Welcome to my very belated post about the Tamar Valley Writers Festival! After a busy start to September with the opening of The People’s Library, and my reading from ‘What the Tides Bring’, followed a week later by the writers festival, I fell ill and spent the last two weeks of the month fighting off sickness so I could attend my children’s performances in the local Youth Drama Festival, and my own reading at the ‘Reading’s from the People’s Library’ event my writers group held locally (Unfortunately, by the time of my second reading I’d lost my voice, so my friend and fellow writer Isabel read for me).
Anyway – on to the Writers Festival!
The Tamar Valley Writers Festival is one of my favourite Writers Festivals. Not only is it so close to home, but previous year’s festivals have been held in Autumn, in marquees, and I loved the atmosphere of that. The festival was a little different this year – moved from Autumn to Spring, and down the road to the Aspect Tamar Valley Resort.
The first day of the Festival – the Friday – is Schools day – with a program aimed at School aged children. As someone who home schools her children, you would think that this would be up there on things-to-do-with-the-kids – especially as I’m a writer! But I’m ashamed to say this year was the first year I’ve taken my children along.
It was well worth it. They got to see a range of authors and illustrators speak about their craft: (for the Primary School Program) Jackie Kerin, Kyle Mewburn, Lian Tanner and Andrew Plant. It was a fantastic day of story-telling, with the authors not only sharing their own stories (both the ones they’ve written, and some amazing life experiences!) but also working with the kids to create a shared story – showing them the importance of obstacles and conflict in a story. We all discovered some wonderful new books (and I wished I’d saved a lot more money for the event).
Each presenter had some great advice for budding writers and artists:
Jackie Kerin spoke of writing ‘Pharlap’ in rhyme because one of the things about horses is that they have a rhythm (think of them galloping across the paddock!) and how hard it was to do that – there’s no repetition in Pharlap – every rhyme is different.
Kyle Mewburn said that she wrote her first book ‘The Hoppleplop’ in 3 hours, sent it off and it was published!! This incredible success was followed by two years of rejections before her next book was picked up by a publisher. Her Dinosaur Rescue books are around 5000 words each, and take about a month to write – depending on the editors thoughts on the book, there can be minor edits before a book is published, though in one case a book went through 14 rewrites before it was considered ready!
Kyle doesn’t see her characters in her mind as she writes – like me!
I’ve seen Lian Tanner speak a couple of times now, and she’s always fantastic to listen to. My favourite snippet of hers is: ‘Writing is like reading only better’ – the reason being that as a writer you get to live in the world of your book for a year or more, while as a reader it’s only for as long as it takes to read the book (a few hours, in my son’s case).
Andrew Plant is an illustrator. He talked about getting away from the story to help with ideas – his generally come when he’s walking the dog, or in the shower. He talked about the process of illustrating ‘Spark’ by Adam Wallace, and the difficulties of drawing characters which essentially don’t really have a shape or size (fire and wind).
Some of the common themes that came up throughout the day:
– it’s not the job of an author/illustrator to provide answers; just to ask questions, and perhaps show a few possible alternative answers for readers to consider;
– arts and science do not need to be two distinct paths – it is possible to be both scientific and creative!
– when writing, you need to make a story interesting – don’t let the main character get their goal straight up, their needs to be obstacles for them to overcome. Both Lian and Andrew did an amazing job of showing this, by setting up a situation and getting the kids to suggest problems, and then solutions, which somehow led on to more problems.
Overall it was a fantastic day – each author had a signing session after their presentation and so the kids all had a chance to have a quick chat. My son was especially impressed with Lian Tanner – he has an unusual name, and often people mishear his name, and then misspell it! But Lian caught it straight up and knew how to spell it, too!
Keep an eye out for my next post – covering the weekend days of the Festival itself. I have pages of notes from these two days, so keeping it brief and short might be difficult!