Tag Archives: stanthorpe

Get Thee to a Writers Group

I have been writing, in one way or another, for more years than I care to count.  During that time, I’ve dabbled on the outskirts of writing communities: a workshop here and there; an editing group, online courses; once, a writing circle via mail.  But I had never found the opportunity to be involved with a writers group, partly due to my penchant for living away from metropolitan areas for much of my adult life.

I would read with envy about writers spending weeks at retreats, days working on communal projects, evening soirees with like-minded souls but, as a full-time worker living away from the cosmopolitan enclaves of the city writers, such opportunities were harder to come by.

As friends and regular readers would know, I always refer to myself as a late bloomer so it probably comes as no surprise that I am finally turning up [very late] to the table of a writers group. In fact I formed the group myself and waited nervously on that first night, trying to anticipate and imagine the people who’d indicated they’d come along, wondering how we would all fit together.

What a delightful bunch they turned out to be!

Our Stanthorpe Writers Group is a band of a dozen at the moment (with room to grow a little) and we are a mixed bunch with poets, journos, short-story writers, a historical novelist and memoirist amongst our numbers. 

We have had some wonderful presentations by group members on subjects as diverse as research, characterisation and flash fiction.  I learn something new at every monthly meeting and I get great enjoyment in critiquing work by other writers and having my own pieces picked over.  It improves our writing enormously to have input and suggestions from others.

So, to come back to my headline, if I had one piece of advise for young writers it would be to Get Thee to a Writers Group immediately and soak up the information, advice and friendship.

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Who’s a Happy Little Writer then?

Why, me of course!

Happy Author

The local launch of 8 States of Catastrophe was like a perfect dream for me. 

As my dear friend Vince said in his speech, the main reason that Stanthorpe has become my adopted home-town is because of its people.  I am constantly blown away by the friendliness, the generosity of spirit, and the willingness of so many to go out of their way for others. Even people who have no time to read or who traditionally pursue other recreational activities came out on a miserable wet night to show their support for me and my crazy writing addiction.

Vince Catanzaro giving his speech…

...and me trying not to cry

Let me describe the venue:  soft acoustics of a theatre padded with carpet and thick cinema curtains;  high ceiling; regal old original light fittings; beautifully framed movie posters.  It was dreamy.

Guests

The people:  Relatives, friends, work-mates, orchardists, a journalist, clerks, doctors, tourism operators, business-owners, builders, a beautician, writers, my hairdresser, teachers, retirees…what a wonderful eclectic mix.  All happy, smiling and full of good will.

More Guests

Refreshments:  The standard easy fare of biscuits and cheese, and platters of sandwiches (Thank you Denise, Sarina and Maria for your expertise and willing hands).  Mellow red and crisp white (from Vincenzo’s at the Big Apple).  Very grateful to my brother Bob and sister-in-law Denise for helping attend to the bar.

And More Guests

Photos:  Thanks to “Special K” for taking lots of happy snaps of the night and thank you Shannon Newley for coming along on a Saturday night to take some pics (here’s Shannon’s article written for the Stanthorpe Border Post published 17/3).

Sarah, Deb and Special K

The hour and a half flew by in a whirl of pecked cheeks, signed books, raised glasses, chatter and laughter.  There were lots of willing hands and it would be impossible to thank everyone who helped out but I would like to say a special thank you to Gary for segueing from barman to “money-man” time and again and for still smiling at the end of a hectic day.

Show Me the Money!

The night will bring a smile to my dial for many years to come.

Oh yes...and a few more guests

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PARTY TIME…Again

We are gearing up for the Stanthorpe launch of 8 States of Catastrophe now and I am looking forward to it. 

Some readers of this blog would not be familiar with Stanthorpe (especially those from Canada and the States but also, it seems, some of the more recent readers residing in Australia’s southern states).  For anyone interested, here’s a portal from where you can check out my adopted home-town. 

