Friday, October 29, 2010


Today I have a Guest Blogger: Angela Sunde. This is a first for me! What it means is that I don't have to dream up appropriate questions or do any of the hard work. Angela is just going to do all that and all I have to do is paste what she says on this blog and sit back and enjoy!In case you don't already know, Angela is the author of Pond Magic - one of Penguin's Aussie Chomps series.

If you check her blogsite at
you will see what a wonderful time she had with her book launch last Sunday.

Today Angela is going to talk about Promoting your First Book and Planning a Book Launch
Welcome Angela! It's now all over to you.

Thank you, Mabel
‘Author branding’ is a term I first heard a couple of years ago at a writers’ conference. The concept made complete sense to me; the author is the brand. And while many writers may find self-promotion daunting, I took it on with gusto and began using my full author name on all correspondence, including comments I left on other writing blogs.

But just what is a brand and how do you create an author brand?
Someone once told me it is: ‘a promise, an experience and a memory.’

Recently a writing friend complimented me on my website. As I encouraged him to create his own, he said: “Oh, no. I don’t have a product.” The truth is you don’t need a product (or a published book) to promote your author brand. In fact the earlier you start the better. As a writer you are already producing ideas readers may find interesting. You are self-employed – a one man band. And, unless this is a hobby for you, you should begin to look upon your writing as a business and yourself as a professional. Once you do, walking into a pitch session with a potential publisher or agent will be so much less intimidating.

The best way to begin promoting your author brand is to start small with a business card and membership of various writing groups, centres or online clubs, such as Jacketflap, SCBWI or your local writers’ centre. These will often give you the opportunity to create an online profile of a few paragraphs on the member’s page of their website. You can even include a professional photograph – not one taken at the beach last holiday. Your paragraph should highlight your strengths, life experience - which is so important for writers - and your preferred genre with perhaps even a blurb about your work in progress.

Once you’re feeling a little more confident, consider beginning a blog. Blogs are a perfect platform for writers. It’s a way to keep up your writing habit and connect with other writers, readers and publishers. It’s not necessary to blog more than three to four times a month and don’t forget to leave comments on other writers’ blogs. Cross-promotion and sharing links help to get your name and your brand out there.

To promote my author brand I also use social media such as Facebook. It’s possible to create an individual author page and limit your friends to only author/illustrators.

As your online presence grows, so does your author platform. The idea is to create as many opportunities or platforms as possible for you to profile your author brand (you) and later on your published work. In anticipation of my first book, Pond Magic, being published this year, I also created a website, using a free online program called Wix. The simple drag and drop system allowed me to be as creative as I wanted and design a truly personal space on the web, which reflected my ‘brand’.

So now I had: online membership profiles, a social media profile page, a blog and a website. I was also in daily email contact with other writers through several Yahoo groups. I had exhausted all cost-free avenues for online self-promotion and my author platform was ready for the release of my first book, Pond Magic. Now it was simply a matter of utilising this extensive platform to market my book within my budget of next to zero.

Self-marketing is common sense really. There are five possibilities for telling the world about your book: online, email, snail mail, face to face and word of mouth.

Begin with online. I promoted Pond Magic on my website and my blog by creating a book profile page on each, with cross links to each other and also to Pond Magic’s page on the Penguin Australia website. Then I created a separate Facebook page for Pond Magic and an events page for the launch, sending out invites to everyone I knew. As the news spread, it snow-balled and hundreds of fans joined with over half of them people I did not know. I added links on the Facebook page back to my blog and website and vice versa and kept the updates regular as the launch drew nearer. And to create extra interest my main character, Lily Padd, answered all posts left on the wall.

Then send out emails. Create a media kit to send out together with your launch invite to reviewers, newspapers, e-newletters, bloggers, children’s magazines and radio stations. Include a professional photo of yourself, an author biography, a picture of the book’s cover and a media release with a promotional blurb about the book including the launch event details. Keep it all to one to two pages. Even if they never reply, at least you will now be on their radar.

The media is always looking for a unique angle. I promoted Pond Magic’s launch as a fun family day out with free activities, craft, games, music, entertainment and prizes. And our Gold Coast radio station Coast FM ABC 91.7 came on board to promote a local author by giving the Pond Magic Book Launch a promotional plug the day before the event. This was a brilliant result that contributed to the number of people at the Pond Magic launch – over 270!

Snail Mail and Face to Face. A postcard or flyer is a wonderful promotional tool to use when introducing your book to libraries, schools and bookshops. For Pond Magic I had a postcard printed which included a picture of the front cover, the title, publisher, ISBN, a short blurb, some brief author information and most importantly contact details, including my blog and website. I was also fortunate enough to have my promo postcard included in the take home bags at this year’s CYA Conference.

Please visit my blog: to view photos of the Pond Magic book launch and my website:

So, after all that, do you know a little more about my author brand?

Fun, creative, flamboyant, international
and above all…

Thank you, Angela! Your post was amazing ... and something I'll be reading and rereading. 

