Elaine Forrestal

A glorious storyboard

Sainte Chapelle — a giant storyboard

Since we have been here in Paris we have revis­ited some of our favourite haunts. One that never ceases to amaze and delight us is Sainte Chapelle on the Ile de Cite.

Built in the 13th-century to house the reli­gious relics brought to Paris by King Louis IX, its glo­ri­ous stained glass win­dows reach­ing two floors up into the heav­ens, are like a giant sto­ry­board. Across the fif­teen pan­els all the well known sto­ries of the Old Tes­ta­ment and some of the New Tes­ta­ment ones are pro­gres­sively told, just as illus­tra­tors today record, in pic­tures, the main points of the sto­ries they want to tell. The pic­ture I took on this visit (above) shows a tiny frac­tion of the mag­nif­i­cent light and colour that sur­rounds you as you stand, feel­ing about as big as an ant, on the floor of the Upper Chapel and stare at the remark­able detail and artistry involved in telling these stories.

If you are ever in Paris make it top of your list of things to go and see.

Mean­while I am work­ing, each morn­ing, on my ‘Fly­ing Machines’ and vis­it­ing the Musee de les Art et Tech­nolo­gie to study some of the ear­li­est ones, includ­ing the actual Bleirot XI in which M. Bleirot flew from Calais to Dover in 1909, becom­ing the first man to fly across the Eng­lish Chan­nel. The story of that amaz­ing flight is full of humour, adven­ture and courage — but I’m afraid you will have to wait a while to read it. Stay with me, though. It’s on its way.

Review of To See the World in Reading Time

Cover of To See the World, pub­lished by The National Library of Australia

Even in Paris a review from Read­ing Time has reached me, thanks to my very good friend Ernie Tucker!

Here is the link, www.readingtime.com/see-world/. But if this doesn’t work for you just Google Read­ing Time review of To See the World. John D Adams’ review is very seri­ous and knowl­edgable, which adds grav­i­tas to the book and, I hope, will encour­age schools to use it in their his­tory pro­grammes. The cou­ple of sen­tences I have included below, just to give you a taste, come after John D Adams has filled in the his­tor­i­cal background.

All this is the basis for this story of the voy­age of the Uranie told for young read­ers by Jose who is taught to read and write by Rose.’ And later …

This recon­struc­tion of a real voy­age around the world pro­vides for a most enjoy­able, inter­est­ing and infor­ma­tive story … and is well rec­om­mended.’ John D Adams.

I will be back in Perth at the end of the month, just in time for the Cel­e­brate Read­ing Con­fer­ence at The Lit­er­a­ture Cen­tre. Mean­while, happy reading.

Skype in the classroom

Teacher’s Notes for Some­one Like Me can be found on this website.

This week I am very excited about the pos­si­bil­i­ties pre­sented by the dig­i­tal age we live in.

I have just been doing a Book-Week-type ses­sion with a Yr 5 class at Esper­ance Pri­mary, via Skype. Their teacher was read­ing Some­one Like Me to them and they were lov­ing it. They were so engaged  with the story that she wanted them to be able to inter­view me, face to face, to ask me the ques­tions that par­tic­u­lar story inevitably throws up. Because of the twist in the end­ing, Some­one Like Me is a dif­fi­cult book to talk about unless every­one in the audi­ence has read it. Because their teacher had read it to the whole class over a period of weeks it was a per­fect oppor­tu­nity to dis­cuss the char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion, plot, and of course, the effects of the dra­matic twist. After some nego­ti­a­tions about time, tech­ni­cal pos­si­bil­i­ties and so on, the teacher linked her lap­top to the class Smart Board. Then it was just a ques­tion of phon­ing me up at the appointed time and there I was, large as life, in their class­room. I was able to  talk to the stu­dents, answer their ques­tions, even show them the trans­lated ver­sions of Some­one Like Me and any of my other titles they asked about. I could see the whole class and they could see me. At one point I tossed a ques­tion to them as a group and three stu­dents put up their hands and gave their answers — just as if I was there in per­son. Mostly, though, the stu­dents put up their hands and the teacher called them to sit in the chair near­est the Smart Board to ask me ques­tions they had pre­pared before the ses­sion. The sound was bet­ter when they were up close, but the pic­ture was excel­lent wher­ever they were.

I can see this tech­nol­ogy rev­o­lu­tion­is­ing author vis­its to remote places like Esper­ance, Port Hed­land and other dis­tant coun­try towns. It is cer­tainly a cheaper option for the school. Ses­sions can still be billed at the ASA rates, but the school doesn’t have to find money for air fares and accommodation.

