So pleased to see my poem BIMBILLA in The School Magazine ORBIT May 2021 with a vibrant illustration by indigenous artist Leanne Watson.
This poem is a tanka sequence, written in 2006. In the same year, I wrote a short story for children with the same title, Bimbilla. Bimbilla is a Worimi word for a pink cockle shell. I discovered the word on an information sign at a beach north of Port Stephens, New South Wales, where the story and the poem are set.
So often a visit to a place, and encounter with an object or word, will provoke some new writing.
My story was a finalist in the Ginninderra Press short story for children competition, and was published in the anthology SECRETS. That was the beginning of my association with Ginninderra Press who have published my two tanka collections and two fiction books (Mrs Rickaby’s Lullaby 2019 and Divertimento 2021).
I’d love it if an indigenous artist would collaborate with me to make an illustrated book of the story. Writing is a long game, and publication sometimes comes after a long time. A story like this has longevity, and I think there is still more to come.
I don’t know if you realised, but there is a mouse plague in New South Wales.
The latest news is that the most intellectual of these critters, showing excellent taste, have reached the literary epicentre of the universe, namely Castle Hill! (Patrick White at Dogwoods, me in Forest Knoll, who else could you want?)
Yes, these sweet little connoisseurs of literature have been leaving calling cards on my tastefully arranged, carefully selected, eclectic black bookshelves. Apparently, there was a mouse-sized gateway into this reader’s paradise from the cosy roof void. Now sealed.
My desk has also been cleansed of suspicious debris. Anyone who has ever seen a desk of mine, at work or at home, will know that this is no mean feat. The resident canine, who sweetly alerted me to the presence of the invaders by insistent nuzzling and silent pointing, has been rewarded and his cheese-laden food bowl moved to the outer reaches of our domicile.
Will these measures be enough to restore peace and tranquillity?
I’m sorting through so many books and papers, it will be a while before peace and order truly reign once more. But I have discovered some treasures on the shelves, mercifully un-nibbled, that I had saved for a rainy day.
Nothing in this book is true—please believe me when I tell you that these stories are complete fabrications. Lies. Fantasies plucked from thin air, dreams recorded after deep sleep, tales spun from nothing. This is what a fiction writer does.
The stories in Divertimento were learning pieces written over a decade or so. University and writing group assignments, competition entries, and stories written just because.
Don’t look for people you know in the pages of this book—they won’t be there. What you may find is a familiar turn of phrase stolen from a shared conversation; a setting described in a way that makes you feel you have been in that place; a situation that you have heard of in gossip or the nightly news. There any similarity ends.
It is the craft of a writer to steal details from life and blend them into a story of sufficient veracity that readers will swallow the tale, plausible or not, without needing to spit out indigestible gristle or bone.
I invite you to read my words and see if I have managed to weave my characters, settings and situations into stories that pass the test. If I have succeeded, all to the good—if not, that’s okay, all writers are on a learning curve and there are always more tricks to discover, more characters to invent, and more places to visit.
Thanks for coming along with me on the journey.
Ginninderra Press, publication date – 24 April 2021 ISBN – 9781761090905 (ebook 9781761090912) RRP – $30.00
There’s something romantic, mysterious and exciting about a rail journey. The cover of this new anthology, Last Train Home, captures the feeling so well. Canadian poet Jacqueline Pearce has selected around 600 short form poems including haiku, tanka and rengay, all addressing the theme of trains and train journeys.
Who among us didn’t enjoy playing with a toy train in our childhoods? Who hasn’t responded to the atmospheric film scenes of arrivals and departures on a fog-shrouded railway station? Who doesn’t long for the thrill and excitement of a new journey into the unknown?
I’m delighted to be included in this new book, with a fanciful tanka written in response to a literary favourite. I hope that you will come on a journey with the many wonderful contemporary haiku, tanka and rengay poets represented in this book.
Everyone’s new favourite app
showed red flames across the map
bushfire closed in like a trap—
it was too late to leave.
Blackened paws and toasted fur
burnt poles where the gum leaves were
smoke-smudged skies an ashen blur . . .
it was too late to leave.
Blood-red skies on New Year’s Eve.
Together people can achieve
a world with air that’s safe to breathe.
To keep our skies both clear and blue
you know what people have to do:
get rid of dirty fossil fuels
protect the trees like precious jewels
conserve our water, tend the land
at last the people understand
it is a choice we all must make
to save and nurture, give not take
to mend the damage, gain reprieve
there’s no plan B—we cannot leave.