Monday, February 28, 2011

The tale of Split-Dog. Tall Tales from Australia.

Waiting for the key. A good story is worth the wait.

Ho humm

A story from where?

You'll see.


Yeah. Australia


Yeah! Split-Dog!

He wasn't always called 'Split-Dog', he used to be called just 'Dog'. And a handsome faithful hound he was too. Never left Ol'Joe's side.

Dog and Ol' Joe were out huntin' a 'roo. A wiley old boomer who didn't wanna to be caught. He jumped to the right. BOING! Dog jumped to the right. He jumped to the left. BOING! Dog jumped to the left. Then he went behind a tree. Dog didn't know whether to go right or left. In a moment of indecision he went both ways. Now ... this is a cautionary tale ... because ...

... Dog split in two!!

Ol'Joe said, 'Crikey Dog! I Never seen ya do that before. Better stick ya back.' So he took the wad of tobacco that lived behind his ear and chewed it up with a bit of spit until it was good and sticky and he stuck Dog back together. But Ol'Joe wasn't much good a fixin' and he stuck Dog together topsy turvy!

He stuck him two legs up and two legs down. 'Crikey!! Guess I'll hafta call ya Split-Dog from now on.'

Before ya could say Burrumbuttock, Split-Dog was back on his feet chasin'. When two legs got tired, he just flipped himself over and kept on going.

And that's how Dog became Split-Dog.

But that's just the beginning. Split-Dog and Ol'Joe went on to have many adventures.

But they're for another time ....


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gold Rush: Blanche Barkly a story in the landscape

Encouraged and inspired by storyteller and friend Susan Pepper and of course, the amazing Margaret Read McDonald (Twenty Tellable Tales), I have been working on a series of Tellable Australian Tales. One of these is the story of the 'Blanche Barkly'.
In 1857, the ‘Blanche Barkly’ was the largest gold nugget found in Victoria.

The names of some of the famous nuggets makes for humorous reading.

I have just returned from a trip to Kingower where the BB was unearthed. There is now a winery bearing the name of the nugget, who I should mention was named in honour of the daughter of Governor Barkly. There are many 'Barkly Streets' in the older parts of Melbourne - no doubt named after the G.

I visited the Kingower cemetery to see if I could learn more about the story and found myself in a peaceful and beautiful environment - stones and paths thick with wild flowers: calocephalus, wahlenbergia and arthropodium (don't you love the names.)

Then I stumbled across the grave of Mary Anne Catto 1862. The Catto's co-owned the store at the Kingower field and the claim from which the BB was found was just behind the Catto and Forbes store. Could Mary Anne be part of the story I wonder?

Now I really want to try one of those wines!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Famous Reporter 42

Famous Reporter 42 was launched in Melbourne on this humid Melbourne Saturday afternoon. Walleah Press is the Tasmanian publisher of this biannual literary journal.

A crowd of writers gathered in the fabulous Collected Works Bookshop in the Nicholas Building for drinks, speeches and readings.

Ralph Wessman (editor of Famous Reporter) was the mc, inviting some of our best poets to take centre stage.

Says Helen Cerne, '... Famous Reporter is one of those little mags that has a heart, a soul and an idealistic altruistic editor who drives taxis to pay for it! If only the world had more Ralphs...'

I was there with Helen, writer and publisher (Vanark Press) and Jonathan Griffiths. Helen published Jonathan's book The Road Behind in 2010 and it was my honour to deliver the launch speech. Famous Reporter publishes launch speeches! So... in a nut shell - we three of us had a chance to share our interest in fiction publishing and speech writing.

You can read more about TRB and purchase a copy on line. This book will take you to places where nice Radio National listening folk like me don't dare to go. But hey .. that's what stories are for.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Books Illustrated

Still searching for an illustrator for the next picture book!

Having worked and worked on the text, the search is now on to find someone who is simpatico with the mountain ash forests of the Dandenongs, 1930s horticultural practice and lyrebirds.

The search today took me to visit Ann James and Ann Haddon at Books Illustrated. As the books
piled up on the table and we examined the artwork, it became apparent that Australian children's book illustrators are amazingly talented and in demand and whoever we choose will put our book in a queue!

Books Illustrated is an Aladdin's Cave of glorious books and prints. The two Ann's are patient beyond belief, soothing the excited author and publisher with tea, biscuits and vegetable muffins.

We are inching closer to a decision. For any of you launching into a search of this kind, a marvellous starting place is The Style File.

And finally - I have to include a picture of the garden at the back of the old house that is Books Illustrated. It's a testament as to how many fruit trees you can squeeze into a small space. The dappled light, the sparking spider webs, the purity of the reds and oranges in the fruits and flowers ... all this I want in the illustrations of my story about a lyrebird called James.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Kamishibai : Storytelling Australian way

OK .... so here's the thing ...

For some time now I've been working on a series of Tall Tales, a popular genre in the past and currently enjoying a revival. What goes around comes around.

The character that caught my imagination is Split Dog. Hmm ... Whose he? Well he's a dog who split in two and when he was stuck back
together, he was topsy turvy - two legs up and two legs down! He also appears in Nth American Tall Tales, sometimes as Davy Crocket's dog.

Well I happened to ask Bernard Caleo if he had any idea how I could convey this condition and he said, one word, 'Kamishibai'. This translates as 'paper theatre'.

