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.
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…
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.
“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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of my photographs were placed in the room for a mini exhibition.
As people arrived they were met by the usher who offered them a program.
He did not leave his task until everyone was seated.
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.
The Harpist arrived and began to warm up.
Friends greeted each other.
Soon the hall was filled and it was time for the program to begin.
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.
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.
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.
The highlight of the week was receiving package of books that I had ordered on line, including my favourite poet, Maya Angelou!
I am busy reading them now. The Murphy book, Pearl Verses the World, was just lovely~ so looking forward to meeting Sally on the 26th of August and asking her to sign it.
This week I put a notice up on my social media space, ‘Gone Writing’, and then disappeared to write and edit. It ended up being more editing than new writing, but it was a productive week nevertheless. I also contemplated singing more, and listened to lots of music, from Enya to Adele, whilst writing, .
I had put my novel away for a while and was ready to come back to it fresh, restructure and then move back into the book and finish that all important first draft…
Many a mother in Australia
when the busy day is done
Sends a prayer to the Almighty
for the keeping of her son
Asking that an angel guide him
and bring him safely back
Now we see those prayers are answered
on the Owen Stanley Track
For they haven’t any halos
only holes slashed in their ears
And their faces worked by tattoos
with scratch pins in their hair
Bringing back the badly wounded
just as steady as a horse
Using leaves to keep the rain off
and as gentle as a nurse
Slow and careful in the bad places
on the awful mountain track
The look upon their faces
would make you think Christ was black
Not a move to hurt the wounded
as they treat him like a saint
It’s a picture worth recording
that an artist’s yet to paint
Many a lad will see his mother
and husbands see their wives
Just because the fuzzy wuzzy
carried them to save their lives
From mortar bombs and machine gun fire
or chance surprise attacks
To the safety and the care of doctors
at the bottom of the track
May the mothers of Australia
when they offer up a prayer
Mention those impromptu angels
with their fuzzy wuzzy hair.
Last weekend Jackie French mesmerised and intrigued Booklinks members and the public by speaking about the women history hides to raise money for an upcoming Symposium on literature and writing centres. This is my account of listening to her talk.
It was a shocking morning, hearing all about stabbings in London. I could scarcely keep the tears from rolling down my face. Oh what are we doing – humanity? I wasn’t sure if I could leave the house, and if just a day of meditation and prayers, or a solitary walk in nature, might be the way to go. That’s my sensitive poet’s heart; I am sure a lot of other’s people’s hearts were breaking too.
But I gave myself a stern talking to, Jackie French one of my all time favourite authors was in town, and was going to give a talk. ‘Get on that bus June and go be with your friends who love writing.’
On June 4th, a Sunday afternoon, over 40 people of the book, many of them Book Links/Write Links members, gathered at the Queensland State Library to hear renowned Australian author and patron of Book Links, Jackie speak about the women history hides. The talk, hosted by Book Links, was a fundraiser for the upcoming symposium on literature and writing centers for young people which will be on June 17th. Marking that one in the diary now!
As we entered the room, a suitcase full of Jackie’s books, and a wombat! was there showcasing the travelling suitcase program. This suitcase brings the author (via video interview and their books) to visit schools all throughout Queensland. It is special as the author can’t always make it to all the schools who want to see them, and not all schools can afford to pay them a visiting fee (which is so important to authors.) Luckily for us though, Jackie was right next to her suitcase, and was even signing a few books for people before the talk began. She was excited to see the suitcase too, as she hadn’t seen it in person before.
Jackie began her talk in a most original way. By showing a piece of patchwork quilt and asking the audience what they thought it was. It turned out to be some of Queen Victoria’s underpants which her maid had stitched. She then spoke about the importance of underpants which the Queen wore and popularized. The widespread use of underpants meant women could protect their ‘dignity’ whilst doing active things like dancing and riding horses, things Queen Victoria herself loved to do.
She added another that the invention of the bicycle gave more mobility to more women. (I think also more women could own bicycles than horses!)
She told us the fascinating story of how Queen Victoria’s chief surgeon was a woman, but this was only discovered on the surgeon’s death! This surgeon made such a huge difference to Queen Victoria, curing her of cystitis and ensuring her child-birth experiences were less painful through the use of chloroform. (I am still trying to find a reference for the surgeon and am uncovering a lot of other stories on the way.) Sadly many women in Queen Victoria’s time had to hide that they were female to have access to some professions.
