There was a time when ‘lunatics’ couldn’t be transported on the King’s Highway, so asylums were built on rivers to protect the general public from any possible lunacy outbreaks during their transportation. And this afternoon as I hurtled down Balmain Rd towards the NSW Writers’ Centre, I considered it was an idea worth re-visiting. Specifically, for sleep deprived writers trying meet a 2pm submission deadline.
The NSW Writers’ Centre is in the grounds of Callan Park which has been the site of a Psychiatric Institution since 1884. And once you turn off congested Balmain Rd, the grounds slope down to Iron Cove Bay, a perfect dropping off point for a certifiable writer. (And while I think of it, the Sydney Writers’ Centre is spitting distance from the Harbour at Milson’s Point. Co-Incidence?).
There’s a special kind of lunacy that overtakes a writer with a looming deadline. Especially a writer (me) who has completely under-estimated how difficult writing a children’s book is. I mean it’s less than 2,000 words and I have a 1st draft that’s just over 100,000 words. Should be able to wrangle a manuscript into shape.Two weeks, no worries. Oh and did I mention that it’s for The Children’s Book Council of Australia’s annual competition?
I’ve learnt that the art of writing a children’s book is much like watching Torvill & Dean Ice Skate.Until you try it yourself you’ve no idea of the technical precision needed to pull off those effortlessly easy to read books. I suspect that I’m probably not going to score a perfect 6 for my little tale.
I had to un-learn everything I’d learnt about detail and description, because so much of that is done with the illustrations. The sentence structure is short and concise. The language is not simplistic, but needs to be easy to follow for children reading the book themselves.
I walked into the foyer of NSW Writers Centre at 1.53 pm with seven minutes to spare. And as the original designers of Callan Park intended, the natural beauty, the peace, the calmness of the grounds soothed my fevered writer’s brain. I even took a few photos and contemplated what my next children’s book project will be.
Still waiting for that inspiration, but I’ve got a whole year…