Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Lady Cutler Address

Lady Cutler Address

On the 13th of November I gave the Lady Cutler annual address at the presentation night for the Lady Cutler Award, which went to academic Robyn Ewing. I had been asked to outline my year as a National Reading Ambassador, which I was more than happy to do as it was such a satisfying and exciting year. But after reflecting on the gift of reading, which this year celebrates, as part of this talk I was inspired to convey my thoughts on ‘deep reading’ in this address which I entitled To Read Perchance to Dream…

The Children’s Book Council of Australia – NSW have requested the talk for publication and I’m more than happy for this to happen. I enjoyed the task of preparing a talk that reflected my National Year of Reading as Ambassador which brought together my passion and mission for poetry and writing for the young. 

Sangita's Singing. An International Launch in Kathmandu in the National Year of Reading

 Bec, Director of Mitrataa launching the book Sangita's Singing 

Children's Day celebrated Bollywood style 

Sangita's Singing. An International Launch in Kathmandu in the National Year of Reading

It was Children's Day, Friday 14th September 2012, at a Community Centre in Kathmandu. I was with Rebecca and Adam Ordish, founders of the Mitrataa Foundation I work with, that looks after the welfare of girls and women, for the launch of my new book for young people, Sangita's Singing.   The 32 page book  set in Nepal has a long text so is for older readers, with marvelous artwork by Nepali artist Bandana Tulachen with whom I worked over two years developing her artwork for picturebook presentation.
 Sangita's Singing was launched in true Nepali style; hundreds in the noisy eager audience, a very fanciful draped stage, lots of prize presentations for literature and art, the actual launch of Sangita's Singing  with a reading by two students and after some wonderful dance groups celebrating the book and the day - think Bollywood style dancing!
We have planned a movie and have a director and producer in Nepal but are now in the fund raising stage and have decided to feature some of the wonderful Nepali dancing.

It was a  elebratory day but also time to  give pause and to think about the situation for girls and women in Nepal, the low literacy rate for both girls and boys, the level of poverty, the use of child labour, the struggle to get education for girls in particular, and the like. Mitrataa fights agains the odds to achieve education for girls from far flung villages by supporting them in schools in Kathmandu and running workshops for women to help them gain some education. To this end, the income from the sales of the book goes to Mitrataa to help this worthwhile cause. The Teacher Notes and Student Workshops will ensure it has many uses as well as being an enjoyable read.

On a final note, Sangita's Singing though set in Nepal has great significance for children everywhere. with its themes of transition (from country to city) of loneliness, of longing, of bullying, of overcoming fear, of friednship and of learning, not to mention the power of singing. The story speak to all children who have had similar experiences. It will be launched in Australia in 2013.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Tamworth & Narrabri

I had a  flying visit (just a day) to the friendly town of Narrabri, which is inland from Coffs Harbour. While I was there I  talked to Narrabi public schools, talented young readers and writers; then in the afternoon I  addressed a mixed audience, adults and home – schooled kids about poetry, picture books and reading.

Jenny, my guide made sure I visited the Tourist Centre where I brought local oil and mustard. Then onto Tamworth Library and poetry workshop with a writers group who meet regularly; followed by an afternoon address to about 60 local people and an afternoon tea from 2-4pm to mingle. I spoke about the process of making a picture book and used A Boy Like Me as inspiration. I also spoke about the poetry book, the ABC Book of Australian Poetry. The fact I met up with some old friends, teachers from my early career was a plus. 

I was thrilled to be interviewed by country radio in Narrabri and was pleased to think of perhaps on their trucks, in their shops and looking after kids listening to why reading is so important to all Australians.  

Ubud Writers and Readers Festival 3-7th October

Bali has to be one of my favorite destinations in the world; and to have been invited to take part in the Ubud Writer’s and Reader’s Festival is surely a high point of any writer’s public life. One of the highlights of the festival was to sit around a table and talk poetry with none other than singer, writer film score composer, novelist and actor Nick Cave and have a photo to prove it, which was pretty cool!
And to meet with Australian writers as well as international ones was of course very  stimulating.

On the Australian side, I had the pleasure and the company of  novelist Phillip Gwynne who lives in Bali, Sue Macpherson winner of the Queensland Premier's Prize for an indigenous first time writer, wonderful  fantasy writer Isabelle Carmody, artist extraordinaire  prize-winning Anne Spudvilas, poet Katherine Lomer, freelance editor and writer Shelley Kenisgberg and novelist Inez Baranay who currently lives in Istanbul, to mention but a few of them!

I was kept busy giving workshops to some hundred young people as well as adult writers and being part of various discussion panels. So much so that I had little time to attend other talks, but led a splendid social life at night.

Janet de Neefe Founder and Director runs a great Festival from beginning to end, from carefully planned stimulating sessions and a wonderful Opening Ceremony with exquisite dances launching the festival at the palace, to the amazing fire dancers and fire eaters at the closing ceremony at Antonio Blanco's art gallery and everything in between.

Janet’s restaurant, Bar Luna, was our meeting point as we were bussed to amazing venues like private homes where Indonesians open their hearts and kitchens to writers for dinners featuring Bali’s finest food. There was also the Australian Embassy cocktail party, which was a glamorous affair at Casa Luna where I had the opportunity to meet the Australian Ambassador and staff to talk books and stories. 

All in all a superbly run festival in a divine setting - well that's from my point of view.  And to end it a wonderful afternoon in Shelley's eccentric and wonderful home, seat of Editing in Paradise, before reluctantly going to the airport.