No More Beer and Skittles

Oh, I know, it’s been ever such a long time.  But I’ve been busy.

Dianne Wolfer, Naomi Kojima, Yoko Yoshizawa, Leonard S. Marcus, me, James Foley and Norman Jorgensen at Ku  De Ta, Singapore
* At the end of May I was lucky enough to visit Singapore to present at the Asian Festival of Children’s Content.  My first session was with the dynamic Cynthia Liu on realism and imagination; the other was with fellow Western Australians Dianne Wolfer and Norman Jorgensen on Light Touch, Gritty Themes.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect: given that most delegates were from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and China, as well as a few from the States, the UK and Canada, I wondered how we would communicate across cultures, with our vastly different assumptions about and experiences in the world.  It was therefore fascinating to see how love of reading and books united us.  The fact that most of us grew up on the same diet of English language books (Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, even the Little House series) provided a shared language; passion for getting kids reading did the rest.  
We often whinge in Australia about how hard it is to make space in the curriculum for reading and particularly reading for pleasure; compared to what some of our Asian colleagues are up against, in highly competitive cultures that put a high value academic, maths-based achievement at the expense of what we call humanities, we have nothing to complain of.  Despite their difficulties, I met scores of teachers and others determined to make space for literature in Asian schools.  I salute them.
Just out of interest, the gritty themes session – which I was the most concerned about re cultural divides – was standing room only: we had 120 people attend. I talked about Bye, Beautiful and Losing It: I did note the shock on some people’s faces as I explained what Schoolies Week is.  That’s one tradition I’m sure the audience was pleased not to share with us!
The only quokka-free zone on Rotto
* In June we had our annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators retreat at Rottnest.  I started playing with a couple of projects, including one with Patricia McMahon.  After feeling creatively exhausted for a while, in part as a result of Real Life events, it was deeply satisfying to be among my people, and to actually feel inspired, rather than tired.
* If you happen to be a young Queensland writer, you might want to enter this.  Good to see that state is still doing something to support writing, although it’s still heinous that it cut out its Literary Awards.  I sincerely hope the government has a good re-think about that one.  
* I am doing dry July for the first time: my team is Drinks Paused for a Cause, and you are most welcome to donate.  So there’ll be none of this:

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