BWF and BAD — sketches and recovery and too many zines

Little sketches with simple marker backgrounds of people with coffee, badges, etc

My festival weekend is done! I only got a very little sketch done at the Brisbane Writers Festival, mostly because (with a short break to raid the zine market*) I was talking all the time — either on the Haunting History panel (with Angela Slatter, Shelley Parker-Chan and Chloe Gong, chaired by Jo Anderton), chairing the Toil and Trouble panel (Angela Slatter, Trent Jamieson and Malcolm Devlin — somewhere there is a photo of us all with fans), or giving a three hour workshop on writing Australian Gothic stories!

And on the Friday — as part of Brisbane Art and Design — I gave an artist floor talk at the QUT art museum, about the art I did for the activity space for the Spowers & Syme exhibition, which is still on and is a delight.

But I was very in everything, which was energising (and energy-demanding), which leaves little time for sketching, even though there were some wonderful crowd scenes (these are hungry authors in the Green Room). After I finish the PhD (and a few other things), I need to get an artist-at-large gig again somewhere. (I think that might have been the first thing I ever officially did at a Brisbane Writers Festival!)

Tiny sketch of a group in the green room, talking and making tea, with simple blue marker colour

*”Zines are like, $3 each,” I told myself, cradling a sick headache. “How bad can it get?”
I bought so many.

Events: BWF and BAD

The next few days are full of events, with the Brisbane Writers Festival and Brisbane Art Design having started.

Here are my whereabouts:

  • Panel: Haunting History Thursday 11 May 2:30pm (Angela Slatter + Kathleen Jennings + Shelley Parker-Chan + Chloe Gong + Jo Anderton) — SLQ
  • Artist Floor Talk Friday 12 May 12:30pm— QUT Art Museum (Gardens Point)
  • Panel: Toil and Trouble Sunday 14 May 11:30am (Angela Slatter + Malcolm Devlin + Trent Jamieson + Kathleen Jennings) (I’m a ‘contributing moderator’) — SLQ
  • Workshop masterclass: Australian Gothic Stories Sunday 14 May 2-5pm — SLQ

Here’s the workshop description:

Do you love the creepy and strange, the howling and mysterious, the disturbing and shadowed (or sun-bleached)? Do you want to distil and brew your own range of Gothic tales? Writer and illustrator Kathleen Jennings teaches a crash course on harnessing the delights and terrors of the Australian Gothic. You will mine the visuals and themes of the Gothic for ideas, twist them into new shapes, experiment with shifting place and motif, and begin outlining short stories. 
This workshop is suitable for new and emerging writers who want to try writing Australian Gothic stories, and also for established writers who would like to try some rapid idea generation and variation in the Gothic mode. This version of the workshop focusses on writing techniques; however illustrator-artists are welcome to attend and draw their notes and stories. 

Brisbane Writers Festival 2023

Art by Brent Wilson

The Brisbane Writers Festival is on in May! It’s a great (and great-looking) program. You can see the full line-up here:

I’m giving a workshop and on two panels:

  • Panel: Haunting History Thursday 11 May 2:30pm (Angela Slatter + Kathleen Jennings + Shelley Parker-Chan + Chloe Gong + Jo Anderton)
  • Panel: Toil and Trouble Sunday 14 May 11:30am (Angela Slatter + Malcolm Devlin + Trent Jamieson + Kathleen Jennings) (I’m a ‘contributing moderator’)
  • Workshop: Australian Gothic Stories Sunday 14 May 2pm

Brisbane Writers Festival 2022 very brief recap

Bookmarks with suburb names from old estate maps
Suburb bookmarks from the State Library Bookshop

I had a lovely three days at the Brisbane Writers Festival! I had hoped there would be more days, but was miserably unwell during the week, and only just managed to claw myself back to being able to go in on Friday.

Unfortunately, this meant I missed hearing the readings and seeing the announcements of the winner of the Wordplay Microfiction prize on the Thursday, but I was permitted to read all the finalists’ stories after the event, and was enchanted with all the elegant, eloquent, unexpected ways they riffed on the inspiration image.

I can’t find a list of the winners online yet, but congratulations!

Cut paper silhouette swirl with fish, birds, person with paper planes
A particular shout-out to the student who made this image about soft-serve icecream!

On Friday I chaired the “Debuting in a Pandemic Panel”, with Jacqueline Maley, Sophie Overett and Lyndall Clipstone.

