Sunday, December 29, 2013

Tasmanian Storytellers let's meet up at the Cygnet Festival Workshop 10 January 2014

My daughter moved to Tasmania to study two years ago and I enjoy this excuse to visit the Apple Isle as often as I can. She is very supportive of Storytelling and has previously organised  House Concerts and an evening of tales in her favourite café, Frankie’s Empire. With her support and with the encouragement of Martin Jefferd (UK storyteller from Bristol and friend of Storytelling Australia Vic), trad storytelling has a place in the Cygnet Festival program.

The plan is to meet, warm up and get  stuck into learning some stories but importantly - build the story connections. The focus will be on traditional stories that mention either apples, cider or both. Seemed like a good idea, as Willie Smith’s Organic Cider is one of the Festival’s major sponsors!

There'll be opportunities to try out the stories at the chalkboard events that run throughout the weekend.

Workshop: Friday 10 January. Details HERE
The Cygnet Festival runs from 10 – 12 January. Full details HERE

photo: Hobart House Concert 2013

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ruby. The Adventures of a Travel Bug. Written and illustrated by Sean Daniel Cox - launched 15 December 2013

Everything about  Ruby. The Adventures of a Travel Bug is satisfying: the shape, the satin feel, the cover image, and the colour.

On opening the book the delights continue with the tale of Ruby (a ladybird) and her magnificent adventure.  Such a seamless dance of design and text is no accident; behind this publication are years of experience and a creative mind. Sean Daniel Cox comes from a background in advertising, as both a graphic artist and an award-winning copywriter. He has skillfully breathed life and attitude into Ruby with particular care taken for her eyes and antennae, making it impossible not to smile back at the little ladybird. 
The illustrations fill the pages with bold colour and light. You can see the shape of the brush and the texture of the canvas. For children, who also love to paint Sean has described his process on the imprint page. The artwork has been cropped but not tweaked in Photoshop and the font cannily chosen to match the ‘hand made’ look of the book.

Ruby’s adventure is told in such a way that any adult, who also loves to travel will relate. Who of us has not itched with desire at the destination boards at the airport? The characters Ruby meets on the way are visually alive with ‘voices’ that are enjoyable to read aloud. I love Cassie the cheetah’s plain speaking “... I’m really fast” she tells Ruby. At the end of her adventure Ruby pops into the gift shop at the airport in Tanzania and buys herself something to help her remember her friends and her special day. And guess what? There is a little gift for the reader as well. But I’m not telling you what it is - that's a surprise.

Pictures tell stories and words paint pictures and it’s not easy to bring the two together in a way that will satisfy both a child and an adult.  Ruby is a book that achieves just that.

Children’s literature has a new heroine and she’s a sweetie!
To purchase Ruby. The Adventures of a Travel Bug and to learn more about Sean visit their website HERE

And if you're wondering: yes we did eat the cake!

Friday, December 6, 2013

100 Story Building: pumping out stories!

Yesterday was my final volunteer shift at 100 Story Building for 2013 and the top story was pumping with ideas. We had two middle primary groups booked for the Comic Boom Workshop, so over 40 children had the opportunity to write, draw and publish their own comics. Along with Lachlan, Elliot (my co volunteer) and a couple of teachers, the ratio of adults to students is high, ensuring that no child leaves 100 Story Building without making something substantial.

It seems to me that more children are learning about the project and enter the space primed with a sense of anticipation. The atmosphere is more like a playground at times – so much talking, writing, drawing and acting out. Yesterday I modeled for a comic artist (I was a bored mayor with a big stomach, sitting in a chair), we solved creative dilemmas by flipping a coin and had fun with KAPOW, BOOM, SHAZAM and other ways to make special effects with words not to mention the conversations about how comics relate to film storytelling, the silent comic, the difference between the narrator’s voice and the direct speech of character …  I don’t know who gets the most from these workshops, me or the kids!

There are workshops planned for the holidays and more exciting programs being developed for 2014.

Check out what’s on at 100 Story Building HERE

Pic: Lachlan Carter drawing a narrative arc/ story mountain/ story roller coaster diagram

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

A Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival and Horrormathèque screening of Next of Kin

I began my work life as an actress pure and simple – employed to animate other people’s stories and now almost 40 years later, I’m still mucking with story but at a slower pace and on my terms. 

