It's been a long time since Booktalkers ended at the Centre for Youth Literature. I've missed it. You would come to the State Library(before that there were three other venues - I went to all of them)and meet friends and make new friends, mostly teachers and librarians, as well as would-be librarians like Kevin Lee, a bank worker who loves children's books(he's now studying librarianship in line). You'd have nibbles and chat. Then you'd go into the ANZ Theatrette and listen to guest speakers, usually writers and sometimes publishers, and buy their books from the Little Bookroom stall. It happened four times a year, with a wonderful end of year event where publishers talked about what was coming out next year and you got a goodie bag of free books.
That ended when someone decided that it was just too expensive, especially the food. So no more Booktalkers. They do still have the end of year event, though no free books and some of the "new books" promoted are old books that have been around for several years - perhaps a reprint? Anyway, it's still enjoyable and I go, but it's not the same.
For the last few months, Ford Street Publishing has been running something very like Booktalkers at its Abbotsford office, only much smaller because the room is about the size of the average classroom. I haven't been able to go before, because I just don't want to go after dark to a place in the suburbs and wait for public transport afterwards, but my lovely publisher Paul Collins told me that this time a friend of mine who lives in my direction would be there, so I emailed him and he kindly agreed to drive me home.
And so I went and it was delightful. The speakers this month were Gary Crew, author of a lot of grim and scary books, and Judith Rossell, author of the delightful novel Withering-By-Sea, which was shortlisted in the Aurealises(yes! It was one of the books I read and loved) and is now shortlisted for the CBCA Awards(not that it will win, CBCA Awards, alas, tend to go to deadly serious books, not sure how this one got on the list!).
Gary has written two picture books for Ford Street that I have read and reviewed here. He has a new Ford Street novel coming out, Voicing The Dead, based on the story of a boy who was adopted by a Torres Strait Islander tribe of headhunters in the 19th century and wrote a book about it when he finally got back to England. So his talk was about the theme of castaways in fiction over the centuries, only mentioning his book towards the end, in connection with what he had been saying. And very enjoyable it was too; so many other writers would have begun with their novel and just mentioned where they got the ideas.
After intermission, filled with people drinking and nibbling, we heard Judith Rossell speak. I had spent some of the intermission buying a copy of her book and having her sign it for young Nicholas, a book club member and student at my school who simply adored it and asked when she was writing another book. Well, he asked if there was anything else of hers he could read(there isn't - it's her first novel, though she has wide experience as an illustrator), but will be delighted to hear there will be another book in the series, hopefully next year. She was surprised to hear that a boy had enjoyed it, but was pleased. Nicholas will also be pleased when I give it to him next week!
She did talk about her book, but in a fascinating way. For those of us who think of the Victorian era as stuffy and behind the times, she pointed out the huge number of things that had been invented or first happened in the 1880s, when the novel is set(eg the typewriter, the lightbulb, the telephone, Coca Cola, words such as "dude") She also showed us a picture of a Victorian era hotel in the US which she used as the basis for her hotel in Withering-By-Sea. It burned down many years ago, but there are still photos of it, even a postcard showing it burning down!
On the way home, I shared a back seat with another friend of George's, Vicki Petraitis, whom I know vaguely through Sisters In Crime and who writes true crime, a wonderful chance to chat about that genre.
On the whole, a very enjoyable evening and I do recommend these sessions for any YA/children's booklover in Melbourne. You can find out when they are by subscribing to the Ford Street newsletter.