Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities and Kate Mosse

Hello, I’m a big Kate Mosse fan and love gothic literary thrillers, so I was thrilled to see her current book The Taxidermist’s Daughter was inspired by her childhood visits to The Walter Potter Museum.

In Death there can be Beauty

In Death there can be Beauty

On an overseas trip to the UK many years ago, David and I visited Jamaica Inn in Cornwall. Not only did we get lost on the moors (another blog post altogether) but we were fortunate to discover Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities before it was dismantled. I found the museum incredibly fascinating and longed for another chance to examine it, so I was saddened to hear in 2003 that such a fine collection of Victorian-Edwardian whimsy was lost forever when it was dismantled and sold at auction. IMG_8255   Some might find the taxidermy displays macabre, but I loved the surreal cuteness of the animals in dioramas such as The Death and Burial of Cock Robin (which took Mr Potter seven years to complete and included 98 species of British birds along with a weeping robin widow and a grave-digging owl); his rabbit school with rabbits writing on slates; and kitten tea parties. Who Killed Cock Robin   Intricate details featured on all of his work – including frilly knickers on kittens. There were also many other interesting and strange curios, enough to spend hours browsing. kittens getting married kittens   Mr Potter’s Museum of Curiosities began life in Bramber, Sussex, England. mr-potters-museum   As a teenager, Walter Potter’s fascination with taxidermy started when he attempted to preserve the life of his pet canary. The Death and Burial of Cock Robin was a massive success. Walter Walter and book   So many people were keen to witness his tableaus that a special platform had to be built at Bramber train station to accommodate the hordes of tourists arriving to view it. Squirrels in room   After Mr Potter’s death at 82, his daughter and grandson took over the business. Public taste in taxidermy had now waned and the displays were considered in poor taste.

Kitten with two faces

Kitten with two faces


Rabbit School

Rabbit School

The collection, numbering 10, 000 specimens, was moved around to Brighton, Ardundel and then to the owners of the famous Jamaica Inn in Cornwall where visitors come from around the world to experience Daphne du Maurier territory first hand. Jamaica Inn   Sadly, when the museum finally went to auction, a one-million pound bid by Damien Hirst to keep the collection intact was rejected, which meant various pieces were sold separately. Hirst wrote a piece for the Guardian HERE called, Mr Potter, Stuffed Rats and Me.

Kate Mosse and Crow

Kate Mosse and Crow

There is also another interesting link HERE to a Taxidermy article about Walter Potter. The Taxidermist's Daughter Kate   And a link HERE with Kate Mosse talking about her fascination with Walter Potter and his museum.

Another link HERE is a website to a book about Walter Potter which contains lots of fascinating articles.

And a recent interview with Kate Mosse from the Independent where she discusses the Landscape of her Imagination HERE

Kate at Booth Museum of Natural History

Kate at Booth Museum of Natural History

With all the excitement of a new Kate Mosse book, I thought it was a good chance to publish the notes I took when she spoke at Sydney Writers Festival in 2013. I’d had the best of intentions to put them on my blog at the time, but became so busy with writing Currawong Manor that I never got a chance. I shall post that blog later in the week so I do hope you return. Please share this post with your social online friends if you feel they would be interested. Thank you for popping in. Love and Light, Josephine xx

A short film on Potter’s collection that may be of interest.

Fifties Fair

Designed by Harry Seidler for his parents, Rose and Max, Rose Seidler house in the 1950s must have looked as if it came from outer space. Positioned at the edge of the bush, its cube-like form was a sensation to a Sydney emerging from the depression and two world wars. But the decade’s optimism was impacting all the arts – including  the housing industry. Harry Seidler was like all the modernists, looking to the future in his design. His vision excited the public as he overthrew all previous conventions concerning Australian architecture.


Even finding a builder prepared to work on such an innovative house was a challenge, not to mention that building materials were in short supply after World War II. But following a lengthy construction; the Seidlers moved into their new home in late 1950.

Over 17 years, Rose built rockeries, stone walls and she added plants and flowers, fruit trees and vegetable gardens. The vegetable garden produced copious amounts of vegetables which she pressed generously upon friends including Max Dupain, who would go home with great boxes full of fresh vegetables.

Today, Rose Seidler House is owned by the Historic Houses Trust and annually hosts the Fifties Fair which my family attended today with a friend.



We travelled to the fair in true vintage style via a genuine 1950s bus.



