Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter Reading

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As you’re enjoying your chocolate over Easter have a coffee and read a good book.

Check out my mini books http://www.amazon.com/dianefinlay/author

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Very hot strong black coffee, Belgian chocolate torte, six sugars,and an energy drink.

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Hi everybody,

The title of this post might give you some indication of who my next interview victim is. This woman can pack more in to twenty-four hours than anyone else I have ever met. I had a feeling this interview would be a long one so perhaps it’s just as well I booked an international flight. We were able to chat on the flight from Cairns to Brisbane to Dubai then onto Brussels before taking a bus to Brugge (as in Bugger) in Belgium.

Arriving at Cairns International check-in desk I greet Jacque Duffy – as vibrant and colourful as ever. She’s a bit breathless and she’s lost her passport – well not lost exactly just misplaced. Drama over, check-in and customs cleared we head to the lounge for our first coffee.

Jacque says, “I am thinking of changing my name to Scatty on account of how much stuff I’m doing at the moment – crazy really.”

She takes a deep breath and launches into the description of her first big project for the year.

“I have signed up for the twelve by twelve with Juliehedlund.com – basically I’ve agreed to write twelve picture book drafts in twelve months. I have so far found the group to be really wonderful motivationally and inspirationally, they are also fabulously generous with their critiques and advice. Month one I managed to write three drafts and polish two others. Month two – well… not achieving so much, but it is not over yet. Also with this group we are given the opportunity to submit picture books to editors and agents jumping the slush piles. Last week I submitted to an agent in New York, he got back to me within two hours with some suggestions for the manuscript – he was polite with those suggestions too.”

What I find so amazing is Jacque will probably achieve this. As we board our first flight she goes on to tell me more of her activities.

“I’ve been painting an entry for the Archibald Prize. This year I am painting the first Australian TV chef and artist Peter Russell Clarke. I finished that yesterday and now just have to pack it when it is perfectly dry and send it. The painting is five foot by four foot and was not easy to do – so I am relieved to be finished.”

What many of you won’t realise is Jacque is a very talented artist and having the courage alone to enter the Archibald is a bold step and this is not the first time. But that old adage leaps to mind – if at first you don’t succeed … try, try, and try again. We’ve got a bit of time to kill before our connecting flight to Dubai, so we’ll enjoy the delights of Brisbane international. Coffee number two and off we go. Jacque has more to tell me about her art work.

“Later this year I am having a solo exhibition at the Perc Tucker Regional Gallery in Townsville so I am busy preparing for that too. I worked out from week two in January I had forty-five weeks to paint twenty paintings and each takes over a week.”

This woman has a husband and kids – I also believe she sleeps. So her next comment is a bit of an understatement. However as it is delivered from a Sky-bed with  a large glass of champagne in hand we both giggle as she says, “My novel has kind of taken a back seat so far this year but is always in my mind and is at the moment a series of scribbled notes. I have a plan that will make me sit and work on it. The only problem is that novel writing is a completely different head space to picture books.”

So several more glasses of champagne later then some delicious dinner (believe me dinner is delicious in first class), we’re feeling a bit snoozy. We’ll resume the chat in the Dubai.

Dubai airport is the most shiny, sparkly, huge, airy construction. The light fittings are awesome. The Arab men in their flowing white robes just look so elegant. We have to move quickly – our flight to Brussels is departing soon. We’ll arrive Breathless in Brussels!

Once we’ve taken our seats Jacque chats about her involvement with the Innisfail Arts Society. They are a talented group. I drove to the Sugar Museum at Mourilyan last year for one of their exhibitions and left feeling very inspired. Jacque tells me she’s the president of this society and they will be holding the Biennial Art Exhibition in October this year. She chuckles, “Last week I managed to send out all of the letters requesting sponsorship, I normally manage to get about ten thousand dollars in prize money so it is a BIG competition. This is something I need to paint toward too but it will be part of the twenty pieces for the Townsville exhibition.”

She quickly fills me in on the remainder of her current projects.

“The Feast of the Senses art exhibition and market day presentation are in April…. yep another painting, I’m organizing a Kerri Lane workshop for the Licuala WINQ writers group (she’s president of that group as well) and last but not least I teach art classes.”

We chat on about her recent successes; Jacque says modestly, “Now that is a tricky one. I finished the RADF grant!” (The grant is for the Kerrie Lane Workshop). “Oh and I received written thanks from two participants of the twelve by twelve for my contributions to their drafts. Both these ladies are actually editors in publishing houses and published authors. One is in England and the other America. So I felt really good about that.”

