Re-reading Old Stuff

It was a nice surprise to discover an older piece of writing I’d forgotten, particularly when it still holds up.

My overview of Fiona McIntosh’s historical fiction “Tapestry” was penned for Top 40 Book Club Reads 2015, a regular Brisbane City Council Library Service booklet written and compiled by unacknowledged library staff.

The book—billed as timeslip fiction—has a layered plot and it was hard to write a 100 word description without sounding too stilted.  McIntosh chose settings in two countries, Australia and Britain, in two different eras of history.  I particularly liked the second half in 1715 within the Tower of London.

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Synopsis by Gretchen Bernet-Ward

After visiting the Tower of London to research her book, McIntosh had “An unforgettable day and I attribute much of the story’s atmosphere to that marvellous afternoon and evening in the Tower of London with the Dannatts when the tale of Lady Nithsdale and my own Tapestry came alive in my imagination.”

Author Fiona McIntosh has written quite a stack of books set in many parts of the world, and in different genres: Non-Fiction, Historical Romantic-Adventure, Timeslip, Fantasy – Adult, Fantasy – Children, and Crime.

Check your local library catalogue in person or online.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


In order of appearance, the Brisbane Libraries Top 40 book club recommendations for 2015—I have not read Poe Ballantine’s chilling tale “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere” and I may never read it—See how many titles you’ve read!

The Visionist;  Moriarty;  Tapestry;  The Bone Clocks;  California; Z – Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald;  The Mandarin Code;  Merciless Gods;  Upstairs at the Party;  Friendship;  Birdsong;  Heat and Light;  Time and Time Again;  What Was Promised;  The Austen Project;  The Paying Guests;  The Exile – An Outlander Graphic Novel;  Lost and Found;  Amnesia;  Cop Town;  Mr Mac and Me;  Nora Webster;  The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden;  Inspector McLean – Dead Men’s Bones;  The Soul of Discretion;  We Were Liars;  Stone Mattress – Nine Tales;  Family Secrets;  South of Darkness;  The Claimant;  This House of Grief;  She Left Me the Gun;  Mona Lisa – A Life Discovered;  The Silver Moon;  Revolution;  Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere;  What Days Are For;  Mistress;  Warning – The Story of Cyclone Tracy;  The Birth of Korean Cool.

Toowoomba Mountain Air and Heritage Preserved

From Brisbane, we head inland to Gatton where we stop for lunch before crossing the fertile vegetable-growing plains of the Lockyer Valley.  Our goal is the garden city of Toowoomba, situated in the Darling Downs region of southern Queensland on Australia’s Great Dividing Range.

The gradient is steep and it’s a slow climb up the mountain before we crest the plateau and turn left to Picnic Point lookout.  It’s a traditional spot for travellers to stretch their legs and take in the magnificent views which seem to stretch forever into a blue-grey smudge.

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We stop for lunch at the Gatton campus of University of Queensland and admire this heritage-listed Foundation Building constructed in 1896 and used for events and conferences.
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Did you call a taxi? Children’s playground at Picnic Point, Toowoomba.

After checking into our boutique hotel, we take a short walk into town, passing old homes with steep corrugated iron roofs and interesting turrets and chimneys.

A charming old building in Margaret Street, once a grand home with circular driveway, is available for business lease.

In the city centre, shops and offices are still housed in quaint older-style buildings which seem to go on forever when you are inside.

The Book Tree bookshop is an Aladdin’s cave of books and accessories and a friendly salesperson.  The haberdashery store Lincraft is on three levels, basement, middle and top (with creaky wooden floorboards) crammed full of craft-creating supplies and good customer service.

Friendly staff seem to be the theme throughout Toowoomba including the upmarket shopping precinct Grand Central which contains everything the modern shopper has come to expect—plus a book swap library.

The seminar, the reason for our visit, isn’t until next day so we decide to walk through Queens Park Botanic Gardens, bypassing an old steamroller, to visit Cobb & Co Museum.  Originally a coach museum in honour of Cobb & Co horse-drawn coaches which ran the length and breadth of Queensland in ye olde days, the museum has been rehoused and now contains a myriad of local and culturally significant items.

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Walking towards Cobb and Co Historical Museum, Toowoomba Queensland, with Queens Park Botanic Gardens on the left.
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Outside the Cobb & Co Museum, Toowoomba, admiring the huge display of Southern Cross windmills.

We are lucky enough to get a personal guided tour—thank you, Sharon—and learn the ins and outs of the exhibits from coaches to goat carts, blacksmith forge to wooden clothing (photos below) and local Indigenous heritage.

The museum interior meanders like an old country trail with something different around every bend.

I discover that even though male passengers paid full fare, in the olden days they were expected to assist with river crossings, fallen logs, opening and closing stock gates, and to ‘lighten the load’ by walking up hills.  What a hardy bunch!  We need survivor TV shows to see that level of guts and determination today.

Images below show Chris Mills-Kelly’s delicately carved wooden bonnet, dress and shoes for the Artisans Challenge 2012.  It is both fascinating and moving; these small articles represent the clothing Indigenous children were made to wear for photo opportunities, adoption interviews and to impress important visitors, in contrast to their natural birthright.

After a delicious museum lunch with a huge lamington for dessert (below) we wind our way back to the hotel through misty rain.

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Made by the dozen, lamingtons are a traditional Australian dessert. Ingredients are a sponge square dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut. The lamington pictured is larger than normal and usually not served with the bonus of cream or raspberry coulis.

