Libraries have always been quite special places to me. I remember when I was still at school visiting and very often losing track of time when I went to a library. I mean, there are shelves and shelves of wonderful books… ones you know and love, others that turn out to be a pleasant surprise, fiction, non-fiction, old, new, whatever you desire and if you can wangle yourself a little thing called a ‘library card’, you can take some of those books home with you — for free!
Of course, that is the obvious reason to love a library, but off the top of my head, I can think of plenty more:
- Audio books – although I sill love reading to myself, if you have other things you need your eyes and hands for (craft, ironing, driving, exercise etc) it means you can multitask!
- DVDs – I don’t know about your neighbourhood, but all my local video/DVD rental stores are now closed down. I guess people download movies from the internet or buy them as they are now days much more affordable. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather watch a movie before buying it – so borrowing from a library is just my cup of tea!
- Computers – last time I was at my library, I couldn’t believe how many computers there were and they were being used for a vast array of things. A library is a great place to check your email if you are overseas and don’t have free wifi.
- eBooks – I’m still a physical book girl, but eBooks are becoming the thing of the future. I was looking for a title the other day and noticed something else by that author was available for download as an eBook. You still return it when you’re finished, so you don’t keep it for good, but I’ve already decided that will be the way I read my first eBook – borrowed through my library.
- Awesome for kids – there are usually heaps of fun things for kids to see and do in a library, from story time to songs and activities, looking at awesome displays and exhibits or just tapping in to the huge collection of books. I often take my nieces and nephew in to look around – read them a book or two. Probably the best thing is that although the oldest is still under six – they have already borrowed hundreds of books. Although I’m sure their mum would love to buy them every book they wanted, it would be impossible for them to own all the books they have borrowed from the library, they just do not have the room for them all… and if there is a book they take a liking to, it often gets borrowed again and again…. and again!
- Events and activities for adults – they sometime put on great events at the library. I’ve been to a couple of ‘meet the author’ events, they also have book clubs, board games and some have adult education programs and other community group activities.
- Quiet place to get away – there’s normally a few nice quite nooks or lounges to grab a book or magazine and have a read, or a table to do some study. Even though most modern day libraries are not completely quiet with people talking in hushed whispers, they are still usually pretty serene.
- Online resources – even if you can’t physically get yourself down to your library, there are often now so many things available through the library online. I tell you, those librarians don’t just keep up to date with what is happening with books these days – they also know what is great online and they’re pretty darn good at sourcing and sharing fantastic and helpful online content too!
- Free or affordable – I say affordable because if there is a charge, it usually isn’t much, however that being said everything I’ve ever done or used at the library has been free (including all of the above). There are not too many things in life that are free, but your library is one!!
Now, this is where I’m going to have a bit of a gush about my own local library (or libraries as is the case) – the ACT Government Libraries. I have lived in Canberra all my life, so I think I have probably taken them for granted a bit and by that I mean I know they are awesome, but I didn’t realise everywhere else in the country wasn’t enjoying the same super service that I am accustomed to.
You see, my local library is attached to all the other libraries in my city – and this might be so elsewhere, but I have been told by several people now that it’s not usually the case.
When I search the catalogue online and find that the book I want is either not currently available or is located on the other side of the city, I just click a button to request it, and they send me an email when it’s ready at my conveniently located branch to come and pick it up. It sure makes life easy for me, and saves lots of running around. The other great thing about it being a network, is that I can return my item to any of the branches around Canberra – whichever one happens to be the most convenient on the day!
I can’t imagine they would receive a large budget from the government to run the libraries, so I feel that we are blessed with some pretty darn awesome and innovative librarians and library staff. I guess this post is my small way of saying to them – thank you for doing everything you do!
Just this week I was digging around trying to find something I wanted to take in to work and I came across a book that I wrote and illustrated for a unit I did in english back in 1994 (I was floored when I realised that was 20 years ago, I’m not that old am I?!?!). The unit was ‘Children’s Stories’ and from the assessment sheet that was tucked in the back of the spiral bound book, there were two parts of the assessment.
Part 1 involved research and an oral. It looks as though I chose Maureen Stewart to research and I used at least three of her books in my presentation. The assessment card said that I received a B-. I’ve never been great at presentations so that’s not too bad for me.
Part 2 was the creation of a children’s book (cover picture above). I received an A+ for that component which is most likely why that book is still currently in existence.
I really enjoy looking back over the stories and poems I wrote as a kid. So I’m very glad that my mum kept some of them and they didn’t all end up being thrown out.
I thought I’d share some observations and things I can remember about putting this book together.
- The dedication – I dedicated it to my sister. All my books to date (including those written when I was a child) have been dedicated to my family, or a specific family member.
- The concept – I know exactly what my inspiration was… A song from an “ABC Sing” book called “Video” by Peter Coombe. I loved those songs so much growing up and mum very kindly bought my sister and I a song book and tape each from the ABC shop. My book was the one published in 1985!!
- The pictures – I’ve never been that great at drawing. If you are familiar with the “ABC Sing” songbooks, you will quite possibly recognise the illustrations. Some of the images (like the cover) are pretty much copied, the terrible freehand ones I tried to do a likeness.
- How dated it is – it’s quite humorous to me that technology has changed so much. The book talks about “videos” (where we now have DVD/BluRay or just download movies), “video games” (yes still around, but now kids would more likely play games on their iPad, phone or tablet), and the great big boxy TV which is on just about every page.
- Flaws in the story that now really bug me – when it comes to the ‘dilemma’ in the story, the antenna on the TV breaks which means the TV won’t work. This is flawed, as I had already said she watched video’s and played video games – both of which work on a TV that doesn’t have an antenna.
