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

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Take a Walk on the Wild Side: Sketch and Scribble at Taronga Zoo with SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators)

There was no need to ask me twice to attend the first official SCBWI Aus East/NZ event of 2015. A walk in Taronga Zoo with fellow children’s authors and illustrators while sketching and scribbling sounded like a wonderful idea. And this event was childfree.

I couldn't work out what to wear. Will it be cold? Hot? Sunny? Rainy? Do I dress for comfort or to make an impression? And my biggest mistake was not making this decision before I went to bed the night before. Making it at 6:30am in the dark was not a great idea. I decided to pack sunscreen and an umbrella, wear a Cardigan (layers) and my reliable black boots (comfort and style). My outfit was finally sorted. My bag was now huge as I also had a packed lunch, my iPad and keyboard, folder, pencils, and lolly snakes (of course!).

The trip from Newcastle with Kirrili Lonergan and her friend Emma went to plan. We left at 6:45am and arrived right on time at 9:45am. We even managed to sneak in a pot of tea (one of the nicest I have had in a while) at a beautiful café on Military Road while it poured with rain.

We gathered inside the zoo entrance and met people I hadn't seen in a while and new ones too, though they seemed familiar thanks to Facebook and LinkedIn. The rain had cleared a little thank goodness.

Off to the giraffes we went. Deborah Abela threw a few word phrases at us along the way to kickstart our creativity - but I planned to work on current unfinished manuscripts. So there I sat, on a tripod camp seat in the middle of a major walkway trying to balance an iPad and keyboard on my knees while wearing a skirt. It was a little hard to sit in that position but I managed it…for about 3 minutes! I  adde a little section to one of my picture book manuscripts while there. 

During the fourth minute I took a quick photo of the giraffes with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background for Instagram. Then I went back to writing.

Soon hunger and distraction set in. It was time to put the computer away (again), get off the camp stool, rummage through my bags and take a walk while I snacked. I took a few more photos of the giraffes before I moved to the tigers.

The tigers were boring. They were cute but they were lazy and quiet.  I couldn’t settle so I wandered back to the elephants.

The elephants were just magnificent. They were getting bathed and scrubbed – pedicures included. I couldn’t believe the amount of dirt that came off them. During the clean, the cheeky elephants took the hose off the keepers with their trunk and drank from it. After they were moved to another spot, they covered their freshly cleaned bodies with sand. Sand! Looking back on my day, this event was my favourite. It was a very active part of the day for these slow, quiet animals!  
From here I decided to write a blog post. Camp stools, animals, rain, constantly moving and distractions made working on my current projects difficult.

(writing, writing, writing)

The next stop was the bird show at 12:00pm.

(writing, writing, writing, more writing)

I got so involved in writing my post I nearly forgot about the 12:00pm bird show. I missed the first 10 minutes which actually was half the show. I can highly recommend the second half and the view.

Lunchtime! We gathered on the grassy area beside the bird show for a picnic. A gorgeous rooster came for a visit and performed his spectacular midday ‘cock-a-doodle-do’. It seemed strange to hear a rooster do that in the middle of the day. My bag became lighter as I ate my packed lunch before I slipped off for a fresh cup of tea.

Sarah Davis and Deborah Abela directed sharing time while we steamed as the sun broke through the clouds. Scarves came off and hats went on.

The display of talent was extraordinary. In such a short time, these talented illustrators gave a glimpse of how quickly and effortlessly they can put amazing images on paper. They shared their favourite pieces of equipment too. Top secret!

After lunch we went for a wander back to the elephants and then down to the seals and penguins.

If you are familiar with Tarongo Zoo you’ll know we were at the bottom of the hill by now. The only way up after a full day and a 5:45am get up was via the cable car.

The day finished with more caffeine, something sweet, and a group farewell.

Conclusion? I had a wonderful, unique day. I felt a little guilty about going to the zoo without my children, but I got over that by lunch.

Would I go again? YES – but I would plan it differently. I got very distracted and I packed too much. The weather was hot, then cold, then hot, then cold, then cloudy, then rainy, then sunny, then cloudy, then sunny.

The good news: I learned I need controlled conditions, a flat surface, a comfortable chair, and no distractions during my writing time.

But I loved meeting new people, I loved the atmosphere, I loved watching illustrators involved in their craft, I loved the location and I loved socialising. I think the day worked much better for the illustrators than for me as an author.

A huge thank you to the organisers: Susanne Gervay, Deborah Abela, Marjorie Crosby-Fairall and Liz Anelli. Your concept and vision for and organisation of this day was very much appreciated. Thank you to my Newcastle friends too. Your company is always uplifting.

If you are interested in our SCBWI group, more details are here: http://australiaeastnz.scbwi.org/
And the SCBWI blog with a great post about our day posted already is here: http://www.scbwiaustralianz.com/