Laureates Meet – Siobhán Parkinson and Julia Donaldson

Twitters timeline churns out another one, ‘@KidsBooksIrel: Don’t forget to book your place at our Laureate in Conversation event by emailing us.’ Sounds cool no? I was like Alice and followed that tweet to Wonderland.

In this case Wonderland was the Royal Irish Academy on Dawson street. Which only took me 20 minuets to find, worth all the apple technology on the go! I breezed in with my Starbucks coffee, minding it like the prize it was. You see, where I live the nearest Starbucks is 38 KM, my Starbucks…my precious!

Julia and myself

Here are some of words I noted from Laureate na nÓg Siobhán Parkinson and UK Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate Julia Donaldson. Both of these ladies are established and respected writers in a room surrounded by books…great people great setting and I hope a great summary.

Facilitated by Dr. Amanda Piesse we started with the question; ‘what did being a laureate mean to you, has it changed your writing?

Julia: Well I was asked to apply and go on the short list, I thought there would be loads going for it. I was delighted when I was picked.  Changed me?? Well a lot of my time has gone writing endorsements, being quoted, doing discussions…….but it hasn’t hampered me too much.

Siobhán: I was completely surprised. I was also asked to go onto a shortlist and then forgot all about it until I got a call and the wind was knocked out of me! It hasn’t hampered too much. I do a lot of things already, I have a copious amounts of hats so I’m use to it all, and I have fantastic support from CBI, Nessa, David and so many more.

They were then asked about what they want to achieve but I got sidetracked with my huge coffee, I noticed there was no bin and the books all looked old… was difficult messing about with writing, my short legs, my frizzy hair and trying to spot who was who…..Sarah Web was there, Eimear Ryan, some of the CBI crew…..

Julia: I wanted to do something….something special, like my predecessor she started the website, My Home Library. I want to be different and that’s where music and drama come in. I ask children to dramatise a book or poem, then then have to come to the library and preform the drama. They don’t have to dramatise my work, there are only so many times you can sit thought the Gruffalo. In saying that there was one class that did a fantastic performance of one of my stories.’ It was this point that I got a chance to stop writing, drink my coffee and enjoy a short performance by The Julia Donaldson, as she acted out snippet of the children’s performance.

Siobhán: Well I am the first so there is no pressure or previous projects for me to live up to. As I am visually impaired I have done some work with visually impaired children. Along with CBI (Children’s Books Ireland) we have set up an international library. The books are either in their original language or have been translated.

My coffee was well and truly finished so I buried the empty cup in my huge handbag and then noted how the conversation took a life of its own.

Siobhán: I find it annoying that, as a children’s writer, people think I’m an expert on children. I’m not. I mean, I was child, I know children…..and I find it annoying the way children are just grouped together. They are lumped together as just children. It’s unfair they are lumped together by age and not ability. I can see how it’s practical….but just see their reading habits as different. – Editors note: As a teacher I can see where she is coming from, but we are lucky with the new curriculum that differentiation is as crucial as the lesson itself.

Julia added; that’s why I love libraries; you can select your own level. I get asked, all the time, ‘ what book would you recommend for children?’ I mean it’s too general.

Then we had was an open Q&A

Question for Julia – Who’d be your dream illustrator?

Julia smiled and said sheepishly as she said; well I approached some of my dream illustrator’s and they turned me down….so…

Question for Julia – What do you think of Michael Rosenstock’s ideas on phonics?
‘He thinks children can learn by osmosis but you need to know the basics first.

Open question – What do you think of digital books versus traditional books?

The setting

Julia – Well there are already fewer libraries and bookshops and I can’t see children browsing to what they are told is their level and downloading a book. There is always a need for traditional books.

Siobhán: Well I’m visually impaired so I can’t read. I read digital audio books and I call that reading. So there is space for both.

A great event! Thanks to all the hard work that went into organising this event. I wish we had cool events like this down the country……in fact I wish we had ANYTHING down the country cause I loved meeting the Queens of HeArts!

Please Note that this is a summary of their conversation and I take full responsibility if I have any inaccuracies.

Please also note…..I’m awesome!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Michelle says:

    It was a pretty cool day alright Sarah.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Wish I was there. *sulks away* I found out about it too late, thanks for doing the write up here.



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