Heading back to Sydney this time around, we connect with Aleesah Darlison and Jane McCredie for their insights into the Kids and YA Literary Festival that will be held on Saturday 28 June 2014.
Aleesah Darlison is Director of the 2014 NSW Writers’ Centre Kids & Young Adult Literature Festival and Jane McCredie is Executive Director of the NSW Writers’ Centre.
What does your festival see as the role of the arts in supporting (or otherwise) diverse representations of Australian culture?
Aleesah Darlison: Supporting the wonderfully varied cultures and backgrounds that exist in Australia has always been important for our festival. That’s why we ensure that guest authors, illustrators and industry professionals from various cultures are represented at every event. The 2014 Kids and YA Literary Festival gives a voice to ALL Australians, including but not limited to those from Indigenous, Asian, Indian and Middle Eastern backgrounds. We’re extremely proud of the fact that this year’s Keynote Address will be delivered by joint inaugural Children’s Laureate and Indigenous Australian, Boori Monti Pryor.
Can you give us a brief overview of the festival and what it offers Asian Australian audiences in terms of programming?
Aleesah Darlison: The NSW Writers’ Centre Kids and YA Literary Festival is a biennial event that showcases some of Australia’s best-known and dearly loved authors, illustrators, publishers, media personnel and industry professionals, many of whom have achieved international success.
The festival aims to entice emerging, new and established authors and illustrators to engage in a full day of panel sessions, workshops, pitching sessions, book launches and networking opportunities.
In Australia, we have a number of Asian children’s authors and illustrators, many of whom will be in attendance on the day either as guest speakers or delegates. I’m certain Asian Australians will enjoy sessions across the entire program, but if they’re specifically interested in cultural issues these will be reflected most notably in the program when Wai Chim, author of the delightful Chook Chook series published by UQP, will be discussing, along with other panel members, how culture, place and identity affect children’s literature. Christopher Cheng, well-known Asian Australian author of fiction and non-fiction books in both traditional and digital media will also be participating chair in a session about the art of collaboration relating to picture books.
Why do you think that these offerings would be of interest to Asian Australian audiences?
Aleesah Darlison: These particular sessions will be most pertinent to Asian Australian audiences as they address how cultural and racial issues affect the writing and reading of children’s literature. Audiences will gain first-hand knowledge about what it’s like to be an Asian author, what themes, concepts, stories and markets work best and where the opportunities lie, both in Australia and overseas. As a shining beacon in the world of children’s literature, Christopher Cheng is a wonderful example and inspiration to all. Not only is he a highly successful multi-published author, he’s also co-chair of the International Advisory Board for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and an International Advisory Board Member for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content (AFCC). What Chris doesn’t know about children’s writing in both the Australian and Asian contexts isn’t worth knowing.
Do you actively seek representation from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) or other historically marginalised groups in your programming committees/board/staff/volunteer teams?
Jane McCredie: The NSW Writers’ Centre seeks to represent the full diversity of Australian society in its events and other activities. The Centre has, for example, had a longstanding commitment to supporting Indigenous writers and has been enriched by the contributions they have made to its programs. We are currently running a mentorship program for Indigenous writers that is seeing five emerging writers matched with an established Aboriginal writer in their genre for a one-year mentorship. Speakers at events and tutors in our professional development program come from a wide range of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. In relation to our most recent events, our biennial Creative Non-Fiction Festival was directed by Benjamin Law, and a Talking Writing evening on writing about Vietnam included as speakers Vietnamese-Australian writers Quincy Pham and Stephen Phan.
Have you ever solicited or received feedback from CALD or other historically marginalised groups in terms of your festival?
Jane McCredie: The NSW Writers’ Centre is a member-based organisation, with members coming from a wide diversity of backgrounds. Members frequently give us feedback on Centre programs and their views are also sought through our annual membership survey. We work closely with a number of organisations that represent historically marginalised groups, especially the First Nations Australia Writers’ Network. We are also working with a number of organisations in Western Sydney with the aim of building more vibrant connections with writers from various backgrounds and a stronger presence in that region.