I know that there is noth­ing quite like a face to face visit from an author, but the dig­i­tal option has to be bet­ter than noth­ing. So often schools, par­tic­u­larly small ones, miss out because the cost of an author visit is so pro­hib­i­tive. I hope that the improve­ments in this tech­nol­ogy will make us, and our books, more acces­si­ble to everyone.

Student life

Elaine For­re­stal pre­sent­ing at the Perth Con­ven­tion Centre

This week I have had to put all my other projects on hold and do a mas­sive catch-up with my stud­ies at UWA.

Through a major mis­un­der­stand­ing I sud­denly found myself hav­ing to pedal really hard to catch up on the read­ing for the Unit I am enrolled in this Semes­ter. For­tu­nately for me the ‘pow­ers that be’ at UWA could see how the mis­take had hap­pened and I am now almost back on track with a pre­sen­ta­tion to do on Mon­day and two assign­ments by the end of Octo­ber. There may be a cou­ple of gaps in my reg­u­lar blog posts, but I will make con­tact when­ever I can.

Wish me luck!

Prizes for Young Writers

Elaine For­re­stal con­duct­ing a writ­ing work­shop at St Mary’s Angli­can Girl’s School

On Sat­ur­day the annual Award Cer­e­mony for the Young Writer’s Con­test took place at St Mary’s Angli­can Girls’ School. It is always fas­ci­nat­ing for me to go along and see those excited young writ­ers, whose ages range from Kinder­garten to Year 12, walk­ing up onto the stage to receive their prize in front of the whole audi­ence in the The­atre at the Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre. Hav­ing read and ago­nised over their anony­mous work dur­ing the judg­ing process, I love to finally be able to match the real per­son to their story or poem. This year one of the prize win­ners in the youngest age group, K-Yr2, is a girl from a Kinder­garten class. She looked so tiny and frag­ile, walk­ing up onto that enor­mous stage, but what a strong young writer! She is def­i­nitely some­one to watch out for and hope­fully has a long writ­ing career ahead of her.

Sadly, just over a year ago, Eric Car­lin died. Eric was essen­tially the father of the Young Writer’s Con­test, hav­ing gone to The West Aus­tralian and Chan­nel 7 with the idea back in 1976, then pas­sion­ately sup­ported and guided the com­pe­ti­tion through a suc­ces­sion of changes. While oth­ers fell by the way­side, The West Aus­tralian has always remained a loyal spon­sor and, these days, promotes the con­test through its News­pa­pers in Edu­ca­tion ED! Mag­a­zine. Sev­eral years ago, when Hawai­ian and Fre­man­tle Press joined the list of spon­sors, Eric was delighted. He had always main­tained that  the win­ners should receive money prizes because he felt it added legit­i­macy to the com­pe­ti­tion. I’m glad that he lived to see the day when Hawai­ian not only agreed to con­tinue that tra­di­tion, but dou­bled the prize money!

The Young Writ­ers Con­test is the longest run­ning com­pe­ti­tion of its type in Aus­tralia and for many years now one of the high­lights of the Award Cer­e­mony has been Eric’s read­ing of the Michael Rosen poem, ‘The Choco­late Cake’. With his wicked chuckle and lots of expres­sive lip-licking and cake-eating sounds, Eric has enter­tained us with this poem, which is so evoca­tive of child­hood mem­o­ries, while pre­sent­ing the Eric Car­lin Award to the Sec­ondary School that is judged to have made the biggest con­tri­bu­tion to the com­pe­ti­tion in terms of qual­ity writ­ing from its stu­dents. As this years cer­e­mony approached our usual antic­i­pa­tion was tinged with sad­ness, not only because of the loss of Eric, but because we thought that we would never again hear the ‘The Choco­late Cake’ read out dur­ing the presentations.

Then along came a knight in shin­ing armour. Paul Dono­van, son of Syd Dono­van who, as a jour­nal­ist with The West Aus­tralian, cham­pi­oned the com­pe­ti­tion idea from the begin­ning, vol­un­teered to read the ‘The Choco­late Cake’ at this year’s cer­e­mony, as a trib­ute to Eric. it was a brave offer. Eric’s shoes were big and dif­fi­cult to fill. But to his enor­mous credit Paul, who is not unlike Eric in some ways, chan­neled his pre­de­ces­sor per­fectly. The lovely tra­di­tion which has devel­oped around the pre­sen­ta­tion of the Eric Car­lin Award can now continue.

Thank you, Paul. I’m sure that Eric is hav­ing a good chuckle, with the rest of us, whilst admir­ing your skill and courage.