The three books were very different: Jacqueline Maley’s The Truth About Her is a novel of guilt, journalism, love and motherhood. Sophie Overett’s The Rabbits depicts of stifling Brisbane summers, and the damage and enchantment that can exist between generations. Lyndall Clipestone’s Lakesedge is a gothic, romantic fantasy, with more than a touch of the fairytale.

And it was lovely to bring together all the experiences which went into bringing these books into being, editing and launching them during the second year of a pandemic, and finding space and peace to write — and books to vanish into!

On Saturday I gave a one hour map illustration workshop.

Mock-ups of a book of map making instructions
Mocking up the handout booklet

It was actually really fun to see if this workshop could work in 1 hour (it did! although of course you can dive much deeper and do a larger map with more time) and to put together this little zine-fold instruction book which I hope to build on for future projects. This, although brief, was a very large and lively workshop between LoveYA events at the Brisbane Square Library.

Photo of whiteboard with very scribbly fairy-tale map on it
Crowd-sourced map of Little Red Riding Hood (the version with the zombie giraffe on a floating island)

After that I was on a panel with Lynette Noni and C. S. Pacat, chaired by Samantha Baldry, called “Sweet, Sweet, Fantasy”.

Book covers: The Gilded Cage, Dark Rise and Flyaway
The Gilded Cage, Dark Rise, Flyaway (although I was there as an illustrator, too)

We got very intense about research and making things up, getting things written, planning, exclaiming over each others’ writing processes, etc.

Sketches of people waiting in a book signing line
The trick at a book signing is to sit near people with long queues and sketch their fans

And on Sunday, I gave a three hour workshop on observation journals, honing skills and pursuing creative fascinations.

It was a smaller group and a long delightful workshop, wide-ranging and intense, and everyone dug thoroughly into the exercises, which was fascinating for all of us, because a lot of the point of this approach is that it will vary as people chase down their own processes. It was lovely to see how many pages of exercise, thoughts, ideas, plans and even drawings everyone left with.

It was lovely to update and expand this from the version I gave for the Queensland Art Teachers Association Conference last year, and bring in more focus on writing.

I have no photos of the session because I was bounding around talking and chatting for three hours and forgot

And around all the presenting and planning there were wonderful conversation with friends new and old, writers and publicists, publishers and agents, readers and fans, librarians, waiters, volunteers and BWF staff and board members, poets and musicians.

I might update this post with some photos if I come across them.

Brisbane Writers Festival — Workshops and panels!

The Brisbane Writers Festival 2022 is happening the first week in May, and I will be there!

I’m on two panels:

  • Debuting in a Pandemic with Jacqueline Maley, Sophie Overett and Lyndall Clipstone on Friday 6 May
  • Sweet Sweet Fantasy (sold out) with Lynette Noni, C.S. Pacat, and Samantha Baldry on Saturday 7 May

And I’m giving an observation journal workshop and a brief drop-in map workshop!

How can keeping an observation journal level up your practice as a writer? Join author and illustrator Kathleen Jennings as she demonstrates how a creative journal can awaken your creativity and helps you build a repertoire of exercises that will refine your ideas, techniques, and creative skills.

Every good fantasy adventure needs a map of the world the reader will be journeying through. But have you ever thought of creating your own? Award winning author and illustrator, Kathleen Jennings takes you through a brief introduction to creating a fantastic fantasy map.

And don’t forget entries to the Qld schools Wordplay Microfiction competition (art prompt by me!) close this Friday 22 April 2022.

Cut paper silhouette swirl with fish, birds, person with paper planes

Students are invited to respond to the image in no more than 120 words, using any written format (verse / prose). Shortlisted entrants will be invited to present a reading of their microfiction at the awards ceremony during the Festival.

The winner will receive a cash prize of $1000 thanks to UQ, and a book pack featuring every Word Play 2022 title for their school. 

The award information is on the BWF website here:

And the entry form is here:

Wordplay Annual Qld Schools Microfiction Writing Competition

Cut paper silhouette swirl with fish, birds, person with paper planes

The Brisbane Writers Festival and the University of Queensland present the annual schools’ microfiction competition, open to Queensland-based schools students. The 2022 prompt is this illustration by me!

Students are invited to respond to the image in no more than 120 words, using any written format (verse/ prose). Shortlisted entrants will be invited to present a reading of their microfiction at the awards ceremony during the Festival.

The winner will receive a cash prize of $1000 thanks to UQ, and a book pack featuring every Word Play 2022 title for their school. 

The award information is on the BWF website here:

And the entry form is here:

(I’ll post some more about the process, in the future.)