Stanthorpe

As I have mentioned elsewhere, my ‘day-job’ office is in the Arcadia building which used to house the local cinema many moons ago.  In the process of renovating and upgrading the offices, my boss decided to embark on the mammoth project of having some old cinema equipment restored which resulted in an homage to history;  the small, classy, old-fashioned Arcadia Theatre, sporting much of its original movie equipment and even the old light fittings.

Said boss – and very good friend – has kindly offered me the use of the theatre – or did I con him into it? – and it seems to me to be a perfect venue for a book launch.  Having made the decision not to install fixed chairs means the area can lend itself to all sorts of functions, rather than just movies [having said that, there’s just nothing like that old-fashioned movie experience]. 

For the hour and a half event, we are sticking with the formula we used for Hobart.

Food: cocktail sandwiches, red and white wine, juice.   We all know that authors basically starve for their art so people are generally happy and pleasantly surprised to be given a drink and a small bite to eat when they come to a launch.

Formalities: no lengthy speeches and definitely no speech from the author (I can almost hear the sigh of relief from anyone who has ever heard me try my hand at public speaking).  Vince (the aforesaid boss, friend, solicitor, venue owner and father to the suave, sophisticated and inimitable ‘Third in Line’) has agreed to speak.

Book signing: Still not a fan of the author sitting at a table like a stuffed chook waiting to autograph books. I’ll be there mingling and signing books for anyone who asks and, hopefully, having a good time.

For those of you from far-flung places who won’t be here, rest-assured I’ll post up some pics soon after the event.

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Let’s talk about Venues

In the lull between the Hobart pre-launch and the agonizing, interminable wait for the balance of the books to arrive, I thought I’d write a little about the venue slated for Stanthorpe.
          Where the Hobart launch was held in the contemporary architecturally-stylish Mawson Pavilion (tinted glass, ocean views, delicate wire-strung lights), the Stanthorpe venue is steeped in history.
          After mooting a few different venues (winery, shop, country hotel), we’ve decided on something quite different…a private cinema.
          When my boss was renovating his offices in the old theatre building in Stanthorpe, he stumbled across some original cinema equipment and proceeded to embark upon a magnificent journey of restoration. He has kindly offered the use of his ‘Arcadia Theatre’ for the local launch and it should prove to be the perfect venue.
          Picture this: an enormous, high-ceilinged dark-carpeted empty room (thankfully, there are no fixed chairs); walls swathed in heavy burgundy cinema curtains; soft lighting from the original theatre lights, background music, guests, food, wine (of course)…perfect!

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Lights, Camera, Action!

Yes, I am home in body, but my spirit is still high in the clouds.

 The pre-launch celebration for 8 States of Catastrophe exceeded all my expectations.  Apart from a ten minute scare when it looked like the guests might arrive before the traffic-snarled vehicles carting the wine and food, the two-hour party went like clockwork and was a terrifically enjoyable occasion.

Son Dylan and I awaiting arrival of guests

My friends and family knew I was not looking forward to being the centre of attention but I found it didn’t take me long to start enjoying it.  And anyway, it wasn’t really me in the limelight but rather my creation, my baby, 8 States of Catastrophe. 

Signing my Life Away

We had an abundance of food; simple scrumptious fare of sandwiches, cheese and crackers, pesto.  The white wine was cold and crisp and the merlot blend mellow; OJ and mineral water were on hand; something for everyone to wet their whistle. 

Guests at the Waterfront Pavilion

The guests mingled, chatted, asked questions, admired the venue (which I will write about some other time), sipped and supped and – thankfully – purchased books. 

Some of the Guests

It was a real joy to sign books when asked.  When, at the end of the evening, I overheard a couple of guests raving that it had been great fun and ‘not boring’ as they had expected a book launch to be, I knew we had done everything right.

More Guests...just so you can see they are real

 Knowing there are quite a few out there in the blogosphere interested in the actual nuts-and-bolts of a successful launch, here are a few things that I believe helped make mine such a success:-

  • Don’t overdo the speeches.  A friend made a small speech on my behalf because…(a) I am not a comfortable public speaker and; (b) I am told that the majority of writers usually bore everyone to tears.

