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Another crowded month

Thursday, 02 November 2017 12:00

And it has indeed been a very crowded month. After the big events around my book launch for 'Of Llamas and Piranhas' followed by book promos at meetings and radio interviews, there was a lovely respite during our house boat trip on the Murray, by now turning into an annual event. The six of us ate, talked, ate, slept, ate, read, ate, played a variety of board games, ate, took occasional shore walks, and - yes - ate some more. We've all come home to rigorous diets. Highlight was the birthday dinner for Anthony (69) and David (80) complete with cake, candles and sparklers. We've booked the boat again for next year.

Home, and into preparations for the next major event: David's first book launch combined with his main 80th birthday celebration at the Stirling Coventry Library. Over eighty people gathered for a night of speeches, toasts and cake cutting (I'm improving my fruit cake making and decorating skills with all this practice) and readings from 'In a Subjunctive Mood' which found a very appreciative audience. Rob Walker's launch speech and guitar playing added a lovely touch, and I enjoyed the chance to make the birthday toast to David to an audience that included friends from so many of his diverse activities.

Now we're into pre-wedding mode - my first chance to be 'Mother of the Bride'. But a very easy wedding to cope with, as they're doing all the preparations and plans themselves. All I have to do is is turn up (cheque book in hand) and enjoy. I must admit I've had fun going round the bridal salons with daughter - a real revelation of all the extras one can buy, ranging from genuinely appealing to totally tacky!

In all this, not much time for writing, always a sadness - and no word on possibilities of publication of my new novel. Both Felicity and I wait in the usual fear and trepidation for publisher responses, though her agent seems sure that her book will find a welcoming home.

 

Busy end of year

Tuesday, 03 October 2017 15:20

Adelaide at its best - a glorious spring afternoon, clear blue skies, warm sunshine, no wind - this is October in Adelaide. So, after a healthy three hours in the garden with my trusty Ryobi Blower, I've come in to coffee and a quick catch-up of my web page.

And it is indeed a busy end-of-year that's coming. My own book launch may be over, but David's is to come at the end of October, combined with the celebration of his 80th birthday  (Not really! say most people; Not possible! say the rest  - but it's true). Plus a wedding in the family (no, not ours), and the houseboat trip on the Murray River (a week in among all the other activities) ... I feel as if I'm running in circles.

The launch for Of Llamas and Piranhas was a great affair. Well over a hundred guests and good book sales.Phil Hoffmann (guest speaker) and Mayer John Trainer (MC) both in fine form, the usual superb catering by the Immanuel Lutheran Ladies, wines generously supplied by Kies Winery in the Barossa Valley   - no wonder people left with smiles on their faces. Another launch to remember, with the Friendly Street Poets chairman, Nigel Ford, posting on Facebook next day that it was the biggest and best launch he'd attended. I'm grateful to the many people who assisted, and to all those who came.

No word back yet on progress of my novel, as it sits hopefully in publisher's hands. However, it's now been vastly revised and improved, by the astute editorial eye and comments from my novelist daughter, who would be one of the best editors I know. Meanwhile her own second novel has received enthusiastic comments from her agent and is also out seeking a publishing house to be its home. An anxious waiting time for us all. Fortunately, with so much else happening in my life, I don't have the time brood about the waiting period. Too many other things to worry about.

But meanwhile, the sun is shining and it's time to get out there into the garden again. The best ever crop of freesias has just finished, and the house has been flooded with their glorious perfume. The nectarine tree is in bloom, and I've planted impatiens and pansies in all the hanging baskets. My main hope this year is that the possums don't return! The awful daily routine all last summer of cleaning up their morning messes, and the loss of plants and fruit was devastating. It was scarcely a compensation to win the Salisbury Writers' Festival with a short story called 'Release' that featured possum experiences, though it did mitigate my fury. A little.

Life is accelerating

Friday, 01 September 2017 13:31

Annoying  - I've just typed several paragraphs of entry here, and somehow lost it! That's my brand-new computer teaching me who's boss. Certainly not me! I hate learning to use new equipment, and this MacAir with its brand-new updated version of Word is going to drive me, screaming, into an early grave.

Certainly it's been a busy six weeks here since I last wrote in this column. Trying to get In Search of Anna published is my major project, and several things at the Salisbury Writers Festival were heartening. I did a 'Five Minute Pitch' to an agent, who seemed interested and has asked to see the whole manuscript, also a publisher's rep who was very encouraging. Fingers crossed but no chickens being prematurely counted. I guess I went into both those a bit more confidently having won two awards in the Festival - a short listed Commendation in the poetry section and First Place in the Short Story  - a lovely bit of reassurance before making the pitch!

Apart from that things are moving close to the book launch for Of Llamas and Piranhas   - less than three weeks away now. I have some PR set up, radio interviews and  scheduled reviews in journals, but that is now occupying a lot of my time. With David away for four weeks studying Gaelic in Ireland on a scholarship for an immersion course, I have - in some ways - more free time, but in others less. We've been keeping in touch with email and text and phone calls - but I've also been charting the time in a daily poem called A Non-traveller's Diary. Which has nbeen fun - but won't be for publication! That plus a few short stories has been the total of my writing production in these weeks. Everything IS accelerating!

Of Llamas and Piranhas by VALERIE VOLK

Thursday, 03 August 2017 14:51
 

SOUTH AMERICAN MOMENTS

Days are lengthening

Saturday, 15 July 2017 15:23

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 ...

Another month

Monday, 05 June 2017 21:04

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.

The year rolls on ....

Wednesday, 03 May 2017 10:17

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 ...