Now ... I belong to a folk Club, the NFFC and I
can't begin to tell you how many wonderful and
talented people I've met through the Club. I was talking to Ted and mentioned Kamishibai theatre boxes to him and the next minute he is in his workshop making one!

Are you still with me?

So today I brought home the most exquisitely
crafted box. Ted's vision is that the box will be used to share stories far and wide and for years to come. And so it will be.

Together with my talented partner, I'm working on a series of cards to illustrate Split Dog. This series of wild tales has been honed with the editorial support of South Australian storyteller Graham Ross.

Artist and friend Leonie Kervin is working on a series of drawings to illustrate the Princess and the Pea. With luck these will be ready for April 2 Hans Anderson's birthday.

I'm such a believer in the value of storytelling and having the support of people like Leonie and Ted who are willing to come on board and contribute their talents is quite overwhelming.

So ... now you are wondering ... if I unlock the box what stories are inside? Well you will have to wait ... not long now ... just a few more sleeps ...

Thankyou, Bernard, Ted, Leonie, Graham and John. I won't let you down.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ian W. Abdulla: 17.2.1947 - 29.01.2011

Ian Abdulla, father, grandfather, uncle, artist, storyteller and family friend was farewelled in Barmera on Thursday 10 February. The final ceremony was a testament to how many lives Ian touched through his work and friendship. As well as his family, other people travelled great distances from NSW and Victoria and messages of condolence were received from around the world.

We made the 20 hour return drive through central Victoria, passing recently flooded towns to Barmera, where we stayed by Lake Bonney. We drove through country that Ian depicted so memorably in his stories and his paintings: the citrus orchards, vineyards and the backwaters of the Murray.

Ian always wanted to make a book that recorded his family’s history and in 1993 he wrote and illustrated As I grew Older, the life and times of a Nunga growing up along the Murray River. The following year, Tucker was published.

Ian's books give great insight into life on the Murray River during a particular period of time. They are a unique record that anyone in the world can enjoy for their humour, pathos and humanity. No longer in print, you can still by them on the internet, they are not hard to find.

Ian was a generous and thoughtful man. When
our daughter was born he gave her a painting which has hung in her room from day one. She is now almost 19. It came as no surprise, to learn at the service, that he had given other friends paintings when their children were born.

My thoughts are with Tracy, Owen and Joseph and all those grandchildren who will no longer be able to take their Papa Bling to show and tell.

Read more about Ian: The Age Newspaper

Thursday, February 3, 2011

One World, Many Stories and Seven League Boots!

I try to cut down on the story paraphernalia but stuff can be so interesting. So here I am ... I get myself a new story box and it's still not big enough for the spinning wheel, the shark's teeth, the Old Sailor and the Old Lady! But I do have a pair of seven league boots and these are really going to cut down on travel costs. Now if you don't now what they are click seven league boots and you'll find out.

Bookings are trickling in for Education Week and Bookweek. The theme for Bookweek this year is 'One World, Many Stories', so I'm uncertain as to whether I should be consulting a Melways or an Atas. I think I'll go the Atlas ... after all ... I've got a pair of seven league boots - the world is my oyster!

Jan Andews, Jennifer Caley and Diane Wolkstein in Melbourne

January has had rich offerings for story lovers. As part of my role with the Storytelling Guild Vic, it has been my pleasure to meet, break bread and drink wine with these fine story guests from lands across the sea... and drink tea and eat scones and jam and cream!

Jan and Jennifer (Ontario) where one of the headline acts for the Midsumma Festival. They performed here, there and everywhere and it was my good fortune they crossed the Yarra River with their show The Book of Spells and told their story in the Mechanics institute in Williamstown - a short bike ride or a longish walk from my house. After the show we retired (along with a contingent of Vic, SA and Qld tellers) to my back garden which is looking fantastic after all the rain. As well as their shows Jan and Jennifer had a full program of w/shops and, with the versatility expected of oral storytellers, entertained children at La Mama and in the park. Inspiring, warm, feisty women. A pleasure to meet and an honour to share tales.

Diane Wolkstien (New York) is travelling around Australia telling stories and offering w/shops. On one of Melbourne's searing summer days, a group of us escaped the 40 degree heat and under the beautiful stained glass Leonard French ceiling in the NGV International, we were mesmorized by her masterful retelling of the story of the Monkey King epic: Journey to the West with musical soundscape provided by Jeff Greene. Too hot for bread and wine, we nonetheless enjoyed hosting afternoon tea in the gallery restaurant for Diane and Jeff.

Thankyou Diane, Jeff, Jan and Jennifer for sharing the gift of story with us here in Australia.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Yarraville Festival: 12 February

Dharma and I will be back at the Yarraville Festival telling stories. We have two sessions in the Green Tent but times are still to posted on the Yarraville website. Watch this space

Yarraville has to be one of our favourite gigs. Festivals are never easy but the atmosphere of the Yarraville Village is always a joy. Some of the best cafes and bookshops in Melbourne and of course, the beautiful art deco Sun Cinema are all on the Yarraville train line.

Dharma and I only get the chance to work together a couple of times a year and we love it. We share a mutual passion for passing on the best of song, rhyme and story for little people.

See you in the throng.


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