Moving to Southbank Towers, an apartment building close to the heart of Melbourne, brought many new views. But the one that interested and inspired me the most was the one out of my bedroom window.
In the summer of 2012, the Prima Pearl was being constructed across the street. I joked with friends that I had come from 16 acres to the 16th floor. Like most jokes, this glossed over the truth, but my transition from rural to urban dweller seemed extreme enough at times.
At this time I also became a fulltime Professional Writing and Editing student at RMIT with an ambition to test myself as a writer : after many years as a reader and critic of children’s books by other people. To this end, I enrolled in the Writing for Children elective offered by PWE – the Picture Book component of this subject was taught by Sue de Gennaro.
Walking and tramming to the Carlton campus, I began to notice other cranes at work.
Thanks to RMIT’s technical library – it started its life in the nineteenth century as the Working Men’s College – I browsed excellent textbooks about the engineering of cranes. Most of these, like my neighbour, went right over my head but one had an excellent phrase that stayed with me:
The load lead line goes over the sheave
And then runs under the boom.
This convinced me that there was poetry, and a picture book, in my fascination.
Sue challenged all of her students to think about and present a picture book text visually, as well as in manuscript form. Thank goodness I had an artist resident with me at the time to help me with this assemblage.
My first draft of A Construction of Cranes stripped the action back to basics and that led to a long lovely procrastinating time wondering how to represent the more technical aspects in a form friendly to the preschool audience who, like me, looked upwards whenever a load was in flight.
The manuscript developed with the help of many people. I’d like to particularly thank an early reader who asked, Where’s the heart? and my fellow student, writer and book designer par excellence Caitlin Ziegler.
I hope that the finished picture book will be as multi-faceted and magnificent as the Pearl that beams into my windows today.