I'm a children's author, wife and mum in no particular order. I perform these jobs simultaneously and I love them all!

Monday, 23 March 2015

Don't Think About Purple Elephants Book Launch


The Newcastle Writers Festival and Newcastle Libraries were proud to help launch the amazing new picture book Don't Think About Purple Elephants by creative team Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones (published by EK Books - an imprint of Exisle Publishing) on Saturday during the festival's Saturday Family Fun Day.

The Lovett Gallery in Newcastle Library was eerily quiet and empty 15 minutes before the launch. The sound and lighting had been checked and the elephant treats had been perfectly arranged. The anticipation was building as Susan, Gwynneth and I (I was volunteering as part of the festival) waited for family, friends and book lovers to arrive to help celebrate. They obviously hadn’t found the elephant footprints all over the stairs yet.

Don't Think About Purple Elephants is the debut picture book for both Susan and Gwynneth. There is nothing like the launch of the first book by an emerging author or illustrator (other than a wedding or birth of a child I guess). Wondering and worrying if people will come to celebrate the years of writing, editing, scribbling, drawing, painting, planning, and creating would be overwhelming. But hundreds came.

As the room filled quickly, joy and love consumed the space.

As I was a volunteer, I sadly had to watch from afar, but it was lovely to help fill the front half of the room with children of all ages as they waited in anticipation for the first official reading.

After thank you speeches had been delivered and the story shared, children were treated to purple elephant biscuits, yellow cupcakes topped with handmade edible purple elephants (made by the wonderful Julie Swane) and drinks.

As an extra treat, helpful purple elephants appeared everywhere even though everyone was told not to think about them. Susan spent hours hand-dying each outfit.

A signing line quickly appeared as everyone congratulated the girls while holding their freshly purchased copies of their book.

I think the girls lost count of how many photos they posed for and how many lovely comments they received. This book launch was so special and one I'm sure they will never forget.

Congratulations to you both, Susan and Gwynne. Not only do we share the same publisher but we share a friendship (which came first). I hope your book reaches all the corners of the world and everyone thinks of both of you fondly when they do and don't think about purple elephants.

Gwynneth Jones, Mark Robinson, Susan Whelan, me

Susan Whelan, Kirrili Lonergan, me, Gwynneth Jones

Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Newcastle Writers Festival Kids Program 2015

Over the past 12 months, the Newcastle Writers Festival and Newcastle Libraries worked together to develop and implement a huge festival program for children. Last week toddlers, preschool children, primary school students, HSC students and families were catered for across a 6 day program that celebrated stories, books and writing and included local and visiting book creators from the East Coast of Australia.

The NWF Kids Program 2015 included author and illustrator talks, live readings, craft activities, book launches, entertainment, performances, book signings and workshops. The activities varied as much as the age of the children who participated.

As a NWF committee member, and as a volunteer managing the Kids Program volunteers, I am very proud to be part of this annual event. Whether I’m creating rosters, greeting schools or giving directions to the coffee cart, I can honestly say my swollen feet and tiredness is worth it every year. Here is a summary of the second NWF Kids Program from my perspective.

Exhibition: ANZAC Illustrated

This exhibition of original illustrations from contemporary Australian children’s books about war and conflict was launched as part of the festival. It was a thrill to have this exhibition space available during the festival with these powerful and beautiful images surrounding hundreds of children. The exhibition is open until 1st May.

Monday: Workshop Day

On Monday, 16th March Ed Wright, Liz Anelli and Wendy James hosted a variety of workshops for primary school children. Here is a peak at what the children got up to in Liz’s printmaking workshop. I heard wonderful feedback about these.

Photo: courtesy of Liz Anelli
Tuesday: Preschool Day

On Tuesday, 17th March over 100 preschool aged children visited the library and met local author Deb Kelly. Deb read to the children from her picture books, The Bouncing Ball and Jam for Nana. The children then participated in a blossom craft activity inspired by Jam for Nana. Finally the kids enjoyed songs and dancing presented by the ‘Wacky Wombat’ team. Deb presented a Haiku poetry workshop later that afternoon. The workshop children experienced eating authentic Japanese treats. Yum! (I may have tasted a sample)

Wednesday: Primary School Day 1

Wednesday, 18th March was a HUGE day. Sarah Davis, Anna Fienberg, Matt Ottley, and Alyssa Brugman had over 900 children glued to their stories and drawings. Matt signed my copy of his illustrated picture book Parachute written by Danny Parker. I fell in love with the story behind the story of their picture book Tree.

