Our Minds are Ignited!
As part of the Burdekin Readers’ and Writers’ Ignite Your Mind Festival East Ayr State School was proud to offer students a chance to engage with two successful published speakers and writers, Michael Gerard Bauer and Jacqueline Harvey. The sessions were organised to entertain, stimulate and inspire a love of reading and writing in our students.
This was Michael Gerard Bauer’s second trip to East Ayr to share anecdotes about the writing of several of his bestsellers including Just a Dog and his ‘laugh out loud’ comedy Don’t Call me Ishmael. Mr Bauer gave students an insight into his childhood and quest to become an author. His presentation shared details of his inspiration for content and how his stories and characters are shaped by his memories. Michael finished his presentation by opening up to questions from our students who wanted guidance so they can be successful on their current written assessment.
After this session Jacqueline Harvey, writer of the bestselling Alice-Miranda and Clementine Rose series, worked with students to polish their creative writing skills through a writer’s workshop. Students were able to work on their writing using valuable feedback to develop their skills as authors. The room was humming with excited and motivated writers as they crafted their own pieces of writing with the advice of Ms Harvey.
Here’s what some of our enthusiastic writers had to say about Jacqueline Harvey’s workshop:

Ashlee: I like listening to how Jacqueline Harvey plans her writing.

Tiana: The workshop was amazing. We learnt so much about using real life to tell stories.

Aria: It was humorous. She talked about underwear!

Sally: Very very good.

Charlie: Brilliant! Magnificent!

Shae & Zennah: I learnt that I could write about my life. We got information about how to be a better writer.

Hunter: If I don’t become a dentist I’d like to become an author. Or write in my spare time. I was impressed by Jacqueline Harvey stories and about how authors can make stories from everyday things and just changing it up to make it more interesting.

Sophia & Kelsey: I liked how Jacqueline Harvey made us want to explain and describe one picture. From one picture I could write a whole paragraph. I love that.

We look forward to seeing what our young authors can produce in the future.

East Ayr State School – 2018

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I can tick off another region on my Australia map, thanks to the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival. I caught a plane with Warren Mundine from Sydney, where it was 14 degrees and flew up to Townsville where it was more than double the temperature haha. Oh, the humidity!
Then we got picked up in a car and headed down the highway for an hour to Ayr, a small regional town that is punching above its weight when it comes to having things. I’m not talking about the fact that they have a McDonalds, KFC, Red Rooster and Dominos Pizza in town (though I won’t lie, that is important to me haha). They also have a cinema, one performance space (where they were performing Dreamworks’ Madagascar) and a proper theatre too.
The Burkedin Theatre was the hub for the adults’ program held on the weekend, which I didn’t attend, which is a tiny shame because they had an awesome lineup. Michael Robotham, Fiona McCallum, and Matthew Condon, just to name a few. I was only there for the schools day on Friday, where I did three sessions in different schools around the area, Home Hill, St Francis, and Ayr State School. I love visiting regional areas as you hard-core cHEwY gum gums may know, so this was a breeze (not literally because it was still stinking hot haha). Though we did get snow. Kind of. Burdekin snow, the ash that falls when there’s a massive sugar cane burning off in the distance.
What I love about these regional festivals are the locals who will drive you, greet you, or just strike up a random conversation with you. A few used to be teachers themselves, and they had some stories to tell. Some of them even wanted to touch my hair (they’re not the first haha). They treat you like you’re one of the extended family. Some guests had an actual connection with Ayr though. Both Melina Marchetta and Allison Tait had family up here, so they treated it as a mini-reunion too.
It was also nice to catch up with Melina, Allison, Jacqueline Harvey, and Michael Gerard Bauer. Over lunch and dinner, we gave each other updates on what we’re doing, as well as some industry goss haha. Unlike other small towns I’ve been to, I wasn’t just confined to my motel room this time around, there were events and meals with fine company.
Now usually the kids’ program and adults section never mix, but a few of us managed to stick around on Friday night, for the opening party. A blessing in disguise because it gave me a chance to see a few of the adult authors. Funny historian, David Hunt said he liked my work, now that was a blushing moment haha. This opening party was held outside the theatre, under the stars…I mean ominous storm clouds. Yes, this region is in drought, but funnily enough, God provided quite a light show, with lightning in the background as Jay Laga’aia entertained us with a few songs. We all became weather forecasters, making bets on when the storm would hit, counting the seconds between lightning and thunder, or whether the birds were making any noise or not. But before the clouds gave way, we were treated to a Spanish dance group, as well as some nice quick talks from David and Caroline Overtington who admitted something so random that I feel it’s best to say you HAD to be there haha.

Then one of the founding committee members gave us a history of how this festival came about. She told us about how a bunch of keen readers thought they should have a crack at organising a writers festival. I wonder if this how many of the regional festivals started? Then the writers’ brain inside me clicked as my ‘country kid in a small town’ creation, What About Thao came to the forefront. What if…mmmm. I jotted some mental notes and filed it away. All of these observations will come in handy

So I got a tiny taster of the adult program, mingling with these other authors and also hearing some of them speak. Dare I say, I even danced with them on stage haha. But I have to give the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival props for acknowledging us on the opening night. Not only we were given an introduction and spiel, but there was also a video filmed by some high school students, of us doing our stuff at the various schools. I reckon for some of the audience there, it was probably the first time they saw authors in action at schools. They probably thought…wow, they do have a large captive audience, and oh why does that spiky hair guy have so many toys on stage haha.
This blurring of the kids and adults program was cool, even if it was unofficial, but we were being recognised and that was more than what other festivals would have done. As Michael Robotham said to me, children authors like me were creating their future readers. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Oliver Phommanvanh – Contributing Author 2018

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“My experience of the Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival was a moving one.
People at panels were open and intimately involved with the ideas behind books, with the writers who wrote them. Remote or rural Australians often miss out on experiences common to city dwellers, and everyone who attended the festival who I personally spoke to enjoyed the festival, and felt inspired or moved by it in some way. Fran Whiting in particular was clearly loved by her audience- it was very moving to see.”
Susan Johnson – Contributing Author 2016

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In 2016 I was a guest of the Ignite Your Mind Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival. In a few days I met a broad cross-section of local residents and several hundred local school students. These readers, young and old, embraced everything I offered them to enrich their reading and writing. In return they gave me numerous insights into many aspects of life in the Burdekin region, insights which have already found their way into my latest books, and which will continue to do so in the future.

The Ignite Your Mind Burdekin Readers and Writers Festival was one of the friendliest, best-organised and most mutually-beneficial literary festivals I’ve ever been a part of.

Morris Gleitzman – Contributing Author

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Having been a visiting writer at the Ignite Your Mind Festival, I have to say I was quite astonished by the fervour of the audiences to which I spoke.

The audiences ranged from primary school children through secondary school students to adults, and represented remarkably diverse backgrounds. In particular I was struck by the number of farmers who came to sessions, along with unemployed people, a couple of doctors, housewives, shop assistants and so on. Not surprisingly, a number of teachers attended, and they stood out as particularly eager to learn about new approaches to literature, writing, reading and literacy, and the new understandings they were able to gain from my distinguished colleagues, including in-demand authors like Morris Gleitzman and Nick Earls.

I’ve been to many writers festivals around Australia and overseas, but I haven’t often witnessed the desire for this kind of cultural experience that I experienced during my time in the Burdekin region. The festival was extremely well-run and organised, which no doubt contributed significantly to its success. I think we authors all felt exhausted by the time we headed back to the airport, but we also felt a sense that we had made a really worthwhile impact.


John Marsden – Contributing Author

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