Elaine Forrestal

In praise of the National Library

John Ulm in Can­berra, 5th Decem­ber 2014

What a fan­tas­tic place! Along with the Bat­tye Library in Perth, the National Library in Can­berra is one of my favourite places to work. I never cease to be amazed at the doc­u­ments, man­u­scripts, pho­tos and other records the staff will find and pull out for me from amongst the vast trea­sure trove of mate­r­ial, held in var­i­ous for­mats, within the walls of the National Library.

This week I have been read­ing the hand-written log books of Charles Ulm, writ­ten whilst fly­ing, with Charles Kings­ford Smith, where no man had ever flown before. His accounts of the first ever trans-Pacific flight, in 1928, and what became known as the Cof­fee Royal inci­dent in the Pil­bra in 1929, are going through the National Library’s preser­va­tion process at the moment. I was, how­ever, priv­i­leged to be able to read, from the scanned pages, all of the ups and downs, the bumps and jerks, the anx­i­ety and ela­tion of those incred­i­ble moments in his­tory, recounted by Charles Ulm from the cock­pit of the South­ern Cross, as they were tak­ing place.

It was also thanks to Susan Hall, pub­lisher at the National Library, that I was able to inter­view Charles Ulm’s son, John. A remark­able man who, at 93 years of age, knows and remem­bers every­thing about those early days of avi­a­tion and so gen­er­ously shared his mem­o­ries with me.

Now it’s back to my own desk and the task of doing jus­tice to all of the fas­ci­nat­ing mate­r­ial I have gathered.

New version of The Whaler’s Tunnel

Entrance to the Whaler’s Tun­nel before the present restoration.

I had hoped to work on the new ver­sion of The Whaler’s Tun­nel man­u­script while I was in Paris, but there was an essay for my UWA course that was due three days after I got back. The prob­lem was that, two days after I got back, I was run­ning work­shops at West Bus­sel­ton Pri­mary School. Since I have never been some­one who could leave that sort of thing to the last day, then stay up all night and sub­mit it in the morn­ing, I had to do it while I was away. And it was for a unit that required hard copy deliv­ered to the Method­olo­gies Office on cam­pus. Although the actual writ­ing was done and ready to go, I had to print out the essay when I got home. The Paris apart­ment has excel­lent inter­net access and is very well equipped in other areas, but there is no printer. Get­ting the assign­ment in to UWA on my first day back was a bit of a rush but, once that was done, I could con­cen­trate on other things.

This week I sub­mit­ted a new ver­sion of my local history/fiction story, The Whaler’s Tun­nel, to Fre­man­tle Press. We will have to wait and see where it goes from there.

International Book Fair, Bologne

Rose de Freycinet has set off on a new adven­ture and will arrive in Bologne, Italy, at the end of March 2015. To See the World has been cho­sen by the Hello! From Aus­tralia 2015 organ­i­sa­tion to be fea­tured on their stall at the Inter­na­tional Book Fair and I have been invited to sit at the ‘creator’s table’ for a cou­ple of hours on one of the days dur­ing the Fair.

Ever since my first book was pub­lished in 1991 the Book Fair in Bologne has loomed large on my hori­zon, as it does for most publishers, writers and illus­tra­tors  of children’s books. This is where pub­lish­ers gather to look at what’s new, what’s sell­ing well, and which rights they might acquire to add to their own lists. Most trans­la­tion and over­seas pub­li­ca­tion deals are done, or at least put in motion, at this famous annual event.

Inside the Books Illus­trated tent at the Inter­na­tional Book Fair in Bologne, 2014

The Fair itself is mas­sive, cov­er­ing sev­eral hectares on the out­skirts of the city with colour­ful tents full of books, posters, art work and peo­ple try­ing hard to sell their wares in the world mar­ket­place that is rep­re­sented there.

Need­less to say I am very excited by this invi­ta­tion. Sev­eral of my SCBWI friends have been to the Fair in past years and rec­om­mended that any­one who gets the chance should go. So Bologne here I come!


Third time lucky for Celebrate Reading Conference

Hav­ing suf­fered extreme heat, then a ver­i­ta­ble tem­pest for the pre­vi­ous two Cel­e­brate Read­ing Con­fer­ences, the hard work­ing team at the Lit­er­a­ture Cen­tre in Fre­man­tle were blessed with two per­fect days this year. And not before time. Their organ­i­sa­tional skills, charm­ing man­ner and for­mi­da­ble work ethic deserves

Inside The Lit­er­a­ture Cen­tre — Main Gallery

to be rewarded.

As with both of the other two-day con­fer­ences this one was full of fas­ci­nat­ing insights, col­le­giate atmos­phere and thought-provoking sur­prises. With a nice mix of high pro­file, long-established writ­ers and those less well known, but obvi­ously tal­ented, the two days just flew by and left me want­ing more. Sadly I will have to wait until next year.

Look­ing for­ward to it already.

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.