My brochure reads “Although the famous coaches and tenacious horse teams and drivers are now long gone, Cobb & Co continues to live on in Australian history as the country’s greatest coaching company.”

The Cobb & Co Museum conducts workshops and various events and activities throughout the year.  Our museum guide told us the workshops book out quickly.  The specialist trades of yesteryear are back in fashion, wheelwright, silversmith, leadlighting, etc.  One day I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at kangaroo leather plaiting.  It’s a three-day course to make a belt or a whip, so watch this space.  Yippee aye yay!

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Originally called Cliffordene, now Harris House, this stately old home in central Toowoomba relied on crowd funding for restoration until it was handed over to National Trust two years ago. Sadly the garden is in need of work.

We walked by this gracious old residence, Harris House, every day.  At leisure, I explored parks, galleries and cafes.  Everybody was ready for a chat.  Of course, I checked out the fashion clothing stores.  Toowoomba is colder in winter than Brisbane so I ended up buying several long sleeved t-shirts which I wore in layers under my jacket.

So nice to have a change of scene and a change of season.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Bribie Island Butterfly House Visit

The world’s best loved insects – butterflies.  As soon as I walked into the Bribie Island Butterfly House, a sense of calm enveloped me.  Founder Ray Archer says “Butterflies are beautiful and very peaceful insects” and I can attest to that.

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Blue Tiger

This tranquil not-for-profit organisation was founded by Ray and Delphine Archer who sold their business Olive Products Australia and moved to beautiful Bribie Island, off the south-east coast of Queensland, so Ray could devote time to his passion for breeding and raising butterflies.

I’d like to take you on a stroll through the butterflies domain.  But first we will learn a few facts from the Nursery before entering their airy, sun-filled, flower-perfumed enclosure.

A LESSON OR TWO ON BUTTERFLIES . . .

  • A female butterfly may lay between 100 to 200 eggs, and within a week or so a caterpillar will hatch.
  • A caterpillar breathes through tiny holes in its sides and will eat its own weight in leaf material every day until the final skin is discarded and the chrysalis hardens.
  • Inside the chrysalis, metamorphosis continues as the butterfly is formed and this can take weeks, months or sometimes years.
  • When the final stages of the caterpillar are complete, the newly formed adult butterfly will emerge, needing a few hours to dry its wings before taking flight.
  • Butterflies don’t have a mouth, they use their proboscis like a straw to drink nectar from flowers.
  • Butterflies have two large compound eyes which offer a wide visual field and extreme colour vision. 
  • The two antennae on a butterfly’s head help with navigation and detecting plant aromas and a prospective mate.

AND THE ONE YOU WILL BE TESTED ON . . .

  • Butterflies are insects in the macrolepidopteran clade Rhopalocera from the order Lepidoptera.

Ready to go inside?  You have to go slow because butterflies don’t dive-bomb you like mosquitoes.  Silent wings flutter by, difficult to photograph, I marvel at their fragility.

Photos left to right—Plant-filled entry; a vine chock-full of happy butterflies; misty air rises from a vaporizer; a Common Crow, why that name?; a Swamp Tiger against the blue sky; newly hatched Monarch; oops, there’s two Orchard Swallowtails mating, best move on  . . .

NEXT I NOTICED QUIRKY THINGS TUCKED AROUND THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE . . .

Hanging pot planters and gumboots stuffed with plants.
A rather clandestine bubbler and a secret butterfly door.
Inspirational quote and landing pad stocked with nutritious butterfly food.

This lady (below) had to make sure she was butterfly-free before leaving.  The butterflies landed on hair and hats.  Interestingly, they stayed well clear of the heavy black plastic doors, perhaps because their focus is on light, bright colours.

Before departing I visited the plant section where butterfly-friendly plants (see chart) were available for purchase.  There is no cafe and no merchandising, and nobody telling visitors The Rules.  The only suggestion is to leave your worries in a bin at the door.  Quite a refreshing visit in more ways than one!

The Bribie Island Butterfly House exists to provide a sense of purpose and lasting friendships among their volunteers, to offer visitors an enjoyable and educational visit in a peaceful environment and to help the disadvantaged via donations to charities.

Grow a patch of dandelions!  Check out Lyn’s wonderful UK Butterflies And Garden blog.  Pledge to stop using manufactured pesticides!  Around my area, the green tree frog and butterfly populations have severely decreased due to the rise in toxic garden herbicides and pesticides.  Think natural, not noxious!

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 And, of course, my avatar is a hand-drawn butterfly.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

THAT is a Stupid Word

THAT debate rages on.  THAT is an overused, unnecessary word, a redundant filler which bulks out your manuscript and changes just about anything into THAT nothingness.

Increasingly, ambiguous THAT is being used instead of ‘who’ and ‘which’ or more descriptive words to introduce a defining clause.  This is happening universally in writing today; THAT is slowing and neutralising sentences.

Seven examples where THAT is incorrect or useless, write your own, you get my drift:

  1. She said that it was in her best interest – delete.
  2. They walked down the stairs that are rather grand – use which.
  3. He visits the koala that he sponsors – delete.
  4. Judy thinks Angela is the sort of woman that enjoys tennis – use who.
  5. He assumed that they all wanted to singalong with him – delete.
  6. It takes a minute to realise that Sue is talking – delete.
  7. Tom has to tell her that her dog has been stolen – OK-ish.

