Elaine Forrestal

Who is Jacque Freycinet?

Por­trait of Louis de Freycinet who sailed with Baudin and later Com­manded the sail­ing ship Uranie on voy­ages to Australia

While read­ing the Review sec­tion of The Week­end Aus­tralian this morn­ing I was star­tled to see some­one called Jacque Freycinet men­tioned — twice — in con­nec­tion with a book about the French voy­ages of explo­ration in the south seas in the early 1800s. I quickly con­sulted all my own exten­sive research, plus Google and Wikipedia. There are two very mod­ern Jacques Freycinets, who can be con­tacted on Face­book, but no Jacques Freycinet in any of the accounts of early voy­ages by the French to Aus­tralia. There are pic­tures and pro­files of Jacques Arago and Louis de Freycinet, who both vis­ited Aus­tralia aboard French ships in the early 1800s and who both left behind exten­sive reports of the time they spent here. I can only con­clude that some­one has mis­tak­enly rolled these two names together. Whether it is Nicholas Roth­well, who wrote the review, or the two ‘Friends of the State Library of South Aus­tralia’ who wrote the book being reviewed, is impos­si­ble to say. I will cer­tainly be doing some more dig­ging. I am even tempted to buy the book, although not for a while yet. At $65 in hard­back it would def­i­nitely blow my bud­get. The paper­back edi­tion is a bit more afford­able and, sur­pris­ingly, avail­able already. But I’m sure my library will be get­ting it in.

Mean­while, if any­one can tell me who Jacque Freycinet, the French sci­en­tist and explorer who vis­ited Syd­ney in the early 1800s really is, I will be very interested.

Graffiti is still with us

Cover of Graf­fiti on the Fence by Elaine Forrestal

With so much focus on the new book, To See the World, it is easy to over­look the oth­ers, but for the last two weeks I’ve been answer­ing emails from stu­dents about Graf­fiti on the Fence. The stu­dents have been read­ing it in class and now they are writ­ing a biog­ra­phy — of me.

Although Graf­fiti on the Fence was short­listed, in the Younger Read­ers cat­e­gory, for the CBC Book of the Year Awards it has always played sec­ond fid­dle to its pre­de­ces­sor, Some­one Like Me. It is good to see it com­ing into its own and even ris­ing above its bet­ter known sib­ling, fif­teen years after it was orig­i­nally pub­lished. Of course the print copies have all been sold now, but it is obvi­ously still avail­able in libraries. I am in the process of putting the eBook ver­sion up on the inter­net in response to the new flood of requests for copies. As part of the con­ver­sion process I needed to re-read the whole book, which is some­thing I never do once it is pub­lished. I do a huge num­ber of drafts and a lot of edit­ing and check­ing dur­ing the writ­ing process, but I know that, if I read it again, there is bound to be some­thing I will still want to tweak. There are always bits that are dif­fi­cult to get right. Some­times I work and re-work them until I find, after five or six re-drafts, that I have changed that sen­tence back to what it was in the begin­ning! At that point I know it is time to step back and hand the man­u­script over to some­one else. Some­one with a ‘fresh pair of eyes’.

As you can imag­ine I am always a bit ner­vous when it comes to the con­ver­sion stage of an eBook. But in this case I was pleas­antly sur­prised. Graf­fiti on the Fence is one of those rare books that seemed to write itself. It is set in a street very like ours, in a house very like ours with a dog who, although he doesn’t look like ours has a sim­i­lar per­son­al­ity. And the action was hap­pen­ing around me as I wrote. We live at the bot­tom of a hill and the slop­ing foot­path is skate­board heaven! Every time the kids who ride their boards down past our house after school have grown up and moved on, a new gen­er­a­tion of skate­board­ers and scooter rid­ers has taken their place.

Good to know that some things don’t change much, and that the story of Graf­fiti on the Fence is still rel­e­vant today.

Rose and Jose have arrived at last!

When peo­ple ask me what I enjoy most about writ­ing books I always say, ‘The moment when the

Cover of ‘To See the World’ by Elaine For­re­stal, pub­lished by the National Library of Australia

par­cel arrives, I open it up, and see the advance copies of my lat­est book for the first time.’  Even though I have seen the cover image already, it is very dif­fer­ent to actu­ally hav­ing the real book in my hands. After work­ing away at the man­u­script for so long, there is some­thing quite exhil­a­rat­ing about see­ing the book that other peo­ple will read. That hap­pened on Thurs­day and I’m still pinch­ing myself.

Of course I could not have done this on my own. There are peo­ple I want to acknowl­edge and, although we ran out of pages in this par­tic­u­lar book, the Ref­er­ence List and Acknowl­edge­ments are in the Teacher’s Notes which will be on both the National Library web­site and this one — once the book is released into the shops on the 1st April. How­ever, I didn’t want to let this excit­ing week go by with­out mak­ing men­tion of those peo­ple who made the book pos­si­ble, so I have included the acknowl­edge­ments here.

Acknowl­edge­ments: To See the World

I am extremely grate­ful to Baron Henry de Saulce de Freycinet for his gen­er­ous and enthu­si­as­tic sup­port of my research and for allow­ing me access to the Archive de Laage.

