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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 ...

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 ....