LOCAL students revelled in the opportunity to meet an award winning author and illustrator recently.
Author Simon French and illustrator Donna Rawlins coordinated their residency at the Camden Head Pilot Station to work with budding writers and illustrators at local schools.
During one week in July Donna and Simon spent the Wednesday with students from Laurieton Primary School, on Thursday Herons Creek students visited them at the Pilot Station, while on Friday it was Camden Haven High School’s turn.
Principals Dave Willard of Laurieton PS and Nikki Hines of Herons Creek both said they appreciated having a real author and illustrator talk with their students.
One student was heard to comment that now he understood what creating a picture in words was all about.
The Laurieton teachers were all highly impressed by the inspirational contributions made by both Donna and Simon, Mr Willard said.
“The children were all highly engaged in the illustrations and information that Donna presented and Simon’s workshops. They showed great interest in and appreciation for the opportunity they received,” Mr Willard said.
One stage three girl who was still working on her writing after the session with Simon had finished, commented: “I want to finish it. I really feel inspired to write!”
For teachers, it is a great support to their own work to have published authors supporting the work they are doing on a daily basis, Mr Willard said.
Camden Haven High School teacher Cassie Holland was so impressed with the experience it gave her Year 9 and 10 students and the transitioning year 6 students that she is looking forward to a more in-depth visit next year.
“It is incredible that these students get to hear what it is like to be an author/illustrator, how they work on their ideas and how they polish them to publication stage,” she said.
Simon French, whose forebears were pioneers in this area, grew up in Sydney’s west, and wrote his first novel while he was still at high school.
He has written several novels and picture books, published in Australia and overseas. His work has been praised by critics and won several awards, including the 1987 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award and the 2003 NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Children’s Literature.
Donna Rawlins is an illustrator, book designer and teacher who has specialised in making books for children for most of her working life. She has won many awards for her work and in 2003 received the prestigious Lady Cutler Award, presented by the Children’s Book Council of New South Wales, for her outstanding contribution to the children’s book industry.
The heritage listed Camden Head Pilot Station proved a perfect inspirational venue for the students, who utilised the converted boatshed.
The former Pilot’s Office was taken over by Donna who was working on her latest book illustrations.
Simon enjoyed the secluded retreat to restore his creative energies, while their young son could not get enough of the beaches and rock platforms.
Preparing to leave on Saturday, Donna said, “I should be packing, but I am still painting. This has been such an inspirational visit. Thank you.”