Hunter happenings

hunter-powerUnder the murky skies of the Hunter Valley, despite its dominance by coalmines and coal-fired power stations, some culture does exist!

Singleton talk

Next Thursday evening I’ll be speaking at Singleton Library about my book, Mountain Tails and some other matters — apart from my wild neighbours — that stir my passions at present. I’ll also read some extracts from Mountain Tails.

This library always does a great wine and cheese spread to sustain the literati audience, and it’s free!
You do need to book, though:

6-8pm,  Thursday 26th November

Singleton Library,  8-10 Queen St.

Phone (02) 6578 7500

Valley voices

While I’m talking Hunter happenings, I recently won the Prose Prize for a new anthology, People of the Valley, with my short story, ‘Greta Italiana’, about an Italian migrant’s experiences on his first night at the Greta camp, just after the war.

This is the latest anthology about the Hunter from Newcastle’s own Catchfire Press.

They have published Through the Valley, Beneath the Valley and now People of the Valley — Writings from the Hunter.

The book is an interesting mix of past and present, of fiction, nonfiction and poetry, with B & W photographs.

I understand the book is so far available at Hunt-a-book, Scone; Macleans, Hamilton and Toronto; and Angus & Robertson, Kotara.

The Cattleman’s Daughter

rachael-coverI have just read Tasmanian writer Rachael Treasure’s new book, The Cattleman’s Daughter. To my mind it’s her best book yet, with clear signs of the maturing writer as well as woman.

Like all Rachael’s very popular books, it has a central developing love story and lots of horses, but of equal importance here is the surrounding drama — the forced ending of traditional grazing in the Victorian high country. Rachael knows the High Plains and these people well and draws a sympathetic and vividly realistic portrait of the country, their history there and love of it, and their ways and attitudes.

She is not so kind to the bureaucrats who make such decisions without any connection to that land, or consultation with those who do have it, regarding the solution to a perceived problem. She puts clearly the graziers’ concern for who then cares for such land regarding fire hazard reduction and weed control, when the new ‘owners’, the government, provide little or no extra funding for staff to replace them.

At first, as both a farmer’s daughter and an environmentalist, I worried that the two sides would be stereoptyped into goodies and baddies, as I met extremists like the inner-city greenie, Cassie, and the ignorant and power-drunk bureaucrat, Kelvin. But Rachael also gives us Bob, a reluctant cattleman who does not care for his land at all. In between we have the commonsense types like the heroine Emily and her love interest, Luke, who has just taken a job with the opposing side, a government department with a very long name, but equivalent to what used to be in charge of national parks.

Read moreThe Cattleman’s Daughter

Words at Wollombi

wollombiNext Sunday, November 8th, as part of the Wollombi Country Fair, I’ll be heading to church.  Not for a sacred service, but to speak at a Literary Morning Tea to be held by my publishers, Exisle, in the historic St. John’s Church at Wollombi.

Based at Wollombi, Exisle are very much a part of this artistic village community. I always love it that my books are displayed in the village general store!

I’ll be entertaining the muffin munchers with readings from my books, Mountain Tails and The Woman on the Mountain and talking about making literature out of my life with my wildlife refuge neighbours. Am expecting a lively Q & A session.

Sunday 8th, 11.30 a.m. Enquiries to Exisle, (02) 4998 3327.

For other events over the weekend, you can link from my event here.

Heading up the Hunter

Scone-LibraryIn a few weeks I’ll be heading up the Hunter Valley, past all the horrible coal mines of the two shires south of Upper Hunter Shire to Scone, seat of local government and Horse Capital of Australia.

(That’s Scone with a long ‘o’ as in ‘bone’, not Scon(e) with a a short ‘o’ as in ‘box’, served with jam and cream in Devonshire teas.)

For the first time I’ll be speaking at Scone Library, about my book, Mountain Tails — in association with a terrific local bookshop, Hunt-a-books.

It’s an evening talk and I hope to meet folk from my email environmental info lists there, as well as friends and readers.

See you at Erina

erina-50In early October I’m returning to my rural roots, so to speak, and heading back to Erina on the NSW Central Coast hinterland, where I grew up on a small farm.

This is me aged 11 with my younger sisters one dewy morning in our orange orchard in 1959.

Erina is more a commuter suburb of Sydney these days, and the orchards have given way to lifestyle blocks and fancy houses. But it’s still recognisable, and the privet lining the roadsides still smells the same.

