Category Archives: Book Fairs, Talks and Festivals

Play Time for Big People.

Sometimes we also need some downtime, so after visiting the Edutech Exhibition and seminars, Evadeen and I walked back through the Sandton Shopping Mall, near Mandela Square. Unfortunately for Evadeen, as we crossed the bridge between the Conference Centre and the Mall, Jann spotted one of the exhibit booths slightly ajar and empty. Well the temptation was just too much and i decided to play at being a mannequin for the day with the following results:

Evadeen you were a great sport taking the pics, and don’t worry we only had our name tags on so that the cameras can identify us ha, ha, ha.

SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO DO IT!

Polly Talks at CP Awareness Day

I walked around to the back of the marquee and cried, I couldn’t stop the tears. I was glad I had worn shades. Then I walked back into the marquee, having given myself a pep talk – “You can do this Jann, it’s important. These are the children you wrote the Polly Series for because others are too afraid to write about disabilities.”

Ok, pep talk over, I was there to do a job.

Polly had been invited to talk and read at a CP Awareness Day. So, what is CP? It is Cerebral Palsy. I knew it existed and could be severe, but until Saturday I didn’t realise the degrees of CP there are. As children arrived, some so severe they just lay them gently on blankets, or in the ball pit, others in wheelchairs, or with walkers. I could feel the tears welling up again and looked to Kim for support,

“Think it’s going to be an emotional day,” I said, she just nodded and I noticed she had her shades on too.

Then it was show time. It’s amazing, after the initial flutter of butterflies, as soon as I fix on a child, the words always seem to come. I think it is something about the expectation in their faces and not wanting to let them down that does it for me. And well, these were the children I had written for.

It had all started back at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Paralympic Games. In his closing speech, Sir Phillip Craven (a paraplegic Paralympian himself,) told of how a young boy was reading with his mother. In the book, he saw a man with an eye patch over one eye, a hook for a hand, a parrot on his shoulder and a wooden leg. When asked who it was, he said: “Well, he has only one leg, so he must be an Olympian.” Such was the strength of the London 2012 Paralympics that it changed peoples’ perceptions of disability forever as well as my own.

I had always admired Oscar Pistorius racing on his blades, as well as Natalie du Toit swimming like a fish in the pool, but the more I researched, the more I had gained so much admiration for these athletes. I realised the dedication it takes to be a top class athlete who is able-bodied, let alone one who is disabled. (I have a gym 250m from where I live at the end of the road, and I can’t get my sorry butt down there,) These athletes train every day through the pain and I can only take my hat off to them, they really are super athletes.

Over time, I made friends with some disabled athletes, Nur in particular. It started on Facebook, there we started chatting. I didn’t realise he was blind and put my big foot right in my mouth. “But how can we be chatting, I mean, how do you read what I am typing?” I asked him, astonished that we had been able to converse so easily. TECHNOLOGY  was the answer, of course,  his phone read out what I had typed (NO MORE SHORTHAND!) I still haven’t met Nur, or Natalie du Toit, but I will one day.

That closing speech sparked something in me and I quickly googled PIRATES/PARALYMPICS/BOOKS. There was nothing. ‘That’s ridiculous I heard myself thinking.’ I typed in another set of keywords around DISABLED/KID’S BOOKS/PIRATES. Still nothing. So, I went to Amazon, ‘There must be a book here.’ I found myself thinking. Still nothing.

I’m not sure if I was more shocked or disappointed that there wasn’t a book with that connection for children and mentioned it to a friend.

“Then write one,” she said.

Just like that. Write one. So I did, and am I glad I did, because, last Saturday I was able to share that first book with some very special children, their siblings and parents. I think we sometimes forget the able-bodied siblings, but for them, my characters resonated too.

Polly and her pirates get up to all sorts of antics in the Polly’s Piralympics book, there’s climb the rigging gymnastics, walk the plank diving, a three-legged race as well as a Pirate Masterchef competition, amongst many other events. The pirates learn about cheating, not bullying as well as how hard it is to be in a wheelchair.

There are currently 5 books in the Polly’s Piralympics Series. They all have a strong anti-bullying and disabled themes through them, and teach that disability does not mean inability, and bullying is not cool, it’s for a fool.

