From that shallow-silvery wine-glass on a short stem
This rolling, dropping, heavy globule?
I am thinking, of course, of the peach before I ate it.
Why so velvety, why so voluptuous heavy?
Why hanging with such inordinate weight?
Why so indented?
Why the groove?
Why the lovely, bivalve roundnesses?
Why the ripple down the sphere?
Why the suggestion of incision?
Why was not my peach round and finished like a billiard ball?
It would have been if man had made it.
Though I’ve eaten it now.
But it wasn’t round and finished like a billiard ball;
And because I say so, you would like to throw something at me.
Here, you can have my peach stone.
San Gervasio D. H. Lawrence (1923)
* * * * *
David Herbert Lawrence, English author, poet, literary critic (1885–1930) is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the 20th century.
Lawrence’s hard working-class upbringing shaped his life, and he wrote extensively about the experience of growing up in the poor mining town of Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. “Whatever I forget,” he said, “I shall not forget the Haggs, a tiny red brick farm on the edge of the wood, where I got my first incentive to write.”
A prolific writer and traveller, Lawrence earned fame for his earthy novels (some banned) and short stories, and subsequently received acclaim for his personal letters in which he detailed a range of emotions, from exhilaration to depression to ruminating on life and death.
Do you keep a favourite wall calendar? Do you keep an image from a favourite wall calendar? Do you even buy a wall calendar? Well, I do.
Each year late in December I peruse the newsagents and stationery stores for The One. The wall calendar with good images and good size squares to write in. The paper is also important, not too shiny otherwise the ink smudges, and not too thin otherwise the pages tear and have a tendency to flop forward. I then have to resort to sticky tape to hold old months out of the way of a new month. Sometimes I use glider clips (paper clips, metal things bent to slide over paper and hold it together) or if I don’t like the calendar much, I glue the old months together.
Occasionally it annoys me where the hole is punched in some wall calendars because it can affect the hanging process on my coat-hook (in the bedroom) the nail (in the kitchen) and the picture hanger (in the study) and enlarge the hole.
One of the calendar ‘things’ which has been a major item on our Christmas list for many, many years is a Bunch-Of-Dates. A delightful play on words (perhaps conjured up by a light-hearted printer) it consists of a shaped metal frame which goes through the two holes in a square block of paper containing 365 day leaflets plus a tiny yearly calendar and national holiday dates. An added bonus is daily quotations from inspiring people.
This pre-internet invention sits on office desks and when the workers begin their day, they flip over yesterday’s date to reveal all the chores they have to do today. Every job I ever worked in from 1970s onward had Bunches-of-Dates sitting on staff desks or the reception desk. Yes, I actually still use this old-fashioned device and it is right beside me on my left-hand side. The date at the top (see photo) with lines at the bottom. Yesterday, Sunday 5th January 2020, it had approximately seven things written on it, e.g. shopping for a light bulb and To Do things like fill bird bath with water.
You can buy the Bunch-Of-Dates refills for a couple of dollars (a range of office calendars and diaries are printed by Collins Debden) and every year after 1st January, they are renewed across the country.
If they are not used by lazy coworkers who try to remember things and when they can’t, they blame it on you for not reminding them, their blank Bunch-Of-Dates can be used as scrap paper for note-taking. I sometimes find some thin old wire, like a twist-tie, which I thread through the holes and firmly bind 365 unused days together. Just the right size for cryptic notes to colleagues or wayward family members.
Lately I have taken to keeping the last year’s used Bunch-Of-Dates (with exclamation marks, little drawings, council reminders) because sometimes I jot down an important number and don’t transfer it over to my Contacts file. At this point, I must mention that I have an electronic calendar. It is most ingenious but no matter how ingenious, it still needs input. I am very sparing with what I type into my electronic calendar otherwise a lengthy tirade will pop-up at me in the morning when I least expect it.
Another thing; I never ever put stuff on my mobile phone. Silly, I guess, but they need to be charged and friends say ‘my battery died’ whenever they are late. An old-school piece of paper in your pocket will never let you down. That, and a pen, is all you need to survive in the world of words.
But, you ask, what about keeping your favourite calendar photographs? Goodness, I don’t know where to start!
I have many beautiful scenery images, all totally scribbled on the back, all years old. But I love them and I often remember the month that went with them. Except for the one I framed which is three elephants and their passengers splashing down a river in a jungle. The shallow water is jade green, as vivid as the lush tropical foliage. There is a feeling of both pleasure and menace.