A pronoun is a word taking the place of a noun.  THAT is a demonstrative pronoun and used in the right context it has a legitimate reason to exist, e.g. ‘That’s a good idea’.

That Word That Deleted

It is perfectly valid when THAT appears in character dialogue, but when a writer indiscriminately uses THAT in other areas of their work, I find it needlessly clunky.

Of course, you can change a passive voice to an active voice, or use the rule ‘Who is a person, THAT is an object’.  Remember ‘Who, what, when, where, why’ to help you decide.

On the other hand, there’s always exceptions.  Use your own discretion as to where you like or don’t like THAT, and where THAT actually does fit in your sentence.  Once you become aware of THAT, you will probably get rid of it unless you use American English.

CHALLENGE 

  • Read through text or a draft you have written in the last month.
  • Check for how many time you use the word THAT.
  • Are you surprised at your usage?
  • Could you use a more expressive word than THAT?
  • Could you condense your word count by omitting THAT?
  • Read a novel or document and watch for THAT exploitation.

IMG_20190513_111412Like me, not everyone has a degree in English grammar, check further:
https://www.bkacontent.com/avoid-overusing-word-writing/
https://www.thefreedictionary.com/List-of-pronouns.htm
https://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/09/07/that-who-which/

If there’s a ‘Ditch THAT’ campaign running, I will sign up!

Why?  Because current literary exertion is being spent on THAT, an overworked and superfluous word.  What more can I say about THAT?  Or, what more can I say?

‘That’s all, folks’

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART THREE

On your marks, get set…

The University of Queensland Alumni Book Fair 2019 at St Lucia, Brisbane, had been in full swing for a couple of days before I arrived on the third day.  One more day to go with no sign of running out of keen customers or brilliant book bargains.

The Exhibition Hall is huge!

The whole area was filled with tables covered in books of every shape, size, colour and genre.  I couldn’t name every section without going cross-eyed but there were technical books, reference books, fiction, non-fiction, and fun stuff like mixed media (including old vinyl records) and cool kids books.

I could say romance novels jostled for position with items such as travel guides and political biographies but everything was grouped in an orderly manner, well marked and easy to access.  I was surprised to see numerous large old dictionaries for sale, however, the eclectic poetry section caught my eye.  Ooh, Bruce Dawe.

Total absorption

The whole area was spacious, clean and civilised.  I expected a few gasps or cries of joy when The One, that perfect addition to a series or a special edition was found and held aloft.  But no, basically the customers had their own agendas and moved calmly from book table to book table with carry bags, totally absorbed.  By my estimation, I think you could expect to spend about two hours scanning and sifting through the books, more if you wanted to read pages here and there.

Stacks of boxes

In the first photo (above) in the distance you can see a stack of book boxes, then in the second photo you see the book boxes up close.  That opened box was about head-height and a volunteer told me those boxes had stretched along the walls, and every day they were emptied.  Volunteers in purple t-shirts worked tirelessly the whole time I was there, unpacking, shelving, answering queries, and working at the payment points.

Afternoon tea

In the adjacent cafeteria (delicious homemade strawberry cake) I displayed some of the haul.  You will spy a small red book in the left-hand photo which I have opened in the right-hand photo.  The dust-jacket is missing and the previous owner had not liked naughty boy Pierre and scribbled on him in pencil but I love it.  After a bit of searching, I found out this little Maurice Sendak volume is one of four, a Nutshell Library boxed set published in 1962 by HarperCollins.

Time to go

On display in the foyer of the Exhibition Hall were enlarged travel images and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the duck and ducklings.  Overall, the synchronicity of UQ Alumni Friends, Members and volunteers created an exceptional event.

Walking back to the bus stop, weighed down with my treasure, the water bubbling through the pipes of this fountain made a relaxing sound so I stopped to admire it.

As I stood there, I thought about the massive amount of books on every subject imaginable which showed how far we have come, and how much of value we have left behind.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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My previous posts:

Part One
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/04/28/rare-book-auction-and-alumni-book-fair/
Part Two
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/05/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-two/

Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART TWO

What a blast!

On arrival, drinks and nibbles were a nice surprise after travelling by bus along winding streets to UQ Alumni Rare Book Auction.  From then onward it was non-stop action from 6pm until 9pm in Fryer Library.

Twilight sky

Beforehand, I walked not the ‘hallowed halls’ but the beautiful arched sandstone walkways of the Great Court to the Fryer Library entrance.  I caught the lift to the fourth floor where several people were mingling in the foyer beside the bidding registration table.  On receiving Number 30, I hoped it was a lucky number.

Lucky number 30

I wandered in to the library, strolled through all the assembled black chairs, and entered the book viewing area.  Lighting was subdued but it was easy to see the fascinating array of old books waiting patiently for my frenzied bidding.  Not quite frenzied; but to jump ahead, I did offer a bid for a beautiful book, at least I think it is, which started and finished at the same amount, i.e. nobody out-bid me.  Shame really because Smith, A. Croxton ‘Tail-Waggers’ Country Life, London, 1935, 147 pp has superbly rendered B&W mounted etchings by Malcolm Nicholson.

Lights, camera, action

After ascertaining if I could take photos, permission granted, I ended up being so entranced by the bidding that I didn’t take many shots.  The introductions, welcome and Acknowledgement of Country were conducted (first by university librarian Caroline Williams originally from Nottingham UK) and at 6.45pm, auctioneer Jonathan Blocksidge stood behind the lectern.  Game on!