In 1982, I worked on a film Next of Kin beautifully directed by Tony Williams. The film faded but with the documentary Not Quite Hollywood and Quentin Tarantino’s rave, this sleeper has found a new fan base. It was screened this week at ACMI, an event organized by Briony Kidd to coincide with visiting writer, film programmer and co founder of the Blue Sunshine Psychotronic Film Centre, Kier-La Janisse

Here I am squeezed between Kier-La (left) and Briony after the screening of Next Of Kin. Two fascinating women: Kier-La is the author of The House of Psychotic Women: An Autobiographical Topography of Female Neurosis in Horror and Exploitation Films. I began reading last night and already my head has done a 180 and I’m looking at the horror genre from a very different perspective. Briony is a screenwriter and director and works for the Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival where the focus is on films by women, promoting discussion around genre and gender. 

For my storytelling friends who are tempted to scoff, I can assure you, this genre sits besides folk tale very neatly!

 Following the screening on Monday night, we decamped to Young and Jacksons. An hour was only long enough for me to learn that these amazing women are original and complex thinkers. It’s true what they say: talking is nice, thinking is fun.

More about Horrormathèque HERE 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

YABBA Awards 2013

The Young Australian Best Book Awards (YABBA) was established in 1985. A volunteer managed event, YABBA is about engaging young people in reading Australian literature and becoming discerning readers. Most significantly, YABBA is a forum for children's voices to be heard about the books they are currently enjoying.

Although not short listed this year, I was invited to the  ceremony and it was a grand affair. There were over 300 children and more than 20 authors. The program was punchy and entertaining from the get-go, including drawing games, performances from the host school (Hailebury College) and a collective sing. The YABBA organisers had the children firmly in mind throughout.

The morning finished with the authors lined around the room at signing tables and this for me, was extraordinary. My book Lyrebird! A true story has enjoyed a few accolades (this is nice) but at the YABBAS I met my readers; one after the other came to my table and shared with me what the story meant to them, their sister, brother, mother, teacher ...  Days later, I'm still moved by the words of these children. One student said (I paraphrase) 'I am so glad you are here. Lyrebird! is my favourite book ever and I wanted to meet the person who wrote it.'

Thank you to the YABBA organisers. I have returned to my desk, refreshed, inspired and validated.

BTW: the results of the bird vote are out. Australia's favourite bird is the Superb Fairy-wren. Over 8000 people voted.

(That should read KERIN with one R. Hey! Do I look I bothered?)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Village (Edinburgh Gardens) 2013

Looking a bit crumpled and worse for wear, its not surprising! The Village Festival is creative chaos. This year I had the pleasure of working with story mates, Andrew McKenna, Niki na Meadhra and Teena Hartnett. The best part of the weekend (apart form telling stories to loads of young people and their wranglers) was hanging out with like-minded story folk.

This is a pic of the little caravan that Niki and I used as our story space. Perfect!

Learn more about The Village and my story friends can be found HERE

Melbourne Library Service: Reading Trail Picnic 2013

The Melbourne Library Service is a great supporter of traditional oral storytelling. Not only have they assisted Storytelling Australia (Victoria) with space to to meet, they have employed storytellers for librarian training and other storytelling events. Last week I was excited to be part of the inaugural Reading Trail in the Carlton Gardens. The trail featured, authors, illustrators and traditional storytellers including Clare Saxby, Mark Wilson, Adam Wallace, Julie Perrin, Niki na Meadhra and others. We were well spaced under the old trees and just as well as almost 200 children from nearby schools descended into the Park with much whooping and excitement. I was to busy to take many photos of the day. Only one pair of hands unfortunately. But here is a glimpse.

pics: story mate Niki na Meadhraall set up and waiting, 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Phar Lap the wonder horse: the love of this story is passed on through the generations

I can't possibly let the 2013 Melbourne horse racing season pass without mention of our most famous race horse. Published in 2008, my take on the story, Phar Lap the wonder horse, is still attracting attention and selling well. 

My fascination with oral storytelling traditions led me to writing in verse. Ambivalent at first, as I had never tried my hand at rhyme, I read the introduction to Banjo Patterson's Old Bush Songs (1901) and was convinced that my version would be in ballad form – a genre that once flourished in Australia as a way of spreading the news. My instincts were rewarded when the Children's Book Council of Australia recognised Phar Lap as a Notable Book in 2009 

Here are BP's words that clinched my creative decision. You can read the full text on Gutenburg:

'Among the assisted immigrants and currency lads of the earlier days education was not a strong point; and such newspapers as there were could not be obtained by one-half of the population, and could not be read by a very large percentage of the other half. It is no wonder, then, that the making of ballads flourished in Australia just as it did in England, Scotland, and Ireland in the days before printing was in common use.'

Phar Lap the Wonder Horse is published by Museum Victoria and illustrated by Patricia Mullins.
If you would like a personal recitation: Listen


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