Roly Sussex Short Story Award Success

Less than two weeks after the launch of my book, The Chalkies: Educating an army for independence, I received a phone call to tell me that I had won first prize in the Roly Sussex Short Story Award for 2016. What’s more if I turned up at Government House, Brisbane, the following Tuesday, the State Governor would present me with the award. And so he did. Paul de Jersey AC shook my hand at an impressive ceremony on 18 October and congratulated me as he presented me with the trophy and a cheque.

My short story, The space between, is a fictionalised account of a woman waiting for her husband when he fails to return from an attempt to be first to fly across the Atlantic, and is based on actual events, as they say in the movies. The title comes from a Celtic belief that there is only three feet between heaven and earth, and that in ‘thin places’, the distance is even less.

The national competition is run by the Queensland Branch of the English Speaking Union, and the award is named after a well-known Professor of Linguistics at Queensland University, Roly Sussex. I am honoured to have won the award.

Unfortunately, no photography was permitted inside Government House, but the photo below shows me with Ann Garms, the ESU (Qld) President, on the steps of this impressive building, after the ceremony. (The sight of me in a suit may come as a shock to family and friends, but that is indeed me.)

It was good to meet with other writers who were runners up or had been highly commended in the competition, which has both adult and school student categories.

The English Speaking Union said it intended to publish the selected stories in an anthology sometime next year.

Meanwhile, The Chalkies made the bestseller list at Avid Reader Bookshop, where it was launched, and also featured on the back page of their Summer Reading Guide (next to the butterfly!)

 

All writers live in hope of being published and then well received, so for a couple of months this author was doing okay in that regard. As all writers also know, however, this is no guarantee that the next piece of writing will be successful. We just keep beavering away, and keep on hoping …

Until next time

Darryl Dymock

 

What writers say:

‘You cannot hope to sweep someone else away by the force of your writing until it has been done to you.’ ~ Stephen King

 

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A different sort of revolutionary road

War and peace

It was 15-year-old Igor Labzin’s first day at high school and he was in trouble for walking on the neatly mown lawn.

‘Stay off the grass,’ the principal said.

‘Thank you,’ Igor said.

The principal frowned. ‘I said, “Stay off the grass”.’

‘Thank you, thank you,’ Igor said.

The principal’s eyes widened. ‘You don’t speak English, do you?’

‘Thank you, thank you, thank you,’ Igor said.*

The principal was right. It was March 1962, and Igor and his family had just arrived in Brisbane from Indonesia. He could speak Indonesian, Dutch, Russian and a bit of French, but had no English.

Four years later, Igor graduated from the top class at high school, did an engineering degree, and then embarked on a successful career as a structural engineer in London, Montreal, and Canberra, and he continues to work in that profession.

The other evening my wife and I went to a launch of Igor Labzin’s book, Russia and revolution: My father, the officer, the man.

Igor Labzin

Igor’s father graduated from the St Petersburg Naval Academy in 1918, just months after the start of the Russian Revolution. He had the wonderfully Russian name of Boris Martemianovich Labzin.

The young officer decided to support the White Army rather than the Communists, and Igor’s book traces his father’s life through the ensuing turmoil of civil war and escape to Manila and Shanghai in the 1930s, Indonesia in the 1940s and 50s and finally to Australia.

We knew about the book launch because Igor and my wife Cheryl were in the same class at senior high school and we met him recently at a school reunion. He still lives in Brisbane.

Igor was off the next day to launch his book in St Petersburg, at the invitation of the State Museum of the History of St Petersburg. How’s that for an immediate international audience (although the book has still to be translated into Russian)?

The Australian launch was at the wonderful independent Avid Bookshop at West End, Brisbane, which is a great supporter of new and existing writers. Digital publishing may be gaining ground (and I’ve published online myself), but there’s a lot to say for the smell and feel of a bookshop like Avid, with ‘real’ books.

Igor’s introduction to his father’s life was fascinating, and I’m looking forward to reading Russia and revolution: My father, the officer, the man.

The Hinkler cake

Regular readers of this blog will know of my book, Hustling Hinkler, a biography of the pioneer Australian aviator, Bert Hinkler.

