LIFE’S SO LIGHT

Regular readers may recall I was fortunate enough to win a photo shoot in Sydney with one of my long-time favourite photographers, Cara Coulson, who ran a competition for a private shoot with her in either Sydney or Paris. I was excited to win the Sydney shoot because I’ve followed Carla’s blog from the beginning, and also a major character in my forthcoming mystery novel Currawong Manor is a photographer.

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This week the much anticipated meeting took place and I can finally reveal the location – Woollahra House, a magical, shabby, bohemian terrace which you can read more about HERE and HERE and where the interior shots for this post came from. It was a perfect location for me. And described as ‘Alice in Wonderland meets the Addams family.’  

Not only could I easily visualise Tim Burton and Johnny Depp sitting together working out a scene for their next movie, or Helena Bonham Carter lying back on the sofa; but I’d fallen in love with this striking old lady terrace a couple of years ago when she was featured in a newspaper. I had never imagined I would one day be photographed within her glorious shabby walls by Carla. Life really does work in some twisty beautiful ways sometimes!

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It was a real delight to meet Carla, and an honour to be photographed by her. Thanks to the power of the internet I felt I already knew her as her blog posts are so warm and engaging. She is a rock star with a camera. A funky, tender magician. There is a certain sensuality, an intimacy to working with her but it’s not a soft energy. Despite Carla’s tenderness and caring she has a strength and power which comes from a long apprenticeship of her work, and a spiritual perception and insight of people.  04871

Despite my initial wariness, Carla with her box of magical techniques helped me to move into the moment and to lose my ego and ‘shrinking Josephine’ outside the door. It was a very inspiring creative collaboration for me and a perfect chance to research for my book. I realised how much you have to relinquish control and surrender sometimes which isn’t easy for writers to do as we are used to being in total control of our creative projects. You have to be able to trust and to allow the muses to merge between two people when being photographed.  I love the still above from my favourite movie The Unbearable Lightness of Being.  

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Woollahra house wove its patina spell through all of my veins. Debra Cronin is the genius behind this magical house which she rents out for photo shoots and dinner parties. I wish somebody would commission this talented lady to do a book on her interior talents. 

Everything about the shoot was dreamlike. The pastel greys and apricot colours of the walls. The taxidermy, antique books, the young girl from Western Australia who was also having her portrait taken. A beautiful, willowy model, dressed in Vivienne Westwood with a bird on her head like an elegant Helena Bonham Carter. She matched the house perfectly. 

The make-up artist looked a combination of Jane Birkin and Lou Doillon and was every bit as rock star as Carla and Jane and her daughter. She put less make up on me that I’d normally wear to the school pick up but I loved her work and her false eyelashes. She won my heart as soon as I walked in when she said that I looked great without make up. (Normally people ask me if I’m feeling okay). It was a joy to work along side her and also Carla’s beautiful friend, Athalee, who spent more time ironing my red dress than any normal mortal woman should have to undergo and looked after me so well.

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We did a shot which was inspired from this photograph of Agatha Christie where we set up a vintage typewriter and books. 

I am hoping to use some of the photos for publicity for Currawong Manor.

When my husband (dressed in his everyday wear of waistcoat vest, shirt and Akubra hat) came to collect me with Daisy, Carla was kind enough to shoot a few family shots. Not knowing Daisy she asked her to ‘act like a rock star’. My daughter who had been cautioned beforehand to do EVERYTHING Carla says immediately went into overdrive snarling at the camera, making wild moves and getting totally hyped as she lived the part. I was only relieved she stopped short at trashing the room. 

It was an enchanting day. One particular moment stands out for me when Carla directed me to look away from her and when I looked into the big mirror I could see a wall of stuffed birds and a blue butterfly (the blue butterfly is always a special symbol to me since my father died) and also Carla shooting me in the reflection). It was one of those times that you wonder if you really are dreaming.

Josephine Pennicott and Carla Coulson

Josephine Pennicott and Carla Coulson

If you would like to join me in that wonderful dream experience and book a portrait shoot with Carla then all the details are on her website for shoots in both Sydney and Paris. I can highly recommend it for the experience alone. If even this introverted writer enjoyed it as much as I did you most certainly will too. 

And if you don’t already, follow Carla’s blog for beautiful inspiration in both words and images. You will find her HERE. 

