because my ex-husband was working for Bougainville Copper, a large copper mine in the town of Panguna. However, when the armed conflict waged in Bougainville intensified around 1989, everyone had to be repatriated.

Since our two oldest children were in boarding school in Brisbane, about to start grade 10 and 12 respectively, we asked for a transfer to Australia instead of returning to the UK.

We arrived in  Australia in January 1990, and were meant to reside in Melbourne, where my ex-husband’s company was based, but because our children were attending school in Brisbane, we ended up settling there instead. Now, my two oldest children live in Melbourne, and the youngest in Amsterdam.

2. June: What themes inspire your arts practice in writing and photography Betty?

Betty: I am greatly inspired by people and the events that impact and shape our lives. Growing up by the Amazon River and rain forest has shaped my relationship with nature and fostered a deep love and respect for all animals.

For example, in the picture book Spider Monkey to the Rescue, I was inspired by a spider monkey that lived across the street from our house, in the Emilio Goeldi Museum. This monkey was an escape artist, and was the one that ended up in by bedroom one night.

In ‘Chatterbox Rosa,’ a story published in Sally Odgers’ Charms Vol. 1 Anthology, the inspiration was a pet parrot that could mimic our voices perfectly and her incessant chatter drove us all mad.

In Little Dragon’s Birth Day, I was inspired by the birth of my grandson Xavier in 2012, who was born in the year of the dragon according to the Chinese horoscope. We were all excited about his impending arrival but then on the day of his birth things got complicated and we had a big scare. The story tries to convey the excitement and also the perils of a child’s birth through the eyes of a dragons’ family.

In my photography, people, landscapes and birds feature. I am totally captivated by nature.

There is so much beauty all around but in our haste we sometimes fail to notice it. I want my photography to show the beauty that exists in simple things and everyday life.

Native Amazonians, who for thousands of years have developed ways of life that are in harmony with nature, and who believe that they’re reborn through their grandchildren, are also another major influence in my life.

3. June: Tell us about your latest book Betty?  How did this come about?  When and where will it be released?

Betty: Little Dragon’s Birth Day is currently being illustrated by Tanya Hempson, and as I mentioned it was inspired by the arrival of my grandson, Xavier. Tanya has been working on the illustrations for quite some time now, they are all hand drawn and coloured, so it takes time. We were hoping to have the book ready in time for Christmas; however, Tanya had to postpone the completion of the work due to family and other pressing commitments. I am now waiting for her to finish the illustrations before organising a launch.

In the mean time, I started another story; this one is about looking after a bonsai tree, which in many ways draws a parallel with caring for another person. It is loosely based on events that took place during the WWII, when Japanese citizens in the USA had to relinquish all their possessions and go to interment camps for the duration of the war.

Another book awaiting publication is Spider Monkey to the Rescue, which was illustrated by a Brazilian illustrator named Uoster Zielinski. The finished book is very beautiful and has a high educational content, teaching children about all these different animals from the Amazon rainforest.

A publisher in Brazil has expressed interest in publishing this book in English, Portuguese and Spanish. The publisher also owns a major book distribution business and sells to other countries in South and Central America, including Cuba and Mexico.

I met the publisher last year and he indicated that they would publish the book by September this year, but there has been so much upheaval in Brazil lately that he has put it on hold until further notice.

4. June: Have you published anything before this and can you tell us a bit about that?  What was the book? How did this come to be published?

Betty: I had Chatterbox Rosa, a story for 6-8 years old, published in 2013 in an anthology called Charms Vol. 1 (Ed. Sally Odgers). Sally Odgers, a terrific writer and editor, runs Affordable Manuscript Assessment and Workshops, and is the force behind Prints Charming, a shared imprint she administers.

Sally has published a few anthologies under the Prince Charming Book’s banner, which gives writers like myself the opportunity to see their work in print. I also had a poem – ‘The Migrant,’ published in an anthology called Wandering Thoughts (1994). This poem is about the losses experienced by those who have to migrate for whatever reasons.

In writing, poetry was my first love, but I found it difficult to write poetry in English, it is not the charms-coversame as in my first language, where I am deeply intimate with the nuances of words, so I haven’t done much in this genre since.