This Blog Tour has visited the following places. Don't forget to drop by for a visit

22nd October – Write and Read with Dale – Dale Harcombe
Review and Developing a Character

23rd October – Sally Murphy’s Writing for Children Blog
Getting Published for the First Time

24th October – Cat Up Over - Catriona Hoy
What Girls Read

26th October – Tuesday Writing Tips – Dee White
Writing to this Length

27th October – Kids’ Book Capers – Boomerang Books
Review and Where Story Ideas Come From

28th October – Kids Book Review
The Aussie Chomp Format

29th October – Tales I Tell - Mabel Kaplan  [You are here1]
Promoting your First Book & Planning a Book Launch

30th October – SherylGwyther4Kids
Once upon a time in a far away place…

Please leave a comment if you've visited, to encourage both Angela and me!
Thanks! Mabel K (aka Belka37)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


 by Lara Morgan
Walker Books Australia
October 2010

The Book Trailer

Reflections on Rosie’s past and future
When I chose this topic ‘Reflections on Rosie’s past and future, Lara said: “An interesting topic you've put down. Just wondering when you say Rosie's past/future are you hoping for me to talk about the character herself or the creation of the book? I'm not quite clear on it.”

That’s when I realised how ambiguous my initial statement had been. Of course, it could be either or both, though my initial idea concerned Rosie herself. But then, I had not yet read the book.

In the back of my mind questions tickled. There was a curiosity about Rosie’s awareness of the past 500 years. Had she looked back in history and pondered on the issues that had brought the world into its current mess?
[In 2010 there were a growing number of people concerned with the possible effects of climate change and dire warnings of the things that might happen unless appropriate and urgent action was taken.]

Is Rosie seeing the results of 500 years of the failures of the past - seeing what those who understood the issues in 2010 hoped would not happen? There are hints. She alludes to … Before the Melt? … The wall that’s been there hundreds of years … the old city — and a Newperth, geothermal powered
Then there’s the cost of water (already a 2010 reality) and the appearance of ‘the feral’.

After reading the book
At one level The Rosie Black Chronicles: Genesis is a rollicking ‘cloak and dagger’ mystery/adventure tale with a touch of teenage romance and angst. Beneath there bubbles dark undercurrents of interacting and multiplying effects generated by the realities of climate change, population shifts, social engineering; and the dehumanising processes where science and technology have become ‘god’ and at the mercy of political intrigue.  And I loved the ambiguity of Rosie (all things rosy) and black!

Let me introduce Lara:
Lara is a Western Australia writer living in Geraldton. The Rosie Black Chronicles: Genesis is the first in a series of Rosie Black stories and Lara's first YA novel. You can find out more about her on her blog at

Welcome Lara! Now I have some questions for you.

M: Rosie Black’s world is one of social isolation, community fragmentation, increasing state/external pressures leading to the loss of personal power, heightened anxiety and increasing violence. A disturbing glimpse of where the world of 2010 is headed unless …? Yet how different is the world of Rosie Black to our own?
Lara: I’d say Rosie’s world is an extreme version of our own – and I’m talking about Western Society here – especially if you have a look at how the government has been slowly increasing its involvement in our day to day lives. We live in a society that is becoming increasingly violent regulated under the guise of ‘public safety’ but which I see as having the potential to become something much more. Police powers are growing and there are more and more rules about what you can and cannot do in public, from wearing bike helmets to curfews and a push to have people to be on the lookout for ‘suspicious’ activity in their neighbours, it’s all elements that can lead to a society like Rosie’s where the government has ultimate power over you and there is little to no room for dissent.

M: Is this a cautionary tale in the tradition of earlier tales? (For example George Orwell’s Animal Farm)
Lara: It is in some ways but I try not to be too heavy handed about it. I think it is more a cautionary tale in terms of environmental impact than social. I am very concerned with climate change and our apparent lack of ability to pull together and do something about it. I’d like to be hopeful but given the way we are going it is difficult.

M: Which came first the character or the plot?(i.e. an independent smart girl in 2600 who needed a challenge OR a world in crisis in need of a character to lead the way?)
Lara: Well I would say that for me the story always starts with the character first and the plot is driven by who that is and their circumstance. So character definitely came before plot but before both of those I started out wanting to write about Earth post climate change. That is unusual for me. Generally character comes before the world building but this time it was different in that I started off wanting to write a story set in the Earth’s future. I didn’t know what the story was but I knew it was going to be a young adult novel.

M: To what extent does the book do more than paint a landscape of the worst fears of today’s environmentalists?
Lara: Well I hope it offers an exciting adventure story as well. At the heart of it, this is a story about growing up and figuring out who you are and what you want to do, because regardless of the environmental and social background of anything I write what I’m really interested in is people. I like to explore how characters deal with terrible circumstance, how they overcome and move on – if they do – and what they learn. It’s always all about the character and their journey and in this case that’s Rosie.
... The character of Rosie followed very quickly. I’d written a short story a while back had a character in it that was very similar to Aunt Essie and set in a world very similar to the world I’d been thinking of for The Chronicles. So then Rosie just sort of appeared, which often happens for me, and I started discovering who she was and then from there what her story was going to be. 

M: As the story develops in what ways does the reader see Rosie herself change and grow as a person?
Lara: Genesis is the start of Rosie discovering a greater sense of purpose than what she has before Helios and Pip come into her life. It’s a trial by fire really as she has to face some scary situations and learn to trust her ability to get through it, but also to trust others as well – which is not something which comes easily to her. 