Anyway, a person in my familia has taken a shine to Polish artist Jacek Yerka’s fantasy style and I began to enjoy the ones where he puts hundreds of bookstacks in quirky settings. I kept this one (see above) perhaps not his strangest, but I get a lot of pleasure out of it.
Every so often I have a surplus calendar, a gift or whatever, so I hammer in an extra nail and hang it up, not as prominent as those I love but I give it hanging space.
And this year? Oh joy, this year I discovered an Australian Jumbo Big Huge calendar with gigantic squares! It will take anything I wish to write on it and leave room for more—the down side of this extravagant calendar is no pictures. There is a tiny strip along the top showing a beach or mountain or city but nothing else. And one of these images is repeated, not a good look in my eyes. Ho-hum, can’t have everything.
In the kitchen my next favourite is Chickens, not cooked, just hens displaying glorious feathers in beautiful country settings. Pecking through, it looks like April hens are ahead of the flock photogenically. I will have to let you know who gets preserved at the end of the year. Just a minute, I’ll write a note on my calendar…
Who’d have thought it? Margaret Eleanor Atwood (1939- ) author of The Handmaid’s Tale, Alias Grace, The Blind Assassin and more than forty other books of fiction, poetry, critical essays and a graphic novel has written children’s books.
Margaret Atwood also wears various hats, from activist through literary critic, inventor, environmentalist and award-winner with honours and degrees, yet for me this news was surprising. Not so surprising is the quirky nature of her children’s stories!
♦ With grateful thanks to online friend and blogger BookJotter Paula Bardell-Hedley for alerting me to these little gems within a comprehensive list of Margaret Atwood’s literary output—
Up in the Tree (1978) Anna’s Pet (with Joyce Barkhouse) (1980) For the Birds (1990) Princess Prunella and the Purple Peanut (1995) Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes (2003) Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda (2004) Up in the Tree (facsimile reprint) (2006) Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery (2011) A Trio of Tolerable Tales (illustrator Dušan Petričić) (2017)
Being a kidlit fan, I immediately wanted to read several of those earlier Atwood books but found they (like this non-fiction For The Birds) were no longer in print, or libraries, but may be available through state archives or second-hand book merchants. I will track down her first children’s book Up in the Tree (with her own illustrations and hand-lettering, quite possibly written for her young daughter) because the story intrigues me.
Along the way, Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery was adapted into the children’s television series The Wide World of Wandering Wenda aimed at early readers with different adventures using words, sounds, and language.
Happily, in 2017, three of Atwood’s books were re-published, printed and bound in Canada into one compilation A Trio of Tolerable Tales. I was able to buy a new copy with Serbian Dušan Petričić gorgeous drawings. Atwood’s alliteration is absolutely awesome!
♦ Here are my reviews of these alliteration-filled, tongue-twisting tales…read on….
♦ Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes
The reader follows the adventures of Ramsay and Ralph the red-nosed rat as they traverse various repulsive obstacles to find a round, Roman-vaulted rat hole leading to food nirvana – round red radishes ready to be devoured. The radishes revolt and start to attack but thankfully owner Rillah comes on the scene. She forgives their trespass and shows them around her romantic rectory, rotunda, rococo artworks and rumpus room. There’s a bit of a ruckus with Rillah’s relatives Ron, Rollo and Ruby, so Ramsay & Co beat a hasty retreat back outside and romp rapturously under a radiant rainbow. There is a very clever twist regarding the radishes and how they repel intruders! A fun story which needs patience on the part of the reader, especially reading it out aloud for small children. Laughs are guaranteed and you will marvel at how many ‘R’ words exist in the English language. GBW.
♦ Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda
Bashful Bob was abandoned in a basket outside a beauty parlour and nobody claimed him. There is a neglected dog park across the street and the resident dogs are Bob’s best buddies. There is a beagle, a boxer and a borzoi who believe “We must be benevolent” and they look after young Bob. On the next block lives Doleful Dorinda. She’d been dumped with despicable relatives who say “Dorinda is a dope” and make her sleep beside biohazard material. Her food is awful and she is treated like a slave. Finally Doleful Dorinda runs away and meets Bashful Bob on the vacant block. You will have to read this story to find out how their names were turned into Brave Bob and Daring Dorinda but it makes a jolly rollicking tale especially if you like dogs! The plot and resolution are more conventional, even with the proliferation of ‘B’ words. A flowing, tangible fairytale and I found it easy to absorb. GBW.
