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Annoying  - I've just typed several paragraphs of entry here, and somehow lost it! That's my brand-new computer teaching me who's boss. Certainly not me! I hate learning to use new equipment, and this MacAir with its brand-new updated version of Word is going to drive me, screaming, into an early grave.

Certainly it's been a busy six weeks here since I last wrote in this column. Trying to get In Search of Anna published is my major project, and several things at the Salisbury Writers Festival were heartening. I did a 'Five Minute Pitch' to an agent, who seemed interested and has asked to see the whole manuscript, also a publisher's rep who was very encouraging. Fingers crossed but no chickens being prematurely counted. I guess I went into both those a bit more confidently having won two awards in the Festival - a short listed Commendation in the poetry section and First Place in the Short Story  - a lovely bit of reassurance before making the pitch!

Apart from that things are moving close to the book launch for Of Llamas and Piranhas   - less than three weeks away now. I have some PR set up, radio interviews and  scheduled reviews in journals, but that is now occupying a lot of my time. With David away for four weeks studying Gaelic in Ireland on a scholarship for an immersion course, I have - in some ways - more free time, but in others less. We've been keeping in touch with email and text and phone calls - but I've also been charting the time in a daily poem called A Non-traveller's Diary. Which has nbeen fun - but won't be for publication! That plus a few short stories has been the total of my writing production in these weeks. Everything IS accelerating!

Once again the shortest day is past, and spirits tend to rise - well, mine do anyway - when the sun is with us for longer stretches each day. I could relate to primitive peoples singing the sun's return from the caverns of the deep ...

Six weeks ago my last entry here, I note, talked about the pleasures and rewards of my research week in Melbourne, and the need to get ahead with In Search of Anna, the prose novel I've been writing for the last 18 months. Melbourne DID provide the impetus, and the first draft of this novel is now completed - all 95,000 words of it. Such enjoyment in the writing. I feel quite bereft at having completed it - like saying farewell to a close friend whom I have lived with for so long. Now, of course, the hard work begins - revising, editing, and searching for a publisher. The writing is the pleasure - this is the tough stuff. Plus, now I no longer have the excuse I've been using all this time, and will really have to clean out my kitchen cupboards!

While dealing with Anna, I'm also hard at work on the book launch for Of Llamas and Piranhas on Sept. 20. Kies Wineries has been very supportive with wine for the launch; my wonderful catering team is booked up again, and in a few weeks the launch invitations will have to be sent. It's a busy time.

A few really encouraging things in the last few days  - a poem accepted by Poetry Matters and it's on the list for competition outcomes when the next issue appears; a lovely email from Poetica Christi saying that my poem 'The two-sided coin' has been selected for publication in their next annual book, and while not winning the competition it was at the top of the 'Specially commended' list that the judge provided. Poems published in The  Write Angle, The Mozzie and in Studio were good to see, as was the very favourable revue of Bystanders in that same journal. It makes it all worthwhile, and keeps me writing! And compensates for the rejection slips ...

And so we're into winter ....   not exactly of our discontent, but I'll certainly be happier when I'm writing again. The last month has been mainly occupied in research - fascinating stuff, yes, but I feel that gnawing sense of not having written anything except a few stray poems in the last four weeks. Frustrating!

But a valuable time. The Melbourne stint was so worthwhile, and contacts have been enormously helpful. David Langdon, at the Richmond and Burnley Historical Society, was more than generous with his time and the provision of resource material about Richmond in 1889. And his archives! An impressively organised treasure trove underneath the Richmond Library, where upstairs I also immersed myself in the local newspaper of the period. I've come away with a real sense of neighbourhood, topped off by dinner in an excellent French restaurant, Noir, in the building where, in 1889, my central character found lodgings for a few weeks. (Yes, that bit is true, unlike so much of the book which is straight fiction.)

Great assistance also from members of the German Club, where members were quick to direct me to relevant people, and then to check details I needed and even to copy and send on to me in Adelaide later some sections of historical material - thank you Hans Roleff! Other discoveries were the German Church which was then (and still today is) flourishing in East Melbourne, where the pastor and archivist were both helpful. Some hours in the Newspaper Room at the State Library took me into newspapers that I could not access in Adelaide, in the company of my brother, a avid family historian. All round, a most rewarding week in Melbourne, as well as a chance to catch up with old friends and family.

But other things are still needing attention before work on Anna resumes. While David and I had a most enjoyable time reading our poetry to the Booklovers Club at Marion, there are a few more of these functions ahead to plan for. And the pleasure of re-reading Claire Belberg's new novel, The Golden Hour, which I'll be launching in two weeks, and organising material for the Editing and Publishing Intensive at Tabor College that I'm involved in next month. So much to do ... so little time etc etc

Also looming ahead the final work on Of Llamas and Piranhas, due for its launch on September 20. In the end, I weakened (or took heart) and decided to have a proper launch for this book of South American travel poems. To my delight, Phil Hoffmann, of Phil Hoffmann Travel, travel entrepreneur extraordinaire, has agreed to be guest speaker for this event, so I'd better get going with the organisation of yet another launch and hope a good crowd will come. All readers of this web site will be welcome - just contact me for details.

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