I think my reading/talk was well received judging by comments afterwards, and am so glad I accepted the invitation to the CP Family Awareness Day. I personally walked a path I did not expect to but would walk it again tomorrow if asked.

 

 

Edutech, Here We Come…

“Do you fancy coming to the Edutech exhibition with me?” I asked Evadeen, a fellow author a few weeks back.

“What is it?” she asked.

“I’m not too sure, but I think we should go,” I replied.

And so we did. It was actually all about technology in education – ‘COOL,’ I thought, ‘OK,’ thought Evadeen. But actually it was really cool, and what was so awesome was going with a friend. We had very different interests and that was ok too, she went to some of the stalls and I went to others.

I especially liked the idea of schools having their own tv channel – think of the possibilities when a parent can’t make a school play because they have a meeting, or Mpho makes the XI Rugby team and a parent is overseas on business. This was they can just tune in as it is live streames or catch up later as a podcast – HOW COOL REALLY IS THAT? The robotics were brilliant too, though I still like lego, maybe a throwback to when I was a kid, though in those days the pieces were all red and white and the trees flat, I think they had a motorised chassis by the time my brother started to get interested in it. NOW! Well, now you can programme the stuff – WOW!

We also attended a seminar by Dr Deon Oersen from St Benedict’s College before having a coffee to compare notes. As always Evadeen kept me on track and had visited stalls to find out about adding our books to their virtual libraries, as well as looking for potential sponsors for our Schools Reading Road Show – an initiative I started in January where I take authors with me into schools to read, meet and interact with the kids, AND to prove authors really do write books ha, ha, ha.

All in all, we had a really enjoyable and worthwhile day.

PechaKucha – A World Without Words

A World Without Words.

I was asked after my talk to share some of the slides I used, (plus I have included a few I would have used if I could have had a few more.) I thoroughly enjoyed it, though it is not easy, but a brilliant discipline for public speaking.

Here are a couple of extracts from my talk.

“Words can also cause fear, fear that by educating the downtrodden, women, the poor, those without a voice, that they, will surpass us. The opposite is true. By raising the weakest, most vulnerable members of our society, we raise Society itself”

“The written word holds the keys to education, and we must present these keys to the youth, provide them with books and words that will inspire that waking dream that will open up the pages of their imagination. Because it is their imagination that will be our future.”

Last night I delivered my first ever PechaKucha talk – 20 slides, 20 seconds a slide = total 6 minutes 40 seconds. Try it!

My PechaKucha – WWW

My PechaKucha – a World Without Words

“It’s easy,” Jacques said, ” Just 20 slides, 20 seconds a slide.”

NO, IT ISN’T FOLKS! It is actually really hard to deliver. It’s easy to write what you want to say, but then all of a sudden when the first slide slips into place, your brain has a brain fart and everything goes blank!

What does PechaKucha mean?

Well simply small chat, chit-chat.

Who invented the format?

The presentation format was devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture and keeps participants to a fast, concise format when delivering their talks. The first PechaKucha Night was held in Tokyo in their gallery/lounge/bar/club/creative kitchen, SuperDeluxe, in February 2003.

What have I let myself in for? Wish me luck tonight…

PechaKucha

South African Children’s Book Fair

Yes I was there, at the South African Children’s Book Fair last weekend and look who came to visit: Arthie Moore, Jan Roberts and Frayne Mathijs. Plus I met a very special Gogo (grandmother), Jabulile who runs a reading club for children in Johannesburg Central – Dobsonville and the CNA characters.

South African Children’s Book Fair

The South African Children’s Book Fair.

I can’t believe I will be presenting a workshop – The Bully is not Your Friend – at this event in only my second year as an author. I even have the passes to prove it, ha,ha,ha.

So if you are passing the Dome this weekend, come along and support us, I will be there with fellow authors Evadeen Brickwood, Robbie Cheadle and Soraya Hendricks, plus of course our behind the scenes lady Kim Hunter.

THE BULLY IS NOT YOUR FRIEND – Too many young people are bullied every day, but there are some things they can do to make themselves less of a target for the bully. I will be talking as detailed below:

8th June  – 9am – Seminar Room 1 and again at Ipm Seminar Room 2

9th June – 1pm – Seminar Room 1 and 3pm Nomvuyo Vuvu Biyana Workshop Area 2

So looking forward to seeing you there