♦ Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery
Wenda is a willowy child with wispy hair and wistful eyes. Her parents are whisked away by a weird whirlwind and thereafter Wenda wanders aimlessly. She makes friends with Wesley woodchuck and they share food scraps and wodges of wieners until one day they are kidnapped by Widow Wallop. She takes them to her Wunderground Washery to “wash whites whiter than white” every day. Between the drudgery, they feel sorry for Widow Wallop’s white Welsh ponies and three other waifs, Wilkinson, Wu and Wanapitai. Together they plot their daring escape, only to encounter wolves along the way. How will they evade Widow Wallop’s clutches now? There is an unexpected reveal at the end! I think some of the scenes may disturb younger children, particularly those with separation anxiety. Older readers will chortle at the profuse ‘W’ words and idiosyncratic wordplay. GBW.
QUOTATION: “Comfort with reading begins in childhood, when parents or other loving adults read to children. It creates a ‘safe’ place where — nevertheless — dangers can be explored (and, in children’s books, hopefully, overcome)…. I think my children’s books function as protected spaces for me. I look at darker things quite a lot, but the kind of children’s books I write are light, and have happy endings…. That’s a relief, when I can manage it.”
—Margaret Atwood, author.
♦ The interior of this book is printed on paper that contains 100% post-consumer recycled fibres, is acid-free and is processed chlorine-free so there’s nothing to worry about, Wenda.
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 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––
“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.
How pathetic! We have 24 glorious hours in a day and only one is chosen! And it’s not even held simultaneously around the country! Have you read your one hour today?
This year Australian Reading Hour falls on Thursday 20 September 2018 and the nominal time in the evening is 6pm to 7pm. But individual reading and group reads will be happening all day to avoid important sporting fixtures, special events and venue opening hours, and to accommodate the different time zones in Australia.
Fair enough, however, it’s still one lousy hour! What is the Australian Reading Hour committee thinking? There are 8760 hours in one year, so use some more of them.
If more hours aren’t forthcoming next year, why not (1) disrupt your sporting fixtures (2) put the special event on hold (3) pause during venue opening hours (4) delay that visit to the gym and (5) forget a few things to stop and READ for ONE lousy hour!
Meanwhile, find a really quiet, cosy place and settle down alone. Betcha read for longer than an hour!
Or gather a group together at school, work, bookshops like Avid Reader, the library, the park or get the family together in your own home and read, read, read for one lousy hour.
One hour isn’t going to kill you, the world won’t crumble around you – but you and the adults and children of Australia will visit another place through the pages of a book. For one lousy hour…
Fabulous stage and screen actors reading gloriously fun books. I listened to eight beautifully narrated sound clips by Kate Winslet, Hugh Laurie, Richard Ayoade, Miriam Margolyes, Stephen Fry, Andrew Scott, Chris O’Dowd––and I’ve just drooled over Dan Stevens short reading of Roald Dahl’s famous ‘Boy’. What a selection!
Reviewed by Rachel Smalter Hall for Book Riot way back in 2013 who gushed:
“Rioters, I’m so excited. I just can’t hide it. I’ve been holding my breath to share this with you for weeks! The new upswing in audiobook publishing has sent lots of publishers to their backlist to record beloved classics, and one of my favorite projects in this vein is from Penguin Audio, who just released several Roald Dahl audiobooks in July and will release several more this September. The series features some of the UK’s best known screen and stage actors. Here are sound clips from eight of the narrations that have got me squealing like a thirteen-year-old at a slumber party.”
I SAY IT’LL MAKE YOUR EARS HAPPY––SMILES GUARANTEED
TAP ON EACH INDIVIDUAL TEASER WHICH I HAVE CAREFULLY SELECTED FOR YOU FROM A LOVINGLY CURATED ROALD DAHL SOUNDCLOUD PLAYLIST
While Thursday Next lives in a parallel universe, The Last Dragonslayer is set in a world of myths, illusions and modern magic.
Orphan Jennifer Strange, a practical teenager, runs Kazam Mystical Arts Management with eccentric magicians who create irregular spells. But magic and dragons are losing power and Jennifer discovers evil King Snodd IV wants to grab the Dragonlands, 350 acres of prime real estate. Jennifer dislikes the King’s greed and so does the last Dragonslayer, an old wizard named Brian who controls dragons with an ancient sword.
