Christmas Book Fair Preparations

Decorations for the 2013 Christmas Book Fair are looking mighty fine, if we do say so ourselves.
We’ve got pretty pinwheels for the kids:


Some amazing quote boards (wise words, JW Eagan, wise words indeed):

Block quotes

 And these bad boys have been working on their fierce faces:


Aren’t they adorable?

All thanks to the creative genius of Liz Nicholson! Only two and half weeks to go!

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Author Profiles – Bruce Munday

In 1974 Bruce and Kristin Munday bought a farm in the Adelaide Hills where they raised sheep, cattle and three children, and planted many trees. When the kids left home Bruce established his own business as a communications consultant in natural resource management and discovered how much he enjoyed sharing stories with people living on the land – particularly those who love the land and want to conserve it. Those Dry-Stone Walls documents the beauty of South Australia’s dry-stone walls, many of which have defied gravity – without mortar – since early settlement.

We asked Bruce a few questions about his interest in dry-stone walls and the process of making the book.

Those Dry-stone Walls coverWhen did you first become interested in dry-stone walls, and how? 

I have always admired the stone architecture in SA and we have several old dry-stone walls near our property at Tungkillo. Some are in good condition while others are tumbling down, but they all said something about early settlement in the district. What really got me going was visiting Peru about 10 years ago and seeing the remarkable dry-stone structures about which so little is known as the Incas had no written language. That prompted me to investigate if there had been any research into the dry-stone walls in SA.

What was your favourite moment during the writing of the book?

Favourite was the comment from Marcus Beresford (Nat Trust SA) who, after reviewing the first draft wrote that ‘this is a compelling story, delightfully told. I will certainly buy the book’. At that moment I knew I had a book.

Those Dry-stone Walls has become very popular. Have you received any interesting feedback from readers? 

I have been lucky. The book launch was a great success and that set the scene for a positive reaction to the book. I have received many favourable comments from people who took the time to write or email and several invitations to speak to local history groups, etc. Perhaps the most encouraging comments came from serious history buffs who expressed pleasure that someone had undertaken this work. The most moving came from a letter I received from Liz Mitchell, the widow of Kim to whom I dedicated the book. Liz wrote: The book was passed around the family, and inspired many discussions about stone walls and Kim. The children asked what it meant to ‘dedicate’ a book to someone, and grew prouder of their Dad as I explained as best I could. I found that, and indeed her whole letter, very moving.

If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be? 

My power would be to recover all the stone that has been pillaged from old stone walls, remove them from their present location in private gardens, etc, and return them to from whence they came. I would leave behind a note saying ‘shame on you’ signed ‘History Superhero’.

What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why? 

Your Brick Oven – just what I needed to build my own

The Adelaide Parklands – there is nothing else like it


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Author Profiles – Valerie Volk

Another day, another profile of one of Wakefield Press’s amazing authors!

Valerie Volk is a former secondary teacher, tertiary lecturer, and director of an international education program. She has won awards for poetry and short fiction and has published widely in journals, anthologies and magazines. Her first book, In Due Season, won the Omega Writers CALEB Poetry Prize in 2010, and there have been enthusiastic reviews of both her verse novel A Promise of Peaches and her sardonic modern versions of Grimms’ Tales, Even Grimmer Tales. Her fourth book, Passion Play: The Oberammergau Tales, reflects both a love of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales that was born during a Year 12 English course many decades ago and also her fascination with the infinite variety of human beings.

We caught up with Valerie to ask a few questions about Passion Play, which is a verse novel based around the Oberammergau Passion Play, performed every ten years in a tradition dating back to the 17th century.

Passion Play coverHave you ever attended the Passion Play at Oberammergau?

Yes, three times, in 1990, 2000, 2010 – but I first discovered Oberammergau when driving through southern Germany in 1973 (a non-Passion Play year) and became fascinated by the place and the ten-yearly event.

How did you develop the structure and characters for your verse novel Passion Play?

I’ve always wanted to do a modern parallel to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, so this four day bus trip and its group of varied characters travelling  to the Passion Play provided me with the perfect structure for such a creation. Except that these people do not copy Chaucer’s and tell stories to entertain each other; instead they reveal their own lives in monologues or discussions that are often painfully honest. As for the characters? Most of them are today’s equivalents of the Chaucerian group – even to Chaucer’s Cook becoming a modern TV cooking contest winner …

What is you favourite line or two of verse in the book?