I loved marvelling over all the vintage frocks. Here are some photos from the parade. 

collage Fair

Daisy and I entered the family group section.


But as soon as we spotted our competition – this amazing looking family – we knew we had lost this year. Hats off the mother of this family who spent weeks hand sewing their outfits.


Some of the frocks being judged.


Here’s the beautiful winner of the Ladies section.



Of course the Fifties Fair wouldn’t be complete without some great music. Here are the lads from Rusty Pinto’s Shotdown from Sugartown.


And some swing and jive cats and kittens.


And there’s always the cars too ooh and aah over.


Too soon, the Fifties Fair was over for another year.

Sorry Daisy, that’s not our car.


But here comes the bus to take us home.


And so we departed Rose Seidler House leaving that unique house in its isolated spectacular setting of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

When they occupied Rose Seidler House, the Seidlers had to endure uninvited visitors who would queue outside to peer through the glass walls, awed by the house. It’s hard to imagine what they would have thought if they had a time capsule and could have seen what would be the destiny of their son’s design.


You can read more about Rose Seidler House and the Fifties Fair HERE.


An early morning walk through our local park. My partner, David has gone diving with platypuses in Queensland – a most magical sounding pursuit.



I walk down the early morning city streets where fog has gifted an enchanted hush to the area.

My daughter has been taken by a friend to her netball game for the day. I have an entire day to write. But first, I have to see the fog.



In our local park, familiar paths fork into mysterious avenues.



Other walkers, cameras ready, are awed into silence as we encounter each other on the bush tracks. Sydney Park holds us in a spell.



The simple moments often bring the most joy.



I have time to contemplate the new book I am beginning.


It’s always a disconcerting feeling when starting a new project and you’re stepping into the unknown.



Characters have already formed; the book hovers, as haunting as as the early-morning city fog. An idea that has simmered for years, now beginning to evolve.



Life – a matter of focus: on my right side, swans and ducks glide with knowing beauty through the serene atmosphere.


And on my left side, the rubbish bins amongst the mud.



On Sunday, my daughter goes to her NIDA class and I write in my notebook. Yes, the old-school way of pen to paper and photographs for visual inspiration.



I am now in the 1950s in Tasmania and a doorway to a new world has opened for me. Characters are introducing themselves. The book has the working title of Sweetwater.



One step in front of the other. You never where the path will take you, but it is the act itself, the process that is the enchantment. One step towards the book and more is revealed. Another step and it’s waiting for me, calling me through the fog. One more step.


Spring is coming to Sydney. I can smell the jasmine on the city streets.


Call for Grace

The school holidays have just finished in Sydney.
So disruptive to writing time, but my daughter and I embraced Winter days relaxed in Little Brick, enjoying the luxury of not having to concern ourselves with lunchboxes, uniforms and school newsletters.
Thank you to WHO magazine for the following mention of Currawong Manor.
And more thanks to all the online reviewers who are helping to spread my book to potential readers: such as this beautiful review from Monique at Write Note Reviews, who said:

Currawong Manor has everything I love in a novel – a decaying house creating a dark and oppressive setting (enhanced by the mountain location), a heightened sense of suspense, a slowly-unfolding mystery, and some sinister characters (including the house and the nearby woods). There are also secondary romantic elements, which add to the tension. The standout feature for me was the sense of place; because it was captured so well, it made me want to plan a holiday to the Blue Mountains sooner rather than later.

For those who love a good gothic-style mystery, add Currawong Creek to your to-read list – I highly recommend it. I’ve added Pennicott’s 2013 novel, Poet’s Corner, to my to-read list.


Thank you, Monique. The rest of the review can be read on her review site HERE. I was most taken with the fact she used a painting from Frederick McCubbin, The Lost Child  as I was working with that image on an early draft of Currawong Manor. It also means a lot to me when I can make people long to revisit a place through my prose.


