Category Archives: Aspiring Author & Illustrator Advice

Social Media & StoryArts – please get involved!

Blogging, and Social Media, at StoryArts Festival 101

Social Media Accounts:

StoryArts Festival is moving with the times, and we now have an active presence on Social Media.  And we would love for you to join in.  The more the merrier as they say.


Twitter – @StoryArtsFest

Instagram – @StoryArtsFestivalIpswich


***to the StoryArts Blogging Team, please read all the way to the bottom of this post.  And if you are not on the team, feel free to read the instructions and submit as per instructions***


Please use the following StoryArts hashtags and tags.  Please also feel free to also hashtag and tag your favourite author, illustrator, presenter, or book.

You can also tag us on Social Media, as well as your favourite author, illustrator, or presenter.  Just search for them on the Social Media Platforms that you use.

















No photos are to be taken of children, unless it is of their heads, from behind a large group, with no identifiable children in the picture.  Pictures of authors and/or illustrators with their books are the ultimate pictures.  However, pictures of presenters working their magic are also great.



Feel free to do a ‘write up’ of any session you attend or present.  Technical edits will be done on your submissions.


Send to:

Please send all blog submissions to:

And if you can, please let Sam S know about it.



There is no guarantee that your submission will be published as there are editorial guidelines that must be adhered to.  However, we welcome submissions aplenty.

StoryArts Festival Ipswich 2015 – partial program release, & bookings opening soon!


We are pleased to announce the release of some of the Program details for this year’s StoryArts Festival Ipswich!

Bookings will open soon for the 2015 Festival, being held from 6-16 September 2015.

There will be a number of programs this year: Schools, Families, and Adults.

You can check out the Families’ Program HERE!

And for all teachers, teacher-librarians, aspiring and emerging authors and illustrators, and even parents, check out the Adults’ Program HERE!

The Children’s Program is so absolutely jam-packed with awesomeness, that you will have wait just a little bit longer before you see all the marvellous things that we have in store for the children at the 2015 StoryArts Festival Ipswich.

Watch this space!  And make sure you subscribe to our blog to receive all the news hot off the press!  (You can subscribe in the top left corner, just below the Festival banner).

Yours in Children’s Literature,

The StoryArts Festival Team

StoryArts Ipswich Weekend Workshops

Lucia header HR2 profile pic

In alternating years to our festival, the Ipswich District Teacher-librarian Network organises a weekend of workshops where The Arts meets Literature.

Create a character

Sounds Spooky Characters

Saturday 29th March
Venue: Ipswich Community Art Gallery, D’Arcy Doyle Place, Ipswich
Time: 9:00am – 4:30pm
Cost: $77.00 (incl GST)
Tea and coffee provided. BYO lunch or drop into an eatery in the mall or at D’Arcy Doyle Place.

This is a hands-on modelling workshop with Sarah Davis who will show you how to create a character using sculpey polymer clay. This is the technique she used to create the characters in Sounds Spooky which was on display at Ipswich Library during the StoryArts Festival Ipswich in 2013. The exhibition then travelled to Marks and Gardner Gallery at Mt Tamborine.

Numbers for the workshop are limited to 20. Costs of basic materials are included. Sarah suggests you bring along any interesting fabric scraps/fake fur/feathers/wool etc… any material that you might want to use to create clothes and hair etc for your character.

Visit to see samples of artwork.

The Facilitator

Sarah Davis used to get into trouble for doodling in class, but now she can scribble to her heart’s content and call it “work” – she can hardly believe her luck. Sarah won the CBCA Crichton Award in 2009 for her first picture book, Mending Lucille (written by Jennifer Poulter) and since then has illustrated more than 20 books and had her work recognised by many major awards in Australia and NZ. Sarah illustrated the hugely popular “Fearless” series, written by Colin Thompson, and Anna Branford’s “Violet Mackerel” books, which are becoming well-loved Australian classics. Sarah is a versatile artist who works in many mediums and is constantly experimenting with new ways to create visual stories. She has an honours degree in literature, and her love of language plays an important part in her process, with the interaction between text and image being paramount.