Thursday: Primary School Day 2

Thursday, 19th March was another HUGE day. Deborah Abela, Matt Ottley, Kaz Delaney, and Susanne Gervay entertained another 900 children with funny stories and illustration presentations. Deb was so entertaining and animated during her presentations. Susanne’s love of books was infectious and Matt was charming and insightful. Kaz’s workshops sold out on the first day of bookings. Very impressive Kaz!

Friday: Secondary School Events

On Friday, 20th March, the festival hosted secondary school events for the first time. Melina Marchetta,Garth Nix, Wendy James and Ed Wright presented beautiful and inspiring talks and workshops to over 300 students at City Hall. The City hall was buzzing all morning with students, festival volunteers, presenters and guests as the Main Program was getting ready to start straight after we finished.

Saturday: Family Fun Day

On Saturday, 21st March, the Newcastle Library hosted a Festival Family Hub full of entertainment, live readings, shows and entertainment. Roving characters, craft zones and stage performances entertained guests outside while authors and book launches entertained guests inside.

Local authors and illustrators including Deb Kelly, Lynn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan, Jess Black, Kerri Lane, Susan Whelan and Gwynne Jones, Liz Anelli, Kathy Edwards and Katrien Pickles read to children big and small from their latest creations.

But the big event of the day included the picture book launch of Don’t Think About Purple Elephants by Susan Whelan and Gwynneth Jones, published by EK Books. Family, friends and book lovers filled the Lovett Gallery to celebrate a wonderful achievement by this local creative team (A separate blog is available about this launch with more details and photos).

A final word (or two)...

Across the six days, over 2000 children from schools and over 1000 people during Family Fun Day, 18 volunteers, over 20 presenters, and hundreds of hours of planning and preparation made this community event for kids an overwhelming success.

On behalf of the board and committee of the Newcastle Writers Festival, I would like to thank Carol Edmonds and Julie Swane from Newcastle Libraries for supporting the festival and providing such an extensive and powerful event for children.

This event cannot happen without the tireless help from the 18 volunteers who gave up many days to support our presenters, library and schools. No words can express how much we love them!

We would also like to thank MacLean’s Booksellers for providing a children’s bookshop the entire time of the kids program so the children could grab a copy of every book mentioned across the program and have their favourite book creator sign it.

I restocked my library with a few new books during the week. Tree by Danny Parker and Matt Ottley, I Am Jack by Suzanne Gervay, Elephants Have Wings by Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro, and Lost and Found by Brooke Davis. I could have bought twice as much. I was very restrained.

We have already started planning for next year - can you believe it? It is set to be even better but just as special (Main Program 1-3 April, 2016). See you next year!

Friday, 13 March 2015

Hamilton Child Care Centre Family Fun Day

Hamilton Child Care Centre warmly invited authors and illustrators from the CBCA (NSW) Newcastle sub-branch to be part of the entertainment for their 'Family Fun Day' which was held today.

Deborah Kelly, Susan Whelan, Kaz Delaney and Liz Anelli accepted the invitation and joined in the fun while hosting a story tent.

This Family Fun Day felt like an old-fashioned school fete as it included arts and craft activities, clowns, jumping castles, pony rids, coffee carts, sponge throwing and games. The weather was perfect and the atmosphere was lovely. 

Kaz gave Aidan and Lara a lesson on how to use her new 'choose your own adventure' book, 'The (No So) Greatest Show on Earth'. Aidan is now busting to read his new signed copy.
We got our hands on an early copy of Susan and Gwynneth's new book, 'Don't Think About Purple Elephants''. We even spotted a purple elephant or two wandering around. I grabbed my copy today as I think I'll be a tad too busy at the launch of this book next Saturday at the Newcastle Writers Festival Family Fun Day at 10:30am.
We listened to Liz and Deb read their picture Books, 'Howzat' and 'The Bouncing Ball'. Deb and Liz are also both involved in presenting workshops at the Newcastle Writers Festival next week.

My kids entertained themselves with face painting, snow cone eating, and biscuit decorating. As you can see they had a delightful morning.

Thanks to Liz, Kaz, Deb and Susan for representing our CBCA Newcastle sub-branch so beautifully. The girls really enjoyed mingling with the community talking about their books. Well done!

Photo: Liz Anelli