How to Get Inspired - Ideas from Stacey Demarco

During my recent Inspirational Conversation with modern witch Stacey Demarco at Ultimo Library, we discussed some of the things that have inspired her along her journey to becoming a successful author, television personality and catalyst for change in the world.


Stacey Demarco inspires the audience at Ultimo Library



Here are some of the things Stacey recommends for getting inspired and staying inspired:



The Spiral Dance by Starhawk - This is one of the most celebrated and influential books in the renaissance of modern paganism, and Stacey said that she discovered it by chance at an airport bookshop. Almost as soon as she started reading it she began to realise that Starhawk was explaining exactly her own world view. Once she had finshed this book, Stacey knew she was a pagan and her whole world opened up.


The amazing world of Bladerunner


Bladerunner - This was the movie that really opened her mind. Stacey said it was the visual world created on film that really captured her imagination and made her realise the immense creative possibilities that exist in the world.

Re-reading the classics - Stacey says she has been going back to the classics and finding the world of great literature incredibly inspiring. She singled out Anna Karenina for special praise.




Getting outdoors and back into nature - Incredibly fit and glowing with good health, Stacey wants us all to re-connect with nature in a really fundamental way. She said we need to escape the boxes of modern living as much as possible, and to re-embrace the more organic curves of nature.S he is working on a new project called Natureluster, for serious lovers of nature.




In Defence of Dogs by John Bradshaw - As a passionate advocate of animal rights, Stacey would like to see the relationship between humans and animals balanced out a little. In this fascinating book, she says Bradshaw makes a very clear case for the complex psychological lives of dogs, and that by reading it we will be made a little more aware of why we should treat all animals with kindness and respect.


Stacey Demarco, modern witch, author and media personality, has written many books, including The Coffee Oracle and the absolutely exquisite Goddesses and Sirens Oracle cards. You can read more about Stacey here.
Many of Stacey's books are from Rockpool Publishing, one of Australia's premier independent publishers specialising in transformational literature. You can read more about them, and see the books they publish, here

Crowdfund It! An interview with Anna Maguire

One of the ideas that really seems to have found its time is that of crowdfunding. If you haven't come across it, crowdfunding is a relatively new way of funding projects through appealing to large numbers of people through the internet. Several websites have emerged that facilittate this process, and it has quickly become a useful resource, particularly for creative types. 
Anna Maguire, whose background is in the mainstream publishing industry in Australia and who has become an expert on epublishing, found herself interested in this phenomenon and she has produced a brand new book on the subject called Crowdfund It! It is the first book directed specifically at Australian startups.
You can find out more about Crowdfund It! and purchase a copy here





And find out more about Anna and how crowdfunding has inspired her in the interview below:


Anna Maguire, author of Crowdfund It!



Anna Maguire Q & A

1.    Anna, who do you think can benefit most from your new book Crowdfund It?

When researching the book I was initially focussed on writers so Crowdfund it! would definitely be of benefit to them. However along the way I became inspired about different crowdfunding platforms and project creators who wanted to change the world, launch an entrepreneurial project, raise money for an art exhibition or record their album. So I would say that Crowdfund it! is aimed at those who want to investigate this growing phenomenon, read case studies of successful project creators and find out how to maximise their chances to successfully crowdfund.

2.    What, briefly, is crowdfunding?

To me, a simple way of explaining crowdfunding is to say it is helping make dreams into reality. The dream may be publishing your own book, a new indie album, funding publishing programs, a smart entrepreneurial idea, an iPad app or an album for the latest indie musician. Crowdfunding is able to be used for creative, charitable or entrepreneurial ideas.
Sometimes called peer-funding, it is when a group of people each pledge support to a project in exchange for a reward. Conducted through a crowdfunding platform where the creator outlines what they need the money to achieve, various forms of social media help you share it with friends and family, and your wider network. A lot of platforms operate on an ‘all or nothing’ model meaning if you don’t reach your funding target then you don’t receive any money and nor are there any fees.
Each crowdfunding project is also a story. The way the project creator tells the story behind why they want funding. Stories of hopes and dreams and being brave enough to publicly say what they want. There are stories of success and stories of missing out on reaching their aim. There are also stories behind projects launched, often with great care, that receive no funding or a single pledge. Were they too shy to promote the project? Did they think someone would discover them without any work? These are the ones that tug my heart.

