We held the virtual launch of A House of Mud yesterday, and it was fabulous! The launch consisted of a live Q and A Zoom event (not recorded) plus a series of pre-recorded videos which you can view at any time. The videos feature Peter Creamer of publisher Little Pink Dog Books, myself, and illustrator Katrina Fisher, and also includes a reading by me, and a book trailer. You can view it all here: hope you enjoy!
It’s launch time for The Snowman’s Wish! And I’m very happy to be hosting the virtual launch on this blog, in collaboration with my publisher, Dirt Lane Press. The virtual launch consists of three videos released at 10 am today, but which you can view at your leisure any time today–and well beyond!
The book is being launched by Australian Children’s Laureate, multi-award winning author Ursula Dubosarsky, and you’ll hear from her in the first video, then from me, in the second, as the author, taking you through the book’s creative and production process, and highlighting my co-creator Ronak Taher’s superb illustrations. The final video is a reading I did of the book. So–welcome, thank you for joining our celebrations–and we hope you enjoy!
The book is now available in all good bookshops and library suppliers across Australia. You can read a review of it here.
Today, I’m delighted to welcome June Perkins to my blog. June’s new book, Illuminations, which is a collaboration between her as a writer and illustrators Ruha and Minaira Fifita, comes out early next month, and in this guest post, June writes about the process of creating Hope, one of the poems from the collection, which is reproduced below.
Writing ‘Hope’ for Illuminations – June Perkins
My poem ‘Hope’ is a speculative imagining of how Emily Dickinson would respond to Cyclone Yasi if she had been a poet based in Far North Queensland and draws particular inspiration from her work 314, often titled ‘Hope’ although she didn’t give it a title.
I first heard of Dickinson from a vinyl record, Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel, the song was’ The Dangling Conversation’ And yet it was years before I took the time to learn more about her poetry and life.
After Cyclone Yasi in 2011, I began to compose poetry in response to both its damage, and the way people and nature fared in its aftermath. Living in Far North Queensland in a rural community, I became acutely aware of birds – king fishers, cassowaries, curlews and more. We had a pet bird, Peep, who amused us and helped us keep calm during the cyclone. He disappeared briefly to spend time with other birds before returning with all of them in tow as if we could put them all up in the house. He died a few days after of shock. I took solace in Dickinson’s poems. I was particularly drawn to 314 because it speaks of hope as if it has feathers like a bird.
The poem used to live on my blog, but in recent times, joined part of the working collection for Illuminations and it made the final cut for the book. The poem fits well with the overall themes of the collection and picks up on the symbolism of birds. Over the last few years, since our move to Brisbane, the poem has come to mean much more to me than a response to a cyclone’s aftermath, and an expression of respect to Emily Dickinson; it represents that wider theme of how poets can through their creativity bring hope to any situation including a pandemic.
Author: June Perkins
Illustrators: Ruha and Minaira Fifita
ISBN: 9780980731194 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780648720508 (hard cover, dustcover)
Publication Date: 20/6/2020
This collection captures the wonder of the act of creation, the burst of excitement associated with the birth of the new, and the challenges and sacrifice involved in bringing inspiration to fruition. Reflecting on the impact of the challenge of the new, in both the material and spiritual worlds, several of the poems refer to the advent of the Báb, the 19th century Prophetic figure, whose contemporary message inspired and challenged a sacrificial response on the part of those who embraced His Cause.
You can pre-order Illuminations here. The book is available for pre-order in Australia, New Zealand, the US, UK and Canada.
About the author:
Dr June Perkins is a multi-arts creative born to a Papua New Guinean Indigenous mother and Australian father. She was raised in Tasmania as a Bahá’i and combines poetry, blogging, photography, story and more to explore themes interesting her – peace, ecology, spirituality, cultural diversity, resilience and empowerment. Earlier poetry book is, Magic Fish Dreaming (2016). June has had poems published in Nineteen Months, Tokens, Voices in the North, Under One Sky, Etchings, Cracks in the Canopy, World Order, Spooktacular Stories, Creative Kids Tales, Story Collection 2, Writing the Pacific, ABC Open, The Queensland Art Galley, Ridvan is Everywhere, and Talking Ink from Ochre.
About Illustrators Fifita Sisters / IVI Designs
Ruha Fifita was born in Vava’u, Tonga and spent most of her life immersed in the culture and vibrancy of life in the Pacific. Her love for visual and performative forms of expression have been nurtured through the support and encouragement of her extended family and study of the writings of the Bahá’i Faith.
