Australia’s own Secret Garden … Janet Hawley, author of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden answers Six Sharp Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asksWendy Whiteley

Janet Hawley

author of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden

Six Sharp Questions

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1. Congratulations, you have a new book. What is it about and what does it mean to you?

Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden is about Wendy spending over 20 years turning a vast rubbish dump on unused railway land at Lavender Bay on northern Sydney Harbour, into a glorious public garden.

Wendy began the garden in 1992, grief-stricken when her artist husband Brett Whiteley died, followed by the death of their daughter Arkie. The garden, now almost a hectare, has grown into a joyous haven that Wendy has designed like a living painting.

I’ve watched Wendy transform a wasteland into a beautiful sanctuary, and along the way the garden transformed her into a woman with a newfound happiness and a wish to share. She’s paid for the entire garden, and works daily beside her gardeners – truly inspiring.

2. Times pass. Things change. What are the best and worst moments that you have experienced in the past year or so?

The sheer pleasure in getting off the grid, finding calm breathing space to be immersed in nature, and re-set your brain. Too long inside the grid is disastrous.

3. Do you have a favourite quote or passage you would be happy to share with us? It doesn’t need to be deep but it would be great if it meant something to you.

“Use your eyes. So many people look, but don’t see.” Wendy says this constantly, so did our late artist friend Jeffrey Smart.

jh2

4. Writers have often been described as being difficult to live with. Do you conform to the stereotype or defy it? Please tell us a little about the day to day of your writing life.

Writers spend so much time thinking deeply and widely, trying to get inside other people’s heads, understand people and events from every angle. We can get upset with others when we don’t have enough time to think, see issues in black and white, and cannot see the subtle greys.

I work best in daytime and find it useless struggling over the words at night. Better to sleep on it, and hope you wake up in the small hours, with your thoughts unscrambled. I write those flashes down the moment they arrive. Never go back to sleep and think you’ll remember the words in the morning, you never quite recapture it.

5. Some writers claim not to be influenced by the needs of the marketplace, while others seem obsessed by it. Would you please describe how the marketplace affects your writing (come on, tell the truth!).

I’ve always thought that if you are genuinely curious about the subject – whether you’re exploring the life and world of an artist, or of a honey bee – you will take the reader along with you. I’m always thinking about trying to understand the topic/people, and giving a strong sense of person and place, so the reader feels they’re walking and seeing beside me. Hopefully, some readers will like this approach.

JH3

6. Unlikely Scenario: You’ve been charged with civilising twenty ill-educated adolescents but you may take only five books with you. What do you take and why?

A basic book on nutrition, which clearly explains food – calories, vitamins, minerals – what bodies need and don’t need. We are what we eat.

A beautifully illustrated book of great art works – to inspire creative thoughts in young minds.

A song book, maybe Beatles lyrics, or old fashioned hymns, to bond the twenty kids singing together and make them happy.

A dictionary – actually makes fascinating reading.

A blank page diary each – so they can draw and write their own thoughts.

Janet, thank you for playing.

JH1

Grab your copy of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden here


About the Author

Janet Hawley enjoyed a wide readership in her thirty-year career as a senior feature writer on Good Weekend Magazine, published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

She’s renowned for her intimate profiles of artists and creative people, and trusted by her interview subjects to explore their private worlds and mysteries of the creative process. She’s published two books on artists, Artists In Conversations and Encounters With Australian Artists. Her book, A Place on the Coast, co-authored … Read more.

Grab your copy of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden here


Grab your copy of Wendy Whiteley and the Secret Garden here

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: My Writing Season…. by Karen Hall, co-author of Wychwood

karennhallWhen I first sat down to chronicle the past two decades of our lives creating our garden at Wychwood, it never occurred to me that the actual routine of writing would weigh more heavily on my mind than the words themselves. I’ve never been short of words. More often than not I am the person who fills awkward silences with an excess of them for fear of losing the company of the person next to me. I overemphasize and use way too many adjectives, I embroider a story in the hope that it will prove much more interesting than it actually is. Words weren’t the issue.

It was the routine. My head was exploding. I’d never had to write this much before.

Do I write in the mornings or the afternoons? On the weekends when the kids are home or during the week when the house is relatively silent? If I get up to turn the coffee machine on will I be inviting Writer’s Block to rear its head? Perhaps I should squeeze in a yoga session before I start so I don’t get stiff from sitting for too long, or would it be better to wait until after I’ve done 2000 words so that I’d earned the right to free my mind? If the phone rings, do I answer it or leave it and worry I’ve offended someone by ignoring it?

