A couple of weekends ago I was involved with a wonderful festival right here in my home state of Tasmania. In fact, it was just down the road so to speak, in the small village style township of Beaconsfield. Sadly made famous for the tragic accident that saw the death of a miner and two others trapped after a terrible cave in underground at the gold mine that has been a part of Beaconsfields history for well over a century. I loved attending for more than just literary reasons, for this is where my ancestors come from, on my Dad's side of the family, and I felt like I was coming home. (My great grandfathers house is now the council chambers and my grandparents ran the local store)
The Festival of Golden Words was an eclectic mix of genres and styles of writing all drawn together into one community for three days. It was the first time this festival has been held and was the brain child and vision of talented author Stephen Dando-Collins and his wonderful team of visionaries and volunteers. Presenters and authors from all over Australia were on the program, including Andy Griffiths, Kate Gordon, Nick Earles, Sherryl Clark, Wendy Harmer, Tristan Banks, Maggie Beer and Hannah Kent.
My involvement consisted of running illustration workshops for children, presentations in the school program and also participating on a panel that, after running around from one event to the next, I realise just moments before we went on that, in fact, the bleedingly obvious thing was it was a panel in front of an adult audience not kids. My heart skipped a beat but once underway I had a ball, nothing to worry about at all and I can see myself putting my hand up for panels in the future!!
The topic we discussed (Kate Gordon, Poppy Gee, & Heather Rose, chaired by Garry Bailey) was 'Tasmania, My Inspiration.' We were a mix of genres but with one thing in common: we were all inspired by and wrote about Tasmania in our stories.
Two of my picture books are set in Tasmania. Obviously, Purinina, A Devil's Tale can be set nowhere else with the Tasmanian Devil or purinina if we use the original and proper palawi kani name as the main theme of the story. My recent book, Welcome Home, is also set in and inspired by an event and the history of Tasmania, but it is written and illustrated in such a way that it is relevant in any place in New Zealand or Australia or even overseas.
Many of my other books, whilst not set in Tasmania have a flavour of the state in the use of landscape and light and colour. In fact, I have often been caught out in the subtleties of language and images that differ from state to state when designing illustrations, as Tasmania has some differences to the big island and I am often unaware of them until an editor or publisher points out changes I need to make. For example, in a recent illustration project not due for publication until 2015, I had native Australian's wearing a certain style of clothing when in fact, in the area they came from, they wore nothing at all (historically that is). The point is most of the original images of early colonial representations of Aboriginal peoples (most of which are actually incorrecty adapted anyway and not true to the actual representation of the traditional owners of this land) are from my island state and never has it been warm enough here all year to just wear nothing!!
My latest work, a book inspired by a local story, is another inspired by my home state of Tasmania. It is a journey through history and time and is certainly proving to be a big project with so many possibilities. Whilst it is set in Tasmania, it is relevant to all parts of Australia and any rural community who sent their young people off to fight in wars from World War One to Afghanistan.
I live in a great state that has so often struggled to recognise and act on it's brilliant potential. We have history (some sad, some bad, some great) that goes back well before the arrival of European colonial settlers. So many communities in Australia have wonderful stories just waiting to be heard and discovered, a great source of inspiration and in need of being kept alive as historical fact or even in the form of fiction. What stories do you know?