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Margaret Mahy Day 2010 Report

Storylines Margaret Mahy Day and AGM

Saturday 27 March 2010, Takapuna Grammar School, 210 Lake Road, Takapuna, Auckland.

The day began around 9 in the morning, as about 90 members of the Storylines family – from far and wide – began gathering for their AGM and annual celebration of New Zealand children’s literature and its creators.

After time spent catching up with friends we all settled down for the AGM. MCing the process was Helen Schwarcz, the Management Committee Chair. Thank you Helen Villers, the minute taker. The Storylines Foundation report was presented by Sarah Fordyce (Foundation secretary), and the Storylines Trust report presented by Christine Young (Executive Officer). It is pleasing to note that our membership numbers have held steady this year. As the website grows, more will be added as extra-specially special benefits for members.

At this point, Christine Young ran the meeting while the 2010 Storylines Management Committee was appointed. We welcome two new members: Sanya Baker and Jean Prior. The more the merrier!

Your committee members are:

Remember – if you wish to help out on any sub-committee, project, or task, please let us know. Have a read through our Task Force Volunteers flyer for more information.

The Trust report was both heart-warming and sobering. We should all be pleased with the gains made this past year. The launch of Literature Live – in fact, the whole project – has been a lot of hard work, but also of benefit to the children’s literature community. Sobering, because the recession has had an impact on funding we received, and therefore, on our activities. However, it has made us a leaner running organisation, and much more cost-aware. Thanks to all the volunteers who understood the financial situation and went the extra mile to ensure we saved costs wherever they could especially with regard to the Festival.

In the field of fundraising, special thanks were given to Brian Falkner and Vicki Cunningham (Storylines Event Manager) for their work with our online auction. Also, Joy Cowley, one of our patrons and a Storylines trustee, offered her expertise by running a writing workshop in Christchurch – and another in Auckland in this financial year.

You can read the full report here.

Then, the thrilling part of the day – the awards!Sherryl_Jordan_and_Tessa_Duder_01_2.jpg

Tessa Duder presented the Storylines Gaelyn Gordon Award 2010 to The Wednesday Wizard by Sherryl Jordan.

Tessa spoke of talking to Sherryl when she received the Choysa Bursary. Sherryl recounted a low moment of her writing career. One weekend, she looked at her 13 novels (all unpublished), written over seven years and said ‘I’ve done my bit. God, I think you need to do your bit now’. The following Monday, Sherryl received the phone call from Creative New Zealand to say she had won the award. Tessa, upon hearing the story, said ‘God was talking to us’. It was the weekend the award judging panel met. Tessa has watched Sherryl’s career with interest.

And yes, Tessa, you are right – the whole of the Storylines family is thrilled to see The Wednesday Wizard rightfully acknowledged as being much-loved by New Zealand children Sherryl_Jordan_and_The_Wednesday_Wizard_1.jpg(and adults).

Upon receiving the award, Sherryl told us she’d actually said to God “I need money”. The monetary value of the Choysa Bursary was $10,000 to allow a writer to work full-time on a novel.  

It has been 21 years since she first thought of Denzil, while kiwifruit packing. Wouldn’t it be interesting if someone from the Middle Ages appeared now? She had thought of other characters, older characters, but it was a young wizard’s apprentice who gets his spell wrong.  

The Wednesday Wizard was written as life relief – at time she had finished Rocco and The Juniper Game, and was planning Winter of Fire – and she just wanted some fun at the keyboard.

Sherryl publically thanked Penny Scown, her editor, and Scholastic for believing in Denzil; her friends who have supported her; and her readers.

‘Denzil and I are absolutely rapt. It is a great honour.’

Then, it was time to announce the Storylines Joy Cowley Award winner for 2010. Diana Murray from Scholastic presented the award, and how proud Scholastic are of their involvement with it.

The shortlisted authors received certificates – a first time addition to the day, which was much appreciated by the authors.

Lucy_Davey_speaking_1.jpgDiana described the winner. That the use of rhyme, and the pattern of language stood out. When they discovered that the author was one they held in high regard and worked with at Scholastic, they were thrilled. The 2010 Storylines Joy Cowley Award winner is Lucy Davey. You can read the official press release here.

In her acceptance speech, Lucy thanked us all, and expressed her excitement – and the honour it will be - to work with Joy Cowley.

Lucy told us that she was inspired in her writing by her children and the other little people she is involved with. Their imagination reminds her of an Albert Einstein quote: ‘The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge’. As someone with a degree in chemical engineering, Lucy is thrilled that while there is creativity in research, she is thrilled to use her creativity in another area completely.

Her winning manuscript – “Out of Bed, Fred” – is a bit of fun with family dynamics. Her daughters think its all about how great girls are, but her son thinks its about how fun boys are. Lucy thanked Scholastic, Storylines, Joy Cowley, Frances Plumpton and everyone at Richard’s Literary Agency – and her family. She’s invited us all to come and celebrate at the book’s launch (which will be at the Storylines Festival family days 2011).

