Reading Matters at SLQ

IMG_2295It was with great pleasure today that we kicked off Reading Matters with the able assistance of the State Library of Queensland (SLQ).  American graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier and Sydney based YA poet Tim Sinclair arrived on the sunny shores of Brisbane to present for youth service librarians in the cozy, and arty domain of SLQ.

Today celebrated the first time in its twenty years that a Reading Matters event has occurred outside of Victoria.  Traditionally there is a regional component to the conference, however this is the first professional (and student day) to transplant over interstate lines.

After a kind introduction, the proceedings began with an introduction of Raina.


 A few things we learned about Raina Telgemeier (Smile & Drama) and her process:

  • Drama was originally written as a high school story but aged down to match same readership as Smile.
  • Some American parents found the addition of two gay characters quite upsetting.
  • Raina on who she writes for “…I write for the girl I used to be.”
  • Right now she’s reading Lucy Knisley’s ‘Relish: My Life in the Kitchen‘ – a graphic novel memoir about a teen who’s parents are a chef and a gourmet.
  • “Creative people change the world.”  No truer words may have been spoken.
  • Each of the Babysitter’s Club adaptations took a year to create.
  • At university Raina studied illustration where many of her main pieces became a series of frames depicting a story.

Tim Sinclair, of the recently released parkour poetry title Run, was next to the stage.


  • Tim spoke about the correlations between concrete poetry and parkour which share an appreciation for strong shapes.
  • To demonstrate this relationship Tim used a series of photographs that showed the beauty of the parkour movements.  He then followed this with strong concrete poems that left an impact (see right – entitled Ampersand).
  • Tim joined parkour classes which resulted in some impressive physio bills.
  • We all learned the difference between free running and parkour – the former is flashy and trick focused with the latter being the most efficient movement over difficult terrain.  Parkour’s the one you would use if you were running for your life….like the protagonist of Run, Dee.


After lunch we broke into groups for some youth services brainstorm groups.  Discussions were had on effective use of authors in library settings, the perfect library space and off the wall workshops for teens.


How could you build on authors being in your library though workshops?

  • magnetic poetry
  • concrete poetry
  • writing on walls, floors and windows
  • poetry dice
  • tagging words with emotions, genres
  • zines – to sustain – low tech
  • ripping up paper and creating new words, sentences
  • 3D concrete poetry – jump over, through it
  • word splat
  • visual imagery using words and pictures (eg Alice in Wonderland wallpaper)
  • overcoming adversity (fear of poetry) – set boundaries – theme – word motif
  • post it notes create images that reflect themes
  • being part of a club
  • poems in the wild (Melbourne)
  • Gamification eg using social media
  • spine out poetry on Tumblr, Instagram etc
  • Blog poetry – Tumblr

Dave Roman (graphic novelist behind Astronaut Academy, Raina’s other half) kindly drew some comics of these perfect library spaces to which each group was then asked to program to that space.

What resulted from a comic that depicted library as a place to smell, touch and break e-books?

  • smelly poetry “smelletry” – poetry written with scented pens and paper
  • black out poetry
  • raised letter poetry
  • recycled poetry
  • shaving cream poetry
  • use of garden spaces – flower beds, sticks and soil, rocks to create garden poetry

…this flowed into the concept of a poetry garden, wordscaping or ‘wordscape’.  A program built around exploring poetry in a tactile sense.  The above ideas could be a series of sessions for all ages.  Work that resulted could be crafted into an installation, a word garden, a word tree, etc.  When the program would end the poems could be given a second life through a bonfire, compost, repurposed poetry, creating new paper to make new poems.

What resulted from a comic that depicted perfect libraries in the sky or underground, where you can wear anything you want or even a virtual library?

A program around teens designing their own perfect library.

  • design workshops
  • focus groups on space
  • author visits
  • community engagement – architect, interior designers, CAD systems designer, graphic artist as well as support from the council.
  • collages of how the space is used
  • draw possibilities into the space whether observations or dreams

It was a day of much discussion about the state of children’s and youth literature as well as the librarians that make the connection between young people and the book that will ignite a love of reading.

Thank you to all the staff at the State Library of Queensland and all the attendees that helped make the panel and the brainstorms such a collaborative experience.


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