Category Archives: Anzacs

From Book to Play – Black Swan Theatre’s adaptation of ‘Lighthouse Girl’ and ‘Light Horse Boy’

I started this blog post a month ago – it’s been busy – and although late, I wanted to share my response to the wonderful Black Swan Theatre adaptation before my next post about Nanna’s Button Tin

On Saturday night (29/4/17) I sat in the darkness of the Albany Entertainment Centre and watched Hellie Turner’s wonderful adaptation of my books Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy. I laughed and cried and experienced a lovely shiver each time I heard my own words woven into those of Hellie’s.

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Hellie Turner is an award-winning WA playwright. It was an honour to entrust my stories to her creativity. Hellie says that writing a first draft was ‘a gruelling joy’. Gruelling in that she needed to be immersed into ‘the carnage of war’ and a joy because she was ‘reminded of the remarkable resilience of the human spirit.’  Hellie’s words resonated for me, as writing the books was also like that.

The Perth opening was as exciting as the Albany Premiere, albeit a little more formal, with Her Excellency The Governor and other dignitaries attending. Our seats were closer to the stage and offered an intimate viewpoint as events on stage unfolded.

This is the first time that I’ve watched the same play three times and so it was interesting to experience different audience reactions. Each night there was almost visceral connection between those on stage and those watching. And that connection varied. People laughed and cried at slightly different places. The shared breathing in and out held small differences which was fascinating. As an author you don’t get to witness that intimate connection with a reader.

I loved so many things about the stage adaptation of Lighthouse Girl/Boy; the actors each gave excellent performances, capturing small character nuances helped by effective and lovely costuming (Fay’s large overcoat was perfect) and Lawrie Cullen-Tait’s set was masterful. Her clever design enabled the audience to imagine the one space as a lighthouse-keeper’s cottage, an island outcrop and a pyramid (as well as other things). The design was influenced by Albany’s rocky landscape, the diamond leadlight shapes of the Breaksea Lighthouse while suggestive railings paid ‘homage to the countless dead’. Joe Lui’s evocative lighting added to the mood throughout the play and Brett Smith’s sound/music design was beautiful, particularly the final haunting rendition of The Girl I Left Behind.

Congratulations to Stuart Halusz for directing the talents of these creatives, and others not mentioned specifically, to make this production so special. Stuart was inspired by memorials in small towns across Australia and in particular an artefact found in a small museum in Beechworth near my home-town Albury.

Thank you to BST Publicist Irene Jarzabek for making both Opening Nights so special, my agent Clive Newman and to all at Black Swan Theatre and Fremantle Press who helped bring Lighthouse Girl to the stage. Finally, my heartfelt thanks to Garry Snowden, General Manager of the Albany Entertainment Centre, whose enthusiasm and ongoing belief (over many years) has brought this project to fruition.

Breaksea Island -photos & aerial maps

Yesterday I was fortunate to return to Breaksea Island, long ago home of ‘lighthouse girl’ Fay Catherine Howe. The weather was perfect. After circling the island, Rainer our pilot landed on the helicopter pad just below the lighthouse.

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We circled the ruins of the original lighthouse then walked down the hill to visit the old cottages. Each time I visit I have a strong sense of Fay in the furthest keeper’s cottage, particularly in one of the front rooms.

Just before this visit there’d been robust discussion, accompanied by some impressive forensic laptop studies of several old photos at the Albany History Collection. We were looking at a photograph of a young woman outside this furthest cottage. I’d always hoped it was Fay, but had been told it was an earlier keeper’s wife, however… it now seems it may actually be Fay. More on that in a later post. The young woman is standing by the cottage steps (below), with two donkeys, dogs and goats.

A highlight of the trip was hiking down the old zigzag donkey track to the jetty. I hadn’t been to the jetty since the original research trip over ten years ago, long before there was the helicopter option. There have been a few changes; with a safety cage around the swinging boat access ladder, but otherwise it all looked similar.

 It was great to see Elephant Rock again as that appears in the story.

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Our allocated island time whizzed past and soon it was time to climb back into the chopper for the short trip back to the mainland. I’m already looking forward to next time.

