TALKING HEADS

On a freezing winter’s night in Sydney I spoke at Newtown Library last night for an event for the library and Better Read than Dead bookshop.

Josephine Pennicott nervouc just before speaking

I’m always nervous before public-speaking. Like a lot of authors I prefer my characters and words to represent me. This time around I used hypnotic CDs by Marisa Peer in preparation weeks beforehand.

Flowers given at the end of the talk

They must have worked because despite feeling the adrenaline kickin before I started, everyone present said how relaxed I was.

The talk went very well and it was lovely to see the room packed out. I signed quite a few books afterwards and then headed to the Bank Hotel with a few friends to celebrate Poet’s Cottage over a Thai meal.

with good friends at the Bank hotel

Here we enjoyed lively conversation of books, real-estate, ghosts, tarot and magic. The Bank Hotel is always special to me because I met my husband there.

Josephine Pennicott with Mary and Michelle. Very relieved it is over.

I was very touched by my friends support of my book. So many people came to hear my hour-long talk about my personal journey and my road to Pencubitt.

Last Friday evening, I went to see Anna Funder talk to a crowd  at a very full Seymour Centre.

Anna was eloquent, intelligent and elegant  as she described her experiences writing All That I Am. I found it fascinatingto hear her life journey and to put the jig-saw pieces together which led to her writing All That I am. And Anna herself was very gracious when she signed the book.

As I waited in the signing queue I overhead this from two men: ‘What did you think of that?’

‘Oh it was alright. But I prefer her book to hearing her talk about it.’

Do you enjoy hearing writers talk about their work? Leave me a comment and let me know which writers have held you spellbound.  Do you feel the writer should be a mystery and allow their creations to represent them? Is the enjoyment of a book lost if you find out too much about the author?

Perhaps Daphne du Maurier was correct when she said, ‘Writers should be read but neither seen nor heard.’

WHEN THE WORLD VANISHES

I’ve had the most incredibly stressful and frustrating week but I’m pleased to say that my talk at Newtown Library for Tuesday the 31st of July has sold out weeks ago. If you did want to attend you can still reserve a seat HERE for any no-shows on the night.
Don’t forget to bring your books for me to sign. I have a rather ordinary looking marker pen that contains a magic spell to bestow creativity and riches aplenty to all whose books I mark.
if you want to pick-up a few early Christmas gifts Better Read than Dead will have books available to purchase. It may seem premature to think of Christmas gifts in July but my motto is Be Prepared. You can’t give a more special gift than a  book.
I had rather a long blog post planned for this week but it disappeared and so not having the energy to type it all again I think it can vanish forever into space. So much disappears into the Machine, alas.
After the talk on Tuesday we will be going to the BANK hotel for a few drinks and you are most welcome to join us if you’re attending my Talking Heads session. The Bank is where I first met my husband, David Levell and so it’s rather lovely to be celebrating Poet’s Cottage there.   I don’t often come out of the writing shed and I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. Thank you to all who reserved tickets.
 
Kookaburras have been waking me every morning and my husband is away digging up dinosaur bones. I am loving the chilly winter mornings. This is the misty view from my little Brick this morning. Daisy exclaimed in great excitement that the world had disappeared.
A world disappeared for me when I read the final page of the wonderful The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh.
This very moving book about the author’s mother, Kamila  was my book club choice. As always The Magic Hatters brought different views to the work. I saw it as a wonderful testimony to storytelling and culture carriers. I hope to do a more lengthy review on this book as my original musings were eaten by the Machine. A highly recommended read.
Even in the bleakest of times I still need to believe in magic, the power of love, family, ancient bones and story.
Thank you for visiting me. xx

SOLD OUT

Better Read’s Talking Heads: Josephine Pennicott

Tuesday, 31 July 2012 from 6:00 PM to 7:00 PM (GMT+1000)

Sydney, Australia

Better Read’s Talking Heads: Josephine Pennicott

Ticket Information

Type Remaining End Quantity
Reserve a seat

Reservations are suggested for this event, as places are limited. If no seats are available, you are welcome to join the stand-by queue at the door prior to the event. Unclaimed seats will be made available to the queue shortly before the event commences.
Sold Out 31/07/2012 Free Sold Out

WHEN BONES CRY

Poet’s Cottage has been attracting some lovely reviews this week. Thank you very much to Auckland Library for their review HERE. It was most interesting to see how the reader picked up the Enid Blyton influence in the book.

I should say, however, that Pearl Tatlow in Poet’s Cottage is NOT Enid Blyton in any way shape or form. I was always fascinated by how Enid Blyton’s two daughters, Gillian and Imogen, had totally opposing views of their mother. I knew one day I would write about this theme and it simmered away for years.