At the abovementioned school reunion, one of my wife’s other former classmates, Narelle McTaggart, told me about a ‘Hinkler Cake’ which had apparently been devised especially for Bert Hinkler’s triumphant return to Bundaberg, Queensland, his home town, in February 1928, after his record-breaking solo flight from England to Australia in a single-engined biplane.

The recipe came from members of the Bundaberg Branch of the Queensland Country Women’s Association, an enduring community organisation that has branches in every Australian state and parallel organisations in other countries, including the Women’s Institute in Britain.

Narelle subsequently sent me the recipe, which is reproduced below. I am hoping to have a go at making a Hinkler cake, but haven’t yet got around to it.

Base

1/4 pound self-raising flour                 2oz butter           

2 teaspoons sugar                               Pinch salt

Mix with a little milk. Roll out paste very thin, put in flat buttered tin and spread with raisins, dates and currants

Sponge mixture

2oz butter                                            2 well-beaten eggs (or 1 egg & a little milk)

½ cup sugar (beaten to a cream)       4 tablespoons of milk Eggs

1 cup self-raising flour

Beat and spread on paste and fruit. Bake in a hot oven. When cool, spread with lemon icing.

I don’t know if Bert himself ever got to sample a slice of the Hinkler Cake. If any reader wants to be the first to try out the recipe, I’d be delighted to hear about it on this site, crumbs and all…

Until next time

Darryl Dymock

* The ‘facts’ of this story are as I heard them, so this retelling may be a version of the truth.

 

What writers say

The true unreliability of everything written down utterly fascinates me. Even the person who has set down the so-called facts will still get it essentially wrong. ~ Sebastian Barry

 

 

 

 

Until you know what it is to be a pea …

peas

And the winners are…

The Queensland Writers Centre and the publisher, Hachette Australia, recently announced the successful applicants for their 2015 joint Manuscript Development Program, now in its ninth year. They are:

Patricia Holland’s literary fiction manuscript ‘Lochwall’ (QLD)
Victoria Carless’ literary fiction manuscript, ‘The Dream Walker’ (QLD)
Wendy Davies’ romance manuscript, ‘The Drover’s Rest’ (VIC)
Susan Pearson’s historical crime thriller manuscript, ‘River is a Strong Brown God’ (QLD)
Mary-Ellen Stringer’s contemporary literary fiction manuscript, ‘A Beggar’s Garden’ (QLD)
Angella Whitton’s contemporary fiction manuscript, ‘The Night River’ (NSW)
Kali Napier’s historical fiction manuscript, ‘The Songs of All Poets’ (QLD)
Susan Fox’s commercial women’s fiction manuscript, ‘Mine’ (VIC)
Imbi Neeme’s divorce lit manuscript, ‘The Hidden Drawer’ (VIC).

I remember the excitement I felt when my name appeared on that list in 2010 for my non-fiction manuscript of the story of the Australian trail-blazing aviator, Bert Hinkler, which was published by Hachette Australia three years later as Hustling Hinkler. I also remember the anxiety I felt as I realised I had to polish my work to the highest standard for publication, and then submit it to public scrutiny.

Dawn Barker's book, 'Fractured', was chosen for the Manuscript Development Workshop in 2010, and later published by Hachette

Dawn Barker’s book, ‘Fractured’, was chosen for the Manuscript Development Program in 2010, and later published by Hachette.

From the experience of writers selected for the Manuscript Development Program in the past, not all the authors on the list above will see their books published by Hachette. Some will go on to other publishers; some may not make it to the point of publication, for various reasons.

Whatever the final outcome, selection in itself is an acknowledgment that the writer stands out from the crowd, and has something special to offer. So that alone is an encouragement in an industry where ‘getting a start’ is tough.

I know a writer whose application was unsuccessful this year, and I know how much work she put into the manuscript and how she drew on professional advice to help her shape her story. Even though she missed out on selection, this author is not giving up – she has a back-up plan to seek publication in other ways.