I have had two of my stories bought by the School Magazine this year. One, a non-fiction piece, talks about children going to school by boat in the Amazon. The other is again on the theme of migration, and the wish to teach your culture to the next generation in the family. It is a sweet story about the relationship between a grandmother and her granddaughter, but from the perspective of a middle-eastern family.

5. June: When and why did you take up photography Betty? What are your main photographic subjects and themes? Can you tell me about the favourite picture you have ever taken?

Betty: My father was a keen amateur photographer, and as I child I got used to being photographed, filmed, etc, from an early age. When I was about ten, he gave me my first camera, a Kodak Starmatic, I think.  I was only allowed one black and white film, perhaps twelve shots, a month, so I had to learn not to waste my photos with silly stuff.

Not surprisingly, my first photos were of nature. In the Goeldi Museum, an anthropological research institute across the road from our house, there were these huge trees called Samaumeira (Ceiba Pentandra), which can reach up to seventy meters and have an incredible root system. I photographed them from a child’s perspective, which meant that my photos showed the might of these trees growing towards the sky. The shots must have looked good because my father was quite impressed by them.

In my photography, I am totally captivated by nature, and children interacting with nature.

Birds feature strongly in my images; I love to photograph them, but I am in love with everything to do with nature. I have been captivated by macro photography and how it can show the intricacies of a flower, an insect, the fine design in the feathers on a bird, for example.

I want my photography to show the beauty that exists in everyday
life, in the simplest things, people included.

One of my favourite photos, taken a few years ago, still warms up my heart and makes me smile every time I look at it. It is of a young boy having fun on the beach with his dog.

There is much action and happiness in this shot. You can feel the magic of the bond between dog and child. I swear the dog has a smile on its face.

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A Dog's Life

 

5. June: What major cultural and arts groups do you connect with and why? Can you tell me more about your connection with Writelinks?

Betty: I am a founding member of Writelinks, and attended its first meeting in the company of a still very committed group of like-minded people. It has been the best thing, and has opened the doors to the many facets of the writing and publishing world. In addition, the support and encouragement one gets from the other group members is priceless.

Writing is a lonely pursuit so the regular contact with others following the same path is most encouraging. I belong to SCBWI, Books Links and CBCA, all organisations devoted to promoting children’s literature, which are run by wonderful and committed people.

Unfortunately, as my photography passion has become all encompassing, I have not attended as many meetings and other events as I would like to, but I am still there and contribute in a small way.

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This year saw me join two photography clubs in Brisbane – The Queensland Camera Group  and the Brisbane Camera Group, which are some of the oldest photography clubs in Queensland. I have enjoyed being part of these groups for similar reasons I enjoy being part of the writing scene.

I been receiving a tremendous amount of feedback for my work and have participated in local, national and international competitions. I have been receiving mostly merits and honours for the photos I submit for the clubs’ monthly competitions, which is encouraging.

I entered my first international competition this year, a non-graded event, which meant that amateurs at different levels and professional photographers were judged together. Five of my entries received an acceptance grade from the judges. Considering that in excess of 6,000 photographs were entered this was a remarkable result.

I am now preparing for an exhibition in October. It is part of a project organised by the Queensland Camera Group and 8-10 of my photos will form part of this exhibition. My project is on the issue of living with a disability, particularly mental illness.

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To find out more about Betty you can visit these spaces:

Betty Collerson

Travels in My Canoe

Facebook

Twitter

Flickr

 

Thank You Dear Backers All

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Art by Helene Magisson

‘Thank you dear backers all’
sing the Magic Fish Dreaming Team.
‘We hold you in high esteem
For believing in our book dream.
We plan to do you proud
And thank you beautiful crowd
for answering our kickstarter call.
Bless you – one and all.’

