Libby Gleeson shares the ‘Power of Story’ at this year’s Narelle Oliver Children’s Literature Lecture

Libby Gleeson

Libby Gleeson

On the 15th of June, 2017, the Narelle Oliver Lecture, previously named The Book Links Lecture in Children’s Literature was held at St Aidans Anglican Girls’ School.

The lecture has been renamed this year to honour author and illustrator Narelle Oliver.

Robyn Sheahan-Bright introduced the Lecture with a short background of Narelle and to share some of her personal memories.

Narelle was one of the founding members of Book Links and Vice President for many years.  She was essential to the development of the Undercover Story Videos and the Travelling Suitcases.

In 1989, Narelle’s first picture book, Leaf Tail, was published and illustrated using Linocut prints. Many stories followed and her last two works have been released this year, ‘Rock Pool Secrets’ and ‘I Want to Be in a Book’.

The Narelle Oliver Exhibition will be on display in September at the Story Arts Festival Ipswich, and will be touring across Australia after this.

Narelle Oliver

In memory of Narelle Oliver

Robyn Sheahan-Bright shared the memory of Narelle’s brother on one of Narelle’s favourite paintings ‘The Flow’ which, he says, mirrored Narelle’s energy and her boundless horizons.

This year’s lecture, ‘Books, the Possibilities for Change’, was presented by esteemed author Libby Gleeson who has published over 30 books, has received three CBCA awards, the Dromkeen medal, and is a Member of the Order of Australia for service to literature as an author and an advocate for the development of literacy and learning in schools, as a mentor to young writers and through a range of executive roles with professional literary organisations.

Libby’s lecture was infused with the ‘Power of Story’. As I was listening, I wondered how I could absorb this message so that I could implant it is every person I meet, as Libby says, ‘… the power of story creates possibilities of change. Change within the reader, the community and the writer.’


Through Libby’s research in the development of the brain in relation to reading and writing, (such as the BBC documentary ‘Why Reading Matters’ by Rita Carter), Libby discovered that even though the brain is hardwired and has specific areas that neuroscience has identified as corresponding to specific areas in the brain (such as the senses), READING is NOT hardwired.

When it comes to reading, the brain is a cerebral internet, lighting up in many places at the same time, connecting across the brain requiring a combination of parts.

And when it comes to a single word as it is spoken, there is not a particular language or speaking part of the brain that lights up, but instead it is the part of the brain that mirrors the action of the word. E.g. the word ‘run’ lights up the areas of the brain that mirrors the action of ‘running’ and when it comes to the words ‘fear’ or ‘romance’ is the parts of the brain that connects to those feelings that light up.

Libby found that this knowledge demonstrates, how, through reading books, we learn about the other, we can walk in someone’s else shoes and connect to their emotions.

She acknowledges that this may also happen in film or video games but there is a greater direct engagement in books because of the close connection between the writer of the story and the reader.

It follows then that Libby advocates to ‘give children the best books, and then give them more.’

Libby talked about Bibliotherapy, not to be confused with self-help books, but instead books that save or define a person.

She referred to, The School of Life, established by Allain the Botton which is devoted to developing emotional intelligence through using culture, offering a variety of programs and services concerned with how to live wisely and well.

One of their programs offers a bibliotherapist. Having acknowledged that life is too short to read a bad book, a bibliotherapist will gather a tailor made reading list, depending on who you are and what you are going through at the time.

Libby talked about Dr Paul Brock, who among other skills and achievements, was a demanding and inspiring teacher. Libby equally sees that good (demanding) writers write ‘… the best expressed (books) in the richest possible ways.’ Good stories connect humanity through mirroring feelings of story and character.

Even when children read above their cognitive or emotional level, they will still be making sense of the story on their own terms, even if they can’t identify yet with the author’s intention. Libby talked about how she started reading Mills & Boon stories at age 13, not able to identify with exactly what the author intended BUT being able to identify with what it feels like to have your first crush.

In contrast, there is the ‘serendipity of reading’- finding meaning in story where you weren’t expecting it.

The benefits of children losing themselves in story is more important than children fearing reading and writing because it is something you can fail at, such as is the case when preparing for NAPLAN tests. There should instead be a focus on the importance of reading for pleasure.

Annual Literature Lecture Libby Gleeson and Jenny Stubbs

Libby Gleeson and Jenny Stubbs


Libby talked about censorship, how people in power like to control what people read. There has been a tradition, through the ages, of restricted reading and of states trying to control people’s thinking. Again, this shows what and enormous power books have, and the importance of teacher librarians and well-stocked libraries.