Some of the readers of this blog will know that one of my favourite quotes about writing is from the late science-fiction author, Isaac Asimov:

‘You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you’re working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success – but only if you persist.’ Isaac_Asimov

Read, and think, and listen to silence

I’ve been reading a biography of an author who won four Miles Franklin Awards*: Thea Astley: Inventing her own weather by Karen Lamb (University of Queensland Press, 2015), and came across this advice from the distinguished Australian author, Patrick White (1912 -1990), to Astley in 1961:

‘I think you should write nothing for a bit. Read. … Read, and think, and listen to silence, shell the peas, not racing to begin the next chapter, but concentrating on the work in had until you know what it is to be a pea … Then, when you have become solid, you will write the kind of book you ought to write.’ (p. 137)

Fire on the horizon

I was recently in Adelaide, South Australia, taking to ex-Chalkies about Army Education in Papua New Guinea (see previous blogs) and couldn’t resist taking this pic of the jetty at Glenelg around 8 o’clock on a Saturday night.

Glenelg Jetty Adelaide 8pm in mid-October

Until next time

Darryl Dymock

*The Miles Franklin Award award, now worth AU$50,000, was bequeathed by the will of Australian novelist, Miles Franklin, for a ‘published novel or play portraying Australian life in any of its phases’.  All entries for the award must have been published in the previous calendar year.

A boulder for a bold pilot

A boulder from a Queensland beach is now resting on the side of an Italian mountain, as a memorial to the trail-blazing Australian aviator, Bert Hinkler.

Regular readers of this blog will know that I wrote a biography of the famous pilot, Hustling Hinkler, which was published by Hachette in 2013.

Bert Hinkler Memorial, Mt Pratomagno, Italy

Bert Hinkler Memorial, Mt Pratomagno, Italy

Australian Ambassador to Italy, Mike Rann, recently unveiled the memorial on the slopes of Mount Pratomagno, in Arezzo Province.

Hinkler lost his life when his single-engined Puss Moth monoplane crashed on the mountainside in April 1933, during his second attempt on the England-Australia solo record.

The local Italian community and aero club paid tribute to Hinkler at the time as a pioneer international aviator, and Mussolini’s Fascist government accorded him a spectacular State funeral through the streets of Florence.

Bundaberg Aero Club memorial at Hinkler Ring, Italy

Bundaberg Aero Club memorial at Hinkler Ring, Italy

So it is fitting that the Australian, Queensland and Italian governments should unite in support of a memorial to the gallant flier at the place where he crashed.

The boulder is now a feature of an eight-kilometre long mountain trekking path, called The Hinkler Ring, inaugurated by the Italian Alpine Club’s Arezzo Branch.

The memorial was the brainchild of Queenslander, Kevin Lindeberg, who met one of the finders of Hinkler’s crashed plane, Gino Tocchioni , in 1974, and so knew where the crash site was.

Bundaberg City Council arranged for the 1.4 tonne basalt boulder to be transported to Italy from Mon Repos Beach, where Bert Hinkler first flew, in 1912, in a glider of his own design.

Hinkler Ring Memorial Walk. Italy

Hinkler Ring Memorial Walk. Italy

A time capsule buried in the base of the monument includes letters from the recently deposed Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. About 200 people attended the August ceremony, including Australian, British and Italian dignitaries, and Hinkler’s great nephew John Hinkler.

Here is an extract from the Prologue to Hustling Hinkler, the only piece of ‘creative’ non-fiction in the book, about Bert Hinkler’s final flight, in April 1933:

When he passed over the city of Florence around 10 am local time, he was already behind the schedule he’d mapped out. By now he’d been in the air for seven hours, and he was weary from the drone of the engine and battling the elements. Hinkler wished he’d been able to leave London three months earlier, as he’d originally intended, when the weather – and Air Ministry officials! – might have been kinder to him.

He could see cloud on the mountains distantly ahead, and the thought of diverting to Rome attracted him for a moment, but just as quickly he dismissed the idea – any diversion would mean less chance of breaking the record, and his future depended on achieving that goal. He continued south towards Brindisi. As soon as he’d made the decision to go on, patchy cloud began to snatch at the cockpit, and he could feel the cold drilling deeper into his bones. Sharp fingers of wind continued to push and pull at the plane, and for a moment Hinkler wondered if he sensed another tremor through the wings, but dismissed the thought as he wrestled with the controls.

Up ahead, through the clouds, he glimpsed the snow blanketing the Pratomagno mountains. He knew the highest point of the range, the Croce del Pratomagno, the Cross of Pratomagno, was just over 5000 feet, but that held no fears for him – after all, he’d crossed the much higher Italian Alps earlier in the day. Just so long as the winds were not too violent, and the plane held together . . .