Quickly, keep up

The bidding was fast and Mr Blocksidge kept the pace up, the heat on and the bids rising.  There seemed to be some pretty serious collectors and possibly agents in the audience and at times the bids rose in increments so rapidly it was hard to keep track.

The highest bidder

There were absentee bidders and Lot 27 rose above the reserve price.  As the night progressed – 146 lots were listed – bidding ‘wars’ occurred, particularly between two people behind me.  The jousting for Lot 62, first edition of ‘Human Action: A Treatise on Economics’ made the audience applaud in appreciation.  Same for Lot 66 ‘The Natural History of Man’ and Lot 86 James Cook’s ‘A Voyage Towards the South Pole’ which later culminated in Lot 105 Charles Kingsford-Smith’s personally signed copy of ‘Story of Southern Cross’ going for a huge amount.

Regrettably, the star of the show and expected highlight of the evening Lot 146 Gauss (de Brunswick) book ‘Recherches Arithmetiques’ did not meet the hefty reserve price.

Until tomorrow

The UQ team of staff and volunteers worked tirelessly throughout the evening, quiet yet ready to assist, and I think they did an excellent job.  In fact, I have been reliably informed that all of the auction organisers I had contact with are UQ Alumni Friends, Members and volunteers.  They were supported by the Fryer Library team (led by Manager, Simon Farley) who organised the chairs, allowed use of the library space, and provided the hospitality pre-event.  A success well deserved!

I purchased and collected my precious old book of ‘Tail-Waggers’ and headed out into the cool, calm night.

Stick around for Part Three coming soon, my adventure with books, books and more books.  Or better still, visit the UQ Alumni Book Fair yourself!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Check out my previous post Part One
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/04/28/rare-book-auction-and-alumni-book-fair/
and my final post Part Three
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/08/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-three/

 

Rare Book Auction and Alumni Book Fair PART ONE

So excited, I’ve never been to a rare book auction.  In fact, I have never been to an auction.  It’s not something which cropped up in my everyday life and I must admit from what I’ve seen on television, it can get pretty fast and furious.

There’s always the horror of twitching an eyebrow and accidentally bidding for a hugely expensive volume of poetry, the only book of its kind in the world, which has to stay in a glass case.  Well, not exactly, but you get the idea.

MY COMMENTARY INTERSPERSED WITH IMAGES

The University of Queensland Alumni Book Fair and Rare Book Auction will be held at St Lucia Campus, Brisbane, over four days on the weekend of Friday 3 May to Monday 6 May 2019 – Monday being Labour Day holiday in Queensland – see UQ website for various times.

HOW DID I FIND OUT ABOUT THIS RARE BOOK AUCTION?

Last month, I attended a talk at University of Queensland’s Long Pocket Campus, home of the University of Queensland Press, or UQP as it is fondly known, the oldest independent publishing house in Australia with an illustrious stable of authors.  I browsed some of the newly published books on offer, grabbed a coffee and sat with other attendees to absorb an informative talk from the Publishing Director, right down to choosing bookcovers.

We broke for a tasty lunch then listened to the ins-and-outs of publishing publicity, Selling The Brand.  Another world really but invaluable knowledge for a writer.  Our group participated in a Q&A quiz about books and authors.  I threw up my hand and answered correctly, winning myself a new novel ‘The Geography of Friendship’ by Sally Piper which I will read and review.

DOWN A HILL AND UP A HILL . . .

Afterwards, we all trooped outside, down a hill and up a hill through the lush native gardens to where the Archives live.  Amongst the thousands of new and used books donated every year, there are rare and valuable tomes, well-kept considering their age.  On the shelving, behold every genre, every topic, every format imaginable.  And nearly every item in the Junior Section held nostalgia for me.  It is here I learned about the UQ Alumni Rare Book Auction 6pm on Friday 3 May 2019.

BROWSE AND BUY – TAKE A TROLLEY – BOOK VOLUNTEERS WELCOME

I will have to leave you hanging, dear reader, because I will write Part Two when I’ve actually been to the Rare Book Auction in Fryer Library which itself is full of literary treasures.  See you there?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Here is MORE tantalising information:
http://books.alumnifriendsuq.com/rare-book-auction/
and http://books.alumnifriendsuq.com/charles-kingsford-smith-at-the-the-uq-alumni-book-fair-and-rare-book-auction/

Plus BONUS extras so you can jump ahead:
Part Two
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/05/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-two/
Part Three https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2019/05/08/rare-book-auction-and-uq-alumni-book-fair-part-three/


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UQ Duhig Tower Forgan Smith Fryer Library
UQ Forgan Smith Building, Duhig Tower to Fryer Library

Synopsis Writing for Your Novel – Advice from Senior Editor

Synopsis

Poetry Clipart 13The agony of writing a synopsis!  For writers who find it hard to chop their synopsis down to size, this video from Nicola, senior editor of HarperCollins Publishers, steps us through a seamless 500 word synopsis.  It will grab that attention your manuscript deserves.  And, yes, a synopsis does include plot spoilers.

 

First Page

Poetry Clipart 08Read why the first page of a manuscript is so important.  Anna Valdinger, HarperCollins commercial fiction publisher knows – she reads a tonne of submissions every year.
Click Importance of Manuscript First Page

 

The Banjo Prize

HarperCollins is Australia’s oldest publisher and The Banjo Prize is named after Banjo Paterson, Australia’s first bestselling author and poet.  His first collection of poems The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses was published in 1895.  Who’s up for 2019?

