I was contacted on my Facebook by the ‘real-life’ gardener of Stanley who broke the sad news to me that Marguerite Eldridge (Meg) died in Tasmania last week. Her funeral service was today.
Readers of Poet’s Cottage will know that this creative, gentle lady formed one of the early inspirations for my character of Birdie Pinkerton (although I should point out, so as not to sully Marguerite’s reputation in any way, that Birdie rapidly took off into her own character).
It was Meg’s husband Lin who first told me the name of the cottage – once his cottage – that I felt so drawn to, which gave me the title for my book. He was kind enough to invite me to their home overlooking the sea, where I met Marguerite.
Although my time with this inspiring lady was very brief, I felt a strong bond with her which was intensified through reading her truly delightful self-published books on her life in the postcard pretty sea-fishing village. Memoirs such as Marguerite’s are invaluable because from the accounts of ’ordinary’ people you get a true rhythm and beat of a time and place. Her books were a great help in adding colour to my novel Poet’s Cottage.
Marguerite was kind enough to write me several much treasured cards and notes. When I last saw her she still had her twinkle, and her pretty face was as youthful as ever, but she did confide to me that she hoped she would still be alive the next time I visited Stanley.
I think this lovely spirit, who never saw the need to leave the great beauty of Stanley, would be surprised if she knew how much she had meant to me. It does give me some small joy to know that through my own novel, Poet’s Cottage, Marguerite’s books live on as well.
Marguerite’s book, Stories Of Stanley Tasmania, is definitely worth hunting down and reading if, like me, you love stories of daily life in small communities. Marguerite was honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011 for her Artistic services to Stanley.
My most sincere condolence’s to Marguerite’s partner, Lin, and her family and friends.
Exciting news today that Poet’s Cottage continues its European tour with the rights being sold to Spain. So happy to know my Tasmanian mystery will now be available to Spanish readers.
Josephine Pennicott by Carla Coulson
And for regular readers, you may recall that I had a photo shoot last year with the very talented Carla Coulson, of which I posted about HERE in the post Life’s so Light.
Carla has released some of the images from that shoot on her beautiful blog which I’ve followed for years CARLA LOVES PHOTOGRAPHY
Josephine Pennicott and Daisy image by Carla Coulson
I am still pinching myself that not only did I get to meet Carla but I also had the honour of being photographed by her. We worked with a vision/mood board that must have raised Carla’s eyebrow when she first saw it. It included Agatha Christie/the Rolling Stones and a few other slightly different inspirations. Carla, bless her, had an image of Kate Moss with her daughter that she wanted to reproduce the look of.
Josephine Pennicott and David Levell image by Carla Coulson
I am delighted with how she represented our family as I wanted to show our creative and laid-back style. If you enjoy the photos please leave feedback for Carla. And Carla does do workshops and shoots in Sydney if you are interested. All the details can be found on her website.
One of my inspiration images for the shoot
Josephine Pennicott by Carla Coulson
Finally some advance notice that I will be appearing in the following talk, Something Rotten in the Apple Isle in Melbourne in June for Sisters in Crime. It should be enormous fun and I’m thrilled it has a Tasmanian theme. You can read all about it on this link HERE. I know I have the fab Carmel Shute to thank for that title. Would love to see you there if you can make it. I am sure it will be a hoot.
I am planning and dreaming new books into existence this week. I have loads of ideas. I’m never short of a great idea it’s just making time to write them all out. And this year I have joined the Australian Women Writers Challenge HERE which I think is a great idea. I did join it in 2012 but was flat out with research reading. However I do think it’s a worthy cause and a wonderful idea to support other Australian Women writers across genres. I have committed myself to the Miles level and so no excuses for not tackling the tower of books in my bedroom now!
David and I in Irish Echo
David and I made the Irish Echo last week to see Mike Scott and the Waterboys, one of our rare nights out. I’ve loved the Waterboys forever and so thrilled to have the moment immortalised.
Thanks for visiting me. Keep Creative and Inspired. xx
It takes me ages to adjust back to the different rhythm of Sydney and I am always glum at having to return from Tasmania.
We enjoyed our time in Bicheno, a sea-fishing village on the east coast of Tasmania. A highlight was the fairy penguin tour where the penguins are so accustomed to their human audience they cross between legs to reach their burrows. It had to be the best fairy penguin tour we’ve done.
I had ideas for a future book set in Tasmania and yes, I fell in love with another house, this time in Cygnet.
We ate too much from Mures Lower Deck. Screamed at Swansea over a huntsman loose in the car (except of course for David who doesn’t share my spider phobia). Saw Neil Gaiman produce ‘old magic in the air’ at the glamorous State Theatre in Hobart and David Byrne perform his brand of hip magic to an enthusiastic 5000-plus crowd at the too-cool-for-school Mona Foma.
