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Life Stories

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Pictured with my Mum and Daughter.

Welcome

I am working on a memoir.

I am pleased to say that it is progressing, at last, due to the invaluable feedback from beta readers on the latest draft.

Right now I am writing a detailed outline and selecting poetry to open the chapters.

It is so much fun to gather all the memories together ready to select the ones I think readers will gain or be the most moved by reading.  My goal is to select around 25 scenes from this outline to build the memoir.

Looking at the nearly 7000 word outline I am beginning to realise I might have to write two books or a book and several articles or stories.

Some of the pieces here are first drafts, fragments, memory flashbacks, and meditations.

I use them as a resource for constructing longer pieces that may be included in the memoirs or creative non-fiction articles.  Some of them have been blogged at ABC Open 500 words and other places too.

I ask only that readers respect my copyright and if they feel moved leave genuine and sincere feedback.

June Perkins  24/07/2015

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Launch of At the End of Holyrood Lane

Brisbane Square Library, Sunday 24th September.

It was a very special launch of a delicate book about a difficult subject.

At the End of Holyrood Lane is a book intended to open the conversations about domestic violence and the fear it causes for children and the hope that change can begin when help is sought, written by Dimity Powell and illustrated by Nicky Johnston.

I enjoy conversations with Dimity about what a picture book can potentially do for people of any age.  Dimity is a bubbly and cheerful person, who is able to deal optimistically but also poetically with such a difficult topic.

Dimity Powell’s friends, family and the organisations endorsing the book, the kids lit community and people who already are big fans of her work, as well as people from the wider communi8ty were out in force at this event.  In all the hub bub, she had time to say to me, ‘June I do hope my discussion of cyclones didn’t cause you any difficulties ; Tthat is just the kind of person she is, always putting others before herself.

 

Susanne Gervay, gave an energetic and passionate talk about the first time she met Dimity, her prior projects, many of which are extremely innovate, like interactive stories that you experience through apps on plane trips or when walking around the Gold Coast.

 

Dimity gave some background about the metaphor she had chosen to use in this book.

She had a close friend’s daughter, play the part of Flick, whilst she was reading the story.

 

Her friend Jacqui Halpin, made the most beautiful biscuits.

 

Dimity’s mum made the beautiful unicorn, featured in the story, especially for the launch.

 

Joy Tomlinson, gave a presentation on behalf or Rize Up.   We all bought raffle tickets to assist the work that they do to assist families setting up a new household after leaving a  stormy home situation.

A craft activity to make the ribbon featured in the story was also available.

The warmth and support at this event was beautiful.  If there can be more love like this in the community, perhaps together, we can all render domestic violence as something of the past.

Just a few photographs of kids lit community, to end this post.

There were some fantastic helpers, amongst them Jacqui Halpin, Candice Lemon Scott, and Sheryl Gwyther.  Dimity of course also paid tribute to her wonderful illustrator Nicky Johnston.

 

 

Thank you so much for bringing such a significant book into the world  Dimity Powell. May it help bring an end to the storms. Sensitive handling of fear and the gaining of shelter. Thank you for showing such kindness and care to your community, friends, family and fellow lit community. Very blessed to have met you. My first friend in the kids lit community of Brisbane/Gold Coast/SC.

What the World Needs Now /More Authors like this!

So the absolute highlight of the Brisbane Writers Festival for me was the talk I attended by Trent Dalton.

I saw Trent a few weeks ago on Q and A, on the ABC, as well as Sofie Laguna, and was so impressed by the way they both conducted themselves on the panel I set out to look up their books.

When I heard Trent would be attending and presenting at the Brisbane writer’s festival he went right to the top of my must-attend sessions.

When Trent entered the room there were huge cheers.  He pumped the air with his fist, and yet there was no ego in that fist pump.  It was more like a boxer, who has triumphed over a huge battle in his life, and is now saying thank you to an appreciative crowd.  A Rocky moment, part of a montage.  He thanked us for choosing to attend his talk over the current game that was on at the Stadium.