M: The story ends on a note of unfinished business. Where to now for Rosie Black? Has Pip really gone forever (or would that be telling)?
Lara: Genesis is the start of Rosie discovering a greater sense of purpose than what she has before Helios and Pip come into her life. It’s a trial by fire really as she has to face some scary situations and learn to trust her ability to get through it, but also to trust others as well – which is not something which comes easily to her.

M: Thank you, Lara, for visiting my blog today and sharing more insights into the life of Rosie Black from Genesis - and beyond!
Lara: I've enjoyed looking at the story from different angles, Mabel - and having the opportunity to visit your blog.

For more about The Rosie Black Chronicles and the Book Trailer go to

The first three YA readers (of any age) to add a comment to this post and includes an email address so I can contact them will receive a copy of 'The Rosie Black Chronicles' courtesy of the publisher, Walker Books Australia. Others will be eligible to receive a bookmark.

Follow the blog tour below
Oct 11 Who is Rosie Black?

Oct 12 Writing tips on creating a futuristic world.
Tuesday Writing Tips

Oct 13 The Publishing Process

Oct 14 Writing YA.

Writing a Fantasy Series

Oct 15 Interview

Oct 16 Interview

Oct 17 Writing sci fi

Oct 18 Heroines in YA

Oct 19 The Boy in this story; creating male characters in heroine driven YA.

Rosie Black’s past and future  [You are here!]

Oct 20 Interview

Saturday, October 2, 2010


Sing Africa SingSelected poems
by Pamela Ateka
Published 2004 by Community Focus Group,Nairobi, Kenya

In 2005 I coordinated an International Storytelling Festival in Perth Western Australia: Storytelling on the Edge. Before I knew it the programme had taken on a life of its own. Storytellers from all states/territories of Australia, as well as from Canada, England, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and the United States of America, made contact, wanting to be part of this event. So many people from so many backgrounds — and that’s how I met twenty-eight year old, Pamela Ateka from Nairobi!
...As I read Pamela Ateka’s letter and proposal, something inside me sang. Here was a performance that promised to be as unique to Australian storytelling as it was ‘on the edge’ All at once I knew we had our Keynote Speaker/Performer.

Dressed in traditional costume, Pamela captivated all with her humour, her dance, her drumming and her ability of involve her audience as she recounted ‘The Parable of Writing’: a story she had developed to teach the principles of HIV/AIDS prevention. It told of a young man who, like the prodigal son, left his village home for the city lights. Here, he contracted HIV/AIDS and returned home, sick and dying, to experience the acceptance of a caring community.

... In the words of one of the participants: At the Perth Storytelling Festival in 2005, many of us were lucky enough to meet and hear Pamela Ateka from Kenya tell her amazingly vibrant and inspiring stories. We became aware of the great work she is involved with in Nairobi caring for AIDS orphans and using story as an educational tool in schools to inform students about the threat of AIDS and the ways in which the transmission of the disease can be avoided
... It was only in the breaks at meal times and between events that I began to appreciate the passion and dedication with which this young artist and peer educationalist committed her life.


‘Pamela,’ I asked, ‘where did the idea of this work come from?’
She looked at me and smiled a gentle smile. ‘My sister,’ she whispered, ‘my sister died from AIDS in 2000. I couldn’t understand. She left a small son and I took him to my heart and my home.’
How hard was that?
It just seemed right … I was suddenly aware of the growing number of orphans and I knew I had to do something about it.
But you did have other personal and family commitments?
Yes, apart from my nephew, I had a young daughter of my own, Joy Pendo … but I couldn't stop thinking how I’ve always loved poetry and acting, and I should use these skills to good purpose. So I talked with my friends and came up with a plan to use poetry and storytelling to raise money for the care of children orphaned by AIDS, and to create awareness in society at large.
Your poetry and acting took on a particular flavour - focus. Tell me about that.
I developed what I call ‘edutainment’. I wanted to increase HIV/AIDS awareness through theatre and poetry, and using story, as an educational tool in schools to inform students about the threat of AIDS and the ways in which the transmission of the disease can be avoided.
But why performance?
Performance is the language that everyone understands. Families won't come to a lecture; but they will come to see me perform. And off of that experience, they find it easier to talk about sex and AIDS with their children.
Apart from your artistic skills, did you need other training?
I’ve always been a bit of a social activist – concerned about injustice and human rights – especially for women and children in my country. I had a wonderful opportunity to join a community-based training programme for community groups and their organizers run by the East Side Institute ( — part of a growing international movement of healthcare professionals, scholars, youth educators, and artists seeking to use performance to reinitiate and advance human development.
So your work didn’t stop with writing and performance to highlight community needs?
Oh no! Just looking around Nairobi and seeing hungry and orphaned children on the streets, pushed me into taking more hands on action. With the help of friends and volunteers, I founded a Community Focus Group. We set up a feeding programme. Initially, the feeding centre catered for 26 children orphaned by AIDS, who came daily at lunch times and received a meal and moral support from the helpers. Over time the children were found host families who were, in turn, assisted with food packages, and money for school fees and uniforms.Today the centre provides for almost one hundred orphans.
Who funded this programme? Government? Corporate sponsors?
Oh no! I was very inexperienced about fund raising. The Government wasn’t interested and corporate sponsors were wary of an unknown group with no track record.
So what did you do?
I turned to my local community for support -- organizing fundraising events, where I would perform my poetry and tell stories. The costs of the feeding centre were met by fees for performances and by the income-generating activities such as jewellry and craft making of volunteers, most of whom were young, unemployed college-leavers living in the slum area. Then there were the royalties from my book of poetry and from poems published in various newspapers. Many local businesses also offered support. I was able to organise clothing drives and find partners willing to offer the older children job training.
Where are you at now with all this?
The programme currently has three staff and three volunteers who help young people, ages 7-14. Another 200 children are on the waiting list. Most of them, like my nephew, are orphans and living with relatives.
And your performances?
That’s expanded enormously. Coming to your Festival in Perth was a wonderful experience. I made many new contacts. Some of the storytellers there helped me market jewellery; and, one man from the group set up a donation scheme from which I receive regular contributions.
But Perth wasn’t your only international venture, was it? You have taken your performance to quite a number of countries outside Kenya.
Yes, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to present and perform in many countries, including South Africa, Egypt, UK, Spain, Mexico, Ethiopia and Uganda
I understand that you returned to Nairobi from the festival in Australia and were on a plane to America before you hard scarcely time to catch your breath. I hope your performances there went as well as the ones you did here.
I had a wonderful time there too. But I was very tired
Not much wonder. In the midst of all this were planning your wedding and preparing for the birth of a new baby.
...Pamela, it has been refreshing to talk with you again and recall our first meeting. Your Perth festival performance of the "Parable of Writing" will long be remembered across Australia (and to other parts of the world where festival folk carried it). And here in Perth, the folk at the Aids Support Centre were greatly uplifted by your visit. I've also had good feedback from the Church groups you visited as well.
I want to thank you and the Storytelling Guilds around Australia so much for your continuing support. Poetry and storytelling are part of the program’s staples, helping to “soothe the children’s souls.”