Brisbane Writers Festival 2021

The Brisbane Writers Festival is back — and done for the year (it’s staying in May, now, and next year is the 60th anniversary). It was lovely to see people again, and sketch in the cafe, and listen to talks on history and life, poetry and family.

Of course, sketching in the SLQ cafe mostly means sketching ibises

I (with Flyaway, although I got in a tangential reference to Travelogues!) was on the “Magic and Myth” panel with Krissy Kneen (The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen) + Tabitha Bird (The Emporium of the Imagination) + Melissa Ashley (The Bee and the Orange Tree).

The Three Burials of Lotty KneenFlyawayThe Emporium of the ImaginationThe Bee and the Orange Tree

Krissy ran a great discussion on three very different books (a novel of murder trials and fairy tale salons in 1699 Paris; a tale of a magical store that arrives by night in a Queensland town and heals sorrow; an Australian Gothic story of secrets and things in the trees; and Krissy’s memoir of searching through Australia, Slovenia, and Egypt for the true history of her grandmother). But there were many common elements too — secrets and generations, loss and what we cling to instead, and stories told and believed in different ways.

I usually have difficulty remembering what happened on a panel, but many people said lovely things about it afterwards, and there were some excellent questions.

I do remember one question on how you judge the parameters of magic/myth when writing it into a ‘real-world’ story. We all had different answers, of course — the fairytales in Melissa’s novel were specifically contained and retold within a historical, non-fantastic setting; Tabitha followed a theme and let the elements grow; I talked about (a) developing an ear for certain types of stories, so you can hear when you strike a false note, and (b) letting the magical elements sit in the setting/story until they start to change each other — and following the consequences.

There was another question, too, on the purpose/use of myth and fairytale. Melissa was specifically dealing with the way fairytales were used to communicate and argue around the restrictions of a society and royal censorship. Tabitha was using them as a way to allow the processing of grief and loss, and the preservation of what is mourned. I spoke about their usefulness as a template, because I find it more organic to use a fairy tale as a structural key than to think about acts and arcs — that’s a matter of familiarity and ease. But I also got onto another favourite topic, about how there are points in time where people sort of agree on how certain stories are to be told (you see it when artists agree what the basic cat should look like, which makes medieval cat drawings look implausible, until you meet cats who look just like them). I find that having a sheaf of alternative templates (fairy tales, for me) lets me shake those ideas loose, and look at them in a different light. So, for example, people are starting to tell post-lockdown stories, and those are starting to converge. But you could pick any number of fairy tales and retell the story through that: “Rapunzel” is an obvious one, but “Little Red Riding Hood” would work just as well (the year that was eaten by a wolf), or even Cinderella — I had just broken new shoes in at the start of 2020, and now I’m having all sorts of problems wearing them again.

I did make it to a few other panels! A few standouts were the First and Last Word bookends, Ellen van Neerven‘s talks, “The World’s Biggest Survival Story” (Melissa LucashenkoBruce PascoeLisa Fuller and Thomas Mayor). And then of course so many wonderful conversations in the green room and the cafe, at signing tables and over drinks.

A particularly memorable panel I went to was “Out of the Wreckage”, in which Kelly Higgins-Devine interviewed Margaret Cook’s A River with a City Problem: A History of Brisbane Floods and Jamie Simmonds’ Rising from the Flood: Moving the Town of Grantham. I still have very vivid memories of the 2011 floods (as well as being cut off, I’d started at the Department of Transport and Main Roads just days before they happened, and since something like 95% of the state’s transport networks were affected by that year’s rains, it was a crash course in the department’s responsibilities!), and was tangentially involved with some of the Grantham relocation. It was a vivid and compelling discussion (and surprisingly entertaining), so I am looking forward to reading these two.

Brisbane Writers Festival

The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen; Flyaway; The Emporium of the Imagination; The Bee and the Orange Tree

I’m going to be on a panel this Saturday at the Brisbane Writers Festival!

WHEN? Sat 8 May 2021

WHERE? Auditorium 2, SLQ

ABOUT? “An enlightening discussion of how myth, magic and a good fairy-tale help us live in the real world by pointing out the fundamental truths of the human.”

WITH? Krissy Kneen (The Three Burials of Lotty Kneen) + Kathleen Jennings (Flyaway) + Tabitha Bird (The Emporium of the Imagination) + Melissa Ashley (The Bee and the Orange Tree)


Brisbane Writers Festival 2013 – Artist-at-large

And I’m back from my stint as artist-at-large at the Brisbane Writers Festival! The final fate of the sketchbook is yet to be decided – in the meantime, photos of most of the pages may be viewed on the album on the BrisWritersFest Facebook page (I don’t think you need to be logged in to see them).