3.    Any examples of crowdfunded projects that have been really successful?

One that really captured imagination and press worldwide was US Kickstarter project - Pebble: The e-paper watch for iPhone and Android Watch. Setting out to raise $100,000, they funded at over US$10M.
In Australia the record has been set by live video action Zombie game Patient 0 by IRL Shooter on Pozible. With over A$243,000 raised last year they also funded another $100,000 on the Pozible shop.
There are many inspiring people you find that have crowdfunded, and one I’ve looked at recently is author and illustrator Melanie Lee. Her book A Girl in the World was successful in achieving just over A$5,000 on Pozible. Produced in an eco-friendly manner, the books aim to encourage communication, connection and understanding environmental issues. A percentage of each sale also goes to Orphfund to help orphaned and vulnerable children worldwide.
I’m excited to hear that the project team will be running another project on social change crowdfunding platform StartSomeGood to raise funds for an iPad app. 

4.    What books have inspired you most on your creative journey? More specifically, what has caused you to focus in epublishing and crowdfunding?

I have spent most of my career as a producer, rather than a creator. Producing books, producing website – dealing with the creative output of others. Until I started blogging many years ago, and more recently wrote Crowdfund it! I saw myself only as someone who worked with the creative output of others. That is slowly changing. I read mainly fiction and have spent most of last year reading books by Australian Women Writers. Also reading by recommendation, it’s meant that I’ve discovered some of the amazing writers in our country and blogged about many of them. Thanks to recommendations, I’ve made new discoveries like Claire Corbett, Margo Lanagan and Cath Crowley. My life is all the better for expanding my knowledge (and admiration) of some of our wonderful women writers. As someone who focusses on non-fiction I have the utmost respect and admiration for anyone who can create wonderful stories.

With a long career in book publishing and digitising content it’s exciting to watch digital publishing developments internationally and in our region. Speaking to publishing students allows me to share my knowledge. I enjoy educating writers on the available avenues for self-publishing in a professional manner. It’s a pleasure to work when you feel very passionate about a subject!

I began researching crowdfunding because I wanted to give writers information on how to fund their books. Investing in a cover, editing and layout and so forth can really add up and crowdfunding offers the potential to cover some of your costs. It’s important to understand that crowdfunding takes a lot of preparation and time once the project has started. Only 50 per cent of launched projects actually succeed, often due to a lack of planning and promotion.

5.    What piece of advice would you give someone who wants to take the leap and explore their own creativity?

Take the leap. Don’t let fear hold you back. Fear of what others will think of your writing. Fear that you’re not good enough. Find the time if there is something you feel driven to write. I do understand the problem with time – with two young children it’s difficult for me to have the quiet needed to write or blog. The dark circles under my eyes are testimony to the fact that late nights are the only way I find time to work! But I AM driven to write and it’s one of my greatest pleasures – apart from the pleasure that comes when totally immersed in a world created by the words of others.

Short bio

Anna Maguire has worked in publishing and digital content for 25 years. Anna teaches authors about their digital publishing and crowdfunding options and trains publishing students. In October 2012 Anna published Crowdfund it! - her first ebook with digital-first publisher Editia. Buy Crowdfund it! to read the comprehensive Tips for Crowdfunding Success chapter as well as case studies from a variety of people who have successfully used crowdfunding both in Australia and internationally. Anna consults on crowdfunding projects and has a particular interest in helping writers to crowdfund. Anna blogs about digital publishing at www.digireado.com.au and crowdfunding at www.crowdfundit.com.au. She is also found on Twitter as @digireado and @crowdfunditnow.

