A Moree group has received national recognition for the illustrations of their entry into the Write a Book in a Day competition.
The group, 47 plus 3 - consisting of Moree's Jen Adams and husband and wife duo Tim and Lesley Barklay, as well as friends Kate Spring from Coffs Harbour and Mel Pietsch from Canberra - won the national award for the Best Illustrated Book in the 2019 Write a Book in a Day competition.
Lesley said the win was a huge thrill, especially considering they were up against the 1132 teams who competed across all divisions of the national competition.
"We all felt surprised and elated to win," she said.
"Taking out the best illustrated book at the national level was pretty prestigious, as it was the only award that is judged against allthe other entries in the competition."
The annual competition, run by the Kids' Cancer Project, challenges teams of up to 10 to write and illustrate a book in just 12 hours. And, to make it even more fun and challenging, unique parameters must be included in the story.
47 plus 3 entered the open category of the competition with their book, A Song of Freedom, which was written by Lesley, Jen, Kate and Mel and illustrated by Tim, who used watercolour and ink for the illustrations.
"Watercolours and ink were really the perfect medium for this project, because you can achieve a professional look in a short period of time," Lesley said.
"Well, Tim can. I'm not sure I can speak to the quality of watercolours if I were in charge of the paint brush!"
A Song of Freedom tells the story of teenager Ashleigh's struggle between her two dreams. She wants to be a musician and carry on the legacy of her dead mother, but she's also extremely drawn to the adrenaline rush of car racing. Her father, Ken, gave up racing after her mother was tragically killed in a car accident, and he has a lot of fear surrounding that, so he tries to protect her. When she has to make a choice: music or racing, her decision affects her relationship with those closest to her.
Although Tim was "roped into" doing the illustrations for the competition, Lesley said it was his consistent, bright and beautiful images which brought the story to life and obviously captured the judges' imaginations.
"I roped Tim into illustrating this year with the brief: I want at least one drawing per chapter. We'll tell you what to draw, you do it," she said.
"So basically, as we were planning the chapters, we came up with some rough ideas for what we would want, and then he checked in with us whenever he had finished an illustration. The first illustration he came up with was the car race scene, and that's probably my favourite."
It's not the first time the local teacher and artist has dabbled in illustration, having illustrated the cover of Lesley's first novel Remnant, as well as illustrations for children's books Lesley has written for her own children.
However it's the first time he's taken part in the Write a Book in a Day competition, which earned 47 plus 3 a shiny framed certificate and the joy of a job well done.
A Song of Freedom, along with all the other books entered into the competition, including Moree Christian School's entry, will be distributed to paediatric wards in hospitals around Australia, for sick children to read and enjoy.
Funds raised through sponsorship of teams go to The Kids' Cancer Project, an independent national charity with a mission to support scientific research to help children with many different types of cancer.
"I think this is such an amazing project because it encourages teams to think creatively and collaboratively, but also with the goal of raising money for the Kids for Cancer Project," Lesley said.
"The fact that our books are now giving comfort and encouragement to children around Australia is a hugely compelling reason to enter. The prestige of winning isn't bad, either!"
This year more than $475,000 was raised through the generosity of all those who supported participants.
Entries were judged by a prestigious panel including Mick Elliott, a children's television producer, scriptwriter, animator, illustrator and author of The Turners trilogy along with Maddy Proud, author of Grace on the Court and an Australian netball player.
The standard of excellence displayed in this year's competition gave the judging panel the unenviable challenge of whittling the thousands of books created down to only four national winners.