I enjoy the inner-city when its hub is momentarily hushed as the exodus begins from Sydney on holidays. But I admit, to some envy as I watched friends heading off for overseas holidays.  I reminded myself that sometimes the most cherished holidays are when you discover your own city anew and that having unstructured days is of great benefit to children.
I remember holiday breaks when I was a child, that seemed to last forever – no playdates,sleep overs, activity centres, and extra tuition in everything imaginable booked in. Instead we explored our own backyards, became terribly bored and began to create with the material we had at hand. I wrote books I never finished on an old typewriter, formed clubs with imaginary friends and read books I longed to read and wasn’t interested in, but I’d already read everything in our house and library. Boring your children is so important and undervalued in this overstimulated time if you want to help your child’s imagination to flourish.
Captain Josephine Pennicott and her pirate crew on the harbour

Captain Josephine Pennicott and her pirate crew on the harbour

With harbour side trips and unstructured days behind me, I’m now busy working on my present book which I’m very excited about. I’m back in Tasmania for this one and it’s 1950. After all the recent events in the news, it’s a relief to immerse myself into a more optimistic decade.
The New House - John Brack 1953

The New House – John Brack 1953

Thank you to all the support for Currawong Manor on my Facebook pages and on Good Reads. I do value your comments and cyber-word of mouth.
Keeping good company. Thanks to Amelia for the support on Instagram.

Keeping good company. Thanks to Amelia for the support on Instagram.

In early June, I announced a Giveaway to celebrate Currawong Manor’s release. I have put all the names into a hat and selected a winner from the large amount of entries received.
Congratulations to Vivienne Martyn, you  will be receiving a signed copies of both Poet’s Cottage and Currawong Manor, a set of Daily Guidance Angel Cards and a Russian Red Mac Lipstick all to the value of $120.93. Thanks so much to everyone who entered, signed up for my newsletter, shared the post and helped to spread the word. Your support is always so appreciated!
A few more photos of my recent High Tea via Better Read than Dead’s Facebook page:
Guests at the High Tea examine my notebook

Guests at the High Tea examine my notebook

annie at high tea

Josephine Pennicott signing Currawong Manor

Josephine Pennicott signing Currawong Manor

The world seems such a grim place at the moment. As Neil Gaiman tweeted:

Feeling absolutely helpless in the face of the madness and violence of the world. I’m making things up to keep sane. I’m in control there.

I share his despair. So many sadistic and cruel things have been occurring to so many:  but in the darkest of times, artists and storytellers are even more vital.
So feel the pain, but keep working, blaze your fire, call for grace.
If you have enjoyed this journal post, please share with your online friends if you think they would be interested.
Love and Light,
Josephine xx


     One of the surreal moments of  writing is just as you submerge yourself into the world of your present project and you’re flipping between states of exhilaration and despair – you’re suddenly having to do publicity for your previous book.   I enjoyed two author events in Newtown in June, presented by my local bookstore Better Read than Dead.


     First a glamorous High Tea which which I was gratified to have sell out very quickly.  Thank you to all who bought tickets.

High Tea scones

      I was  interviewed by Mischa from BRTD and it was a joyful moment to see so many faces from this local area that I’ve connected with over the years. When you don’t have family living near, these connections become so valued.  Parents and teachers from Daisy’s baby years – to friends I’ve remained steadfast through all of life’s changes: also many unfamiliar faces, who came to discuss books and creativity. It was a delight to have such an enthusiastic, interactive audience.

Josephine Pennicott in deep discussion at Better Read than Dead's High Tea

Josephine Pennicott in deep discussion at Better Read than Dead’s High Tea

     The following Tuesday night I spoke at Newtown Library with my favourite librarian and book club member, Gayle Donaldson, about the influences and stories behind Currawong Manor.


Thank you to everyone who braved the winter chill to watch my slide show and have a peep at my working notebook. I’m planning a future post on my notebooks. And thank you to Better Read than Dead for the image via their Instagram feed above.

Josephine Pennicott with Gayle Donaldson at Newtown Library for Talking Heads

Josephine Pennicott with Gayle Donaldson at Newtown Library for Talking Heads

     Better Read than Dead provides a valuable link in the inner-city with its focus on building ties in the community between authors and books. I consider myself fortunate to live in an area where a bookstore is such a buzzy place. If you live in the inner west – check out what’s happening from their website; attend some events or join one of their book clubs. I was inspired by a friend who came to my High Tea solo; saying if she had brought a friend, she’d clutch onto her and not mingle. It’s a good practise to take yourself out of your comfortable zone and make new connections: it’s  stimulating and keeps you young.

With Mischa and Steph from Better Read than Dead

With Mischa and Steph from Better Read than Dead

      If you would like a signed copy of either of my mystery novels Poet’s Cottage or Currawong Manor, if you contact Better Read than Dead HERE, I’m happy to pop into the store and sign a copy for you which they could post out. If you already have bought books, if you contact me through my website or Facebook Author Page, I’m happy to send you signed bookplates.

