Leanne Barrett: Building Your Story

Friday 23 June 2017

Building Your Story

Tony Flowers
A evening with SCBWI is time to learn and catch up with like-minded people.

We are a melting pot of people that are interested in children's literature. We have met each other in a variety of ways; though organisations, workshops, book launches and even online. At this SCBWI event some online friends met for the first time. Maybe you met your 'book world' friends at;

This SCBWI event, Building Your Story, was a night where friends could discuss challenges that writers and illustrators face. Being a book creator can be an isolating job, where we spend many hours living inside our own head.

Nicole Godwin

So when an organisation like SCBWI, puts together an event where writers and illustrators share what's inside their head, other creators know what a special opportunity this is. It is a chance to find out what makes a creator's mind tick, hence the packed room on a cold winter's night.

To help us discover how the mind of the award winning author and illustrator, Stephanie Owen-Reeder works, Tania McCartney led the key note speaker in a conversation about research, source materials and how her characters come to life.

Stephanie extensively researches material for all of her books, both fiction and faction. Sources for this research can include; Trove, newspapers, letters, images, diaries, memoirs and interviews. The research helps form the characters, settings, story line, plot, themes and historical backgrounds.

Tania McCartney
Stepahnie Owen-Reeder

Several little nuggets of advice from Stephanie are;
  • use diaries and the dialogue from newspapers, to get a feel for the way your character thinks or talks
  • find the hook to begin your chapters and leave the reader wanting to know what happens next at the end of a chapter
  • for picture books texts, remove any words that can be shown in the illustration - add them instead to the illustration notes
  • most importantly always remember that children understand more than we give them credit for

Cate Whittle
The next speaker for the night, author Cate Whittlewrites books that include story lines for the children and their parents/teachers that contain content with several levels of understanding. 

Cate gave attendees a list of Dos and Don'ts for writing your story's plot and structure. She acknowledged that some writers like to plot where others like to write intuitively and that which ever style you choose to write in is okay. A few things to remember are;
  • be mindful that your character needs to grow with the plot
  • get to know your character well
  • give your character something to do and let them make choices
  • make your antagonist a strong character
  • use the 5 W's and
  • also use the 5 senses

Cate suggested that while writing and planning that you should ask yourself one question many times over. Does this enhance the story? This will help guide you, the writer, in what to include or leave out of the story.

Tony Flowers
SCBWI is not an organisation just for writers, it is also about illustrators. For an illustrator's perspective we heard from a successful local illustrator, Tony Flowers. Tony is currently teaching Publication Design, digital literacy and working on his PhD at the University of Canberra. 

Tony reminded us that creating can be an isolating experience and that it is important to collaborate and build genuine relationships with other people in the industry;
  • authors/illustrators
  • your publisher
  • editors and
  • marketing people

Why? They are the people that will give you the valuable feedback and who you will build ideas with.

Tony provided the audience with a valuable insight into some of his PhD research and the way illustrators approach creating pictures for their stories. Some illustrators take a sentence and just start drawing instantaneously. Some illustrators like to listen to music, to obtain a state of mind where they can draw unconsciously. Others illustrators like Graeme Base take time to plan the structure of the whole book before they begin any illustrations. 
Illustration Plan - Graeme Base

The thought process might look like this;
  • a picture book has 32 pages
  • I'll draw a grid of pages
  • there are end papers
  • the rhythm looks like this...
  • da te da te da
  • add in some back ground characters
  • repeat same parts x3
  • most books have 26-30 pages of illustrations
  • illustrations need to unfold in an interesting way

Tony's starting process for an illustration is to take the concept/idea and the understanding of the story line then craft loose, free and expressive sketches.

Writing and illustrating is a craft. We attend workshops to learn from other writers and illustrators how they create their works. We go home, ponder and then apply these pieces of information into our own work. This process helps us to develop as a creator. 

This SCBWI committee also understand that our craft of being a book creator is also a business, hence Ray King from SPA Accounting was invited to speak to the group about financial matters.

Ray was happy to answer the many questions that people had about topics of; hobby vs business, likelihood of profit, GST, expenses regarding home offices, travel and other deductions. For any questions about business and tax please seek professional advice.

Ray King - SPA Accounting 
Finally, thank you to the SCBWI ACT Committee for organising such a invaluable event. 
We look forward to seeing you at another literary event.  

Who are the SCBWI ACT Committee? Nicole Godwin (ACT Coordinator), Emma Allen, Grace Bryant, Shaye Wardrop and Cate Whittle with support from Tracey Hawkins and Tania McCartney. To contact SCBWI ACT please email them at hello@scbwiact.com

Upcoming ACT Events? More information about these events will be in the local newsletter and on the Facebook page.
Meet and Greet - 21 July 2017, 11am @ National Gallery of Australia coffee shop
Level Up Conference - 9 September 2017 @ ALIA House
ACT SCBWI Christmas - 30 November 2017

The ACT Committee also encourages you to join SCBWI, see here for more information.

SCBWI ACT (and surrounds) has a Facebook page for members only. If you are a member and not yet part of this private Facebook group please like Grace Bryant so she can add you to the page.

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