Dreams and Nightmares! CBI Conference 2018 Day Two


Day Two:
Again greeted by Elaina Ryan there was an opening presentation of two of CBI's incentives for this year (along with other enlightening information.) The Bold Girls initiative has been running all year.
For the centenary of womens' suffrage in Ireland, Bold Girls has aimed to present and inspire girls and young women and celebrate strong, confident, intelligent, forward-thinking women and girls through childrens' books, giving them high-visibility alongside their male counterparts in literature. If you  haven't picked up the Bold Girls Guide yet, it is available through CBI and at many bookshops in Ireland. With hundreds of book recommendations for all ages, it is indispensable.
We also talked about the Robert Dunbar Memorial Libraries and the progress of this unique endowment through CBI. I won't say much about this here, because I have a lot to say about it later on. But it is a programme very dear to my heart, in that it makes possible the establishment and maintenance of school libraries across Ireland in schools that may not have that possibility open to them. Every school needs a library! Read more about it by following the link: https://childrensbooksireland.ie/call-out-for-the-robert-dunbar-memorial-libraries-2018/
The Sunday sessions began with something truly special; Laureates in Conversation. Sarah Crossan, our new Laureate na nÓG  and 2017-2019 Waterstones Childrens Laureate, Lauren Child were in conversation with Julia Eccleshare about their separate and joint roles as childrens' laureates of Ireland and the UK.
Sarah Crossan writes amazing verse novels for teens and young adults that should be read by everyone. The Weight of Water; Apple and Rain; One; We Come Apart (with Brian Conaghan) and her latest, Moonrise are evocative and emotive explorations of the 'feeling' world of young people and their lives. Her project is #WeAreThePoets and is aimed at encouraging young people to use poetry and the way it makes them FEEL, learn about it and write their own in a way the expresses their own voices. She has a particular interest in working with marginalised communities.
Lauren Child has chosen #Staringintospace as her theme. She believes that children desperately need the time to daydream, to stare into space, to be bored(!) in order to develop their personal curiosity and creative voice. She wants to encourage creativity; inside and outside of school, in adults, in children....everyone, everywhere.
Melvin Burgess has been writing for teenagers and young adults; bringing their dreams and nightmares to the printed page for many years. He brilliantly portrays the dark side of life with a gripping tenacity that has enthralled and continues to do so. His latest book, The Lost Witch explores a moment of time of awakening in a young womans' life; of growing up and not knowing who you are and then suddenly, and quite dramatically discovering; of obtaining agency in your own life. It is clearly not a comfortable tale, but it is a powerful one. He has packed a lot into this novel; the hunt, mythology, misunderstanding and a clear and present danger with incredible world-building. There are leanings towards a story of 'grooming' and cause and effect of such. The consequences of the central characters actions, even though she has been heavily influenced, bring about a set of horrific circumstances and there are questions of responsibility and guilt. Everything you do has a consequence. Burgess is a real weaver of stories.
Patrice Lawrence was an astounding addition to this years' conference. Her talk was entitled 'Between the Cradle and the Reaper' (taken from a beloved poem.) She herself came from a very diverse, mixed race, mixed social background and expresses these aspects of herself in her writing with humour, depth and eloquence. Patrice spoke about how, growing up, she didn't really know what "normal" was, and she still really doesn't. But she gives her characters a strong and true voice and expression in all her writing; OrangeBoy, Indigo Donut her contribution in the anthology Change Is Going To Come. Her next novel sounds incredible. It is the story of two teenagers emerging from a very tight, closed Christian community into the "normal" social structure and how you negotiate the nightmares that come with the freedom. Just a fascinating speaker; I could have listened to her for hours.
Abi Elphinstone talked about how, especially in childrens' books, light and dark are inextricably linked. And the light is all the richer for having stumbled through the dark to find it. Her books are certainly testament to that philosophy. The Dreamsnatcher trilogy and Sky Song present us with some engaging central female characters, some truly dark and frightening experiences met with tenacity and agency, the challenge of what it really means to 'belong' and the fact that not all boys need to be warriors to be heroes. And central characters are those who are willing to make mistakes; they aren't afraid to get it wrong to get where they need to be. There is always a strong element of hope in her books, for if we carry hope, the light will always undo the dark. These amazing fantasy books are for 9+ years and each tells a great story that needs to be heard and felt and lived.
We finished the day (and sadly the conference) with Steve Lenton, who grew up in a family business that was the sole manufacturer of 'pompoms' creatures, so was constantly surrounded by 'characters'. Inspired by these and cartoons he watched as a child, he found his way into animation and art direction of animated commercials and then...book illustration. The Shifty McGifty picture books (written by Tracey Corderoy) are a delight, with mad-cap action and crazy characters. But perhaps one of the biggest delights of Steves' work are his illustrations for the now classic One Hundred and One Dalamations. (We had a little drawing competition in which Steve showed us how to draw the perfect Cruella DeVille.) Fun, fantastic end-of-conference fare.
Before I go...I did say what a brilliant time I had catching up with everyone and meeting new people, making new friends. Well, I'm not the only one. LB Koala attended his 2nd CBI Conference (you've probably noticed him photo-bombing in some of the pictures.) He also loves to meet new people...especially those authors/illustrators of whom he is a huge fan.
Here he is with Tarsila Kruse...
One more quick item. October is the CBI Reading Campaign month and each year, a guide to great kids books is brought out to encourage and recommend great books for all ages. The theme of the reading campaign this year is 'Share A Story' and there is a section on grandparents and grandchildren including books about the relationship between the generations. This book contains hundreds of books and all are reviewed (briefly) childrens' book enthusiasts of every type. The book was presented to us at the conference, and this year CBI has been supported in their efforts to make sure every school in Ireland receives a copy. You can get yours through CBI. https://childrensbooksireland.ie/shop/

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