I’ll be talking about my book, Mountain Tails, at the Erina Library in the mighty Erina Fair Shopping Centre. In my day a super-modern drive-in (or so it was at the time) had made history, replacing the original orchard and chook farm with a popcorn-and-pluto-pup-scented occasion of sin.

The talk is at 3.30pm on Wednesday 7th October. They will be offering light refreshments as well as my scintillating speech and readings.

Bookings are required (02 4365 6725) — but the event is free. 

Me and Mountain Tails at Tamworth

Soon I’ll be heading up the hills to Country Music Capital, Tamworth, to speak about my book, Mountain Tails, at Tamworth Library. The talk will be at 11 am on Wednesday 23rd September; Tamworth’s modern library is at 466 Peel St, (02) 6767 5640.

And no, I won’t be singing, although I’ll probably have Lucinda Williams on the CD as I hit town on Tuesday night.

garden-ausSpotted a nice little review in ABC Gardening Australia magazine, August 2009 issue, by Denis Crawford:

This delightful novel gives a lively and personal account of the animals that share the author’s wildlife refuge. The book is clearly written and is illustrated with the author’s own whimsical drawings.

Read about romping joeys, quolls in the kitchen and marsupial mice in the bedding pile. It would be enjoyed by anyone with even a passing interest in the natural world and is the sort of book to while away a winter afternoon.

Mid-western culture, Mudgee style

Recently I spoke at Mudgee Library for the first time. Somehow I missed it for my first book, but It will definitely be on my list for any future ones. This Mid-western Council library is situated in a charming old shopfront building in the heart of Mudgee, which is itself full of lovely heritage buildings.

It is well supported by the Friends of the Library who organised the supper after my talk, patronised by the local booklovers who came to hear me, and most admirably run by Eilagh Rurenga (below).

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Eilagh gave me a most thoughtful and original introduction, and had thought of everything for the evening — including alerting me to possible loud thuds from books landing in the after-hours chute box behind my lectern.

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I took the opportunity to warn Mudgee folk of the spreading coal frenzy just to the north of them, not wanting this picturesque district to go the way of the Hunter — but I fear they can’t imagine the devastating effects of so many current mine approvals, let alone proposals and sneaky land buyups in advance of more. 

Mudgee has everything going for it, but they will lose it unless the community sees that the threat from unbridled coalmining is not just an issue for greenies: it’s a matter of local survival. Coal is not the smart way to create jobs — just the dirty way.

Photographer Brett Maguire took the pictures on the night; these are just a few. I was impressed with how few double chins he caught — thanks, Brett. He’s obviously a man who knows what women of a certain age want.

mudgee-3Brett and his wife Aimee are newcomers to Mudgee, seeking a quieter lifestyle, which  Mudgee still offers, along with a wealth of cultural, commercial and culinary facilities, not to mention being surrounded by wineries.

Julie from local bookshop Books in Mudgee provided books for sale and, as always, I had some great chats with people like Norman Leonard (left) while I signed their copies.

Brett Maguire, BRAW Photography: 0422 278 234.

Rate Mountain Tails

g-onlineThe online environmental magazine G-Online is worth a visit — it’s full of information about sustainable living, including gardening, cooking, health, travel and family matters, with useful hints and ‘Ask G’ links for your questions. G-Online’s Kate Arneman has posted a review of Mountain Tails read it here — and you can also give the book a rating.

From the back porch…

owner-builder As many of you know, I regularly contribute articles and photos to The Owner Builder magazine. They also stock my books in their online bookshop.

Their last page is for readers to send in their musings, from the back porch, so to speak. In fact it was one such gratis contribution, over 10 years ago, that led the then Editor, sadly now the late Russell Andrews, to commission me to write professionally for the magazine.

In their current issue (153) editor Lynda Wilson has used the Back Porch page for an extract she chose from my new book, Mountain Tails, and for her kind review:—

I am very familiar with Sharyn’s style of writing, having edited her articles for The Owner Builder over the past five years and listened to her short pieces on ABC Radio National’s Bush Telegraph.

I was less familiar with her home life — that was until I read her first book, The Woman on the Mountain. Sharyn’s wonderfully descriptive language brings the whole mountain to life, along with the joys and sorrows of her mostly solitary life.

In her latest book, Mountain Tails, Sharyn shares the lives, loves and losses of her animal neighbours with us.

