Elaine Forrestal

The jigsaw puzzle of writing

Charles Ulm wear­ing the fly­ing hel­met that his son John later wore when he sat in his father’s seat in the South­ern Cross while Smithy flew the plane from rich­mond to Mas­cot where it was put on display.

The jig­saw puz­zle of sto­ries, anec­dotes, mem­o­ries, facts and fig­ures that make up the man­u­script of On Wings of Steel at present, are slowly com­ing together. It’s a long, but fas­ci­nat­ing, process.

Firstly there are two voices that I am grap­pling with, those of John and Charles (CTP) Ulm. There are times when these two voices need to meld together into one. The action is often passed between them like a ball. Some­times the ball comes at you so fast that there is only a para­graph or two for you to catch your breath before the next throw. There are other times, how­ever, when the two char­ac­ters, father and son, must be sep­a­rate. One goes to school. The other flies all over the world. But they merge and become one again, shar­ing the same emo­tions at the same time, when John and Jo, (Charles’s sec­ond wife)  fol­low their beloved CTP’s progress via the radio in their lounge room. Since John and his father are so alike, and share a detailed knowl­edge of planes and a pas­sion for fly­ing, it does not take a huge leap of imag­i­na­tion for them to also speak with one voice. By the time John is telling his father’s story he has become immersed in it. He has heard it told so many times — by fam­ily mem­bers and friends, in the news­pa­pers, by Charles him­self in his log books, that there are times dur­ing this re-telling when he imag­ines him­self at the heart of the action and, in a sense, becomes his father’s voice.

Is this pos­si­ble? I am begin­ning to think it is. I just have to get the tran­si­tions right and make sure the reader is still com­ing along for this white-knuckle ride.

Ready, set … for Bologna

Route taken by the sail­ing ship ‘Uranie’ around the world between 1817 and 1820

The Inter­na­tional Book Fair in Bologna is fast approach­ing, so I’ve been think­ing about how I can max­imise my time there and attract the sort of atten­tion I need from for­eign lan­guage pub­lish­ers, prefer­ably French, for To See the World.

I have always believed that the story of Rose de Freycinet should be pub­lished in her own lan­guage: French. But the Fair is enor­mous and, to make the most of my time on the creator’s table I have had to think out­side the box and come up with an unusual way to make an impact. My biggest and most vis­i­ble prop is an inflat­able globe on which I have marked the route taken by the sail­ing ship, Uranie, on it’s voy­age around the world, with Rose on board. The annual A Night with Our Stars event, organ­ised by the CBC WA Branch, pre­sented me with the per­fect oppor­tu­nity to try out my idea. I was invited to pro­mote To See the World and, with a strict limit of three min­utes per speaker, I needed to do some­thing dif­fer­ent and mem­o­rable. The globe was a big hit — not only in size. I’m pleased to say that by the end of the evening I had peo­ple invit­ing me to come to their schools to use my globe, and Rose’s story, to com­bine sci­ence, map­ping, weather obser­va­tion and other sub­jects with my lit­er­acy and lan­guage session.

There is just one slight prob­lem. Although the globe was quick and easy to inflate it took nearly a week to deflate! And I will only have 48 hours, once I fin­ish my sec­ond ses­sion in Bologna, before I have to fit it back in my suit­case. For­tu­nately my ANWOS expe­ri­ence has taught me a cou­ple of tricks to speed up the process.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Premier’s Non-Awards

West Aus­tralian authors Mark Green­wood, Elaine For­re­stal and Dianne Wolfer

The Perth Writer’s Fes­ti­val is always a good place to con­nect and net­work with other authors and illus­tra­tors. The hot topic at the Fes­ti­val this year is the WA Government’s deci­sion to cut back the Premier’s Book Awards from an annual to a bi-annual event. Shock, hor­ror and stunned dis­be­lief are the emo­tions that have ripped through the book creator’s com­mu­nity since the news of this short-sighted ret­ro­grade step was announced. fol­low­ing so closely on the heels of the deci­sion to open up the com­pe­ti­tion to all com­ers, this is a kick in the teeth for hard work­ing writ­ers and illus­tra­tors who are already strug­gling to have their work noticed. Com­pared to the huge amounts of money spent on sport­ing facil­i­ties and events, the sav­ing to be had by halv­ing the num­ber of Premier’s Awards is an absolute pittance.

West Aus­tralian authors and illus­tra­tors are world class. Given our small pop­u­la­tion we have always punched above our weight and have devel­oped a rep­u­ta­tion for pro­duc­ing top qual­ity books which have been trans­lated into all the major lan­guages in the world. But it has always been a strug­gle. The Premier’s Book Awards are one small way in which the Gov­ern­ment can, and in all con­science should, help.