**

Honour Blog Roll

Yvonne Mes

Dimity Powell

Tahirih Twyford

Anil Tortop

Amanda Francey

Renee Hills

Nancy Kent

Karen Tyrrell

Jacqui Halpin

Rocher

Alison Stegert

Temily Eddington

Pamela Galeano

Felicity Plunkett

Catherine Greenman

Danny Letham

Katyoon Haghseresht

Elizabeth Kasmer

Paul Anthony Gerard

Elizabeth Lhuede

Alexandra Roberts

Zita Klaphake

Jo Hoffman

Ladan Ocora

Sally Knornschild

Christa von Zychlin

Mira Reisberg

Owen Allen

Rebecca Sheraton

Jocelyn Hawes

Lizzie Weigh

Jacque Duffy

Marcia Marseney

Valia Stevens

Laura Law

Robert Tidey

Gloria Webb

David Conley

Mel Irvine

Dr Anne Marshall

Frank and Judith Wark

Candice Lemon-Scott

Anna Gerard

Paul Gerard (Junior)

Janet Tallarigo Murphy

Aurorae Khoo

Melissa Shaw-Smith

Lailani Mirkazemi

Alan and Yvonne Perkins

Simon Michnowicz

Jenny Stubbs

Samantha Wheeler

Marie van Alphen

Lenora Riegel

Kerrie Morgan

Jan Cornall

H Lowe

Kevin Stark

Joly Laurence

Melody Grace Cave

Melina Dahms

Sona

Betty Cabral Collerson

Legoupil

Mandy Downing

Danielle Freeland

Katrin Dreiling

Margaret Morris

Joanna Dumaresq

Lydia Birt

Renee Price

Shirin Leila

Sam Eeles

Sonia Navidi

Chevallier Marthe

Helene Safajou

Kim Walti

Sonja van Kerkhoff

K Lyer

Tracey

Jan Streater

Farah Moshirian

Honora Jenkins

Sam Bowhay

Alison

Cameron McDonald

Melanie

Tanya Hempson

Lyn Oxley

Heidi

Noss Laurence

Moala Eseta Pease

Marion Gaemers

Carol Bonny

Diane Finlay

Helen Ramoutsaki

Renee Farrant

Lucy McGinley

Jessica White

Catherina Van der Walt

Lorraine Gray

Julian Bluett

Shirley Lynn

Aisea and Naz

Carmel Dore

Vanessa Bromley

Jane Nicholsen

Sally Moroney

Brenda May

Krystyna Palka

Georgie Donaghey

Sheryl Gwyther

Debbie Kahl

Phelicia Gardner

Ricardo Vargas Lubbert

Jedda

Sophie Masson

Jacinta

Laurie Trott

Tom Hearn

Karen Lane

Lydia Valeriano

Isobel Dore

Cherrie Ryan

Lea Goward

Vacen Taylor

Lyn Blanch

Joanne Austin

Norah Colvin

Cristina Whitehawk

Elizabeth Dere

Pixi Robertson

Mehera Moroney

Brynda Lattimore

Liz McLeish

Neiedenberger Edouard

Stephanie Hansen

Toloui Wallace’s

Tyrion Perkins

Kate Shapcott

Grant Hindin Miller

Edmond Keven Bona

Renee S.

**

A special thank you to Write Links, the Children’s Book Academy, the Inspiration Garden, Soul Food Writing buddies,  friends from writing groups I have been in, blog followers, the Creative community of Far North Queensland and the Baha’is for their  support.  

Thank you also to all  who so enthusiastically shared the kickstarter link with their friends, family and communities.

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Art by Helene Magisson

Mystery of Visual Literacy – Leigh Hobbs Laureate at Large

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Leigh Hobbs, this year’s Australian Children’s Laureate, is about to give a lecture, The Mystery of Visual Literacy, to the three quarters full auditorium in the state library, Queensland. The talk has been sponsored by Book Links and the Queensland Writer’s Centre. Scanning the audience I see many of my Writelinks buddies,  visitors from the Gold Coast and further afield, prominent children’s  literature advocates, and several librarians.

[Also check out Sam Sochacka Article on the Lecture at the awesome BookLinks Blog]

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Images Courtesy: Sam Sochacka , June Perkins (aka Gumbootspearlz), Jillanne Harrison, Giuseppi Poli, Leigh Hobbs & Sally (surname unknown)

Mr Hobbs is the creator of Old Tom as well as Mr Chicken and the  4F For Freaks. I used to giggle watching the television version of Old Tom when my children were growing up, as it seemed to have a lot of jokes highly suitable for parents, not just their offspring.

He seems to have a spring in his step and twinkle in his eye before he even begins and smiles as he offers to sign posters, featuring some of his characters, that he has bought with him.  Many of us line up and take him up on this offer.

