Elaine Forrestal

IBBY Quiz Night

Meg McKin­ley, Jen Ban­yard, Frane Lessac and Elaine For­re­stal at the IBBY Quiz Night, 2015. (photo by Gay Tierney)

For any­one even remotely inter­ested in children’s lit­er­a­ture, the annual IBBY Quiz Night is a treat not to be missed. It is held to cel­e­brate Hans Chris­t­ian Anderson’s birth­day, and run by the West Aus­tralian branch of the Inter­na­tional Board on Books for Young peo­ple. Since we are all young — and even if we claim to be not young any­more, we were once — the quiz night is a rare oppor­tu­nity to revisit those much loved books and char­ac­ters from our youth. It’s a fun night to share with old  friends. Or you can join a reg­u­lar table and meet new ones. No mat­ter which cat­e­gory you fit into there is always some­thing for you. There are eight rounds of ques­tions, which no one takes too seri­ously — even if they pre­tend to. Two rounds of gen­eral knowl­edge for ded­i­cated quiz-goers, and six rounds in which the ques­tions range from time-worn clas­sics through to the most recent, but well known, children’s books.

Visit the IBBY web­site (www.ibbyaustralia.wordpress.com) reg­u­larly to keep up with the won­der­ful work done by this group to raise the pro­file of Aus­tralian authors and illus­tra­tors. And that’s where you’ll find the date and venue for next year’s quiz.

Don’t miss it!

Asian Festival of Children’s Content

Elaine For­re­stal speak­ing at the launch of ‘To See the World’

Now that the Inter­na­tional Book Fair in Bologna is behind me I can start work­ing on my two pre­sen­ta­tions at the Asian Fes­ti­val of Children’s Content.

Dif­fer­ent ver­sions of ‘How to bring a dead pirate back to life’ have been part of my reper­toire since Black Jack Ander­son was released in 2008. How­ever, ‘The key to the trea­sure is the trea­sure’ is some­thing I have not pre­sented before. Although the novel, Straggler’s Reef, was first pub­lished in 1999 it has always been some­what over­shad­owed by its cousin, the adventure/mystery story, Graf­fiti on the Fence, which was pub­lished ear­lier that same year. Straggler’s Reef was really my first attempt at writ­ing his­tor­i­cal fic­tion, but the adventure/mysteries were being gob­bled up by Pen­guin as fast as I could write them. It was not until almost ten years later, when the story of Black Jack Ander­son, Western Australia’s only pirate, fell into my lap that I redis­cov­ered my love of dig­ging into hid­den cracks and cor­ners of WA’s colour­ful past. That’s when I began in earnest to write his­tor­i­cal fiction.

I have always loved mys­ter­ies and our his­tory is full of them. The use of metaphor has become cen­tral, I believe, to his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for a YA audi­ence. Metaphor allows me to deliver the vital essence, the often unmen­tion­able truth, about the vio­lence and cru­elty inher­ent in the lives of our for­bears. YA audi­ences are still being held hostage by those in schools and libraries who would shield young peo­ple from what they want, and often need to know. Using metaphor I can often tell, with­out telling, reveal with­out reveal­ing so that young peo­ple can access those sto­ries in deeper, more mean­ing­ful way.

Being invited to speak at the Asian Fes­ti­val of Children’s Con­tent has given me the oppor­tu­nity to develop these ideas and the forum in which to deliver them. I will try to keep you up to speed with progress as I write and explore these two top­ics, but to expe­ri­ence the final result you will have to come to my ses­sions at the Asian Fes­ti­val of Children’s Con­tent in Sin­ga­pore, 3rd June, 3pm-4pm for the ‘Dead pirate’ (NB. Not to be con­fused with the Dead Par­rot of Monty Python fame) and 5th June, 12noon-1pm for ‘The key to the treasure…’.

See you there.

Competitions 2015

Flyer con­tains entry form for Make Your Own Sto­ry­book, 2015

Dur­ing the week I had an email to let me know that one of my favourite times of the year is com­ing up. It’s judg­ing time for the young writ­ers’ com­pe­ti­tions and I can’t wait to read what all you tal­ented young writ­ers have to say this year.

The Tim Win­ton Awards are open to all West­ern Aus­tralians attend­ing school in Year lev­els from 1– 10. There are no poetry sec­tions, but short sto­ries can be on any topic. This com­pe­ti­tion is admin­is­tered by the Subi­aco Library (www.subiaco.wa.gov.au) and Tim Win­ton presents the prizes in per­son. Entries close on the 14th June.

The Young Writ­ers Com­pe­ti­tion has a poetry and a short story sec­tion for each age group  from K and PP right up to Years 11 and 12. This is the longest run­ning writ­ing com­pe­ti­tion for young peo­ple in Aus­tralia and many of its past win­ners have gone on to make writ­ing their pro­fes­sion. The com­pe­ti­tion is run by WA News­pa­pers (www.wanews.com.au) and full details will be avail­able on their web­site. Entries close at the end of May.