Sydney Story Factory – What we do, how we do it, and how you can do it too

Sydney Story Factory

Sunday 30th March
Venue: Studio 188, Brisbane Street, Ipswich
Time: 9:00am – 12:30pm
Cost: $55.00 (incl GST)
Tea and coffee provided. BYO lunch or drop into an eatery in the top end of town.

The Sydney Story Factory is a not-for-profit creative writing centre for young people in Redfern, Sydney. Trained volunteer tutors offer free help to write stories of all kinds. Programs target marginalised young people, and those from Indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds, but are open to everyone.

Find out how the Sydney Story Factory was set up, what it does and a bit about what has been happening in London and other parts of the world. Matt Roden will share the history of the Story Factory, and what it has achieved in the 18 months since its doors opened. He’ll discuss the many varied workshop programs that the Story Factory runs, share some of their outcomes and discuss how their workshop programs are designed. After answering questions about the Story Factory, Matt will assist those in attendance in constructing their own 2 hour creative writing workshop for children. The group will share the ideas, discoveries and hiccups they encounter when trying to instil students with a love of creative writing.

The Facilitator

Matt Roden has worked as a writer, designer and educator in Sydney and London. He was a Creative Projects Manager at the Ministry of Stories in London, and has assisted in the opening of the Sydney Story Factory from its early days, and now works with the team as a Deputy Storyteller, programming and running workshops and facilitating volunteer and fundraising projects. He has worked on education and arts packages with the NSW Reconciliation Council and Underbelly Arts Festival.

From page to stage…

The Tuckshop Kid at Studio 188 Ipswich

The Tuckshop Kid at Studio 188 Ipswich

30th March
Venue: Studio 188, Brisbane Street, Ipswich
Time: 1.30 – 3:00pm
Cost: $22.00 for session 2

THAT Production Company offers a practical journey of finding the potential of a story or book to be brought to the stage. Participants will learn practical techniques and develop insight into the art of developing a play. THAT Production Company is an independent theatre company based in Ipswich, Queensland. They produce classic and contemporary texts and cultivate theatrical experiences that resonate with our quest for understanding the world around them. They collaborate with people from a range of backgrounds and experiences. Their work varies from Frank Wedekind’s German Expressionist classic Spring’s Awakening and Eve Ensler’s world-wide phenomenon The Vagina Monologues to Edward Bond’s drama Saved and the Australian premiere of Lynn Nottage’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Ruined (Ipswich Festival, 2013). Our new works have included a stage adaptation of the children’s book The Tuckshop Kid by Australian author Pat Flynn (StoryArts Festival, 2013), and the suburban-apocalyptic drama Thursday’s Child (Anywhere Theatre Festival, 2013).

The Facilitator

Cass Ramsay is a writer, performance maker, arts administrator and creative producer for THAT Production Company, which she co-founded. She has a Bachelor of Secondary Education and a Bachelor of Applied Theatre, both from Griffith University. She worked on her first full length play, Actually Alice, as a part of JUTE Theatre Company’s award winning Enter Stage Write program. Her work was then read at the National Regional Playwrights and Theatre Makers Conference. In 2013 Cass wrote Thursday’s Child for the Anywhere Theatre Festival, Lost & Found: The Quiet Carriage for Spare Change Collective, co-wrote an adaptation of the children’s book The Tuckshop Kid by Pat Flynn with Timothy Wynn for the 2013 StoryArts Festival, and co-devised Envelope as a part of the performance collective The Vertebras, for Metro Arts 2013 Season of Independents. She also attended the Australian Theatre for Young People’s National Studio for emerging playwrights, and was the project journalist for Crack Theatre Festival 2013.

