Dear blog: will you ever forgive me for so neglecting you? I was off gallivanting (how often does one get to use that word?) with other writers and illustrators, lovers of literature and hordes of enthusiastic kids. And not just anywhere, but in the balmy, sub-tropical, north Queensland town of Mackay. Can you see now why it’s taken me a while to come back down to earth enough to blog?
This year’s Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival was easily the highlight of my writerly times to date. Everyone involved was energetic and engaging, from the organisers and school staff to the 5000 students who attended over the two days. The event was buzzing with story in all its forms: books, art, poetry, movement and music. I had a number of student minders allocated to me over the festival, and I hope they know how much I appreciated their smiles and conversation (even amongst the stress of making sure I got to each room on time – thanks girls). I got to meet some incredibly creative youngsters in my illustration workshops, where we made our own textured papers and created different interpretations of an Australian bush scape. The book talks were also great fun, where we got a bit silly in creating some monster characters. In one session we designed a monster based on a giraffe, and below you can see some of the results (I particularly like the spacey monster).
Writers get the reputation of being a bit reclusive, but this certainly isn’t the case when you get them all together. The other writers and illustrators involved were not only incredibly talented and inspiring to be around, but also genuinely lovely people. Gus Gordon is a hoot, and I had kids quoting his jokes at me in the playground (Gus, I might have stolen a few for my own use). PDMartin was my festival sister, and in her sessions shared some fascinating stories of the research that goes into her crime novels. Ruben Meerman (aka The Surfing Scientist) was just as energetic and entertaining as he is on TV. Ghostboy was the beating heart of the festival, leaving a trail of poetry and mischief in his wake. There were so many other incredible creators and I feel really lucky that I got to spend an intense couple of days with them all. I know I’ve come away from it with some good friends and kindred spirits.
The festival finished off with the big literary dinner, decorated (as described by Ghostboy I believe) like a Tim Burton style prom night. There was much talking. Much drinking. And it almost goes without saying: much dancing. There might be photo evidence of the latter, but for the sake of all involved they wont be going up on this blog. I have been accused of dancing on tables in the past (Michael Gerard Bauer, I’m looking at you) but I will just say this – there was certainly some tabletop dancing, but not by me.
So much goes into these events and yet they always seem to pass in the blink of an eye. And with all that it’s over for another year. I’m home again, trying to adjust to the cold and rainy Adelaide winter and get back into my writing / illustrating projects. It’s not going to be easy, but thoughts of other festivals to come will keep me going…