From the perspective of the writer the process of writing itself equates to a process of illumination. Often a writer will start writing one thing only to find it has changed into something else, and the reader finds something different again.

Libby used her picture book ‘The Great Bear’ with Arman Greder as an example. This story came to her in a dream with a jigsaw of sentences. However, during the illustrative process, half the story was chopped as the illustrations themselves told the story more effectively.

Libby’s book ‘Mahtab’s Story’ was inspired by a true story after meeting a group of young Muslim students and refugees. As Libby learned more about the students, and their experiences, this story changed.

The book, 1918, was commissioned by Scholastic as part of a series. Her brief was to write for the pre-adolescent, with an Australian central character. Around this time, she spent a month in Belgium and France visiting war memorials. Her inspiration for the story started with the real-life story of Leslie Greenleaf who enlisted in the army through the Coo-ee March.

Libby concluded with a reading from, 1918, and its main character, Ned. Reminding us how a story has the power to share experiences with children who have never been in a similar situation.

Libby has found that the act of writing brings new ideas; it changes thought.

But above all, Libby taught us today, that when it comes to books for children: ‘Give them more, give them free choice and give them a myriad of possibilities.’

Post by Yvonne Mes, children’s author and illustrator from Brisbane. She writes fiction and non-fiction including picture books, junior fiction and short stories. Her stories playfully expand perspectives and invite feelings.

Book Links Event News for 2017! Renew your membership now to be a part of our stellar year to come!

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Happy New Year!  We hope you had a fantastic Festive Season with family and friends!

2017 is looking to be a stellar year for Book Links, our members, our friends, and children all over the place.  Read on to find out about some of our events and projects for the coming year!

And remember to renew your membership for 2017 HERE!

Romancing the Stars x 3

We are hosting three Romancing the Stars events this year!  Come and speed-date some of Australia’s best, and South East Queensland local, children’s and YA authors and illustrators to find out what they have been, and are, working on!

For information and booking details for the Brisbane Event, click HERE!

For information and booking details for the Gold Coast Event, click HERE!

For information and booking details for the Sunshine Coast Event, click HERE!

Write Links Writing Workshops

We have a full year booked for our Write Links Writing Workshops!  Including paid workshops with Richard Newsome, Kerry Brown, Deborah Abela, and Christine Bongers.  For a full list of all the Workshops for 2017, click HERE!

Narelle Oliver Lecture

Libby Gleeson will be presenting the Narelle Oliver Lecture in Children’s Literature in June, watch our social media and website for more details.

StoryArts Festival Ipswich – Narelle Oliver Exhibition

We are honoured to announce that we will be presenting a comprehensive exhibition of the Late Narelle Oliver’s works in partnership with StoryArts Festival Ipswich.

Travelling Suitcases – DVD’s

We will also be beefing up our Travelling Suitcases to ensure that they are all utilised to their full potential, and we will also be offering DVD’s of all our featured authors and illustrators for sale, watch this space.

Book links QLD Big Lit Quiz End of Year Event Report

Book links QLD  Big Lit Quiz End of Year Event Report by Dimity Powell November 2016

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Apart from some scintillating company and a mouth-watering repass of cold meats, salads, pastries, and Pavlova, the recent Book Links End of Year event proved much more challenging than your average pre-Christmas shindig.

Over 35 lovers of Kids Lit from all corners of the industry including authors, illustrators, teacher librarians and technicians and custodians of such organisations as SCBWI, CBCA QLD and the May Gibbs Trust converged at Padua College in Brisbane’s northeast for a fantastic afternoon of quizzing embarrassment. Well for some of us perhaps, for others it was a chance to brandish their literary prowess whilst raising much needed funds for IBBY, the international organisation committed to bringing books and children together.

Quiz master and president of Book Links QLD, provided some curly questions covering an assortment of literary themes including: animals, food and drink, war, first lines and Aussie orientated work to eight teams of four players each.  It was interesting to note that no matter what our involvement in this industry and our accessibility to kids’ reading matter, poor retention rates resulted in some questionable scores. I blame age and excess of information (my brain is just far too small to fit in every tantalising trivial fact and literary quote) and I take my cap off to the dozens of upper primary and secondary school kids who play these quizzes for real each year.

Despite stiff competition, my team, The Series of Authors, came in a respectable fourth place!