On 25 Match, 2006 Pamela married Charles Muthiora. They have a baby daughter Shantel Neema Kagwiria (meaning ‘song of Grace’ in Swahili).
...On a sadder note, Pamela’s mother died in a supermarket fire earlier in 2010.
Yet Pamela continues her work.

To support Pamela’s work go to:

A copy of Sing Africa Sing may be purchased from
Community Focus Group
PO Box 447-00518

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Operation Pied Piper
The story of the rescue of 2,000 civilian refugees from Poland and 50 orphaned Jewish children

Joice Loch’s account of events of her incredible rescue of Polish refugees and orphaned Jewish children in A Fringe of Blue are greatly understated. In fact, she makes no specific mention of Operation Pied Piper at all. I am left to wonder whether she didn’t recognise the enormity of the task she’d undertaken, or personal humility on her part or a restriction imposed under some wartime ‘secrets act’. Perhaps all three played a part. Susanna de Vries (in the 2007 edition of her biography about Joice Loch, Blue Ribbons Bitter Bread, p.331) offers another possibility. In her seventies and during the writing of her autobiography, Joice had a serious accident that badly affected her powers of concentration and memory.

Joice’s story:
At the commencement of WWII Poland, at the request of Britain and France, had resisted mobilizing its armed forces to defend itself for fear that Germany would perceive such a move as a threat and respond aggressively. Now Poland found itself attacked on two sides – Russia from the east and Germany from the west. Escape was now their only option. Trainloads of refugees — Polish families, wives and widows of regular soldiers, and reserve officers fled to Greece and Jugoslavia, many via Rumania, to ships they hoped would take them to France. Those in Rumania found themselves confined in internment camps under orders of King Carol who wished to avoid being drawn into war with Hitler. Their only means of escape was to obtain exit visas - many able to be purchased only through the ‘black market’.

The Mission Begins

Joice Loch in Quaker uniform
Joice and Sydney Loch were sent by their Quaker organization to work with the Poles now stranded in Rumania. The ‘Green Frontier’ provided an escape route for Poles who fled on skis, stealing through the forests, mountains and snow like the wolves and deer, to an underground in Hungary.
...Meanwhile, Russia and Germany were squeezing their ways through to the rich oilfields of Ploesti, Rumania.
...Joice flew to Budapest to close the Quaker mission there and, against a background of false propaganda that Britain had been defeated, oversaw the care of and made payment for river craft to take the escaping Poles to Bulgaria and Constantinople and on to the port of Mersin on the SE coast of a neutral Turkey. An empty hotel was found by the British Consulate for the evacuees to wait for a ship. Among her charges was a large group of Jewish orphans whose parents had been killed escaping Poland.
...At last the aging war horse Warszawa stolen from a break-up yard in Danzig and crewed by volunteers arrived. Under cover of darkness, the Poles were smuggled on board and the ship set sail for Cypress. Among those on board was a complement of 500 Polish soldiers en route to Palestine.
...The war situation was changing fast. With the fall of Greece and the invasion of Crete, Cypress was no longer a safe haven. The British Government sent another ship to carry 2000 Polish refugees (including some rescued from Siberia when Russia joined the Allies) and 50 Jewish orphans to Haifa.
...To enter British controlled Palestine and be eligible for food rations all the refugees had to be registered as soldiers. Hence, the first Polish soldier to land on Palestinian soil was a four year old girl!