Download all the information hereStoryArts Ipswich Weekend info

Download the Booking Form and Tax Invoice hereinvoice for sessions

Leila Rudge on illustrating and learning to draw

Leila began her presentation by telling the kids she was the youngest of six, the kids were amazed.  She told the kids that her Mum read to her and her siblings.  I hope this encouraged the kids to read more.

“Worried Arthur – the Big Match”, written by Joan Stimson and illustrated by Jan Lewis, was the most important book for Leila as a child.   She told us how illustrator Jan Lewis was a family friend and that Leila and her siblings always drew when they visited her.  Leila was inspired by Jan, and realised that being an illustrator was an actual job.  So by the age of 11, Leila had decided that she would be a children’s book illustrator when she grew up.

Leila explained that her ideas start from little things such as sketches of characters.  Her book “Ted” began with a drawing of this little fellow


Leila wrote the story and submitted it to her publisher.  Her editor liked it, but returned it with a number of changes.  Leila explained the editing process, the to’ing and fro’ing between her editor and herself.

She gave the kids an insight into how she develops her characters.  For “Ted” she researched everything there is to know about dogs.  Her partner and her even offered to look after a friend’s dog for a weekend so Leila could practise sketching dogs.  The kids enjoyed telling Leila about their own dogs.

Leila went into great detail about developing the character of Ted, right down to what colour jumper he should wear and why.  The kids got to learn about storyboards, and how Leila thinks about the visual communication of pictures across the page.  A teacher asked why the storyboards were so small.  Leila answered that it was so the illustrator doesn’t get too precious about the images, it’s more about working out the layout of the entire book.

We saw examples of her rough sketches, and then the final product.  The kids leaned forward on their seats to get a better view

Leila showed the kids a picture of her studio after a hard days work, what a mess!  They loved it, I guess most adults they know pretend that they are not messy.

Leila told the kids that the process of illustrating a book involves doing scribbly drawings, working the pictures up, putting them onto watercolour paper, and then scanning them in and perfecting them on the computer.   She makes it seem so easy!

She asked the kids if they liked writing or illustrating, most of them did.  I was wondering why they were such a receptive group.  She shared some top secret good news with them which I can not share, but I think the kids felt pretty special being let in on the secret.

Next up it was the kids’ turn to draw.  Leila showed them a really simple way of drawing a dog.  She taught them how to draw really lightly with a pencil for this stage.  First the kids had to draw a rectangle, then draw a circle overlapping the top left hand corner.  A cone shape was added to the left hand side of a dog for the snout.  Ears were next, they could be pointy,  fluffy, long and dangly.  The tail could be small & feathery, big & shaggy, or long & waggy.  Legs were added as long rectangles, the kids could choose the height of the dog.


The kids were then encouraged to press down harder with their pencils to come up with their own unique dogs.   They had to choose a piece of clothing for their dog, some of the suggestions were a bit cheeky.  The kids absolutely loved creating their own wacky dogs, I wish that I could have had a go too.  They could not stop talking, giggling and asking Leila for feedback, which she gave freely.  I always thought I was a lost cause when it came to being taught to draw, but I definitely learned something in Leila’s class.

Guest Blogger Yvonne Mes on Alison Lloyd’s Session “Stranger than Fiction”

Alison’s session focused on her book Wicked Warriors and Evil Emperors, illustrated by Terry Denton, which was shortlisted for the 2011 Children’s Book Council Award. The book is her first straight non-fiction book and retells the life and times of Qinshi huangdi, China’s first emperor who was responsible for the existence of the Great Wall of China and the terracotta warriors.

Wicked Warrior Alison Lloyd

 In an earlier session with Carole Wilkinson, Alison focused on writing historical fiction and her love of research.

Alison started this session by giving us a non-fiction pep talk:

“Non-fiction has a proud literary tradition and is a far older literary form than fiction, dating back to 800/900 in China.”

