Newcastle Writers Festival

Activity 1: Attend Newcastle Writers Festival Children’s Program

Topic: The value of children meeting authors and illustrators

NWR logo

In April this year, I had the opportunity to attend the Newcastle Writers’ Festival with my 8 year old son and 6 year old daughter. The children’s program focused on presentations for primary school children by Australian authors and illustrators.

The sessions we attended were:

  1. Samantha Turnbull, author of a new book series called “The Anti-Princess Club”, explaining why she wrote this book series for girls aged 8-12;
  2. Katrina McKelvey read her recently published book “Dandelions” and explained the process of how a picture book is made; and
  3. A high energy and humorous presentation by Stig Wemyss, an experienced audio book narrator, including books by Andy Griffiths.

emilys tiara trouble cover image               dandelions image            52 storey audio image

All three presenters were engaging and the children were keen to participate and answer/ask questions. More information about each session is included in the Appendix at the end of this post.

What did I learn?

By attending the festival, I was able to observe the positive impact on kids of meeting authors. I also gained immeasurable insight into the Newcastle literary community. I learnt that the children’s program requires a lot of organising, planning and commitment from the local literary community and volunteers. I learnt how to improve reading stories from hearing authors read their own books, and understand the importance of illustrations and how to use these to engage children with the story.

How was the activity relevant to my professional practice as a librarian for children?

As a children’s librarian, organising and promoting library events is an important task. Events provide opportunities to invite the community into the library and showcase what the library has to offer. At the festival I was able to observe what types of events children respond to and ways I can improve my skills and activities for presenting books to children.

Were any gaps in my knowledge revealed? How might I fill those gaps?

I was unaware of the extensive network of people involved in advocating children’s literature in Newcastle. I have signed up to receive updates from CBCA Newcastle sub branch. I was also unaware of the opportunities for local author visits and illustrator workshops for schools. The key to filling my knowledge gaps in this area will be continuing to attend local literary events and make contacts. Volunteering at events will be an effective way to increase my knowledge and network. I plan to register as a volunteer for the 2017 Newcastle Writers Festival children’s program.

Topic: Value of children meeting authors and illustrators

“Nothing inspires kids to read and write like interacting with a real, live author or illustrator” (CBCA NSW Branch).

Meeting authors and illustrators is an exciting experience for children. A book personally signed will be cherished forever. Interacting with authors and illustrators makes a tangible connection between books and where they come from, and inspires children that they too could be writers (Lund, n.d.). My 6 year old came home from the festival and started typing!

signed book image              abby typing image

After the festival, Katrina McKelvey posted to her blog:

“I love the buzz that fills the air at children’s literature events. The kids reported back to me with wonderful comments and then returned to school with a spring in their steps.” (McKelvey, 2016)

The Children’s Book Council of Australia – NSW Branch values author visits so highly that a specific program is available to help fund author visits in disadvantaged areas (CBCA NSW Branch).

I would recommend parents and teachers taking up any opportunity for children to meet an author or illustrator– the benefits are wide reaching for all types of children. The experience will inspire avid readers and writers, and is an excellent way to encourage reluctant readers.

Bolinda. (n.d.). Retrieved from:  2DF946F7196E/1/9/1/1/1/1/1/38/654
Lund, D. (n.d.) Benefits of author visits. Retrieved from: services/author-visits/benefits-of-author-visits/
McKelvey, K. (2016). The Newcastle Writers Festival – Day 3 – Primary school groups. In Katrina McKelvey: Children’s author. Retrieved from:
McKelvey, K. Katrina McKelvey: Children’s author Retrieved from:
Newcastle Writers’ Festival. (n.d.). Retrieved from:
The anti-princess club. (n.d.). Retrieved from:
The Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) NSW Branch Inc. (n.d). The CBC2U Program. Retrieved from:
The 52 Storey Treehouse image. Retrieved from:


The first session we attended was presented by Samantha Turnbull, the author of a new book series for girls aged between 8-11 called “The anti-princess club”. This session had 30 students in the audience from year 3. Samantha gave an enthusiastic and inspiring presentation with a clear message that fairy tales mislead girls about their aspirations for life. Samantha’s series focuses on four best friends who form a club with the motto “we don’t need rescuing” (Turnbull, 2015).

