Latest News

And three months on ....

Friday, 27 July 2018 17:11

 

I’m actually not surprised to find that it’s so long since the last news I posted here, because it’s been an incredibly packed three months.

In May came the two performances of the lovely Requiem that Rachel Bruerville wrote using as text some of the poems from my first published book, In Due Season. It was presented first at the stunning Ukaria Cultural Centre in the Adelaide Hills, in what must be one of the most beautiful boutique concert halls Australia has. The packed out audience enjoyed a full program performed by the Adelaide Chamber Singers, culminating in the magnificent Brahms Requiem. The program was repeated next day in the city St Peter’s Cathedral to a capacity audience, where the soaring arches and huge pillars added to a very inspiring atmosphere. I found listening to Rachel’s music a deeply moving experience.

June and July were busy writing months, both writing and publishing a number of poems in many journals such as Tamba, Studio, The Mozzie, Poetry Matters, The Write Angle, and others. It’s always so encouraging to see one’s work in print, and to have enthusiastic feedback from readers. It makes worthwhile the blood, sweat and tears – and loneliness – of the writing life.

Much  time was also spent in re-designing the cover of my big verse novel of 2013, Passion Play – the Oberammergau Tales, in preparation for our coming trip to Germany. Here I hope to market this book in time for the 2020 Passion Play itself, where the small German town will once again, as they have done since 1634, produce a six month season of the events of Holy Week. More than 500,000 people from all over the world come to this play, and I’m hoping that Oberammergau shops will stock my book. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. In late October this year everything swings into preparation for 2020, starting with renewal of the 1633 vow that lies behind this ten-yearly event. We’ll be able to take part in all these happenings.

But the most satisfying moment of my year was the day I signed the contract with Wakefield Press for the publication of my ninth book, In Search of Anna. This historical fiction work has occupied several years of research and writing, and it’s a book that is important to me personally. An old family story of my great-grandmother coming from a small Silesian village across the world by steamship to hunt for her missing son  in Melbourne, then in the Riverina area, has always seemed to me the stuff of a novel. So on the bare bones of some historical fact I’ve used my imagination to create a whole life for this woman, who is probably turning in her grave at what I’ve invented. The book will be launched next year in February, in an event that will also be my eightieth birthday celebration. Horrors! Where have these decades gone? I’m delighted that Steven Marshall, South Australian Premier, is happy to MC the evening  - as long as no unexpected parliamentary emergencies occur. Fingers crossed.

Right now much of my time is going into planning the book cover for the new book, and then will be the editing process – sadly interrupted by our trip to Germany. But then, that’s not an unpleasant interruption to have ahead of us …

 

 

Autumn Days

Monday, 23 April 2018 15:35

It's hard to call this 'autumn'  - Indian Summer is a much more appropriate title. If Keats were writing his Autumn ode again, he'd be hard-pressed to write Stanza 3, for the earlier idea of an unceasing summer would be much more appropriate. To balance the mellow tranquillity of the season, our days seem to have also been times of peace and serenity. (A sort of interlude that will come to a rapid end in May, when so much seems to be happening!)

First, of course, is the weekend of May 5 and 6, with its two performances of Rachel Brewerville's lovely Requiem, In Due Season, set to words from my first published book of the same title. I've been following the emergence of this work with great interest, and was moved almost to tears when I heard the whole requiem sung at rehearsal by the accomplished Adelaide Chamber Singers. It's going to be a rare privilege to be at the two performances and to feel those words, written at a time of loss and anguish, inspiring  this beautiful music.

Rachel and I were interviewed last week by Emily Sutherland, always one of my favourite interviewers, for her 5MBS Kaleidoscope program. If you are interested it will be aired on Wednesday, April 25, at 6pm and repeated on Saturday, April 28 at 11am. That's 99.9 on the dial if you're not a regular 5MBS listener. Or you'll be able to hear it on  a podcast on the Kaleidoscope page on their website. I'm waiting with great anticipation for these concerts  - a superb program of Bach, Schutz and the Brahms German Requiem and, of course, the new Brewerville work. The Adelaide Chamber Singers will be joined by the Sydney Choir of St James for much of the program.