There is a rich variety within non-fiction ranging from auto biography to dictionaries.

Nonfiction does not need to be boring or straight out fact, “Non-fiction can be storytelling,” she said.

She read out a short section of the book titled A Wicked Warrior’s Job Interview about Sun Tzu who wrote the The Art of War. Even in this small passage heads rolled spectacularly and rather unexpectedly, making quite a few listeners in the room gasp out loud.

“Did that really happen?” Someone asked when she finished. (This is also an often asked question during Alison’s school visits). When people question the truth of carefully researched facts this session’s title Stranger than Fiction was certainly fitting and shows the sublime storytelling ability of Alison within nonfiction.

Alison started writing Wicked Warriors and Evil Emperors after reading the Horrible History series with her children and realised that the series did not cover Asia, focusing mostly on Europe. Alison wanted to fill this gap and was more than qualified. After writing her other books, Year of the Tiger and Battle of the Jade Horse, which are historical fiction, she had a whole range of interesting facts left that she had not been able to weave through these books.

She sent out a proposal to Penguin, her publisher, who usually don’t publish non-fiction. (Though it looks like they do now!)

Alison says that non-fiction can often be thought of as educational but it can be just as literary and entertaining as fiction.

Wicked Warriors and Evil Emperors for example has a story arc, as well as sub-narratives. The books is also great for reluctant readers as you can open any page in the book and read something interesting that does not require long concentration. The book includes lots of columns, tables, poems, maps, recipes and lists.

“Everything is written in short parts, with many illustrations and nothing over a spread.” As opposed to other non-fiction books for children the illustrations by Terry Denton are not there to instruct but rather to entertain.

Having bought the book for my growing sons, and skimming through, I found the illustrations (with accompanying text) hilarious with its heavy touch of irony and sarcasm.

One of the problems Alison encountered is the limitations of the facts, “Nothing can be made up.”  Research has its limits after all. In these cases Alison flags this in her book, by writing things such as “maybe this is what happened,” when she goes into information that is not strictly factual.

The book is written mostly in third person but the narrator’s voice surfaces at times throughout.

There was a discussion about the amount of violence, blood and gore in the book. This has a particular appeal to boy readers but interestingly enough was never flagged as an issue by the publisher.


Alison’s books include Year of the Tiger and Battle of the Jade Horse, both set in ancient China. She has also written four books for the Australian Girl Series. Alison grew up in Australia but has lived several years in China and was there during the student revolt on Tiananmen Square.

You can find out more about Alison here

Guest Blogger Yvonne Mes on Leonie Norrington’s Session “Writing North”

Guest blog by Yvonne Mes (writer and illustrator)

I wasn’t familiar with Leonie’s stories before attending her workshop, but having lived and worked in North-West Queensland and aware of some of the realities faced by remote Indigenous Australians I bought her book The Barrumbi Kids before I arrived for the session.

The Barrumni Kids

So I was really glad when Leonie picked up the same book and read parts of it to us.  Through her words, voice and her storytelling ability the whole room was transported from a small neon lit room in Marburg to the wilds of remote Australia being chased by a crocodile!

Leonie shared experiences of her upbringing when living with her family in an Aboriginal community south of Katherine in the sixties. She was raised with the spirituality and language of both Irish Catholicism and Aboriginal spirituality and a respect and love for both.

Leonie wants to create books that Indigenous people can get the full experience from. “Children need books set in their own country.” She doesn’t feel that it is important whether it is written in English or not but “Learning in context is what is important.”

“I grew up in a world (the community) where Indigenous people were the most powerful people, the people with true power.”

Learning English at school was important to the people living in the community. They believed this would help them succeed in the world and were disappointed when this did not happen and may explain why this is no longer embraced as much in the aboriginal communities.

Her picture book You and Me: Our Place, illustrated by Dee Huxley was difficult to get published because of its subject matter: Indigenous homeless people in an urban setting. The story started out as a novel and took her seven years to write, finally cutting it down to 80 words.

