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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.

Back home again ....

Monday, 06 June 2016 10:25

What a packed two months it's been! When I last updated this page, the trip to South America was still ahead of us, and suddenly now it's all over, and we're back to normal life at home. Well, in so far as life here is ever normal ...

It was indeed a magnificent four and a half weeks away. Real 'much have I travelled in the realms of gold' stuff, and it's hard to pick out highlights. Chile - and at last eating (and loving) Fish Cevice, which I'm now planning to add to my cuisine, and the colourful heritage city of Valparaiso; in Argentina learning to dance the tango, in spite of my two left feet, and wandering in the famous La Recoleta cemetery, that city of the dead in which Eva Peron is now a resident, or browsing in what has been called the most beautiful bookshop in the world 'El Atineo'. Peru and watching fascinated the expert horsemen, as gauchos put on a spectacular Peruvian Paso at the Hacienda Mamacona, and learning to drink Pisco Sours. The wonders of Machu Picchu and watching herds of alpacas and llamas in the high grasslands of the Andes (worth suffering altitude sickness for this - and I did!)  Rio de Janeiro, and the tour of the infamous favelas, with their tiers on tiers of slum housing and tangles of stolen electricity wires. Can this city really be ready for the Olympic games within the next few months? But worth the almost embarrassing luxury of the Hotel Copacabana to also find in nearly Ipamema the cafe, the Garota de Ipanema, where Jobin wrote the famous song about the girl who turned all heads on the beach front there.  The spectacular Iguassu Falls, seen from both the Brazilian and the Argentinian sides - which better? Impossible to decide.

So many highlights. Four days on the Amazon, with jungle walks, visits to small villages, piranha fishing at dusk (yes, caught two and ate them at dinner that night - a neat reversal of the status quo, I felt.) Lake Titicata, highest freshwater lake with its famous reed islands and a whole population living, often in family groups, on these man-made islands. And, of course, the Galapagos Islands, where we battled our way up dried creek river beds to heights that meant leaping from boulder to boulder to reach the top with magnificent views over this Darwinian wonderland. Coming face to face on a pathway with an enormous turtle, built like an armoured tank, and learning swiftly that I didn't have right of way.

So much to remember. I'm glad that I kept not only the daily journal, but also stuck to my resolve to write a poem a day - I've brought back the 34 poems in the set, and now have to decide what to do with them ... But writing these was, as always, one of the real joys of travelling, even on nights when I was dead tired and just craved sleep.

However, it was good to get home and discover some publishing pleasures on return: poems in the new book from Poetica Christi Press, Imagine, and in Polestar and The Mozzie, as well as the special pleasure of a lovely review of Bystanders in the May Polestar Writers' Journal, and finding that I had made it to the short list for the Stringybark Stories competition, where i received a 'highly commended' and publication in their coming book Standing By. Enough encouragement to keep me at my computer and still writing ...

Almost Easter

Monday, 21 March 2016 13:20

Once again the weeks have slipped away, and an update on this web site is long overdue. It's been a period of bits and pieces: some writing - mainly poetry; some good news - a number of poems accepted for various journals and magazines, such as Polestar, The Write Angle, Poetry Monash, and Poetry Matters, etc; some bad news - poems rejected (enough of these to prevent hubris, just as there are enough accepted to keep me sending them out!); some guest speaking at Probus Clubs and other organisations ...  And two big agenda items: our coming trip to South America, which will be a wonderful breaking of new ground for both of us, and the beginnings of research towards a new novel. But that's on the back burner for the moment, and I'll report progress on that when it's more firmly in place.

So once again the Easter season is almost with us, and last Sunday the palms were firmly in place beside the altar with their reminder that Holy Week has begun. The weather is looking good and the garden is calling. This year we're having Easter at home, with the usual Easter egg hunt for the smaller children on Sunday morning, and maybe this year I'll once again plant bulbs for the spring.

Another year ...

Sunday, 31 January 2016 07:42

Where have all the past years gone? asked the song writer ...  So do I.  Another year has passed, and it's somehow today the last day in January of 2016. Even more, it's a long time since I've added to this page in my web site. Strangely it's one of those things that seems to move towards the bottom of the 'to do' pile, and that pile, believe me, is considerable!