In the end, I settled on mornings, after a yoga session and walking the dog. Three hours would disappear in no time, sometimes at frightening speed. There were some mornings when most of the three hours disappeared in infuriating frustration – the words wouldn’t come or those that did just weren’t right – but by and large they proved satisfyingly productive and I could close the lid on my laptop with a self-righteous snap.

In the end I did it. Way too many words of course, but once it was over I missed my newfound writing routine and was glad that finishing the first draft coincided with the days beginning to lengthen and the soil starting to warm. Before long, my laptop was forgotten as my garden beckoned.


Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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9781743360651Wychwood

by Karen Hall, Peter Cooper

The garden at Wychwood, at the foot of the Great Western Tiers in northern Tasmania, is one of the world’s most magical places. Wychwood combines Scandinavian design sensibilities with temperate-climate country-garden charm. And to top it off, the idyllic Mole Creek, which is home to brown trout and a platypus, runs through the back of the property. Wychwood commemorates a garden over 22 years in the making, brought to life by a very special family who dreamt of the simple life in Tasmania.

The book details the evolution of the garden from bare paddock to world-class attraction, with its iconic labyrinth, espaliered fruit trees, naturalistic planted beds and curved, clipped lawns. It gives the reader insight into the techniques and secrets that make the design of this garden so successful, offering inspiration and encouragement at every turn, and for every level of gardener. Peter Cooper’s beautiful and haunting photography captures how the garden has transformed with the changing seasons and settled into its surroundings.

About the Authors

Karen Hall is the co-owner of Wychwood, blogger at GardenDrum, chair of the Tasmanian Open Garden Scheme and runs the rare-plant nursery at Wychwood. Peter Cooper is the co-owner of Wychwood, freelance garden designer, photographer and truffle consultant.

Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Simon Rickard, author of Heirloom Vegetables, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Simon Rickard

author of Heirloom Vegetables

Ten Terrifying Questions
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1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Port Macquarie, NSW, but my family moved to Canberra when I was four, so I consider myself a Canberran.

Growing up in Canberra in the 1970s was utopian. In the afterglow of the Whitlam era there was a great deal of enthusiasm for the Arts and Sciences, and we had a public education system second to none in the world. I count myself very lucky that I grew up in Canberra at that time.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At twelve, I wanted to be a botanist; at eighteen, a musician; and at thirty, a gardener. I have always loved plants and nature, as well as early music. I have found it difficult to confine myself to one career, so I have taken two: music and gardening.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

It has taken me most of my adult life to realise that the world does not exist in black and white; that between those extremes lies a vast area of grey. This is an ongoing journey for me, and I feel it’s going quite well!

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

Moving to Canberra at the age of four was probably a defining event in my life. Although I missed out on growing up on the beach, I had access to the best public education imaginable. Without the free public education opportunities I received in Canberra in the 70s and 80s, I suspect my life would be considerably less rich than it is now.

Living in the Netherlands for three years was a transformative experience, which really broadened my horizons.

Being offered a job as a gardener the Diggers Club was an important turning point for me. At that time in my life I was about to embark on a PhD in music and a career in academe, which would have been wonderful, except for the fact that academics are continually forced to spend too much of their time, cap in hand, begging for money, rather being allowed to concentrate on doing what they are good at. At least mowing lawns and clipping hedges for a living I would not have to suffer that indignity.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Books are anything but obsolete. They work well as a technology, and I can’t see any viable alternative for replacing them soon. Think about it: you can no longer access the information stored on a floppy disc or cassette tape from 15 years ago, but you can still read a book from the year 1500.

One particular quality I like in books is that they are scrutinised by many sets of eyes before they get into print. With the internet, by contrast, anybody with a computer can publish any half-baked idea or half-truth they like. Gardening websites are awash with absolute twaddle, which reproduces itself at a rate of knots and then comes to be accepted as ‘fact’. I wanted to publish a book in part to help counter this alarming trend.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

My latest book, Heirloom Vegetables, is a celebration of the beauty and diversity of heirloom vegetables. It is predominantly a social history of vegetables, telling the stories about where humans and vegetables have been together, and where we might go in the future. It puts vegetables into their broader family contexts, as a way of showing just how much humans have manipulated and changed vegetables to suit our own ends over many millennia of domestication. The final section of the book gives readers advice on how to grow their own heirlooms, based on my experience as a gardener.

Grab a copy of Simon’s latest novel Heirloom Vegetables here

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I would like to see greedy, rapacious and self-interested people excluded from holding positions of power.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Can I have three?

I admire the 2014 Australian of the Year, Adam Goodes, for the dignity and forbearance he has shown in the face of some very ugly provocation.

I admire Julian Burnside for speaking up for human rights, and calling out the mean-spirited, inhumane policies of successive governments.

