Storylines 2

Last night I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening of the Storylines 2 exhibition of original picture book art. The exhibition explored the illlustration process from concept sketches to final publication.

There were also contributions from Janeen Brian (poems) and Marianne Musgrove (bwirds!) It was fun to meet and remeet some more clever South Australian creators.

Claire Richards

Katherine Battersby

Janeen Brian and one of her poems

Janeen and Claire…Claire’s boots were perfect for Janeen’s Puddle poem

Welcome to Lorraine and her new book, A Ute Picnic

Today my visitor is good friend Lorraine Marwood, who has just released her first collection of poetry with Walker Books. She has two verse novels with Walker Books too: Ratwhiskers and Me and Star Jumps. Star Jumps has been short-listed for a Prime Minister’s Literature Award.

But to Lorraine’s new book, A Ute Picnic. This is a collection of poems about farm life with all it’s ups and downs. Like all of Lorraine’s work, the language is simple, almost spare but very powerful. I make no secret that I’m a great fan of Lorraine’s work and it’s wonderful to see this collection published. I asked Lorraine a few questions…

This is your second book with Walker which portrays a rural life. Why do you think it’s important that the non-rural readers experience the ups and downs of farm life?

I think rural life has been a neglected part of our social history- I remember when I first began submitting poems which indeed reflected the life I was enmeshed in – my new poetry publisher said try and write more city based poems- which I promptly did. However what I’ve particularly liked about Walker is their acceptance and eagerness for rural based poetry. I believe that non-rural residents need a view of the rural world that is not the advertising cliché of the ‘wholesome country taste’.

Of all the poems in Ute Picnic, do you have a favourite poem? What is it? Why is it a favourite?

Ah, can I suggest two poems- firstly A one day moment- is perhaps typical of a glimpse of the quietness and the bonds between children and the farm and animals. The emotion is hinted at.

And the other poem “A Ute Picnic’ which captures the exuberance of a family event in a typically rural way.

Ute Picnic is a work of fiction, but it draws on your memories and experiences on a dairy farm. How easy/difficult is it to create a fiction when the memories are so strong?

Ah, I’d like to tell you a secret- mainly when I write poetry it is truth- whether that be a truthful conveying of emotion or circumstances or sensory appeal. To me poetry is like a new way of diary keeping, so the emotions and epiphanies are kept simmering until I can write them up in a more permanent way. It seems to be a lot easier to enter again into those sensory pictures and leap into new territory- which is perhaps true of my prose writing more so.

I love the cover of A Ute Picnic. How difficult was it to find a cover that encapsulated the title poem? The collection?

The collection was really built around the title poem- ‘A Ute picnic’ and I didn’t pick the cover- the

editors, the marketing team, the graphic design departments at Walker all take the initiative- my part was to chose between two slightly different coloured covers. But I’m amazed at the details- especially the width of sky in the cover photograph and the way the book’s title is presented in a picnic rug- excellent.

How many poems does it take to make a collection? Was it important to theme the collection?

There’s about 66 poems in the collection- it takes probably about 100 or more poems to whittle down to a strong and varied collection. There were many poems that didn’t sit right, were too old in context of a children’s collection or didn’t make the grade standard-wise. There were many that needed re-writing. For example the tiny poem arranged in a concrete way- ‘Oval teeth’ was cut to just that one verse- often a second verse weakens or repeats the succinct point of the first- it takes another set of editorial eyes to see this.

Yes the theme was the all important unifying structure of this book- in fact my two previous children’s collection did not have this and I believe it is a strength to be themed.

What’s next for you?

I have quite a few projects that I am working on- more poetry, a novel, and the fantasy novel that has been reworked for many, many years…. and taking writing/poetry workshops- I love this, it’s the empowering part of writing I can pass on..

Thanks Claire for hosting this part of the blog tour- its especially appropriative as this book is dedicated to you and Janeen

And for those who can’t wait, here are two of the wonderful poems in this collection.


Ants on a long haul

spread out in black crawl,

bricks jut

heads butt,

passing each other

ant scent smother.

The password given

legs quickly driven.


Cat snores flip up,

out into the warm croak of day.

Even though those cat’s eyes are tight lines of fur,

the snores are wide awake

with flashes of hayshed mice

puddles of cowshed milk

and little parachutes

as the snores chase up a tree

and find they’re trapped

and cat-scared of a downward trip.

Thanks Lorraine for visiting.

Birthday parties and book launches

I’ve come to Adelaide with a bucketload of projects. My worst fear is being here and running out of things to do. At present my focus is my historical novel, but I’ve also brought a non-fiction project, a contemporary novel and three picture books that need reworking.

But in between all that working and planning for speaking gigs later in the month, I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to some Adelaide events. Last night it was a reception at the Adelaide Town Hall for Max Fatchen. It was quite a formal gig and we were greeted at the door by the Lord Mayor and personally introduced to the birthday boy himself, a delightful 90 year old. Speeches were formal and told of a long life in journalism as well as in writing verse for both children and adults. Max spoke beautifully and finished of with poem written for the occasion, skipping through his life.

Tonight was the launch of Roseanne Hawke’s new book, Marrying Ameera. It was held in an old orphanage which is now a tertiary institution. Marrying Ameera is set in Australia and Pakistan and exposes the world of forced marriages.

Tomorrow I’m off to Marian to the opening of an exhibition of the work of illustrators. Not just the finished art but also the process that precedes it. More on that afterwards.

But now I’m off to bed to start reading.

Ute Picnic

My good friend Lorraine Marwood will be here on Friday to talk a bit about her new poetry collection, Ute Picnic (Walker Books). I love Lorraine’s poetry and she has been a wonderful mentor for my poetry, so it was a thrill to have this beautiful collection dedicated to Janeen Brian and me.

Adelaide here I come!

Note to self: Plans are not always the best way to proceed. My plans to prepare for my May Gibbs Children’s Literature Trust Fellowship were upset by a tiny virus which sent me to bed for a few days. Those were the same days that I’d planned to stock up the pantry and fridge, clean and also put together all the resources for Adelaide. So four days were telescoped into one and really, apart from the cleaning bit I managed to get most things done.

My dad offered to drive over with me which made the journey much more enjoyable and also ensured that we did it in the single day. It was a lovely overcast but not raining day and there were not many trucks on the road. Even the police-escorted pair of trucks with their load of wind turbine blades (those blades are SO big) went past us while we had a break then just as we caught up with them pulled off the road.

We stopped in Nhill for lunch. Having a major highway as your main street must have it’s challenges but Nhill seems to have it sorted. There’s an enormous ‘traffic island’ in the middle, big enough for parking and playing and tourist informationing. We parked outside a building that seemed to have most recently have been a supermarket although it’s now empty. The leadlighting in the front window suggests a wealthy past.

This building seems to be just a facade, like a film set building, but was in fact real, although the room at the right end must be a little slim.

Even getting to the apartment was easy, despite me having packed the GPS somewhere very safe. Safely installed in the apartment (thanks Nan) we walked up to The Parade for dinner.

Next morning Dad and I went for a walk through the East Terrace gardens. We took the back streets to check out the houses. One particularly caught my eye, with it’s little turret or castellation which seemed to serve no purpose at all…or even to fit with the rest of the house.

Dad’s flown home now and it’s time to work. But there is time for play too. Tonight I’ve been invited to the Max Fatchen 90th birthday reception at Adelaide Town Hall.