I bought a ton of books from the always wonderful Imperial Bookshop in the city. I love browsing for hours in this secondhand shop where many treasures lurk. It’s the only bookshop I’ve encountered where the owner says a couple of the selected books were over-priced and he would have to reduce them.
I signed copies of the B-format of Poet’s Cottage in Dymocks and Fullers. Both stores were packed and the registers were constantly in action, I’m delighted to report. It’s always lovely to meet the staff in these stores and get to know faces behind names. If you are in Hobart and would like a signed copy both stores now have ample stock. It really was so great to hear how enthusiastic the staff were not only over how beautiful the cover is but also how pleased they were to see it was set in a Tasmanian sea-fishing village.
It was also a thrill to see the airport in Sydney is also well stocked with the B-format of Poet’s Cottage. I always feel a rush of excitement when I see it on the shelf.
I loved hearing shop assistants in Tasmania call me darling, and was enthralled as always by pink-eye potatoes, fresh fish, the silver-grey light, and the spectacular scenery. It was a wrench to leave the land of my ancestors.
But for now I have to shake off our too-brief Tasmanian break. My daughter has an operation due. I have a new book to plan and the school year is about to resume.
Returning was made a little easier by seeing Mike Scott and The Waterboys play at the beautiful art-deco State Theatre in Sydney. It was a great concert with a mix of their new darkly poetical material paying tribute to Yeats and some of their old classics. which bought the audience to their feet.
But for me, all roads always lead to Tasmanian seas.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Keep Creative, and look for the everyday miracles. May this season be a rebirth for you in your life and art
I interrupt my deadline writing of Currawong Manor to share with you the parcel that arrived for me this week.
Josephine Pennicott opening box of Dornen Tochter
In this day of the machine mania, it’s such a special joy for an author to have their words so beautifully translated into a hardcover. Ullstein publishers in Germany have outdone themselves with their presentation of my Poet’s Cottage (Dornen Tochter in Germany).
I wish I could transit the smell to you over the internet for there is nothing more glorious than the smell of good paper and beautifully bound books with a ripping story inside the beautiful cover art. I also love the smell of new shoes in a box, newborn babies, Chanel perfume, rain after a storm in the garden but the book wins! And the glorious weight, heavy cover and good quality paper make this German girl beautiful to hold.
Josephne Pennicott with Dornen Tochter
Thank you so much to all at Ullstein involved in the production of Dornen Tochter. It brings me immense pleasure to know over the moon and on the other side of the world people are reading my Tasmanian sea-fishing village murder mystery. I loved the bag that was made of the book and the television advertisement which you can see HERE was also beyond anything I could have dreamt of. Nothing beats an author meeting their book for the first time. So much excitement in my garden of Spring roses.
And if you are interested in my garden writing shed, the beautiful Terri Windling whom I have admired as a visual artist, a writer, a blogger and a person for many years has featured my shed on her inspirational blog. Whenever I visit The Drawing Board I feel I have wandered into a magical tavern filled with kindred spirits who love the Bloomsbury set, fantastical worlds and words, who heed the call of Wild Man and Wild Woman of the woods – folk who listen and understand the truth of fairies, Pre Raphaelites, and represent so much that’s noble and decent about this planet. Including her very noble and charming dog, Tilly on his walks in the Devon woods.
Terri Windling and Tilly
I always drink deeply from the well of inspiration Terri offers and one of my writing highlights was that she selected Circle of Nine (my first published book in a fantasy trilogy) as one of the world’s best debut fantasy novels of the year in her esteemed 2001 Best Fantasy and Horror (Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow, editors). Terri’s wonderful book The Wood Wife was a major influence for me, showing what you can achieve with mythic/fantastical writing.
If you’re keen for a peep inside my writing shed where I’m closeted away doing long hours at the moment, you can find me at Terri’s Drawing Board HERE.
Thanks for visiting me. Keep creative and may the new moon bring blessings of inspired creativity and wishes. xx
There’s no more delightful sound in the early morning than kookaburras calling as I wake before dawn to wrestle with another draft of Currawong Manor.
I’ve been doing a lot of 3am-4am writing shifts, knowing school holidays are only a week away and I have an October deadline. I love sitting in bed with my laptop and coffee, the house is silent and dark and suddenly outside the night is broken by the kookaburras. Such a comforting sound.
The big news this week is that Poet’s Cottage or Dornen Tochter as it’s called in Germany is officially released today. The publisher Ullstein has really created an outstanding presentation of my Tasmanian murder mystery. The marketing people even made bags – I would never have imagined in a thousand life-times a bag made out of my book.
Life really does give you even more than you dream some times. The design was originally inspired by my garden writing shed wallpaper which is a Laura Ashley design. It’s a lovely paper and I purchased it from HERE in case you want to buy the paper as well as my book! A perfect choice for my garden writing shed as it’s light and comprised of birds and butterflies to help my imagination fly.