    My Dear Friend Alan...delivering his fabulous speech.

  • Don’t have a strict regimented program.  The speech was made at about the half-way mark when it just seemed right.
  • Make sure the guest list is varied. 
  • Try to interest the media.  I was thrilled that a photographer from the Hobart Mercury came and a journo called a couple of days later for more detail which resulted in a nice write-up with some great pics.  Book launch photos
  • Get the books ‘out there’ straight away.  We had a table set up with books on display and someone to accept money.  Because this was a pre-launch, I didn’t have access to eftpos facilities (something the publishers usually organise) but we had a computer set up for anyone who wanted to transfer funds or use paypal.  As it turned out, all the guests had come prepared and cash was in abundance.
  • You – the author – should mingle.  I didn’t want to sit all stuff-shirted at a table ready to sign books.  People purchased their books from the first five minutes right up until the end and then came to get me to sign if they so desired.
  • Have fun!  It is easier than you think.  Forget about who may or may not like the book, don’t think about how many will sell.  Just think of it as a party to celebrate the thrill of having your work published and sharing the excitement with others.

    In the foreground, my Number 1 Fan, the one and only Mammy

Thanks to everyone…you know who you are…for making the night so absolutely categorically perfect.

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Road to Publication Part 2

          I almost called it the Highway to Publication, given that the speed has [finally] picked up but I reminded myself that there is still a way to go.
          My book now has a cover, designed by one David Khan, a man I have never met which is probably quite common but feels strange nevertheless.             
          Then again, neither have I met Paul Bugeja, the editor who laboured over a period of quite a few months to hunt down and weed out those annoying little errors that all writers probably make but have difficulty isolating.
          But I digress…today, I am sitting in my little “word factory” having torn off the writerly cloak of fiction, trying on the far more constraining outfit of the marketing-savvy journalist as I prepare information for a media kit.
          It feels more than a little strange immersing myself once more into the life of MV (the motorcycle riding poet of ‘8 States of Catastrophe’), given that I had consciously had to sweep him out of my head a year and a half ago in order to move on to my next project.  I never really left him behind though; not totally.  Every couple of months I’ve had to delve back into the story to consider a suggested revision, delete a passage, add a word.  And then sometimes I’d get lost in the story again, with MV and his dog Rider and all those mysterious coincidences and it was such hard work knowing when to take a deep breath and accept that the manuscript was done.
          It is difficult for writers who have spent at least months but usually years tied up in solitary confinement with their characters to suddenly be ‘outed’ and required to speak coherently and at length about their work.
          But that is exactly what I need to do now, and it all starts with the launches.
          I am excited to have scored a great location for the Tasmanian pre-launch celebration in late January.  Thanks to the Hobart City Council, we have what appears to be the perfect venue: The Mawson Waterfront Pavilion.  
          Hobart is first on my agenda for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it was where I was born and raised. 
          The guest list is half complete (thanks to my Mum and my sister Tammy and the stylishly savvy Isabella Marlowe-Thompson-Thomson [aka Susan]). Flights are booked, accommodation arranged (thanks again Tam) and the invitations are ready for printing.  
          Finger food…tick.  
          Background music…tick.  
          Someone to make a speech…tick (thanks to my dear friend Keith Mogg [aka Alan])
          Wine…working on it.
          Books…Ayeeee!  I can only keep everything crossed and hope they arrive on time!