Minaira Fifita is a visual and performing artist whose work aspires to reflect her love of creation and faith in the unity of humanity. Her style of creativity blends together her Polynesian and Celtic roots and experiences of vibrancy, balance and harmony within the Pacific and her spiritual beliefs as a Bahá’i.
Today is the publication day of Kate Forsyth and Lorena Carrington’s latest beautiful collection of fairy tales, Snow White, Rose Red and Other Tales of Kind Young Women, published by Serenity Press. It joins Kate and Lorena’s other fairy tale collections with Serenity Press, Vasilisa the Wise and Other Tales of Brave Young Women, and The Buried Moon and Other Tales of Bright Young Women. To celebrate, I’ve invited Kate and Lorena to write about their joint creation of the book. (There’s also an online launch of the book on Facebook today, see here for details).
Sometimes we agree on a tale, and but then I find I cannot retell it – the story doesn’t spark with me.
For example, we thought about working with Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Snow Queen’ – but when I began to work on it, I found the character of Gerda too passive. So I emailed Lorena, and we talked about it, and came up with other ideas, and ended up replacing that tale with another.
Two recent new interviews with me that might interest readers: the first is in audio form, a wide-ranging podcast interview celebrating 30 years since my first two books were published, which is featured at the Writes4Women website. It was just lovely having the time to expand on all kinds of aspects of writing, inspiration, process, and lots more, with fantastic interviewer Kel Butler.
The other interview is in article form, and is a bit of an overview of my career and influences. It’s published in conjunction with a short story competition I’ve collaborated on with the University of New England’s Creative New England initiative, and the New England Writers’ Centre. Thanks to UNE’s Alahna Fiveash for the great questions!
Today’s guest post is by Corinne Fenton, whose beautiful non-fiction picture book with illustrator Andrew McLean, To the Bridge, about the remarkable 1000 km horseback journey made in 1932 by nine year old Lennie Gwyther and his pony Ginger Mick, has just been released this month. Two of the three launches planned for the book had to be cancelled due to the current situation, but the first launch, at Leongatha, the place where the main characters of the book came from, was held on March 12. (See photo below). In her post, which was also her launch speech, Corinne writes about piecing together Lennie’s story from his family and friends.
Telling true stories
By Corinne Fenton
‘Lennie knew that if he travelled twenty miles a day he would make it on time and it wouldn’t be too much for Ginger Mick.
So, on 3rd February 1932, when Lennie and Ginger Mick were nine years old, they set off along the winding road out of Leongatha, to ride six hundred miles to Sydney.’
Some true-story picture books take years to create because it’s difficult to find specific information, or people connected to the story.
This was not the case with To the Bridge, because in the beginning I found Beryl, the little sister of my main character, Lennie Gwyther. I first met Beryl when she was 90. She shared priceless snippets she remembered about her eldest brother – how he loved to build things, how he was quiet and humble, a real thinker and how the most precious thing in the world to him was his beloved pony, Ginger Mick.
She told me Ginger Mick preferred to trot rather than walk or canter, and that he was highly intelligent with a will of his own. If he saw a cow lagging, he would give it a clip on the rump. Lennie called him Ginger for short.
I asked Beryl if Lennie was a loner, ‘No,’ she said, ‘but he preferred to be making things which took time, so he spent a lot of time alone.’
Ginger Mick was the love of Lennie’s life. From the beginning they were inseparable. They were born on the same day and Lennie’s maternal grandfather gifted Ginger Mick to Lennie on their second birthday.
To the Bridge has still taken five years from when I first mentioned this story to Publisher, Maryann Ballantyne and almost five years since I visited Beryl on the Gold Coast. I also made trips to Leongatha and to Ballarat to meet family and source more priceless details. My task was to then bring these volumes of details and information back to 577 words. Many people think it’s easy, but often it’s painful to part with carefully chosen words, leaving only the heart and the framework of precise words, to tell the tale.
And of course the other half of telling the story in picture books is in the illustrations, in this case the stunning ones by Andrew McLean.
Writing true stories is always harder than fiction ones, and over the years I’ve realised how much of my soul travels with my characters. Each book takes a part of me with it and with each book, I meet new people who become lifelong friends.
True stories, like To the Bridge are the way we learn about our past and where we come from. To share that with a new generation is what writing true picture books is all about.
Of course I did not do this alone. There are so many people who rode with us:
Julie Oliveri, who first mentioned the story of her family to me, Publisher Maryann Ballantyne who knew the power of Lennie and Ginger Mick the moment I mentioned them and who crafted and championed it for me, as only she can do, Beryl Ferrier without whom this version of the story would not be and Andrew McLean whose heart-wrenching illustrations tell the other half of my words and make it a true picture book. It has been an honour and a privilege to work with Andrew once again.
