Let’s Go Find the Women History Hides

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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.’

 

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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!)

 

Image courtesy of Kara Mcleod

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.

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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!

Jacqui Halpin local author meeting Jackie French

 

Me with Write Links members and fellow authors Jacqui Halpin and Karen Tyrrell

 

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.)

https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/whats-on/venue/library-events 

 

 

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Epic Journeys and Families Meant to Be

Pearlz Dreaming

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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…

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Highlights 1 – Meeting Well Known Writers

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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…

Time to make a few more dreams reality.

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A Long Way From Misery

An inspiring interview with Jacqui on the recent launch of the memoir she has cowritten with her Dad.

Pearlz Dreaming

Jacqui Halpin, Jack Turner, A Long Way from Misery, Book   Launch-1Jacqui Halpin is an Australian children’s author whose stories have won prizes in writing competitions and been published in anthologies. She attributes her love of storytelling to her father, Jack Turner. ‘Listening to the amazing adventures Dad had growing up stirred my imagination and transported me back to his world,’ Jacqui says. Jacqui has co-written her father’s memoir, A LONG WAY FROM MISERY, which is a rollicking journey through the Australia of yesteryear with a true Aussie larrikin who grew up on a farm called Misery.

 Jacqui is passionate about preserving the social history of Australia for future generations and is currently writing a series of historical junior fiction novels inspired by her father’s adventures growing up.

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June: Can you give us a short synopsis of the book?

Jacqui: A Long Way from Misery takes you on a rollicking journey through the Australia of yesteryear with Jack Turner, the…

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Writing Group – Write Links

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One of the best things about moving to Brisbane has been making new writing buddies in the field of children’s literature.  Some of the great people I have been meeting are Writelinks members.

We meet once a month to do professional development workshops, network and critique each others work.

Recently we celebrated Hans Christian Anderson’s Birthday and celebrated various achievements of the group.  Here are the achievers that were there that day holding their books and certificates.

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This is me with Yvonne Mes, our co-ordinator who does a great job and is backed up by a team. For example Ali organised the birthday celebrations and asked one of the members to make a cake.

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Here are many of the group, although we have heaps of members, many were away this day and some mostly participate in the online group due to not being able to make the meetings.

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Pearlz Dreaming Ten Year Anniversary

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Thankyou so much for following the Follow the Crow Song memoir blog. You obviously love memoir writing.

I find although this blog is small it is a very warm and encouraging environment and those of you who visit make me want to finish my memoir.

Just letting you know it’s coming up to  my home blog, Pearlz Dreaming’s, ten year anniversary!

Can you help me reach 1000 followers?

In other exciting news there are some books coming soon!

Would love it if you and your friends joined the journey.

Follow  Pearlz Dreaming Blog Here.

Beading – Grandmother’s Lessons

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Beads – photographed by June Perkins

I am deepening my memoir through research. One way to do this is through youtube journeys.  To see the videos I am talking about visit my homeblog, Pearlz Dreaming.

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Those of you reading my memoir blog will know this week I am fascinated with beading.

I am doing some research into beading around the world to deepen some of the poems and short stories that I’ve begun.

How I long to travel to meet beaders the world over, but without the finances at least I can visit them on youtube.

These were two of my favourite videos in my online journey today.

I have never been very good at handicraft but immensely respect those that are – my mother is one of them.

Two of the things I am intrigued by at the moment are  techniques and materials.

The beading journey is sure to continue for a while on my blog.

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Reminder Notes and the Beads of Time.

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Sophie’s Beads – These are my friend’s Beads .. they are very precious to her. This image makes me think of her, proud Kalkadoon woman.

Forever making notes; writing down lists of things to do, remembering the phrase ‘the inbox is never empty.’ So much to learn; so much to do; so much to remember. What to do but begin?

