It is interesting to visit an Exhibition with artists. Both Sheridan my daughter, and Sally, who are both artists were such an inspiration to visit the space with.
Sheridan shared about volunteering for the Brisbane Street Art Festival.
I especially loved the images of Indigenous people with a predominance of the colour orange in them.
I always think of Sally and her hideaway studio tucked away near the rainforest, surrounded by creative friends and mentoring young artists and basket makers.
We would sometimes meet for lunch, especially with friends, like Christine, Pam, Kay and Marcia. I sent greetings to them all via Sally.
Some friends you just always have deep conversations with about, the world, time, people, art and more. And Sally is a treasure. She spent the day helping us clean our home when we were about to move from Murray Upper to Brisbane.
Some friends stand the test of time, and we look forward to catching up with Sally in person when we can.
At the end of every 500 words project some of the moderators take the time to reread all of the stories. We look for three or four representative and outstanding stories to feature on the front page at the end of the monthly theme.
So it’s got me thinking what makes a story stand out when we’re going through them again for this purpose, and I thought it might be helpful to share this process with our contributors.
“Lift your face,” his gentle voice instructed. “Smell the wind.”
”Why?” I wailed.
The voice insisted. “It’s all right. Do it.”
My sandals kicked the leaf litter into irritable mounds. We were lost and he wanted me to smell the wind!
The path had petered out and the mallee scrub stood a tangled green-grey barrier.
3- A story with many layers of meaning achieved in the 500 words, but which still does not appear cluttered. Such as Darien MidWinter’s, What’s Got into Youwhich tackles with humour and poignancy a mother being engulfed by alzeimers.
Bit by bit the illness stripped her cognitive capacity; everyday chores became difficult for my once bright mother. Day by day her intellect and skills were eroded but her character and life-long values, remained intact. As the extraneous vanished her essential core became more visible. Her kindness, tolerance and patience shone, softly lit the air.
The muster was in full swing. The mob needed to be brought home to the yards, drafted, branded, weaned, inoculated and returned to the paddock quickly. We trucked the horses out so they would be fresh for work and it was decided that I would bring the truck back to the holding paddock and park it at the dam.
I’m Indian. Some people think it’s interesting to have come from a different country. People in the northern suburbs where I grew up just thought it weird.
6- A brilliant tackling, and even unexpected approach to the theme, as in this piece where the person who has shaped has shaped to the opposite, such as Denis Murphy’s, A Strange Gratitude:
I think he may have been the catalyst to my becoming a teacher and a Principal. It might sound an all too convenient explanation, but it also makes sense. The point is well made that maybe the devil can produce a desirable outcome where a host of angels can do little.
You’ll also notice that all of these stories havegreat or memorable titles.
It is interesting for me being both a contributor and moderator, but my stories are always read by producers before being put up. I was chuffed when this piece was placed on the front page by the producers: She Called Me Paisa:
She was every mother’s nightmare. She wrote to me to let me know she ran away from home, a final letter with no return address. I couldn’t write back. She took a moment to say goodbye and disappeared with her boyfriend over and hills and far away.
She was every writer’s dream – the friend who does everything you know you won’t and inspires you to create characters who don’t care what anyone thinks of them.
Over at my home blog I like to reflect on what makes me read something, and contributors might like to check out this article on developing a Writing Signature of your own.
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.
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.)
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…
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…
Jacqui 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.
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…