Vivian Chan Shaw: 40 Years - A Retrospective

I was thrilled to discover that one of Australia's most iconic fashion houses, Vivian Chan Shaw, is about to launch a retrospective exhibition celebrating 40 years in the industry. I'm going to be there on opening night, and quite possibly making several visits afterwards, because I can never get enough of the imagery and style of the glamorous eras represented by the Vivian Chan Shaw label.


70s Piece from the Vivian Chan Shaw Collection


Many of you will know the work of Claudia Chan Shaw, Vivian's daughter, who is quite possibly Australia's most stylish woman and came to national attention when she became a presenter on ABC TV's The Collectors. Claudia has recently published a book called Collectomania, a wonderful exploration of the obsessive qualities of collectors and the essence of what makes a true collection.




But Claudia's style pedigree goes back much further. Her mother, Vivian Chan Shaw, was herself an essential part of the Australian fashion industry from the 1970s, and her glamorous boutique beneath the Sydney Hilton, selling her own designs, attracted the in-crowd both domestically and internationally. Her designs graced the frames of legendary names like Margaux Hemingway, Bo Derek and Australia's own Kate Fitzpatrick.

Margaux Hemingway working Vivian Chan Shaw fashion realness in the 70s


Vivian branched out into knits, and created a legendary knitted wedding dress that is in the Powerhouse Museum's collection, along with a unique collection of knitted wire jewellery.

Kate Fitzpatrick in Vivian Chan Shaw, 1977


Claudia went on to become her mother's business partner and co-designer, and together they have built and maintained one of Australia's oldest operating fashion lines.

Retro piece from the Vivian Chan Shaw collection


This is going to be an amazing multi-media exhibition including the most wonderful ephemera from a lifetime's devotion to looking truly fabulous.



It's only on for a short while, so get to see it immediately.

Details:

Vivian Chan Shaw 40 Years - A Retrospective

An exhibition exploring the work of celebrated Australian  fashion label Vivian Chan Shaw, from 1972 – today.

Whitehouse Institute of Design, Australia
 2 Short Street, Surry Hills
                                                          Exhibition runs from 6 - 13 February

Paying Attention to Miracles with Sharon Snir

I am so proud to offer this inspiring guest post from Sharon Snir, psychotherapist, healer and author who has recently published The Little Book of Everyday Miracles. You can read my review of it here

Sharon Snir



You can hear a fascinating live interview with Sharon on SBS radio here
More info on Sharon and her work at the end of this wonderful guest post.


Have you noticed how quickly the days come and go? How often we shake our head when we realise it is already Thursday? How August seems to creep up behind and leave us wondering where in the world April, May and June went?

When life becomes too busy, few of us stop long enough to take a deep breath, let alone pay attention to the little moments of magic that happen around us every day. And yet, most of us have at one time or another experienced these moments that I call everyday miracles.

For example, have you ever wanted to telephone a friend and just as you reach for the phone she calls you? It happens to me all the time. My friend Chardi has a parking angel: as soon as she begins to look for a parking space, a car miraculously pulls out and leaves the space for her. Walking along a quiet back street in Tokyo I once met an old friend whose name had somehow come up on my phone just that morning. Some people would call these miracles. Some people shrug them off as coincidences.

I recently read a wonderful story about a man sitting in the park watching his children play. He had just completed six months of chemotherapy and was feeling peaceful and grateful to be alive on this beautiful day. He looked up at the clouds. A small patch of fluffy clouds moved away from the rest, forming three separate letters. The first was J, the second looked like an O, and the third was a Y. Joy.

He believed this was a miracle to remind him that joy is there just for the looking.

Everyday miracles reveal themselves when we choose to pay attention. The more present we are, the more frequently these moments occur. Life, regardless of our circumstances, is enriched a thousand times over when we stop and pay attention to what is happening right now.

Hearing bad news everyday has become par for the course. Our television, radio, newspaper and internet siphon stories of natural and man-made disasters, earth quakes, war and famine into our living rooms, our cars our mobile phones every day.

Bad news is the media’s ‘good news’. Why is good news so rarely shared? Is it perhaps too boring, too mediocre, or too banal? Why does bad news attract more listeners, more viewers and more readers? Or does it?

