Story Arts 2015 – an overview

Story Arts Festival Ipswich is a mammoth event organised by the Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian network, headed by Jenny Stubbs. This year there were 44 presenters spread over the 285 School sessions scheduled, 13 events for families out of school hours, and three days of 32 intensive workshops for the adult program.

safi events

It included a magic show, 3 theatre groups (That Theatre Company did at least 14 performances of Eric Vale Epic Fail that week), 2 children’s parties, an ongoing exhibition of Terry Denton’s artwork for the Many-Storey Treehouse books, complete with colourful treehouses made by local schools, and Andy, Terry and Jill from the books live on stage for the first time ever.

Residents would have noticed hundreds of primary school children filing down the streets of Ipswich for the week of 7-11 September. They were heading to venues dotted around the town centre to hear authors and illustrators inform, entertain, and at times amaze them. 195 sessions were scheduled in Ipswich, the following week 72 in Marburg, and 18 in Esk (a small number didn’t happen, but it was still phenomenal).

Schools Program 3 photos

James Moloney, James Foley and Sally Heinrich

Presenters worked hard, doing 3 sessions per day from 27 to 327 children in each session. Volunteers helping them included staff from public and school libraries, student teachers, up-coming writers and lovers of children’s literature, who all got a huge amount out of watching the remarkable art of these presenters. We also got to chat with them over lunch.

In the evening all of the events for families were free, except for the musical Mary Poppins playing at the Ipswich Civic Centre. Not many were booked out, and I’m sure more would have flooded in if Brisbane residents, especially in the south-west, realised how close Ipswich was to their homes, and what an amazing program it was. There was also a book swap – that raised $65 for the Indigenous Literary Foundation, which will be on-going.

Book swapper photo by Jenny

Friday photo

Picture book collaborations panel – Adult program

Upcoming writers and illustrators, as well as librarians, were the key audience of the Adult Program which ran from Friday to Sunday. Participants wrote and drew side by side with established authors and illustrators in small workshops. Many paid to pitch their current works to editors who either accepted their work or at least gave them useful feedback. There were keynote talks, a dinner with entertainment from some of the presenters, and an hilarious breakfast panel.

Story Arts Festival in Ipswich is held every two years, so will be back in September 2017 – put it in your diary now!


Tyrion Perkins attended Story Arts for the first time in 2015 as both volunteer and participant. She greatly enjoyed contributing and co-ordinating the blog with Yvonne Mes and other members of WriteLinks (Thanks to Sam Sochacka for blog set up and encouragement). Tyrion is working on her own books and hopes to be presenting them at a future Story Arts Festival.

Marburg and Esk

After Story Arts wrapped up in Ipswich, it continued on to Marburg then Esk.

SAFI presenters at Woodlands

Presenters at Woodlands of Marburg with organiser, Jenny Stubbs

Authors and illustrators in the above photo (Andrew Plant, Sally Heinrich, James Foley, John Moloney, Nina Rycroft, and Oliver Phommavanh), plus Matt Ottley, continued to work their magic with the schools. They were joined by:

Andrew King

Andrew King wows the kids with engineering marvels from his Engibear picture books

Dr Andrew King is a Brisbane based engineer. He believes children are very interested in the things that engineers do yet there are very few engineers in children’s literature. Consequently, he created Engibear’s Dream, and Engibear’s Bridge. He is currently working on Engibear’s Trains.

Rebecca Johnson signs one of her many wildlife books

Rebecca Johnson signs one of her many wildlife books

Rebecca Johnson is an Australian author and award-winning science teacher. She currently has three series available with many books in each:  Juliet – Nearly a Vet published by Penguin and illustrated by Kyla May; Her best-selling Steve Parish Story Book series featuring Australian wildlife, has sold more than 3 million copies. Rebecca also has an Insect Series published by Pascal Press also with stunning photographs.

Gregg Dreise gets musical with his Silly Birds.

Gregg Dreise gets musical with his Silly Birds.

A descendant of the Kamilaroi tribe, from south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales, Gregg was born and raised in St George, Queensland and moved to Noosa during high school. He is the youngest of eight in a family that loved sport, music and poetry. Both his of his picture books, Silly Birds, and Crazy Kookaburra, are about teaching morals.

Lucia Masciullo and Greg Dreise

Lucia Masciullo and Greg Dreise

Lucia Masciullo is an award winning children’s book illustrator born and bred in Livorno, Italy. She moved to Australia in 2007 and she now lives on the Gold Coast. She has illustrated fifteen books, among which the CBCA Honour Book and Prime Minister Award shortlisted Come Down, Cat!

Chris Collin demonstrates the Funky Chicken.

Chris Collin demonstrates the Funky Chicken.

Chris is an independent author based on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland. His books are: Funky Chicken: A Bushy Tale of Crocs and Chooks,  A Bug Called Doug and New release, Funky Chicken: Chooks in Space.

