Archive for February, 2010

Adelaide Writers’ Week Day 1 Feb 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Today I attended the first day of the Adelaide Writers’ Week for this years’ Festival of Arts. This is an important and well attended part of the biennial Adelaide Festival of Arts. This time it’s the 50th Anniversary of the Festival and this week our premier announced that from 2012 it will become an annual event (a promise if he is elected again in a few weeks time!)

Adelaide Writers’ Week is regarded highly as the leading festival for writers in Australia, and one of the best in the world. A large group of international and Australian writers gather here every two years  for a feast of talking about books, writing and literature.

I’ve only ever had the chance to attend once before and I am the poorer for this. (Because sessions are held during the day I couldn’t attend while I was still classroom teaching a few years back – in another life.)

Today the festivities were opened by none other than Tom Keneally (Schindler’s Ark), a very engaging and entertaining speaker. I didn’t realise he had such a clever wit and sharp humour.

Below I’ve included some photos of the setting in the Pioneer Women’s Memorial Gardens, a five minute walk from the heart of Adelaide.

I am planning to attend again tomorrow and later in the week. I’ll bring more reports as we go.

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

How does this happen? Confessions of a book lover.

The biennial Adelaide Festival of Arts starts today. This feast of cultural events is now a well established event in South Australia, celebrating 50 years of festivals  this year.  It has maintained a world class standard for festivals since its inception. This week there have been political promises to make it an annual event – we have a state election here in 3 weeks’ time.

Writers’ Week

A very prominent and popular part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts is Writers’ Week, starting tomorrow. Several dozen leading Australian and International writers descend on Adelaide for this festival. Several large marquees are set up in the beautiful parklands and the writers are given centre stage for a whole week. Most sessions are free events for the reading and writing public, a rare thing these days. Book launches are also a prominent feature of the week, along with the announcement of a raft of awards.

Programme Guide

I plan to attend a number of sessions next week so during the week I wandered into a leading bookshop in Adelaide to buy the programme guide. The price was $7 and I thought that wouldn’t break the bank or drain the wallet too much.

How come then I come out of the bookshop with six books in a bag?

Those wonderful novels – some in hardback – were sitting there on the bargain tables quietly whispering my name and begging to be taken to a good home. I couldn’t resist.

As part of this confession, and to atone for my misdeeds, I’ll read those books over coming weeks and then review them here on this blog. It’s the least I can do.

Good reading.

Good writing.

To read more about my impressions of the Adelaide Writers’ Week click here.

Review: Better than the Witch Doctor

Mary Cundy is an amazing woman. I have never met her, but after reading her book I feel as if I know her very well. I read this book as background research for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing thesis novel and exegesis essay. Although it did not have a direct bearing on my novel it was fascinating reading and it gave me a good feel for the setting of my novel. In fact, she lived for a time right where my novel is set.

In 1957 Mary Cundy, a young social worker in England, obeyed the call of God on her life and travelled to the mountainous country of Nepal. At this time very few outsiders had ever visited the country, let alone work there as a Christian missionary. For the next 33 years she served in remote parts of the country bringing medical help to the local people, even though she had no training in the field.

Scene from our lodge in Monjo, Nepal

Scene from our lodge in Monjo, Nepal

She lived with the people in their villages in very poor and demanding conditions. She quickly started a dispensary, helping over 100 very ill people daily. She graphically describes the daily lives of the village people and the struggles she had coping with their medical needs, physical needs as well as making small inroads into their spiritual needs. As a Christian missionary, however, her work was frequently hampered by officialdom (it was forbidden at the time to proselytise), suspicion (the local witch doctors were very powerful) and mistrust (she was often the first non-Nepali person locals had seen).

This is a very encouraging book. Not only is it a good read, I found it amazing how God can take ordinary people like Mary, put them in impossible situations, and produce extraordinary lives.

As far as I can determine, this book is sadly no longer in print.


  • Cundy, M 1994, Better than the witch doctor, Monarch Publications, Crowborough, East Sussex.

Further reading:

  • My travels in Nepallinks to my travel blog, includes many photos taken in Nepal.
  • Writing a novela series of articles about how I went about writing my novel for children set in Nepal.
Ama Dablam, Nepal

Ama Dablam, Nepal

How to write a pantoum poem

Yesterday I wrote about how I write poetry.

It’s a simple formula and one that usually works for me. My only regret is that I far too often either don’t have the time to devote to poetry – or I don’t make the time. As a prize winning poet I know I should be writing more.

