Elaine Forrestal


My historical fiction based on the life of Clara Saunders has now gone off to the publisher and I have just started developing a new idea. I still don’t know whether this idea will keep on growing until it eventually becomes a novel. But each day I work on it and that seems to lead me further and further into the story. I am beginning to care about the characters and look forward to seeing, and hearing them each morning. Already I am up to Chapter 7 and I know there is still a long way to go and a lot more for me to discover about these characters. But unlike Clara’s story, which still doesn’t really have a title, although I have sent it off as Life Blood which is the closest I’ve come so far, this new story already has a name! Almost from the beginning I labelled it Parallel.

Writing is such an intuitive art that I very often find myself having to work around missing bits. Not just missing titles. I often have to wait for characters, or some crucial piece of dialogue, to reveal itself so I go back over my work dozens of times during the re-writing and editing stages. Titles are especially tricky. I am very rarely comfortable with the first attempt. Every one of my finished ‘Book’ files has a separate document labelled ‘Alternative titles’. Some of these include seven or eight titles that I have considered, but discarded. I can’t delete them, however, because  the editor and the publisher, the designer and the marketing department are all likely to have an opinion about it. I can never be absolutely certain that they won’t come back to me asking for other suggestions. Sometimes they have good suggestions of their own.

Then the discussions begin …

Communicating with language

At the weekend I found myself working in the same room as a 12 year old and an 8 year old who were playing a computer game together, but on different computers. Their separate screens were showing the same setting, the same action in the same virtual world. The two of them were a team, competing against another team of two players, in different locations, who had logged in when a space became available for them as only four people could play at one time.

It seemed to me that the object of the game was for members of one team to keep members of the opposite team from invading their headquarters. But in order to do that they had to be constantly modifying, strengthening and reconstructing the building. However, no changes could be made to the fortifications without the consent of both players in the team. With all computer sound turned off the two ‘live’ children in the room talked to each other, laughed a lot, came up with ideas, keep the ones that worked and quickly scrapped the ones that didn’t, and worked hard and fast to repel these invaders.

I confess that I have never played computer games. And have, until now, only been aware of them in a peripheral way, when I happened to see or hear them in passing. At close quarters, I was amazed at the complexity of language, the problem solving skills and the creativity of these two young people as they shared ideas, suggested strategies and cooperated with each other to reach a common goal. While I can see how, without the necessity of taking breaks to eat, sleep, go to school and have play-days with their friends, these games could become addictive. But as a means of developing language and communication skills this one, at least, has won my approval.

Never underestimate this new generation!

Sports/Arts: Trying to redress the balance

Elaine Forrestal congratulates Councils who fund the arts

It is so reassuring to be involved with a Government agency which has set up Young Writer’s Awards in a deliberate attempt to provide an alternative to sport for young people in their community. This year I have been delighted to work with the City of Armadale Library Service, running workshops and presenting prizes for their 7th annual Young Writer’s Competition.

Since The West Australian newspaper shortsightedly abandoned its long-running Young Writer’s Competition a few years ago we have seen a big increase in the number of entries to the Tim Winton Awards and their expansion into regional Western Australia, in an attempt to fill the gap. These Awards have been run by the City of Subiaco Library for 24 years and, to the credit of staff and Council, have stepped up and absorbed much of the extra load created by the closure of the Young Writer’s Competition. But there is obviously still a need for other groups, like the City of Armadale, to also offer an alternative to the ubiquitous sporting fixtures that crowd our weekends.

Both the City of Armadale and the City of Subiaco offer art competitions alongside their creative writing ones. And the annual Make Your Won Storybook Competition, run by the WA Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia, offers prizes for a combination of writing and illustration. However, there is still a long way to go to redress the imbalance between funding for sport and funding for the arts. The fact that the number of entries in the Armadale Young Writer’s Awards has grown each year since its inception shows the need is there for more local Councils to step up and provide encouragement for our future generations of writers, illustrators, film and documentary makers, journalists and all the other professions which require imaginative and dedicated writers and artists.

Congratulations to City of Armadale, City of Subiaco and CBCWA. Your hard work and dedication is much appreciated.

Happy 40th MYOSB

Shaun Tan signing books for some of his hundreds of fans at The Literature Centre

At the risk of sounding like a stalled robot – ‘Mal-funct-ion! Mal-funct-ion!’ – I feel that the importance of providing an audience for young writers and illustrators can never be emphasised  too much.

The 40th Anniversary celebrations for the Make Your Own Story Book Competition brought together past winners from each decade, and reminded us of just how many of them have gone on to become famous professional writers and illustrators. Although they have now written and illustrated many other books, they still treasure those winning entries from their school days and acknowledge the enormous influence the Competition had on their successful careers. Shaun Tan has won awards all over the world, including an Oscar and an Astrid Lingen Award. James Foley, Karen Blair and Briony Stewart have all won Children’s Book Council of Australia and other prestigious awards. Their original entries in MYOSB, along with many other past and present winners, are at present on display in the City of Perth Library.

Take a trip in to the city. Park in one of the roomy Pier Street car parks and make your way to 573 Hay Street. Check out the fabulous new facilities, see how modern technology has changed the way MYOSB entries are presented and immerse yourself in a wonderful world of books.

See you there.

All New Eden-Glassies

Cover of new edition of Black Earth

Thanks to the National Curriculum topic, Wild Weather, which is part of the new Geography syllabus, each title in the Eden-Glassie Mystery series of adventures has been given a new lease on life. Deep Water, Black Earth and Wild Wind all have extreme weather events as part of their plot. Stone Circle involves an alarming discovery deep in the earth, which completes the circular quartet of books. The four elements – earth, fire, water, wind – are used as motifs. In each case the adventure/mystery takes place during a different season on the vineyard property and extreme weather events are used as a backdrop to the action.

After being available only as eBooks for several years, the whole Eden-Glassies Mystery series has  now been re-released in paperback format. Perfect for classrooms and libraries.

Black Earth is the first to arrive. But Deep Water, Stone Circle and Wild Wind are already on their way. The best thing for me, apart from seeing these books used in schools again, is that hardcopies can now be purchased online (createspace.com) and they will never go out of print.