Finally we’re finished with flying and have got ourselves on-board the bus to Brugge. It’s a bit chilly in Belgium at the moment. Like most of Europe they are still having snow, but the bus is heated so it’s not too much of a shock to the system. Brugge is the most beautiful medieval, walled city. It is surrounded by water and in the summer visitors take cruises to enjoy the city from a different perspective. Inside the walls all the ancient buildings have been preserved – it’s like stepping back in time. As we walk along cobbled streets and alleyways I ask Jacque about her best moment so far as a writer.

“Oh that’s not hard. My best moments as a writer so far would be receiving letters from people who love my books. It amazes me just how many people have taken the time to tell me in writing, some children have drawn pictures of themselves doing things out of my books. I keep these in a folder and it gives me a little thrill to look at them from time to time.”

We’ve found what I was looking for. The Groeninge Museum which is currently displaying two hundred and seventy five prints by the French artist Jacques Callot. This collection depicts the 17th century in print rather than paint and I thought Jacque might like to meet him. At least she knows she’s in good company with the volume of work she produces. Also I know of a brilliant little coffee shop not far from here.

My feet ache but rich Belgian chocolate torte with a good strong sweet coffee will set us up for the return journey. While we sit waiting for our order I ask Jacque about her worst moment.

“My worst writing moment so far… I don’t think I’ve had one. NO wait – I have. It was when I discovered an editor of an anthology I submitted to edited my story by adding a side bit. She wanted to have the character go out for a cup of coffee – which wasn’t possible as she was in a hospital bed for the entire story.”

My mouth is full of deliciously rich chocolate goo. I can’t speak so write my next question for Jacque to read. She washes down the torte with a big gulp of coffee and says,

“Advice for an aspiring writer would be to just write. Be carefree and write what ever takes your fancy, also don’t edit yourself too often.”

I ask why she writes, “I write because I have to… otherwise my head may explode.”

As we make our way back to the bus stop I take Jacque to the lace making area of this fabulous city. Even in this fast paced crazy world we live in, the Belgian lace makers still sit crafting lace by hand.

I’ve enjoyed my time with Jacque – it’s been highly entertaining. If you want to find out more about her work head to this website.

http://www.jacquesartandbooks.com

I’m off for that energy drink!

Coffee? No thanks – make mine billy tea and damper.

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To catch up with David Delaney I’ve had to tempt him out of the office – not that it was difficult to do.

The campfire is burning nicely in the concrete pit and the billy is hanging from the iron thingy-ma-jig – water bubbling away, sausages sizzle in the frypan, whilst in the embers a beautiful damper cooks. There’s butter keeping cool in the esky and as soon as David makes his appearance I’ll put the finishing touches to a rough and ready Aussie outback supper – snags at sundown.

I’ve told David to meet me here at Undara Lava Tubes. I lit the campfire in the designated camping area but once we have our mugs of tea and plates of hot buttered damper and sausages we’ll climb to the top of the ridge where we can look out over the Gulf Savannah, which extends to the horizon and beyond. This vast expanse is carpeted with eucalypts and occasional bumps of extinct shield volcanos. This area was once a hive of volcanic activity which formed the famed lava tubes.

Here comes David now – excuse me whilst I put this feast together.

We’ve climbed and found a comfy rock to sit on – even this far west it’s mozzie o’clock, so on with the spray. After a mouth-watering first bite washed down with tea I ask David what he’s currently working on.

He says with twinkle in his eye, “I’m working on my popularity in India & Canada – spreading my poetry to the masses and very soon start work on my fourth book.”

David is really a very humble man who is thrilled his poetry has been so widely acknowledged, but he does work very hard on promoting himself and his books. It’s no accident he is so popular – there’s been a lot of blood sweat and tears in his journey as a poet.

David tells me he has enjoyed and continues to enjoy all of his successes big and small. He says, “Recently I had two of my poems accepted for a significant Indian poetry anthology – Inklinks. Also my other three books continue to sell. These three little books have gone all over the world. Not that Out of Australia is a particularly little book it’s a woe to go of all of my poetry.”

David’s books: My small book of poems, Rhymes of times and Out of Australia can all be found on this link: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0615467806/ref=nosim/theplanningsh-20

When I ask David about his best moments so far he takes a deep breath, roll’s his eyes and says, “I honestly don’t know. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging but there have been so many it is hard to pick one!”

