CBCA Conference 2019 - best ever!

Monday, 3 June 2019

Okay, so I have literally dragged myself out of bed because I can wait not a moment longer to tell you about the CBCA Conference, 2019. This will be a steam of consciousness, celebrating the wonderful event proper (so please know that if you are after a rundown of what people covered in their sessions, you won't find it here, although I still hope you enjoy it) and I have a year's worth of production to get done by September, so this post may not even be edited!! And I didn't manage to get photos of all sessions.

Anyhoo - to start with, I just have to say:

Best. CBCA. Conference. EVER.

Enormous congrats to Margaret Hamilton and Dyan Blacklock and their crew, and to our local ACT CBCA branch, headed by Julie Long, and to major sponsors Copyright Agency, Booktopia and Dymocks and conference bags and dinner sponsor HarperCollins Children's Books and to Conference Solutions and QT Hotel - breathe in - for a brilliantly conceived, planned and executed two-and-a-bit days of pure children's book heaven.

It all began with a glorious - goosebumping, tear-jerking - Welcome to Country by local man Duncan Smith, who entranced us with the most astonishing didgeridoo. This music enters every cell of your body. Truly beautiful.

Then a keynote address by Morris Gleitzman that, as ever, had us laughing and burrowing deep into our own brains to think, and to think hard...

The Many Ways Humour Suits Literacy Purposes

Laura Stitzel, Michael Speechley and Matt Stanton then spoke brilliantly on Making Funny Pictures, It's a Piece of Cake, followed by a phenomenal session with Bruce Pascoe and Edie Wright on Young Dark Emu: Teaching Australia's True History - immensely powerful and what a truly remarkable man.

After lunch, I listened in on the hilarious Laura Harris (Publishing Director, PRH) with Bren McDibble (Cally Black), Kelly Canby and Rebecca McRitchie, who were introduced as 'new voices' but really are already deeply entrenched with their incredible works. We all have sessions we particularly love, and this was one of them for me...

Then - it was showtime! I presented with Andrew Kelly (Wild Dog Books) and author Kristin Weidenbach, on Non-Fiction in a Google World. Have to say I was shocked at the turnout (we had the smaller room due to the illustriousness in the concurrent sessions next door - Meg McKinlay, Zoe Norton Lodge, Adam Cece and RA Spratt) - it was standing room only, so thank you thank you those who were keen to listen in on this topic, one I'm immensely passionate about. Children's books receive such a woeful share of attention and esteem (despite keeping over a third of our book industry alive, literally), and non-fiction receives even LESS of this slice, so it was a truly heartening thing.

The session sparked lots of conversation afterwards, so I was told! and I loved every minute - from three very different and experienced creators, with so much value to share. Among many topics covered by all of us, I spoke on how non-fiction is a fluid thing - that it comes in many forms, and I love the fact that fact can be stranger and more astonishing than fiction. I spoke about Mamie and how although the character of Mamie is fictional, she was designed specifically in this way, to 'reflect' the life of May Gibbs, and make her far (FAR) more accessible to young children.

Beyond all else - beyond wanting to inspire and entrance children with the lives of brilliant people like May, I want to encourage them to fall into books and story, and I've always felt this approach was a wonderful way to do this. So while the book is not traditionally non-fiction, it is certainly about the facts, and about a true and talented soul. I would argue that even true non-fiction has elements of fiction stuffed into its pages, anyway, as the telling of any story is influenced by conjecture and assumption at times, even if we imagine what someone might have said, how they could have felt, or what they might have worn.

Anyway, I loved this session - it was heaps of fun and we could have gone for hours and hours and hours.

Simply adored the session with Kate and Jol Temple, Tamsin Janu and chair James Roy - The Politics of Children's Literature: Humour in a Series World. And one of my other faves - Libby Gleeson chatting with Zana Fraillon, Karen Foxlee, Rhiannon Williams and Eliza Henry Jones on Strange New Worlds. Zana joined us by Skype, and what a delight it was to celebrate her inclusion on the IBBY Honour List during this session (for The Bone Sparrow).

At close of session, I caught up with some lovely peeps, then off to the divine Arboretum for dinner with the team from HarperCollins. It was wonderful to natter with my publisher Lisa Berryman, and to meet even more people for the first time, including Rebecca McRitchie, Matt Stanton and Kate and Jol Temple. Leigh Hobbs spoke on his Laureate journey and honestly - it was just the most hilarious and heartwarming visual tour through endless countries and touching the hearts of countless children. We were also treated to peeks inside his upcoming Mr Chicken in Australia (!!!) picture book. I seriously laughed till I couldn't breathe - it's going to be wonderful. Leigh was absolutely on form!

Alas, we didn't get many pics on the night, but needless to say, it was beautiful. A disappointment was that interstaters didn't get to see (thanks a lot, night) the stunning view over the hills of the Arboretum and its rapidly-growing forests, but the interior of the building was glorious compensation.

Day Two - what better way to start than with Jeannie Baker scooping us up and plunging us into a rockpool of visual delight, revealing her collaging processes and eye-popping imagery. A true treat - one of those sessions that almost literally disappears in the blink of an eye, you're so entranced. Many of the images are from her upcoming book, Collage...