This is so hard – it’s difficult to extract lines from a novel, which is basically a narrative. Perhaps the journalist, as she returns and sits in Changi airport, waiting her last stage flight home :

How that word sums it up.
I am in transit.

Around me all the buzz of airport lounge.
The crowds of travellers,
arrivals weary as they trudge
to baggage claims,
then out into the humid dark
of Singapore, its tropic night,
its frangipani air.

If you weren’t a poet, what do you think your occupation would be?

I’d be properly retired, sitting in the sun, reading a crime novel  …  instead of feeling compelled to write!

What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?

A long way back favourite, Peter Goldsworthy’s Bleak Rooms, for its brilliant vignettes of life in a short story collection, and his amazing understanding of people.
Lolo Houbein’s One Magic Square, for its vision of sustainable life, which almost sent me out to plant my own small plot of ground.
John Neylon’s Robert Hannaford, for the insight it gave into this great South Australian artist, and the wonderful reproductions of his work – I’ll never be able to afford an original, but I can enjoy them in the book.
Jude Aquilina’s poetry, especially in the witty and sardonic WomanSpeak.

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Untranslatable Words

In the Garden coverHere’s something fun for your Thursday reading pleasure:

The Huffington Post has put together a list of 11 untranslatable words from other cultures.

With such gems as culaccino (Italian), the mark left on a table by a cold glass, or komorebi (Japanese), the effect of sunlight filtering through trees, this list was made for poets!

May we suggest looking over the article, then settling in with a copy of Miriel Lenore’s In the Garden to capture that komorebi feeling?

In other news, it turns out that the Wakefield aim can be condensed into one word in the Urdu language: goya means ‘the transporting suspensions of disbelief that can occur in good storytelling’. Brilliant.

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Dining Alone: Stories from the table for one

What involves Press* Food & Wine, Penny’s Hill Vineyard, the incredible Barbara Santich and a bunch of new and exciting stories?

The launch of Dining Alone next week, that’s what! Come along and get your weekend started early with a glass of good wine and a book with bundles of talent.

Dining Alone launch invitation

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Author Profiles – Jude Aquilina

Jude Aquilina’s poetry and short stories have been published in newspapers, anthologies and literary journals in Australia and abroad. Jude has been a guest speaker at numerous writers’ festivals, including Adelaide Writers’ Week, Canberra Spring Poetry Festival and Penola Arts Festival. She has published two collections of her own poetry: Knifing the Ice (Friendly Street Poets/Wakefield Press 2000) and On a Moon Spiced Night (Wakefield Press 2004). She has also published one coauthored collection, WomanSpeak (Wakefield Press, 2009), co-written with Louise Nicholas, and one edited collection, Tadpoles in the Torrens (Wakefield Press, 2013). Many of her poems have won awards.

We asked Jude a few questions about being a poet, and Tadpoles in the Torrens.

Jude AquilinaCan you tell us a bit about the process for putting together Tadpoles in the Torrens? Did you have a favourite moment as editor?

A few years ago, I was looking for collections of poetry for children, by South Australian writers. I soon realized it was over 20 years since one had been published. When I told Michael Bollen, he said he’d be interested in such a book. I was excited and set about gathering the poems. It was a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle, but it didn’t matter if pieces of the sky ended up in the river – I just chose the pieces I liked the shape, feel or colour of!  I had over 300 poems from children’s poets and authors to choose from. I called for submissions from the writing group ‘The Echidnas’ who are all published SA children’s writers, and I looked through past issues of The School Magazine (NSW Education Dept), to find SA poets who were being published at present.  I was amazed to find so many wonderful poets and poems, hiding like frogs in the state’s backyard!
Some of the best moments, as editor, were talking on the phone to the late and great Max Fatchen. He was thrilled with the idea of Tadpoles in the Torrens and would call me from time to time; he was always full of encouragement and loved to talk about poetry and words.  He told me he thought ‘Seagulls on the Oval’ was the best poem he’d ever written. I was thrilled to include it in Tadpoles in the Torrens, along with other Max Fatchen gems.  I loved Max’s sense of humour and the way he wrote about everyday things, yet made them special – and he never said a bad word about anyone. He will always be my writing role-model.

Do you have a writing routine? Why/why not?

No, I do not have a routine and never have.  As a freelance writer/mentor and TAFE teacher, my working hours are haphazard, so there is not much point in a strict routine. I prioritise. This means some projects on the back-burner take longer, but I believe writing and publishing books happens from a cumulative effect. Eventually everything you do comes in handy!

