Elaine Forrestal

WA Young Readers Book Awards

Books by Elaine For­re­stal short­listed for WA Young Read­ers Book Awards since 1998

The WAYRBA short­list has just been released and my name is on it! The win­ner will not be announced until Novem­ber but, win or lose, I’m really excited to be on the list. Come what may, for the next ten months there will be this lit­tle glow at the back of my con­scious­ness. This year, when my con­fi­dence becomes chilled and paral­y­sis threat­ens, I will search out that spark of reas­sur­ance, fan it into a flame and warm myself back into action. Just know­ing that my work is noticed and val­ued is enough to get me going again.

In 1998 I won the WAYRBA Hoff­man Award for my sec­ond novel, Some­one Like Me. The Awards and I have both come a long way since then. Of my sev­en­teen pub­lished books eight have been short­listed for WAYRBA. Being a kid’s choice award makes it, in my eyes, the most impor­tant of acco­lades. Kids are my read­ers and they are the peo­ple who count. In 2010 a Pic­ture Book cat­e­gory was added to the Awards, sadly too late for my two Miss Llewellyn-Jones books, but a won­der­ful addi­tion to the already exten­sive lists of titles from all around Aus­tralia pro­moted by these Awards. With the par­ing back of the WA Premier’s Book Awards, WAYRBA  now stand at the fore­front of organ­i­sa­tions pro­vid­ing vital sup­port and pro­mo­tion of our local, and national, authors and illustrators.

Last year WAYRBA cel­e­brated its 35th Anniver­sary. Long may it con­tinue to be s suc­cess­ful  guardian of our writ­ten her­itage and culture.

The Scare-ometer

Elaine For­re­stal pre­sent­ing in Bologna, using her inflat­able Globe. Copy of To See the World (cen­tre front), the story of Rose de Freycinet.

It was great to be part of the sec­ond annual Books From Your Back­yard event at The Place in the State Library of WA yes­ter­day. The audi­ence num­bers have tre­bled since last year with many fam­i­lies bring­ing all the chil­dren and stay­ing all day to take in the ses­sions for dif­fer­ent age groups.

For me it was so much fun to inter­act with read­ers in the less for­mal set­ting that Books From Your Back­yard pro­vides. There are con­ven­tional chairs, but also cush­ions on the floor and a range of soft seat­ing at var­i­ous heights. This year I tried out a new, inter­ac­tive approach to Rose de Freycinet’s story using what James Foley aptly named my scare-ometer. And my now well-travelled inflat­able Globe came in handy for show­ing the lively group of young peo­ple exactly where Rose trav­elled on her epic voy­age around the world in the sail­ing ship Uranie. Just the fact that it took Rose three years to cir­cum­nav­i­gate the world, when these days we get on a plane in Aus­tralia and arrive almost any­where in Europe in 24 hours, is a mind-stretching con­cept to grasp. But grasp it they did and we all enjoyed the journey.

If you were not at Books From Your Back­yard yes­ter­day and want to expe­ri­ence the scare-ometer for your­self, keep Children’s Book Week (August 22d — 26th) in mind. I’ll be using it in my ses­sions then, and any­time I’m invited to visit schools as well.

See you then.

Staying airborne

This paint­ing of the South­ern Cross by Ernest Crome com­bines just the right mix of fact and fic­tion, accu­racy and elegance.

One week to go before Books From Your Back­yard and my prepa­ra­tions are done. Which is just as well because I need to be totally focused on the lat­est draft of On Wings of Steel. My edi­tor has sent me the most recent ver­sion, and gone away for three weeks. This is a golden oppor­tu­nity for me to do a very care­ful edit with­out the time pres­sures of the pre­vi­ous two. My editor’s time sched­ule has been tight, lead­ing up to her over­seas trip, and I needed to fit in with her. Christ­mas and School Hol­i­days had to be dealt with as well so it has been a busy time. Now I can sit back and con­tem­plate the new and not-so-new sug­ges­tions my edi­tor has made and ‘sleep on’ my responses. The man­u­script is at an advanced stage so I need to be as sure as I can ever be that the changes we make are the right ones. Given that, for me, the story is never fin­ished, this is a nail-biting time. We now have three ver­sions. Which one should we run with? Or rather, which com­bi­na­tion of all three? Is every sen­tence work­ing as well as it pos­si­bly can? Is very word con­vey­ing the pre­cise mean­ing I want? Have I left enough spaces for the reader to become involved with these impor­tant and fas­ci­nat­ing char­ac­ters? Have I deliv­ered the his­tor­i­cal facts in the most inter­est­ing way?

The French have the per­fect expres­sion for what I need at the moment - bon courage.

Books in Your Backyard

One of the good things about writ­ing books for young peo­ple is that you get to talk to your read­ers in all sorts of dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tions — their schools, libraries, con­fer­ences, fes­ti­vals — indi­vid­u­ally and in groups. On the 16th Jan­u­ary, the sec­ond annual Books in Your Back­yard event will pro­vide one of these oppor­tu­ni­ties at The Place on the mez­za­nine floor of the State Library.

Books in Your Back­yard is an inno­v­a­tive event which runs from 10.30am to 3.30pm and caters for all age groups from very young chil­dren to teenagers. This year I have decided to focus on my older read­ers and will be pre­sent­ing an iter­a­tive ses­sion based on To See the World. I am hop­ing to deliver as much infor­ma­tion as pos­si­ble in the half hour time-slot, while still hav­ing fun with the con­stantly sur­pris­ing story of Rose de Freycinet.

Come along and Pre­pare to be Scared by some of the life-threatening sit­u­a­tions and peo­ple Rose encoun­tered on her clan­des­tine voy­age around the world aboard the sail­ing ship Uranie.


Long Live the Christmas Party

Ho Ho Ho and a Happy Christ­mas to all. Elaine For­re­stal with Santa.

For writ­ers, par­tic­u­larly writ­ers of fic­tion, ours is a soli­tary pro­fes­sion. We spend our work­ing lives alone in front of a screen, removed from what most peo­ple regard as the real world, walk­ing around in the heads of our char­ac­ters. Writ­ers of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion have the added iso­la­tion of inhab­it­ing the world of the past and try­ing to bring long-dead char­ac­ters back to life.

Don’t for a minute think that I’m com­plain­ing. I find the chal­lenges exhil­a­rat­ing and the rewards, when I suc­ceed, very sat­is­fy­ing. I am not talk­ing about mon­e­tary rewards. In terms of income these are scant indeed. But it’s so excit­ing to finally see those bun­dles of pages which have been pored over, added to, trashed or pol­ished by my edi­tor, pub­lisher and me, finally appear as a real book with cov­ers. That is what keeps me going back, every day, to my soli­tary desk in my iso­lated office.

Then along comes Christ­mas! There is the SCBWI Christ­mas Party, the Aus­tralian Soci­ety of Authors Christ­mas Party and The Lit­er­a­ture Cen­tre Christ­mas gath­er­ing. Out of the wood­work come all these like-minded peo­ple that you prob­a­bly won’t see at any other time of year. Writ­ers and illus­tra­tors, poets and artists, scriptwrit­ers and nov­el­ists of all ages, writ­ing for a host of dif­fer­ent audi­ences. Sud­denly we are no longer alone.

Long live the Christ­mas Party!