Helped by her cool friend Tiger Prawns, and a metal-munching Quarkbeast with frighteningly sharp teeth, Jennifer rallies to protect the Dragonlands. Meanwhile, wizard Brian is hatching a secret plan. Jennifer doesn’t realise she is part of that plan.
This is the first book in Last Dragonslayer/Kazam Chronicles by Jasper Fforde and I loved reading their vital quest. Suitable for 12 years and up, the second and third books are The Song Of The Quarkbeast and The Eye Of Zoltar. There will be a fourth book in the series but at this stage only working titles have been released; possibly Humans vs Trolls or The Strange And The Wizard or The Great Troll War. Guess we’ll just have to wait for the next quirky edition!
This game can be adapted for writers, artists, poets and movie fans!
There are two versions. The version attributed to the Surrealist Movement is when the weirdest possible head, torso, legs of the Exquisite Corpse are drawn by three different players, each folding over the paper so the next person can’t see the results until it is unfolded at the end of the game.
“Consequences” is the original name of this literary pen and paper parlour game which has been played since the 1800s Victorian Era. A random sentence is written near the top of the page. The paper is folded over then passed to several other participants who add to it and fold until it reaches the last person, or the bottom of the page. The paper is unfolded and the whole “story” is revealed––often with hilarious results.
Alternatively, photocopied lines from classic poems (see above) can be cut into strips and jumbled into a bowl. Each player blindly chooses nine strips but uses only seven to form a poem. The mind takes over, sorting and assembling into a reasonably cohesive format. The verse pictured above is what I put together in a recent Masterclass during a timed exercise. My Exquisite Corpse earned the comment “feels Gothic and dark”.
To quoteAcademy of American Poets: “The only hard and fast rule of Exquisite Corpse is that each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem. Exquisite Corpse is a great way to collaborate with other poets, and to free oneself from imaginative constraints or habits.”
Minor changes have been added to Exquisite Corpse over time, from using a single word to including famous lines from books and movies. For example, you can jot down your favourite movie quote, fold over the paper then pass it on. See what you can pitch with Arnold Schwarzenegger or Hugh Jackman. In book mode, an amalgamation of Germaine Greer and Nora Roberts could prove interesting.
The following formula for fun was kindly supplied by WordPress blogger Life After Sixty-Five who wrote––“Here is my favourite version of Exquisite Corpse, though I have played the version where a human body is drawn”––
He (male name, fold) – someone we all knew, or someone famous
met She (female name, fold) – could be someone famous, or someone playing the game etc.
at (place, fold)
He wore (description of clothes, fold)
She wore (description of clothes, fold)
He asked, (question, fold)
She replied, (answers question, fold)
And along came (person, fold)
And so they decided to (decision, fold)
And in the end…(finish, fold) “…the gales of laughter at the silly stories…”
Language Is A Virus website has the history of Exquisite Corpse and suggested books on the subject. They started a poem which has been running since 2000 and you can add to the silliness.
My short story mentions a rural event known as a show.
Alternate names can be exhibition, county fair or agfest.
Looks of disbelief washed across the children’s faces. Robbo’s face shone with a self-satisfied smile. Next to his work boots lay Dugger, his Labrador dog, who raised an eyelid then went back to sleep.
A snort came from school teacher, Miss Evelyn, and all eyes turned to her as she gathered up her patchwork squares.
“What a lot of nonsense,” she said as she stuffed sewing material into her carrybag. “Brookfield Show eve and you’re going to fill their heads with fantasy.”
One of the younger children put his hand up.
“Did it really happened, Robbo?”
Robbo said “Yes” at the same time Evelyn snapped “No” and the young boy retracted his hand in disappointment.
“Can you prove it?” asked Angela, an older girl with jet black hair and thoughtful eyes. She was one of many third generation Brookfield students whom Miss Evelyn had known from babyhood.
“Hmm,” Robbo said thoughtfully. If he had a beard, he would have stroked it in contemplation. “I reckon I can try.”
Robbo was a well-known local figure, a carpenter by trade who could turn his hand to any odd job around the residences in the area. He and Dugger were a volunteer Story Dog team at the local school.
Today they had veered off topic and instead of the slow readers reading, Robbo had tantalised them with an opening salvo to his tale.
“Start from the beginning,” Miss Evelyn sniffed “so we can get into the right mood.”