Then there’s the Make Your Own Sto­ry­book Com­pe­ti­tion. Years pp-2 can sub­mit pic­ture books. Years 3–8 can sub­mit a pic­ture book or a sto­ry­book. Judges will clas­sify the entries as they come in. This com­pe­ti­tion is run by the Children’s Book Coun­cil of Aus­tralia, WA Branch (www.wa.cbca.org.au) and some very famous writ­ers and illus­tra­tors have gained con­fi­dence and encour­age­ment from win­ning this com­pe­ti­tion in the past, includ­ing Shaun Tan and James Foley. Entries close on Fri­day 5th June.

Enter­ing these com­pe­ti­tions is a great way to exper­i­ment with your own ideas and to improve your writ­ing over­all. If you don’t win a prize this year, try again next year. The more often you write (or illus­trate), the bet­ter you will be at it so get out your pens, pen­cils, paints, word proces­sors, and have a go. Grab your next idea by the throat and don’t let go until you have shaped it into a story. Then enter it in one of these com­pe­ti­tions. You never know …

All the Fun of the Fiere — Bologna 2015

Elaine For­re­stal at the Creator’s Table, Hello From Aus­tralia 2015 stall, Bologna Inter­na­tional Book Fair.

I have just returned from the Bologna Inter­na­tional Book Fair. What an Expe­ri­ence! Four days of meet­ing like-minded peo­ple from all over the world and talk­ing about books.

Sit­ting at the Creator’s Table in the Hello from Aus­tralia 2015 stall, I felt as if the world was com­ing to me. Three women from Slove­nia came and admired the Sloven­ian trans­la­tion of Some­one Like Me. Two peo­ple from Sin­ga­pore asked whether my books were avail­able there. As it hap­pens they are. The book shop, A Closet Full of Books, is stock­ing them because I am speak­ing at the Asian Fes­ti­val of Children’s Con­tent in Sin­ga­pore from the 2nd to the 5th of June. An Ital­ian woman browsed through To See the World and declared that Mon­dadore Edi­tore was look­ing for sto­ries about strong women. Rose de Freycinet’s three-year voy­age around the world (1817–1820) would be a per­fect fit. Nat­u­rally I fol­lowed up on that and vis­ited the Mon­dadore stall to set the nego­ti­a­tions in motion.

I told Rose’s story to many oth­ers dur­ing the course of the Fair and, when my two ros­tered ses­sions on the Creator’s Table were over, I was able to fol­low up the leads that I had been given and forge some links of my own, par­tic­u­larly with three French pub­lish­ers who do in-house trans­la­tions from Eng­lish to French. Rose’s story will be a timely acqui­si­tion for them because of the cel­e­bra­tions planned for 2017 to mark 200 years since the begin­ning of her remark­able journey.

And so far I haven’t even men­tioned the fan­tas­tic oppor­tu­ni­ties for net­work­ing at the restau­rants and the won­der­ful Aus­tralian Party, held on the last night. Speeches by the Aus­tralian Ambas­sador, Jackie French, the cur­rent Children’s Lau­re­ate, and a fan­tas­tic per­for­mance by Gregg Dreise who played the didger­doo and taught us to do a sort of Abo­rig­i­nal ver­sion of the chicken dance.

Maybe next week …

The jigsaw puzzle of writing

Charles Ulm wear­ing the fly­ing hel­met that his son John later wore when he sat in his father’s seat in the South­ern Cross while Smithy flew the plane from rich­mond to Mas­cot where it was put on display.

The jig­saw puz­zle of sto­ries, anec­dotes, mem­o­ries, facts and fig­ures that make up the man­u­script of On Wings of Steel at present, are slowly com­ing together. It’s a long, but fas­ci­nat­ing, process.

Firstly there are two voices that I am grap­pling with, those of John and Charles (CTP) Ulm. There are times when these two voices need to meld together into one. The action is often passed between them like a ball. Some­times the ball comes at you so fast that there is only a para­graph or two for you to catch your breath before the next throw. There are other times, how­ever, when the two char­ac­ters, father and son, must be sep­a­rate. One goes to school. The other flies all over the world. But they merge and become one again, shar­ing the same emo­tions at the same time, when John and Jo, (Charles’s sec­ond wife)  fol­low their beloved CTP’s progress via the radio in their lounge room. Since John and his father are so alike, and share a detailed knowl­edge of planes and a pas­sion for fly­ing, it does not take a huge leap of imag­i­na­tion for them to also speak with one voice. By the time John is telling his father’s story he has become immersed in it. He has heard it told so many times — by fam­ily mem­bers and friends, in the news­pa­pers, by Charles him­self in his log books, that there are times dur­ing this re-telling when he imag­ines him­self at the heart of the action and, in a sense, becomes his father’s voice.

Is this pos­si­ble? I am begin­ning to think it is. I just have to get the tran­si­tions right and make sure the reader is still com­ing along for this white-knuckle ride.