The Banjo Prize is annual and open to all Australian writers of fiction, offering the chance to win a publishing contract with HarperCollins and an advance of AU$15,000.  Submit entries via HarperCollins website.  Entries opened 25 March 2019 and close 5pm AEST on Friday 24 May 2019.  Good luck!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward 


✏  Give it a go!

Art of Camel Hair Shearing

Check out these camel hairstyles!  Proud cameleers display their abilities in various competitions from camel racing to designer shearing.  Love those patterns!  Camels are versatile, thriving in harsh desert conditions similar to the Australian outback.  Since visiting a local camel dairy farm, I read the blog of Dr Raziq of Communities Animal Genetic Resources and Food Security to discover more about the biodiversity of original camel country.  And beautiful camel hair designs.
Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Camel Haircuts Designer Shearing

Traditional Animal Genetic Resources for Food Security Under Climate Change Influence

The region of the Indo-Pak is rich with camel culture. Camel is an integral part of the heritage of the camel keepers’ communities in the region. As a source of livelihood, a camel is also a tool of recreation and entertainment also. This picture is about the haircut competition of great Thar desert. One can see the artistic theme of the designer/hair cutter.

The barbers make different designs according to the desire of the camel keepers/owners. Such designs are made by art loving, son of the soil, and very specialized barbers. The barbers are well known and have very busy days in the season. The season of the design is usually the cooler months of the year as the camel sheds his wool in the hotter months of the year. The complete design of a camel takes 2 to 5 hours, based on the size of the camel and the design of the…

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A Dragon Delivered My Parcel

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I was waiting for the delivery of a book written by UK author Maria Donovan.  The title and synopsis of ‘The Chicken Soup Murder’ hint at a delicious yet deadly coming-of-age mystery.

There was scratching at the front door and our well-trained pet dragon stood there with a grin on his face.  He had collected the parcel from the letterbox in anticipation of a treat.  I patted him on the head and said ‘Good boy’ then picked up the parcel.  He whined.  I laughed.  ‘Okay, I’ll get a couple of nuts’.

Inside the door, I placed the parcel on the sideboard.  Underneath was an old rusty toolkit containing old rusty bits and pieces.  I selected a couple of flange nuts and one bolt, gave them a squirt with WD40, and went back outside.

Part of the game was a quick toss-and-gulp and if you weren’t ready you’d miss it.  I closed the front door on the slobbering noises and went to find a pair of scissors.  The Booktopia cardboard was tough but I wrested it open.

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And there was the pristine book I had so eagerly awaited!  At the moment, I’ve only read up to Page 20 so I am sorry to disappoint you but my book review will be in another blog post further down the track.  As my auntie used to say ‘Keep you in suspenders.’

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

The Blogosphere Ebb and Flow

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Tropical lagoon and green algae swirls at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019

The swirls and ripples of the blogosphere will let your post resurface any number of times to an ever-widening pool of readers.

Never underestimate the infinite lifespan of a blog post.

Your post may not make a big splash the first time, nor days later, but it has the potential to be viewed many times into the future.

I know, because I have certain posts which haunt me.  In the nicest possible way, of course, but it is still rather disconcerting when an old post gets a sudden flurry of views.  It’s like they tread water waiting to bob up.

The reason behind my floating posts remains unclear to me.

Where, or why, my original blog story becomes resuscitated could be caused by any number of factors from reblogging to tweeting or—

  1.  linked on someone’s page
  2.  kindly mentioned in a comment
  3.  family members on Facebook
  4.  topic of interest and my tags swum into view
  5.  tumbled into the lake of eternal blogs…

I’m sure the tech pond at WordPress is teeming with answers but that’s too factual for me, I prefer the serendipitous, the happenstance of it all.

Overall, I am always pleased and still thrill to see those stats wade across the WordPress map!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Tropical lagoon ebb and flow of green algae at Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, Brisbane, Australia 2019

Why Writers Write

Is acknowledgement a cherished goal?
Is reimbursement the final accolade?
Or will a writer write regardless?

On a writer’s wishlist, there would have to be the thrill of seeing their name in print.  My name under a bold heading on a hardback cover would show that I’ve made it.  Throw in a display stand, a book launch with signing table, coffee and cupcakes, and I would be in literary heaven.  No doubt hell would follow with the necessary writing of a sequel…

Recently a member of my writers group asked the question “Why do you write?” which seemed innocuous enough but there were vastly different answers—-see below.

My earnest reply went something like “Because I think in words hence the title of my blog.  Most things I experience can become a potential story.”  I am always mapping out first lines, or an introductory paragraph, or setting the scene.  This, however, does not mean I will be traditionally published.  I just keep doing it.

I believe a writer’s inner core is made of words and emotions which must be written down.

If I’m undertaking a complex household chore like chopping carrots, I may not jot down a sudden literary gem, but, no matter, I will find myself composing another while out grocery shopping.

For example “See that bloke over there, he’s uncomfortable and he’s trying to get up the nerve to...”

(1) ask the sales assistant out (2) steal that expensive car polish (3) abandon his trolley at the checkout (4) inquire about a job (5) hide behind the refrigerated cabinet to avoid his mother/parole officer/ex-boss or chatty neighbour.