Diana then introduced the Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award, including the number of previous winners who have gone on to establish writing careers including Vince Ford, Heather Cato and Jillian Sullivan.

Diana told the audience that the judges look for that certain and indefinable ‘something’ that lifts the story out of the ordinary. The shortlisted authors did that – and they, too, received certificates.

Leonie_Agnew_speaking_01_1.jpgThen, on to the winner. It is a story to make you smile. Boys, about 10-years-old, will love it. Perfect for reluctant boy readers. It is a story with crazy elements, but deeper aspects that are dealt with with a light touch.

The 2010 Tom Fitzgibbon Award winner is Leonie Agnew. You can read the press release here.

Leonie told us that ‘to say it is exciting is an understatement of huge proportions. Ten years ago I said I’d write a children’s book’. Three years ago, this dream sent her online, and to the Storylines website and KiwiWrite4Kidz. This was her turning point. There she found workshops and a critique group – who were there to support her. Their support was beyond words – and she thanked them for their support and cake and tea. Special mention was made of Clare Scott and Dawn Grant, who read the manuscript.Leonie_Agnew_with_her_critique_group_1.jpg

She thanked Tom Fitzgibbon because it was ‘wonderful to think that people like him made this possible for people like me’.

And – her advice for those dreaming like her – ‘if I can win, honestly anyone can do it, it just takes hard work’. She thanked all who entered, acknowledging their hard work.

And, on working with Scholastic – as a child she bought books from the Lucky Book Club – by the bagful. As she looked along the spines, she would gaze at the Scholastic logo and think ‘these must be the best books in the world’.

Penny Scown launched the 2009 Storylines Tom Fitzgibbon Award winner – Hollie Chips by Anna Gowan. Hollie Chips is a fun story for eight to 11-year-olds, and one that immediately captured the judges’ attention. As Penny said, honestly who couldn’t fail to fall in love with Hollie. By the time she had finished reading an extract of the book, the audience were in agreement. Hollie is an engaging character and the book is the story of how simple acts of kindness have bigger resonance, as Hollie and her weird neighbours defeat the evil property developer.

Anna, she reported, dealt with the demands of editing as a real pro and was a delight to work with.

Anna began by saying she had never heard anyone read her work aloud before.

The genesis of Hollie Chips came while she worked in Canada, as a waitress in a restaurant with a particularly horrid uniform, which you could only laugh about. One of her fellow waitresses, a Canadian, was fun, blonde and with different coloured eyes named Hollie. Anna wrote a series of short stories about a group of neighbours. One of them was Hollie and she realised that the short story wasn’t enough and would have to be a novel. Which was worrying, as she knew they were hard work.

Upon her return to New Zealand, her parents let her live with them rent-free, while she wrote. They didn’t comment while she sat at her grandmother’s rickety card table working on an old computer than sounded like a 747 in distress.

Nothing, she said, prepared her for the relief to discover that people wanted to publish her work.

As with Leonie, the Scholastic Book Club was the highlight of her school term, as she ran home with the list and her mum would say ‘you know what to do. Write a list of all you really want, and we’ll order them from the library’.

And now, it was time to follow William Taylor, her NZSA mentor’s advice: ‘Anna, it’s time to get on and write the next one’.

By the way, Anna’s parents are very proud, and had delayed their trip to see their daughter in Australia. Nothing would make them miss today.

The floor was then given to Jenny Hellen from Random House to introduce the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award. Jenny said that Random House was proud to be the sponsor of this award. It was Gavin who came up with the idea and it seemed obvious: there are very few illustrators capable of illustrating picture books. And it is fantastic for Gavin to start the award then offer his services as a mentor to the winner.

Admiring_the_Storylines_Gavin_Bishop_Award_shortlists_1.jpgThe award will be biennial as it takes so much work, and it is challenging to publish a picture book with a new illustrator every year. By being biennial, it ensures the quality of the illustrations remain high.

The judges were blown away by the quality of the shortlisted entries. The audience could see the evidence, as the entries were on display. The demands of the competition were quite high. The entrants had to supply a story board, roughs and finished drafts.

Gavin said the judges were looking for work that indicated that the artist would continue to grow beyond the competition, that they could make a career out of illustration. They wanted illustrations that would speak to children and not just work that might appeal to adults. The winner showed all of this and more.

The winning illustrator’s work is warm, subtle, and offered things to savour and think about, he said. They were witty, but not hilarious. They were work you could revisit on many occasions, a prerequisite for a children’s picture book. The illustrations had nuance and subtlety.

Illustrating for children is not for everyone, and not everyone can do it. To create a picture book that stays with a child, one that ‘quietly worms into their psyche and stays with them for the rest of their lives’ is wonderful.

Libby_Limbrick_Harriet_Bailey_Gavin_Bishop_Jenny_Hellen_1.jpgThe 2010 Storylines Gavin Bishop Award winner is Harriet Bailey.

Harriet is a graphic designer and, during a lull in business work, did a Google search for ‘illustration competition’ and came across the Storylines website and saw the Storylines Gavin Bishop Award which had just been announced. When she read that it was for a new illustrator, but not necessary young, she thought ‘that’s me’. Through the process of entering the award, she realised that she really does want to illustrate for children. She thanked Storylines, Random House and Gavin, and reassured us all that she will grab this opportunity with both hands.

