22 February 2013

Adelaide Writers' Week

Adelaide Writers' Week is coming up fast.  The fabulous Laura Kroetsch has done another wonderful job of lining up new and exciting writers to share their world with us. 
I'll be chairing a panel with guests Nick Bland and Tohby Riddle on The Art of the Picture Book.  It starts at 3.45 pm on Sunday 3rd March and it will be a test of Qantas' scheduling and Melbourne's weather since I fly in to Adelaide about an hour prior to the start  of the session.  If I'm not there please will someone take over for me?

Nick and Tohby are such different creators of picture books - Tohby trained at the Sydney College of the Arts in a time when art was very conceptual - 'smearing butter on the walls and calling it art' according to Tohby.  Nick was self-taught but watched his father, a sculptor and artist who had to teach to keep his family alive and Nick felt his dad sacrificed his happiness this way.   

Nick is a huge fan of Tohby's work which he sees as in some ways wonderfully self-indulgent compared to his own books which are definitely aimed at a commercial market.  Tohby would disagree - I asked him if Unforgotten,  his latest picture book was a self-indulgent work and he was very clear that in his mind it was not.  The idea came from a very deep feeling and over a period of five years images and feelings would pop into his head; exciting, spine tingling ideas that he just couldn't grasp but that he had to find a way to give form to.  A lot of Tohby's work is like this - getsating for years, growing in depth and meaning.  A fidelity to the ideas is required and this is demanding in many ways.

Nick, who lives on the beach in the relaxed capital of Australia, Darwin, has a very different take on the work of making picture books.  His most recent picture book had a print run of 120 thousand and Nick will happily compromise to ensure his books sell.  Since he has now sold well over a million copies of his books this clearly works for him.  My own grandchildren absolutely love his books and they are  a joy to share so if there were compromises they worked brilliantly.

So two very different writer/illustrators and both with extraordinarily successful works that appeal to many people.  Making picture books is demanding and requires many people to bring the work to publication.  It is a great pleasure and a privilige to share this work with talented and passionate people.  Judging by the many hundreds of picture book submissions we receive every year it is clear there are a lot of people who would like to join this fraternity, but only a handful ever make it.

I'm looking forward to this discussion.

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