See, I can’t help it!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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“All I Need To Write” by Grant Snider – A room with a view, No other work to do, A child-proof lock, A ticking clock, Natural light, A chair that fits just right, New paper and pens, Some animal friends, The right phase of the moon, Ambient tunes, A world of my creation, Or internal motivation – http://www.incidentalcomics.com/


GENUINE RESPONSES FROM 31 WRITERS WHEN ASKED THE QUESTION

“WHY DO YOU WRITE?”

A form of self-expression, the joy of crafting something meaningful.

I write because I can’t imagine my life without writing in it.

I started writing because I wanted to explore my creative side.

Because I can’t dance.

Mostly it’s because I have loads of inspiration and story ideas and I need to write them to get them out of my head!

It sets my soul free and my heart on fire….storytelling is an inextricable part of who I am.

I write because I want to.

I write because ideas, images and words come to me and they seem important to share.

I can’t help it, stories bubble and whirl around in my head all the time.

So I can draw the pictures, to be honest I find writing really tedious – I just want to illustrate.

I do not know why. It just is. And sometimes or often, it isn’t.

Because I like making people laugh and feel other feelings.

I’ve always imagined myself writing one day, but now that I’m finally trying to make it actually happen I’m finding it a lot harder than I expected.

If it’s any help, writing for me is mostly agony.

Starting is great fun…I love cracking the problems.

Because I know how it feels to not create.

Writing is, for me, a personal freedom.

Because I like making things.

Because I think in words, the title of my blog is Thoughts Become Words.

For me it is almost a subconscious act that I’m completely driven to do.

Because I have to, it’s not a want or a need, it’s an in-the-bones thing.

Writing is always there with me, sometimes we’re best of friends, often we’re not.

Cos I have to! I do my best to avoid it, I really do.

Can’t help it.

To put something wonderful out into the world.

It does get easier especially when you get a download in your head.

I think it’s a wonderful form of escapism.

It’s part of me.

At the moment I’d say that writing is a kind of masochism for me.

I love writing and hate it in equal measure.

Because it’s fun and because I find it impossible not to.


Pen Paper Clipart Boy Holding Pencil

EAGER FOR MORE LITERARY INSIGHTS?
Frank McKinley, author and writing coach, also raised the question—-
https://www.frankmckinleyauthor.com/54-writers-love-writing/

Blogging Pleasure and Pain

I’m reading blog posts which say ‘Posting has become a chore’ or ‘It’s hard to post regularly’ or ‘Feeling the pressure to post’—-stop right there!

Take a break, the earth, the sky and the stars will still be there, the world will still turn.

Conversely there are serious blog posts coercing, er, cajoling the writer into a formula.  Or worse, a winning formula to be the best blogger in the blogosphere.

There’s even a blog ideas generator, how unoriginal can you get!

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

Does a technique overcome bloggers block?  Better blogging supposedly comes with strategies, structure, schedules, regularity, planning…bah, humbug I say!  There’s probably enough pressure in your world without adding more via your blog.  If anything, blogging should be

a freedom,

a release from the daily grind,

your little patch of calmness,

a zone of personal creativity,

a focus on what you want,

how you want to say it,

and most of all, don’t worry,

let your originality take over.

The old hippie saying ‘go with the flow’ is appropriate when doing morning pages and you may like writing in the morning or writing in the evening.  Don’t push yourself to write to someone else’s rule, someone else’s timetable.  Free-writing is better than no writing.  You can actually write anywhere, anytime, and I don’t mean social media.

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Self-control up to a point.
Yeah, I know people who have to have a hammer hanging over their heads on a piece of string.  If they stand up, the hammer hits them on the head, they sit back down and do another 500 words of pain.  One famous writer actually tied his body to the chair to write.
Then there’s that annual trial by acronym.
Which does not spell  g-o-o-d  w-o-r-k  to me.

Do you really want a target audience?  Do you personally know anyone who is making a decent living from blogging?  They’re the ones in the pressure cooker.  If you are not commercially selling, I say ‘Do your own thing!’ and that’s exciting.

I speak from experience.  You will find your own rhythm if you truly want to write.  And nobody, least of all me, will help you or hinder you.  You’re on your own, kid.

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

‘Work hard to create great content’ if it’s too hard it won’t work.

‘Blog often while controlling quality’we all know quality varies.

‘Find your competition and observe them’nothing worse than a lurker.

‘Write to please your readers’first ask yourself ‘Am I pleased with it?’

‘Improve your blog writing formula’your creativity is not a prescription.

‘What is your target market searching for?’don’t pander to the people.

‘What type of content do readers prefer?’write your content and let them Follow.

‘Start internal link building’in other words Liking but not liking.

‘You need to know the right audience for you’ other bloggers will work that out.

‘Make your blog post titles catchy’why get hung up on headings.

‘Don’t have time to write then reblog or hire a ghost-writer’ha ha ha ha ha.

‘Images are important to highlight your post’keep them relevant, naturally.

Good eye-appeal in formats and layouts’beauty is in the eye of the blogger.

‘Learn basic SEO’because it’s basic but not life threatening.

‘Reply to Comments daily’meaning a proper reply or else deactivate Comments.

‘Bill Gates once said Content Is King’well, hey, that’s a given.

‘Keep wordcount down’there are people who can still read lots of words.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

YOUR WORDS, YOUR WORLD, CREATE YOUR WAY!