Operation Pied Piper
(various sources):

Summer 1940 marked the beginning of Operation Pied Piper. Susanna de Vries (2000) explains how Joice Loch borrowed the title from Robert Browning’s poem ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’ in which a piper with a magic flute spirited the town’s children away. Interestingly, Rumanian legend records its own sequel, as it tells how about one hundred and fifty years after the event described by Browning, some merchants returning from the East told how, as they had journeyed across Hungary, they had come to the mountainous village of Sebenburgen (= seven hills). Here, they found that all the inhabitants of the village spoke only German. The people insisted they had come from Germany but did not know how or when they chanced to be in this strange country. “Could these people,” enquired the merchants, “ be descendants of the lost children of Hamelin?”
...Be that as it may, in early September, Joice, accompanied by a twenty-two year old assistant, Lushya, and Father Ambrosius, a Polish orthodox priest, took 450 Polsh women and children and fifty Jewish children from Bucharest by train to the Black Sea resort of Constantza, where she was to pick up another 400 women and children who had been harboured by wealthy Rumanians. Earlier, Joice and Lushya had trudged around the city to addresses where the women were housed to warn them of their danger and the plans for escape.
...As if this wasn’t enough to deal with, money Joice had requested from the Quakers War Relief Fund had not arrived. Although she had money enough for tickets, there was nothing left for food, medicines or any emergency. At the last minute, an urgent request for assistance from a Rumanian Banker and his wife, solved two problems. They asked Joice if their two nieces, recently orphaned in a war atrocity, together with their only daughter could be included in the escape plan and delivered to family in Haifa. In exchange for this consideration, the couple handed Joice an envelope containing ten thousand lei — more than enough to meet the needs of the journey to come.

from de Vries, 2007, p.274
 ...It was school holidays and the train from Bucharest was crowded with holidaymakers on their way to the beaches of the Black Sea resorts. The children, dressed in sundresses and shorts, and the women clutching beachbags, mingled with the general crowd and boarded the train in family groups, laughing and chattering. They arrived safely in Constantza in time to catch the afternoon ferry to Istanbul. Joice played the role of English governess to her three newest charges as they filed through customs. Every thing had gone well!
...Then came an announcement over loud speakers in Rumanian and German that brought a chill to the adults in the party. The ferry must return to Constantza immediately! What now? Had they been betrayed?  Would they now be herded on to cattle trucks and despatched to labour camps in Germany — or worse?
...A detachment of Iron Guards was waiting at the wharf. The soldiers clambered aboard amid the surrounding deathly silence and gathered around eight huge wooden shipping crates labelled sturgeon and tinned caviar. Guns were drawn. Then, after some confrontation between the Captain of the ferry and the guards, a crane boom swung over the crates to load them into nets and landed on the dockside.
...Joice was puzzled. All this fuss over tinned caviar! But Lushya, watching the pantomime playing out on the dock as the Iron Guards prised open the crates with crowbars to reveal the glint of gold bars, began to laugh. The crates contained the bullion King Carol was shipping out of the country to finance his exile.
...The ship’s engines were restarted and the ferry pulled away from the dock for a second time. Another crisis averted!
...On arrival at Istanbul, the party was met by a committee of Poles who escorted them through the streets to several large pensions where the group had been booked for the night. The next evening they boarded an overnight ferry to Mersin. From here they were to await a ship to take them to Cyprus.
...After a week, Joice was feeling desperate; money was running out, the Harbour Master was anxious she accept his recommendation of a suitable vessel. But heeding her husband Sydney’s warnings about finding a trustworthy captain and the dangers of dysentery, Joice knew she must find a ship with a safe water supply and proper sanitary arrangements.
...In desperation, she contacted the British Embassy in Constantinople. After an initial rebuff there was good news. The British Naval Command had found her a ship. The Warszawa would arrive in Mersin within the next twenty-four hours. It had been commissioned to embark Polish soldiers on their way to join British forces in Palestine. But since the ship was already bound for Cyprus en route, the cost to Joice and Operation Pied Piper was nominal. There was one proviso: they must buy their own provisions and cook their own meals. It was settled. The Polish women embraced the task. They rolled up their sleeves, scrubbed the decks, toilets and cabins, and cooked meals for themselves and the children.
...Under cover of darkness, the Polish soldiers bound for Palestine were smuggled aboard singly and in pairs; and the Warszawa slipped out of Mersin harbour so quietly during the night that not even the Harbour Master noticed her departure.
...The sea was calm and they managed to avoid German mines. After an anxious night, Joice was relieved to see the island of Cyprus. With the support of the British Government, the Polish refugees and the Jewish orphans were settled into comfortable accommodation; and for a time, Joice and Sydney now reunited, were able to relax.
...By the spring of 1941, while Joice was negotiating places for the Jewish orphans on a troop ship to Haifa where there was a large Rumanian-Jewish community who would take care of them, Germany invaded Greece and Crete. Cyprus would be next! This meant, not only the Jewishe orphans but also now, the entire contingent needed to escape.
...In June 1941, the British Government sent a naval cruiser, and Australian troops who had arrived in Cyprus after the battle of Crete helped load all 2,500 refugees aboard. Under a scorching sun, the British cruiser made slow progress, twisting and turning to avoid floating mines. The journey was perilous in many ways; there were not enough life jackets for all the passengers and few of the children could swim. One night the drone of engines was heard overhead. Bombs aimed at the ship created a maelstrom as they hit the water on either side. At dawn the German planes flew away.
...On their approach to Haifa, the Captain received a radio message to advise the area surrounding the harbour had been mined to destroy their ship. What now? Joice felt overwhelmed with concern, when, suddenly, out of nowhere, steamed their old friend, the Warszawa with hundreds of soldiers in Polish uniform waving and cheering.
... Shortly after, a British mine-sweeper arrived to remove the mines - and the refugee ship was allowed to dock. Despite stories of Palestine refusing entry to any further Jewish refugees, when port officials came on board there were no difficulties. All the women and children were ushered through customs and a special train was sent to the port to deliver the refugees to two camps outside Haifa.
...The orphaned Jewish children were found foster homes or relatives among Haifa’s large Rumanian Jewish community
...Thus, after more than eighteen harrowing months ‘Operation Pied Piper’ was finally complete. Joice Nankivell Loch had pulled off yet another remarkable feat.