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Then Megan Daley, who doesn’t want to say anything about herself but is a great advocate for children’s literature, gives him a warm introduction, and talks about the good old days and various children’s book creatives she hung out with, and Book Links and the dream for a children’s literature centre in Brisbane. Everyone in the audience claps keen support for that idea.

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Mr Hobbs begins by telling us that he feels ‘a responsibility and protectiveness to his audience, children.’

He tells us he will make the talk as much about us as him, he will share several pictures as they say a lot more than words can ‘a picture is worth a thousand words,’ and will be teaching us to draw Old Tom.

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He tells us that theory is not his thing, but he will speak to us from his experience as a secondary teacher,  a visiting presenter to several countries and his memories of his own childhood.  (He shows us a few pictures of these presentations later, with photographs that show the children all having a go at drawing old Tom).

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He explains that he writes in an ‘adult’ voice, not as a child. But he likes to have fun and celebrate the ‘absurd.’  He shows that absurdity throughout the presentation with images.

He tells us that his creations are character studies and that he works ‘innately and never writes or draws down to children.’  He doesn’t feel a need to be ‘realistic with his art’ and he totally believes children will relish the opportunity to stretch their minds.

He works with three levels: first the words,  second images and  thirdly the contradiction between the words and image.  Often the image is doing something every different from the words.  Interpretation doesn’t have to be literal.

He likes to work instinctively and intuitively.  He tells us a funny story about when a student asked him to explain, ‘Why is Old Tom is sometimes very big and sometimes tiny and doesn’t seem to be drawn to scale?’  He asked if anyone in the audience if they knew the answer and another kid explained, ‘that is because Old Tom is big when he is good, proud, happy and small when he is bad or in trouble.’  That is visual literacy!

His character’s size then depends on their emotion.

Hobbs, explains that if children like characters, and they’re well constructed, they will be gripped by them in a couple of pages and make a decision whether to keep going into their world.   He doesn’t write with ‘a message’, but rather with ‘real’ characters, experiencing loss, friendship and more .

Some of his books appear ‘subversive to adults,’ but children just relate to them as they innately understand characters like Horrible Harriet,  the  outcast. Not to mention that naughty Old Tom.

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Hobbs has had a mixed experience with critics, but it is the children who are the most inspiring in their responses to his work and there was one editor very early on who believed in his work and gave him the opportunity to share it.

He reads us a scathing critique from a prominent Australian newspaper where the writer/reader didn’t display any understanding of the characters in his text, and compares it to  comments from some positive kid fans  (six and five) in Ireland wrote, including their teacher (30 years old).  They asked delightful questions which he savours reading to the audience.  He then reads us another adult critic who did understand his book, and loved it. He is philosophical about this and not at all bitter.  He talks about the process of how people enter the world of books like his.

At this point Hobbs shows us a picture of himself as a child in bed, reading, with an alarm clock behind him.  There are a few aws in the audience.  He tells us his parents wouldn’t allow him to draw until it was at least 6am as he drew all of the time.  So he would wait for the alarm to go off  and then draw.

As a boy he wanted to grow up to be an artist and travel to London.  His favourite books were non-fiction books about castles, architecture, and London. He liked to inhabit the worlds in these books.  He does point out the Noddy Collection in the back of the photograph (I remember my brother having this set too.) He has been to London over 30 times and that’s why one character, Mr Chicken goes to London. Mr Badger is also created out of his passion for England.

Today he likes to travel everywhere with his notebook and sketch.

He shows us some slides of teapots with architectural construction and other visuals of things that inspire his art. He always loved architecture and history. He then tells us a bit more of the history of where Old Tom came from (he is maybe a bit based on him and his mum is the mum in the book) and reads us some of the pages of the book as they appear projected up on a screen behind him.

He talks to us about some of the other books, like  4 F for Freaks, and shows us some pictures.  He jokes, but is deadly serious as well, that many of these characters are based on kids he knows.  Well they are kids we all know if we think about it. Some of the teachers in the audience are giggling now, showing their visual literacy.

