Where are the writers for children?

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2010

Last week I attended three days of the week long Adelaide Writers Week. This biennial event is an integral part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts here in South Australia, one of the leading such festivals of its kind in the world. The list of guest speakers is often a who’s who of the writing world. This time was no exception and the impressive parade of talented writers throughout the week was very inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

But where were the writers for children?

They were conspicuous by their almost total absence.


Only Markus Zusak could be said to be a writer for children – a debatable point as his audience is best described as Young Adult.

Australia has an impressive number of world class writers for children. They lead the world in their chosen field. They are acknowledged around the globe for their talent and many outsell their adult counterparts. Why, then are they totally ignored festival after festival?

Is this a case of literary snobbery on the part of the organising committee? Or ignorance?

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers’ Week March 2010

Tom Keneally opening Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Tom Keneally opening Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Last week I attended three days of the six day Adelaide Writers’ Week. This is an important and integral part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts held every two years. This festival attracts readers and writers from all over Australia, as well as a glittering gathering of international writers who come as guest speakers. Each day starts at 9:30am and runs until 6pm so it is quite a marathon effort for organisers and attendees as well. The sessions are all free (except for several evening sessions in the Town Hall). The sessions vary from panel discussions on writing, reading and literature through to book launches and meet-the-author opportunities.

Three large marquees are set up in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens a five minute walk from the CBD. The East Tent and the West Tent host sessions concurrently while the Book Tent is housed in another tent in between. This shop features books written only by authors present on the programme. All authors are available for book signings too.

2010 Writers' Week, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens, Adelaide

2010 Writers' Week, Pioneer Women's Memorial Gardens, Adelaide

On the first day of the festival there was a special session to announce the winners of the Festival Awards for Literature. This was done by the Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann. In all there are ten awards ranging from plays, children’s books, non-fiction to unpublished manuscripts. The cash awards are very generous and I applaud the state government for supporting our writers in this way. May it continue.

Premier Mike Rann at Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Premier Mike Rann at Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Further reading:

Australia Day 2010 honours our writers

Laughing Kookaburra

Laughing Kookaburra

January 26th is Australia Day, a special day celebrating the first landing of European settlers in Sydney Cove, 1788.

The day is celebrated in many ways: family gatherings, picnics, barbecues, going to the beach,  attending sporting events or just having a lazy day in the middle of the Australian summer.

Every year for the last few years Australia Post has celebrated the event by issuing a special set of postage stamps called Australian Legends. This series of stamps features people who have made a major contribution to Australian life and culture.

This year the stamps are called Australian Legends of the written word. They highlight the works of six of our most prominent writers. The writers honoured in this way are Peter Carey, David Malouf, Colleen McCullough, Bryce Courtenay, Thomas Keneally and Tim Winton.

I think it is wonderful that our leading novelists have been honoured in this way. Writers in Australia are often overlooked for the massive contribution they have made to our culture. Each of the writers featured are truly deserving of the honour.

Where are they?

Of course, by featuring these six writers, many other well deserved writers have been overlooked. In the field of novelists another 15 to 20 worthy recipients could have been listed, including Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee. Admittedly, he was born in South Africa but now resides here in my home state of South Australia. Bryce Courtenay was also born in South Africa, so here is an inconsistency in the choice of recipients.  And what of Patrick White, Helen Garner, Kate Grenville, Peter Goldsworthy, Robert Dessaix and Elizabeth Jolley? The list could go on and on. Then you have the great writers who are no longer contemporary, such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson.

My major gripe however is that no poets or children’s authors are represented. Judith Wright, Les Murray, Bruce Dawe and Gwen Harwood have all had significant influences in the field of poetry. That’s just four I could name from dozens of worthy recipents.

Australian children’s authors lead the world in their field. Writers like Colin Thiele, Mem Fox, Sonya Harnett, Ivan Southall and dozens more have had or continue to have a significant impact on young readers around the world.

I guess that Australia Post had a difficult job narrowing the choice down to just six writers, but a little balance in the final six would have been nice.


  • Australian Legends of the written word
  • Peter Carey
  • David Malouf
  • Colleen McCullough
  • Bryce Courtenay
  • Thomas Keneally
  • Tim Winton

An afternoon of poetry

This afternoon I went to an afternoon of poetry. Normally I would have to travel for a half hour or so into the Adelaide Hills, or for about an hour into the Adelaide city itself. This time the poetry reading session came to my home town, Murray Bridge.

The special afternoon was organised jointly by the Friendly Street Poets group in Adelaide and the local district council, who funded the event. I didn’t quite know what to expect, not having been to such an event, though I had heard some things about readings like this. What I didn’t expect was the enormous interest in the event. Over 80 people chose to ignore the lovely spring weather and the fact that it was Father’s Day in order to attend. This must have been most encouraging to the organisers.

About 15 people used the opportunity to use the open mike to read their poems. There was a vast range of themes covered by the poems. Some people read confidently, while others were a little hesitant. One thing that stood out was the prominence of rhymed poetry. According to one of the organisers, this is something that is unusual in their normal reading sessions.

At the last moment I chickened out and didn’t take any of my poems to read. In retrospect, many of my poems would have stood up very well against those that were read out, something I find encouraging. It was announced that this was to be the first of several more such events over the coming year. This is encouraging. The good attendance at the inaugural event ensures successful readings to come.

After the readings, there was a book launch. An acquaintance of mine, Max Merckenschlager launched his first collection of poetry, Lifemarks. I’ll do a review of this fine little book when I’ve read all of the poems and savoured them for a little.

Happy birthday to this blog

Trevor’s Writing is three years old today.

Three years, almost 800 articles about writing, reading and blogging and nearly a thousand comments has been a challenge. In the middle of that I’ve had some serious health issues and I’ve taken on full time study. I must be a little crazy. The journey has been exhilarating.

To celebrate I’d like to highlight a few features of my blog, especially for newer readers. Here are some links for further reading.

  • About me – some background about me as a writer.
  • My poetry – some samples of the many hundreds of poems I have written, some of which have been published.
  • Short fictionsome of my short fiction that I’ve published here for you to read.
  • Writing hints – just what it says – hints to help you with your writing.
  • Short story starters – stuck for an idea for a short story? Check out these very popular story starters.
  • Writing a Novel – links to the journal I am writing about writing a novel in 2009.
  • Archives – a complete list of every article ever to appear here on this blog – all 800 and counting.

There you have a veritable smorgasbord of reading to help you with your writing.

Good writing.