My life as a children's author while juggling being a mum, a wife and professional volunteer. (Sometimes it gets complicated)

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!