Bookrapt Seminar

I am involved in a most wonderful organisation – Bookrapt or the Bay of Plenty Children’s Literature Association. The aim of our group is to promote and celebrate excellent children’s literature. I’ve been involved with Bookrapt since coming back to Tauranga to live in 1995. I say wonderful because it is such a friendly, informal, but also a very successful group. We achieve a good deal, because we know clearly what our goal is, and we all share the same beliefs about the values of reading and books for young people.

One of the events we run is an annual seminar – and yesterday ‘s seminar featured authors Philippa Werry and Jenny Hessell, and writer/illustrator Gavin Bishop. Each are talented in their own way, and it was inspirational listening to each one speak and share their ideas about writing and give us insights into their work.

Philippa Werry talked about the extensive background research she did on her excellent children’s novel Enemy at the Gate – about the polio epidemic of 1936/37. The novel weaves in some of key historical events and people of the time – Jack Lovelock, Shirley Temple, the depression… She talked about the importance of including only the essence of the historical facts – otherwise the history can swamp the story. I’ve read this fabulous book and think she achieves this very well indeed.

Gavin Bishop didn’t do any research on his book Piano Rock, until he’d finished it (and only to check some of the facts) – but this was appropriate as it was a personal memoir of his life as a young boy in 1950s New Zealand. It is a fascinating and beautifully produced book. He also talked about the techniques he’s been using lately – including monograph printing. He’s been simplifying the illustrative techniques he uses, and it was interesting hearing him talk about this. He made it sound easy but we all know he is an incredible talent with a huge amount of expertise and skill – and his just published board books speak of this – they are simply world class. The vertical format is intriguing and works with the board book format, story (nursery rhymes), and illustrative style.

Jenny Hessell spoke about the process of writing, and shared the wonderful metaphor from Roald Dahl about writing being like a piece of wood dipped into the water with a piece of string attached. Every now and again you’ll pull the piece of wood out and something interesting will be attached…like a barnacle or some seaweed…and over time a story builds up from all these interesting bits and pieces. She believes good writing mainly comes from the subconscious. Jenny read a couple of her Grandma McGarvey books to the audience – a real treat to hear these famous and well loved stories told in the author’s voice.

Three superb speakers. Click here for photos and an extended report.

As usual it was fantastic to have been involved in the organisation of the seminar (my role this time more in the catering department), and the catching up and chat with the attendees at morning tea and lunchtime was wonderful. As usual people had a great day.


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