Lucky door prizes, book donations, and raffles ensured everyone left with enough reading matter to boost their bookish knowledge in readiness for the next Big Kid’s Lit Quiz. I know I have some ground to read up.

All agreed, this was a wonderful amalgamation of many sectors of our industry and a fun way to draw people together not to mention expand their appreciation of great books for kids.

Well done Book Links for facilitating this event and Mia Macrossan for ably emceeing proceedings.

Dimity Powell

Children’s author & Book reviewer

Big Lit Quiz – end of year event – Sunday 27th November!

It’s party time!  Come and join members of the Children’s Literature Community at our end of year event!

End of Year party for the Kids Lit community with a literature quiz based on children’s literature. Proceeds to IBBY. Form a team and join the fun for $15 per team member. Food supplied but BYO drinks. We invite CBCA Qld, SCBWI, QSLA, May Gibbs Trust, teacher, librarians, teach-librarians, library technicians and any lovers of KidsLit to join us for lunch followed by five rounds of quiz questions. Find out how the international Kids Lit Quiz competition works. This is an adult event but older children could come.


Padua College
cnr. Jardine St and Turner Road

Contact Details:

Jenny Stubbs 0409 266 786


BIG news! Sarah Davis Illustration Workshop – Sunday, 28th August

Sarah Davis workshop

BIG news!  Sarah Davis Illustration Workshop – Sunday, 28th August.  Please SHARE, your friends will love you for it!
The Nuts And Bolts Of Illustration
Join award-winning illustrator Sarah Davis for an intensive three hour illustration workshop, which will help you take your illustration skills to the next level. Suitable for emerging and established illustrators, ages 15+.
The workshop will cover:
• Developing a visual narrative
• Designing effective characters
• Maximising visual impact
• Creating dynamic compositions.
This will be a hands on session with lots of drawing, so bring your favourite sketchbooks and drawing materials.
In association with: Book Links – the Centre for Children’s Literature
Sunday 28th August, 10 am to 1 pm
The Learning Place, Queensland Writers Centre, State Library of Queensland, South Brisbane QLD 4151
Bring drawing materials and a sketchbook.
To book your place, click here!

The Readers Cup Film – The Children’s Book Council of Australia – QLD Branch

Our friends over at the Children’s Book Council of Australia – QLD Branch have produced a film to tell us all about the Readers Cup.  Read on below, and get involved!

New film produced to promote reading quiz

The Qld Branch of the Children’s Book Council of Australia recently produced a film to promote their state wide competition, The Readers Cup.  The film tracks two teams as they prepare to compete in the Ipswich Region Competition.   Readers Cup attracts nearly 600 teams each year from across Queensland with regions stretching north to Cairns and west to Augathella. Designed to encourage young readers in Years 5-8, the competition has teams of four reading a set of books, then competing against other teams to answer the quiz questions.

Students are challenged to read widely, work collaboratively in a team and continue developing a love of reading. They can compete at regional and state level similar to sporting competitions and meet other students with an equal passion for books.

With 589 teams competing across eighteen regions in June this year, and regional teams taking part in the state finals in September, it equates to around 3000 students reading 15 000 books in 2016. Students attending the finals also have the opportunity to attend Wordplay at The Brisbane Writers Festival, one of the sponsors of the competition.

The website provides information for teams and coordinators, lists regional books, competition dates and sample questions.

Two minute trailer:

Full video (about 20 mins):

The film was funded by CBCA Qld Branch and the Ipswich District Teacher-Librarian Network.  CBCA Qld received funds from Creative Partnerships Australia through the Australian Cultural Fund.

Marianne de Pierres’ Write Links Writing Workshop – August 6, 2016

Write Links Logo marianne-de-pierres

On Saturday 6th of August, Marianne de Pierres will be presenting the next in the Write Links Writing Workshop Series on World Building.  Bookings are now open, you can book HERE!

Marianne de Pierres is a multi-award winning Australian author of novels written in the science fiction, fantasy, crime, and young adult genres. Over the twenty years Marianne has been a professional writer, she’s acquired a wide skill base and knowledge about the craft and business of writing. Marianne is currently tutoring in writing at the University of Queensland and studying her PhD in Creative Writing?


World-building – create authentic fictional worlds without turning your novel into an indigestible travel diary. How much do you need to know before you begin? Learn what to put in and what to leave out. Marianne de Pierres workshops everything learned about world-building over seventeen genre novels.