Here is the book in progress on a copy of the program:
BWF - book

It was a little Moleskine Japanese Album (accordion fold) sketchbook. The drawings are with Pitt Artist Pens and a 0.05 Staedtler. I had free rein to run upstairs and down, in and out of panels, perching at the edge of workshops, hanging out in the green room and the cafe, an excuse to talk to anyone and to meet – oh, so many people, watch Briony Stewart (artist-in-residence) construct a dragon, rave about topics and then find a conversation partner had written the book on it, hang out in the festival tent telling ghost stories and reading tales printed on pillows…

I sketched watching panels:
BWF - panel

And watching from above:
BWF - perch

BWF - dragon

And sights sights more familiar to habitués of the State Library:
BWF - pigeon

There are some observations on (rather than of) life:
BWF - observation

And here is the book opened up (also the new blog header), although there are a few more pages not shown here:
BWF - book extended

The last hurrah of the festival was “Glitter and Dust”, where those left standing talked (read, recited, praised) for two minutes each. Sarah Wendell graciously was my assistant, and I opened out the sketchbook listing (as it could not be seen in detail, only in length), some key images from each page. I have reconstructed it as follows, as my notes were written in the pink twilight of the tent and adapted as I went:

An accountant’s shining silver boots
Ibises stalk, possessive, on the grass,
Fingers clutch coffee like a rope to safety
And writers stare into a glowing void.
Twinned, rabbit-headed children.
A dawn of sunflowers,
Cerulean platform shoes,
A Blyton-novel’s worth of uniforms.
The self-abandoned intensity of browsers in bookstores.
Writers eating, holding forks like pens.
Wallace Stevens’ poem of pineapples,
Fishing rods with a catch of ferns,
New friends, hands raised, exclaiming over books,
Professional pigeon-harriers of the library cafe.
Steve Kilbey’s hands.
The Green Lantern impersonating Marianne Dashwood,
Small boys rolling laboriously downhill.
Fairytales peopling the long night,
Fashions glowing in the field.
Tigon, the literary hound, sits pensively.
Serious study in the high green room,
Graeme Simsion marches dully for a point.
Ibises swoop, delighted, on the lawn,
And Red Crow sets a stage for coming night.
[And folding the sketchbook in again] A tickertape of greeting and goodbye.

It is not a poem, but I like to think the tremor in my voice extended the syllables in the shorter lines to create a consistent pattern.

And of course it doesn’t include Elizabeth Wein’s Spitfire necklace and how that directly led to my current emotional fragility on finishing reading Code Name Verity, or how Kate de Goldi’s editing workshop took a detour into poetry recommendations, or discussions of first-person accounts of mastectomies without anaesthetic in 1812, or how Rob Spillman has caused me to now read Elizabeth Bishop’s “An Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore” out to anyone who will hold still long enough, or, or, or…

Brisbane Writers Festival

BWF 2013 Logo

The Brisbane Writers Festival is on, and I am the Illustrator at Large (in contrast to Briony Stewart who is the Illustrator in Residence, and is building a dragon). This pretty much means I wander the State Library grounds sketching, drinking coffee and talking to people, and I am happy with my lot. I am also on a panel on Sunday afternoon with Gary Crew, Gus Gordon and Briony Stewart, discussing visual storytelling.

Here is the beginning of the sketchbook (accordion fold this time, which opens nicely but is also easily caught by the wind and blown about like ticker tape). BWF will be putting it up on their Facebook page as they get the chance, but posting more frequently to their twitter account (briswritersfest).

BWF 2013 sketchbook


Brisbane Writers Festival 2013 I 4-8 September 2013
twitter: #bwf13 / @briswritersfest


Brisbane Writers Festival brings a page-turning experience to Brisbane from 4-8 September.

Delight in the books and writers you love, and discover new ones, as you share in conversations ranging from fiction to politics, science to sport and everything in between. Join in fervent discussion and the ardent exchange of ideas at The Great Debate. Festival highlights include Inspire, remarkable and thought-provoking presentations to make you think, feel and act; Well-Drawn, celebrating and exploring comics, graphic narrative and illustration; and Good Thinking: Public Lectures, when Australia’s leading intellectuals will ask the big questions and present new ideas for the future.

Let the kids loose to play with words at Alphabet Zoo while you indulge your inner-wordsmith at Author+ Masterclasses and, at the end of the day, relax with a drink in the Festival Club to the soulful strains of singer/songwriters and bands.

Browse the program and book your tickets now at