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.)
So this has been a week of longing to creatively write and being busy with so many other tasks.
I have the longing of this girl staring into the banana field. My finished novel and books are somewhere in the distance. But now I need to use that longing to walk into that path and continue, and to keep searching for pockets of time to write.
I managed to figure out a new approach to a tricky picture book idea and write half of it down. Then another task demanded I do it.
I gave myself one session on my novel, but longed for more. But Sunday is looking good to continue on this. The novel is ticking away in my head even though I am not writing it.
I kept editing a piece written for my brother’s memory. A writer generously gave me the tools to find the most…
Saturday 29th April 2017, was a day to be inspired as authors shared their writing journeys and ideas on the power of words with writers and readers gathered at Bracken Ridge Library. Both sessions were chaired by Sheryl Gwyther (introduced by Adele Moy), an Australian children’s author. She writes novels, chapter books, short stories and school plays for children and short stories for adults. She is the recipient of two Australian Society of Authors’ Mentorships, and two May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellowships as well as a SCBWI International Work-of-Outstanding-Promise award.
Sheryl Gwyther, Duncan Richardson, Michael Aird, June Perkins
Michael Aird, Keeaira Press, began by explaining how he went from working in a factory with a low level of literacy and working out the spelling of words for the lunch order with co-workers to a dawning realisation that his older co-workers were unhappy…
My friend Mel is on an epic journey to become a full time mum who is able to live in the country she chooses with her currently, foster, but hopefully to one day be adopted son.
This journey actually began as a reaching out to voluntarily help people in the Philippines after a typhoon, this was motivated by the experience she had of Cyclone Yasi, something we share. Mel and I met at a song writing workshop provided to help locals process their cyclone experiences and find healing through music. Mel went to the Philippines to use her skills in music, and business to support the rebuilding after the typhoon.
Mel has shared the journey of meeting Jerry and his personal story on her website. From their first meeting, where she didn’t know anything about him except that, “He had cut, bleeding feet and no…
We will have some Magic Fish Dreaming books before Christmas to send out to all you wonderful kickstarter supporters! Will let you know the day we start posting them out and they may arrive Christmas or early new year. Hooray! Our apologies for the delays beyond our control.
The sky on the 4th of December after Storms.
The Perkins trio for want of a better name are organizing their music performance repertoire.
Just wrote the prologue to my novel — now for a writing stint on the rest, I am truly ready to write it now !
What a year it was visiting: Melbourne (family and friends), Writing Group, Visits from Friends, Meeting Writers, and time with Ruha, Temily, Marika, Shirin, Nancy, Katrin, others, writing mentor, meeting lovely writers, sharing poems, youth group
Thinking of dear David and the KG lego robotics team competing at the nationals today. They have worked so hard, and may they have the most brilliant time whatever the final result.
Teachers may preview Hadron Collider: Step inside the World’s Greatest Experiment free of charge from 9 – 24 December 2016.
Just back from watching Arrival. Such an intriguing story. Loved it.
Finally starting to pack the Magic Fish Dreaming kickstarter packages for mailing out. Helene and I are signing the books today.
Best feeling in the world sending parcels of Magic Fish Dreaming out into the world.. Today it heads to New Zealand and France!
(Our friend Bashir pictured here with David, who we haven’t seen for a few years. )
Had a wonderful chat and visit on a home delivery of Magic Fish Dreaming to a friend (Persian background and her husband is Ugandan raised in Geneva) and her family, about life, the universe, diversity and so on. So happy she was then going to read a poem for bedtime to her children and keep working on her own poetry! Also saw an old friend not seen for years and he is going to take a book to deliver to other mutual family friends who supported the kickstarter! (love saving a bit here and there on postage when I can).
Milestone, reached the half way point with the kickstarter packages for Magic Fish Dreaming being posted out. Dropped book off for consideration for sales to second book store in Brisbane. Used up all the tracking stickers at Milton post office (sorry everyone!)
84 rewards now sent, with the book heading to Philippines c/- of the wonderful Mel Irvine in January. Magic Fish Dreaming reaching out to more places but where to next? I think tomorrow we will do Canada and the United States now I have all my customs forms and have almost finished packing them!
100 Rewards now sent, and Magic Fish Dreaming now heading to the United States and Canada! If only Dragons were real and did home deliveries. . .
