Friday, November 29, 2013

Working with Books by Jenny Stubbs

If you're a reader, chances are that you are also interested in meeting your favourite authors and find out more about the processes involved in writing and illustrating. I know I always did! And if you like reading now, you may also want to work with books in the future – whether it’s as an author, illustrator, publisher, editor or – as in my case – children’s literature festival organiser.

Through my job with the StoryArts Festival Ipswich, I get to meet some of my literary heroes and learn more about book craft at each Festival. We've just held our 10th Festival and have grown and learned with each one.  The StoryArts Festival Ipswich is for people like you and me, who love reading and who work – or want to work – with books.

The StoryArts Festival Ipswich began in 1995 as the Ipswich Festival of Children’s Literature and has been held every two years since then, offering free sessions for children and low cost sessions for adults and young adults with an interest in children’s literature.

Mike Spoor's drawing of a dinosaur at his festival session with Mark Carthew

The Festival aims to inspire young people to buy and read more books and gain an appreciation of what is involved in creating the books that they love. These children will run the festivals of the future.  Our Adults Program is intended to enthuse teachers and parents about the value of stories and encourage them to continue promoting literature to young people.

2013 Festival

This year's program ran from September 7 to 17, with lots of interesting sessions with authors, illustrators, storytellers and other creators working in the field of children’s literature. You can see the full list of participating authors, illustrators, storytellers and other creators working in the field of children’s literature here.

Author Andy Griffiths with the winners of the Book Links writing and drawing competition

During the Festival, 25,496 places were filled by 8,709 children from Prep to Year Twelve, covering 51 schools from the Ipswich area.

The official opening, at the Ipswich Community gallery, included a viewing of The Very Hungry Caterpillar: A Quilt Project by Karen Walden and an accompanying children’s exhibition. Two other exhibitions were held in conjunction with the Festival. Click on the links to see Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing and Sarah Davis’ Sounds Spooky exhibitions.

Our website reviewed and reported on each session so, if you missed this year’s Festival or if you'd like to re-live the fun we all had, there’s lots of great information you can read online. You can even see a bit on You Tube.

Some of the artwork produced at Alison Lester's Easy Art session

What's Involved

It takes two years to plan a festival. As one ends, we start thinking about the next, start booking venues and playing with the format to try to improve each time.

Selecting authors and illustrators is a huge task. It’s a popular festival and most authors want to come more than once. Those invited are usually authors with a proven track record of engaging with children. They come from all parts of Australia and sometimes from overseas, cover a range of genre, and cater for young readers from prep to year 12, although our main focus is to year 7. I consult children in my travels around schools and ask them who they want to meet and try to include their choices.

This festival is unique in that it is totally free for children to attend. To be able to make that happen we have to earn a lot and apply for a few grants. This year, we had a Regional Arts Development Fund Grant through Arts Qld and Ipswich City Council to develop a script for Pat Flynn’s book, The Tuckshop Kid. By using a local theatre group, THAT Production Company, we were able to stage a world premiere of the play at lower costs than bringing in outside productions. It worked brilliantly and was hugely popular with the audiences.

The IDT/L Network's 2001 Book Week publication

Our other grant came from the Literature Board of the Australia Council to bring authors in from different states. However, the largest portion of the festival's budget is raised by the Ipswich District Teacher/Librarian Network through sales of its annual Book Week publication, a resource book of ideas and activities based on each year's Book Week theme and the CBCA's short-listed book titles. It takes two years of sales and income from CAL payments to save enough for a festival, with around 2700 books sold each year.

Here are the covers of the 2012 and 2011 Book Week publications (click on the photos to enlarge):


Many children write stories, draw illustrations and dream of one day being a writer and I hope that the work we do at the StoryArts Festival Ipswich inspires the young writers and illustrators of the future. I also hope that it inspires all young book lovers to stay involved in the arts, in any way you find fulfilling and that my story reminds you that there are many ways of staying in touch with the books you enjoy reading, even as an adult.

About the Author

Jenny Stubbs is Coordinator, Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian Network and the Director, StoryArts Festival Ipswich.  She is also an organiser for the Readers Cup, Queensland and is the Queensland state organiser for the Kids' Lit Quiz.

Some of Jenny's favourite books from childhood:

Grimms Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J M Barrie
The Story of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting
Treasure Island by R L Stevenson

 Some books Jenny's read recently and recommends:

Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt
A Very Unusual Pursuit, City of Orphans by Catherine Jinks
Task Force – Recon Team Angel by Brian Falkner (Book 2- best to read Book 1 first ‘Assault')
Lucien by James Moloney (Book 3of Silvermay series – Best to read ‘Silvermay’ and ‘Tamlyn’ first)
A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley (autobiography)


  1. Sounds very cool and fun.

  2. Thank you Jenny - what a great way to keep in touch with what's happening in Australian children's literature.

    it seems fitting that the last guest post of our online festival is about a children's festival - and a great one at that. It sort of extends this festival by another whole festival! And cool too, that readers who enjoyed posts by Mark Carthew, Meredith Costain, Sarah Davis here on Reading for Australia this month can read more about their work at the SAFI - together with the reports on the SAFI sessions held by some of our other supporter authors - Jackie French, Deb Abela and Brian Falkner and so many other wonderful children's authors and illustrators. Lots of great news and events to catch up on...