Leanne Barrett: CBCA 13th National Conference

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

CBCA 13th National Conference

Each year there are a wide range of conferences and events that authors and illustrators have to choose from and 2019 is a bumper year of them. This year some of the big ones on Australian East Coast have included; SCBWI Sydney, Creative Kids Tales Writers' Festival Gymea NSW, KidLitVic Melbourne, CYA Brisbane (6-7 July) and CBCA Canberra.

It is sometimes a difficult decision to pick which ones to attend. Frankly, if the hip pocket was really deep, I would attend every single event on the calendar. However, as the CBCA one was going to be held in Canberra and just a 2 minute walk from my apartment in the city, it was a easy decision to attend.

I had planned to sit back and enjoy being only a delegate as I had been ACT Branch President when the last National Conference was held in Canberra in 2014. However, as per usual my love of advocating for other creators in this industry plus my organisational skills meant that I didn't end up being only a delegate. In 2018 Margaret Hamilton approached me about organising a local table that would include illustrators demonstrating their creative process and authors available to sign their books. I said, 'Yes!'

I am pleased to say that over the weekend the ACT and Surrounds Authors and Illustrators table had a wonder range of creators attend, from award winning authors to emerging illustrators; Cate Whittle, Holly Bidwell, Iona Thompson, Kerry Malone, Leanne Barrett, Lynley Stace, Maura Pierlot, Nicole Godwin, Sandra BennettShelly Unwin, Stephanie Owen Reeder, Susannah Crispe, Suzanne Houghton, and Tania McCartney.











Over the weekend we heard from an amazing collection of people, that made us laugh and touched our hearts. I didn't see all of the sessions but here are a few things that made me think and reflect.

Morris Gleitzman touched our hearts with his comment that 'CBCA is the fleecy lined ugg boots of our community'. But Morris touched my thoughts about humour in books and how powerful it can be in both positive and negative ways. It made me think about humour and the context it is told in, especially cultural context. I recently reviewed the story Think Big! by Kes Gray and Nathan Reed. The humour in this story mostly relies on children knowing their English nursery rhymes. These nursery rhymes might not be part of a child's repertoire and without this knowledge how do they see the book? Is it still as funny? 

As an illustrator, I liked listening to how Michael Speechly, Laura Stitzel and Matt Stanton inject humour into their illustrations. I found myself nodding along with their need to use music as part of their creative process. Mmmm...Laura listens to children's music (eg. Peanuts or The Muppets movie soundtracks) while creating...I wonder what children's music I could play to help me connect with my inner child while illustrating? The Wiggles? 'Hot potato, hot potato. Hot potato, hot potato. Hot potato, hot potato, potato. Potato, potato, potato.'



Young Dark Emu: Teaching Australia's True History, with Bruce Pascoe in conversation with Edie Wright lead us into the discussion about the perspective of history of land and context. Both suggested that by using the teacher's notes that accompany Young Dark Emu, teachers can talk about Indigenous Studies without fear. Bruce reminded us that children are inquisitive. As a former teacher librarian I found Magabala Books a wonderful a resource for great stories about Indigenous people, culture and art to share with children. One of my recent discoveries is their board book, In the Bush I See, which is part of their Young Art series, illustrated by young Indigenous artists. 



The conference breaks were interspersed with book signings and launches. At lunch on Saturday Morris Gleitzman launched the 5th book by Tamsin Janu, Winston and the Wondrous Wooba Gymnastics Club.



Then there are other stories that are usually less funny. The concurrent session, Non-Fiction in a Google world, with Kristin Weidenbach, Tania McCartney and Andrew Kelly discussed the importance of non-fiction books and the research that goes into these books. As a writer we are often reminded that it is important to find the kernel amongst all the information gathered and create a story from that little piece of information. Non-fiction books can be catagoried in several ways; purely information books, others are non-fiction stories and some that are faction books. There is a huge variety to choose from.



In Jeannie Baker's new book, Playing with Collage, we are shown the variety of natural and man made objects shes uses to create her stories and illustrations. The book is a great starting place for anyone who would like to explore the world of collage. It inspires one to look at the little things that we would not normally see while buzzing around in our own busy lives. Take a closer look at the natural world. I call it walking mindfully. When I walk mindfully I am inspired by nature to create. I tend to document this with photos but sometimes I too pick up some objects, an autumn leaf or a fallen acorn with plans to incorporate them into my illustrations. Maybe I could play with collage. 



Yes PLAY. We talk about this a lot in the creative world. We play with new art supplies or over in the Duck Pond (Jen Storer's Girl and Duck) we like to play with words as we learn our writing craft and verk on our manuscripts. Here are of some of the paddlers in The Duck Pond, thanks Anna Quinlan. 




On Sunday we also delved into the world of The Art of a Funny Partnership with Mitch Vane & Danny Katz and Andrew Hansen & Jessica Roberts. These comedic creators had the audience cracking up with their antics of how they work/play together to develop ideas into stories. They bounce off one another, developing a kernel of an idea into a story. Reminding us that stories need a heart because they are not just filled with jokes.



Mark MacLeod (Dirt Lane Press), Rochelle Manners (Wombat Books) and Davina Bell (Affirm Press) are the little cheese in the session Big Cheese, Little Cheese: The importance of independent publishing for children. They too spoke about stories with lots of heart. The quite stories and the 'You just have to read this!' type of story.   



As the conference began to wind down, the session Puchlines, Pirates & Alpacas, was far from quite. We had two authors (Matt Cosgrove and Oliver Phommavanh) in onesies and a pirate (Peter Carnavas) who were all about funsies. They shared their writing humour via rhyme, dad jokes, comedic routines and the little moments of laughter that occur in stories that are serious and quite.



Conferences are a wonderful place to network and the CBCA Conferences attracted a broad range of delegates; teachers, teacher librarians, librarians, authors, illustrators, publishers, book sellers, national institutions and literacy advocates. It is a huge melting pot of the stake holders in children's literature. The conference organisers provide lots of time for delegates to network and connect, including the Welcome Event, where we celebrated Grug's 40th Birthday with cake, canapes and beverages.






A CBCA National Conference is also a place where bibliophiles go crazy and try to not spend too much money on books from the conference bookshop. A Huge thank you to Alison and Richard Kay from Dymocks Canberra



Finally, thank you to Margaret Hamilton & Dyan Blacklock, CBCA, Greg Vickers from Conference Solutions and all the sponsors. It was a fabulous conference and I look forward to the next one in two years time.

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