Books among the gum trees

Jackie French, at left, while in Jindabyne for the Snowy Mountains Readers Writers Children's Festival.

Jackie French, at left, while in Jindabyne for the Snowy Mountains Readers Writers Children's Festival.

AUTHOR Jackie French was a special guest at last month's Snowy Mountains Readers Writers Children's Festival. This is a piece she wrote of her experience.

"The snow gums have donned their winter bark, splashes of deep orange and vivid green, silvery-cream and yellow-white, crouched upon the mountains, ready for the snow. Above them the snow clouds hang, grey and heavy.

But it doesn't snow on Friday, though the wind as we writers head out to dinner with the Snowy Mountains Readers and Writers Festival Committee tastes of chilled tin. And on Saturday the clouds are gone.

Lake Jindabyne reflects blue sky. A tent has emerged during the dawn hours. Sculpture lines the lake shore. Indoors by the fire, Mark Carthew talks about his glorious book, The Moose is Loose!, with music, as he's brought his guitar. Tonya Alexandra explores romance friendship and other-worldy adventure in the first book of her trilogy, The Love Oracles - Book 1, Nymph. Sulari Gentill talks about her fantasy adventure hero trilogy. And I can't get to any of them. As with most festivals, the sessions you long to see are on at the same time as your own.

Down here by the lake, the marquee is full of families, babies, toddlers, teenagers, as we read Diary of a Wombat and sing Dinosaurs Love Cheese together. Then it's the secrets behind The Girl from Snowy River and The Road to Gundagai and Ten Reasons not to Eat a Book. In between is the Festival launch.

Once again I am moved almost beyond words by how much work and dedication is given so freely and with so much love to create these events. True riches come from social capital. When times are bad - bushfires, tsunamis, epidemics - you survive best with a strong community around you, one that knows each other and has experience of working together.

Social capital is built up in the good times and is there when needed in the bad. And events like the Snowy Mountains Readers and Writers Children's Festival are among the very best, bringing an astounding diversity of people together for a common cause: to give young people a day sharing the joy and power of books.

It's a happy day. I don't think I see anyone not smiling. It's a rich day, in ideas and shared questions. But most of all, it's an inspiring day, seeing what a committee can achieve, giving so much: creating bonds that will last for lifetimes."

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