The children chuckled nervously and settled themselves back on the kindergarten cushions. Some of the older boys had objected to being in the kindy room but the seating arrangements were more comfortable than their classroom, currently overflowing with paintings and craft waiting transfer to the Show pavilions.
Miss Evelyn settled herself down again like a kookaburra shuffling her feathers. A couple of the young ones inched closer to her, hoping for motherly support should the need arise.
“Okay,” Robbo rubbed his hands together. “Here goes!” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees. A security thumb or two was popped in, soft toys were hugged and someone let off a smell.
“It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, in fact, it wasn’t dark but there was a rain cloud,” began Robbo, lowering his voice, “and two small brown wallabies grazing in a paddock near the Showgrounds.” His eyes roved the attentive audience. “A large crow was sitting high in a nearby gumtree when––” Robbo clapped his hands and everyone jumped. “A bolt of lightning struck the gumtree and the crow flew away. The lightning had ignited the tree and fire was crackling fiercely through it branches before someone in the general store rang the fire brigade.”
Everyone wriggled then settled again, eyes just that bit wider. “The flames had reached the ground and were burning towards the Brookfield Showgrounds at a furious pace.” Robbo looked around. “Where are those two wallabies?”
A hand shot up and the timid voice of Frederick of the smells said “They ran away to safety.”
Robbo shook his head. “No, they were still there. And you know what?” He raised his calloused hands high in the air above his head. “They had turned into giant wallabies.” Then, for extra emphasis, he stood up and reached for the ceiling. His fingers almost dislodged a butterfly mobile but it added to the atmosphere as they fluttered wildly around his uncombed hair.
“These were energised wallabies, they had super powers and were big enough to roll the Ferris wheel away.”
The group froze; Frederick crouched ready to run.
An older boy scoffed “Yeah, but what can they do about the fire?”
Nodding heads inspired him to add “Maybe the crow flew to get help?”
Robbo pulled a face and told them the crow was another story. Sitting down, he attempted a sage storyteller voice.
“They bounded over a fence to Moggill Creek and began drinking lots and lots of water. It tasted a bit like dirt and leaves and stuff but they guzzled until they were full. It was difficult for them to walk so they sort of rolled back towards the outer fence. It flattened and they put themselves right in the path of the oncoming blaze. With puffed cheeks and one big blast like a wall of creek water, they hosed over the flames until they went out.” He cleared his throat. “Of course, the smoke made them cough and they had to wipe their eyes but all in all they didn’t even get their fur singed.”
“What happened next,” shouted two girls in unison, grabbing each other’s hands. “Did they get a medal? Or a free pass to the Show?”
Miss Evelyn pursed her lips and shushed them.
Robbo’s expression sobered. “Not that simple, I’m afraid.”
Dugger shifted position on the floor and put his bony jaw on his paws, the seams of his orange vest creaking beneath him.
“The two giant wallabies heard a sound,” continued Robbo, “and turned to see that stray sparks had ignited inside the main Showground and were crackling and spitting across the dry leaves, past the arena, towards the agricultural buildings and meeting hall. Oh no, historical buildings.”
Nobody saw Miss Evelyn trying to swallow a laugh and regain her composure.
“Surely the local fire brigade would have arrived by now?” she said.
“Their siren could be heard in the distance,” said Robbo, “and the general store had put up makeshift road blocks to stop traffic. The store owner was hosing down the store and the giant wallabies knew if they were seen by him, their cover would be blown. After one mighty spurt of water, they shrunk and hopped off into the distance, far away, up towards Mount Elphinstone. There is a cave high on Mount Elphinstone where, legend has it, two wallabies sit and keep watch over the dry land.”
Robbo surveyed his listeners. “The paint had been blistered off some buildings, and a palm tree was sooty but it survived and a quick paint job fixed the rest.”
“Phew, that’s a relief,” said one of Angela’s younger siblings and everyone laughed. Apparently they shared similar thoughts – the cake pavilion housing their entries sitting under cling wrap on paper plates. “And sideshow alley,” thought Miss Evelyn.
“However,” Robbo spoke at full volume, causing several children to squeak, “whenever there is lightening in Brookfield, or a barbecue out of control, you are wise to stay away from the flames because the giant wallabies will activate.”
“But,” said Frederick gravely, “they are our friends and they would protect us.”
“True, true.” Robbo was momentarily fazed. Even asleep, Dugger thumped his tail in encouragement. Robbo rallied “Just don’t get in the way of giant wallabies at work. Like flood waters, giant wallabies could unleash a wave of water which would wash you off your feet and into Moggill Creek.”