Although I believe we do need to know what is going on in the world we also need to realize that is not all that happens. Beautiful, magical, gracious acts of kindness weave in and out of life too. Prayers are being answered, forgiveness is being offered and gratitude is being given every minute of every day by millions of people. Their stories life our spirits and bring us hope that all is not lost, indeed far from it.

Television programs like ‘The Voice’ and ‘Master Chef’ have drawn a huge number of viewers and I suspect it is because people love to see people learning, growing, doing well and achieving their dreams. When we see someone’s dream come true we feel more positive, more hopeful and more optimistic about the possibility of our dreams coming true too.

And when we hear about someone experiencing a miracle, it not only leaves us more hopeful but it opens our heart and our mind to the idea that maybe, just maybe, the impossible is possible.

When we’re open, we allow ourselves the opportunity to experience more everyday miracles, because, as the powerful universal law states, ‘That which is like unto itself is drawn’.  Basically, we attract what we think about. If we focus on the good things in our life we draw more good things into our life. We have the power to attract both the good and the bad as a result of what we think and feel and call to us. Whether these intentions are conscious or not, when we change our thoughts, we change what we attract into our life.



Author Sharon Snir


 

So how do we change our thoughts? Here is a little story about an experience that happened to me recently, which changed my outlook.

My husband and I have been married 31 years and like most marriages we have had our difficult times. When he retired four years ago I have to admit it became a bit challenging to have him home every day. I missed not having the house to myself in the way I used to. I missed going downstairs in the late afternoon and turning on the radio full volume while I made dinner. Having him home meant he was right there in the kitchen with me, offering his help to be sure, but the ritual of cooking with the radio blaring had suddenly ended. Life had changed and to be honest, I wasn’t ready.

Then my cousin unexpectedly died, and everything changed again. We had been very close. I had known him since I was a child. Death is very final. One day he was here and the next day none of us would ever see him again.

After the funeral, my husband and I came home and sat in the kitchen, poured ourselves a drink and talked. We discussed the impermanence of life and how easy it is to forget that we are here for such a short time. These kinds of situations help us to reflect and clarify what is really important. They help us appreciate everything life has to offer. Sitting quietly with my husband I felt deeply grateful for the time we still have together.

Paradoxically, every morning I wake up also knowing this could be the last day of my life. It could be the last day of my husband’s life or one of my children. Knowing this and bringing it to mind heightens my sense of thankfulness for every minute of the day. The more we practice kindness and generosity the more we find it flowing into our lives.

Paying attention to everyday miracles reminds us that life is a gift. The joy of taking a deep breath cannot be taken for granted, especially when you have seen someone take their last. The gratitude that fills your heart when your child succeeds in getting a dream job, or your grandchild says I love you cannot be underestimated. The peace we experience when we befriend an old enemy is possibly the greatest miracle imaginable. The willingness to let go of complaining, let go of being a victim, let go of our addictions to drama, brings into our lives a world of everyday miracles.

In the words of Marianne Williamson, ‘Miracles occur naturally as expressions of love. The real miracle is the love that inspires them. In this sense everything that comes from love is a miracle.’




BIO

Spiritual teacher, author and clinical psychotherapist Sharon Snir is the founder and creator of a system of learning, called The 12 Levels of Being. She gives regular lectures, seminars and workshops in Australia, Asia, Europe and in the United States. Sharon has written three books. The 12 Levels of Being, published by Shekhina books in 2007, Looking for Lionel –How I lost and Found my Mother through Dementia, Published by Allen and Unwin in 2010, and The Little Book of Everyday Miracles, published in October 2012 by Allen & Unwin. She has her own on-line weekly radio slot, a small private practice and is on You Tube.  She and her husband have 5 children, one son in law and a cavoodle they all adore named Chino. 
You can learn more about Sharon at www.sharonsnir.com







Inspirational Conversations: Belinda Castles

Come along to the second in my series of Inspirational Conversations at Ultimo Library on the 27th of February.