So, since October, what has happened? It's all been surprisingly trivial, but very satisfying. The usual December pre-Christmas frenzy of activity, this time lessened by the fact that instead of a huge influx of house guests, for the first time in many years we went to Canberra for a Christmas in someone else's home - to eldest daughter Felicity. Lovely to have someone else responsible for managing the daily routines, and a happy time marked by lots of wonderful food, catching up with old friends in Canberra,  a number of really good films - and, of course, lots of card-playing with eager card-shark grand-daughters. "Well, you taught us!" they say .... As I said, nothing earth-shattering in these last few months.

But a sobering time, as we attended funerals of friends of many years, with an increasing recognition of the fact that social events have moved on from the 21sts, the engagements, the marriages, the christenings, the decade birthday parties, the children's weddings ... and now we are entering the era of funerals as our most common gatherings of old friends. Sobering, indeed.

Perhaps this is is why we are seizing the day (nothing like a bit of 'carpe diem' as a motivator) and planning an imprudent but very desirable trip to South America this year. It looks wonderful, despite the shadow of falling share markets and the looming Zlika virus, and we are looking forward to it enormously - that's if we ever get through the morass of visa applications that seem to be required for every area our APT travel will take us. So we struggle with forms for Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador in an increasing recognition that we are going to be covering a lot of territory.

For me, one of the anticipated pleasures is the writing. I'll try to keep to my usual pattern of a poem a day, knowing that there's great satisfaction when, on return, David puts together my poems and photos in a book that becomes a treasured record of our time away. That will compensate for the very little bit of writing I've done in these last few months - a handful of poems, and that's been it. Not good, and it leaves me feeling very empty in spite of all life's other satisfactions. That will change ...

from Melbourne

Friday, 23 October 2015 09:26

On the road once again, and this time we're in Melbourne for a series of functions, the first of them a reunion lunch for about a dozen old friends from my Matric (Year 12) 1955 school class. Worth celebrating, because this is our sixtieth anniversary, and that's quite a span of time.

For those interested, Flowers & Forebears is now in print again, and available from the online order page on this web site. So too is the latest book, a slim volume in the Picaro Poets series now being published by Ginninderra Press. It's called Indochina Days and is the 'poem a day' record of our recent travels in Vietnam and Cambodia, new territory for both of us. We travelled from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh city, then spent a week meandering by boat up the Mekong to Siem Riep, where the past glories of Angkor Wat were something I have always wanted to see. And not disappointed! This was, of course, the year we were definitely not travelling overseas ...  somehow that wasn't kept to.

Indochina Days by VALERIE VOLK

Thursday, 22 October 2015 21:26
 

JOIN THE JOURNEY

A writing update

Friday, 16 October 2015 20:29

It's always interesting to be a guest speaker  - so many diverse groups from different organisations. But one of the pleasantest audiences I've had lately was last Saturday at the South Australian branch of ACLA (Australian Church Librarians Association)  - a lovely group who were really interested in books and writing.

As always, the two basic questions were a) Where do you get your ideas from?  and b) how long did it take you to write the book?

So I focused on the first question, and explored the origins of each of my six books, and tried to identify the sources that fed into each of these. A bit of a trip down memory lane, in fact, but also a useful reminder to me just what had been the background material that had generated each of these very different books. It was interesting, also, to realise the importance of travel in my writing, especially as my seventh book is due for release sometime in the next weeks. It's a small Picaro Press chapbook, one in a series which is now being produced by Ginninderra Press, and it will be in a similar format to my fifth book, Flowers & Forebears, which is currently out of print but should be available again very shortly.

The new book, Indochina Days, is a collection of poems, all of them written during our August/September tour of Vietnam and Cambodia. There I followed my usual practice of writing a poem each day, a wonderful way of fixing travel experiences in one's mind. It's all very well to keep a detailed journal, as I do, but the focus provided by writing the 'poem a day' is even more valuable, and a great memory-trigger. So it's these poems that will be published as Indochina Days, and it will be available, like all my other books, for purchase through the final (order) page of this web site. I've checked the draft copy, so it shouldn't be too long before it's available. After that, what next? Who knows?  I don't ... yet.