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He says, ‘kids are scary, ‘the audience laugh.  ‘Yes, I don’t like to read aloud to them as they might not laugh in the right places, and then I might stop being intuitive when I create.’  Instead he prefers to teach them to draw and field questions about the characters, which he will sometimes have them answer themselves.  Sneaky Mr Hobbs, but maybe there is something in this technique, because it is about not talking down to children!  Children can explain his characters and how they are represented to EACH OTHER.

He explains that children read Old Tom and see that the cat is like a baby, a naughty boy, and the mother, a control freak.  Angela is lonely which is why the cat is her baby boy. The cat/boy wants to grow up, and is sometimes immature and pretends to be sleeping to avoid things like helping the mother.

He once wanted to dedicate one of the Old Tom books to his mum, but she said, ‘no’ which at the time made him grumpy.  He loved his mum but used to fight with her a lot (I think I might have giggled here, sorry mum).  When he spoke to another relative about this, they just laughed and said, ‘Mum always complained those books were all about her and you.’

At the start of every old Tom book Mr Hobbs doesn’t assume anyone knows Tom, and so he introduces him.

His pictures are never just literal and he will for instance have a vacuum cleaner with eyes (this flashes up on the screen.)  They have an emotional honesty to them.

Then Hobbs, tells us more about Horrible Harriet and Mr Chicken and shares slides of portions from each book.  He shows Mr Chicken sitting on a chair visiting the Queen, and sitting daintily and the Queen is depicted respectfully.

Mr Chicken is pretty mischievous and bold too and he shows us some of his adventures in Rome as well. More laughter from the adult audience gathered.

Mr Chicken is in some ways ‘an affront to the adult world,’ but he makes total sense to children (and the children at heart?)

Every now and then he has a comedic break, and shows us things like Mr Chicken now on the loose in Queensland.  Could a new book be on the way?

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‘Children like Mr Chicken because he is bold and funny. ‘ Mr Hobbs invites us to have pictures with Mr Chicken later and holds up a toy of him.

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And now it is lesson time.  We all learn to draw Old Tom. How to make him angry looking, and mischievous. It’s fun!  Mr Hobbs tells us all our pictures will be different and he asks some people to voluntarily show their pictures once we are done.  These are projected up for all of us to see.

He makes a few jokes about how the pictures reflect the personality of the ‘feral’ artists, which makes a few people look at their pictures a bit more and giggle.  One will later proudly sign hers and share it on her facebook!

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Then it is question time.

And in his response to the questions he shares his feeling that libraries are safe havens for many of the kids who feel like freaks at school.  They one space they are not assessed in within the school environment, but are FREE to read, write and draw.

He thinks schools spend way too much time assessing!  More cheers from the audience.

He tells us a story about one of the freaks of the library days of his school days being someone who grew up to become a famous journalist.  The library was his safe place.

He shares that if someone wants to grow up to be a laureate, they should first just be a writer or artist.  To foster this you can give those someones  notebooks and say ‘draw whatever you wish, observe the world around you  and you don’t have to show your book to me unless you want to.’ This gives children freedom.

Mr Hobbs very much believes that everyone has the right to make marks on paper, and be free, which is why he taught us how to draw Mr Tom, but some of those who do this will grow up to be artists.

He likes to think of himself as an artist, not an illustrator, but he does tell stories in art.

There are a few more questions and we find out that his dear old Mum is gone, but she got to live to see her son doing something he loved.

Now we head off for a VIP reception and Mr Hobbs kindly deals with a long line of people asking for photographs and autographs in his books (some of them have dashed down stairs to grab some from the shop.)  None of them are children but there are several illustrators amongst them.  Mr Chicken meets Mr Grumbles!  Another character on paper. A big of magic happens.  Giuseppe and Yvonne are delighted.

Every now and then he dashes out of the autograph line to grab a snack and talk to someone he knows and then he heads back to his Laureate duties.

He has a bit of a joke with everyone, and is smiling, and some of us make sure all the food trays are pushed towards him so he doesn’t suffer autograph fatigue.  Who would know so many adults would start acting like Old Tom and Mr Chicken? Grown ups can be cheeky!

Mr Chicken makes an appearance in the centre of the group photograph, that we manage to call people together for – all wearing their VIP stickers.  Everyone seems to be in high spirits and several have the giggles.