Back on track

Friday, 24 February 2017 16:17

One more month gone, but at last I'm writing again. In January I was in near despair - just couldn't seem to get really involved in the new book, and totally daunted by the difficulty of research into late nineteenth century Germany.

Now, after a month of solid reading and writing, I'm still daunted, but at least finding enough material to, I hope, give some authenticity to what I'm doing. Though, as I commented to someone yesterday, it's such a mix of pleasure and pain. When I'm actually sitting at the keyboard, seeing words emerge and characters develop their own lives and lines of print appear, I have the most satisfying sense of contentment. ie the writing process is great. Next day I read what I have written and despair sets in - what rubbish! what boring tedious trash!  ie  process fine; product miserable. But, because I'm tenacious, I battle on.

I guess what I'm writing is 'faction' - a fictional novel based on a thin thread of family lore  and set in a country and era that I'm trying to make as authentic as possible. I say authentic rather than accurate - two very different things. It's a topic that has occupied my thinking during this last month, as last week I had the pleasure of being the launch person for Maureen Mitson's new book 'Esther's Wars' - and that too I'd class as faction. Set in the 1910 to 1925 era in the SA Riverland and the Adelaide Hills, I found its topicality interesting, and her research into that period of anti-German hostility had been meticulously done. It meshed so well with my personal background and tales by my parents of their experiences during those years in a small Lutheran German enclave in the Albury area, and also with my own extensive post-grad research into the closing of the Lutheran schools in SA during the World War 1 years. I was really impressed by Maureen's knowledge of the time.

So I'm back into writing prose, and feeling oddly deprived at lack of poetry in my life. However, it's pleasing to find that I'll have two poems in the 2016 Friendly Street Anthology when it appears mid-year, and some in the coming Polestar. I could do with some reassurance at this stage, with about 40,000 words of the new novel written, of which a very small percentage satisfies me! Ah, the joys of writing ....

Moving on

Tuesday, 17 January 2017 10:31

I've never thought of this website as a blog, but more that the News/Events page could act as an occasional check on what is happening in my writing life. So this morning is a long-delayed revisiting of the last months of 2016 but, if I'm being honest, a delaying strategy ... Rather than getting on with the new novel, which is not going well, I'll turn my attention to something - anything! - that will put off the moment of return to 1860s Germany. Which is where I ought to be, and should be feeling more like an inhabitant than the interloper role I seem to be finding myself in. The reason is lack of resources - it is indeed hard to find material in English that will take me into the world of small peasants in Silesia in the second half of the nineteenth century, and this is slowing me down badly.

So, let's return to 2016 instead. The eighth book, Of llamas and piranhas, my collected 'daily poems' from South America, is still on the publishing schedule of Ginninderra Press, but it will be April at the earliest before we see it in print, with its black and white photographs accompanying the poems. Meanwhile, I have one custom-made copy in full cover, courtesy of David Harris and the Photobook Company, and it's a joy to hold, and behold. It's had a wonderful reception from those who have looked through it, which is very reassuring.

Apart from that, the usual crop of acceptances and rejections - pretty well balanced actually, and I've had the pleasure of a number of poems in various small journals and anthologies. It's always a special delight to have a poem published in the Canberra Times, and November saw my poem, 'Magnolia', featured there. New writing has been mainly verse. The long trip to Canberra, then to Brisbane, for a series of family Christmases, inspired  some poems whose origins were the countryside that we passed, and particularly our rain forest stay in Lamington National Park. A beautiful place, and rich in bird life. But I'd have to admit that the last few months have been focused more on living than on writing, and particularly family life, as we travelled from place to place to celebrate Christmas with various offspring.

But now it's time to return to work, and Book 9 is calling ....

This is Springtime?

Friday, 30 September 2016 15:04

Last day in September, and theoretically we're well and truly into Spring. So where's the sunshine? Instead we've had the worst week of massive typhoon-like storms, lightning strikes, flooded rivers and torrential downpours, with so much damage done that it makes a mockery of Spring as a season and adds further warning about a future with global warming.

So once again I'm cowering over a radiator, and it's a chance to update this infrequent 'latest news' page. So what is the news? Best bit, perhaps, that Ginninderra Press have accepted my South American poems for publication either end of this year or early 2017 - and with black and white photographs to match the poems. Our own domestic production one-off book has colour photos, thanks to David's production skills and Photobook Club, but that would make a publisher version prohibitively expensive. I'm just happy that there will be graphics with the text. Their request, for 'a more enticing title', led  me to some hard thinking, and we're all happy with the final result - the book will be called Of llamas and piranhas - and I've written a name poem to go with that title. Watch this space for when it will become available ...

Other good news has included some successes with poems; some published in The Mozzie and in Tamba, also in the Ginninderra Press publication of social justice poems that marked their twenty year celebrations, First Refuge. I was really happy to be included in this, and also to be short-listed for both the Polestar Writers' Journal competitions, poetry and prose, though I wasn't to win either.

However, a very pleasing email to tell me that mine had been the winning entry in a West Australian photography association's contest for this year, where twenty winning photographs were offered to writers throughout Australia to try their hands at a poem or prose piece to match each photo. It's the sort of writing I really enjoy, and I've now learned that the term for this is ekphrasis - writing that grows out of and responds to a graphic artist's visual creation.  My poem, Ambiguous White, will be published next month together with a reproduction of the painting that inspired it, in what promises to be a super-spendid luxury limited edition book, In my View. Unfortunately I can't get to Perth for the book launch, but WA friends will attend for me and pick up my copy.

And outside it's still raining - I keep coming back to that very famous line by a very famous writer: "And the rain, it raineth every day."   Too true.

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