 

 

 

 

Ring in the new…

Happy New Year !

After five years working on PhD research; my two novels (The Shark Caller, The Dog with Seven Names) and the accompanying exegesis, “Crafting Animals Characters in Fiction for Young Readers”, it’s a wonderful (and somewhat fizzy) feeling to be able to at last be free to give attention to other projects which have been circling in a holding pattern. The first being Light from a Broken Lantern (working title).

Between final drafts of the exegesis I’ve been researching this manuscript; the third (and final?) book in the Lighthouse/Horse Boy series. The story steps back to explore the early WW1 years from the perspective of English nurse, Rose before she meets Jim (Light Horse Boy). This early stage of shaping an historical story is exciting in that research reveals all sorts of potential leads, some of which will be followed and woven into the plotline while others slip quietly back into history. I’ve been keeping a scrapbook journal of progress and notes, so that I can revisit some of the quieter snippets in later drafts.buttons-proofs

In early June, another long-term project, Nanna’s Button Tin will be released by Walker Books Australia (and Candlewick for the U.S. market). Heather Potter’s beautiful illustrations hold lovely details which add multiple layers to the story. I can’t wait to share more details in a following post.

2017 also brings exciting events linking to Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy, as well as festival and school bookings. Here are some details for those:

  • Feb: Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy will be included in an exhibition of Australian and New Zealand Children’s picture books called Anzac Stories Behind the Pages – held in Brisbane libraries.
  • March: I’ll be filling in for Warren Flynn while he takes leave from his position as English tutor at the Albany UWA campus. I’m looking forward to working with first year students on texts including Shaun Tan’s The Arrival and Art Spiegelman’s Maus.
  • Also in March: Between the Lines Writer’s Festival is on again in Busselton. I’ll be talking about The Shark Caller as well as sharing ideas for creating animal characters.
    • April 21 and 22 : Time to frock up for Black Swan Theatre’s premiere of Lighthouse Girl in Albany. Playwright, Hellie Turner’s terrific adaptation also links to Light Horse Boy.black-swan
  • April – May:  Black Swan Theatre’s season of Lighthouse Girl continues in Perth.
  • June : Nanna’s Button Tin will be released by Walker Books Australia (and Candlewick).
  • August: For the first time in many years, Children’s Bookweek will be spent in Albany and the Great Southern, coinciding with the Albany exhibition of Anzac Stories Behind the Pages. As well as Albany and Denmark sessions, I’ll be travelling to smaller communities and schools across the Great Southern.
  • Repeat bookings are always lovely and in 2017 I’ll be revisiting some favourite schools and places including; St Marks, The Literature Centre, Woodthorpe and Margaret River Library. More about dates and details in following posts.

Until then, thank you for your interest in my books and this blog. I enjoy receiving feedback, so please feel free to send me a message. In 2017, I hope to post more regularly, let’s see how I go …

 

Save the Date

Just a very quick post to share the excitement.

Black Swan Theatre’s production of ‘Lighthouse Girl’ will open in Albany in April for three shows before a two-week season in Perth. Hellie Turner’s play captures the essence of both Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy and I can’t wait to see Fay’s story come to life on stage. Fay will be played by Daisy Coyle.

More details appeared in Saturday’s West Australian – between Green Day and Jerry Seinfield 😉 and can also be found on Black Swan Theatre’s website. Hope to see you at one of the shows…

Breaksea House @ GSG

This morning I went to Great Southern Grammar’s Start of Year Assembly to donate copies of my historical novels, Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy. The occasion?

black and white photograph of the real Fay Howe

The real Fay, image courtesy of Don Watson

GSG’s new boarding house has been named Breaksea House to honour Fay Catherine Howe, the ‘lighthouse girl’ who signalled to the departing Anzac nurses, troops and horses in 1914.

I was honoured to present signed copies of my books to boarding house student leaders; Emma Taylor and James Gonzales.

LHG cover  LHB cover

GSG has also purchased original artwork by illustrator, Brian Simmonds. The image appears on page 94 of Lighthouse Girl and shows Fay searching the Albany Advertiser for news about the troops in the Middle East. This lovely charcoal illustration will now grace the walls of the new boarding facility. I hope to see it when I visit for an informal book chat.