Miss Evelyn puckered her brow. “Robbo, please. No more scary stories.”
Robbo avoided her gaze, patting Dugger and adjusting his leather collar.
“Show’s over, kids.”
Determinedly, single-minded Angela spoke up. “You said you had proof.”
Judging by the looks Miss Evelyn saw on the younger faces, caps nervously twisted between little fingers, they did not want proof.
“Sure,” replied Robbo with an airy wave of his hand. “If you go into the pony club grounds near the Brookfield Cemetery, you’ll spy a bleached eucalyptus tree trunk. That’s the one which got struck by lightning.”
“Also,” piped a helpful voice from the sidelines, “I’ve seen wallabies.”
The collective chatter was enough to wake Dugger. He got to his paws, shook his furry head and looked around. He let out a sharp bark and ran to the open door. With a slight pause to sniff the air, he bounded out of the room.
The space Dugger left seemed suspended, a motionless void.
“Wallabies,” whispered Frederick.
The electronic school bell sounded, breaking the spell.
“Lunch time, children.” Miss Evelyn rose and smoothed her tartan skirt. “After lunch we have choir rehearsal for the opening ceremony.”
As the children helped stack cushions in the corner, Miss Evelyn turned to Robbo.
“Was Dugger motivated by the aroma of tuckshop pies or something bigger?”
Robbo shrugged. “That dog has a great sense of theatre.”
She wagged her finger. “Giant wallabies or not, the Show must go on.”
AUTHOR NOTE: This short story is dedicated with love and respect to Kookaburra Kat of KR, a long-time friend who supports and encourages my literary endeavours and is a passionate wildlife warrior, nurturing and caring for all creatures. GBW.
Katrin Dreiling went from language teacher to illustrator and received prestigious recognition for her picture book illustrations in “The World’s Worst Pirate”. This book, written by Michelle Worthington and published by Little Pink Dog Books, has been awarded Notable Book of 2018 by Children’s Book Council of Australia.
It’s wonderful to have you here, Katrin, I love your beautiful art techniques and I’m excited to learn about your journey as a children’s book illustrator. First, here’s a sneak peek at this special pirate story:
William is The World’s Worst Pirate so does that suggest he’s rude and nasty? Read on…
“Pirates are swashbuckling, treasure hunting, buccaneers of the seven seas. But if your mother is the Pirate Captain and you can’t stand on deck without getting seasick … that makes William The World’s Worst Pirate.” However, young William does have a special talent. Can he use it when the ship is under attack? Save the day, me hearty!
Q&A illustrator background
Katrin Dreiling, originally from Germany, loves to come up with quirky creations that inspire children to get creative. She enjoys giving colourful and messy art classes and says “Children are the true perfect grown-ups. Their hearts and minds are pure and good and it is important to nurture this – I strive to do that with art.” On the studious side, she provided the characters for animated University lectures and Government staff coaching videos that attracted over 320,000 views worldwide. In her free time, Katrin relaxes with her husband, three children and their Golden Retriever.
Q1. What is your favourite part of “The World’s Worst Pirate”?
Thank you, Gretchen, for this interview! My favourite part text-wise is when the Kraken attacks and everyone is supposed to run for their lives. Then there is a silence and Will quietly throws a cupcake to tame the beast. I like the contrast between noise and quietness and that it is such a peaceful, gentle approach. In terms of illustrations I think I like the cover the best. I just really enjoyed doing those ocean waves.
Q2. Of all your creations, who is your best loved character so far?
That would be Anton the Pig. This character has been in the works for a while now and so I really got used to him being around. He is also very sweet-hearted and funny and reminds me of a certain someone…
Q3. Where did the inspiration for this character come from?
Anton and his world are certainly inspired by my German background. The region I grew up in is known for their excessive bicycle riding because it’s very flat. So Anton is a passionate cyclist but I merged the landscape with a lot of ideas I picked up while living in Brisbane, Queensland. The inspiration for Anton’s story, though, came from years of working with children at school and my own three kids.
Q4. How would you describe your creative process on an average day?
My working day usually starts with a good walk with my Goldi to keep him happy and clear my head. Then I usually work down a list of things I have to do for my illustrating business. Once this is done I start creating. This can include simple sketching, commission work or extending my portfolio.
Q5. Do you like working in a group or home-office environment?
