Review Blog

Aug 20 2013

May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust Creative Time Fellowship by Jacqueline Harvey

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I have just spent the past month in Adelaide, living in a gorgeous little apartment affectionately known as The Burrow, in Osmond Terrace, Norwood. Last year I applied for a Creative Time Residency with the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust and was thrilled to learn that my application had been successful. I had thought about applying in previous years but could never see my way clear to having a month away from work. Since taking the huge step at the end of 2012 to write full time, I was absolutely delighted to have this opportunity.
Adelaide was completely new to me - and I have to say after a month, it is now one of my favourite Australian cities. I love the ease with which you can get around; traffic, what traffic? I really enjoyed the cafe culture of The Parade in Norwood and on the couple of occasions that I was able to venture further afield to the Barossa Valley and Victor Harbour, I can attest to the fine wine and food and stunning countryside.
The primary goal of the residency is to give children's writers and illustrators a block of uninterrupted time to work on their craft. There are also some opportunities to do school visits or work with local libraries, earning a little bit of money along the way.
I went to Adelaide with the goal of finishing the draft for the ninth instalment in my Alice-Miranda series, Alice-Miranda in Japan. So there I was in Adelaide, writing about Tokyo and all things Japanese. It was great to be able to write all day and into the night if things were going well, or to take a walk around Norwood, spellbound by the beautiful architecture and meeting friendly folks along the way - including Boston, a little floppy eared rabbit whose 7 year old owner, Abbey, takes for walks each afternoon.
My four weeks were punctuated by events with the Norwood, Payneham and St Peter's library, working with local schools; Norwood, East Marden and East Adelaide and another event with the Glenelg library and two of the Catholic schools nearer the coast. My publisher arranged for me to do four book signings on Saturdays with; Dymocks Rundle Mall, Dillons Norwood, Collins Edwardstown and lastly, on national bookshop day I spent the morning at Mostly Books in Mitcham. It was lovely to meet so many enthusiastic readers, teachers, librarians and booksellers across the city.
I had the pleasure of meeting Pat Pledger and Fran Knight over coffee and delicious cakes and I also spent time with Rebecca Bird and James Williams from the legendary Pegi Williams Bookshop in Walkerville.
A highlight of my time was an additional opportunity to visit Griffin Press, where Random House (and numerous other publishers) have their books printed. I had always wondered how books were made - for me it was a bit of a magical process. You send the page proofs back and 'voila' they return as a book. I wanted to be able to tell children what really happens. And now I can. I was excited to see the process but you can imagine how thrilled I was to learn that my own books were being printed, collated, bound and packaged that very afternoon. It was quite a surreal moment.
As a not for profit organisation, The May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust relies heavily on the work of a volunteer committee. This amazing band of women looked after me so well; with airport and school visit transfers, food, coffee and friendship. I cannot thank them enough and I am looking forward to seeing them all again when I return to Adelaide for a book tour in 2014.
At the end of my time, I'd added 40,000 words to the manuscript and ostensibly completed the draft. I've come home this week to lots of reading and re-drafting but I was pleased to have achieved as much as I did and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to join the alumni of Creative Time Fellows.

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