Is there one poem that has inspired you more than any other? If so, what is it and why?

Throughout my childhood, my father read poetry to me from little suede-covered books.  I loved all the English poets, but the poem I thought about the most was a poem called ‘The Sands of Dee’ by Charles Kingsley. It was about Mary, who went to bring the cattle home, but a high tide came and drowned her. I’d lay awake in bed, thinking of Mary and all those bloated cows … And never home came she … for the cruel, foaming sea, the cruel, hungry sea, had taken her away! Later, I discovered contemporary women poets like Gwen Harwood and Judith Wright whose poetry  inspired me to write my own poetry.

If you were to die and come back as a person or thing, what do you think it would be?

If I die, I’d like to come back as a pelican … a large bird that other birds can’t pick on; liked by humans and not considered edible, that lives near water, fishes and flies around all day and fills its bill with nibblies for later on.

What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?

An all-time favourite WP book is The River Kings by Max Fatchen.  I think every South Australian should read this book. Max was a master story-teller and captures the SA landscape and its people so accurately. A recent favourite novel is Margaret Merrilees’ The First Week.  I couldn’t put this beautifully-written book down. No wonder it won the WP Unpublished Manuscript Award. The story is told through the eyes of a country mum (like me) in such a way that the reader becomes that character as she finds out about a tragedy that will change her life.  Another favourite is The Colour of Kerosene by Cameron Raynes. I’ve always loved reading short stories and this collection of stunning contemporary stories continues to resonate. And of course there are many poetry books I love, including Miriel Lenore’s In the Garden, and Mike Ladd’s Karrawirra Parri. It’s great to see WP supporting genres like poetry and short stories, when they are not considered fashionable (goodness knows why!).

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Author Profiles – Sharon Kernot

Sharon Kernot worked as a community support worker in a child protection agency in the northern suburbs of Adelaide for eleven years. She has a masters in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide and a PhD from Flinders University. Underground Road is Sharon Kernot’s first novel. It was shortlisted in the Unpublished Manuscript category of the Adelaide Festival Awards in 2010. Sharon is also the author of a collection of short stories, In the Shadows of the Garden, and one of poetry, Washday Pockets. You can find her website at

We asked Sharon a few questions about Underground Road.

Sharon KernotWould you be able to identify a high point during the writing of Underground Road? And a low point?

When I was writing the Underground Road I had no idea how it was going to end because I’m not a plotter or planner and my writing practice is a bit chaotic so I don’t always write scenes (or chapters) in chronological order. I didn’t know if all the threads from each character would tie together. This wasn’t a low point as such but it did provide quite a bit of anxiety along the way. The high point came in the end when everything fit together neatly despite my concerns. I’ve just finished a draft of a new novel and while I was writing I had to keep reminding myself to keep writing because even though I had no idea where it was going, it’d all work out in the end.

Can you tell us about what you’re working on next?
As mentioned above, I’ve just finished the draft of another novel; it’s tentatively called Remembering Faith. The story revolves around Faith who has issues with her memory due to a serious accident when she was younger. Throughout the course of the novel she tries to uncover her past and discovers that her life was nothing like she thought. The story is set in two different time periods – the mid-2000s and the 1960s – the 1960s scenes are written from a child’s perspective. It’s really quite different from Underground Road but there’s still a lot of tension and suspense.

Who is your favourite Australian author?
I don’t have a favourite as such but I do love Tim Winton’s books and I’m currently reading his latest, Eyrie. I went to listen to him read at Elder Hall recently along with about 600 others. I love the fact that he’s so down to earth and unpretentious. Chris Tsiolkas’ new novel, Barracuda, is next in line. I enjoyed The Slap particularly for its multiple viewpoints and structure, so I thought I give this one a go too.
I admire Helen Garner’s writing for her brevity and precision, and her courage to write about difficult issues as in The Spare Room and Joe Cinque’s Consolation. I also love Sonya Hartnett’s novels – Sleeping Dogs, Of a Boy and Butterfly; the late Dorothy Porter’s verse novels particularly The Monkey’s Mask and What a Piece of Work, and Cate Kennedy’s short stories.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?
When I was in my early twenties I lived on the Greek island Hydra for a short time. I loved it and have always wanted to go back. It’s quite a famous island in the sense that a lot of writers, artists and musicians have lived there over the years – George Johnson, Charmian Clift, Sidney Nolan and Brett Whiteley to name a few. I think Leonard Cohen still has a house there. Ironically, at the time of staying, I had no idea who might have been living there. It clearly had a vibrant artistic community but what I loved most, apart from the stunning views, was the fact that there were no cars only donkeys, bicycles and boats for transport. I’d love to go back and live there for a while, perhaps a year … and if Leonard Cohen’s there – all the better!