Germany is really impressive when it comes to publishing. Book sales are flourishing there and when they produce such a quality product as Dornen Tochter which courtesy of the lovely lady on the YouTube video I have swiped you can get a really good look at below) – you can understand why the German book market is so healthy. To have my own story so beautifully presented means so much. I’ve been very lucky with my book. Pan Macmillan in Australia created a stunning cover and now Ullstein with their hardcover version. Both create different moods and both are true to my story.
I feel very excited to know that my Tasmanian sea-fishing village mystery is now being read by folk in Germany. I hope they enjoy it and it may even inspire some to visit my home-state of Tasmania when they travel to Australia.
And so a special week for us with Dorten Trochter and to all at Ullstein who put so much into my Poet’s Cottage…
I have my agent, Selma Anthony’s literary awards night on Saturday but for the rest of the weekend, I will be working away inside my Currawong Manor. But on Sunday, my family will have a special dinner where we will toast the good health of all at Ullstein with some ginger beer.
Better Read Than Dead hosts book clubs where my book club, The Magic Hat, has been meeting for several years. The staff have always tolerated with good humour our rowdy meetings and they always display the most charming manners at kick-out time. After a shift of dealing with the public a gaggle of laughing bookworms filled with wine and soul-food conversation is probably the last thing on earth they want to deal with but you would never know it. The staff are very community minded and help present author talks at Newtown Library.
You can browse for hours and they will leave you in peace to do so – or they will give you any assistance you may require when it comes to selecting your books. They are passionate and spirited when it comes to discussing the books and they don’t hold back on their opinions. I enjoy their staff opinions on books (especially their lovely review for my own Poet’s Cottage).
window display for Phryne Fisher at Better Read than Dead
Better Read Than Dead provides an oasis for book lovers like myself in an urban environment. When you want to escape the chaos of King Street, you can enter the enchantment of the book store where there are a thousand tales and worlds to enter. It’s so handy to spend time waiting for a film at the Dendy or as a meeting place for a friend to browse the latest titles and find a new friend to take home. I always get a thrill when I carry that brown bag home and have a beautiful smelling new book to enjoy at journey’s end.
There’s no greater gift to buy someone than a book. As I have rather a lot of children’s parties to attend I’ve discovered a great gift is a book voucher. That way the child gets an exciting excursion after the party with their mother and can choose their own book. You are stimulating imaginations and not adding to the already massive amount of toys the child probably already owns. It’s a win-win for all.
Because I value book sellers and my local book shop so much I included Better Read Than Dead in the acknowledgments of my Poet’s Cottage.
And so thank you, Karen for all your efforts on behalf of authors and thank you to your lovely staff at Better Read Than Dead. Long may you reign in King Street.
Poet’s Cottage in the window at Better Read than Dead
“Bookstores make an incredible difference and many stores have really embraced the new world and made a real connection with their communities.
“We should always be trying to save bookstores. People who go in, take pictures of books and then buy online, that’s extremely upsetting for the owners. You should support your local bookstore, they need every little bit of support.
“It’s no good standing around saying ‘I used to love that store’. when it has closed. You need to support it now, with your money.”
HarperCollins Publishing Director Shona Martyn
I seem to have had a dream theme running through my blog this week and so I’ll leave you with this strange and surreal clip from Kate Bush. It doesn’t get more surreal and dreamy than Kate Bush, Rolf Harris and Aborigines in the desert.
Enjoy your weekend. Keep creative and thank you for visiting me. xx
This photograph was taken at our annual author’s festival hosted by my agent, Selwa Anthony (which is coming around again this September). It’s my writer pal Anna Romer and myself. I’ve been into the black hair-dye and was just about to take a family holiday to a Tasmanian sea fishing village where I would fall in love with a house called Poet’s Cottage. But here neither of us guessed what was waiting ahead.
Anna had been working away for years on different projects. As is often the case in publishing, it was ten steps forward and fifty back for both of us. But Anna kept working away. She’s a writer who prefers the bush and stars to the world of the machine. We live totally different lives. I’m in the heart of Sydney and Anna’s permanently parked hermit-like in the bush.
I am delighted to say that my lovely friend has recently had her book picked up for publication. If it’s even as quarter as lovely as Anna it will be worth reading.
Six years can seem a very long journey, but Anna’s recent publishing deal is proof that if you’re prepared to put the slog in and get yourself off the floor after rejection and heartbreak with your work, the contracts can eventually be signed. I’m sure I would have said to her at this event, as I predicted many times at different events – ‘it will be your turn one day, Anna.’
Cn, cin, Anna.
I can’t wait to toast your success at the next Sassy event. And to all who dream or harbour heartbreak who may read this post. Keep the faith, keep your eyes fixed. on your creative dream and keep sailing xx