Someone makes sure that Mr Hobbs finally gets to eat more food.  In fact maybe they are turning him into Old Tom or is it Mr Chicken.

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Mr Hobbs leapt across the stage  at the end of his talk to become Mr Chicken.

Reception Time

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Mr Grumbles introduced to Mr Chicken!

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“I had a brilliant evening @ Book Links 2nd annual lecture in childrens literature with guest speaker Australian Children’s Laureate, Leigh Hobbs. I was impressed with the delightful manner in which Leigh Hobbs shared his knowledge and experience. During his presentation ‘The Mystery of Visual Literacy’ with a projector at hand, he got everyone to follow his direction to create our own drawing of ‘Old Tom’ a main character in one of his picture books. He explained that he writes and draws instinctively, saying ‘he doesn’t draw down to the children, he makes them stretch up to the understanding of the image”

Jillanne Harrison

“Creating amazing children’s literature is a whole lot of craft and good splash of magic. After listening to Leigh Hobbs – Australian Children’s Laureate, I have levelled up in craft …and experienced a little bit of magic. Can’t wait to share this with the school kids. Awesome – Go Australian Children’s Literature!”

Giuseppe Poli

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You can check out Mr Hobbs in action tomorrow and he was busy there today as well :

As part of the Out of the Box festival the 2016/17 Australian Children’s Laureate Leigh Hobbs is coming to the State Library of Queensland to introduce us to a trove of his Picture Book characters: Mr. Badger, Old Tom, Horrible Harriet, Fiona the Pig and the well-travelled Mr. Chicken.

Leigh will be conducting Create a Character illustration workshops to show you how to create your own colourful characters ready for their own adventures.

When: 25th and 26th June 2016 – three sessions per day at 10am, 12pm and 2pm

Where: Auditorium 2, Level 2, State Library of Queensland

Cost: Free but bookings required.

For more information please phone 07 3840 7927 or email Lyps@slq.qld.gov.au.

For more on helping a Children’s Centre for Literature happen check out BookLinks

For more resources Children’s Calendar PDF   This Month Hear a Story; Feel a Story

Check out Sam Sochacka’s Article on the Lecture.

Images Courtesy: Sam  Sochacka , June Perkins (aka Gumbootspearlz), Jillanne Harrison, Giuseppi Poli, Leigh Hobbs & Sally (surname unknown)

 

Meet Yvonne Mes – Author of Meet Sidney Nolan

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Yvonne Mes is a children’s author, illustrator and devourer of books. She writes short stories, picture books and junior novels. Her stories are published in School Magazine, on the Kids Book Review website and as part of anthologies.

Yvonne has a Bachelor of Children’s Services, a Certificate in Professional Children’s Writing, and a Certificate IV in Visual Arts and Crafts.

Yvonne coordinates Write Links, the Brisbane children’s writers and illustrators group, and is vice president of Book Links QLD (Inc.) She writes reviews for Buzz Words magazine and is a member of SCBWI, CBCA, Book Links and the ASA.

She has two decades experience working with children of all ages, abilities, many cultures and in various settings.

Yvonne grew up in Amsterdam but has made her home in Australia. Her three sons make sure she is never lost for inspiration. Her mission: sneak a quiet cup of coffee. Result: cold coffee and noise.

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1- June:  Yvonne can you tell me about the book you are about to have published and how that came about?

Yvonne: I’d love to. Meet Sidney Nolan is the latest in the non-fiction ‘Meet …’ picture book series about the extraordinary men and women who have shaped Australia’s history by Random House Australia.

Meet Sidney Nolan is also is the debut for illustrator Sandra Eterovic, who is a successful visual artist.

The book came about through hard work, being prepared and luck. I had immersed myself in writing picture books, studying picture books, and taking courses in writing for children for two years before I attended my first SCBWI conference in Sydney last year.

I had paid for one editorial session with an editor, and unlike other conferences, editors were assigned to authors after submitting manuscripts. So when I learned that I was matched with Random House, the editor had already received my picture book manuscript (Fearsome Friends, a fun story about a competitive scorpion and snake). I decided to be bold and take my non-fiction manuscript I had worked on for over six months, about another Australian artist.