It interested me greatly because I knew of other families besides Enid’s – including my own – where children with identical upbringings have totally different accounts of events. It really made me contemplate truth, memory and history. How do we know what the bones are really singing?

Whether Enid Blyton was a good mother or not never affected how I feel about Blyton. I know she made my childhood magical and I still love curling up with a Famous Five or one of her boarding school stories. But I was fascinated by the family set-up where you have to try to uncover whether the bones are lying or being truthful – or both at the same time.

My writing friend, Jen Storer posted a lovely blog on Enid Blyton and Johnny Cash HERE.

And my other writing friend Kate Forsyth was in the Spectrum this weekend with a beautiful photo of her reading to her daughter HERE. I was thrilled to see Kate also loves to collect the vintage editions of Enid Blyton rather than the sanitised versions. I agree that writers should be read as products of their time and not have their words reshaped to fit the mindset of later generations.

The images of Enid Blyton in this post I found HERE. They are from an interview that Enid gave shortly before her death and I find them moving and poignant. They capture the fragility of the woman behind the words.

I’m so grateful for all the lovely reviews of Poet’s Cottage and that so many people have taken the time to discuss their thoughts on the characters and the set-up. It has been fascinating to see how the book has really delighted people from a range of backgrounds and ages.

Fellow Sydney writer Elisabeth Storrs posted a lovely and thoughtful piece on Poet’s Cottage HERE. I love the final paragraph because Pearl’s gramophone also haunted me for quite a long time.

Poet’s Cottage is an accomplished, engrossing novel with fine language and powerful descriptions of the small town inhabitants of Pencubbit in both past and modern times. Most of all, in creating the damaged and damaging Pearl, the author has created a character so compelling and complex that the image of her lingers just as surely as the strains of music from her gramophone drifted through Poet’s Cottage both before and after her death.

I shall post links to some other reviews as soon as I get a chance.

Life has been hectic here in the Little Brick with my daughter home on holidays. She is writing more than I am able to at the moment. I do love seeing her happy and creative and able to stay in her pyjamas all day if she wishes.

We went to see the movie Brave, which was a wonderful film showing the power plays between mother and daughters. I shamed myself by weeping over the final scenes and my daughter had nightmares that night over the bear but still, a glorious couple of hours in the cinema. The writer based the character Merida on her own feisty-daughter and it’s easy to see why so many mother/daughters are enjoying this holiday movie. An added bonus for me was the whimsical and beautiful trailer before Brave, La Luna.

I really enjoyed this charming short film.

Sydney Cast onstage for The Mousetrap

David and I saw The Mousetrap, which is now touring as part of its 60th Diamond Anniversary year. I had been looking forward to seeing for ages. It’s my third viewing of this iconic play (I originally saw it in The West End). Although nothing can compare to the romance of seeing Agatha Christie’s play in London, the Sydney cast did a really terrific job. I was pleased they kept it in a very traditional style and didn’t camp it up too much. Although a couple of times the accents were a bit forced, I still felt as if I was really at Monkswell Manor.

cast rehearsal image via Mousetrap Sydney website.

From the eerie opening of the play where the child’s rhyme, ‘Three Blind Mice’ is sung to the shock denouement at the end where a lot of the audience gasped at the twist – to the actor requesting we keep the secret (and of course we all will) – I thought the spirit of Agatha Christie’s play (which she did not expect to run for a few months) was honoured.

the original 1952 production

It’s proof of how people love a good cosy mystery and Agatha is top of her game in this sly and haunting play. You can read about the horrible true story HERE that inspired Agatha Christie to write her dark and elegant play. Terence O’Neill and his brother, Dennis in 1945 were fostered out to a pair on a farm in Shropshire, England. The brothers were beaten and abused by the foster parents and sadly, Dennis died. Agatha followed the case which made headlines in the UK and helped to change laws to protect children and used the case for a short radio play, Three Blind Mice (which later became The Mousetrap). Terence O’Neill has since written his own book of the events, Someone To Love Us.

the devious mind behind The Mousetrap. Hats off to Agatha.

Enjoy your week and stay creative. xx

Winter Solstice in Sydney

A most frustrating week.

On the weekend I travelled again to the mountains, obeying the bush call to research and write. That was the high point.

My computer ate a bad frog and had to be rushed to the machine doctor AGAIN.

We had teacher’s day at my daughter’s school, athletics carnival and all the life interruptions that make it difficult for mothers who work from home.