The regular monthly poetry writers’ group I attend is one thing that keeps me writing poetry on a regular basis. Each month we set a writing challenge for the following meeting. Some of the challenges last year were really inspiring, and hearing everyone’s take on the one challenge is very interesting. The critiquing of each poem is also valuable. There are many benefits to belonging to a writers’ group.

In this coming month we were set the task of writing a pantoum on the theme of obsession. Now, I’ve never written a pantoum and have resisted doing so until now. I thought it was too hard, too complex. I was wrong. A few days ago I managed to write a pantoum called Obsessed by Sonnets. That’s right – I wrote a pantoum about writing sonnets! Go figure.

What is a pantoum?

Good question.

It is a poem of Malay origins and has undergone a few  adaptations on its way into English poetry circles via the French. Essentially it consists of the following:

  1. A set of four lined stanzas (quatrains) – anything from three stanzas and up.
  2. It has a simple abab rhyming pattern throughout.
  3. It is often metred but I believe that this is not a strict rule. However, metred poems always sound wonderful when read aloud.
  4. Lines are repeated in a strict pattern.
  5. Lines 2 and 4 of the each stanza become 1st and 3rd lines of the next stanza. This is repeated throughout the poem until the last stanza.
  6. In the last stanza, the so far unrepeated 1st and 3rd lines of the first stanza become the 2nd and 4th lines – but in reverse order. This means the poem comes full circle and the last line is a repeat of the first line of the poem.  This gives the whole work a very satisfying feel to it.

I’ll now be very brave and publish here a pantoum I wrote this afternoon. Note that a few words here and there have been changed to make grammatical or narrative sense.

What is a pantoum?

A pantoum is challenging to write,
It’s a poem of elegance and grace.
With stanzas of four lines – that’s right –
And a rhyming pattern to face.

It’s a poem of elegance and grace,
With quatrains for stanzas I’m sure,
And a rhyming pattern to face,
Not to mention a message that’s pure.

With quatrains for stanzas I’m sure,
And a metre so regular too,
I won’t mention my message so pure,
For I’m planning to entertain you.

It’s my metre that’s regular too,
With stanzas of four lines – that’s right –
For I’m planning to entertain you
With a pantoum that’s challenging to write.

All rights reserved.
Copyright 2010 Trevor Hampel.

How I write poetry

Writing poetry has been a love of mine from my very early years. I was barely a teenager before I started writing poetry seriously. Back then it was a haphazard affair with no real plan or purpose. Most were scribbled furiously on to any convenient scarp of paper and stored ungraciously in boxes or drawers.

In my 20s I started to be a little more methodical and I started using a manual typewriter to make neat, readable copies of them. These were stored in folders. Fortunately I usually date each poem, so it was relatively easy to store them all in chronological order of composition.

Four decades later it is a different  matter. I am far more deliberate in my approach to writing poetry. Several of the units of course work for my Master of Arts in Creative Writing have involved writing poetry. Being an active member of the university’s writers’ groups has also given a boost to my poetry. Some of the assignments have been very challenging. Before starting the course I had never attempted to write a sonnet, for example. Now I’ve written prize winning sonnets and love the form. In the last few years I also started getting some publishing success with my poetry. It’s early days in my career as a poet, but the signs are encouraging.

How I write a poem

  1. Most of the time I use a pencil. There is something wonderfully tactile about using a pencil on paper. It certainly helps the creative process when writing a poem. By way of contrast I always write prose on the computer keyboard. I can’t ever remember writing a poem on the keyboard.
  2. I usually write the first draft of a new poem in my writing notebook first. This is a spiral bound A5 size notebook with hard covers.
  3. I decide on the topic (unless it has been decided by the writers’ group) and play around with the idea, jotting down a few words, phrases and ideas.
  4. I think about what form the poem should take to be most effective: sonnet, blank verse, haiku and so on. The form often determines the rhyming scheme (if any) and metre that best suits the topic.
  5. I always try to have a strong opening line and will experiment until I can settle on one. The whole poem often grows from that good first line. It sets the tone.
  6. During the writing I will have many false starts, words, phrases and even whole stanzas that never make the final work. My notebook can end up quite a mess, with many sections crossed out, arrows leading everywhere as I rearrange the work.
  7. Reading the poem out aloud is an important part of my method; it has to sound right, and the metre has to work.
  8. After much editing, rewriting and correcting, I finally turn to the computer and compose it on screen. I will try several different formatting ideas before settling on something that looks pleasing to the eye and is easy to read.
  9. I will reread the poem aloud many more times, making minor corrections on screen as needed.
  10. I print out a copy and file it away in a poetry folder. It may be many months before I come back to that poem, do a few more minor alterations and submit it to a publisher.

Good writing.