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MY SKINNY LITTLE AUSSIE WEDDING

‘Whatever,’ said my soon-to-be-daughter-in-law when I asked what sort of wedding she proposed.
          As the mother of just one child – a son – I had assumed that any sort of involvement in a mythical future wedding would simply not be on.  But I hadn’t counted on a surprisingly laid-back fiancé and the couple’s out-of-the-blue decision to hold their wedding in the little country town which my partner and I call home.  And when I was unexpectedly afforded the title of wedding co-ordinator, I had no idea it would be such an easy job.
          Stanthorpe is apple and grape country with flourishing wine and boutique accommodation enterprises and a burgeoning gourmet food industry and, as such, there is no shortage of possibilities for a wedding: superb four-seasonal gardens, little off-the-beaten-track churches, gazebos in vineyards, and granite-filled parklands.
          Whilst the ‘whatever’ mantra would later set the tone, our son and his little anti-Bridezilla did have some strong views about what they didn’t want for their wedding.  Being non-denominational, they nixed a church service.  Their non-traditional views ousted any thought of a formal sit-down supper. And being completely set on something small and intimate, there was never any hint of a dispute over the guest list which ultimately consisted of ten:- two sets of parents, two nans, the best man and one bridesmaid, two friends and no partridge in a pear tree.
          I emailed the Sydney-sider couple a list of possibilities with links to websites, contact names, and details of pricing but in the back of my mind I had hoped they might choose Diamondvale B&B Cottages and Lodge.  I had the privilege of visiting many of the suggested venues, given that they are all almost in my own back yard, and I fell in love with Diamondvale straight away.  Its superb bush setting and the country charm of chooks, kitchen gardens and miniature horses is complemented by the quaint chintz-and-lace cottages and offset by the eclectic mix of old and new in the recently built four-bedroom lodge.
          ‘That’s it!’ emailed my son’s betrothed. 
          I booked for a two-day party – a romantic cottage for the wedding couple, a two-bedroom cottage for the bridal party and friends and the rest of the guests in the lodge which would henceforth be known by us all as ‘party central’.  The bride and groom had opted for a ‘happy little party with a wedding ceremony thrown in there somewhere’.
          Wedding cake?  ‘Nah, no-one really likes it anyway.’
          Music?  ‘We’ll bring our own.’ 
          Celebrant? ‘Whatever.’
          I risked copping interfering-mother-in-law status just once when the necessity for a photographer was mooted.  I had had the recent pleasure of viewing some ingenious work that Cory Rossiter completed for a local calendar, which then led to me checking out his website.  Cory ‘tree-changed’ to the Granite Belt region in 2007, after working as a commercial photographer in the south west of England and as a London fashion photographer.  Whenever I mentioned the word ‘wedding’ to friends, his name came up time and again.  The aversion to a photographer was brought about by the bride and groom’s distaste for anything staged or forced but, eventually, the bride gave me another one of her ‘whatevers’ and I went ahead.  Thankfully, when the bride and the photographer eventually met, a mutual admiration society was conceived. 
          ‘I am so over contrived poses,’ Cory said and the bride’s smile was as wide as the granite outcrop she stood upon.  And when the photographer asked the bride if she preferred country or city-style shots and she responded with the ‘whatever’ mantra, you could see the shutters clicking and clacking in his brain as he grinned.
          Diamondvale surpassed all our expectations. The hospitality and eagerness to please of Kerrin Cridland is unsurpassed.  That’s not to say that partner Tony is any less gregarious but he does stay in the background somewhat; a quiet achiever.  Kerrin makes you want to linger in her company, to bask in her good nature, to smile and laugh with her.  You only need look to the way she interacts with her animals – glorious white horses that look like unicorns, the black miniature ponies, and the dogs Cara and Shadow – to understand something of Kerrin’s gentle nature and nurturing soul. 
          The comparatively newly-built lodge blew us all away.  Perched up on brolga-like legs amongst the gum trees, its furniture includes a piano and decadent leather lounges.  The kitchen has everything it needs to be functional and luxurious, including a dishwasher and an exquisite dinner setting for fourteen.  There are televisions in the bedrooms with built in DVD players.  Two of the bedrooms have en-suites and there is a large third bathroom.  A BBQ on the wrap-around verandah and a great sound-system make it the perfect party-central venue.  And for chilling out, there’s a surprisingly fun and interesting collection of books which (going off-track momentarily) includes an Isabel Allende novel and Colin Bowles’ Little Book of Immorals and Four and Twenty Tales