If I ever get brave enough, I might scan the whole thing and post it on here, but for now I’ll just put up a picture of the cover and the assessment notes.
Yesterday I went to the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) National Conference here in Canberra. I’ve never been to a children’s book conference before – I’m not a teacher, librarian or even a mum. Yes, I like to write, but up until six months ago I didn’t admit that to anyone – well very few.
Did I have any business going to such an event? Well, I didn’t fit into any of the above categories but my over thinking mind ended up reasoning that since the conference was in my home town, it wasn’t going to be a huge imposition or substantial cost – and it was only for a day, so I could still do all the other things I had planned for my weekend.
To say I am ecstatic I went is an understatement. I left the conference on a high and I am still thinking about it. One of the things I got out of it was to make a bit of time each day to write something, so I decided, I would get back into writing by make a list of things I loved about the event…
- Being surrounded by other people who love books
It was very cool to speak to people who had come from all over Australia. Even cooler when you realise we all have a passion for books and children and a desire to see children fall in love with books and reading.
- Discovering books I’d never heard of (and severely lengthening my list of ‘books to read’ in the process)
I am a little embarrassed to say it, and I probably shouldn’t admit it, but I hadn’t heard of Barry Jonsberg or Michael Gerard Bauer before I registered. Please don’t think badly of me. Technically it’s been a while since I was a ‘young adult’ and I really only just got back into children’s books in the last 5 years (since the birth of my oldest niece).
When I was a kid I had awesome Aussie authors like John Marsden, Ruth Park, Robin Klein, Paul Jennings and many other local writers to immerse me in my little fantasy worlds, help me gain a healthy obsession with reading and get my overactive mind buzzing.
Now after listening to their fun and witty banter on stage, Barry and Michael feel like old friends and I desperately want to read everything they have written.
- Inspirational speakers
Barry and Michael fall under this category of course, but there were so many other writers and illustrators, artists, editors and publishers who were all open, frank and extremely entertaining, some of whom will be mentioned below.
- Cool Canberra author chicks
What a revelation! We have some very cool and talented authors in Australia, but how thrilling for me to see the ones who have strong links to Canberra. These awesome ladies – Tania McCartney, Tracey Hawkins, Stephanie Owen Reeder and Irma Gold talked about Motherhood and Mayhem.
I have been very bad. With all the craziness of work and life in the last six months, aside from writing emails to a very dear friend – I haven’t sat down to write anything (including any real posts for this blog). In fact I’ve hardly thought about it – and this is bad because I’m always thinking of crazy stories, rhymes and nonsense ideas. These ladies have inspired me to make the time to write, and stop making excuses!
- Experiencing a real book launch
It may not sound like a big thing, but until my book launch last year – I had never been to one before, so I was desperate to know how a ‘real’ book launch should go down.
I have no complaints about how mine turned out, in fact it was actually pretty darn amazing. But it was very nice to go to a book launch for a consummate professional and Belinda Murrell did an absolutely brilliant job of launching her new book The Sequin Star.
- Talking to people at the trade exhibits
There were book stalls, library suppliers and educational publications. I really enjoyed talking to them and finding out what they do – and even if I don’t have kids/run a library/teach a class, it is still very cool to know about them.
- Learning about Australian history and writers
Anthony Hill another local author, spoke on a century of war, Australia’s part in war and children’s books. I was amazed to see how many children’s books there are about war, but having experienced another touching ANZAC day only weeks ago, and knowing the sacrifices many of the men and women in my family made for their country and their ancestors – it is not something we should ever take lightly or forget.
Belinda Murrell also shared about her great-great-great-great-grandmother Charlotte Waring Atkinson who was Australia’s first children’s book author and had an incredible life story which Belinda has written about in her book The River Charm. Can’t wait to get a hold of it and read it, it’s up top of my list! Belinda’s sister Kate Forsyth is also an accomplished author and by the sounds of things, their family tree is enriched with a long line of talented and creative people.
- Opportunity to meet childhood heros
Ever hear of a little book called Possum Magic? If, by some reason you haven’t read it, I could almost guarantee that you have seen the stunning and well recognised cover and/or some of the beautiful watercolour illustrations from the book that were crafted by the talented Julie Vivas.
Not only did I get to hear her speak about the process she went though to illustrate Davy and the Duckling, but I also got to meet her and she signed my very own copy of Possum Magic. (Should I mention that I was actually shaking and too scared to say anything thoughtful or meaningful to her? – nah, I shouldn’t admit to that).
There were other very renowned and talented authors and illustrators which made me proud of all the home grown talent we have here in Australia and leads me to the final thing I loved…
- Seeing other relationships between authors and illustrators
We got to listen to two author/illustrator collaborations – Glenda Millard & Stephen Michael King and Libby Gleeson & Freya Blackwood (who by the way is so young, talented and such an amazingly sweet lady).
I have actually had experience in this regard working with the fabulous Ian Coate (who spoilt me rotten by making every tiny step of our working together fun, interesting and exciting). But seeing the way these other couples produced their children’s books – in very different ways, was so good for me. I realised how important it is for an author/illustrator to get on, have a mutual vision for a book, and how when all these things align, the result can be incredibly rewarding for those involved and of course equals a win for all potential readers. I am blessed beyond belief for crossing paths with Ian and his lovely wife Sue.
I’ve always believed that a short blog post is a good blog post, and this one is now too long, so I’m going to leave it here. But I would like to say that if you have a passion for anything – you should make an effort to get yourself along to a conference with that theme. There is a very good chance it will inspire and delight.