You and Me our place

“Literature is taking an experience and bringing it inside you,” she said.

Through her stories Leonie wants make connections from one reality to another, she says “We have to bring people close, face to face with each other.”

Her picture book Look see, Look at me, also illustrated by Dee Huxley, was written in response to the intervention. With it she wants to show the love and care within communities, and that “We are just the same as you” and “everyone loves their children.” Leonie says these are all complex issues but “literature is the most powerful thing.”

Look see Look at me

All her stories are written with the permission from the community and checked for legitimacy. This may mean the stories need to be translated for the community in order to go through this process “to make it O.K.” (for these stories to be published).

Leonie finished her fascinating session with another read from her Aussie Bites story Crocodile Jack.

Quite a few participants were so fascinated with Leonie’s story they found it hard to move on to the next session. I didn’t leave before asking her to sign my copy of The Barrumbi Kids, which she appropriately inscribed with: For Mateship and Country.

You can find out more about Leonie here and I recommend her About me section in particular for a greater insight into this fascinating children’s writer.

Guest Blogger Yvonne Mes on Sarah Davis’ Session “Someone Else’s Story”

Guest blog by Yvonne Mes (writer and illustrator)

Sarah Davis

Sarah studied English and worked as a teacher before getting into illustration and has no formal training. She started illustrating picture books full time in 2007 and since then has had over 20 books published and has been shortlisted for over 20 awards in Australia and New Zealand.

I love writing for children and visual art but I have much to learn about illustrating for children. Sarah gave us an insight into the intellectual and practical processes of illustrating picture books.

Sarah’s style is incredibly versatile, just look at these covers of some of the books she has illustrated:

Even though Sarah has illustrated over 20 books, she told us: “I don’t know what I’m doing.” She says that, depending on her style, she might Google “How to do good oil paintings.”

Hmm, seems to me Sarah has a severe case of modesty.

As an illustrator you get a text without instructions, and there is minimal to no interaction with the writer. Her style is so incredibly diverse because she lets the stories dictate the medium and style. “Being an illustrator is like being given the soundtrack and making up the movie,” she said.

One of the participants in the workshop said that where usually you can pick an illustrator by style when reading a picture book with Sarah’s books she would only realise much later that a story she had enjoyed was illustrated by her.

Sarah showed us several examples of texts she has worked on and how she goes through the process of extracting meaning, then brainstorming symbols, shapes, lines and colours. She reads the text many times and keeps brainstorming, coming up and dismissing ideas until she has what she says is her “AHA! Moment” and everything falls into place.

This was partly a hands-on workshop and we did an exercise on composition, deciphering a piece of text and brainstorming ideas. I already had come across her mastery of composition when I read her picture book The Fierce Little Woman and the Wicked Pirate by Joy Cowley when I was awestruck by the composition of her opening page.

If you have a look at Sarah’s books, you will find that there are no blank endpapers. She considers endpapers part of the visual narrative and you will find clues to the characters and their story even when the story text has finished.

You will also be able to spot many sub-narratives that compliment the text in her books. Just have a closer look at her latest book Sounds Spooky (written by Christopher Cheng) and take particular note of the bear and the newspaper article and the insight they give into the characters.

When illustrating stories for emerging readers, the illustrator is the, “un-coder” and assists the reader in interpreting the text.

Sarah does a lot of research into developing her characters. From finding real life models such as dogs and friends of her children to using visual reference and using stick figures to work out shape. Her children often find her at work making funny faces while mimicking the facial expression of the character she is drawing.

We finished with another exercise in interpreting and coming up with a concept on how to illustrate a text, beyond looking at the obvious. The range of different concepts the group had for this particular text shows what a huge influence the illustrator has on the story.

I walked away from this session inspired and in awe of illustrators and Sarah in particular.

You can find out more about Sarah here