During the meeting I asked Kimberley Bennet in person if she would consider this manuscript for the Meet... series. A few weeks later I received a rejection email saying that though she really liked the writing and the story the team didn’t think this artist was well-known enough for the series, however, in the same email she asked if I would be interested in writing a story on Sidney Nolan.

I immediately wondered why I hadn’t considered that earlier, face palm! I had fallen in love with his work after visiting a Sidney Nolan exhibition in Brisbane a few years earlier. I enjoyed it so much, I made repeat visits. I got started researching and writing Sidney Nolan straight away.

2- June: Can you describe the process of how you were involved once it was accepted by the publisher and what you liked most about that process?

Yvonne: First I had to decide on which part of Sidney Nolan’s life to focus. His Ned Kelly series are what made him famous all over the world and at the time played a part in shaping Australia’s identity. I was interested in what led up to him creating this iconic series.

The Random House Australia team is fantastic. Editors Kimberley Bennett and Catriona Merdie were amazing throughout the editorial process. Their communication and feedback on drafts was respectful and they would explain their reasons for suggestions on the revisions.

It was difficult at times to see certain sentences go. Sidney Nolan was such a fascinating character and there were many anecdotes and facets of his life which couldn’t be included in the story, either to keep the word count down, or because, well, let’s say that not everything was suitable for children.

When the story was in reasonable shape we worked on pagination and the timeline, and I able to look at the rough illustrations before Sandra moved on to the final illustrations. Seeing the illustrations was the most exhilarating part of the whole process.

The Random House team were determined to find the right person for the project, and it was lovely to see such a beautiful and painterly illustration style to tell Sidney’s story.

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Illustration from Meet Sidney Nolan – Sandra Eterovic

3- June: What sort of things have you been doing to prepare for the launch of your first children’s book?

Yvonne:  A bit of freaking out! As I am pretty new to this I have a lot to learn. However, I try to be proactive and attended the Launch Lab at the Queensland Writer’s Centre by Meg Vann. The lovely Megan Daley is involved in the launch so I know it will be great.

There will be a lunch time launch be at the Story Arts Festival in Ipswich on the 13th of September and I am organising a launch specifically for children with some interactive art activities to follow soon after. I have a few online interviews happening and I will be interviewing Sandra Eterovic. I am also planning a couple of readings at schools and libraries.

4- June: You are very involved in the writing community for children’s and young adult authors, can you explain why you think that involvement is so important for you?

Yvonne: Being in touch with other creative people who have the same dreams and facing the same obstacles is a great sanity preserver! It was like finding my tribe, the people who ‘get me’ and vice versa. We talk about writing and writing related topics for hours without having eyes glazing over or people falling asleep, which is what happens with family members and non-writing friends, I guess we really are a nerdy bunch!

I have met many lovely and supportive people who write and illustrate for children over the last couple of years in person and on-line. I have made two close friends here in Brisbane who I met through the writing community and sharing our ups and downs can be a real lifesaver.

I also think the shared knowledge of the writing community leads to learning and growth and ultimately better quality books for children. As in my writing, I think it is important to make connections with and between others.

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Yvonne with two writing buddies. Courtesy of Peter Allert – official photographer of the CYA conference

 

5- June: Where do you find readers for the drafts of your texts and how do they contribute to your process?

Yvonne: I ask for feedback on drafts from my amazing online picture book critique group, Penguin Posse, and my writing group, Write Links. Sometimes I think a story is fantastic and I get brought back to earth very gently, making the story so much stronger during the revision process.

Often I will let a story sit for weeks or months before looking at it again with fresh eyes, ready to take-in the critiques. At other times feedback gives me the confidence to start submitting a story.

The trick for me is to get at least six opinions in order to see the broad lines of what works or doesn’t, without losing the main heart and focus of the story I started with.

I hardly ever read something to my kids and have stopped asking my husband. Though he is extremely supportive, I just can’t deal with any constructive criticism from him until a story has gone through many drafts and revisions.

6- June:Can you tell me a bit more about the Sidney Nolan Book?

Yvonne: Sidney Nolan is one of Australia’s most admired and recognised visual artists. This is the story of how he developed his iconic Ned Kelly series of paintings, brought modernist art to Australia and took Australian art to an admiring international audience.

