I'm a big believer in sharing, supporting and giving back. It's an essential thread in human nature, stemming from our need to survive, but evolving into so much more as WE evolve. Benefits include a sense of belonging, safety, community and of course, warmth that begins in the toes and courses upwards to the eyebrows.
Supporting and promoting the children's book industry has always been a no-brainer for me. Supporting publishers and creators, promoting juvenile literacy, speaking to kids, sharing books, being involved in bookish events and initiatives is not only a joy, it's vital to the expansion and presence of our industry. Operating from the concept of lack and scarcity, hiding and squirrelling away information and aid, is counter intuitive to the creative soul. Sharing, supporting and harnessing talent is part of our core--and its sum rewards are incalculable.
Also, it's a lot of fun. It's a hoot meeting new people, learning about their work and helping, in even the smallest of ways, tout it to the world. Our Australian children's book industry (most especially per capita) is one of the strongest in the world. We produce an eye-popping book contribution to the world's bookshelves, and are a close-knit and supportive community--which absolutely forms the backbone of our success.
It's been so rewarding to be a mere fragment of a vertebrae on that backbone. Kids' Book Review, the 52-Week Illustration Challenge, mentoring emerging creators, visiting schools and participating in juvenile literacy programs have been some of the most rewarding experiences of my career.
So, I was humbled and honoured to receive the Laurie Copping Award for Distinguished Service to Children's Literature (CBCA ACT) last night. This means so much to me because it highlights the need to be there for each other and to operate in an inclusive and openhearted way. That is, after all, the core of creativity.
I've heard endless glowing reports and stories about Laurie Copping and what a huge supporter he was of the industry. I feel so honoured to receive this award in this name. If you don't know much about this amazing man, principal of Hall Primary School, CBCA mover and shaker, and champion of children's literature, earn more about him here (PDF).
Barbara Braxton, who worked with Laurie, also shared some memories with me:
'...He was passionately devoted to children's literature and it was through his teacher librarians and his complete support of the free-standing library* that the kids of the time were surrounded by stories, books and a joy for reading. [He] always had a literature festival each year and we had some great authors and illustrators visit. Just a wonderful person and one whose influence shaped my life remarkably...'
*at Hall Primary School in Canberra, which has long been closed and is now the site of the Hall School Museum and Heritage Centre, dedicated to Laurie
It was so fabulous to share the evening with a farewell presentation to my friend Leanne Barrett, who served for quite a few years as CBCA ACT branch president and has been an incredible and tireless addition to the chapter. Below, current branch president Julie Long, presenting Leanne with some thank you gifts. Leanne is one of these selfless people who gives so very much to others, and her impact was remarkable. She is leaving her current role as Vice-President and Events Chair, to focus on her own creative journey. She will be so very missed (though still very much industry involved!).
When children's book creators first start out, it's ALL about the book. The finished product. The cardboard-bound clutch of pages crammed with story you can hold in your hands and pose for photos with. That real life manifestation of your work that sits proudly on a shelf with your name on it. It's the biggest thrill in the world!
|the brand new author obligatory pose-with-book photo, November 2008, Beijing|
As you immerse in the industry and fall deeply into your creative journey, however, you soon realise it's not about the book at all. Not in the least little bit.
It's really about two things.
First, it's about what your book DOES rather than what it is. It's how it affects its readers--how it enchants, enlightens or educates (oftentimes all three). Make no mistake, that's really where creative fulfillment lies.
Second, it's about the journey. As with life itself, being a children's book creator is about the happy-making creative process--doing what you love day after day, and taking delight in the actual path of creation. It's not where it will take you but where it IS.
Immersing in industry, promoting and aiding peers, donating time to kids and organisations, is a rock solid and vital part of this journey. I so urge you to get involved and give back. Not only will it fast track your career and bring untold benefits to your knowledge and skillset and prospects, it will bring immense personal reward.
In fact, you may just find it priceless.
Thank you, CBCA.