My May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship

Welcomed at the airport by the wonderful Virginia West on April Fool’s Day – so my adventure began. Today is my final day in Canberra and I can’t believe how quickly four weeks have passed. This post will be a little summary of my time here.

The first adventure began at the airport as we were unable to find where Virginia had parked the car! It reminded me of that Seinfeld episode. It was very funny and made me feel right at home. Once the car was found we went to the National Museum for a lovely lunch and I stared in awe across the lake at the The National Library.

You can see the library poking through the trees

After a lovely lunch of pulled pork and salad we did a quick grocery shop before I was taken to my new home at The Australian National University. My apartment was very cosy and I particularly loved the shower – great water pressure!

Reading back over my notes – which I wasn’t very consistent with, I can tell you that I wrote all afternoon and most of the next day which made me feel very writerly. Now I don’t want to do a day by day report so I’ll only mention some of the highlights. The first was a visit to the Botanical Gardens where I accidentally walked up Black Mountain to the Telstra Tower. I say accidentally because I had no intention of walking up the mountain until I stumbled upon a sign that said – this way to the Telstra Tower – and I thought, how hard can it be? Well, very hard, that’s how hard. But I did it!

The second was Tania McCartney’s Hip Hip Hooray Book Launch at Harry Hartog’s. Only a ten minute walk from the apartment I managed not to get lost and enjoyed catching up with some fellow writers that I’d only ever met online.

Hip Hip Hooray Book Launch

Next was the absolutely wonderful launch of This is Home – Essential Australian Poems for Children (in which I have two) selected by Jackie French and illustrated by Tania McCartney – one of reasons for choosing to spend my time in Canberra apart from the fact that I’d never been here before. Apologies for my lack of photographs I was too busy getting the authors to sign their poems for me.

Mum and Dad drove up from Ballarat for the launch which was a huge effort. Caught up with them a few times – one time included visiting the Portrait Gallery.

On Monday 15th Tania McCartney organised a get together of the SCBWI ACT group at the NLA’s cafe Bookplate where I was surprised with birthday gifts and made to feel incredibly welcome. Again so nice to put faces to names.

A lovely and very thoughtful surprise.

Another thing that I have done is create a photobook of my poetry this time with Mixbook. This is such a fun thing to do and a lovely way to showcase your work. My dream of course would be a proper published collection of my poetry illustrated by a proper illustrator and published by a proper publisher – the dream of any children’s poet I should think.

I’ve written quite a few new poems while I’ve been here. One was inspired by the Eagle’s Nest Sculpture at the Arboretum which I was able to visit twice thanks to Virginia West. The first time was a drive through where I took this picture then wrote a little poem.

Gilded

It sits atop a farmer’s hill
A wedged-tailed eagle’s nest
Made from lost machinery
The perfect place to rest

A tangled weave of welded steel
Abandoned from the farm
A striking metal sculpture
Reflecting Canberra’s charm

The second time we visited was for lunch and what a funny lunch that was! The views were spectacular, my entree, however, was not. We ordered their lunch special which consisted of 3 courses. I ordered the prawn bisque for my entree which turned out to be 3 huge king prawns ankle deep in a tiny bowl of red-ish, luke-warmish soup. I managed to tackle the flesh from 2 prawns but gave up after that as the soup was now cold and my hands were completely covered in it, prawn flesh, shell and another liquid that I couldn’t quite determine. When asked how my dish was I had to be honest and suggest that it wasn’t the best way to serve soup. For what it’s worth, soup, in my opinion should not be eaten with your hands. The main dish was better and the cheese was lovely and the fact that they overcharged me by $100 has been rectified. A memorable and comedic day!

Another terrific experience was my visit to the National Centre for Australian Children’s Literature (NCACL) thanks to Belle Alderman. For those of you who don’t know NCACL is an independent not-for-profit body that collects, preserves and shares the works of Australian’s children’s book writers and illustrators. If you’d like to learn more about this amazing organisation their website can be found here.

Wrapping this up I would really like to thank everyone who has made this time available to me. This is the first time in my life where I have been on my own for this length of time. My children are now all adults and this time has given me a moment to reflect on, not only my writing but also my life which lately has offered up quite a few challenges. I have been able to use this time to reset and rethink and rejuvenate. It really has been the most wonderful experience and I encourage everyone to consider applying. The next round’s deadline is Tuesday 30th April – so you’d better get a move on.

I fly out tomorrow and I’ll be very sad to go but I am also very much looking forward to seeing my family again. I really have missed them terribly which is also another lovely reason to go away for a bit. Thank you to the May Gibbs Literature Trust, thank you to Virginia West, thank you to the SCBWI ACT gals particularly Tania McCartney for including me in so many things. Here are some random photos that I did manage to take. Thanks again Canberra – it’s been swell!!

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