          Deciding on a walk via the heritage trail to Quart-pot creek, we were thrilled to be offered our own personal guide, a curly-haired four-legged gal who goes by the name of Shadow.  This quiet, unassuming little dog led the way, stopping every now and then to sit in perfect triangle stance to wait for us tardy humans to catch up.  She constantly looked over her shoulder to make sure we were following and never wavered or became distracted from her mission.
          Back at ‘party central’ there was far more alcohol drunk than is probably thought acceptable for a night before the wedding.  We sat on the balcony drinking wine and reminiscing before feasting on the chicken lasagne that the bride had insisted on preparing the day before, despite jetting in to Brisbane from Sydney and enduring the three-hour car trip to Stanthorpe.  And when some of the ‘oldies’ started to fade as the evening progressed, the young ones returned to their cottages via the charmingly rustic communal hut for games and a nightcap of frivolity. 
          Sore heads were soothed with strong blacks on Sunday morning as the bride and bridesmaid were whisked into town for Gavin to weave some magic into their locks at Mansara hair salon and then it was off to see Kelly at Beauty on High.  Kelly has a way with words and kept us lively and laughing as she wielded her magical powders and brushes. 
          Kerrin and Tony made their beautiful home and verandah available so the bride could make a grand entrance, descending the steps to the pews positioned near the creek where the celebrant (who coincidentally shares the same surname as the groom) had set up her white-draped table.  The sultry voice of Etta James cascaded over our little congregation (given that it had taken ten years for the bride and groom to make it to the alter, At Last was the perfect song choice).  The beautiful blonde bridesmaid emerged from the house and walked toward us in the silver-grey dress she had chosen.  When she’d originally asked what colour she should wear, the bride-to-be had given her standard ‘whatever’ response.
          The groom wore a Cavalli Sartorial suit with a hint of khaki.
         And the bride wore red.  Her floor-length gown clung to all the right places and was blinged up with diamantes at the bust. 
          Neither of the girls carried flowers.  The bride was always a bit ambivalent. We had originally planned to raid the gardens of our friends for roses but the roses peaked early leaving nothing more than dead heads.  Rather than cause a flurry, such moments were simply more ‘whatever’ occasions. 
          The celebrant – the totally unrelated Roz Thompson – had travelled from Warwick to perform the service with soft professionalism.  The bride and groom wrote their own vows (or in the case of my son, partially lifted them from an Incubus song) and kept them secret from each other until they were spoken aloud during the ceremony.  The guests blew bubbles (a great touch provided by Roz) as the newly-weds signed the necessary papers.
          No confetti in sight.  No formal seating arrangements or place-cards.  Lunch was succulent fresh oysters and bright pink prawns, brought from the Gold Coast by the Father of the Bride, served with herb bread and a variety of salads prepared by the nans. Instead of the usual wedding favours, guests received a miniature bottle of local Vincenzo’s chocolate port with a ‘film-strip’ styled label featuring a photo of the couple. There were no speeches, just noisy chatter and raucous laughter.  We presented the glowing twosome with a wooden ‘wish box’, filled with miniature sealed envelopes carrying wishes from all over the country.   The newly-weds took turns in opening the cards and reading them out as we sat around the table.  There was no champagne.  The bride and groom had opted to purchase a bottle of everyone’s favourite so we had wines (red and white), scotch, vodka, rum and Baileys Irish Cream.
          And if the bush setting, and the kookaburra-song background weren’t Aussie enough, how about Pavlova for dessert?  Not just any old pav, mind, but custom-built individual ones.  Ever mindful of a variety of tastes and preferences, the bride decided on a build-your-own approach.  Guests created their own personalised pav with mini meringue cases, a mountain of chopped fruit – pineapple, melons, kiwi-fruit, strawberries and raspberries – whipped cream, and passionfruit sauce.  
          Safely back in Sydney and ensconced in their hectic lives, the newly-weds say that, if they had all the money in the world to design their perfect wedding, they would not have changed a thing.  They got exactly what they wanted.
          Whatever! 

Love in a Surreal Landscape - Photo by Cory Rossiter

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