I am very happy to work by myself from home but I do seek professional input from other industry professionals on a regular basis. There is the Brisbane Illustrators Group where I made many good friends, WriteLinks and our local SCBWI group. I think it is very important to stay connected in which ever way you prefer, be that online or in real life.
Q6. Was it enjoyable working with writer Michelle Worthington?
Absolutely loved working withMichelle Worthington and would always choose to do so again. She is professional, smart and supportive and I felt very appreciated in my illustrating.
Q7. What is it like collaborating with an editor and publisher?
In the case of Little Pink Dog Books it was the perfect synergy between author, publisher and illustrator. Kathy and Peter Creamer were very inspired to keep this project a creative process which involved everyone in the same measure, and I believe the result reflects this very well. When I worked with other publishers it was a different, yet also enjoyable experience. I had to meet more firm requirements and learned new things along the way. I think you have to be adaptable as an illustrator in order to deliver the best possible outcome for the project.
Q8. Do you like to work with artistic freedom or a strict deadline?
I can do both 😊
Q9. Have you stayed up past midnight to finish an assignment?
Yes. I have worked through nights but if the work does not feel like work it is not a problem.
Q10. Have you ever received harsh criticism for your work?
I have been very lucky so far and mostly received constructive criticism which I value a lot. It’s easy to get too complacent and lose distance to your work. This is why I regularly book in for portfolio assessments with editors to get a fresh perspective on my work.
Q11. What is your favourite medium to work with and why?
I mix a lot of media together because I enjoy many things at the same time. I seem to always come back to ink in some form, though.
Q12. What colour would you be if you were an extra pencil in the box?
Q13. What are your thoughts on hand-painted vs computer generated artwork?
It works really well TOGETHER if you know how to.
Q14. Who are your favourite artists and have they influenced you?
Absolutely adore the work of Beatrice Alemagna. She has inspired me to go my own way, like she did. Then there is the quirky and unconventional style of Russell Ayto that I love. I think both artists truly work to delight and inspire children.
Q15. Are you involved in teaching workshops for children?
Yes, I will be giving workshops with Michelle Worthington to children at selected libraries in Brisbane during school holidays in July 2018. Also I give workshops for both children and grown-ups at a bookstore in Red Hill, Brisbane, as well as giving regular extra-curricular art classes once a week at New Farm State School.
Q16. Do you have a special creative goal for this year or is it a secret?
For my Anton the Pig story, I’d like to finish the manuscript and illustrations completely. Also getting published by one of the ‘big’ publishing houses has always been my dream and I’m still working towards this goal.
And this Q&A draws to a close
My sincere thanks, Katrin, for your personal insights into the world of picture book illustrating. I am sure you will reach your goal and I look forward to reading all about Anton!
Hey, is anyone else left wondering who that 'certain someone' is and why Katrin would be a black pencil...
With a knowing smile, this Victorian-style book of manners is reminiscent of the period of parenting when misbehaving children were given orders and told dire consequences would ensue if they did not obey. Despite warnings, when a child in this book ignores an instruction, there is an aftermath of great magnitude.
In “A Garden of Lilies: Improving Tales for Young Minds – by Prudence A Goodchild” children’s author and illustrator Judith Rossell has produced an atmospherically illustrated and tightly written volume. She has also mastered the art of a left-right jab, hitting with swift endings which leave the reader breathless.
Each punchy short story closes with a judicious moral. For example, Isadora daydreamed too much during her chores. One day she daydreamed while idly brushing her hair. Let’s just say she didn’t get to finish the task. “Moral: For hair that’s glossy, clean and bright, Two hundred strokes, both morn and night”.
After Isadora’s tale, there is what appears to be a lovely page entitled “Care of the Hair” with a recipe for making Soft Soap which “…will improve both the texture and colour of the hair” until things get a bit nauseating. Apart from kitchen scraps, the mixture must boil for hours until it forms a clear, thick jelly.
Basically the stories are about kids being kids and the 21st century reader should see the endings for what they are – a sample of Victorian etiquette and psychology which we would not dream of using on children today. Right? Okay, explain that to your child and laugh.
This slim book is approximately sixty pages (with attractive binding and colour plates) and scattered throughout are “Interesting Facts” and helpful hints like An Economical Recipe for a Plain Cake, A Useful Compass, Parlour Games and my personal favourite, An Album of Sea-Weeds. I will work on drying and pressing seaweed during my next holiday! Hmm, would seaweed smell like that starfish I once brought home?