Matthew Condon, another brilliant Brisbane writer, was interviewing him and it soon emerged that he had known Trent for fourteen years, when Trent began as a reporter, and that Trent saw Matthew as an inspiration for his writing.

Matthew is well known for his non fiction books about crime and corruption in Queensland, and is a brave, principled and ethical man.  It became increasingly apparent just why he was the right person in many ways to be sharing the stage and interviewing Trent.  He knew the stories of some of the criminal figures featured in the book by Trent.  Trent told Matthew he was writing a book, about a ‘young man raised by a gangster,’ and Matthew said, ‘I want to read that book.’

Before attending this talk, to be honest, I did not realise that 50% of the book is based on Trent’s true life experience.  But in his first work of ‘fiction,’ he has found a freedom to extend and develop and share his philosophies about the line between criminal (with a heart of kindness and compassion) versus truly evil.  Matthew joked, that so many authors even in fiction, channel their life without realising it.  Matthew’s mum always says to him no matter what he writes, ‘when are you going to stop writing about your Dad.’

Trent shared that much of the story is based on real life figures, his mother, his three brothers, combined into one character August,  and the gangster who was his babysitter, who through a comment to his mother, ‘saved my mother’s life, when no one else would have anything to do with her.’

As Trent spoke, his great love and admiration for his mother and family was warmly conveyed, but also so were the challenges of his childhood, and how much his main character Eli is based on himself : the audience were often moved to tears.  This was tempered with moments of laughter as he saw the humour in the characters of his life, including his forever rebellious Dad.

Trent felt that his whole writing career in non fiction, pursuing stories about social justice, interviewing those struggling in life,  experiencing domestic violence, and more was in fact a journey  to understand the balance of good and evil in the world and what makes a good person turn bad, or a good person on a destructive path turn to a good one.  He was trying to ‘get the scoop’ on understanding his family through his reportage of families who were going through something similar.

Trent did some creative things like taking us through his life a museum and explaining his motivation for bringing the worlds of Darrah and Brackenridge, Brisbane into fiction.  He pointed out some of the heroes of those areas, and some of them were in the audience, and are still out in those areas, helping out young people who have terrible situations at home.  He passionately spoke of how he wanted to emulate Charles Dickens, and what he did for the children of London, in doing the same for the young people of Darra and Brackenridge.  But just like that fist pumping, there was absolute sincerity in what Trent was saying to us all.

Trent is a true believer in the power of story, to empower and transform.  He felt vulnerable, and some weakness in sharing his story with us all.  But at the same time felt an obligation to share deeply as many of his interviewees have done over the years.  The reason for his feeling of weakness was that in some ways he drew strength in keeping the secrets of his life like a genie in a bottle, something gold, which has made him who is but which has more power in being secret.

But that feeling has been counteracted by his feeling for the ‘theatre of Brackenridge,’ and his concern for people born into communities like that who are in households, were there is lots of love, but also lots of dysfunction, and a feeling of hopelessness can creep in.

Looking back, Trent sees the hardships of his life as the ‘gold’ and admires his mother and brothers for who they were, are and have become.  He spoke passionately about how children need to have that relationship with their mothers, even in families where there is dyfunction, don’t disconnect them if you can, but let them heal, flood them with love.

Matthew Condon’s interviewing of Trent was masterful.  Trent’s admiration and respect for Matthew was lovely to witness, and both clearly have a passion for Queensland, and specifically Brisbane stories.  Matthew has called Trent the new Tim Winton,  who has written something equal to Cloud Street.  Now that is brilliant praise.

There were many more stories in Trent’s wonderful and generous sharing with the audience, but I think it best if you go to hear him speak if you ever can, as I can’t really completely capture the humility, humour, warmth, and generosity of his words, and the way in which he emanated love for the audience.  And you know what the audience gave him back that love. ‘Don’t feel weakened by sharing so much, we appreciate it.’ said one person.