I will be chatting with the award-winning novelist Belinda Castles about where to find inspiration.




I would also encourage you to click through and book your free spot right now because this event will fill up fast.

Belinda Castles won the Vogel Award for her novel, The River Baptists.

She has recently released an engaging historical novel,  Hannah & Emil, based on the real-life love story of her own grandparents. It is the most charming and fascinating book, and you can read my review of it here. It tells the story of Hannah, the child of Russian Jewish refugees living in England, and her fraught love affair with Emil, an anti-Nazi activist who is forced to flee Germany during World War Two. It is a story of love, loss and secrets, with a strong Australian connection. 




Born in England, Belinda moved to Australia in the 90s, and I had the great privilege of studying with her in a postgraduate program while she was writing Hannah & Emil. I saw then the quality of her writing, and knew that the finished product would be extraordinary.

Belinda Castles and Walter Mason


Belinda's love for literature and writing, along with her infectious good cheer, make her an excellent conversationalist, and I know you will find her as fascinating as I do.

Details:



Inspirational Conversations: Finding Inspiration


Walter Mason is joined in February by Vogel Prize-winning author Belinda Castles.

Author of the critically acclaimed novel Hannah & Emil, Belinda started exploring her creative side at a very young age. This evening she reveals where she finds the inspiration for her creative ideas, and shares her thoughts on how we all can become more creative.


Heinz, Belinda Castles' grandfather, who inspired her novel


If you’ve ever wanted to explore your creative side, come and learn ‘how to’ from this sensitive and celebrated author.


Wednesday 27 February

6pm–7pm

Book online or call 9298 3110

Bookings Essential
Free Event



Three Books for 2013

I've been inspired by Chris Brogan's Three Book Diet this year.
His premise is that he will read only three books in the year, but he will read each one at least twice, and will put into practise all that he reads.
Now, it is impossible for me to restrict myself to reading three books, not just because of my compulsive tendencies when it comes to reading, but also because my occupation requires me to read at least three books a week.
Instead, I am taking to heart his idea of reading just three books attentively and repeatedly, which I will do in addition to my regular, more speedy, reading.
Back when I was a bookseller one of my regular gigs was manning an enormous bookstall at the Sydney Mind Body Spirit festivals. It was an exhausting task, and one which we all hated, but one of the benefits was that we got to meet some extraordinary people. And I am using the widest and most generous possible definition of "extraordinary." The less kind might have called some of the people we encountered crazy. I had a heavily pregnant woman propose to me, a famous Chinese economist seduce me and a 1950s American jazz star talk to me all afternoon about the lost continent of Atlantis. These were heady days.
But the encounter that has stuck with me most for all these years is one where a quiet, nondescript woman was looking through the books right at the end of the day, when most people had left the exhibition hall and we were beginning to wind down. She picked up a book called something like Enlightenment in Five Minutes and, holding it up for me to see, we both laughed. Then, suddenly serious, she said: "But you know, if people actually did any of the things described in any of these books they would be enlightened. But nobody does - including you and me. We just read and scoff and put it all off."
These words really struck me, because they were absolutely true. If we scrupulously followed the advice in self-help and how-to manuals our lives WOULD be infinitely better, happier and more prosperous. But only one in a million is ever going to actually act on the good advice they get.
So in 2013 I am going to try to be that person, the one who actually follows the advice in three self-help books and persists in doing so. Let's see what happens.
The three books I have selected are:




Dr. Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking



Barbara Sher's Wishcraft




Louise Hay & Cheryl Richardson's You Can Create an Exceptional Life

This year I will read through each book at least twice, and do my best to act on the advice in each.
I will blog about the process and keep you posted.


2012 - a year in photos

So, here are some sublime and some ridiculous moments of 2012, all captured on my handy camera phone:




January - The Goddess in Suburbia: This statue of Kwan Yin is in a front garden in Canley Heights, and I always walk past her when we go to have dinner there. A perfect opportunity to say a quick prayer.



