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Second half year

Monday, 18 August 2014 15:06

And how rapidly it's going! Suddenly it's more than half way through August, and getting very close to our trip to Ireland and Germany. We do seem to be totally unprepared for departure, but then I usually feel like this at this stage. So maybe all will be well.

So much of this last month has gone on double-barrelled work: lots more book promotion of Passion Play - more guest speaking, which is always fun, and audiences have been so receptive that it's worth the psyching up ahead. But at the same time I've been getting organised for next year's book. Once the contract with Wakefield Press was signed, a great flood of relief swept over me, especially as all the readers ahead had given it such a positive reception and written great letters of endorsement for it. Also relieved that Wakefield want to publish it next year instead of 2014 - this suits me admirably and leaves me free to go away with a clear conscience and time to do the needed revisions and fine-tuning when I get back. 

So Bystanders (another book that's been simmering in my mind for many decades) will see the light of day in the second half of 2015.

Meanwhile I've had the fun of getting back the copies of A Poem a Day, based on the 33 poems I wrote, one a day, as we travelled round Spain last year. David put it together using Photoclub, a business that's worth a strong recommendation, and each day has a double page, a colour photo on the left and the poem for that day on the right hand side. I'm delighted with the way it's turned out, and we've produced a few copies for family members. I'm now thinking I might try to record our time travelling in Ireland in the same way. Journals and photo books are a great reminder, and we'll always do these, but the 'poem a day' book captures memories in such a special way. The power of verse, perhaps?

Happy days!

Saturday, 05 July 2014 06:35

Yet another month has disappeared ...  all very well for T.S.Eliot to talk about measuring out life with coffee spoons - I measure mine out the occasional web page entries! And this one is such good news. Yesterday Wakefield Press confirmed that they will publish my new book, Bystanders, next year - a great relief to have this established, as it's a book I really want to see finally in print. Someone asked me how long it had taken to write. I answered, honestly, all my life. True, because the genesis of this book is some writing I did back in 1958, and that's over fifty years ago. A VERY long gestation period. So middle of next year, once again my life comes full circle.

Meanwhile, other things this month have been surprising. Like the sudden unexpected decision to travel overseas later this year. That started with a trip David was very keen to do - a tour of Ireland, which he loves and where I've never been, to be followed by four weeks in Germany, travelling north to south, east to west, by a series of train trips - to see all the friends and relatives we have who are scattered all over this beautiful country. So, having said this 2014 was a stay-at-home year, we've decided to listen to the niggling sense of memento mori and go. But it's been a monumental jigsaw puzzle effort, working out an itinerary that, at this late stage of planning, fits in with everyone else's travel plans so that we can can catch up with all the old friends we want to see. Worth the work, and we'll be covering a lot of territory.

Back at the coal face

Monday, 09 June 2014 12:11

Last few weeks have been, thankfully, a bit more focused, and there's been a bit more writing done than I've managed for many months. A few poems, but the main effort has been to finish the new book, Bystanders. It's out for reading by a few people at this stage, and will be going to a publisher at the end of the week. I'm in that awful stage of huge self-doubt. Should never have written this. It's prose. Should have stuck to poetry. Maybe should stop writing altogether. Time to stop and smell the roses. Can't do that. The rose season is over, and it's almost time for the winter pruning. Perhaps a message in that too?

Back on deck

Wednesday, 21 May 2014 14:39

Another month gone by, and yet again I wonder where it's disappeared to. Just before Easter came the lovely Words@theWall evening, where Ros Schultz and I read at the State Library a smorgasbord of the poetry we've written over the years. Next day it was off to Canberra for Easter with family and catch-up time with old friends. Since return, there have been a number of Rotary Club speaking engagements - Holdfast Bay and Marion Clubs, followed later that week by Edwardstown. These are always really enjoyable events, as was taking part in the Hills Laneways Festival, where a group of poets read from our works outside the Red Cacao chocolate shop and cafe in bright sunshine with crowds of passersby wandering around the festival areas.

But now it's back to the desk again, and the computer, as I try to draw to an end the next book, another one many years in the thinking, and now at last getting on to paper. This book at last is the prose work that members of my family have been urging me to try for years. But in between, just to keep the muse pacified, scraps of poetry for the many writing groups we now belong to. It's so satisfying to be back to writing. All too soon June and July will bring the next crop of speaking engagements, and the balancing act will be on again ....

Afternoon at the Library

Tuesday, 15 April 2014 19:38

A lovely guest speaking session at the Mount Barker Library last Saturday. Not a large crowd (I gather most Hills people were off in Hahndorf watching Professor Tony Robertson film his TV history show) but a most responsive group to talk to about Oberammergau. It's always good to find some familiar faces from the past in an audience, and it was fun to catch up with people from my Immanuel teaching days. Next public event: the Words@the Wall guest reading at the State Library on Wednesday evening.