Till next time

Darryl Dymock

 

What writers say:

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind. ~ George Orwell

Books from our backyard 2014

Both my books that were published in 2013 are in the Books from our backyard 2014 catalogue, developed and recently published by the Queensland Writers Centre. Books from our Backyard is a catalogue of books written by Queenslanders or Queensland residents and published in 2013. My two are:

Hustling Hinkler: The short tumultuous life of a trailblazing Australian aviator (Hachette Australia 2013). Available at good bookshops and online through Amazon, Dymocks etc.

Extending your Use-by Date: Why retirement age is only a number (Xoum 2013). Available in print and e-book from the publisher http://www.xoum.co.au and online though Amazon, iTunes etc.

My latest published piece is ‘Working late: Encore careers’, an essay published in Griffith Review literary magazine, No. 45. As a result of that article, I was interviewed on Tony Delroy’s Nightlife program on ABC Radio on 30 July, along with another contributor to that issue of Griffith Review, Gideon Haigh.

 

 

Andy Warhol owes me 13 minutes

Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol

You no doubt know of that saying, attributed to the late Andy Warhol, that each of us will be world famous for 15 minutes in our lifetimes. For a moment recently, I thought I had a chance. But it didn’t last 15 minutes. And it wasn’t world-wide. Not even quite national.

It started one weekday morning on the physiotherapist’s couch, where George attached what looked like two chewing gum patches to my knee. The patches were connected to wires running back into a machine that apparently would send electrical impulses to do miraculous things to my patella. As George was telling me about it, I felt my heart flutter, and for a moment I thought he might’ve turned the machine up too high and given me a full charge.

Then I realised it was my mobile phone, vibrating in the pocket of my shirt, with the sound turned off. I didn’t want to interrupt George because he was telling me something important – the overnight test cricket score. As soon as he left me to tend to another patient, I whipped out my phone and found a message to ring the media office at Griffith University, where I work part-time. Channel 7 wanted to do an interview, something to do with my e-book, Extending your use-by date.

A short time later, when I had left the physio’s, Georgia rang from Channel 7, Melbourne. They were doing a story on a 97-year-old Ballarat man who was still working as a mechanic, she said, and wanted to widen it with some comments from me about people working into older age. No problem, I said. That’s what my book is about. Would it be okay if we send a Brisbane-based TV crew to your place around midday? Georgia asked. Sure, I said. Do you have an office where we might film an interview? No worries, I said. Then I rushed home to clean up my office.

The room I use as an office is a small bedroom in our modest house, and fortunately I was able to toss a lot of loose material behind the sliding wardrobe doors. Clearing the desk took a little longer – I’m one of those people whose creativity is fuelled by having stacks of papers and books all around me. (At least, that’s what I tell my wife, who seems to find the explanation highly amusing.) A quick flick with a dusting rag and I was ready for the camera crew. Almost.

The next question was what to wear. I was in my summer at-home working gear of shorts and  T-shirt. Too informal for an interview about my research. I looked through my long-sleeved shirts. Fine stripes and close checks tend to flutter or strobe on camera, and vivid white might send viewers rushing for their sunglasses. Fortunately, I like blue shirts, which TV also likes.

Dressed in what I hoped was a ‘smart casual’ outfit, I waited for the Channel 7 team to arrive. It was hard to settle down to anything in particular, but I took the opportunity to strategically place some books written by fellow authors, in case the camera picked them up: Fractured by Dawn Barker, Ryders Ridge by Charlotte Nash, Bay of Fires by Poppy Gee. My own book, but not the one I was being interviewed about, Hustling Hinkler, was right next to my laptop on the desk.

After a phone call from ‘Daniel’ to tell me they were running late, leaving me to do not very much for a while longer, he and the camera crew turned up. Daniel was the producer/interviewer and he introduced me to the cameraman, the sound guy, and a trainee who had only started that day, and therefore got to carry the camera tripod. With me, that meant five people in my little office. It was lucky I started that diet the week before.

They were all very friendly and professional. The cameraman set up the angles, the sound man held his boom mike overhead, and the trainee held up a soft light to show my best features. I sat on a chair with my back to the desk, and Daniel asked me the questions from another chair parked in the doorway, which is about the only place it would fit.