Suddenly it's October

Tuesday, 06 October 2015 12:28

And more months have slipped away ...  No wonder!  It's been so busy. Right now I'm in Brisbane, staying at my son Nick's home, and the weather is the typical Queensland "Beautiful today, perfect ..."  - you all know the rest. But it's true.

I've been here not only for family catch-up, but mainly as a delegate to the three-yearly Synod of the Lutheran Church - an intense week of meetings, dialogues, debates which were strenuous, perturbing, disappointing, but ultimately hopeful for the future. Bis issue, of course, the ordination of women. So close a vote: about 64% in favour, but not quite the mandatory two-thirds. Just another 13 votes need from a group of 423 delegates!! Next time round, surely!

But another big part of this trip for me was a Queensland launch of Bystanders during Synod, which was a lovely experience. Almost 150 people came to the launch, with its great wines (donated by a most generous group of Barossa Valley winemakers, a group that does a lot of combined things under their title of 'Lutheran Winemakers - and, believe me, I'm grateful to them.) We'd carried the wines on the four day drive from Adelaide to Brisbane without any misadventure, as well as books, etc etc. A long slow but very pleasant trip. Stephen Rudolph, National Director of Lutheran Education Australia launched the book again at this event with lovely commendations, and sales have been good throughout the week.

Also on the Bystanders front, I was delighted by the wonderful review by Peter Pierce that appeared first in the Sydney Morning Herald, then the Canberra Times. I've been told it was also in the Melbourne Age, so am zealously hunting it there.

But, almost pack-up time here, and tomorrow we start the trek south again. However, it's OK  - I hear the weather there is just as good!

Time moves on!

Monday, 13 July 2015 10:25

Looking back, it's frightening to see that my last update here was beginning of June - and it's now mid July. That entry was before the book launch for Bystanders ...  Since then, it's been such an action-packed few weeks that - while alarming - it's not at all surprising that I haven't put anything on this web page! 

An amazing book launch. About 200 people, so superbly catered for by the Immanuel Lutheran Church ladies (no wonder people come - they have a great reputation) and smoothly MC'd by the West Torrens Mayor, John Trainer. Guest speaker, the Rev. Dr Lynn Arnold AO, gave a launch speech that made me wonder whose wonderful book he was talking about! He showed me things in my book that even I hadn't realised were there. Great job, Lynn. Thank you. Also to the West Torrens Library Staff, who always make these occasions a pleasure for everyone, and the Hamra Centre Auditorium is the best spot for a launch that I know.

Since then, some really pleasing publicity - things like the Advertiser article in the Monday edition's faith coverage pages, the enthusiastic response from groups who are already using the book as a discussion guide, the tremendous wow! moment when I saw that Dymock's city bookshop in Rundle Mall had given my book a whole feature window. I confess to standing in Rundle Mall pretending to be a casual tourist whose camera just somehow by sheer chance was mainly directed towards Dymock's window ... A lovely interview for 5MBS radio was also a pleasure; talking to Emily Sutherland for Kaleidescope is always a delight.

The last few days have involved much more marketing activity, with interviews and photos for the Messenger Press, lots of discussion with people in various religious groups and education bodies who are interested in using the book as a discussion guide, a book signing at the National Pastors' Conference of the Lutheran Church and, last night, a wonderful hour and a half in conversation with Lynn Arnold on his fortnightly LifeFM radio program. I'd not expected to be the sole featured guest, but it was amazing how quickly the 90 minutes of the program sped by - it was probably the most in-depth interview I've ever had. With, of course, a most polished and engaged interviewer. Thank you again, Lynn.

Meanwhile, unfortunately, writing time has slipped. Despite the encouragement of some poems published in magazines such as The Mozzie and Tamba, and the need to produce new work for the various writing groups we belong to, there's been sadly little focus on what I love to do. Oh well, back to the quill soon, I hope.

Next on the agenda, though, is the big CSA (Christian Schools of Australia) conference next week, with its 1100 registered participants. I'll give a workshop during this and have also booked a 'Market Stall' in their exhibition hall. That will be an interesting (perhaps daunting) experience. Wait and see.

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