Newcastle children's authors, illustrators and educators unite for fun night

Fun-tastic: Jodie Carlson, president of the CBCA Newcastle sub-branch, chats with illustrator Liz Anelli, the guest speaker for the organisation's Stories After Dark event.
Fun-tastic: Jodie Carlson, president of the CBCA Newcastle sub-branch, chats with illustrator Liz Anelli, the guest speaker for the organisation's Stories After Dark event.

Next Saturday, Newcastle Region Library in the city will come alive for a special event, Stories After Dark, a themed night celebrating children’s books and local children’s books authors and illustrators.

The event, titled Find Your Treasure, which was announced weeks ago, is free to children and parents, who have booked through Eventbrite. It is a change of direction for the organiser, the Newcastle sub-branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia NSW branch. In the past, they held an annual “lunch with the stars” event, accommodating young students from about 15 schools at booked tables.

This year sub-branch president Jodie Carlson, a teacher/librarian at Tanilba Bay School, and committee members decided to make it an evening event, open to the public. There will be about 170 children, ages three to 10, attending, along with parents.

Acclaimed Newcastle illustrator Liz Anelli, a finalist again this year in the CBCA national awards (for Ten Pound Pom, Picture Book of the Year category), will be the guest speaker.

Other local children’s book authors and illustrators participating include Jess Black (Keeper of the Crystals), Lynn Jenkins (Lessons of a Lac), Gwynneth Jones (Don’t Think About Purple Elephants), Deb Kelly (Ruby Wishfingers), Kirrili Lonergan (Ollie’s Treasure), Katrina McKelvey (Dandelions), Paul Russell (Grandma Forgets) and Ant Wood (Flaming Charli).

Children attending Find Your Treasure are encouraged to dress in pyjamas or as pirates, and bring their own blankets and cushions. They will visit various stations staffed by the writers/illustrators, with activities including craft and portraiture. Thanks to sponsorship by Newcastle and Charlestown Toyota, each participant will be given an age-appropriate picture book.

The evening ends with storytime.

“It’s about connecting to the kids,” Carlson says of the event. “It’s getting more children connected to literature, and showcasing local authors and illustrators.

“Within a week, every ticket was gone.”

MacLean’s Booksellers are also operating a pop-up store onsite, so books can be purchased for signing by authors on the night.

Guest Speaker: Newcastle children's book illustrator Liz Anelli, with Maddie's First Day, which was released Saturday, September 1. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Guest Speaker: Newcastle children's book illustrator Liz Anelli, with Maddie's First Day, which was released Saturday, September 1. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

The Newcastle sub-branch has more than 200 members, including authors, illustrators, educators and librarians. 

The organisation offers a support network, from the national website’s resources right down to the Newcastle sub-branch meetings.

“It’s an incredibly supportive industry in general, children’s fiction,” says Liane Morris, vice-president of the sub-branch and an aspiring children’s book author herself. “Everyone is happy to help everyone. As somebody just starting out – I’ve been doing it for three or four years, everyone is welcoming, all happy to give you advice.”

The sub-branch monthly meetings feature a speaker, such as an author or illustrator. Details via nsw.cbca.org.au