After that, roll on the rest of May ....

Again???

Monday, 12 March 2018 17:38

I am never more conscious of the passing of time than when I update this 'News and Events' page. Despite my very best efforts to write something each month, suddenly I realise that my last entry was pre-Christmas -and here we are, mid March, and almost Easter. Again, that sense that life is hurtling by with express train speed, and I'm standing on the platform trying to get aboard!

But such a packed time. First Christmas, and all that it means in our festivity-oriented household, though last year was easy with Christmas dinner at Sam and Wayne's home, and my only job the usual Christmas pudding; yes, with the carefully preserved old silver Christmas coins, a family tradition. How they'll divide those when the time comes, I sometimes wonder ...

January was marked by two lovely times away, first with Felicity and daughters in Canberra, then with oldest son Nick and family in Brisbane. Both times happy reunions with  family members and old friends from previous eras, becoming more and more important as years pass. (As do old friends - but that's a morbid note to sound. Yet true.) Not too much writing in that time, and still no word of acceptance on my historical fiction novel, a source of some concern. I would dearly love to see this book in print. To balance, some lovely things have happened. Poems published in journals, but the greatest pleasure has been the request from a young Adelaide composer to use some of the poems in my collection, 'In Due Season'. as the text for a Requiem she has been commissioned to write for the Adelaide Chamber Singers, a talented and highly regarded group. This Requiem will be performed as part of their two concerts, one at Ukaria, the loveliest of concert halls in the Adelaide Hills, brainchild of and gift to Adelaide from Jurlique's Ulrike Klein, and the following day at St Peter's Cathedral in the city.  This has been one of the most heart-warming things that has happened to me in recent years, and from what I have heard of the composition to this point it will be a deeply moving piece of music.

Apart from this, life goes on, with regular participation in the poetry groups we belong to, and a fun afternoon at Goolwa poets yesterday, where David and I were the guest poets in what the MC described as a 'double act'  - fun to do, as we both love sharing what we write with others, especially fellow poets. And it's been Festival time, both the Arts Festival and the Fringe Festival  - as well as Writers' Week  -  too much to choose from, and so many wonderful things on offer. Perhaps the Glyndbourne 'Hamlet' will live longest in my mind, for an Ophelia mad scene that was shattering in its impact, and a Hamlet who forced me to re-evaluate all my preconceptions of the role. A sad goodbye to Lawrence Olivier, the Hamlet of my formative years.

Another year drawing to a close

Sunday, 03 December 2017 12:59

December - and Christmas almost on us. We seem to have just lurched through a very busy November, and suddenly now we're into all the preparations for the Christmas season. Then, it's one more year gone, and 2018 staring at us. Invitingly? One hopes so.

November was the big wedding month, and a splendid affair it was. I've waited a long time for this ...  was the opening line of my wedding speech, the toast to the bride and groom, and it must have resonated with the audience, as there were gales of laughter. Sam is the only one of my daughters to marry, and my long-anticipated day as Mother of the Bride was worth the wait. It was a truly joyful wedding, and the sight of Sam walking on David's arm down the stone steps and across the rose petal path over the lawn to where Wayne waited at the altar in the rose gardens at Lyndoch Hill was one I will always cherish. The sheer happiness on both their faces as they made their wedding vows was heart-warming, and the sense of love very nearly tangible. It was a low-key event, but the thought and meaning they had put into both the ceremony and the reception in the Lyndoch Hill restaurant made it a very special event, and the eighty guests seemed to respond with the same joy as both sets of parents and the wedding group.

Now it's back to normal life, and into the series of book launches and pre-Christmas events that these months always seem to bring. Yes, I did write a wedding poem for Sam, but apart from that my writing life has been, sadly, on hold. I'm  hunting a new look cover for my Passion Play - the Oberammergau Tales, and we' are still contemplating a trip there next year as a marketing exploration before the 2020 Passion Play. Who knows? It may all happen. Watch this space. But before that, it's Christmas ...

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.

Page 1 of 8