February - Chuc Mung Nam Moi: The Lunar New Year is a pretty big affair around Cabramatta, where I live. These ladies were rocking some OTT lunar looks in Cabramatta mall, and I just loved them.


March - In Cambodia: I was there for a few months, working on my new book, Destination Cambodia.


April - Kampong Speu: I was at a long-life ceremony at a village in rural Cambodia.


May - Bangkok: A shrine to Ganesha outside Wat Indraviharn.



June - Kuala Lumpur: At the Buddhist Missionary Society in Brickfields.


July - Book Launches: My friend Jane Skelton launched her story in a collection from Margaret River Press, at Gleebooks.


August - Second-Hand Books: I am always buying books. This is a quiet corner at Berkelouw's in Leichhardt.


September - Exploring the City: Bet you can't tell me where this little gem of nineteenth cenury statuary is in the Sydney CBD.


October - Schoenstatt: Once a year Thang and I go to the Shrine to the Virgin Mary at Mt. Schoenstatt in Mulgoa. 


November - Banh Mi: Thang's deconstruction of the Vietnamese sandwich was featured in the December ed. of SBS Feast magazine. Which comes out in November. I don't understand magazines either.


December - Train I Ride: I caught a guy doing a yoga workout on the 9.30 train.

My Most Listened To songs of 2012

RuPaul was one of my top listens this year


A brief glimpse of iTunes reveals the songs I listened to most often in 2012. It's a list that's embarrassing and fabulous all at the same time! Here they are:



1. (34 listens) Bitch by Ralphi Rosario & Wayne G feat. Stewart Who  - This campy, raunchy and distinctly NSFW dance track is just amazing. Dark, complex and camp, the video clip is as good as the song, which is rare. This song/clip WILL offend, so please don't listen/watch unless you have a sense of humour firmly in place.



2. (33 Listens) See Thru by Culture Club - This is an album track from their 1999 comeback album Don't Mind if I Do. Melancholy and slightly bitter, as most of George's song's are, he also sounds beautiful here.



3. (33 listens) Only My Heart Calling by Margaret Urlich - Urlich is a New Zealand singer who experienced a moment of fame in Australia back in 1989 with a hit single Escaping. I never really thought much of her at the time, but over the years her slick pop album Safety in Numbers has grown to be one of my favourites. This gospel-tinged track is just beautiful, and the video is late 80s gold. 



4. (33 listens) Everybody Dance by RuPaul - This is of course a cover of the classic 1978 disco track by Chic, which is also fabulous. I just love RuPaul's version, from his criminally underrated debut album Supermodel of the World. A super-slick dance track, people always forget just how talented a singer RuPaul is.



5. (32 listens) 123 by The Chimes - If you weren't there you wouldn't realise just how big The Chimes were for a brief season of 1989. This was THE song when I met the wonderful Mr. Noodlies, and this is one of the first CDs we bought as a couple. We thought it was a wonderfully romantic song then, and it still is.

Self-Help Summer

Yes, it's the new year, and by chance I happen to have cultivated a pile of new self-help books, and so what better time to read them?
Actually, it's not by chance at all. Most of you know that I am in the very final stages of completing my PhD on the history of self-help literature in Australia, and reading such books is a professional duty of mine. So I am always interested in what is new and popular in the field. You can expect me to be an infinitely better person once I have finished all these.
From the top:




A Year of Creativity by Brenda Mallon - I have actually been working for more than two years on writing my own book about creativity, so I am always interested to read what others say on the subject.

The 4:8 Principle by Tommy Newberry - The subtitle of this book is 'the secret to a joy-filled life', and as cultivating joy is one of my projects for this year (wait for the upcoming blog post about that) I am trying to read whatever I can that sepcifically addresses this quality.

Releasing Life by Shenphen Zangpo - This is a little Buddhist book that I got from the freebie cart outside the vegetarian supermarket in Cabramatta. I had never seen it before, so I grabbed it.

The Rules of Networking by Rob Yeung - As a chronically shy person I love reading books about networking. They feed a fantasy vision of myself, the way my spinster aunt used to read Mills & Boon romances.