Today I think of the first time I did a self portrait. I was in an art studio with my classmates and must have been eight or nine. I stood in front of a mirror with my multicoloured jumper that might have come from my grandmother. She was a grandmother I didn’t know very well.

She was later to surprise me, and she and grandfather, gave me a red typewriter.

The multicolour jumper became my focus. I wasn’t so interested in my face, and my curly hair but I did paint them. I wanted to remember that jumper.

Lately I’ve been studying writing. How to experiment with an idea and achieve something more. My writing exercises tell me to take this memory and work with it.

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She beads her memory.

Faceless girl, guided by her paint brush, avoids the mirror that might make her glimpse into her own eyes,and remember she has no grandmothers to visit as they live in far away lands.

Her paint brush takes her to the rainbow and the luxury of having so many colours at her disposal, and an easel.

The strands of time beckon each bead.

The faceless girl is just one bead on a necklace, the others are her paint brush, and the paints, and the goal of self portrait.

Later she will learn of the yellow facepaint of the mekeo, and see an image of her mother’s village. She will add another bead to the strands of time.

Later she will write letters to the faceless girl and tell her to see more of the nature around her, to remember the wild rivers, and the environmental Priest who runs peace group at college, and the friend with dark curly hair who will drown in the river.

….

I will keep working with this idea. It all began with a discussion with Edith (see previous article on mindfulness in writing), about how she spins stories, and how I thought I would bead them.

I like this idea very much. It will be rolling around in my head all week! …. Now to leave my blog and do some more association exercises – another short story is being born.  I think it’s time to remember all I can about beading, and do some research.

Do you ever find images that hook you into thinking of ways forward with your stories?

(c) June Perkins

Beginnings 1995

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A scrap book page of a project I was a dramaturg on – ‘Beginnings.’ I researched the stories and supported Kaela in the development of the overall structure of the show.

We had two guides – one representing air and one earth. They were the two oldest people attending the youth group.

They split the audience in half and guided them through the park to stop and listen to stories.

Then each drama class had a story that they had found or one they chose from the ones I found that they then dramatised as the audience sat.

Finally it all came together with the the two guides bringing the audience back together, and I think we watched a puppet show at the end.

I did a lot of work with the guides who had to improvise their characters and stay in character whilst leading the audience around.

I wrote a special poem that they said together as well (not in unison, they split the lines up) – its on the front of the programs.

I will look through my files and add any more things I find in relation to this project and many other projects done down the years.

I am now doing a lot of archival research through my own archives and documenting all the projects down the years.

This was a truly special show done by a youth theatre group.

I’ll see if I have journal entries on it anywhere.

I wonder if any of the young actors went in theatre, film or acting. It would be lovely to hear from any of them.

Kaela was from Scotland and went back there to live. I wonder if she did more shows like this.

(c) June Perkins

Scanning Precious Letters

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So I have a massive plan to scan precious family archives. When the cyclone threatened to destroy all it had me thinking about some precious papers.

This one is a letter from poet Roger White, A Canadian Baha’i poet who I wrote to a couple of times. He sent me some feedback on some poems and encouraged me to write a novel.

So many more gems like this, including journals… I almost need to employ a family archivist, if I could afford it. Maybe I can ask my children and pay them some pocket money to help me with this as it’s going to be an ongoing task.

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I have a signed copy of the above book.

I am certainly enjoying reading through these old letters. In the days before blogs I wrote many letters.  I have the replies to those letters and it seems like a fun project to preserve these records for family.

If you have old letters from me, maybe you’d like to scan them and send them to me.

Would be interesting to read some of those words from long ago. Letters have a unique feel to them.

For more on Roger White Visit these links

Obituary

Emergence of a Baha’i consciousness in World Literature – The Poetry of Roger White

Ron White’s Writings on Roger White’s Poetry

One of the Another_Song,_Another_Seasonbooks I had as a teenager

So  precious to have such words written about my own writing too and to have such a gentle but persuasive critique.

(c) June Perkins