What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?
I’ve just finished reading Margaret Merrilees The First Week which I really enjoyed. I could empathise with the main character, Marian, as she struggled to understand why her son has done something horrific. Mothers, I think, tend to blame themselves when things go wrong for their children, and Mag captured this beautifully. She also writes evocatively of the Western Australian landscape and how it has been ruined by farming. Jude Aquilina and Louise Nicholas’s poetry collection Woman Speak is an old favourite – it’s funny and rude and obviously quite different from The First Week but I love these two talented South Australian poets. I also have a copy of the Tadpoles anthology of poetry which was edited by Jude; it’s full of wonderful children’s poems by South Australian poets including the late Max Fatchen. I’d recommend it to teachers or anyone who has children or grandchildren

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Author Profiles – Rodney Fox

In the summer of 1963, Rodney Fox became famous when he survived a brutal shark attack off a suburban beach. Gathering his courage he returned to the sea, determined to make his living there. He fished for abalone and built the first shark cage. Hollywood came calling. Over five decades Rodney Fox has led hundreds of expeditions to introduce filmmakers, scientists, shark researchers and tourists to one of the world’s great adventures — each endeavour adding grand stories to an exciting life.

We asked Rodney a few questions about this extraordinary life, and his experiences with the great beasts of the deep.

Do you have a favourite memory from your years of interacting with sharks?
My favourite memory would be when I scratched the back of a 10m whale shark and watched it wobble and shake in pleasure.

Can you share any bizarre or little known facts about sharks?
When I witnessed two young adult dolphins harass a 4.5m great white shark whilst other dolphins in the family group ushered their baby dolphins away.

Who’s the most famous person your work has led you to meet?
I’ve spent a few hours in a shark cage with a Miss Universe and made films with Jean Michel Cousteau and also Fred Gwynn from The Addams Family.

If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?
I would be a tall, elegant and colourful giraffe.

Can you tell us about some of your favourite books, and why you like them so much?
Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey series, starting with Master and Commander, is a favourite of mine because of the books’ sense of adventure and camaraderie, as well as the way that O’Brian brings early history to life.

Rodney Fox

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Author Profiles – Derek Pedley

Derek Pedley is a journalist with more than 25 years’ experience at Australian newspapers. He is now engaged in the dark art of daily news production at the Advertiser and His work has been shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best True Crime twice, with Australian Outlaw – The True Story of Postcard Bandit Brenden Abbott shortlisted in 2007, and Dead by Friday shortlisted in 2013. Pedley lives in Adelaide’s far northern suburbs, on the wrong side of the Mullet-Proof Fence.

We asked Derek a few questions about his career as a crime writer, and the fascinating story behind his latest book, Dead by Friday.

Derek PedleyWhat was it that drew you to write about this particular crime?

Michelle Burgess and her thoroughly deranged behaviour and personality. She is a remorseless sexual predator and I wanted to find out what made her tick. There was also the fact that the hitman ate one of the murder contracts in a sandwich. For me, that really summed up the bizarre nature of this case.

As a journalist with more than 25 years of experience, can you tell us what the most interesting story you’ve worked on is?
The exploits of bank robber and fugitive Brenden Abbott were sufficiently fascinating – and elusive – to keep me occupied for ten years and two books.

What will you be looking at in your next book?
I have an idea for another book involving unsolved major crimes. But I’m taking an extended break because since 1998, I’ve been constantly planning, researching or writing a book. It’s time to recharge the batteries and I’m enjoying spending a lot more time with my family.

Which living person do you most admire?
That’s a dead heat between American writer David Simon and singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen

What are your favourite Wakefield Press titles, aside from your own, and why?
It’s hard to narrow it down. What I like most about the Wakefield catalogue is the amazing breadth of Australian stories, whether it’s landscapes, histories, people, or infrastructure. It is absolutely essential that readers support a publisher like Wakefield, because no one else in SA – and perhaps even Australia – gives a voice to Australian stories the way Wakefield does. Their motto is “We love good stories and publish beautiful books” and I think that’s exactly what readers want.

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