Sunday, January 31, 2010


There Was an Old Sailor by Claire Saxby and illustrated by Cassandra Allen is now in the bookshops.

This project is dear to my heart. In 2002 I asked Claire if she could write me a story to use in my storytelling practice with kindergarten and primary age audiences - 'something about sea creatures please Claire?' She came up with There Was an Old Sailor and he has been a star in my repertoire ever since. Cassandra Allen's illustrations are wonderful - she plays with perspective and humour and has nailed the essence of this salty character.

Building on the structure of the Old lady Who Swallowed a Fly (American anon), this type of cumulative structure is perfect for storytelling. When I tell the story it inevitable leads to discussions about toothed whales and baleen whales, krill, plankton, sharks and ... well name it. I congratulate Claire, Cassanda and Walker Books on a wonderful publication.


I have just returned from two weeks in the South Isle of NZ. As well as watching sperm whales and albatross and spending a night on Doubtful Sound - I visited Timaru, the birth place of Phar Lap. This picture was taken at the racecourse. A magnificent sculpture by Joanne Sullivan. The plaque reads ...

The Phar Lap Trust is proud to present this life sized statue of Phar Lap galloping over a map of New Zealand with his foot placed squarely over Timaru, a firm reminder of his South Canterbury heritage.

Phar Lap the wonderhorse (pub Museum Victoria and illustrated by Patricia Mullins) is enjoying a second print run. That's what happens hen you back winner!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Woodford Folk Festival 2010

Woodford Folk Festival: Spirit of Woodford Storytelling Award.

This is the second time I have made the journey to this amazing festival in Queensland and yes, it was hot and humid. The entries were up this year and five of us were lucky to be short listed. With a cheque to the value of $2000, The Spirit is the largest storytelling award in Australia. The five gathered in the Blue Lotus Tent for the event which was hosted by David Hallet (Nimbin's poet and wordsmith). The honorable judges - included Jean Paul Bell (the Co-Founder and Creative Director of The Clown Doctors) and Mark Both (a mainstay of the spoken word programs at Woodford and Yungaburra.) As our names were drawn out of a hat we took to the stage to tell our tales. Every story had us on the edge of our seats but it was Jessie Hodgson who took us somewhere special and opened our hearts. Jessie managed to tell us a personal story (this can be risky). With both a strong and vulnerable presence on stage, we knew from the moment she opened her mouth, we were in for something special. Home alone with their children on their cattle property, (Scott being away at work in the mine), Jess had to deal with their two year old being bitten by a brown snake. Comparisons with Lawson's fictional story, The Drover's Wife came to mind. But Jess' story went beyond the themes of a woman's courage to a story of love and trust for the man she has chosen for her partner in life. Jess crafted her tale to perfection - never sentimental - the story was told as it happened and how she felt about it.

In some ways competitive storytelling might seem strange but this event makes it financially possible to attend this major festival and with a bit of luck, return with a profit. (If you are shortlisted you are encouraged to attend the festival with a free ticket - not to be sniffed at!) Then of course there are the friendships that are forged through the process. After the Award we all celebrated from left to right - Bettina Nissen from the Queensland Storytelling Guild (my mentor), Jodie Swales (superb teller of tales for small people) and that's Jess on the right.

Thanks to Jenni and Paul and the Woodford crew who make it happen.


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