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A refreshing nap or agony for hours…

Let’s Have Lunch Up Mt Coot-tha

It’s a sunny, springtime day in subtropical Brisbane and we are heading towards Mt Coot-tha, the ‘mountain’ which is really a hill.  The temperature is balmy and the drive is easy, out along a flat highway which decimated countless trees and native bushland.

We cruise by the Botanical Gardens, the Planetarium, the quarry (!), the cop with a radar speed gun, the tourists in an overheating VDub Kombi-van and climb towards the summit lookout which sits atop what was colloquially known as ‘One Tree Hill’.

Plenty more trees now, well, there is at the moment but Brisbane City Council may revert to one.  The council is keen to upgrade the area, adding tourist lures like a zipline and tree-top canopy walk.  Bye-bye quiet little harmless native animals and birds who take sanctuary there from the six-lane highway below.

We reach the carpark of our destination, fluke a spot, and notice the air smells eucalyptus fresh.  It’s an interesting walk through various nationalities of smiling, picture-taking tourists.  We join the milling crowd and peruse the Summit Restaurant & Bar menu before deciding the dollars signs are for high class meals.  It is easier to tag onto the lunchtime queue at Kuta Café with its two-tiered eating decks.

I enjoy a delicious chicken salad wrap and share a huge bowl of baked potato wedges with heaps of sour cream and sweet chill sauce.  After keenly snapping views towards the river and western suburbs, Brisbane CBD, and Moreton Bay with Moreton Island sandhills way in the distance, we detour the gift shop and head back to the car.

A friendly magpie lands on the car mirror, enquiring about food, but we have none to give, so it takes off—see below for this gripping encounter.

We agree not to drive the long way, the full circuit around Sir Samuel Griffith Drive which passes leafy barbecue areas, transmission towers and headquarters of local television stations.

Heading down the hillside, the city views and far-reaching scenery becomes less and less until ground level, then the highway roundabout appears, perfectly positioned opposite Toowong Cemetery.

The City of Brisbane is growing, the traffic is growing, the drivers are getting faster.  Or am I turning into a grumpy older person?  Time for a nap!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward   

Brisbane Logo

Ready to Read ‘Lethal White’

Just received a brand new copy of ‘Lethal White’ the fourth volume in Robert Galbraith’s Cormoran Strike detective series.  We all know that J K Rowling actually writes it but what I didn’t know was that this hardback edition is large and heavy!

The cover has a nice grungy look and, no, I did not skid it across the tarmac.

It was difficult to photograph because the bronze lettering flared but I wanted to illustrate the interesting trend of books getting bigger again.

I can’t help wondering how it will compare to previous adventures.  The book blurb reads “The most epic Robert Galbraith novel yet, ‘Lethal White’ is both a gripping mystery and a page-turning next instalment in the ongoing story of Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott.”

I will post a review when I’ve ploughed my way through 647 pages.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Link to my book review https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2018/11/09/review-lethal-white-by-robert-galbraith/

Miniature Works of Art

After browsing the magazines at our local newsagent, I head for the greeting card section, well-stocked with original, colourful and varied cards, all shapes and sizes for all occasions.

My eye is always caught by a card which I think would suit the receiver.  Even if there’s no occasion on the horizon, I’ll buy the greeting card so I’m prepared.

This bookcase artwork is my latest purchase which came with a shiny gold envelope – I love it so much I don’t think I’ll mail it to anyone!


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Title M137 Bookshelves
Designed by Jane Crowther © 2016
Published by Bug Art Ltd, Nottingham, England UK
Website http://www.bugart.co.uk

 


Another newsagent and stationery shop is undergoing renovations.  The dog paintings make a nice change from blatant fashion store hoardings.  Balloons or thought bubbles?

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

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Bill Bailey – Earl of Whimsy

Bill Baily Actor Comedian

I love searching for theatre performances out-of-town.  Just the ticket!  British actor, writer, musician, comedian Bill Bailey will bring his inimitable style to Queensland in the historic Empire Theatre in Toowoomba.

A thriving rural town with fine old buildings, a genteel air and beautiful gardens, Toowoomba is situated on the top edge of the Great Dividing Range so the weather is more temperate than Brisbane.  And they have successfully resurrected the art deco splendours of the Empire Theatre.

Bill Baily Actor Show Empire Theatre

Bill Bailey has appeared in various TV series including ‘QI’ and ‘Have I Got News for You’ and his most memorable character was Manny in ‘Black Books’.  The following details are all about his newest stage show––

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“After his 2016 sell-out tour, ‘Larks in Transit’, the UK’s very own straggle-haired polymath, Bill Bailey, returns to Australia in 2018 with his new comedy and music extravaganza, ‘Earl of Whimsy’.

“Bill describes himself in his own words, an Earl of Whimsy.  Whatever his title, this might be Bill’s cleverest, daftest, most eccentric show yet.  Quote from The Guardian ‘Scales the peaks of sublime silliness…this is a foray into Bailey’s magpie mind…a delightful place to spend time.’

“While the world tumbles into a seemingly more chaotic place by the minute, find a moment of calm in the chaos with a trip round Bill’s mind, described recently as ‘A huge, lavishly decorated and nicely untidy place… its contents spill out with an infectious enthusiasm during this wonderful show’.  This I gotta see!

“The show has Bill’s trademark blend of satire and surrealism, stories and dismantled jokes, crowd singalongs, weird instruments and musical showstoppers.  But there’s a distinctly historical feel.  With its tales of Britain’s fortunes past and present, of ancient Viking battles, of Shakespeare’s contribution to comedy, and Bill’s own ancestry, this is both a mockery and a celebration of national identity.