In closing, I will give a shout-out to Mr Lindon of Woolloongabba, Queensland (Page 45) who grew a giant marrow. I think he must have read the book’s suggestion To Grow a Giant Marrow which signifies “A Garden of Lilies” is indeed a versatile volume!
I cannot give you a childproof safety rating but I think it is suitable for a sliding age scale and my own rating is 5-star.
Judith Rossell — Biography
Judith Rossell is the multi-award-winning author-illustrator of the bestselling Stella Montgomery series (Withering-by-Sea, Wormwood Mire, A Garden of Lilies and forthcoming Wakestone Hall). Judith has written thirteen books and illustrated more than eighty, and her work has been published in UK, US, Germany and translated into more than twenty languages. Before beginning her career in children’s books, Judith worked as a government scientist (not a mad scientist, a normal kind of scientist) and also for a cotton-spinning company (which made threads for T-shirts, denim jeans, mops and teabag strings). Judith lives in Melbourne, Australia with a cat the size of a walrus.
ACCLAIM FOR WITHERING-BY-SEA AND WORMWOOD MIRE:
Indie Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
Australian Book Industry Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
CBCA Awards – Honour Book 2015, Notable Book 2017
Davitt Awards – Winner 2015, Shortlisted 2017
Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – Shortlisted 2015
ABA Booksellers’ Choice Awards – Shortlisted 2017
Australian Book Design Awards – Shortlisted 2017
Aurealis Awards – Shortlisted 2015
When we grow up we don’t really shed childhood. It is tucked away inside us, nice and quiet, suppressed by what we perceive as Adult Behaviour. Until something triggers that child-proof gate. Our sillies jump out! Irrepressible, childlike joy will spring into our hearts, gleam in our eyes and beam from our faces. Oldies will smile benignly at us but a child will shriek with delight because they understand.
Anything can trigger your past. A puppy, red shoes, a TV show, theatre tickets, sweets, that winning point, a favourite song, splashing in a puddle with a clear plastic umbrella, er, wait, what was that? “A clear plastic umbrella?” said Adult Voice. Yes, when I was young, the most coveted accessory for primary school students was a clear plastic umbrella. The plastic was plain, you could see the metal spokes through it and the handle was white.
It was enthralling to watch raindrops falling on a see-through umbrella held over your friend’s head, water trickling off and dripping onto the ground while she stayed dry. If you were really fancy (or your father had enough money for kids fripperies) you could buy them with ladybirds or slices of fruit and suchlike imprinted on them. If you were really rich (and more of a teenager) you teamed it with a short skirt, beehive hairdo and white vinyl go-go boots with lipstick to match. Trés chic.
I haven’t researched this but I’m pretty sure one or two models would have slinked down the catwalk twisting a clear plastic umbrella shaped like a mushroom. Or, shock horror, wearing a clear plastic raincoat! “Personally I think you would sweat horribly inside one of those,” said Adult Voice. Anyhow, here comes the sad part. I was not one of the groovy girls, I never owned a clear plastic umbrella.
Somehow I managed to survive the ignominy of having a pale blue nylon umbrella. Its saving grace was a real bamboo handle and it lasted for years. Once I left it on the bus and my parents tracked it down in the city council’s lost property office. Hard to believe now, but there it was in all its pale blue opaque glory. I have since owned a stylish British brolly, frilly French parapluie, Winnie-the-Pooh bear parasol and various brands in various colours mainly used as sunshades.
Until last week, drum roll please, when I came across a clear plastic umbrella hanging on a sale rack. It was the standard shape, with the usual opening and closing action and it was only a couple of dollars. Sold! I actually whooped with excitement. Finally, a dream come true. “Pity it’s a clear sunny day,” said Adult Voice. I brushed this aside. Once I was out of crowd eye-range, I shook it out. So clear, so transparent, so useless in the glare of a hot day. “Be quiet,” I snapped at Adult Voice. I pushed the umbrella open and twirled it wildly above my head. I’d made it. I had joined the Groovy Girls. My childish delight brimmed over! And delight brings recollections.
Myvery own CPU has flourished several times in light rain,occasionally the plastic will stick together, but that doesn’t stop me opening it just to marvel at the concept. Truly, an umbrella worth waiting for. Now I’m thinking about those white vinyl go-go boots...♥Gretchen Bernet-Ward