The list is pretty impressive

  • interviewed by the Expactica (Germany)
  • Burning Bush Publications (U.S.)
  • The Canadian National Newspaper (Canada)
  • Writers News Weekly (U.S.)
  • L.A.Examiner (U.S.)
  • American Cowboy Poetry (U.S.)
  • Agence France-Presse (Fra.)
  • Radio interviews, local & interstate,
  • Appearing at festivals and being flown to Sydney, all expenses paid, to perform my poem at the ANZ stadium’s ‘Overflow’ venue.

After all of that it seems to be a bit cruel to bring him down and ask about worst moments, but David in typical form takes it on the chin as he says, “Organising a public book release for Rhymes of times and then have about 5 people show!”

His words of wisdom for aspiring writers are: “Don’t push yourself hunting for ideas, relax and let them come to you.” Finally asked why he writes his answer is simple and direct: “I love it.”

We’ve finished our supper the western sky is ablaze in fiery oranges and coral pink while on the horizon the low cloud purples. The chirruping cicadas sing to us as we pack up and head home.

Coffee with milk and two Dragons

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When one wishes to interview a writer of speculative fiction one has to rapidly develop a new skill set. Barbara Holten, the writer in question, lives some distance from Cairns, so astral travel was required for this interview and I’m surprised at how quickly I mastered the art. Then again it’s amazing what you can do once you put your mind to it.

I’ve caught up with Barbara at the Look Out café near Beerwah overlooking the Glass House Mountains on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. The air is a little cooler here and a lot less humid. We’ve opted to have the Devonshire tea but with a pot of coffee instead – if that makes any sense at all. The scones are light and crumbly and there’s no stinting on the jam and cream. Yummy. Probably shouldn’t gorge myself too much or I won’t be able to take off for the astral flight back to Cairns!

Enough of all that chitter-chatter – on with the interview. I asked Barbara what she’s currently working on.

“Okay,” she says pausing to swallow hot coffee, “In spite of all my best efforts to leave it in the drawer to marinate… my novel Dragon-Master still has me in its grip. I started writing it on 31 August 2001. There have been many iterations – the current draft is number 19! There have also been gaps of a year to 18 months when nothing was done on it and once I even managed to start working on something completely different… but those dragons reached out with their talons and hauled me back to Lamathea to get this story told.”

This just goes to show if you believe as a writer you are onto something good, it truly doesn’t matter how long it takes to get the job done. Sometimes it is such a pleasure to come back to an old friend. We pause in our chat to gaze out on the wonderful vista of the Glasshouse Mountains and I’ve just spotted some kangaroos snoozing in the shade.

On recent success Barbara says, “Nothing recent – the last story I had published online was in November 2011 in issue 161 of AntipodeanSF.” (www.antisf.com).

Another jam and cream laden scone finds its way into my mouth as Barbara tells me her best moment was getting a fantastic review of the first story she had published in AntipodeanSF (issue 100) and subsequently being nominated for an Aurealis Award. It’s moments like this which serve to keep the madness of having to write alive and well. It’s the little things – ‘though in truth being nominated for an Aurealis award is no little thing!

The light is changing – the sun’s shift to the west stirs the sleepy kangaroos and they’re hopping about now.

I ask about Barbara’s worst moment – we both take a big drink of coffee as she confesses it was …  “Sitting with my finger over the delete key while two friends discussed the version of the novel at the time, ripping it to shreds, but having the courage to walk away while they chatted online, doing some washing up and having a light-bulb moment (gotta love those negative ions) and realising what they had said was accurate and how to fix it.”  I think moments like these are akin to having your legs waxed.

What advice would Barbara give to an aspiring writer? “Advice? READ LOTS! Not just in the genre you would like to write in but a wide variety of genres. Write often – it doesn’t have to be deathless prose but simply to keep the juices flowing. After all you might jot something down that later gives you the germ of an idea for a bestseller!”

We both agree that reading is not only motivational and inspirational but a valuable teaching tool, as we learn writing technique and devices from other writers. Even badly written books have their place as they demonstrate how NOT to do something.

As we drink the dregs in our cups and hoover up the crumbs from our plates Barbara muses on why she writes. “Why do I write? To create worlds that don’t exist except in my imagination so they can be shared. To write characters who can do things I can’t. To fly on dragons!”