Peter Taylor and Nina Rycroft

Peter Taylor and Nina Rycroft

Peter Taylor emigrated to Australia from England in 1982. He now lives in Brisbane and his books include: Once a Creepy Crocodile, 101 Things to Do Before You Grow Up, and Kangaroo’s Visitor gets a Surprise.

Barry Jonsberg

Barry Jonsberg

Barry Jonsberg writes books for young adults and children. He lives in Darwin where he teaches and writes. His books include: The whole business with Kiffo and the pit bull (Shortlisted for CBCA 2005), Dreamrider, Cassie, Pandora Jones, and My life as an alphabet. See more at:

Chris Bongers

Chris Bongers

Christine Bongers is a former radio and television journalist who is now happier writing fiction.

Her books include: Intruder, Dust, Henry Hoey Hobson, and Drongoes.

Andy, Terry and Jill – Family program – Monday 7 September

For the first time ever, all three characters from Andy Griffith’s Treehouse stories appeared together, live on stage.

Treehouse exhibition

Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton have toured the country with The 13, 26, 39, 52, and now 65-Storey Treehouse books. On Monday night Jill, who also appears in the books,  joined them at the Ipswich Civic Centre in front of a packed out audience of children and parents.

2015-09-07 18.46.04

Andy told us how The 13-Storey Treehouse had started, while Terry doodled in the background.

2015-09-08 10.18.22

Terry described his search for the perfect tree for their house.


Andy told the story of how he met Jill, who was his editor, and they fell in love.

How Andy and Jill met

Andy got Terry back.

Andy got Terry back

Jill really does love animals. As a child she felt hurt when her sister teased that her guinea pig didn’t like her.

Jill's sister teased her

They answered questions from the audience which were mostly as crazy as the books.


If you are one of the few people in Australia who haven’t read their books, see:

Storyboarding with Terry Denton – Adult Program


Friday 11 September – Story by Tanya Hempson

Terry Denton – illustrator, writer and ‘adventurer’ extraordinaire, presented to a group of illustrators at the StoryArts Festival on Friday. The main subject: Storyboarding.

Terry entertained us with plots of past and future projects, surrounded by the exhibition of his works from the Many Story Treehouse; a collaboration between himself and writer Andy Griffiths.

Terry spoke of his and Andy’s experiences with that series and how it differed to other projects he’d worked on, storyboarding – from concept to creation – and the publishing industry at large. We also had the opportunity to ask questions and have a look at his process pieces, including art work from some of his earlier authored/illustrated books (Felix & Alexander) all the way through to most recently published Jandamarra. With thirty years experience, Terry was really able to capture the essence of his love of books in the presentation, alongside his process and evolution as an illustrator/writer.


Terry moved around the walls of the exhibition, talking through the various art pieces, and characterizations and pages from the Many Story Treehouse. Pointing out and talking of book covers, to character sketches, roughs all the way to final illustrations. This man is prolific and diverse. As we saw by the artwork that goes into the Story Treehouse series, the process is extremely hands on, collaborative and extensive, spanning years of process refinement.


Later, we were handed sheets of paper and a loose scenario. Without being overly precious about it, we all got to work, loosely sketching out a picture book. This wasn’t about finer detail planning layout but story ‘making’. I think we all felt a great sense of adventure!


Terry Denton has illustrated for many of Australia’s top writers such as Andy Griffiths and written more than 20 books himself.

Tanya Hempson is a Commercial Artist/Designer and children’s book illustrator based in Brisbane.

The Phyllis Wong Magic Show – Family program – Monday 7 September

Metal rings magically linked and unlinked themselves at a tap; rope mysteriously divided into two then rejoined before our eyes; objects were somehow transported  from one side of the stage to the other – just a few of the jaw dropping acts performed live on stage at Ipswich Civic Centre by award-winning  magician Sue-Anne Webster.

Rings with helper

She began by changing one giant playing card into another – by simply turning it. Then author Geoffrey McSkimming told us how Sue-Anne inspired him to write Phyllis Wong mysteries and read from his latest book, Phyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard. (I’m part way through the first one and can’t wait to see how it turns out).

Sue-Anne Webster and Georffrey McSkimming

Sue-Anne performed tricks from the series with the help of several young volunteers from the audience. One girl placed an empty top hat on her head, while, across the stage, Sue placed a cube in a box. A moment later the box was empty and the girl looked in the hat – to find the cube. Sue made a huge feather pen stand on end on her hand, then the table it had been sitting on started rising in the air and trying to get away – she held it back only by the cloth that covered it, as it swung this way and that and round in circles.

Magic Show photo by Sue-Anne Webster

My favourite trick would have to be the can of drink that managed to uncrush, re-seal, then refill itself right before our eyes, after she, Geoffrey, and another volunteer had drunk its contents. There is nothing like magic performed live!


