Children’s Book Festival 2015

Kidsbookfest 2015 AS & GW

My fangirl moment with Gabrielle Wang

‘So what are you doing today Mum?’ Miss Nine asked as we walked to school the morning after the 2015 Children’s Book Festival.

‘I’m going to spend the whole day writing.’

‘That sounds boring.’

‘No way. It’s my favourite way to spend the day. If I could, I’d spend every day writing.’

‘Well, you’d better read a lot, too, if you’re going to be a writer.’

I have Gabrielle Wang to thank for this gem, offered as advice to young writers in her ‘Meet the Author’ session at the Children’s Book Festival.

The annual festival, now in its fifth year, is a collaboration between the Wheeler Centre for Books Writing Ideas and the State Library of Victoria.

Gabrielle Wang's notebook for the Meet Poppy books

Gabrielle Wang’s notebook for the Meet Poppy books

Gabrielle Wang’s author talk, and meeting her at the book signing afterwards, were my personal highlights of this year’s festival. Miss Nine and I are both fans of her standalone novels, as well as her Meet Poppy and Meet Pearlie books in the Our Australian Girl series, and it was fascinating to hear her life story and learn about how she has drawn on her experiences in her writing. Her tale of breaking into a haunted mansion with her best friend Wendy fired my daughter’s imagination. As well as encouraging aspiring writers to read, Gabrielle advised them to work on their stories ‘a little bit every day’ and, if things are not working, ‘to leave it alone for a week or two and then come back to it.’ Good advice for all writers, young and old alike.

Nicki Greenberg reveals the art of expression

Nicki Greenberg reveals the art of expression

Advice that resonates and inspires is just one of many reasons to love the Children’s Book Festival.

Another is the wonderful array of activities on offer to fire the imagination. This year for us it was a workshop with graphic artist Nicki Greenberg, deftly facilitated by Bernard Caleo. Nicki showed us how to read faces and create expressions with simple lines. She encouraged us to let our imaginations run wild in creating kooky characters. Children and adults alike responded warmly to her prompts — the delight in the room was palpable — the little ones lining up to show her their work.

Upstairs in the library’s Cowen Gallery, my eight-year-old nephew was inspired by The Suburban Field Guide To Miscellaneous Oddities to create his own miscellaneous oddity for a giant story book, and write a museum-style entry to go with it. Meanwhile, Miss Nine and a friend had found their way to the Publishing House in Queen’s Hall, where they made their own books.

Kidsbookfest 2015 5 crop

Kids book rock gods Terry Denton (L) & Andy Griffiths (R)

We spent time on the State Library lawns in front of an outdoor stage, being treated to a terrific range of talent — Peter Combe and Becky Hoops put in appearances while we were there — with Josh Earl doing a hilarious job as host. His songs were a highlight for Miss Nine.

For the grand finale, we attended a session with the rock gods of the Australian children’s book scene, Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton. Despite having spent the previous five hours signing books, Andy and Terry managed to light up the room, alternately badgering each other and the audience, mixing it up with funny drawings and their trademark bum jokes. Andy introduced the session by saying he had run out of ideas for the soon-to-be-written The 78-Storey Treehouse, and gave the audience thirty minutes to come up with 13 new levels. Terry drew the ideas on the spot, using a ‘visualiser’ to project the images. Among the winning suggestions were rooms filled with spare body parts, a giant spiderweb, and a kid-eating forest*.

Denton_Kid eating forest[*I’m not sure how Miss Nine came to be in possession of Terry’s drawing of the kid-eating forest; so guys, if you’re reading this and you want the drawing back, the ransom note is in the mail.]

Most of all I love the Children’s Book Festival for its celebration of writing, drawing, reading and listening — elements that enrich my life and that will, I hope, enrich the life of my daughter for years to come.

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel is, Mother of Pearl, published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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12 Responses to Children’s Book Festival 2015

  1. Diana says:

    Crowd sourcing your next book idea. Brilliant. Fully expect to see those ideas in the next book. You’re on notice that I’d stage a heist if the drop goes ahead. Keep it in the family.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. you got a drawing! what a prize. gabrielle wang was wonderful, and we will search out some of her novels once maeve finishes “little women”. (it may be a while; she just started tonight.)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Margot Kinberg says:

    What a great time, Angela! I’m so glad you shared it with us. As you know, I am a big fan of anything and anyone who helps young people connect with reading and writing. Miss Nine is lucky that you gave her this great experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s such a great festival, Margot. I think we’ve been to four out of five of them and it is so nice to be in a place where writers get treated like the celebrities they should be 😉


  4. Anonymous says:

    Hi, Angela

    This festival sounds like a lot of fun. And somehow I completely managed to miss that it was on! My little guy is a massive Andy and Terry fan, so maybe next year for us. Thanks for the write up for those of us who missed it.



    Liked by 1 person

  5. WordMothers says:

    Loved reading this write-up. Sounds like a fabulous festival!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Kathy D. says:

    This sounds fantastic, encouraging children to read and write, to learn to express themselves, to think imaginatively. I wish there were festivals like that here for my young friends to spark their thinking and creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kathy, it was such a great atmosphere. And even at the end of the day, with the festival officially over, there were parents and kids sitting on the library lawns, reading from boxes of books made available for their reading pleasure.


  7. Kathy D. says:

    There is so much more going on here than just reading; there’s encouraging creativity, learning how to draw expressions, making your own books, doing what your nephew did.
    My neighbor’s 5 and 8 year old children would love this.
    I gave the younger one a book which had a mysterious ending. I thought of it one
    way and the two of them thought of a different ending or questioned it. That’s
    what books should do.


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