The full school assembly was a terrific occasion, welcoming the 2016 student leaders who then offered a badge to each Year One student, celebrating their new beginnings.

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Fay’s story continues to touch a chord with readers, particularly those living in WA. I often wonder how Fay would feel to know that so many people remember her…

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Bonnie Doon

bbbWriting is a strange alchemy. Today I was reminded again, that what ends up in the final draft of a book is a mere shadow of so much more.

I’m currently on holiday with my husband in what we in WA call ‘the eastern states’. As someone who grew up on this side of Australia, that term always makes me smile – I feel like I have a foot in both sides of our vast country.

This afternoon Pete and I drove the long way from Melbourne to Albury via the mountains, where many of my relations hail from. In particular, I wanted to visit Bonnie Doon…

When I was writing Light Horse Boy, I needed a town for my fictitious LH Boy to come from. My mother claims that we are linked by marriage to Steve Hart, from the Kelly gang, and many of my relies were stunt men in the movie, The man from Snowy River. Men of the high country are fabulous horse riders and I’m sure that these connections influenced my decision to make fictitious ‘Jim’ and ‘Charlie’ hail from the high country.

Whilst writing Light Horse Boy, I scanned Googlemaps of the places of my ancestors; particularly Mansfield and Bonnie Doon. So, today when we were driving from Melbourne, I wanted to detour via Bonnie Doon to see whether it was as I had imagined and to take some photos. The weather wasn’t great but I took some photos of the lovely WW1 memorial.

When we arrived at Albury, I found Mum’s copy of the book and sat down to reread the Bonnie Doon part.

To my surprise, Bonnie Doon wasn’t there!

Of all my books, the editing of Light Horse Boy was the most extreme. Two thirds of the first draft was chopped because of an overarching plot shift. The final version is better for this, however it was interesting that in my mind, Bonnie Doon, the town that Jim and Charlie galloped away from, the town that was so important in an earlier draft is actually no longer in the story. Instead we jump straight to Mansfield…

dddddIt was also interesting for me to remember that there are so many hidden layers to a story. Shadows of things that have been culled but that somehow still leave a sense of place and memory – at least they do for me as the author. Perhaps those shadows enrich the story, it’s hard to know, but I’m glad we made the detour…

Books for Royal Babies

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Albany received royal visitors on the weekend. My husband, Peter Watson MLA and I were honoured to join The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall at the Albany Heritage Park on a very warm spring day. Pete shook the royal hands and was in good company with veterans, Murray Maxton and Harold Martin, as well as his ex-ABC colleague, Freeman of the City Annette Knight. I also spotted an excited ‘Granny Grommet’ who’d arrived early to meet the Prince. And there was more ‘Granny Grommet excitement to follow…

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Albany Children’s Librarian, Dora Adeline was invited to travel to Perth to meet The Duchess of Cornwall with the WA Family Literacy Better Beginnings Team at The State Library. This celebration of early literacy was a perfect opportunity for Dora to present HRH with books by local authors. I was honoured that Dora took a copy of Granny Grommet and Me as well as Gabriel Evans’ new Christmas title The Mice and the Shoemaker.

It was fun inscribing a book to ‘the royal babies and their family’ and I hope Prince George and Princess Charlotte enjoy reading about grannies surfing on the south coast of Western Australia. It may even inspire Their Royal Highnesses to grab a boogie board and head down to Brighton…

Before I heard that Dora would be presenting Granny Grommet and Me, I had already arranged to add copies of Lighthouse Girl and Light Horse Boy to the selection of Albany gifts that would accompany Their Royal Highnesses home. The Royals seemed to enjoy walking through the avenue of first AIF ship names and the view of King George Sound and Breaksea Island was beautiful on Saturday, so perhaps the story of a young girl waving to the departing soldiers, nurses and horses in 1914 will be a fitting memory of their day in Western Australia.

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Thank you to Hamish and Lockie Cameron from Paperbark Merchants for donating a book and to Dora Adeline and The State Library for supporting WA authors.