CBCA National Conference, Canberra

Tuesday 20 May 2014

The CBCA National Conference, Canberra, was a roaring success, with a stellar line-up of industry talent, sharing their passion and drive for literacy and fabulous books. This is one of the best conferences I've ever been to--it was truly overwhelming and insightful, and an absolute pleasure to be involved in.

Anne Marie Schwirtlich and Bronwyn Davies

On Friday 16 May, we attended the opening of the Conference at the National Library of Australia, officially launched by Anne Marie Schwirtlich, Director General, NLA. We were then treated to the launch of Bronwyn Davies' retelling of
The Fairy Who Wouldn’t Fly by Pixie O'Harris.

Drinks and delectable nibbles were served, and guests were treated to a rare peek at some incredibly beautiful book treasures, including Mary Poppins, the original The Fairy Who Wouldn't Fly, and vintage copies of The School Magazine.

From the NLA, we made our way to the Canberra Museum and Gallery for an exquisite exhibition--Bird in the Hand!--curated by Ann James and Anne Haddon of Books Illustrated. Wow. What a beautiful production, not only showcasing the extraordinary talents of one of our finest book creators, but providing an intimate, personal peek into Bob Graham's world that's a must-see if you can get to Canberra (closes 24 August 2014). That desk--I want it.

photo: Sheryl Gwyther

Christina Booth, Tania McCartney, Tracey Hawkins
photo: Sheryl Gwyther

Sheryl Gwyther, Sue Whiting, Tania McCartney

On Saturday 17 May, we enjoyed a head-spinning line-up of presenters, starting with the brilliant Michael Gerard Bauer and Barry Jonsberg, who spoke about their books, superbly coupled with the wit and candour of Omnibus publisher Dyan Blacklock. It was a funny and fabulous peek into the work of two very talented writers.

Michael Gerard Bauer and Barry Jonsberg

Next was our Motherhood and Mayhem panel, where dear friends Stephanie Owen Reeder, Tracey Hawkins, Irma Gold and myself talked about balancing nurture with chaos, how it affects our work, and how it makes us better writers.

Tania McCartney, Stephanie Owen Reeder, Tracey Hawkins, Irma Gold
photo: Sheryl Gwyther

with my beautiful panel girls - Irma Gold, Me, Stephanie Owen Reeder, Tracey Hawkins

Our panel was followed by Picture Book Partnerships, headed by Margaret Hamilton AM. What an incredible treat to walk through Freya Blackwood and Libby Gleeson's beautiful work, and hear about their processes. Ditto the stunning Julie Vivas/Margaret Wild coupling and Stephen Michael King with Glenda Millard. I have no words.

Freya Blackwood and Libby Gleeson

Margaret Hamilton

Julie Vivas, Margaret Hamilton, Stephen Michael King, Glenda Millard

Stephen Michael King, Glenda Millard

Freya Blackwood, Libby Gleeson, Julie Vivas, Stephen Michael King, Glenda Millard

At lunch time, we had the announcement of the Text Prize winner - David Burton with his novel How to Be Happy, followed by Nadia Wheatley launching The Minnow by Diana Sweeney.

After lunch, it was a joy to hear from legends Bronwyn Bancroft and Tony Hill ...

Bronwyn Bancroft, Margrete Lamond and Anthony Hill

...and in the break, we enjoyed the launch of The Sequin Star by the lovely Belinda Murrell.

In the concurrent sessions, I enjoyed listening to Sue Murray, current editor of The School Magazine. I had never even seen a copy of the magazine until this weekend (shameful!)--so it was with great pleasure to connect with not only a handful of copies (subscription pending) but the creators behind this priceless resource for kids.

Sue Murray of The School Magazine

To end Day One, we listened in on a concurrent session - Susan Hall of the NLA with Jane Jolly, talking of Jane's new book, illustrated by Robert Ingpen - Tea and Sugar Christmas. Wow, what a stunner! Look out for it this November.

Susan Hall, publisher NLA, and Jane Jolly

Being that I was incredibly exhausted from a sleepless Friday night (presenting to peers is nerve-wracking!), I chose not to attend the Conference dinner at the Australian War Memorial. By all accounts, I should have--apparently it was simply stunning, and a moving experience for all. The delegates arrived to a haunting lone piper, ate amongst airplanes and were treated to an exquisite performance for Morris Gleitzman's Loyal Creatures, as well as an impassioned speech from Jackie French. Jealous? Much.

photo: Christina Booth

Day Two was a blur. On Sunday 18 May, we had an Author Breakfast at the Canberra Yacht Club--a venue on the lake with breathtaking views, delicious food and the opportunity to mix with and chat with some very special people. The breakfast featured local authors as well as Belinda Murrell and Christina Booth.