We approached the Winter Solstice and I became overwhelmed with finding it difficult to live in the small brick house and became convinced I had to move right now and ran around househunting before facing the grim reality that the gentrification around us has left us stranded.

But I will plant a little offering in the garden and watch it grow. As Thomasina from Poet’s Cottage would snap at me, ‘Make Lemonade! ’

And in a most surreal night I attended a book club that was not my own and the book of course was Poet’s Cottage. It was a lovely night and the hostess not only lived in almost my dream family home (she had grown her own pumpkins and had proper sized rooms!) but she had named her chickens after characters from Poet’s Cottage!!  Here is an  atmospheric avante garde shot of the chickens.

And I was saddened to read about Johnny Depp’s split from his wife, Vanessa Paradis. Just at the Winter Solstice touched us.

It was a good week to remind myself of the following quotation which I posted on my Facebook Author page

The reward doesn’t necessarily go to the biggest, the brightest, or the best. It goes to the one who has the courage to keep trying until success is inevitably achieved.” —Dr. Robyn Silverman

, and here is a lovely photo that I took from the Facebook Vivien Leigh page of Vivien and Larry in 1940’s London. So much glamour and cool amongst the debris and chaos. So unflappable and as stylish as ever.

I loved the following quote taken from the same source that Noel Coward said about his friend Vivien. So tender and poignant really.

“Vivien, with deep sadness in her heart and for one fleeting moment tears in her eyes, behaved gaily and charmingly and never for one instant allowed her unhappiness to spill over. This quite remarkable exhibition of good manners touched me… very much. I have always been fond of her in spite of her former exigence and frequent tiresomeness but last night my fondness was fortified by profound admiration and respect for her strength of character. There is always hope for people with that amount of courage and consideration for others.” — Noel Coward

Thank you for visiting me. And in one final surreal moment of this Winter’s Solstice week, on a chilly and grey Friday I was contacted by the gardener of the real Poet’s Cottage in Stanley and he also helps out with Marguerite’s garden (who I partly based some of Birdie Pinkerton in the book). I was most impressed by Marguerite’s garden in real-life and so it was a thrill to meet the gardener behind that work of art. xx

Rainy days and Upside Down Moments

A rainy day movie where I snuggled up with my daughter. It made me  long for moors, forgotten gardens and my own New Guinean childhood. I love rainy days at home with my family.

This was the most recent photo taken of our family when we were on our last wrting retreat in the mountains. We all look so happy but just as the colours lie in it it also didn’t truly capture the moment. Just before the photo was taken we were having one of those family bickering sessions: my husband turned my daughter upside down and the world became so amusing. Memories, dreams, time all can lie and quietly deceive with diluted colours. Far better to stay totally still and quiet as a mouse in the present than look too far behind and forward.

Josephine Pennicott, David Levell and Daisy

 

And here is a preview of my German cover for Poet’s Cottage which is being published in September by the wonderful Ullstein publshing house. There is no way I would not have liked this cover as it’s the  wallpaper in my own writing shed which Ullstein cleverly tracked down for me. It is very exciting to see my Tasmanian murder mystery being published in another country. There are also audio books available as well. I’m so thrilled and happy with the German edition.

 

Thank you for visiting me Wishing you a thousand upside down moments. xx

Queens, Talking Books and Women in Black

Hello,

We’ve now entered winter in Australia which is my favourite season.

And we’re cycling into a long weekend for the Queen’s Birthday. I have taken the image below from the wonderful Rachel Van Asch’s blog HERE,

which I was browsing around today falling in love with all sorts of treasures that she makes. I’m a bit in love also with her skull and flower cushions and her Clara Bow cushion below.

I’ve been frantically busy editing for Currawong Manor and forgot to mention that these beautiful audio books compliments of Bolinda publishing arrived in the post a few weeks ago.

It’s a very surreal experience to hear Poet’s Cottage being read. The actress is the very fab Jennifer Vuletic and I’m so thrilled to have the lovely audio. Bolinda really do such a quality product and it’s even more special to me as my middle sister has retinitis pigmentosa and is battling blindness. My sister loved Poet’s Cottage which was a relief as she’s very plain-speaking (her favourite character was Thomasina, which was no surprise ). My youngest sister’s favourite character was Birdie. The week the book came out, my sister had her eyes scraped for cataracts and so was able to read the paper version. I was thrilled I was able to create a shadow play that she believed and a story she could fall into, as nobody knows you like your sister, but she allowed me to lead her down the streets of the sea-fishing village of Pencubitt and into Poet’s Cottage. She called it ‘my Tasmanian House of the Spirits’ which was so lovely as she’s a HUGE Isabel Allende fan and now my Poet’s Cottage is actually resting in her house against The House of the Spirits. Hopefully Isabel’s book will merge magical cells into Poet’s Cottage to help its sales!