de Vries, Susanna (2000), Blue Ribbons Bitter Bread, Hale & Iremonger. First edition
de Vries, Susanna (2007), Blue Ribbons Bitter Bread, Pirgos Press, Brisbane. Updated edition
Loch, Joice Nankivell (1968), A Fringe of Blue, John Murray, London
Various references, articles, interviews and reviews found online

Saturday, September 18, 2010


Joice NanKivell Loch 1887-1982

The birth of Joice Mary NanKivell in 1887 at the height of a north Queensland cyclone to a seventeen year old mother with only the help of a Kanaka housemaid, could be seen as a portend of things to come. Her father, George Nankivell, managed a sugar plantation. Government withdrawal of Kanaka labour 1890 and the Depression of that period began the family’s downward drift to poverty and bankruptcy. Yet Joice was to become not only an author, journalist and humanitarian, working with refugees in Poland, Greece and Romania after Worlf War ! and World War 11; but also the most decorated woman of the twentieth century.

In the opening page of her autobiography, A Fringe of Blue published in 1968 Joice Nankivell Loch recalls:
I was nearly ten years old … that drenching morning which witnessed the advent of the seven little pigs Father hoped to build a fortune on. … Our neighbours said we were born with silver spoons in our mouths; but the gilt was already off by the time my brother (eleven months younger than me) was born. p.3

After the family’s move to an isolated farming property at Boolara in Victoria,  her love of nature was born, never to die:

The bush was a tangle of creeping things, gay with flowers; birds darted everywhere making odd noises; the crack of whips; the tinkle of bells; hoarse coughing. Sudden flashes of bright feather delighted us, and spinning lightly on their toes were gay blue wrens, their absurd tails flirting and tilted over their backs. p.11

The goldrush had George Nankivell heading to Western Australia to seek his fortune and sending his wife and children to stay with her family in Queensland. It was not to be. Instead he contracted typhoid fever and returned to join his wife in Queensland to recuperate.

...During this period he entertained Joice and her brother Geoff with drawing beetles and telling such wild stories about robbing orchards, cheeking a policeman — and claiming that children of today were duffers. What have you ever done? — that he unwittingly enticed the children to mimic one of his ‘tall story’ escapades:

Mrs Chubb lived down the hill, and we lived near the top. She had a large paddock of pumpkins. Geoff and I could not lift them, but we could roll them, and one day we went off to her pumpkin patch and stole the largest pumpkin we could find. We toiled and rolled, and rolled and toiled with it through that tropical summer’s day, up that shadeless hill, and to my father’s feet.
Furious at what they’d done, he sent them back to return it.
Hot and damp we rolled that pumpkin back. We hammered on Mrs Chubb’s door. … ‘Father told us to steal your pumpkin! But he doesn’t want it now, and sent us back with it.’ …
‘Well,’ said Mrs Chubb, ‘ if he wanted it badly enough to send little children to steal you can take it back to him.’
Back we toiled in that frightful heat.