“It’s also a journey of discovery.  We find out where Knock Knock jokes came from, how we got days of the week.  And why Nicky Minaj rejected a puffin sample for her latest single.  (That last sentence means nothing to me!)  There are lively audience discussions, a mass German singalong, and even some Cockney crab-dancing.  Something for everyone.”

For more information on Bill’s extravaganza on Monday 15 October 2018, 8pm and other shows at the Empire Theatre, click What’s On.

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Hmm, I think dinner and a show is likely and perhaps an overnight stay at historic boutique hotel Vacy Hall. Love that place!

Thank you to local blogger Fiona Ryan of Tiffin who has images of the Empire Theatre art deco delights on her website http://www.tiffinbitesized.com.au/2015/02/13/art-deco-delight-the-empire-theatre-toowoomba/

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

My Visit to Koala Science Institute

The Koala is a laidback leaf-muncher who gets hassled by the bad boys of the Aussie bush.  Not by other native animals but tree-lopping developers and domestic pets.  Koalas are a unique marsupial which needs human protection to survive.  And eucalyptus trees, of course.

At Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, an 18-hectare Koala conservation park in the Brisbane suburb of Fig Tree Pocket, Queensland, there is a new facility dedicated to Koala health and well-being.  I paid them a visit to learn more…

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Greeted by mother and baby on arrival at Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary, Brisbane. On this visit I didn’t hug a real Koala but you can!

The Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus, not a bear) is an arboreal herbivorous marsupial native to Australia.  It is the only extant representative of the family Phascolarctidae and its closest living relatives are the wombats.

To quote the KOALA SCIENCE COMMUNITY dedicated to Research, Connect, Protect:

“United by a common purpose to conserve koalas across their range, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary and Brisbane City Council worked together to build and establish the Brisbane Koala Science Institute, located at the sanctuary in Brisbane, Queensland. The Institute and this online community are further supported by Lone Pine’s not-for-profit organisation, the Research for Nature Foundation, which will help fund various South-East Queensland koala projects, in partnership with local scientists, researchers, and industry professionals.

Our aim is to bring together like-minded individuals in a knowledge-sharing environment to foster innovation, facilitate collaboration, and enhance accessibility, with the aim to deliver real, practical outcomes beneficial to the local wild koala populations.”  Affiliated with https://www.zooaquarium.org.au/index.php/world-class-koala-research-facility-now-open-at-lone-pine-koala-sanctuary/

At the unique Brisbane Koala Science Institute at leafy Lone Pine, I was pleasantly surprised at how much Koala information I absorbed in a short space of time.  There are interactive (and multilingual) displays, research labs with public viewing areas and a koala observation area.

♥ Koalas have special teeth for grinding down eucalyptus leaves which ferment creating sleeping patterns which mean they can sleep more than 18 hours a day.  ♥ Koalas have large, strong claws to help them climb smooth-barked eucalyptus trees.  ♥ A Koala baby, joey, lives in the mother’s pouch for six months then grows up to become a big eater, consuming about one kilogram of eucalyptus leaves per day.  ♥ Koalas front paws can grip small branches as they reach for the juiciest leaves.  ♥ Koala lifespan is between 10 to 16 years which naturally depends on environmental conditions.

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This Blue-Winged Kookaburra swooped down and kept a watchful eye on our lunch, however, it’s best not to feed human food to native wildlife.
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Afternoon tea, two coffees and two muffins, one caramel and the other blueberry, both with edible chocolate circles iced on top.
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The wishing well outside the front entrance to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary with plenty of coins and “I Love Australia” badge.

Although I focused on the Koala, there are many more unique Australian species to see here, from kangaroos to cockatoos, eagles to emus in a beautiful bushland setting.  I recommend the following link and video highlights featuring all the wildlife residents of Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary:

https://www.koala.net/en-au/wildlife
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_XXqPirJUU

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A quick guide to the wild birds around Long Pine Koala Sanctuary. Behind the sign, an Eastern Water Dragon lizard came out to sunbathe on the brickwork.

And here’s my link to a post I wrote last year:
https://thoughtsbecomewords.com/2017/09/01/save-the-koala/
You can adopt a Koala through Australian Koala Foundation.

Koala Adoption Certificate (3)
Adopt a Koala today! https://www.savethekoala.com/adopt-a-koala

Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Logo

Thank you, Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary for a relaxing, informative and enjoyable visit.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Floral Christmas Decorations Already?

These vivid flowers would be perfect at Christmas time.  But, no, this spectacular red Callistemon, an Australian native Bottlebrush, flowers in springtime and early summer.

It has long fluffy tubular flowers that look beautiful in gardens and taste delicious to all kinds of native birds, insects and other wildlife.  The flower 'brushes' are so soft, not spiky at all.

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There were two Rainbow Lorikeets hiding in the branches, eating the nectar and chatting away, but they wouldn’t keep still for a snapshot.

I saw this long row of flowering plants in an industrial-type setting in Brisbane yet Callistemon grows in every location, tall shady trees to knee-high potted shrubs and used as groundcover.

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Information from this website Australian Plants Online Flowering Callistemon indicates that I’ve photographed 'Hannah Ray' which is 4 metres high and suitable for streetscapes.

It brightened my September day!

 Gretchen Bernet-Ward