From Ned Kelly to Saint Mary MacKillop; Captain Cook to Banjo Paterson, the Meet … series of picture books tells the exciting stories of the men and women who have shaped Australia’s history.

June: All the best with the launch of the book Yvonne.

For more information see Yvonne’s Website

Yvonne is also an illustrator.

Yvonne Mes

Author Facebook Space

Yvonne’s Shop (one of her creations below)

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Katrin Dreiling – Diving into her Creative World

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Katrin Dreiling, – Attic for “Music Box” winner second place CYA conference 2015

Today’s blog is an introduction to the delightful illustration work of Katrin Dreiling. I first met Katrin through Writelinks, who hold monthly meetings for writers and illustrator/ writers for children and young adults.

Katrin is one of a community of illustrators residing in Brisbane, and I, as an emerging children’s book writer who can’t draw, just love her quirky and often hilarious characters.

As writers we have a lot we can learn from illustrators; by understanding their creative processes hopefully we can write better picture books for children. But more on that another time.  Let’s dive into the creative world of Katrin.

1. June: Katrin can you introduce yourself to my blog readers:

Katrin:  Sure. Like most illustrators, I’ve always been drawing, doodling and just love being creative in any way possible. While still working as a language teacher I used to explain boring grammar problems with the help of quirky characters on the board, coming to life for my students.

When I had my own children I felt an immense rush of creative energy – all of a sudden the things I’d been drawing made sense – there was not only an audience for my art but also inspiration!

Step by step I ventured into this industry until one and a half years ago I decided to stop working as a teacher and pursue my illustration dream.

My first big and paid job was illustrating animated lectures at QUT (Queensland University of Technology). This was a fantastic and very fulfilling experience. I’m entirely self-taught so this makes me very proud.

2. June: Your latest work is Princess and the Pea – what made you want to illustrate this classic story?

Katrin: The Princess and the Pea interpretation proved to have a life of its own. I originally started work on this fairy tale just for practice purposes and to build a portfolio. I especially love the classics. I wanted it to reflect as much of my style as possible and just have fun.

It was very well received and I sold one of the originals to a very dear ‘fan’, which meant a lot to me. Later on I created a book dummy to show an editor at CYA and since then I’ve been taking orders to put it into print.

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Interior Sample of Princess and the Pea

3. June: What are your favourite things to illustrate (some illustrators like, people, some animals, and some both).

Katrin: It really depends on the day. I love to create quirky characters but if I want to get my hands messy I enjoy nothing more than creating landscapes or architecture with collages made of lots of paints and prints and papers.

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Courtesy of Peter Allert – CYA Official Photographer

4.  June: Do you think your illustrations are for children, adults, or both?

Katrin: This is a hard one. Let me just say that in the past, and still today, I get a lot of funny looks for some drawing ideas from grown ups. This has never happened with children. I think they just get me.

5.  June: What things do you do differently when illustrating for children?
 
Katrin: My work is always for children first. I try to touch their lives by either seeing things through their eyes or introducing them to classic themes. My illustrations are meant to take them by the hand and we dive together into a crazy-and beautiful-fun world.

 
6. June: Can you tell me a little about  your plans to publish Princess and the Pea and why Wybble was formed?

Katrin: Wybble was formed because I wanted my first story How to get a fat fairy flying printed and dedicated to my three children. Along the way I realised that there were many aspiring authors and illustrators and the idea evolved to offer Wybble’s services to them. This business still exists, although I’m predominantly focused on my illustrator’s career. I’m planning to publish my Princess and the Pea interpretation with Wybble.

Due to overwhelmingly positive feedback I decided to do a print run for The Princess and the Pea through Wybble Publishing. I’m in the process of trying to get around 100 pre-orders as I need to sell at least that many to justify the cost and work of setting up this book.

If you are interested, please head over to KATRIN’S Facebook page to place an order on the wall or by private message.

FACEBOOK KATRIN ART WORKS

(Editor’s note: I’ve already ordered my copy!  Thanks so much for the interview Katrin and the insight into your world. This is the beginning of a regular feature on illustrators, and writer/illustrators for children on Pearlz Dreaming. )

THROW YOUR SUPPORT BEHIND PRINCESS AND THE PEA . . . order a copy at FACEBOOK KATRIN ART WORKS