The weather was absolutely perfect for our Festival Family Fun Day thank goodness! In fact it was extremely HOT! But the sunshine brought a sense fun and laughter as we celebrated children's literature with our wider local community.
Here is a summary of the mischief we got up to. There was fun to be had in every corner of our extended space. We even closed the front street and invited live animals.
Worth it? Double Yes!
Do it again next year? Triple YES!
Plattsburg Cultural Dance Group started the day with beautiful indigenous dancing. The music was haunting and helped the festival give thanks to the traditional owners of the land we were occupying, the land of the Awabakal people.
I hosted a live draw-off with the help of Liz Anelli, Leila Rudge, Kirrili Lonergan, Gwynne Jones and Serena Geddes. We were so lucky to have had five gorgeous, talented children's illustrators in the one place. Kids came from everywhere to watch the girls illustrate random topics suggested by children from the audience. As they competed in pairs, snow leopards, tiger moths, snakes and monster trucks jumped onto the pages in one minute. Then the audience voted for their favourite one with cheering. Finally the illustrations jumped into the hands of lucky audience members. It was the first time I had hosted such an event but I had so much fun - probably because I wasn't in the competition!
Next, Kirrili Lonergan and I presented the live 'Dandelions Stage Performance'. We invited the kids to copy our actions as we moved to the song, 'Dandelion' by Demi Mays. Then I read our story to the kids. It was a little weird hearing my voice reading it through a stage sound system but I felt very honoured. Kirrili then invited two children to join her on stage to demonstrate how to draw the characters from our story. To finish, we invited the kids to blow bubbles and pretend we were sending thousands of dandelion seeds onto the breeze. This was a beautiful way to end our session.
I nearly forgot to mention we handmade our outfits to match our book. I even hid a blue butterfly on my outfit to match the blue butterfly Kirrili hid in the illustrations.
Next, local children's author, Renee Price wowed the kids with her 'Digby Fixit Live!' stage and puppet show that reflecting her picture book, 'Digby's Moon Mission', illustrated by Anil Tortop.
Jess Black launched her new picture book, 'Moon Dance', illustrated by Renee Treml. I couldn't attend as I was on stage, but her Facebook photos showed a room full of fun, excitement and celebration. Congratulations, Jess!
Deborah Kelly also launched her new book, 'Ruby Wishfingers', the first in a new junior fiction series. I couldn't attend it either (wish I could have been in three places at once!) but her Facebook launch photos oozed with a sense of fun and laughter too. Congratulations, Deb!
Story time allowed a spotlight to shine on some of our local authors and illustrators in the air-conditioning of the library.
Ant Wood read his book, 'Flaming Charli', illustrated by Lorraine Robertson.
Fern Martins read her picture book, 'The Toast Tree', written by Corina Martin.
Illustrator Leila Rudge read her brand new picture books, 'Gary' which she wrote and illustrated, and 'The Whole Caboodle', written by Lisa Shanahan. Both books were only released on Friday. I may have also had a cuddle with her new baby. Lucky me!
Susan Whelan and Gwynne Jones read from their picture book, 'Don't Think About Purple Elephants'.
Katrien Pickles read her picture book, 'Georgia and Dad The Dragon', illustrated by Lauren Merrick.
And last but not least, Lyn Jenkins and Kirrili Lonergan shared their picture book, 'Lessons of a LAC'.
Other Festival Activities:
Lulu Bell's World of Amazing Animals hosted by Belinda Murrell and Serena Geddes was a hub of craft activities and story telling. They were accompanied by a visiting petting zoo.
The Newcastle Art Gallery supplied their famous Art Cart and offered the children fun and messy book-related craft.
The Newcastle Library staff hosted relaxing story time in their pop-up library in the shade of the trees in Civic Park.
Facepainting and tattoos were available as well.
Lynn Jenkins and her family had their famous 'Bubble Tea' stand set up too. It was the perfect weather to recharge with this unique and soothing drink. I think it saved my sanity at one point. Did I tell you how hot it was?
Local author, Karen Hughes set up a beautiful stand to showcase her new series, 'Kalika Magic'. She also has a lolly stash and swords on display.
And of course MacLean's Booksellers supported us the entire time providing the books of all the book creators throughout the entire festival. A mammoth task!
As you can see, we have had a busy week. I have worn many hats (author, stage performer, host, volunteer, and volunteer co-ordinator) and I've enjoyed every one of them.
Forgive me if I disappear next week. I may be found sleeping during the day, replenishing my fridge, ironing my mountain of washing, and catching up on family cuddles.
This week could not have happened without the support of our volunteers. I have a large group of amazing, reliable and beautiful volunteers who help me, the festival and library put on the very best festival we can for our local kids and families. We feel we offer a wonderful opportunity to bring children closer to their favourite book creators so they can feel inspired to become life long readers, and possibly writers and/or illustrators one day.
It had been an honour and a privilege to be part of the Newcastle Writers Festival Kids Program this year - my third year. After I catch up up on some sleep, I'll be ready to do it all over again in 2017. We have already started planning!