My sister even rushed out and bought the perfume Shalimar after reading it and wanted to decorate her house in a 1930s style. I was very moved she loved the book to that extent.

I also went to see The Woman in Black this week on a very grim and rainy night. I was meant to be going with Artschool Annie but she pulled out at the last minute due to the weather and I was in the unfortunate position of being about to see a VERY scary movie on my own. Luckily, I ran into another friend who was with her husband on their date night and they let me tag along!

The movie was good, visually very beautiful but lacked the true creepiness of either the book by Susan Hill or the two stage versions I’ve seen in the West End and in Sydney. I can still remember years later the audience screaming in the West End at ‘that’ scene in the nursery.

Still it was an enjoyable movie for a rainy night in Sydney.

Wishing you a magical, wonderful, creative weekend and Happy Birthday to Queen Elizabeth. Thank you for visiting me. xx

Autumn Leaves

Hello,

Two months until my Talking Heads session at Newtown Library and there are now only 24 seats remaining. Thanks very much to all who have secured seats. If you are keen to come along please don’t dally – reserve your seat to avoid missing out. A group of my friends are organising a dinner in Newtown afterwards; if you’d like to join us please contact me either through my Blog  or via Facebook or Twitter. We haven’t decided on the location yet but it will be near the library.

And the link again if you would like to reserve a seat is HERE.

I’ve been in bed all day and only managed to drag myself out to collect my daughter from school, walking the city streets filled with golden autumn leaves. I’ve ripped my shoulder on the computer and so had to rest after a night of pain. It was a good opportunity for me to listen to Jack Canfield’s Momentum talk which was very inspiring and motivating. We’re now halfway through the year and so a welcome moment of reflection today on what I want to achieve in the second half of 2012.

from the blog Advanced Style

I spent years working in nursing homes and psych/geriatric units and I’ve always had a penchant for older people. I  felt very close to the character of Birdie Pinkerton in her later years in Poet’s Cottage. You can learn so much from the elderly and that’s why I’m a big fan of the blog Advanced Style. Look look at the character, wisdom and beauty in this woman’s face.

You just know she would be the coolest person ever and have an amazing life. At the other end of the spectrum you have this beautiful image that I swiped from Glow

.

Just a few pretty images to go into the weekend with. Faces as individual and beautiful as the leaves in my street. ‘Where does your inspiration come from?’ A mother asked me at the school pick-up. I smiled because there isn’t a space, a leaf, a face from which I don’t receive some inspiration bounty.

There’s a storm brewing in Sydney. A heavy dark sky is pressing down as I write. I hope you have a beautiful and productive weekend, wherever you are. Thank you for visiting me. And look at Larry King’s beautiful purple braces.

Thank you to my friend Liz for supplying me with the link to Johnny being interviewed by Larry in his office. I do love a man in braces. 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

Angels Walking with Swans

Some cheering news this week: Poet’s Cottage is now being reprinted – extremely gratifying to know it’s kicking its legs up out there. Thank you to all who have bought a copy, asked your bookseller to get in copies – or have been kind enough to drop me a line to say you enjoyed it. You are all appreciated so much every day.

 

Here’s my daughter on her way to NIDA for Drama on the weekend. She loves her fake furs and swiping my vintage bags to walk around the streets pretending she’s a big girl.

And the postman delivered two special letters this week. One from an English teacher from Oatlands District High who was delighted to see my book and bought a copy. She was lovely enough to enclose in her letter a photograph from when I was at school. The world seemed such a different place then. No computers, endless time and a million paths to decide upon.

 

The other beautifully wrapped gift is from Tasmanian artist Jacqueline Rodemann, who sent me the loveliest necklace and brooch from her fabulous Etsy store, Under the Shade of a Bonsai Tree which you can find HERE as a thank you for me sending a copy of Poet’s Cottage to her artist mother for Mother’s Day when the stores had run out. I feel I am wearing a very special blue rose part of Tasmania now.

 

image from Under the Shade of a Bonsai Tree

Thank you very much to both ladies. It is heaven to receive gifts in the mail rather than bills. The penny in my rather blurred photograph is a 1940s penny I have near me in my writing shed. Anything that helps me to channel a different time period I’ll use.

And I am editing away on Currawong Manor as the air in my courtyard garden slowly grows chillier. This morning in the park, the mist clung over the wetlands.

It was a beautiful way to start the day. Just before dawn the angels are walking with swans.