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In other exciting writing news, Poet’s Cottage will now be published in Holland as well. And so I am thrilled my Tasmanian sea-fishing murder mystery will be enjoyed by people in mysterious far away Holland. That is a lovely early Christmas gift for me. Thank you, Holland for buying my Tasmanian mystery. I would love to visit such an exotic fairy tale destination one day. 

Christmas is just around the corner. If you wish to buy a signed copy of Poet’s Cottage then if you order through Better Read than Dead my local bookstore HERE, I can sign it for them if you request when you order.They do online ordering as well. The B-Format of Poet’s Cottage (the smaller size) comes out in Australia on December 29th so if you have been waiting for that format you can pick it up then. I can assure you the smaller version is just as beautiful as her big sister. Pan Macmillan Australia have done such a stunning job on Poet’s Cottage in all her versions and formats. 

A perfect Christmas gift for a mystery lover

A perfect Christmas gift for a mystery lover

I am still working on Currawong Manor to reach the deadline. I have my Christmas tree up but with no decorations apart from one home made Christmas angel by my Daisy as everything has been so frantic. But this Christmas I have simplified it as much as I can. Although I still do my cards by snail mail, make a trek to the David Jones window and Santa Cave, Carols etc the more commercial side I have cut back on. I hope your Christmas is filled with blessings and the magic of this holy and joyous season.

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Thank you to all who have lurked, commented, and given me your energy this year. Below is a video by Tara June Winch on a worthy cause to donate to. I’m off to give some money now. Please watch if you have a couple of minutes spare. The magic of books and words gave me such a template for life when I was little and any cause that promotes that miracle to children is worth our efforts.

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Keep Creative, and look for the everyday miracles. May this season be a rebirth for you in your life and art

Josephine xx

Dark Shadows

Hello,

On Tuesday, 31st July 6-7pm at Newtown Library I shall be talking with the lovely Gayle Donaldson. The event is called Talking Heads and is a combined Better Read Than Dead bookshop and Newtown Library event.

If you would like to come along please reserve a seat HERE.

Some topics I imagine we’ll be covering: mysteries, Enid Blyton, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier, fantasy writing, crime writing, publishing, Tasmania, sea-fishing villages, families, bohemians, secrets, Johnny Depp. If you’re interested in any of these – or you feel like a free chat and a warm place to sit – don’t make yourself a stranger.

There are limited seats so please reserve as early as you can. Would love to meet you!

Here’s my reply to a question the Hoopla asked me regarding a heated discussion at the Sydney Writers Festival on literary awards going to books that readers can’t or don’t read due to inaccessible content. This came about as a comment from a panel Stella Rimington hosted where literary critics became worked up when she said literary awards should be given to books which are readable.

I’m paraphrasing the debate as I didn’t go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival because I was too busy writing. But I did add my piece to the Hoopla which you can find HERE.

Last night Art School Annie dragged me away from my edit to see Dark Shadows. Wow!! This move was so much better than I expected. Let’s not mention the last 15 minutes which really sort of sucked huge-time. But the rest of it was Tim Burton in fine form. The scene with Johnny and the hippies is sooo good and worth the price of the movie. I love that combination of horror and comedy and it really brought to mind the Manson family with the innocence of the late 60s, early 70s era when you could break bread with a vampire in the woods and not realise that of course he’s going to kill you. And I’m so in love with Michelle Pfeiffer (who gets better with age) in her 70s gear and jewellery. Michelle said in an interview that her sister-in-law made the jewellery for the movie.

I’ve never really come out of the 70s. It’s one of my favourite eras and so this movie was heaven for me. Tim Burton, 70s fashion, hippies, vampires, sea-fishing villages, Helena Bonham Carter, Alice Cooper and of course, Johnny Depp.

