Write Links acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work and live, and recognise their continuous connection to land, water and community. We pay our respects to their elders past, present and emerging leaders. We pay respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Authors and Illustrators.
As NAIDOC week draws to a conclusion, Write Links member, Barbara Sheehy, shares her Magabala Scholarship experience with us. The theme of NAIDOC week 2019 is Voice. Treaty. Truth. Barbara talks about Truth Telling and shares how important this is to first nations people.
Barbara Sheehy, a proud Burri Gubba woman, working on her Magabala Scholarship.
Since being awarded the Magabala Scholarship for Writing in 2018, it has been six months of learning, challenge and growth. My scholarship comprises of two elements, a 10 on-line Module ‘Create A Kids Book’ Workshop and Assessment program and 1:1 mentoring with Dr Virginia Lowe, Children’s Book Council Judge (Book and Illustrator), University Lecturer, Author and Advocate based in Melbourne. Barbara undertook the modules with her assigned mentor (June Colbert, published Australian author).This assessment will determine a DRAFT Letter of Recommendatory for publication or feedback to continue development of the manuscript.
My Scholarship Experience 2018
What I discovered during the ‘Create A Kids Book’ on-line module program is the ability to imagine and expand on the creative boundaries of writing for children. The technical and structural components of writing for children and picture books genre, grammar, syllables, syntax, rhyming to construct of submissions and publishing has strengthened a deeper appreciation to the mindfulness and importance each element brings within the process of writing.
In addition, the program enabled exposure to historical and relevant range of literacy and professional discussion papers, research, reviews and readings from Australian and International Children’s writers. These compliment the dynamics of the learning process throughout each module.
The encouragement to explore and absorb various Children’s books (award winners and other noted Australian and International authors) connected me to this genre. It confirmed, for me, the excitement to create for young audiences and tell stories that connect. Connection can be as simple as ‘Dog In – Cat Out by G.Rubenstein and A.James (1988) to complex stories of truth telling ‘The Rabbits’ by J.Marsden and S.Tan (2000) – my daughter Natashya still talks about this book having read it during my course. She found it confronting, sad and engaged conversations on how truth telling has impacted on our first nations people. We also spoke about how the story can help raise awareness in our communities on the sadness it still brings to memory for many people, including our own family.
Modules like Fantasy (4) and Characters (5) gave me opportunities to delve further into my craft and bring fresh approaches to my writing. It encouraged flexibility and openness to changes in my final manuscript submission. I was open minded to a process of change and adaption of ideas. I didn’t want to dilute the connection of my original plot and roller coaster of experiences developed through the support characters and the protagonist. These modules and feedback from June my mentor give me confidence to the evolution of the manuscript.
The types of protagonists and characters based on fantasy, imaginary or realism was a highlight for me in the program. The ability to take a simple thought, a past childhood memory and explore the concept of Anthropomorphism through storytelling was thoroughly exciting and allowed for growth in my craft.
What it taught me was the ability to think laterally around characterisation and enjoyment of connecting a young audience to a story using this style of protagonist. My exercise submission was titled ‘Robert The Undercover Ant ‘. Natashya my 9 year old daughter, (and writing soundboard/critic) connected with the story, got inspired and created illustrations. Anthropomorphism is not a method of character I was familiar with nor would have considered as a developing writer. However, the program has opened my knowledge and learnings to the possibilities of developing stories for young audiences this way.
Throughout the submission and assessment process, it has been a continued journey of application, evaluation, feedback and evolution. It allowed creative thinking and challenges – how great was it to submit a short paragraph piece that describes the beach, without using the letter ‘a’..here is an example of a submission and feedback received for this exercise:
Barbara working on Module One - Create A Children's Book
Looking down into the blue liquid reflecting my picture. Hypnotic pounding sounds fill my senses. It surprises me how remote I feel. Witnessing birdlife strolling on pebbles. They dip their feet in frothy shore lines, finding gems to fill their bellies. Dogs run smiling with owners in close pursuit. Fine bubbles unveil secret hideouts of ground dwellers. I could live here to explore this world it is so inviting.
Feedback from mentor
I look (you need a subject – I – and a complete verb – look- to make this a grammatically complete sentence) down into the blue liquid reflecting my picture. Hypnotic pounding sounds fill my senses. It surprises me how remote I feel. I’m witnessing birdlife strolling on pebbles great line!. They dip their feet in frothy shore lines gorgeous, finding gems to fill their bellies. Dogs run smiling with owners in close pursuit. Fine bubbles unveil secret hideouts of ground dwellers wonderful and intriguing. I could live here to explore this world; (semi-colon to join main clauses to avoid using and or because) it is so inviting.
This work commenced in June 2018 and my goal was to provide Dr Virignia Lowe with a final manuscript submission for DRAFT recommendatory letter or feedback by December 2018. I am pleased to share my goal was achieved and now it is an anxious wait on outcomes and getting on with my 1:1 mentoring with Dr Virginia Lowe.
I’m continuously grateful to Magabala Books for this opportunity and experience. It has been an incredible journey to further my love of writing, especially children’s books. I can’t wait to share the next phase of my scholarship and highlight the milestones that are shaping and evolving me towards my goal of being a published Birri Gubba author!
Burri Gubba (Giya/Juru)
Photo with Gregg Dreise
‘In Conversation With’ – Indigenous Author and Illustrator Gregg Dreise – StoryArts Festival Program – September 2017.
Barbara Sheehy, a proud Birri Gubba woman, is an aspiring children’s author based in Brisbane Queensland. She is inspired to teach children about connection to the environment, creative problem solving and diversity of positive friendships. As a child she was always fascinated by the elements of Wind, Earth, Fire and Water. Barbara is an active member of Book Links QLD (Inc), WriteLinks, SCBWI and Children’s Book Council of Australia. She has been a blog contributor for WriteLinks, creative contributor to ‘The Big Draw’ QLD in 2016 and presenter at StoryArts Ipswish Festival in 2017. In 2018 she was a recipient of Magabala Books Indigenous Creators Scholarships; mentoring with Dr Virginia Lowe. She has written blogs on the recruitment industry focusing on career advice and professional development. Her writing has featured on Origin Energy’s ‘Origin Foundation’ supporting Indigenous children and youth through corporate partnerships via their internal and external communication channels.
Blog coordinator: Lucy McGinley