...Another farm on the King River at Myaree in Victoria turned out to be as big a disaster as the first, and Joice’s mother issued an ultimatum: either a suitable farm be found or she would return to her family in Queensland. This time they found a place at Drouin in the Gippsland just four miles out of town. Now aged thirteen, Joice enjoyed the tutelage of a Scottish teacher who had previously run a school in Melbourne but had sold it to come and look after her ailing father on a nearby farm. For Joice: Her house was full of books —a paradise to me.
...During this time two powerful influences in Joice’s life were her Uncle Harry Mitchell, chief medical officer for New Guinea, and her cousin, Ellis Rowan, a noted painter of flowers. Uncle Harry taught Joice much about caring for sick and injured creatures – human and animal. On his visits to the farm, Uncle Harry provided medical care to the community and used Joice as his medical orderly. He taught her the basic principles of medicine and human anatomy, and gave her manual on home surgery.
...With shortage of labour, Joice and her mother often worked beyond their strength on the farm. But that did not stop Joice’s passion for writing. At night, when the chores were done, by the light of an oil lamp, she would sit up in bed and write in longhand on blocks of cheap paper.
...Throughout her early years Joice maintained her passion for writing both prose and poetry. She finished her first book The Cobweb Ladder and sent it off to Macmillan’s Melbourne branch where it was accepted for publication.
...In an interview reported in The Queenslander, Saturday 8 September 1917 p. 5, Joice was asked:
How did The Cobweb Ladder come to be written?
Her reply:
Well, that's just what I can't tell you. It was not owing to any effort on my part ; it just grew, like so many other books have grown and will grow. It was written at the Gippsland Lakes, chiefly on the backs of envelopes, during one very beautiful holiday that I spent there, and something of the lakes should have crept into it, only it didn't. Strangely enough, it didn't go through all the visissitudes of "first books" as I expected it to. I slmply walked into the Lothian Book Publishing Co. with it, and asked them to read it … and they did.
...When Joice’s brother, Geoff, made known that he planned to pursue wool classing as his future career and not join his father on the farm, her father sold their livestock, ceased wheat growing and decided to retain only the orchard. Thus Joice, after ten years of working for him without payment, received his blessing to escape to Melbourne to pursue her passion for writing on condition she take annual holidays during the fruit picking season.
...In preparation for the big move, Joice sent away for a book on touch typing. Once she was satisfied her typing speed was adequate she successfully applied for an advertised part-time position as secretary to Dr Alexander Leeper, Professor of Classics at Trinity College, Melbourne University.
...Her work hours were flexible and Dr Leeper encouraged her writing and enabled her to attend university lectures that interested her. She joined the Lyceum, the Repertory and the Melbourne Literary Club; the Melbourne Evening Herald took her first war poem, and she appeared thereafter regularly in a short column, Under the Clock.
...With the outbreak of World War I, Joice’s first thoughts were of Geoff. The brother and sister had been close companions since childhood. Nor were her fears without foundation; Geoff sailed for Gallipoli, and at the end of the third year of the war, he and a small detachment came under heavy shelling. There were no survivors.
...As a solace to herself and a tribute to Geoff, Joice wrote ‘The Solitary Pedestrian’ – a collection of twenty-one short stories about their childhood experiences in Victoria and Queensland — bush life seen through the eyes of children. Without Geoff, she indeed saw herself as the solitary pedestrian.
...It was while freelancing as a book reviewer for the Melbourne Sun-Herald, that Joice was asked to review a book on the Gallipoli campaign: The Straits Impregnable* written by Gallipoli veteran, Sydney Loch. A meeting with the author changed her life. Joice and Sydney were married at The Manse, Royal Parade Melbourne on 22 February 1919.
...With the war now over Joice determined to go to Europe to continue a career in journalism — a decision backed by the editor of the Melbourne Evening Herald, who thought it the best step for anyone who had serious ideas about writing; and agreed to take freelance work from her.
...Joice managed to secure passage on one of the last troop ships from Australia. Sydney followed later. Once reunited in London they secured work as Fleet Street journalists. But Joice’s observations as a child of the injustices meted out to the Kanakas in North Queensland and the poverty of rural Victoria, had developed within her a keen sense of the injustices suffered by minority groups. Now, unable to interest the British Press of the plight of the dispossessed people of Poland, Joice and her husband applied to the Quaker Relief Service as aid workers. This decision proved the beginning of a series of remarkable life journeys that were to colour the rest of their lives.

Additional reading:
* A free download of Sydney Loch's book can be found at

de Vries, Susanna (2000) Blue Ribbons, Bitter Bread, Published by Hale and Iremonger. ISBN 0868066915. 2000.  

Next week: Operation Pied Piper

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Clare on Mount Saleve,
where Eglantyne … drafted her
pioneering statement of children's human rights …
Today I interview Clare Mulley, author of The Woman Who Saved the Children: a biography of Eglantyne Jebb, founder of Save the Children.

Welcome Clare! In the previous three weeks we've already uncovered a great deal about Eglantyne's journey. Today, I am particularly interested in hearing more about the research that went into the writing of the book.

Thank you Mabel! I feel quite excited about being taken back to review the process. It's something I've not though about for in quite a while.  

M: You have indicated that ‘The Woman Who Saved the Children’ was a long time (7 years) in the making. Can you remember/explain the germ idea/s that set this story in motion. Did it start with a general topic, a specific idea or with the character whose story you wanted to explore?