The second session was presented by a recently published children’s author, Katrina McKelvey. Katrina is also the president of the Children’s Book Council of Australia – Newcastle sub branch, and co-ordinated the children’s program for the festival. During the session, Katrina read her new book “Dandelions” and explained the process of getting a book published – from the author’s initial idea through to the copy on the shelf. This was a small group (20) with Katrina welcoming participation, questions and discussion from the children.

The final session was a presentation by Stig Wemyss who has narrated over 100 audio book for Bolinda, including Andy Griffiths’ books. This was a highly entertaining presentation including humour and audience participation to engage the young crowd of 50 students in years 5 and 6.


About childrenslibrarianlearning

Masters student at CSU studying children's librarianship
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3 Responses to Newcastle Writers Festival

  1. libraryservicesforchildrenandyouthbyme says:

    It sounds like you and your kids had a wonderful time at the festival. It is great to meet your idols and be impressed with them. It’s great to see how these experience help makes books come alive for kids. I was interested in how you were able to view the festival through your librarians’ eyes. It seems like the experience was a positive learning experience about the realities of planning such events and how you could adapt these lessons and understandings for any future events you may plan yourself. The experience was clearly positive and showed how impactful these events can be on children’s love of books and reading. I was impressed to see your daughter deciding to become a bit of a writer herself, maybe you can show her book around next year when you volunteer at the festival!


  2. Ali Woodward says:

    I wholeheartedly agree that meeting authors and illustrators is an exciting experience and a great way to encourage reading for all children. As stated by Cheaney (2012, p. 30) “Inviting an author to an event at your library can add a whole new level of depth to the connection between reader and author, especially for younger readers.” It was fantastic to read that the Children’s Book Council of Australia NSW branch values author visits so highly they offer funding for disadvantaged areas, as this is something I can relate to living in a remote rural area. We were fortunate to host children’s illustrator Craig Smith last year, but it was only possible as he was travelling through the area. It was an amazing experience for all involved, the students still talk about his workshops and even our most reluctant readers were highly engaged. His signed books are still some of our most popular items.

    It was great to read about the networking opportunities you gained from the festival as well – it sounds like it was an engaging and worthwhile event for you and your children.


    Cheaney, A. (2012). Bringing authors to your library: A step-by-step guide. Virginia Libraries, 58(2), 30-32. Retrieved from


    • kate says:

      Events such as writing festivals do have a positive impact on children and students. I agree with you that children and students can be positively impacted by festivals where they meet authors and illustrators.
      Recently the ABC reported on the impression the Sydney writers festival had on high school students from Years 9 to 12. The festival commenced with specific events designed for students to inspire and stimulate. Hundreds of students watched as Paul Kelly sang Shakespeare sonnets before being granted the freedom to wander and meet “internationally renowned authors to Nobel Prize recipients and Academy Award winners” (Rice, 2016, para 2).
      The student’s participation, though inclusive of the English curriculum was also diverse in its inclusion of other societal issues of relevance, not only to education. An open conversation that addressed the topic Civics and Citizenship comprised the “journalist Stan Grant, filmmaker Eva Orner and author Alice Pung discussed the effects of racism, refugees and immigration” (Rice, 2016, para 12) across the Australian communal and political landscape.
      From the student and teachers input the inclusion of such subject matters were a positive impact leaving a constructive impression, one student stated “It helps develop my own experiences in becoming a better writer and hopefully sitting there signing my own books” (Rice, 2016, para 20) in the future.
      Thank you for an interesting discussion.

      Rice, B. (2016). Sydney writers’ festival kicks off with an event to inspire and stimulate school students. Retrieved from


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