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Once again the shortest day is past, and spirits tend to rise - well, mine do anyway - when the sun is with us for longer stretches each day. I could relate to primitive peoples singing the sun's return from the caverns of the deep ...

Six weeks ago my last entry here, I note, talked about the pleasures and rewards of my research week in Melbourne, and the need to get ahead with In Search of Anna, the prose novel I've been writing for the last 18 months. Melbourne DID provide the impetus, and the first draft of this novel is now completed - all 95,000 words of it. Such enjoyment in the writing. I feel quite bereft at having completed it - like saying farewell to a close friend whom I have lived with for so long. Now, of course, the hard work begins - revising, editing, and searching for a publisher. The writing is the pleasure - this is the tough stuff. Plus, now I no longer have the excuse I've been using all this time, and will really have to clean out my kitchen cupboards!

While dealing with Anna, I'm also hard at work on the book launch for Of Llamas and Piranhas on Sept. 20. Kies Wineries has been very supportive with wine for the launch; my wonderful catering team is booked up again, and in a few weeks the launch invitations will have to be sent. It's a busy time.

A few really encouraging things in the last few days  - a poem accepted by Poetry Matters and it's on the list for competition outcomes when the next issue appears; a lovely email from Poetica Christi saying that my poem 'The two-sided coin' has been selected for publication in their next annual book, and while not winning the competition it was at the top of the 'Specially commended' list that the judge provided. Poems published in The  Write Angle, The Mozzie and in Studio were good to see, as was the very favourable revue of Bystanders in that same journal. It makes it all worthwhile, and keeps me writing! And compensates for the rejection slips ...

And so we're into winter ....   not exactly of our discontent, but I'll certainly be happier when I'm writing again. The last month has been mainly occupied in research - fascinating stuff, yes, but I feel that gnawing sense of not having written anything except a few stray poems in the last four weeks. Frustrating!

But a valuable time. The Melbourne stint was so worthwhile, and contacts have been enormously helpful. David Langdon, at the Richmond and Burnley Historical Society, was more than generous with his time and the provision of resource material about Richmond in 1889. And his archives! An impressively organised treasure trove underneath the Richmond Library, where upstairs I also immersed myself in the local newspaper of the period. I've come away with a real sense of neighbourhood, topped off by dinner in an excellent French restaurant, Noir, in the building where, in 1889, my central character found lodgings for a few weeks. (Yes, that bit is true, unlike so much of the book which is straight fiction.)

Great assistance also from members of the German Club, where members were quick to direct me to relevant people, and then to check details I needed and even to copy and send on to me in Adelaide later some sections of historical material - thank you Hans Roleff! Other discoveries were the German Church which was then (and still today is) flourishing in East Melbourne, where the pastor and archivist were both helpful. Some hours in the Newspaper Room at the State Library took me into newspapers that I could not access in Adelaide, in the company of my brother, a avid family historian. All round, a most rewarding week in Melbourne, as well as a chance to catch up with old friends and family.

But other things are still needing attention before work on Anna resumes. While David and I had a most enjoyable time reading our poetry to the Booklovers Club at Marion, there are a few more of these functions ahead to plan for. And the pleasure of re-reading Claire Belberg's new novel, The Golden Hour, which I'll be launching in two weeks, and organising material for the Editing and Publishing Intensive at Tabor College that I'm involved in next month. So much to do ... so little time etc etc

Also looming ahead the final work on Of Llamas and Piranhas, due for its launch on September 20. In the end, I weakened (or took heart) and decided to have a proper launch for this book of South American travel poems. To my delight, Phil Hoffmann, of Phil Hoffmann Travel, travel entrepreneur extraordinaire, has agreed to be guest speaker for this event, so I'd better get going with the organisation of yet another launch and hope a good crowd will come. All readers of this web site will be welcome - just contact me for details.

And it does!  Suddenly April, that 'cruellest month' according to T.S. Eliot, is over , and we are into the first few days of May. Autumn is drawing to a close, and the winter chill is in the air. Life is busy, but there is much to enjoy, as I sit at Balhannah, which has become my writing retreat. Outside the window, leaves from the three enormous claret ashes are drifting down in the light breeze, to add to the inches deep carpet that already blankets the lawn.

The last few weeks have brought some very pleasing moments, with the best news that my eighth book, the South American poems, Of Llamas and Piranhas, is next on Ginninderra Press's publishing schedule, and should be out in July. So now come the vexed questions of the launch: to have one at all? when? where? who to launch this particular book, catering issues .... At the moment it all looks too hard, but I guess will have to be dealt with. It will be good to have the book available at last, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Stephen Matthews does with it in way of presentation.

Another interesting activity has been the invitation to write a blog contribution to the Christian Writers Downunder website -  on poetry, as part of their 'genre' series. It was challenging - such a huge topic - but the actual formulation of my thoughts, and the pleasing responses of readers has made it very worthwhile. It can be found at either of these sites if you are interested to look at my thought on poetry as a genre. I really enjoyed doing it.

On CWD      http://christianwritersdownunder.blogspot.com.au/2017/05/genre-exploring-poetry.html
On ACW      http://australasianchristianwriters.blogspot.com.au/2017/05/genre-exploring-poetry.html

Other good things have included winning the monthly W.O.W short story competition - another challenge, as specific ingredients had to be included in the story, and that's always fun to contrive, and my tale is published in their online magazine, Mirages. Three poems published in the latest Polestar, an excellent literary journal from Queensland, was also an encouragement, and again in the last month I've written more poetry, after something of a dry period while I was focussing on the novel.

That has been languishing lately. I'd reached the 55,000 point, with Anna having survived the lengthy steamship journey from Germany to Australia,but then halted, because I need much more research into the Melbourne of the 1889 period. So Anna stands frozen on the Railway Pier at Port Melbourne, with her wooden chest and bags, until later this month, when I'll spend time in Melbourne with State Library newspapers, and consulting with the very helpful officials at Richmond Historical Society and the German Club, where both have offered access to archival material. I'm looking forward to this trip, and to getting Anna moving again! Probably the month that David goes to Ireland, having won a scholarship for an Irish language immersion course, will be the time I really get to concentrate on this novel.

What else is coming up? Next major event is a shared session with David Harris for the Book Lovers club at Marion Library, where we have an hour to read poems and talk about the writing of poetry - planning this has been enjoyable and May 23 is getting close. In June, I'll have pleasure in being the speaker at the launch of Claire Bell's novel, The Golden Hour, and meanwhile, in the background of all this, are the ongoing preparations for daughter Sam's wedding in November. This is the first time I've had the fun of being Mother of the Bride  -  a foreshadowing that evoked a poem on that topic. But then, most things in life, in my life anyway, become the raw material of verse ...

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