With rich descriptions and personal humour, from ‘A quoll in the kitchen’ through ‘Jacky dragon’ and on to ‘Petrified birds,’ you will feel yourself standing right alongside Sharyn, sharing her wonder and amazement of the natural world around her.

The Owner Builder has a special offer: you can buy both The Woman on the Mountain and Mountain Tails for $50 plus postage. The offer runs until September 30.

Visit The Owner Builder’s website.

North coast talks

In June I will be speaking about and reading from Mountain Tails at several NSW north coast libraries – assuming the floods recede and do not re-occur.

Bellingen Library — 11 am Thursday 11th

Forster Library — 7pm Monday 15th

Kempsey Library — 1pm Tuesday 16th

Port Macquarie Library — 10 am Wednesday 17th

After that I’ll be mainly listening — at the 2009 Watermark Literary Muster (19-22) at Kendall. The theme is ‘Wood’  and I hope to talk with many of the guest speakers there, especially those with a passion for nature, like Peter Hay, Mark Tredinnick and Roger McDonald.

See the Watermark website for details.

Returning to Tuggerah

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Librarians are some of my favourite people, being book lovers like me. However, the grey-haired spinster in a drab cardigan no longer fits the bill. Nor are libraries just places of shush and half-asleep old men.

Take young, cheery and goatee-d Adam Holland and his Wyong Shire Library in the enormous Westfield Tuggerah Shoppingtown on the NSW Central Coast. 

Adam’s author talks and events welcome the community in, seat them in comfy armchairs, feed them tea and chocolate bickies and grapes, while writers like me talk about my books and read from them.  For free!

My visit there for my first book was lovely, so I was happy to return last week for Mountain Tails. And, as I had grown up on the Central Coast, and my sister Robyn has retired there, it almost feels like coming home.

It was a delight to see faces in the audience familiar to me from my last talk there.

I always enjoy the interaction during question time and the chats afterwards when I sign books. Rick Finucane from Borders bookshop in Westfields not only sold my books there but took the photos for me on my camera. Thank you, Rick!
tuggerah-rosesAn extra treat was that Adam presented me with a bunch of yellow roses and some chocolates.

Back home in my cabin that night, having just beaten nightfall and the rain, I lit the fire, arranged the roses, poured myself a glass of red wine, and indulged in a chocolate or two. You could say I felt appreciated.

Next day was grey and cold and windy, but the roses bloomed golden on my windowsill, extending the pleasure of my author talk well beyond its actual time. Thank you Adam and Tuggerah!
 

Author on the move

After a week on the move, talking about the new book, Mountain Tails, I was glad to be home in the quiet of my natural world, especially in such beautiful Autumn weather.

But I am off again next week, as I am speaking at Tuggerah Library on the central coast of NSW.  This will be at 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday 20th May, and if you live in that area,  it would be great to meet you there.

The first round of talks were in quite varied venues, some more successful than others, but as always it was terrific to get feedback from the audience afterwards. 

First talk (below) was at Parramatta Library, back in the area of my birth, the western suburbs of Sydney! It was a good venue and a receptive audience, with Borders bookshop coming along to this one, for the first time.
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Next was outdoors, at the café in Heritage Gardens near Maitland, where what you might call an intimate group shared afternoon tea and conversation afterwards. Thanks to Helen of Angus & Robertson at Greenhills and Jenny at the café for their support and the idea.
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On Friday I spoke at the environmentally designed Wallsend Library, in their spacious multi-purpose room.

Despite the heavy rain outside, it was a good turnout, with several familiar faces and, as always, a pleasure to meet new ones. Sue-Ellen and Catherine from A & R at Kotara  were there to sell the books and give support.  

I went there the next day to sign books and was delighted that, while most people bought one or the other, at least four discerning young men bought both my books for their mothers!
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On Mothers’ Day itself I was up early for a great guided walk around the Hunter Wetlands (which they do every second month). A beautiful spot, and the rain held off just long enough.
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 Most striking sight was the endangered desert species, the Freckled Duck (photo by Dael Allison), which were raised from eggs as part of a conservation programme and are now managing to breed on their own.
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Back at the Wetlands Centre we had breakfast, and then a small group patiently tried to hear me (mike and all) over the many other Mothers’ Day breakfasters in the café’s deck area. Clearly a favourite spot.

A special treat was meeting fellow nature blogger Gaye whose site, Snippets and Sentiments, has provided me with insights many a time.

I’ll certainly go back to the Wetlands on a quieter day and walk around to the many birdwatching spots.