Helen Beckingsale presented certificates to the 2010 Storylines Notable Books List winners present. You can see the complete list here.

The benefits of our new website came to the fore, as the award winners were published online (very nearly) in real time as they were announced.

Before morning tea, Gavin updated us on the progress Te Tai Tamariki is making. They have just applied for funding to secure their first physical centre. They will have a series of four rooms above the Children’s Bookshop.

They have had five exhibitions since the foundation of Te Tai Tamariki. This year’s exhibition is currently touring the South Island. Their dream is for the exhibitions to tour the whole venue. When in various venues there are many supporting events. Blenheim, for example, had family days hosted by the local public library with story times and face painting, with huge numbers of visitors. Their latest show has just opened in Canterbury MuseumWairua: Tikanga Maori in New Zealand Children’s Books.  They are hoping the museum will tour it. Shopping_at_Next_Page_Please_1.jpg

Then it was time for morning tea – and more mingling, book buying and book signing! 

Thanks to Helen Beckingsale and her team of volunteers and helpers for the wonderful morning tea. Maria, from Next Page Please, was well set up with perfect opportunities to buy books and circulate to find the appropriate author and / or illustrator.

After morning tea, it was time to settle back down in our seats – a difficult task to stop that conversation, finish eating, and buying. And people think book fans are quiet and take orders well. Not when in a group, I can reassure you. But, the organising committee are aware of this, and make sure there is some flexibility in the day’s timetable so they were don’t run overtime.

Libby Limbrick presented Barbara Larson with her Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal, flowers and cheque. She invited Lorraine Orman, a Longacre author, to introduce Barbara.

Lorraine reported that Barbara’s nomination was enthusiastically supported by many authors, among them Ken Catran, Kate De Goldi, and Fleur Beale. They described Barbara as dedicated and direct, and supportive of both established and new authors. Longacre has an impressive list of award winners. They were committed to publishing a number of books for younger readers each year, and also published provocative and cutting edge young adult fiction.

Barbara began by congratulating Storylines for all their work. It was her first time at a Storylines Margaret Mahy Day, and commented how wonderful it is to see gorgeous young people coming up and receiving their awards.

She said that she was surprised to receive an award, as usually it is authors. When she would ring her mother in Vancouver and say that their books had won various awards, her mother would say ‘and what did you win, dear’. She can now tell her mother she has a medal.

For her, this is a special honour as it honours Longacre and the team. She has never had so many cards, emails and postcards. She was even stopped in the supermarket, thanks to a newspaper article. All from the power of being associated with Margaret Mahy.

Her first association with Margaret was many years ago, just as Barbara and Paula Boock set up the Longacre offices. Margaret dropped in and offered encouragement, said it was a ‘brave enterprise’ and asked if there was anything she could do for them. Stunned, they stumbled a bit and said no. After Margaret left, Paula said ‘you know, if we were real publishers, we would have said “send us your next book”’.

One of the calls she received was from Robyn Belton, a previous Margaret Mahy Award winner. Robyn congratulated Barbara on her win and then said ‘pity about the lecture’. Barbara has taken Robyn’s advice to heart – that we just want to hear about her journey.

Lorraine_Orman_Barbara_Larson_Libby_Limbrick_Ann_Mallinson_1.jpgBarbara then told her story. You will be able to read it all in the 2010 Inside Story, which will be available at the 2011 Storylines Margaret Mahy Day, and after.

At the end of the speech, and questions, Barbara’s fellow publisher, Ann Mallinson, thanked Barbara for her fascinating talk – and for the part Longacare paid in rejuvenating New Zealand young adult fiction. Longacre looked after enviable list of authors well, had taken risks and encouraged new writers.

Then, to wrap up the day, Wayne Mills – raffle ticket hustler – asked Barbara to draw the raffle. Proceeds for the raffle, over $960, will support the activities of IBBY New Zealand. This year’s raffle prize was a basket of 24 signed Margaret Mahy books. And the lucky winner was… Barry Thompson.

It will be very hard to wait another year to meet up with such a wonderful group of people. The energy and positivity in the hall was magic.

My thanks must go to the day’s organising committee. By their work, a group of us showed up early to help set up – as always – only to discover that there was nothing to do! All the chairs were laid out. The mugs were ready for coffee and tea. And, because of camp, one of the deputy principals was around to unlock early in the morning, and turn on the hot water urn.

This day, although in Auckland, meant little work for the rest of the Storylines management committee – about the same as last year, when the Te Tai Tamariki team looked after us.

Thank you Helen B, Libby, Rosemary, Sarah and Helen S – and all you shanghaied into helping.

Thanks to our photographers who captured the events of the day: Kerry Aluf, Helen Beckingsale, Patricia Kay and Christine Young.

A huge thanks, also, to Takapuna Grammar School who were easy to work with, helpful, and wanted to make our day special for us. They did.

~ Annie Coppell.

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