May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Creative Time Fellowship Days 5, 6, 7

July 23, 2013

May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Creative Time Fellowship Days 5, 6, 7

I waved Ian off in a cab on Sunday afternoon – he headed home to Sydney for the week and will be back next Friday night.  I wish he was staying.  We had lunch in Glenelg and talked through plot issues and character developments and I’m feeling so much better about getting on with it.


The past three days have been fantastic.  On Friday morning Ian arrived, followed closely by Clive Jackson, the Random House rep for South Australia who picked us up for the day.  We headed into the Art Gallery of South Australia for the launch of a wonderful new book, Affairs of the Art by Katrina Strickland.  It’s about the management of artist’s estates and their legacies. Katrina spent a significant amount of time with the widows of many of Australia’s most famous artists, pulling together her research for the book.  We met her briefly after the talk and she’s absolutely delightful.  Having read several chapters now too, I can highly recommend it as a very interesting and insightful read.

We then drove to Pegi Williams bookshop in Walkerville, another stunning suburb.  Pegi Williams is a fantastic Australian success story.  The shop is in a gorgeous heritage building and it was fabulous to meet owner James and the lovely Rebecca, sales consultant and avid reader.  Both of them certainly know children’s books and have a dedicated following around the country.  I’m looking forward to heading back there next Friday evening to make a short video for their website.

Then we were off to Griffin Press for what had to be one of the most exciting afternoons I can recall in a very long time.  We were going to see the process of how books are actually made – so that instead of saying ‘well, I see the page proofs and then it goes back and it’s a bit like magic – it returns to me as a book’ I can tell children what really goes on – from how the orders are organised, covers are created, to the way the offset printing works, to how the pages are collated, bound, cut, trimmed and packaged.  As an author I have wanted to see the process for a while now – but to arrive and find out that they were printing Alice-Miranda Shines Bright while we were there was AMAZING!  Not only that, there were reprints of Alice-Miranda At School happening too – so we got to see the covers being created and two Clemmie books were being reprinted on the smaller run digital machines.

I felt like Charlie in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory – and I’m pretty sure Clive and Ian felt the same way.  You couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces.  Adrian, the factory manager was a gem.  He explained the entire process and Dani and Ian, who both take care of front of house goings on, explained exactly how the files arrive and what happens prior to and following the printing process.

Their generosity was incredible and I loved every minute.  We went to the plate room and they were apologising that there was no Alice-Miranda or Clementine being pressed at the time.  However, when I looked at what was coming through, it was a reprint of Stories for 8 Year Olds – and my short story, Gruesome Grandads and Nasty Nans was there in the corner.  I couldn’t believe it – and I don’t think they could either.

The paper store is incredible with 4 months worth of giant paper rolls piled high like a pre-publication forest.  I was impressed with Griffin’s dedication to recycling and the use of recyclable materials.

Adrian has been with the company for a long time – three decades I think.  He was obviously very proud of his work and team and I suspect it was a bit of a thrill for him to be able to show us exactly how it all happens.  I know it was a huge thrill for me and an afternoon I will never forget.

On Saturday morning we met Mary Wilson, who along with her husband Ian was responsible for setting up the May Gibb’s Children’s Literature Trust.  Mary kindly came and picked us up.  Then we drove over to get Elizabeth Hutchins before heading to Mary’s magnificent home for a delicious morning tea.  Sadly, Mary’s husband Ian passed away recently.  He sounds like a wonderful man and his work both for the Trust and in the community as a member of parliament have left an important legacy.

Mary’s home is one of those places that ooze family and history.  Her own grandmother was born in a timber house that sits adjacent to the main house.

Morning tea consisted of home made scones and cake – and was absolutely delicious.  I hope to spend more time with Mary and Elizabeth during the visit.

Mary then drove us to Rundle Mall where I had a book signing at Dymocks.  That was great fun too and I met some very enthusiastic Alice-Miranda fans.  We also met Linda from Dymocks who was a fabulous host and Jo, Clive’s wife, who also works in the store.

Rundle Mall is currently undergoing a substantial renovation so we’re not seeing it at its best.  Suffice to say it reminds me a little of Pitt Street Mall with the usual array of shops.  The weather was very chilly on Saturday with snow falling on Mt Lofty – which we learned is a none too frequent occurrence.  Ian and I returned to the Burrow and decided to walk to Norwood and find a cosy place for a late lunch.  On the way down the street I was surprised to see this giant sign on the window in Dillon’s Bookshop advertising my upcoming Saturday signing.

Sunday dawned just as drearily as Saturday and we decided to take the tram to Glenelg.  Wow – the weather was wild and woolly down there – but I can imagine that on a clear day it is absolutely beautiful.  We found the marina with lots of shops and restaurants and enjoyed another late lunch before Ian had to head back to Sydney and I had to reacquaint myself with the book.

All up, my first week in Adelaide has been great.  The ladies from the Trust Committee are so kind – Alle brought me some delicious soup early in the week and Mary stopped by on Saturday evening with Osso Bucco, Minestrone and a bottle of red – from the family’s own vines.  I can’t thank them all enough for making me feel at home.

I’m looking forward to a very productive week ahead.  The goals are lofty with at least another 25,000 words of Alice-Miranda In Japan to write (hopefully by the end of the week).  I don’t mind if the weather stays chilly – it’s wonderful for writing.

PS I have a lot more photos from the visit to Griffin Press and will post them as soon as I’m allowed.



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