Jackie then took us through many hidden stories of women which we ourselves will find if we go looking for them. She told us the tale of the French Peasant girl, Jeanne Baret, who discovered bougainvillea and was for a time her country’s most decorated scientist but not many knew.
She told us some of the stories of the women who are not in the regimental and official histories of World War One and Two. Many of them ran unofficial hospitals, or were stretcher bearers, ambulance drivers and more. Some women ran refugee camps. Jackie said she just can’t watch the television documentaries of these times very often as she sees so many untold stories missing and they frustrate her no end.
Jackie asked us what we knew of the French resistance, and then told us the story of the Dame Blanche, The White Ladies, of the French resistance movement. The most common spies of this movement were young granddaughters and their grandmothers, because they were the people who would be least suspicious. They seldom even fled the scene of where they undertook sabotage operations because nobody thought them capable of such things. The image of grannies with handbags full of bombs is a much more likely scenario than any other at the time, even though films and stories tend to depict men doing this.
I found it interesting how Jackie punctuated her talk with questions. This seemed to be a way of checking what we knew, and engaging us.
Jackie reminded us that women at various points in history have been told their greatest power is that which they can have through their marriages, or being muses. They even trained to do this and could go to special schools to learn the steps of charming! It has taken some time for women to have their own influence. She then told us about her latest book Miss Lily’s Lovely Ladies.
Miss Lily runs a school for teaching the six steps to influence a man, steps which Jackie jokingly said she would never be able to follow herself. Mostly aristocratic girls would go to this school; it was rumoured that Mrs. Simpson who later married Edward (who abdicated from the throne to marry her) went there, but in her novel she focuses on Sophie Hicks, a daughter of a Corn Beef King, with unusual intelligence, goes to Miss Lily’s, due to her father’s acquired wealth.
Jackie described her book as a mix of Downton Abbey with Espionage thriller, which appealed greatly to the gathered audience. She said even her publishers and editors had not predicted the ending of the novel. There are many more books in this series to come, which just thrilled the audience. Jackie was really happy with her plotting in this novel. She felt it is her best plotted book so far.
At a few points in her talk Jackie spoke about her own experiences like being Australian of the year, and sharing the stage with exceptional women who acted like women not men, but contrasted this with being afraid to say she was married when a teacher, because she had a mortgage, just in case she was then made unemployed if the law was changed back again. She reminded particularly the younger women in the audience, that the time when women could not stay working for the public service when married was not that far past in our history.
Jackie then told us more about some her other books, focusing mostly on her series about Hitler. She spoke specifically about Hitler’s Daughter, and Pennies for Hitler. She told us a fascinating story about Nun’s rescuing children as they were begin marched away to camps, by ducking into the crowd to pray for people, and then rescuing young children under their habits and with the consent of the doomed parents rescuing them.
Due to the terrible events of the day the next few words of Jackie’s were particularly moving to me. She shared with us that the message of Pennies for Hitler is to be ‘wary of anyone who makes us angry, because anger can lead to hate. Anger can be harnessed by others to give them power. ‘ This lesson cannot be forgotten.
Jackie told us how the Polish intellectuals were decimated by the Nazi regime, and in fact over 44 million people were killed by Nazi Germany as many more than the Jews were also killed, including the polish intellectuals, and Catholic nuns.
Jackie then read from the opening and closing of Pennies for Hitler. She reiterated the power of the ‘people of the book,’ those who write, especially those who write for children can create understanding within the world.
I am sure many of us will keep searching for those women that history hides and do our best to draw on the power of love, story and words as we continue our life journeys in a world being challenged to find peace. Maybe we will even write about them too!
June Perkins is a Book Links and Write Links member and has long been a big fan of Jackie French’s books. This month she will be giving workshops on writing and illustrating poetry for children with Helene Magisson, Kenmore Library June 27th and June 28th at Ashgrove Library. These are free to the public but you need to book care of the library.
June is also appearing at Mary Ryan’s, Milton, on the 24th of June to sign copies of Magic Fish Dreaming (and has had Helene pre-sign some books so the books will be signed by both author and illustrator.)