To Dominique and Sonja Tichet who pro­vided invalu­able help with con­tact­ing the Chateau de Freycinet in Saulce-sur-Rhone.

To mon­sieur and Madame Caire, present own­ers of the Cahteau de Freycinet, for their preser­va­tion of the build­ings and grounds, and for open­ing up their home to show me around.

To Emmanuelle Requin-Bekkers and her fam­ily for shar­ing their inti­mate knowl­edge of the old port of Toulon.

To Frank Wheat­ley for access to his exten­sive col­lec­tion of old and rare books on the early explorers.

To Claire Codring­ton, Jean and Marise for pass­ing on their first-hand knowl­edge of life on the islands of Mau­ri­tius, Reunion and Seychelles.

To Nadia Hol­loway, my French teacher, adviser and friend. Also Philipa Ryan, Tony Ryan and Mamie White who keep our French con­ver­sa­tions lively and interesting.

The Aus­tralia Busi­ness Arts Foun­da­tion pro­vided finan­cial sup­port for my research in France.

I must also thank Susan Hall and Irma Gold, the expert team at the National Library of Aus­tralia. And spe­cial thanks to Peter For­re­stal; for being my chauf­feur and research organ­iser in France and my lov­ing sup­porter at home.


Click on Kids Conference

Black Jack Ander­son is an his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for teenagers. What might is say about the reader’s self-image?

With the release date for To See the World loom­ing, I am busy help­ing to organ­ise the launch at the State Library on 1st May. But between meet­ings and last minute emails from my pub­lisher I came across a report from the Click on Kids Con­fer­ence in August last year. Cate Suther­land, from Fre­man­tle Press, was talk­ing about the pub­lish­ing indus­try in gen­eral and quoted new research which has revealed that there is a move by teenagers away from dig­i­tal and back to print books.

Cate said, ‘One of the most curi­ous sta­tis­tics was the move away from e-reading by teenagers. While they are gen­er­ally enthu­si­as­tic and early embrac­ers of new tech­nol­ogy, it seems they pre­fer their books on paper as a vis­i­ble part of their self-identity.’

Sur­pris­ing in one way but, to their credit, Fre­man­tle Press has been one of the first estab­lished pub­lish­ers to move to simul­ta­ne­ous pub­li­ca­tion of all new titles in dig­i­tal and print form. It is very encour­ag­ing to see that such a brave move on their part seems to be pay­ing off. Ulti­mately, only time will tell. But I have always believed that the two forms of pub­li­ca­tion would sup­port, rather than detract from, each other. We know that sto­ries will sur­vive. Telling sto­ries, whether to enter­tain, inform, or sim­ply to try and make sense of our world, is part of being human. Whether they are told as movies, TV series, comics, e-books or on paper is not really the issue. How we com­pen­sate our authors, direc­tors, illus­tra­tors and other cre­ators for their work is the impor­tant question.

A Night With Our Stars

West Aus­tralian illus­tra­tors at work

From hum­ble begin­nings eleven years ago A Night With Our Stars has become the event of the year for authors and illus­tra­tors in West­ern Aus­tralia to show­case their work. Back in 2003 Jenni Woodroffe had an idea. And when Jenni has an idea things usu­ally hap­pen. With this one, how­ever, I think even Jenni is just a lit­tle sur­prised at how big her idea has actu­ally grown.

At first authors and illus­tra­tors who had had a book pub­lished recently were invited to speak, for three min­utes, about their work. This could include pre­vi­ous books as well as what they were work­ing on next. And some­times new authors or illus­tra­tors whose book wasn’t quite out there yet were invited to speak, to fill the pro­gram. Now there are so many peo­ple vying for the speak­ing spots that very strict rules have to be applied. Only those with books pub­lished in the pre­vi­ous cal­en­dar year are invited to fill the pre­cisely three-minute slots. Sequels and non-fiction titles are men­tioned by the MC, but there are so many WA authors and illus­tra­tors pro­duc­ing books these days that it has become a great hon­our to be invited by the organ­is­ers to be part of the main pro­gram. Atten­dances, by book buy­ers of all descrip­tions, have swelled to near two hun­dred, stretch­ing to the limit the capac­ity of the new West­books car park. A huge mar­quee, erected in the car park and donated by Fre­man­tle Press each year, has replaced the space between-the-shelves of the old West­books premises.

From the start the WA Branch of the Chil­drens Book Coun­cil of Aus­tralia has pitched in to help Jenni with the mul­ti­ple tasks of organ­is­ing food, wine, book sign­ings, sound sys­tem, posters and invi­ta­tions for the event. It is a huge under­tak­ing. Last year the inde­fati­ga­ble Jenni Woodroffe handed over the reins to Joanna Andrew. It is often tricky to keep some­thing like this going when the founder retires after such a long stint in the sad­dle. On Thurs­day night it was great to see A Night With Our Stars car­ry­ing on seam­lessly.  Not only has it sur­vived for 11 years but it is obvi­ously flour­ish­ing and will con­tinue to do so in Joanna’s capa­ble hands.

Well done every­one at CBC WA.