C: I was working at Save the Children as a rather struggling fundraiser when I came across a line she wrote some 80 years before; ‘the world is not ungenerous, but unimaginative and very busy’. It was still so true and it intrigued me that her voice sounded so immediate and relevant. When I went on maternity leave, thereby showing far less commitment to the charity than Eglantyne who never had children and devoted her life to the cause she had founded, I took an afternoon to poke around their archives. Down the side of a plastic crate I found a crumpled leaflet Eglantyne had printed, showing a terrible photo of a starving Austrian child, with the word ‘suppressed!’ pencilled in Eglantyne’s scratchy handwriting in the top corner, the exclamation mark showing her indignation at the Liberal government’s policy to continue the economic blockade of Europe after the armistice as a way of pushing through harsh peace terms. Eglantyne was arrested for distributing these leaflets in Trafalgar Square in May 1919, and secured the first donation to her new ‘Save the Children Fund’ from the prosecutor at her court case. I knew then I was on to a good story, but not how good it would turn out to be!
M: At what point did you decide the main focus would be the life of Eglantyne rather than the story of the Save the Children Fund - where did you go from there?
C: There was never any thought that it might be a history of the charity. Eglantyne was a brilliant, courageous, controversial woman whose vision, passion and humanity are still utterly compelling and relevant today. A woman who did not like children, and once called them ‘the little wretches’, she nevertheless devoted her life to promoting their welfare, and more controversially pioneering her revolutionary statement of children’s human rights that has now evolved in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most universally accepted human rights instrument in history. I never had any doubt that it as Eglantyne’s story, and her force of character, that captures the imagination – then as now!
M: One of the challenges in researching the life of someone born in the 19th century lies in the sparsity of written records and the inability to interview colleagues and competitors, immediate friends and family. To what extent was this an issue in your research? What were the main sources of information?
C: Eglantyne died in 1928, and not liking kids much never had any of her own, so there were no direct descendents or anyone alive now who knew her that I could trace. However she left plenty of letters, photos, diaries, half-written romantic social novels, transcripts of her spiritual conversations with dead friends, medical records, political fliers, and funny, scratchy sketches… in all of which her personality came blasting through. And she made such an impact wherever she went that there are plenty of accounts of her conducting her own defence at court, chasing the Pope round the Vatican or impressing the trade unions. Sometimes the trail went cold – for example when the man she loved proposed to another, and any letters mentioning the romance were evidently destroyed, but by chance (or was she pulling at my elbow?) I ended up having dinner with the grandson of her sweetheart and getting the story from the other side…
M: What were the main areas of your research?
C: Cradle to grave, warts and all, but some of the things that interested me most were the irony that she was not maternal, her two great love affairs (one unrequited, the other illicit), her spiritualism, and the development of her visionary political and humanitarian ideas… But above all I wanted to capture the person not just the achievements, the little things, her being - as well as her doing.
M: Which areas were most research intensive?
C: Her charmed childhood was easiest, the canvas getting more involved as she grew up of course, the First World War tore the world apart, and she faced some fairly conflicting priorities and duties, and a passionate personal life.
M: Did the research involve you in particular adventures along the way? (Funny, scary, exciting, sad?)
C: There were many modest adventures, from sleeping in Eglantyne’s childhood nursery, to eating from her plates and once even holding a curl of her still bright red baby hair. I was invited into her former houses and offices by numerous strangers, came across secret inscriptions in second hand books once owned by the family, and a secret bar in the garden of her friends Margaret and John Maynard Keynes. I shed tears buying flowers for her grave outside Geneva and laughed out loud at her letters in public archives all round the country. It was great.
M: Tell me about the research process. Where does research begin for you? In your head? Talking with friends? Reading books on allied themes? Library and/or internet search?
C: Research began in the Save the Children archive, and then in a load of boxes stacked in the wonderful drawing room of The Lyth, Eglantyne’s childhood home where the Jebb family still live. Lots and lots of reading, and then it slowly began to filter down into a story, or a series of stories, told at first as anecdotes to patient friends.
M:  How did you deal with conflicting reports or evidence?
C: Funnily enough there was not much of this, but I did quite quickly begin to disagree with the usual presentation of Eglantyne as a saint like woman, who sacrificed her life to her cause. Eglantyne was passionate and opinionated, with a mischievous dry wit and brilliant ability to make her case, and although she died young partly exhausted by her struggle, it belittles her to write her off as a female martyr. She was never a sweet old lady, but she was never particularly sweet anyway.
M: Did you consider presenting your manuscript in a format other than the one in which it is told? (For example, as a journal or an oral history) What made you choose a basically chronological narrative approach?
C: Once I saw how funny and engaging Eglantyne was, on top of her huge achievements, I knew she deserved a biography. I think most readers of the genre expect and want a chronological story, and I wanted to respect that. But I have also tried to make each chapter hang on a theme, such as maternal love, romantic love, faith, politics, war etc, so that each effectively tells a story on its own as well.
M:  Research can be such an addictive process. How did you know when it was time to stop? Did you have difficulty sorting what to omit/what to include? If so, what was the hardest to let go?
C: You are right; research is addictive! The first chapter I wrote was chapter 6, because I could see the whole story of that moment. I did revise it later but it was clear what dates and theme were bound together, and that did not fundamentally change. Then I went back to the start, but basically I kept researching while I was writing up the chapters that were emerging from the piles of notes and lists I kept on the go all the time. This may not be the best way to do it, but it worked for me!
Of course I could not put everything in. Some I was glad to let go – there are no summaries of charity meeting agendas etc, but I have files of extra bits that failed to make it either because they were not telling enough, or they simply, and infuriatingly, would not fit in to the chapter structures.
M: What did you learn about the research process? (e.g. the excitement of unexpected finds; persistence in not taking ‘no’ for an answer; the need for imagination - to think laterally/divergent thinking).
C: All of those things are true and/or important. I also learned how kind and generous people are, giving up their time and opening up their houses to me.
M: And now it is time for me to thank you, Clare, not only for giving me so much of your time over the past weeks and opening up yourself in the name of Save the Children; but for devoting so much time and energy over a number of years to writing this biography solely to benefit the children of the world.
C:  Thank you Mabel. I really appreciate the blog time you've given to spread the word.
The Woman Who Saved the Children:

a biography of Eglantine Jebb
founder of Save the Children
by Clare Mulley
First published by Oneworld Publications, Oxford, England 2009.
Released in Australia as a Paperback in 2010

Available’through all good bookstores and can also be ordered online at http://www.boomerang/ you'd like to find out more about Clare, her website is

For further reading, visit some of my friends’ blogs... woman who cares