Back at the Rex Hotel, we heard from so many people including Mark McLeod, who spoke of Children’s Literature: the Short Life of Categories.

Mark MacLeod

We then heard from national treasure Nadia Wheatley who spoke of her journey from My Place to Australians All.

Nadia Wheatley

In the break, we enjoyed book launches and signings by Bob Graham, ChoeChoe Brereton's A House for Donfinkle (review) and Roses Are Blue by Sally Murphy.

An extremely popular session--Publishing Literary Treasures--featured publishers Erica Wagner Allen & Unwin), Margrete Lamond (Little Hare), Rochelle Manners (Wombat Books) and Laura Harris (Penguin), who inspired and delighted us with their words.

Erica Wagner, Margrete Lamond, Rochelle Manners, Laura Harris

Belle Alderman from the Lu Rees Archives was next. The Conference  launched the Archives' fabulous publication, Showcasing Treasures (review and buy your copy here). Soon after, we learned more about the CBCA Awards Foundation, the Indigenous Literacy Foundation, the Australian Children's Laureate, and information on the next National CBCA Conference, 2016, which will be held in Sydney (prepare now!).

Belle Alderman, Lu Rees Archives

To end a phenomenal Conference proper, we heard from amazing, goosebumpling Jackie French, Australian Children's Laureate ...

Jackie French
And the superb Andy Griffiths ... on why humour is necessary in children's books. A truly fabulous way to end an endless array of bookish inspiration.

Andy Griffiths

On Monday 19 May, several delegates made their way to Jackie French's farm in the Arulean Valley, and were treated to a joyous experience. In the words of Sarah Steed - 'Jackie's home is so beautiful and peaceful, and Jackie was so generous with her time and in opening her home to everyone. We got a tour of the garden which is a stunning combination of planted vegetables, roaming fruit trees, wild and natural plants, and so much more. And there was lunch: pumpkin or vegetable soup, freshly baked bread and vegetable slice, chocolate cake with marzipan wombats on top (!), warm kumara scones with peach jam. A wonderful end to the conference weekend.'

Biggest congrats to CBCA ACT President Leanne Barrett, Conference Convener Gai Dennett and advisor Margaret Hamilton, and the whole conference team and volunteers, for an exquisite weekend of pure inspiration. And warmest thanks to Christina Booth, Sheryl Gwyther and Michael Gerard Bauer for allowing the use of some of their photos here. You can see a wrap-up of conference presentations on the Conference website, which will appear in the coming weeks.

You can also see a Vox Pops post, written by Sarah Steed, on Kids' Book Review right here.

I'll be forever reminiscing on this incredible weekend--on catching up with dear friends and colleagues, and meeting people for the first time, sometimes after many years of internet contact. It was an emotional, overwhelming, exhausting, uplifting, stunning time and here are a couple of social photos, below, that clearly showcase that!

Now, excuse me, I'm feeling beyond inspired. I'm off to write!

Glenda Millard, Tracey Hawkins, Michael Gerard Bauer, Irma Gold, Me

Nadia Wheatley, Christina Booth, Stephanie Owen Reeder, Sheryl Gwyther, Irma Gold, Me


Sheryl Gwyther said...

Great coverage of a wonderful weekend, Tania. This was my first CBCA conference and there were so many fabulous speakers. It was such fun, even though my brain felt full to bursting. Excellent post, T! :)

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Great coverage of a wonderful weekend, Tania. This was my first CBCA conference and there were so many fabulous speakers. It was such fun, even though my brain felt full to bursting. Excellent post, T! :)

DimbutNice said...

Convinced. You really have visited heaven. What an utterly divine weekend you've had Tania. The conference sounds better than great. You had me at stellar-line up but my knees buckled with 'farm visit to Jackie's'. Oh what I wouldn't give to walk amongst her herbs...So joyed for you lucky girl. :-)

Emma Perry said...

Wow - what a wonderfully inspiring, hectic and fun weekend. The conference sounds amazing - looking forward to seeing what your new inspiration leads to!!!


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