Groundswell by Charlene Li - This was a popular one among my yuppie friends when I was in Cambodia early this year. Do people still say 'yuppie'?

Meditations for Pain Recovery by Tony Greco - Because I am pretty much constantly in pain and I consume way too many pills. Looking for some alternative methods of coping.

How to Talk to Anyone by Leil Lowndes - I love Leil Lowndes' books - they speak to the terminally anxious. Her other books include How to be a People Magnet and How to Make Anyone Fall in Love With You. And there is an endorsement on the back of this one from Sally Jesse Raphael, so I am getting major retro flashbacks. I loved that woman.

Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields - Everyone just talks about Jonathan Fields all the time, so I figured I should read something.

The Uncle Book by Jesse Cogan - I take my Uncling duties very seriously.

Writing for Self-Discovery by Myra Schneider & John Killick

The Golden Louise L. Hay Collection by Louise L. Hay - What more to say? All of the great lady's books in one handsome hardcover.

Trusting Your Intuition by Sylvia Clare - I don't trust my intuition, which is why I thought I should read a book about it.

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp - This is another one that people refer to constantly.

Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port - I heard this guy on a podcast and I was really impressed, and then when I was looking through this book in a bookshop I saw it was filled with practical advice, so I had to get it.



Inspired & Unstoppable by Tama Kieves - I think there was an excerpt from this in the Science of Mind Magazine, and it looked great.

The New Relationship Marketing by Mari Smith - Another person I always hear on podcasts who has won me over.



Heart Thoughts by Louise L. Hay - Because you can never read enough Louise.






Finding Jasper by Lynne Leonhardt

Lynne Leonhardt, author of Finding Jasper



It was appropriate that over Sydney's long, hot Christmas I read LynneLeonhardt's evocative novel of childhood in Western Australia, Finding Jasper. For in this beautifully rendered novel Leonhardt recreates a hot, dusty farm in rural Western Australia, a place with no comforts where the garden is either dying or growing out of control.




There was so much I recognised in the world of Gin, the lonely, almost-orphaned child sent to live at the ancestral seat with an emotionally frustrated aunt. Having myself grown up in the isolated bush of rural Australia (though very far away from Leonhardt's perfectly-rendered Western Australia) I recognised this world almost immediately. It is there in the lonley, fantastical wonderings of an isolated child, the small discoveries rendered large by the absence of any other kind of sensory input and the desperate search for people with whom the child can connect.

The novel flashes back to the years of World War Two when Gin's mother comes from England to live at the preposterously-named 'Grasswood', headachey in the shade of the verandah and pining for the dashing young Australian soldier she has come to be with. But it keeps coming back to the loneliness of Gin, the mostly-unwanted child of this coupling, who now contents herself with her grandmother's old 78s on a gramophone that has sat idle for many years.

Music winds its way, appropriately enough, through this lyrical novel, another great friend of bush people everywhere as they strain to create their own entertainments. The lure of the city lies there too, as sensuous and thrilling as it ever was in Madame Bovary, with Gin's neurotic, lonely mother flirting with the big-city possibilities of travelling salesmen while she is chaperoned by her spinster sister-in-law, who is herself unsettlingly beautiful and the possessor of a distant, glamorous past.

This Aunt, Attie, inspires the young girl with talk of their days in colonial Ceylon, pricking her imagination with statues of the elephant god Ganesh, rewards for music remembered but objects, too, that peg her to her own familial past, a place too distant from this fatherless child.

Finding Jasper is a glorious piece of Australiana, and a fascinating and unique look at Western Australia in the 40s and 50s. I'd live to give a copy to every foreign visitor, so subtly and perfectly does it bring to life a certain memory of Australian culture and all of the problematic relations that made this moment in history possible.

A beautiful summer read.

I’d like to add here that Finding Jasper is the brand new release from new independent Australian publisher Margaret River Press. I’d like to congratulate them on their energy and vision and their commitment to producing new and interesting Australian literature. Please support them as best you can.
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