One Minute’s Silence

David Metzenthen admits that his latest picture book came out of a series of failed manuscripts.

David and me at the launch

David and me at the launch (thanks to Pip for the pic)

One – unpromisingly about a raindrop – made it to the discussion table at Allen & Unwin.

He had a meeting with the editors where the concept of time came up – he was keen to write about the lost hour in daylight savings. And then one of the editors said ‘What about the One Minute’s Silence?’OMS

Hearing this ‘was like being punched in the face’ – a moment of inspiration that sent David’s brain whirring. Later, walking the dog, he thought about the Gallipoli campaign and the significance of it – ‘because we got on with the Turks, even when we were killing them’.

‘I wanted to look at the Turks because this is the only war we’ve been in that brought two countries closer together,’ he said.

David and his illustrator Michael Camilleri gave a ‘behind-the-scenes’ peek into the making of One Minute’s Silence at Deakin University library in Geelong last night.

Michael said he became obsessed, drawing hundreds of illustrations in a bid to find the best way to tell the story.

Illustrator Michael Camilleri

Illustrator Michael Camilleri

He researched by reading other books about Gallipoli and looking at archival photos.

‘No one wants a picture book full of blood and guts but at the same time there was a responsibility to talk about killing and death and murder if we were going to do it justice,’ he said.

He worked with the theme of time – clocks and cogs feature in the illustrations – and thought about the 100 year anniversary and this idea that ‘there but for the Grace of God…’

And then he had the idea of using modern teenagers as a basis for peopling the book. He photographed students in his partner’s Year 12 English class and used their faces to represent the horror of the 1915 campaign.

‘The point of the book is to grab something out of that dusty past and bring it into the present,’ he said.

Michael showed us a photo of his work station, with pictures stuck up all over the walls. He likes to show this photo to school groups as proof that ‘you can be messy and still make something’.

I want that on a bumper sticker!


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