Archive for October, 2012

Vale Max Fatchen, author extraordinaire

Max Fatchen

It was a sad day yesterday as South Australia farewelled one of our beloved writers, Max Fatchen. The popular author died at the age of 92 after a career which started in 1946. He was a renowned journalist, columnist, humorist, novelist and quirky poet.

His children’s books alone places him at the highest level of children’s literature in Australia, but he was far more than that.

His regular poems and columns written for our state daily newspaper The Advertiser will remain in the memories of many for years to come.

Wonderful words and beautiful photographs

Rose flower in my son’s garden

From time to time I’ve shared some of my photographs here on this site, often illustrating one of my poems.

Today I hope that your attention is grabbed by these lovely flowers photographed in my son’s garden in Sydney.

I don’t want to feature one of my poems; instead, I would like to draw your attention to a beautiful poetry site called Conversations with Nature.

One section features wonderful poetry illustrated by beautiful photographs. Click here to enjoy.

Rose flower in my son’s garden

The gentle art of letter writing

I am currently reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society written by Mary Ann Shaffer. I borrowed it from my daughter more than a year ago and have just managed to squeeze it into my very demanding reading schedule. Actually, I have been wanting to read it for some time. It took a little while for me to warm to the format – a series of letters written from the various characters to other characters in the story – but once into it about 30 or 40 pages it really grabbed me. The letters range from a sentence or two through to many pages, recounting the lives and experiences of the eclectic gathering of characters who experienced the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2 as well as a few in London during the same time. It’s an absorbing insight into the lives of ordinary folk in extraordinary circumstances.

The letters have set me to thinking. In these post-modern times we  appear to have lost the gentle art of letter writing. In an age where many people are writing more than ever before Рemails, Tweets, blogs, Facebook status updates Рwe rarely take the time to actually take pen to paper and physically write a letter. Even the birthday cards are quickly scrawled messages and our Christmas cards have a quick message plus often a chest-beating, look-at-my-family typed and printed in gaudy colours newsletter.

This is a great pity.

There is something wonderful about receiving a hand written letter from a friend or family member, especially those living in remote places from our normal circle of activity. The effort taken to actually take the time to hand write a letter is considerable in these instant times. And then to Snail Mail it? Well, that could take days to arrive Рor more. How many homes actually have a supply of postage stamps any more? Or writing  paper and envelopes for that matter. I also despair at the trend in our schools to no longer teach physical handwriting skills. I foresee a generation developing who cannot put pen to paper, let alone actually write a letter. Our language will suffer and drown under an ocean of SMS messages and Tweets and degenerate into a series of communicative grunts.

I think I’ll go and write a letter to my brother – but first – I’ll just Tweet about it.

Become a professional liar

‘I’m not interested in anything that doesn’t involve lies. If I want the truth, well, I can Google it, can’t I?’

Robert Dessaix at Adelaide Writers Week 2012 March 5th

Fiction writers are, if you think deeply about it, professional liars. Fiction, by definition, is made up out of the imagination of the writer. I know what Dessaix (a prominent Australian writer) is trying to say, albeit somewhat tongue in cheek. The audience’s amused reaction was predictable. He is generally a very entertaining speaker, panellist and a very talented writer.

The interesting thing I find about thinking and talking about fiction is that, although all fiction is imaginary, made up, not true, there is another element at work in sometimes very subtle ways. One could call most fiction a lie, good literature will illuminate truths about the human condition.

And what is truth anyway?

Writing children’s books

I am currently visiting my grandchildren who live interstate. It’s a joy I have only a few times every year, but so interesting to see their development and to play with them a whole range of games. Their ages are 4 and 1, so they are still developing in many ways, especially in their imaginations.

One of the special delights is cuddling up for story time. Both parents are book lovers, so their home has many books. Family and friends have also made sure the two little ones have plenty of books in their lives. And to add to the wonderful books in the home, a new branch library has just recently opened up in an old church building five minutes’ walk up the road.

In reading books daily to the grandchildren – and sometimes several times a day – once again has impressed upon me the importance of reading in the life of a child. So much language development occurs in this pre-school period. So many books are rich in wonderful language. But more than that, there is so much cultural heritage which can be absorbed by the young, developing mind. There are also the many environmental concepts which can also be introduced through non fiction. Last night my grandson and I spent nearly an hour pouring over a book about farming; he lives in Australia”s largest city so this is an excellent way of talking about my heritage; I grew up on a farm.

The case for reading to and with children is so important and soundly supported by the research. What is less emphasised, I feel, is the importance of reading children’s books if one desires to be writing children’s books. Just like in the importance of books in the life of a developing child, so is the reading of children’s books vital in the development of the aspiring children’s authors. You cannot read too many, and there are so many wonderful children’s books out there now you will certainly be entertained for many years to come.

Good reading.

Good writing.