I felt quite relaxed, Daniel seemed relaxed, the questions were good, and he seemed genuinely interested in the topic of people working into older age.  After the interview, which took about 10 minutes, the cameraman took some additional shots of me typing on my laptop, from different angles. (If he’d asked, I would have told him that the reason I type slowly is that it matches my brain speed.) Then they packed up and left, the trainee again carrying the camera mount.

That evening, towards the end of the one-hour Channel 7 news, there was a nice story about Eric Carthy, the 97-year-old Ballarat man still working as a mechanic at the family garage, with no plans to retire. The story was interspersed with brief clips of Dr Darryl Dymock from Griffith University talking about working into older age, and showing him typing carefully on his laptop. None of the judiciously placed books appeared on screen.

I reckon I was on air for about two minutes, which was good in the circumstances. The show was almost national, I think, although apparently the distant island of Tasmania may have missed out on that segment. I enjoyed the experience, and was very happy to be part of a great story. Eric Carthy is an inspiration.

But I reckon if that’s part of my 15 minutes of fame, I’m still due for 13 more.

A Runaway success, another trail-blazer, & Whispers

Runaway Bay

If you’re unemployed, what do you do if you keep sending your resumé in response to job advertisements and not only don’t get an interview, but not even the courtesy of a reply?

That was a question one of the participants asked at a recent author

Runaway Bay Gold Coast Queensland

Runaway Bay Gold Coast Queensland

event I was invited to present at the library at the intriguingly named Runaway Bay on Queensland’s Gold Coast as part of the city’s impressive program for over 50s.

Another of the large and lively group at the event asked my opinion on how one registered training organisation could be offering an accredited training course for A$45, when others were asking A$2000 for the same course.

As you can appreciate from those two questions, it was an interesting and interested group, and I thoroughly enjoyed the interaction with them as I talked about my e-book, Extending your use-by date. And I tried my best to respond individually and personally to those questions from my own knowledge and experience.

My main message in that book is that we need to accentuate the positive as we grow older, because older people are capable of much more than many people think they are, including older people themselves. Older people need to fight age stereotypes and discrimination, and they need to back themselves, while at the same time being realistic about their capabilities and chances of (re-)employment. But we need to keep chipping away at the ageist attitudes that exist so that people can continue working into older age if they want to, and find stimulating and rewarding work, including as volunteers.

The invitation to speak at Runaway Bay Library came from Rochelle Smith, the Program Development Office for the City of Gold Coast Library Service. I was grateful for the support and positive feedback on the day from Chris Taylor, the Senior Librarian at Runaway Bay.

Dick SmithAO  Entrepeneur & Aviator

Dick SmithAO Entrepeneur & Aviator

Dick Smith

One well-known Australian who keeps extending his use-by date is Dick Smith, AO. Born in 1944, Dick is a very successful Australian entrepreneur, businessman, and aviator. I had heard he was going to Italy to check out the crash site of Bert Hinkler, the pioneer aviator who is the subject of my recent book, Hustling Hinkler, so I sent him a copy. It turns out he’d already bought one, and told me it was a ‘fantastic book, totally absorbing’. Coming from someone who himself could be described as a trailblazer, and who followed part of Hinkler’s 1933 record-breaking flight route to Australia in a round-the world-helicopter flight, that’s a very gratifying and generous response.

Whispers

Thanks to the Queensland Writers’ Centre, I had the opportunity one recent Saturday afternoon to do a short reading from Hustling Hinkler, as part of QWC’s monthly Whispers program. My fellow authors were: Edwina Shaw, Nicola Alter, Adair Jones, and Inga Simpson, and all of us are ‘graduates’ of the QWC/ Hachette Manuscript Development Program, an annual event that attracts applicants from across the country.

Whispers takes place at the Library Café, which is a sheltered outdoor venue, open to the public. So we did our readings to a somewhat mobile audience, some of whom are long-time followers of the Whispers program, some of whom turned up just for the day, and some who thought they were just sitting down with a quiet cup of coffee when a book reading broke out. Good fun, and great to hear those talented writers read from their own work.

From left: Nicola Alter, Darryl Dymock, Inga Simpson, Adair Jones, Edwina Shaw

From left: Nicola Alter, Darryl Dymock, Inga Simpson, Adair Jones, Edwina Shaw

If you had a choice, which author from anywhere in the world would you like to hear read an extract, and from which book?