Magic Fish Dreaming is up on the shelves at Riverbend Books. If you are over there take a picture for us! And if you don’t have a copy yet that’s the way to purchase one now in Brisbane! The book will be up on the website in a couple of days! Yay so happy our book is now at this beautiful bookshop.
Wow, all our teenagers are off with friends and our Eldest participating in a wonderful service project over the university break, empowering youth in country areas, so proud of him.
(Visited the Hadron Collider Experiment Exhibition in the morning.)
Today we went op shopping, and came home with a brilliant pair of binoculars, a pair of sneakers for David, a dress my daughter likes (she normally hates dresses), two saucepans, and a lovely milk jug, a small nice looking formally bed side table which we will re-purpose to solve the lack of a cupboard in the bathroom, two pretty white wicker baskets, a set of small breakfast ceramic plates all in matching white (50c each!), a comfy ottoman (with storage and so comfy to sit on) (matches everything in our house), and were able to replace three or was it four David Eddings books from a series some members of the family are rereading which were destroyed in cyclone yasi. A fun day topped off with delicious lunch time kebabs and thanking my mum years ago for creating a love for bargains!
Handy tip if you want to find a cheap wedding dress or re-purpose an ivory (as many are more ivory and cream than white) wedding dress as a formal gown, check out Milton St Vincent’s. It has several of them for between $30 to $100 and they are just gorgeous!
Look what just arrived! Magic Fish Dreaming the wonderful book written by my dear friend June Perkins. June’s kickstarter campaign earlier in the year made this wonderful book possible and my order just arrived. Lovely June packed it with goodies and little extras for Jerry and the kids of Botongon. Can’t wait to take it to the Philippines and include it in Jerry’s bedtime reading. He will be so thrilled when he sees it.
Thank you, thank you June.
If you are looking for a quality book of children’s poetry filled with the Australian landscape, that speaks to community, honours indigenous ancestry and cultural diversity; then please consider this wonderful book Magic Fish Dreaming. 5 stars from Mel xx
It is just lovely hearing from people as their books arrive! If your book has arrived like this post, and if you like add a picture here or in our Magic Fish Dreaming space.
Look what arrived for me at the post office today June Perkins, congratulations on the book, it is divine.
Lovely day visiting friends. Visited three families who are friends today.
(We went to visit many of the families of the youth group that we facilitate – including for dinner and played a crazy but fun game of dictionary/Balderdash)
Spent time with the Lorenz family at the Gold Coast; they were visiting from Victoria.
Great time swimming in the ocean with my daughter yesterday. Loving these crazy reflective sunglasses too.
December poem – A Riddle
I love the moonlight
and fade by the dawn.
I peek out from beside volcanic rocks
with my beauty.
It has been a wonderful year for meeting some very talented and successful writers, among them Katherine Battersby, Troy Cassar Daley (song writer – with a memoir), Sarah Holland Batt, and Tim Winton as well as reconnecting with Alesa Lajana. I have enjoyed reading their books or listening to their songs and stories, and learning from the way they approach things. Little Wing, I read and then sent to my niece for her daughter’s first birthday.
I still have to write up the talk by Tim Winton, and will do that hopefully over the holidays. All my energies are going into creative writing at the moment so sharing photo highlights for now.
What can I say but attending these launches, concerts, talks or master classes has inspired me to put my best efforts in with my craft. I can’t wait to see who I might meet next year, and what adventures might be around the corner. It would be so lovely to visit Katherine in Canada. I have a severe case of itchy feet, and have decided to save for overseas trips! Just have to find a way to make these trips. Perhaps just thinking they might be possible, will make me take the steps to take more journeys beyond the shores of where I now live…
A hand crafted wedding,
where the family and friends all help
where there are no veils
where there is a top hat
where there are bush flowers
where there is a cake made by the groom, decorated by the bride
where hospitality and love are wrapped
around every guest gathered in this forest.
A hand crafted wedding
with a chalked up flourished welcome sign
with hundreds of paper cranes like rainbow bird stars
with a piano outside on the veranda
with home made bunting
with people bringing pots of rice and other foods
with tiny bubble blowers that
send circular rainbows
into the air
Serenades for the couple
from the piano
from the violin
from the guitar
from the voices raised in song and prayer
from family and friends
under the cranes that become
like rainbow bird stars
for a marriage where
there are no veils
this is the way this marriage begins.