All the Wild Wonders: Neil Gaiman’s Keynote Address

Where Shaun Tan’s address had pictures behind and through it, Neil Gaiman had poems.

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He spoke about crossover books, risks, journeys, the good things about bad books and the power of imagination.

My notes:

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All the Wild Wonders: Shaun Tan’s Keynote Address

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I consciously strive not to be a raving fangirl, with the consequence that I only found out about the CBCA conference the afternoon on which Deb and I were to fly to Melbourne. Shaun Tan’s keynote address was one of two which were open to the public (for a fee) and having consulted the list and been informed by Cat and Sean that it would be worth the fee twice over, I went. At 9am on the first morning in Melbourne*. My striving is not always successful.

And it was.

Shaun’s speech was lucid and humble and wise and personal, illustrated throughout by images cast upon the screen – from first grade drawings (complete with roosting pterodactyls) through paintings from life (more mysterious sometimes than his fantastic pieces), illustrations and covers (Aurealis, Sara Douglas) that I knew (and owned) but did not know were his, to his recent, mysterious, luminous work. The development and changes were striking.

He began by reading “Eric” – a short story about an exchange student from his new book Tales of Outer Suburbia, with the images on the screen behind him. I could quite happily sit and listen to picture/illustrated books this way indefinitely.

He said the major themes in his work were:

  • Fantasy Worlds
  • Real Worlds
  • The Gap of Understanding Between the Two
  • Belonging

Main points from my notes:

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Weekend in Melbourne

Deb and I spent the Labour Day long weekend in Melbourne. We flew after work on Friday, and just before I left I discovered the CBCA biennial conference was on in Melbourne and the keynote speakers were compelling.

We stayed in the Georgian Court B&B, an old white building with angled doorways and stepped corridors apparently last renovated in the eighties (the furnishings ran to pastel aqua and dusty pink) but warm and comfortable and convenient with a very tasty array of stewed breakfast fruits.

On Saturday I caught an early tram to the convention centre and listened to Shaun Tan’s keynote speech. Then Deb and I watched emus at ACMI and looked at black dresses and Australian art at the Ian Potter Centre, met Sandra, ate cupcakes at Little Cupcakes, bought zines and buttons underground, went to the state library, gazed at medieval manuscripts, stared up at the dome in the reading room, lost my grey Faber Castel Pitt Artist Pens, walked to Bridge Road and had Italian at Spelt, and so to bed.

On Sunday I caught an early tram to the convention centre and listened to Neil Gaiman’s keynote speech. I lost track of time and did not make it to church, so talked to Jane Tanner (of Drac and the Gremlin!) and Andrew McLean, the illustrators installed at the conference, looked at tiny paintings, got Neil Gaiman’s signature, walked back to Federation Square to see if my pens were there (they weren’t), met Deb and Sandra outside Scots Church, had lunch with friends of Sandra’s, walked through the laneways, stopped at Young & Jackson to see the infamous Chloe and sample Little Creatures Bright Ale (even better than the pale) and house-cut chilli chips while Neil Gaiman was at the next table. He mentions the encounter <a href=””>here</a&gt; (with Chloe, not me), ate cupcakes again (they opened the shop again for Deb and gave us free mini-cupcakes as well, so we walked out with one in each hand), watched advertising shoots, walked to Lygon Street, shared a pizza and walked back to the B&B.

On Saturday we shopped in Bridge Road, had lunch at Chimmy’s bakery (almost the platonic ideal of a bakery/cafe), bought shoes and earrings (Deb) and a scarf and cards and chilli hot chocolate (me), took pictures of facades and were back at the B&B to catch our bus to the airport.

It was cold and I wore my leather jacket and tried new methods of tying my scarf at Deb’s instigation. It was a most satisfactory weekend.