A perfect movie. Here’s a track from Dark Shadows to glide up all feeling groovy into the weekend. Thank you for visiting me. xx

WHEN SILENCE SPEAKS

Everyone’s experience is different but in my case when giving birth I really wanted to die about half-way through and by the end I was amazed that more women didn’t die in labour. Well, a lot of women around the world do still die in childbirth. I’m not a fashionista by any means but if I had to pick a favourite model it would be Christy Turlington Burns – more for her interest in comparative religions and her good works than her catwalk skills.
This Mother’s Day, Christy is trying to get the dreadful statistics out about maternal mortality. A woman dies every 90 seconds through complications of pregnancy and 90 per cent of the deaths are avoidable. They are really sobering and scary figures. Christy also experienced a difficult birth when things started to go wrong. Through rejecting all the normal trappings of Mother’s Day, Christy helps to advance this cause through silence. As you can imagine, she has been heavily criticised for suggesting mothers disappear on Mother’s Day and reject their normal celebratory activities. Find out more about this cause at her site, EVERY MOTHER COUNTS HERE.
And if that’s not to your interest – you can find a really snappy and snazzy interview with funky mum, Helena Bonham Carter HERE.
If funky Helena doesn’t make you swoon (I LOVE Helena) then perhaps all the incredibly hip, stylish and too-cool-for-school mums at THE GLOW might inspire you. These mothers are not my reality of motherhood at all, I have to add. How I wish…
In my fantasies my loving child bestows kisses upon my brow in my incredibly boho styled home, whilst I lounge around in my designer jeans.
My reality is heart palpitations whilst trying to juggle school-runs, playdates, lunches, notices, homework, domestic artistry and writing a book sandwiches in between it all.
Whatever type of mother you have or are – Happy Mother’s Day for Sunday 13th. Motherhood – the most important and hardest job of them all. And if all else fails – you can
always dress as a swan like Helena.
‘BONHAM CARTER: Yeah. You do go back. I think if you’ve got a child, you’ve got to show them how to love life and what the goods things to do are—you know, the perfect mouthful. That’s what I’m really into showing them. How do you make the perfect mouthful? Different textures, different temperatures—ice cream and hot chocolate. So we like making potions and so you mix it all up. I love that. And I love what I get back from them, which is imagination and play.’ – taken from Interview magazine

A Prayer for Mothers

It’s Mother’s Day in Australia on Sunday.

Sally and Betty from Mad Men

On this day, I’ll be remembering my friends who desperately longed for children but were unable to have them. Also, a beautiful mother who recently lost her only daughter in hospital unexpectedly. And my own mother, who has spent years caring for my very ill father and is a stoic inspiration to us all.

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Motherhood – it’s the hardest job in the world and hats off to all mothers everywhere!

Lovely Elizabeth Taylor

 

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I saw this post recently on Cherry Menlove’s Blog. It’s from Tina Fey. It seems a perfect piece for Mother’s Day, especially for those of us with girls. xx

Tessa and Sophie Dahl

 

First, Lord:
No tattoos.
May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be beautiful but not damaged, for it’s the damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half and stick with Beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels.

What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design?
I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her own heart with the sinewy strength of her own arms, so she need not lie with drummers.

Grant her a rough patch from twelve to seventeen. Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, For childhood is short – a Tiger Flower blooming Magenta for one day –

And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers and the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a ‘Bitch’ in front of Hollister, give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, for I will not have that Shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a Mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back.

“My mother did this for me once,” she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a mental note to call me.
And she will forget.
But I’ll know, because I peeped it with your God eyes.

Amen.

Taken from Tina Fey’s book Bossypants.

sally and betty image source here

helena bonham carter image source here

elizabeth taylor source here

The Nigella Effect

Yesterday I took an impulsive break from my edit and attended the very packed Nigella Lawson book signing at David Jones.


When I say ‘impulsive’ I mean very last-minute decision to go. I literally shut the laptop and ran for the train wearing my comfortable writing clothes (read ‘scruffy’). I arrived at David Jones just as the signing was starting and thought I had found the end of the queue until the frazzled-looking security guard kindly showed me the end of the queue was way, way, way, way, way back snaking around the shopfloor.

Ever the optimist, I jumped right on the end and began making new friends as we waited patiently in line for the domestic goddess herself.

It was a lot of fun to observe normally too-cool-for-school Sydneysiders going slightly crazy over Nigella. She is obviously well-loved in Sydney.

In our house alone, David loves her, as does my Daisy and I have all her cookbooks. Well, I have now that I bought Express yesterday. My middle-sister who has been going blind for years is also potty over Nigella and has been following her movements from her country house in Tasmania since she arrived.  I think she admires her for her tenacity in tough times as well as her domestic artistry when it comes to the kitchen.