The Art of a Funny Partnership was next, with Danny Katz and Mitch Vane, and Andrew Hansen and Jessica Roberts. Honestly, I left that session with a six-pack, I laughed so hard. Danny was on fire! Truly brilliant stuff, and also insightful to peek inside the workings of marriages in creative collaboration...

Next, Hardly a Laughing Matter (But Why We Need These Books) - the brilliant Vicki Wakefield, Allayne Webster and Rob Newton, followed by Big Cheese, Little Cheese: The Importance of Independent Publishing for Children with Rochelle Manners, Mark MacLeod and Davina Bell. Another one of my absolute fave sessions...

The CBCA Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Paul Jennings, who joined us via Skype. This was hugely emotional - to see Paul speak and accepted the award from CBCA National President Margot Hillel. What a beautiful man...

A keynote with Emily Rodda followed - entitled Will You Ever Write a 'Real' Book, in conversation with Dyan Blacklock. Again, an inspiring and uplifting session, with an astonishing creator...

Next up, another meaningful session To See and Understand: Exploring Our Nation's Rich Cultural History with Aunty Fay Muir and Sue Lawson. And by contrast, a penultimate session of pure hilarity with Matt Cosgrove, Peter Carnavas and Oliver Phommavanh, who treated us to much joy, hammering home to true power of laughter - not only for kids, but for the sometimes weary adults who work so tirelessly and with such passion, to produce vital resources for children. Thanks, fellas, it was JOY! ...

Pirate coins flying, top right!

Oliver the alpaca stand-in

Oliver, Matt, Peter

Then - raffle time! Some superb book packs, and also the posters and collector's editions of the new children's author stamps issued by Australia Post (my friend Stephanie Owen Reeder won one - so jelly).

The silent auction for the bears (painted by, left to right, moi, Laura Stitzel, Dub Leffler and Matt Cosgrove) was then revealed, and I'm thrilled to say Mamie Bear raised $400 for the CBCA Awards Foundation. That in itself was enough, but when I found out the bear had been purchased by the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature, where she will be housed along with treasured May Gibbs memorabilia - well. Yes, there were tears, yes indeed. I could not think of anything more special.

a sneaky snapshot from day one, being eerily eyed by Shaun Tan!

Huge thanks to Leanne Barrett for these photos from our local creator table, showcasing several authors and illustrators who put their hand up to come on board (thank you!). It was a really lovely opportunity to have a 'base' for a short while, where people could come up and see our work, chat, sign books, etc. It was a lovely experience - one Leanne organised so beautifully.

Leanne and me

Cate Whitte, who popped in!

Stephanie Owen Reeder

Sandra Bennett

Suzy Houghton and me

Holly Bidwell

Leanne Barrett

Maura Pierlot

Iona Thompson

Nicole Godwin

Shelly Unwin

Kerry Malone

Susannah Crispe

Lynley Stace

Oui, c'est moi. Avec Piglet, Bunny, Cat, Mamie. Je ne sais pas pourquoi 
je suis français en ce moment. C'est tout un mystère.

I think this was a Duck Pond duckie photo? All a whirlwind!

divine HCP publicists - Georgia and Katie

I wanted to send a huge shout out to local Dymocks booksellers and all-round book superstars, Alison and Richard Kay, who schlepped in an astonishing roomful of books and made them look too tempting to pass up. According to inside sources (sssshhh!) they cleaned up, so thank you to everyone who bought books so completely generously. Just lovely to see my maps and my new Australia map puzzle (out now! ever in work mode) there, too.

In finishing, I wanted to give you a wee peek at the National Library's upcoming books, all of which have been created by local Canberra peeps (with the exception of Briony Stewart). Story Time Stars, masterfully curated by Stephanie Owen Reeder, is a companion book to the upcoming Australian children's book exhibition (Aug 19 - Feb 20). If you can get to Canberra to see it, you simply must. It's going to be pure book heaven, and as it's in cahoots with the National Centre for Australian Children's Literature - well, you can imagine.

In this batch of books is a sneak peek at the cover of my next NLA title, too - Fauna, Australia's Most Curious Creatures. It's out November. More peeks soon.

I also just had to show you this magnificent piece of artwork by the illustratious Max Hamilton. It was gifted to me at the conference and I can't even tell you how much I'll treasure it. I LOVE her work. And the exciting news is - but don't tell anyone - she's working on a picture book! So watch out for Max's work.

A shout out to Tania from Zart for these fabulous watercolour artboards and catalogue. I can't wait to try them out! And another one to the amazing Leanne Barrett for organising our local creator table. Lastly, I'm ashamed to say I was so busy, I only managed to snatch a few mins in the bookshop - so these two books are the result. Ever the librocubicularist, I am forcing myself to bed early tonight so I can totally immerse. They are both stunning books - put them on your list.

I hope you enjoyed this peek at my CBCA conference experience and it's inspired you to pick up a paintbrush, a keyboard or a book. Thank you, CBCA, for all that you do for creators and publishers and booksellers and librarians and teachers and parents and most especially ... kids.

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