Lots to talk about

Monday, 07 April 2014 16:27

It's been great to have had so many opportunities to talk about my books and writing at public speaking events over recent months. I've been guest speaker at many Rotary Clubs, with more to come, and spoken and done book promotions at various writers' groups. Last week an interesting group of poets and musicians at Christies Beach, where Swirl & Reef hosted a regular event, and also a lovely large group of friendly and responsive listeners at the Ionian Club, an organisation that was new to me.

Two more are approaching rapidly. This Saturday (April 12) a 1 pm session at the Mt Barker Library, where I'll talk about the Oberammergau experience, and the fascinating tale of how the world-famous event of the Passion Play came into being and why it has lasted almost four hundred years. I'll enjoy telling this intriguing story, and also talking about my own trips there and the development of my novel, Passion Play.


Then the following Wednesday (April 16) is the regular Words at the Wall,a monthly event at the Treasures Wall of the State Library in North Terrace hosted by Friendly Street Poets, and a great opportunity for Adelaide poets to share their work. Ros Schulz and I are guest readers at the month's session at 6 pm, and looking forward to a chance to re-visit poems of the past as well as present - a sort of trip down the memory lane of our writing.

Both these are free events, and open to the public. It would be lovely to have friends come to support, as it's always good to see familiar faces in a crowd.

Back on deck

Saturday, 29 March 2014 18:43

Well, it's taken me a while to master this new web site - really only marginally different in management from the last, but hey, I've never pretended to be technologically competent. Having fought my way through the process, I've now reached the goal - to add to this Latest News page.

In fact, it's a catch-up on news from the last two months, which have been so crowded with book marketing and public speaking. However, I note from earlier entries that I was registering my disappointment with lack of any coverage of Passion Play in the Adelaide press …  that was well and truly compensated for when, in mid January, the Advertiser's SA Weekend, the Saturday magazine, featured my book as the major review on the Books page. A thoughtful and appreciative review by Katharine England, their senior reviewer, which more than made up for the weeks of waiting. Phrases like 'comedic cunning' brought joy to my heart, and her final comment recognised that the book was a verse novel, but readers 'should not be put off: the free verse is flexible and beautifully lean, an ideal medium for the pen-portrait and the interior monologue, the Chaucerian language is poetically decoded below each quotation to make the tantalizing link between the ancient and the modern, and the plot, or series of plots – so many well-drawn characters, so many complex lives, so much intriguing venality – is as readable, engaging and cleverly shaped as any good novel.'

You can understand my pleasure in this review from a critic whose comments I have always respected!

In this long series of talks to various organisations, many Rotary Clubs stand out as being very welcoming, but so also does a group I'd known nothing about: Adelaide's Ionian Club, where a gathering of about fifty people proved a wonderful audience for stories about Oberammergau and its Passion Play, a wonderful group of alert and interested listeners.

So now it's back to work  - more talks to writers' groups and service organisations, and a shared night with Ros Schulz as guest poets at the State Library's monthly Words at the Wall. That's at 6 pm on Wednesday April 16, at the Treasures Wall on the library's first floor - a warm invitation to anyone who can come. 

Up and running

Monday, 24 March 2014 16:51

And that could just about sum up the last two months - definitely 'up and running'!  They've been two very busy months indeed, with a lot of book marketing, public speaking, guest talks at various organisations, writers' groups … sometimes I wonder when I'll get back to writing. My basic production for the last few months has been a handful of poems and a few short stories - as well as a lot of thinking about the next major project. More on this later when I know where it's going. But I'll give more detail on what's actually been happening in my next entry.

So meanwhile it's been good to have the excuse of the new web site coming, as a reason why I haven't entered more news during this time. But now that the indispensable Maria has completed and installed the new site, that excuse has gone. So please do look through these pages, especially the sections on the books, where reviews and excerpts are included. I think she's done an excellent job, and it's great to have the site fully functional again. Thank you, Maria!

Of Galas and Other Launches

Thursday, 03 January 2013 10:30

A retrospective on November/December

Great book launches in two more states. Initially the trip to Queensland at the end of November for, first, taking part in the IP Publications annual Gala Event, in which four new books published by the house were launched. An afternoon at the Kookaburra Cafe in Paddington, with a lovely outlook over the gardens behind.

Another Great Review

Sunday, 13 January 2013 10:30

The Adelaide Review - January issue - page 22 featured my latest book, under the headline 'Grimmer Tales.' Quote reviewer Nina Bertok: "On the 200th anniversary of the printing of the Grimm Brothers' legendary collection of dark tales, The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm, Australian author Valerie Volk's twisted adaptation of the classic stories takes the 'grim' factor to another level." ... "She takes much loved children's fairytales ... and completely flips them on their head."

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