     When you are writing, imaginary people become so close that sometimes you forget you do need to mingle in the ‘real’ world with 3D people. It’s been a pleasure to connect and be inspired by community.

     And I was totally exhilarated to see that as a result of my events, Currawong Manor shared the No 1 spot that week with the Legend Herself in Better Read than Dead – so many thanks to all who supported my book.


     Don’t forget to check back to see the results of my Giveaway.

     Keep yourself creative.  In Love and Light,  Josephine

Modernists and Muses


Currawong Manor has been receiving some very positive early reviews:

Academic, columnist and author, Karen Brooks’s review you can read in full HERE:

The settings are richly and beautifully drawn. You can smell the flowers, feel the cold press of the snow or the dewy warmth of a humid summer. Likewise, as the mystery unravels, you can feel the whispers of the past and the weight of guilt that hangs upon those who carry their secrets, determined to protect themselves and others. Like the birds that occasionally darken the eaves of the house, doom walks through the pages and reading Currawong Manor becomes a visceral experience – at once exciting and dramatic. A Gothic treat for lovers of mystery, family dramas, history and suspense.

Shelleyrae at Book’d Out says:

An impressively crafted literary story, Currawong Manor is an absorbing and dramatic tale. Full review HERE

Kathleen Easson at Aussie Mum Network:

There is more than one mystery to be solved within these pages. The book contains hints of Agatha Christie, the kitchen and garden of Sunday Reed and subtle references to various famous artists including Norman Lindsay. I could not put this book down, it was an enjoyable and easy read. I look forward to further works by this author. Full review HERE

A  reminder that on Tuesday 24th June, I’m talking at Newtown Library with Gayle Donaldson and so hope to see you there if you live locally. You can book tickets for this event. HERE.

And I made a video where I’m talking about some of the inspirations behind Currawong Manor including my brief meeting with Pearl Goldman, Norman Lindsay’s life model and muse. I hope you enjoy. Please feel free to share with any people you think might be interested in the book.


Keep yourself creative.

In Love and Light

Josephine xx

June Giveaway for Currawong Manor

Dear Friends,
To celebrate  Currawong Manor’s release and also my new website (thanks to Debra at Soulscape for creating a website at short notice for the book) I’m having a Giveaway.
Drum Roll…
In the Tale Peddler June Giveaway is:
a signed copy of Currawong Manor AND also Poet’s Cottage
Poet's cottage
Currawong Manor
The Doreen Virtue Angel Card deck that I use daily for guidance and which has never let me down
my personal favourite red lipstick, a full-size MAC Russian Red
All you have to do to be the winner of this giveaway valued at $120. 93 is the following:
comment or like this post here or on my twitter feed or comment on my online journal.
Super-easy. Extra chances are given if you
SHARE this giveaway with your social media friends and let me know you shared the post
you LIKE my Author Page on Facebook OR you already are on my Author Facebook Page
or  you sign up to my news letter on my website.
I shall draw the winner at the end of June.
And this competition is also open to overseas folk, so good luck to all.



Being a visual person, I love
Pinterest for collecting images to help me when I’m working on a book. The
Scorpionic side of me also relishes the fact you can have secret boards as well.

Used for Shalimar character inspiration

Used for Shalimar character inspiration

With Currawong Manor nearly due to hit the shelves, I thought I’d share a few of
my inspiration images for Currawong Manor. They’re not meant to be literal, but
they help me with the palette of the work.


The Memory Birds

The Memory Birds


Image used for Elizabeth inspiration

Image used for Elizabeth inspiration








Ghost on a swing

Ghost on a swing









I’ll unlock my Currawong
Manor board on Pinterest when the book has been out for awhile, but for now
here’s a bit of a sneak preview. I also use my own personal photographs a lot
from the location I’m working with and I’ll share some of those very


Albert Tucker with son Sweeney

Albert Tucker with son Sweeney






'Psycho' Albert Tucker illustration

‘Psycho’ Albert Tucker illustration

Bird Man

Bird Man









Still from Don't Look Now

Still from Don’t Look Now

From Don't Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier

From Don’t Look Now by Daphne Du Maurier












Stay tuned for an updated website and a giveaway to celebrate Currawong Manor’s publication.  Love and Light,

High Tea in Newtown



Thanks to everyone who has booked for my High Tea at Better Read Than Dead in June.There’s only a few places left, so if you live locally please book promptly. If you can’t make the High Tea, I’ll be talking at the Newtown Library a couple of nights afterwards. Booking information can be found here.