Amongst the madness and fun, the ever-game and smiling piano player played on in David Jones You can see a better post HERE where more shots were taken including of the smiley piano man .

A sales consultant had fainted. Whether from the excitement of Nigella or from the crowd, I’m not sure.

All good things come to those who wait. It was my turn to meet Nigella when the woman in charge realised I didn’t have my book purchased for her to sign. Total chaos! I quickly had to buy one from a valiant sales consultant.

And in the above image you see Nigella smiling at a scruffy looking writer as I threw myself at her like an excited puppy-dog. Note that big smile even though she has been smiling and signing for close to an hour by this stage.  

And for those who are curious of what she was really like, I can divulge she has beautiful, pale skin, intelligent, kind eyes, and a very down-to-earth and warm persona. I was thrilled. Too often, I’ve met famous people who disappoint in real life but Nigella is the genuine article. She may adopt a character for the screen but her charm was sparkling through as she interacted with the people who had queued patiently to have their moment with her. 

As I left the store, I was intrigued to see the staff member still lying on the floor nearly an hour later obviously waiting for the ambulance. Hopefully that woman is okay.

I remember when I saw Jerry Hall in the street once. I do love the very Sassy Jerry Hall and I was so impressed by her strut and the way she worked the gawking crowd. There were a bunch of workmen to who she waved and they began singing out to her. She was incredible. Being a person who tends to prefer to observe others, I’m often impressed by those who court fame. That Jerry Hall moment worked its way into my book when my bohemian writer, Pearl in the 1930s thread, struts her way down the main street of my Tasmanian sea-fishing village. Pearl may be clothed in the fashion of the 1930s but I was also seeing Jerry Hall as I wrote, long blonde hair swaying, high heels clicking as she sashayed through a modern-day Sydney street.

Who would you wait in queue for to grab a moment with? When it comes to celebrities it’s obvious I’d wait days for Johnny Depp, Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter.

But I was very glad I got a chance to finally meet the sensational Nigella!

Returning back to my edit, I submerged myself back into the world of Pencubitt in the 1930s and was surprised to have a call from the school. Was my daughter sick? No, she was waiting with the Office Reception as I had totally forgotten to collect her.

 Such is the effect of the brush with fame for us mortals. I’ve never forgotten to collect my daughter and so that’s what I call the Nigella Effect.  

 

QUEEN OF PREENS AND AUTUMN FIRES

How refreshing to know we have finally reached Autumn in Sydney. The humidity is still high but thankfully nowhere near the recent heat wave.

I’m also nearing the end of my edit for Poets Cottage, also an enormous relief. I’ve reached that stage where it’s becoming difficult to read the MS one more time.

 I’ve been busy planning my daughter’s sixth birthday party (Pirates & Princesses). This is taking enormous energy and is drama on a high scale. In fact I was so engrossed in my edit and life dramas that I missed a couple of very important medical appointments for Daisy.

Sometimes it’s hard to live in alternate worlds when you are working with fiction. And being a stay home mother has its own challenges of trying to juggle domestic artistry and a small child on top of writing. 

 And last night wasted a few hours of my life, which I’ll never get back, watching the Academy Awards.

I used to be a big fan of the Awards but there’s something repellent about the smugness and preening on the red carpet. For me the highlights of the night were:

Shaun Tan’s Award for best animated short film.

Penelope Cruz’s va va voom, sexy post-baby body and radiant smile. 

Helen Mirren who is always spectacular.

Florence Welch also spectacular with her dramatic hair, and pale skin in Valentino.

And Helena Bonham Carter who I adore and can do no wrong. I love the fact she wore a gown designed by Alice In Wonderland costume designer, Colleen Atwood, as a reminder of what the awards should be about.

Helena is a true original and dazzles – unlike all the over-plucked, waxed, bronzed, bleached and perfect tube women.

 I am being harsh here and last night David pointed out, as a couple of fashion commentators on FOXTEL heavily criticized some of the frocks and women, that this sort of attitude filters down to the school yards and results in bullying. Even though my retort was that the celebrities are over-paid squillions of dollars to deal with this sort of sniping, I concede that he is right. I should really have just turned the television off earlier.

Happy Autumn days if you are in the Southern Hemisphere. Hope this season is filled with abundance and fiery creative passion for you.

 

Autumn Fires by Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!