Lovestruck Rose

Rose and Jose in the door­way of Rose’s tent at Shark Bay in 1818

Nearly two hun­dred years after she cre­ated a scan­dal and made head­lines in all the French news­pa­pers, Rose de Freycinet is mak­ing head­lines again. The State Library of New South Wales has decided to fea­ture her jour­nal and let­ters to mark Valentine’s Day. This time she is mak­ing the news because of her hus­band, Liouis’s, attempt to keep her name out of the offi­cial reports of the voy­age of the Uranie.

Juilie Power’s arti­cle in The Syd­ney Morn­ing Her­ald this week­end fea­tures the two dif­fer­ent ver­sions, by the offi­cial artist, Alphonse Pel­lion, of the same scene at Shark Bay. The first shows Rose and her pupil, Jose, in the open door­way of Rose’s dis­tinc­tive tent in the camp site and obser­va­tory set up by the crew of the Uranie. In the sec­ond pic­ture the door­way is empty. The images of both Rose and Jose have been removed. In other paint­ings made dur­ing the voy­age Pel­lion shows that he has heeded to instruc­tions of his Com­man­der, Louis de Freycinet, never to men­tion the fact that Rose is on board the Uranie. Since she was ille­gally on board, her hus­band was try­ing to pro­tect her, and his own career, from the con­se­quences of deci­sion to travel with him even though French Naval reg­u­la­tions strictly for­bade it. But in the first of these pic­tures Pel­lion has obvi­ously ignored his Com­man­der or decided that, more than a year into the voy­age, every­one knows that Rose is on board any­way. In the sec­ond he has thought bet­ter of it, since Louis’s instruc­tions still stand. It is, there­fore, mostly from Rose’s own jour­nal that we get the incred­i­bly detailed and uniquely fem­i­nine view of life in the remote com­mu­ni­ties and regions that she visited.

Like Rose, her jour­nal sur­vived the rigours of the three year voy­age. On her arrival back in France, she pre­sented it to her friend Caor­line de Nan­teuil, for whom it was writ­ten. After Caroline’s death it was kept in the Nan­teuil fam­ily for two gen­er­a­tions before being handed over to the then Baron de Freycinet. In 1926 the Marine Arche­ol­o­gist, Charles Duplomb, who was research­ing the wreck of the Uranie, approached the Baron about pub­lish­ing Rose’s Jour­nal. The Baron refused, say­ing that it was a per­sonal doc­u­ment and never intended for pub­li­ca­tion. How­ever, in 1927, 550 copies were pub­lished, 50 of these were deluxe edi­tions, sev­eral of which have sur­vived. Another sev­enty years would go by before Marc Serge Riv­iere trans­lated the jour­nal into English.

Today there are trans­la­tions in Eng­lish, Ital­ian, Por­tuguese, Ger­man and Span­ish. And in 2017 there will be cel­e­bra­tions in France and Aus­tralia, at least, of the impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion that Rose de Freycinet has made to the his­tory of the world.

Here is a link to the full text of Julie Power’s arti­cle which includes both pic­tures: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/lovestruck-stowaway-rose-de-freycinet-erased-from-history-20150212-13b1h8.html

In Praise of Anthologies

Cover of Near and Dear: Sto­ries for Chil­dren from Aus­tralia and Singapore

Antholo­gies, whether of short sto­ries or poetry, are often regarded as the poor rela­tions of the com­mer­cial pub­lish­ing world. If one adds up the num­ber of titles pro­duced each year, either by a sin­gle main-stream pub­lisher or the indus­try as a whole, antholo­gies will usu­ally make up less than one per­cent of the total.

In spite of this, antholo­gies can be very suc­cess­ful. This week it has been my short story, The Cross-eyed Mir­ror, that has been cre­at­ing the most atten­tion. The full title of the anthol­ogy in which it appears is; Near and Dear: Sto­ries for Chil­dren from Aus­tralia and Sin­ga­pore. It is pub­lished by Writ­ingWA in Aus­tralia in part­ner­ship with the National Book Devel­op­ment Coun­cil in Sin­ga­pore and was released last year. I was over­seas on the 13th Octo­ber 2014 when the book was launched in Perth so I missed out on meet­ing the authors from Sin­ga­pore who came over for the event. They have obvi­ously for­given me because I have been invited to go to Sin­ga­pore to speak at their annual Asian Fes­ti­val of Children’s Con­tent in late May/early June. And just this week, I was invited to go back to Sin­ga­pore in Sep­tem­ber to run some cre­ative writ­ing work­shops for 7 — 12 year olds at a spe­cial writ­ing Camp.

In spite of spend­ing count­less hours, over a period of thirty years, in Changi Air­port, I hardly know Sin­ga­pore at all. I am look­ing for­ward to rec­ti­fy­ing that this year.  Well done Writ­ingWA and the NBDC for per­se­ver­ing with this anthol­ogy and pro­mot­ing closer ties between our two countries.