A huge queue lined up to have him sign books. Was it 200 people, or more I can’t be sure.  The line snaked around so people needing to travel elsewhere could pass through.  I was right at the back of that queue with a photographer from Toowoomba, and a once journalist, author, now working for university Queensland lady.   We chatted as we waited, and Dave, the photographer of Toowoomba took pictures of me with Trent, getting my book signed for me.

Trent thanked all of the people who lined up to have their books signed, and was warm, kind and apologetic we had to wait so long.

I told him I had someone I was going to have borrow the book from me, that would really benefit from it.

When thinking about why this talk affected me so much, I thought back to my time raised in housing commission areas in Tasmania, my brother who died at thirty after going off the rails, and my whole life journey.  I thought about Trent and I could see a place for my own writing in the Australian landscape of fiction. My dream to be an Australian Maya Angelou is not beyond reach; it is a matter of digging deep, and continuing to work on the craft.

It is about being passionate about social justice and what you want to say.

The next morning I went to my inbox on email, and found out that I am a finalist in a short story competition, and inspired by Trent, who said he wrote from 8-10 pm every night to finish his book, I have decided to devote three hours daily to writing, free from all the other things in life.

Maybe, just maybe I can be like a Trent Dalton, writing the theatre of East Devonport, and Rocherlea, and of the racism that migrants in this country encountered in the early post white Australia policies.  And maybe, just maybe I can capture that astounding love of my parents, that gave me strength to get a university education and build a family that is a fortress of well being.

Thanks Trent, the world needs more writers like  you.

(Thanks Dave from Toowoomba, for the pictures of me getting my book signed!)

Henna for Well Being

Pearlz Dreaming

I have noticed Henna  (also known as mehndi) a reddish brown dye made from leaves and used to colour the hair and decorate the body, on the hands of women in art depicting Hinduism and on women from India and always wondered how it was done.

Henna is traditionally used for special occasions like weddings and birthdays in India, the Middle East, Pakistan and Africa but also research says it was something that poor people loved to do as they didn’t own jewellery. and could use it to adorn their bodies.

Our special occasion was just celebrating friendship and having a relaxing morning.

A well traveled friend of the family who has been doing henna since she was eleven years old offered to teach me and some friends how to do it.

For some reason some of my friends thought they would have henna done for them, but were…

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From the Vaults 1 Interviews

Pearlz Dreaming

Blogs become treasure troves of memory.  Just sharing extracts from some of the interviews I have done from the last few years.  You are most welcome to go visit the whole interview.  You can find my folio of interesting blogs at Creative Souls Converse.

Interview with Shane Howard

Singing for a New Dreaming

“Part of creating a ‘new dreaming’ is the process of uncovering the truth about Australian history, and for Howard his finding of truth has been made possible through Irish Australian parents who were “very open minded, good and just” and instilled in him a love of music and song (from Irish Parlour songs to Bob Dylan, Peter Seeger, Woody Guthrie) and an openness to Aboriginal Australians who he credits with educating him with the truth.

Howard vividly remembers ‘serious questions’ gradually being raised in his mind from meeting with Aboriginal people – from Robert a friend…

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Beyond Prejudice

Ripple Poetry

 

Image: Shirren Lim, Flickr

I refuse to see myself
through your eyes
to let your lens
become my disguise.
I won’t give in
to its stereotype.
I won’t become your lie.
My wish for freedom
will not die.

You strip me back
to my bones
classify me
by skin tones.
I am more than my skin;
If you look deeper
you could be kin.
I cut you adrift
deflect the hurt
you sought to give
so I can simply live.

After I have healed
from your slight
I send out a light
to shade us both.

I won’t become your lie.
My wish for freedom
will not die.