Geoffrey McSkimming is the author of the bestselling 19 volume Cairo Jim chronicles and now the new Phyllis Wong mysteries: Phyllis Wong and the Forgotten Secrets of Mr Okyto, Phyllis Wong and the Return of the Conjuror and the newest story, Phyllis Wong and the Waking of the Wizard.

Sue-Anne Webster has performed in theatres around the world, lectured on magic throughout the USA, Europe, UK, Asia and South Africa and judged major magic competitions at international conferences.

Yvonne Mes – Meet Sidney Nolan book launch

Sunday 13 September – By Melanie Hill

Yvonne Mes attended the previous Story Arts festival as a new attendee. This year she was ecstatic to be an author launching her first book: The latest in Random House’s ‘Meet…’ series, Meet Sidney Nolan.

Yvonne's book launch photo by Jenny

Yvonne explained how her upbringing in Amsterdam, a city with vibrant galleries, and being surrounded by her father’s artist friends influenced her to develop not only a love of art, but also an interest in the story of the artist.

When asked to write Meet Sidney Nolan, Yvonne immersed herself in researching Sidney’s life, which included desertion, affairs, and a number of other interesting incidents, but she was faced with the problem of which parts to include in a children’s book.

The series of Ned Kelly paintings are arguably Nolan’s most well known art works. He had spoken about how these paintings included hidden messages about his own life. So a mystery, and vibrant paintings about one of Australia’s most notorious historical figures, were chosen as the focal point of the book. It concentrates on how these paintings were created as well as Sidney’s early life.

Yvonne's book

Yvonne was very pleased when the artist and illustrator Sandra Eterovic was chosen to provide the visual narrative for the story. When you see her work, you get the feeling that Sidney would have approved of using her paintings to illustrate a book about him.

Together Sandra and Yvonne have produced a beautifully written and illustrated story for children that will stand out amongst the ‘Meet…’ series. Welcome to the world Meet Sidney Nolan, and congratulations Yvonne and Sandra.


Yvonne grew up in Amsterdam but has made her home in Brisbane. Her second book, Oliver’s Grumbles will also come out soon.

Melanie Hill is a Brisbane based author.

World War One Panel – Adult Program

Story by Rebecca Sheraton

World War One was a defining moment in Australia’s history and we are now in the 100 year anniversary of this event. Three accomplished authors spoke about their experiences of publishing their World War One books – Andrew Plant, Tony Palmer and Sophie Masson.


Andrew Plant wrote and illustrated the picture book titled The Poppy based on the important battle at Villers‑Bretonneux, France. Australia played a vital part in defeating the Germans and this battle cemented a strong relationship between our two countries. The Poppy started off as a silent book. Andrew painted all the illustrations first, then he wrote the words. The words only took 25 minutes to write after spending so much time researching and painting. The whole book took two years to make and two trips to France. Andrew used real photographs he took while in France as the basis for his acrylic paintings. His daughter features in some of the paintings towards the end of the book.

Andrew encourages teachers to download a copy of The Poppy without words and let students tell their own narrative from the paintings first before reading it to them.

TPalmer's book

Tony Palmer is the author of The Soldier’s Gift, which is illustrated by Jane Tanner. He wanted to write a book about the war from a child’s point of view. The Soldier’s Gift centres on life on the home front for family members who are left behind, namely Emily and her father while her brother Tom goes off to war. There is one spread on the war on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

Tony’s book uses the end papers to tell a visual narrative and timeline of characters in the book. He researched many original photographs, newspapers, advertisements and more to be included in the end papers. Tony also drew on memories of his late Uncle Jack and the time he spent with him as a child. His Uncle Jack fought in Gallipoli and survived being shot three times. His grandmother looked after his Uncle Jack and the character of Emily is based on her.

SMasson's book

Sophie Masson wrote the book My Father’s War and 1914 Australia’s Great War. 1914 focuses on the event that triggered World War One, the assassination of the heir of the Austrian Empire.

When writing about war, Sophie noted the importance of making the reader feel what that period in time was like and not just give a history lesson. Authors need to carefully select what information to include and what not to include. To help her connect to the era, Sophie looked at original photographs and ordered newspapers and magazines from the time.

All authors spoke of the need to check your facts. Even sources from that period can have inaccurate information. They also spoke about the importance of correctly acknowledging photographs and images from that era.

Each of these books tell a different side of the war. Thank you to the panel for sharing how they each researched and wrote their books.


Andrew Plant is an illustrator, author, science educator, theatre designer, director and choreographer. Find out more information on his website

Tony Palmer is an author and Art Designer at Penguin. Visit his website

Sophie Masson has published over 50 books in Australia and overseas. Sophie’s website is

Rebecca Sheraton is a children’s writer and primary school teacher.