Thanks also to Julie Campbell, Beryl and Lennie’s niece, who went above and beyond to help me, especially for taking me to Flers the family farm, 5 years ago, to see where Lennie and his siblings grew up, and most importantly where Ginger Mick is buried. Thanks Beryl’s son, Laurie Watson, Historian John Murphy, Pat Spinks and Lyn Skillern from the Leongatha Historical Society and special thanks to Peter Watchorn, Leongatha Newsagent for organising the Leongatha Launch, Mary Small, Stephanie Owen Reeder and Beryl for writing their versions of the story, Walker Books Australia and Black Dog Books –To the Bridge is my 12th book published by Maryann and Black Dog and it is also, unfortunately, the very last Black Dog book.
(An In Memoriam note from Corinne: Beryl Ferrier was to co-launch the book with Maryann Ballantyne in Leongatha on March 12 and with me at the Sydney launch scheduled for March 19 at Fort Street Public School, overlooking the bridge on the 88th Anniversary of its opening and Lennie and Ginger Mick’s crossing. Tragically, Beryl was killed in an accident near her home on the Gold Coast on her way to teach French at the U3A University at Tugan, the day before the Leongatha launch and her 95th birthday. She was the most amazing woman.)
More about the book here.
Writing The Tell
by Martin Chatterton
I’d been writing books for children across a variety of genres and age ranges before I ‘migrated’ into becoming an adult crime fiction writer. After I’d written three or four crime novels I started to think that writing a middle grade thriller in the style of my ‘grown up’ books might be a good idea. During that same time period, I was also visiting and performing/speaking at a large number of schools and literature festivals and, as someone who regularly switched genres and target age range of readers, I’d noticed that writers often altered their writing ‘voice’ when it came to stories for children. Often – in my humble opinion – that voice could sometimes be tinged with a patronising tone.
I didn’t mean that my ‘school’ thriller should be age inappropriate, just that it should be as visceral, paced and hard-edged as my crime novels. So that was the thought behind the project.
When it came to the ‘what’ of the story, I looked to doing the same things I was doing in crime fiction: namely, being interested in criminality as a subject in which those engaged in crime were not one- dimensional ciphers. After a chance conversation with someone who’d been raised in families where crime was normalised – was in fact, the family ‘business’ – I started to wonder about what that would be like, and soon realised that was going to be the primary subject of The Tell. There have been many (too many) novels, movies and TV shows set in the world of the gangster. Few, if any, have told that story from the perspective of a child born into a crime family. I set out to do just that: effectively to re-write a Godfather novel, only with the centre of the narrative lying not with Don Corleone but with his 14-year-old son (Rey ‘Raze’ Tanic).
This would be a coming-of-age story with a difference. It would invoke (I hoped) other stories in which young people run headlong into reality, accelerating their transition to adulthood (for better or worse). I was thinking specifically of Stephen King’s novella, The Body, in which four twelve-year-olds set out to find the body of a missing young man. The Body (which was made into the movie, Stand By Me) skilfully sketches the emerging adults in the four protagonists. The Tell, like The Body, is anchored in reality: in The Body there is a dead body (‘The kid was dead. The kid wasn’t sick, the kid wasn’t sleeping. The kid wasn’t going to get up in the morning anymore . . . or catch poison ivy or wear out the eraser on the end of his Ticonderoga No 2 during a hard math test. The kid was dead.’) while in The Tell, the gangsters who rule Sydney are just that: gangsters. For Raze Tanic, negotiating his path through puberty is complicated beyond measure when he is thrust into the centre of a red-hot news story with his own family as ‘stars’.
Like a lot of writers I often ‘go back’ to myths, legends and William Shakespeare for inspiration and thematic ideas. Particularly Shakespeare, who is forever putting sons and daughters into conflict with their fathers. I visited Shakespeare’s family home recently (in Stratford-upon-Avon in England) and it was obvious that Shakespeare’s dad was a powerful figure in the town. He owned the biggest house and was well respected. It’s not hard to imagine Will rebelling in some way against that kind of authority. He certainly wrote about it in plays like Hamlet, Henry IV and King Lear. I actually ‘stole’ the idea of Dejan Tanic seeing himself as the ‘King’ of Sydney from King Lear: a play in which the King deliberately tries to make his children as ruthless as he is. And, in Hamlet, Shakespeare has Hamlet say this line about his (step)father, Claudius: ‘A little more than kin, and less than kind.’
That’s not a bad summary of the relationship between Raze and Dejan Tanic.