(c) June Perkins

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My Story Begins

I was trawling back through early versions of my memoir the last two days and reoorganising it. It could be written sometime soon and it feels good to begin to see its structure as well, but back to the other novel and the memoir can sit and stew, although I am making notes of memories I’d like to add to it when I feel I can’t work on the novel. It could be three books, or one book with three to four sections.

“My story begins with the love story of my parents to be, in Papua New Guinea in the late 1960s. Dad when he reads my first telling of their story in a short piece called ‘Lost in the Bush’ says, ‘You make it sound so much like a movie.’ And it’s true: it has that feeling about it, because it’s an epic story about the coming together of two rebellious and open minded young people from different cultures.

My parents met when they were young. She was eighteen and training to be a nurse, while he was a patrol officer in his early twenties, and part of the colonial administration of Papua New Guinea by Australia.

My mother, Anna Elizabeth Ako, began her life living in Maipa Village Papua New Guinea, tending to the pigs, which were destined to be killed for feasts. She had a younger brother and sisters and older brother and sister, and another two sisters who died before she was born. Later she went away to a mission boarding school and was educated by Catholic nuns with the occasional visit from Priests.

In her teens she would examine many churches to see whether Catholicism truly was the one for her and even later she would look at world religions. Her father Malolo was the local sorcerer, who gave love spells, herbal remedies, and sometimes curses. He didn’t think much of churches, as they looked down on his carving, and living a traditional life. Yet, still this traditional man didn’t object to his daughter being trained as a nurse, as long as she still learnt traditional dances and understood her role as a woman to care for her family and extended family. Her mother was Paisa, destined to be the semi exiled second wife of the sorcerer.

Paisa would later ask her daughter to please bring her to Australia to live. I was told I would be sharing a room with her. My mother planned this for years but sadly it never happened.”

(c) June Perkins, Extract from Memoir in Progress.

Reaching the Mountain of the First Draft

I am looking down the pathway of writing my way to the mountain of my completed first draft.

Using my plan and outline as a map and continuing to read books that inspire me when I become stuck, I have reached my fourth chapter.

I am following the plan, but letting the characters help me construct them as I write them.  I look forward to seeing you at the other end of the first draft.

I was delighted to write two and a half chapters today.

At this point I am trying not to censor each sentence and perfect it but rather get the character and my  plot and scenes down cleanly and then I will work on other aspects in my second draft.

With this draft I am determined to get my structural plot, pacing and introduction of characters very clear.

I have started reading  Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars.  (2016) It’s so beautifully written and  delightful, you just want to read it from the first paragraph.  This will be the task of my second draft.

All the very best,

June

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Bicentenary Event – University of Queensland

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Saturday 21st of October

We arrived earlier in the day to set up.   Nine pointed stars, royal blue and gold, found their way around the room.

Tables were covered with cloth.

Food platters  semi prepared.

Flowers were laid out.

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It was raining.  The Jacaranda’s shed their purple flowers  and birds sang in trees.

Everyone worked together in unity to have everything ready for when the guests arrived.

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Some of my photographs were placed in the room for a mini exhibition.

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As people arrived they were met by the usher who offered them a program.

He did not leave his task until everyone was seated.

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A table of information for the event was available. The Youth had helped package the Hidden Words, as well as make the nine pointed stars for the event.

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The Harpist arrived and began to warm up.

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Friends greeted each other.

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Soon the hall was filled and it was time for the program to begin.

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There was a welcome followed, by beautiful readings and an inspiring speech by Dr Janet Khan.

I was one of the readers, as were a few of the youth.   The harpist accompanied us in the background.  Some of the Light of the World Video was screened.

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Then everyone was invited to a beautiful supper and could view the mini art exhibition. I was so happy to share some of my photographs and poetry as part of this event.  Many people asked me about them.

There were so many people that made this event special.

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And it was wonderful to have many friends join us for the event.

If you were at this event please feel free to add your comments.  I will share a few more photographs on future blogs from other events in the lead up.