Barbara also is an editor with a deadly eye for detail. She sits on my shoulder when I’m writing – I can hear her voice and I know she’s right. Barbara has turned some of my stories inside out and upside down but they definitely became better pieces for it and I became a better writer. So thank – you Barbara for being my little voice.

I’m rather glad this veranda is so high off the ground; I’m going to need all the help I can get. You’ll find out next week if this is a flight or flop moment.

Finally, if you’d like to check out Barbara’s editorial service then head to her website http://www.tropicaldragon.com.au

 

Chatting with Letizia

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Hello and welcome to my second interview in my Virtual Coffee series. I really had an amazing response to my request to local writers inviting them to join me in a virtual coffee and today I am delighted to introduce Letizia De Rosa of Book Creators Circle. www.bookcreatorscircle.com.au

We are being very naughty and indulgent but if you check out Letizia’s response to my question, “What have been your worst moments as a writer so far?” you will understand why we are eating lots of delicious dolci – it’s a precautionary necessity! Read on.

So where are we? Well I’ve brought Letizia to Habibs cafe (watch out for a name change soon) Village Lane, Lake Street, Cairns. This busy city centre cafe is a favourite for office staff, locals and tourists alike; all who know good coffee, great food and wonderful service. We are served our coffee and dolci by the lovely Claudia.

Anyway on to the interview, says she wiping away cake crumbs.

My first question to Letizia is about her current project. She tells me she’s working on a collection of sonnets. “I’m writing pieces that reflect moments of passionate and gratifying love, others on enticing writers to pick up their pens and other sonnets for fun; that make social comments that prod, prick and hopefully stimulate thought.”

I’m quietly envious of anyone who can pen a sonnet – not my forté.

I ask Letizia if she’d like to recount some recent successes.

My greatest achievement is running 5 years of Book Creators Circle, giving writers a voice and profile that they might otherwise not have. My other grand achievement is being honoured the Sydney PEN Award for my consistency in working for the ‘silenced’ writer, the imprisoned writer and the marginalised ones, like regional writers. And, as a writer my best moments have been the public speaking and having my parents in the audience beaming as they understood that my sole purpose in creating my first books was to honour their migrant journey, the post-war migrant journey to Australia and my existence because of all of that.” Letizia is the daughter of business migrants Vincenza De Rosa (Zappulla) and Antonino De Rosa from Italy.

We pause as more coffee and cake is delivered – it is an auspicious moment as we move onto ‘worst moments’.

“My worst moment as a writer was when I was called a fraud. I wish I could have replied but it was left as a comment on a website so I couldn’t. But I wish I could have said to that person: ‘Have you any idea the pain that lead me to write, the work it has taken me because I am bilingual and above all the demons I have faced spiritually to do so? And who the hell to do you think wrote those books? They didn’t write themselves!’ The problem in life is always people and their mouths. What most people need is more cake, more sweetness of spirit and hence more time to keep mouth shut and think with their hearts.” As Letizia says this her eyes sparkle and we eat more cake!

As a regional writer myself – even in these wonderful technologically advanced times the tyranny of distance is very real and a lot of writers do experience a sense of disconnection, and not at all sure of their next step on their journey. So I asked Letizia what advice she would give to an aspiring writer.

As always she was very candid, “Aspiring writers should join Book Creators Circle, ask lots of questions, not get a website but contacts and lots of spheres of influence like Book Creators Circle and keep their fingers tapping while the ego and soul goes for a roller-coaster ride like none they have ever experienced before. When they have come through the first ride then they need to edit and re-edit until it is perfect or complete the work as professionally as humanly possible because everyone expects it if they are a ‘fledgling’. Once they have their stripes then it does not matter. But as most of us don’t even achieve wings then it is best to keep editing and above all, working on the craft of writing, which includes READING!”

Now being so stuffed full of cake I can hardly move I ask Letizia my final question – Why do you write?

“I write because I love it. No other reason. It is the only reason I do anything. Without the love or passion for it we might as well drop dead because nothing else will carry us, sustain or keep the fingers tapping, not even the kudos of having a major publishing house, the remuneration because there isn’t one nor the applause because people are more likely to criticise than applaud. So I do it merely for the love of reading, writing and belonging to that glorious group of people who call themselves ‘artists of the pen – writers’.”

We’ve had a great time together and I hope someone somewhere is inspired by Letizia’s words. It’s so invigorating to spend time with other passionate writers.

Watch this space – next week I’ll be interviewing yet another passionate writer and we won’t be in Cairns. I’m travelling.