More about the book:
by Martin Chatterton
Penguin Random House (April 2020)
The Coffin is a maximum security facility holding the worst criminals in the country – terrorists, armed robbers, gangsters, cold-eyed killers and those too flat out dangerous to keep anywhere else. It was built for one reason and only one reason: to keep the wolves away from the sheep. It’s where my dad lives.
The Tell is a fast-paced, coming-of-age, Sydney-based middle grade thriller, centred on thirteen year-old Rey (‘Raze’) Tanic, the youngest son of Dejan Tanic, the self-styled ‘King of Sydney’, a feared organised crime boss currently locked up in the Deep Cut Correctional Centre. It is expected of Raze that he will soon join his elder brother Solo in the family business. During a visit to see his father in prison Raze tells his dad he’s not going to become part of the family business when he’s older. To Raze’s surprise, his father doesn’t react. That’s because Dejan has more pressing worries; worries that soon become a major problem for Raze and force him into making the biggest decision of his life.
Connect with Martin on Facebook
by Richard Yaxley
I wanted to write about brothers. I don’t mean my own experience, nor do I mean writing in a hokey, folksy manner about boys chiacking together. I mean: the phenomenon. The flux of being brothers. Determining the dynamic, the way brothers are.
I mean the way they can ignore and trick and hurl abuse and punch on but then, a minute later, defend each other with an absolute conviction of muscle, vitriol and, if necessary, blood. I mean the constant, simmering resentment of being forced to share rooms, rituals, families and histories; the bitter scramble for top place in the presumed apex of a mother’s heart; the need to be different to each other and their father while at the same time being praised by each other and their father.
That weird feeling of never being in control as you slide back and forth along a tightrope that stretches between slashes of pain and circles of affection.
My novel, A New Kind of Everything, published by Scholastic Australia in February, features the Gallagher brothers. Seventeen-year-old Carl and fourteen-year-old Dinny are dealing with the sudden loss of their father in a car accident. At a surface level, their methods of grieving are as far apart as their characters. Carl is aggressive, independent and filled with a violent anger for his father. Dinny is lost, pliable and manifestly uncertain about what his relationship with his dad ever was.
Yet, as much as they are a study in contrasts, so too are they the same in that, ultimately, it is the love that they feel, more so than their often instinctive actions and reactions, that defines them. Carl and Dinny have a deep love for each other and for their mother – and, they come to realise, for their father. This was what I discovered as I was constructing the novel; that the exploration of grief that I had planned to write became, by necessity, an exploration of familial love, because it is that love in its many forms which makes us grieve as we do. The two are utterly intertwined.
In Ann Patchett’s wonderful novel, Commonwealth, Theresa believes that the genuine measure of a life is how well we cope with the inevitable series of losses that all lives bring. Carl and Dinny lose a great deal in my novel: their father, of course, but also determinations about their futures and the chance to properly understand their past and its intricate engagement with their father’s hitherto untold story. With his death comes the difficult realisation that their imprint upon the Earth is instantly lightened and so it will remain. However, despite all of that, and the many challenges tossed up by the narrative, the brothers never lose each other.
In Commonwealth, when her daughter Holly reminds Theresa that she ‘got through’ the grief of losing her first-born, her mother responds: ‘We all did, I guess, in our own ways. You don’t think you’re going to but then you do. You’re still alive. That was the thing that caught me in the end: I was still alive.’
Alive to love, I think she means. And to love again, and again, until we are no more.
Anne Patchett. 2016. Commonwealth. Bloomsbury, London, p. 286
Connect with Richard:
Website: Richard Yaxley
Today I am featuring a guest post by Alison Booth, writing about the inspirations of and background to her new novel, The Philosopher’s Daughters, whose official publication date is actually today–happy book release day, Alison!
A tale of two very different sisters
By Alison Booth
The Philosopher’s Daughters is a tale of two very different sisters whose 1890s voyage from London into remote outback Australia becomes a journey of self-discovery, set against a landscape of wild beauty and savage dispossession.
For years the idea for The Philosopher’s Daughters just wouldn’t let me alone. I kept imagining 1890s London and two strong young women, the daughters of a widowed moral philosopher. Someone like John Stuart Mill, a great advocate for the emancipation of women. Someone who gives the girls a relatively modern upbringing. Then I thought of altering the sisters’ circumstances so that they separately choose to journey into remote and wild Australia. What might happen to them? How might they see life at the ‘frontier’ once they are confronted with the brutal dispossession of the Indigenous population? How would their characters develop as they faced danger?
The second half of the novel, set in 1893, mostly takes place in the Northern Territory of South Australia. Together with the top of Western Australia, this was one of the last areas of the continent to be appropriated by white colonisers. At that time and in that part of Australia, the frontier wars were still being fought, largely over the establishment of the cattle industry, although they weren’t recognised as frontier wars back then. Indeed, only relatively recently has the full extent of settlement massacres and beyond been documented. See this article: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/ng-interactive/2019/mar/04/massacre-map-australia-the-killing-times-frontier-wars
A theme that has long fascinated me is how children are shaped by the preferences and attitudes of their parents. And the closer we are to a parent the harder it can be to move away from their influence and develop in one’s own right. This is the burden in The Philosopher’s Daughters that is carried by Harriet Cameron, the older of the two daughters. It takes her some time – and a journey to Australia – to learn who she is and to slough off some of her father’s expectations about what she should do with her life.
The Northern Territory has for many years held a particular attraction for me. This began with my own father’s reminiscences of the years he spent there as a very young man after the 1942 bombing of Darwin by the Japanese, an experience that was crystallised into his evocative novel Up the Dusty Track, published by what was then the NTU Press. I visited the Northern Territory for the first time in 2002 for the Darwin launch of his novel.
On that Darwin visit I not only fell in love with the Territory landscape but also witnessed a level of casual racism that I found quite shocking. I wanted to write about it, but it took me some years to work out how I was going to do it, although right away I knew it had to be historical.
In doing the background research for the novel, I was aware that, for our history, we rely upon the words of others. And when we read those words we should ask ourselves whose stories are missing. Typically, it will be the stories of those who held no power at the time. The women and of course the Indigenous inhabitants. They are who The Philosopher’s Daughters is about.
Connect with Alison on social media:
RedDoor Press: https://reddoorpress.co.uk/books/the-philosophers-daughters/
Today, I’m featuring a guest post by Melbourne-based author AJ Collins, whose first book, a crossover YA/adult novel, Oleanders Are Poisonous, has just been released. A recipient of first prize and several commendations for the Monash WordFest awards, AJ has been published in various short story anthologies and magazines, and was awarded a place at Hardcopy 2018, a national professional development program for writers. Her work has also been read on Radio Queensland. AJ graduated from RMIT’s Professional Writing and Editing Associate Degree in 2014 and has since established a successful editing and publishing business, AJC Publishing. Previous to this, AJ had an eclectic career from managing commercial mortgages, to working in a legal tribunal, to fronting her own function band for over twenty years. A one-time devotee of adrenaline sports, including bungee, skydiving, parasailing, sky-walking, sky-jumping, and volcano climbing, AJ is now happy to be settled at home with her hubby and two fur-kids, writing her adventures instead of living them. In her guest post, AJ muses about inspiration and process in the writing of her first book.
Red soil and music
by AJ Collins
Red soil runs through my veins. It happens when the South Australian outback is your childhood playground. It’s no surprise then, it sifted its way into my first book. And later in life, when I spent hours driving through the Mallee to visit my parents, again the red soil was there, hardened and cracked with drought in summer, tempered by the buttery glow of canola flowers in harvest season.
And the music, it also runs true in my family – my father a jazz muso, myself a soul singer. But like my protagonist, Lauren, I’ve always had to fight my self-doubt and lack of confidence. I don’t think that will ever change in my music or writing. Perhaps it’s what makes my work authentic.
It took me six years to reach the publishing stage of Oleanders are Poisonous, from first words to print. It would have been four years, but a hiccup with a brain tumour put me on the back foot. For the narrative, I’ve clearly drawn from my own experiences, but I’ve also leant heavily towards fiction to make the story more accessible, enjoyable, and remove my own self-consciousness.
When I’m asked who is my favourite character in the book, I always choose Snap. He’s the light that holds the darkness at bay. Irreverent, funny and fabulous, he’s the unwaveringly loyal best friend we all wish we had growing up, though he has his own dark side, as we all do.
The stories I’ve enjoyed most in my own readings have been ones that have moved me in some way, rekindled emotions, or taught me something about myself or the world around me. With Oleanders are Poisonous, and its sequel Magnolias don’t Die, I hope to show readers they’re not alone, that others have suffered similarly, and it’s always okay to talk about your fears, no matter how dark they may be. It takes bravery to open up to family and friends, especially when we project our own thoughts of rejection in their heads, but you must do it in order to heal. I wish you resilience and joy.
Connect with AJ:
Buying links for Oleanders are Poisonous:
Direct: AJC Publishing
Amazon Australia: AmazonAU
Amazon US: AmazonUS
Ebook retailers: Apple, Nook, Kobo, Scribd etc.