Most of all I admired my late grandmother, who showed me how few possessions you need to be happy, and how to be thankful for what you have got. She lived her life very simply, but she radiated love and contentment.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To give away ambition and live like my grandmother.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Be yourself, and write what you know.

Simon, thank you for playing.

Grab a copy of Heirloom Vegetables here


Heirloom Vegetables

by Simon Rickard

‘Vegetables are masterpieces of human ingenuity – their pasts and futures are in our hands.’

How often do you hear someone complain that tomatoes don’t taste like they used to? It’s becoming a common concern, as food production is increasingly controlled by multinational corporations more interested in profit than flavour. People who care about their food are growing their own vegetables in droves – and especially heirlooms for their wonderfully diverse flavours, shapes and colours. Not to mention their rich history and weird and wonderful names – who could resist a lettuce called ‘Drunken Woman Frizzy Headed’, not be intrigued by the potato that ‘Makes the Daughter-in-Law Cry’, or fail to be moved by the ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ bean?

In this lively, passionate and at times political introduction to the world of heirloom vegetables, gardener Simon Rickard describes the history of many of his favourite varieties, encourages you to get growing yourself, and explains why he believes edible gardening is so important to our future – and the future of the planet.

 Grab a copy of Heirloom Vegetables here

Stephanie Alexander, author of The Cook’s Companion, Kitchen Garden Companion and now, A Cook’s Life, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Stephanie Alexander

author of The Cook’s Companion, Kitchen Garden Companion and now, A Cook’s Life,

Ten Terrifying Questions

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1.  To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born?

I was born in Melbourne and spent the first nine years of my life in Essendon before my family moved to Rosebud West on the Mornington Peninsula. I went to Rosebud High School and then to the University of Melbourne.

2.  What did you want to be when you were 12, 18 and 30? And why?

At 12 I had no idea what I wanted to be although I did love to write stories.

At 18 I wanted to be a librarian and I also wanted to travel to France and learn to speak French.

At 30 I was working in a school library with one restaurant behind me and another looming.

3.  What strongly held belief did you have at 18 that you do not have now?

I think I thought that life would change dramatically once I left home and became a University student, and that I might have a major part to play. I soon realised that coming from a very small school I would only be a minor player academically compared with those who had had a more rigorous schooling.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

As a family, books and food were both very important and these two intertwined interests have stayed with me. Travelling and living in France also influenced my interests and gave me further insight into the world of food.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? Aren’t they obsolete?

Books last. They will never be obsolete. I enjoy the tactile pleasure of reading a book and books can be very beautiful too. Although I load books onto my iPad for travelling I find I never read this way when I am back home, maybe the newspaper is an exception.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

It is a memoir and includes the chronicle of my life up to the present with as much accuracy as memory has allowed. I believe it will be interesting to all those intrigued by the development of restaurants and food awareness in Australia.

(BBGuru: Publisher’s blurb –

With her Cook’s Companion front and centre in half a million kitchens, Stephanie Alexander is the very definition of a household name. Each day thousands turn to this ‘food Bible’ for definitive recipes, encouragement and advice. But before Stephanie Alexander penned a word for the emerging food media – let alone for The Cook’s Companion – she had spent decades avidly documenting food experiences.

Shaped by her mother’s dedication to good food and her father’s love of reading, she trained as a librarian and all the while observed, notated, assessed and re-created the dishes she loved. Her monthly university allowance rarely lasted more than a week – all spent on pan-fried flounder and chestnut Mont Blanc. She was seduced over pain Poîlane while working as an au pair in Paris, and later over ackee and saltfish in London. In 1966, with no formal training and a newborn baby, but brimming with confidence and sheer determination, she opened Jamaica House with her first husband. The personal toll was great and it was eight years until she emerged on the restaurant scene again.

Stephanie’s Restaurant has become part of Melbourne food folklore, permanently raising the bar for restaurant dining in Australia. At the time of its opening, in 1976, a salad to most people meant iceberg lettuce, no-one had heard of goat’s cheese and ginger came in a tin. Over the next twenty-one years, in order to obtain the best-possible produce, the likes of which she had enjoyed while travelling in Europe, Stephanie championed small local suppliers or grew it herself.

Buy Stephanie Alexander's new memoir, A Cook's Life and receive a FREE Stephanie Alexander Tote Bag. Stocks are limited so get in now. Click here.

Her indefatigable determination and single-minded vision have influenced – and sometimes intimidated – a generation of chefs, cooks and diners. And now her Kitchen Garden Foundation is inspiring tens of thousands of primary school children across Australia to grow and cook their own food.

A Cook’s Life is a very personal account of one woman’s uncompromising dedication to good food, of how it shaped her life and changed the eating habits of a nation.)

Click here to order A Cook’s Life from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I would like every child to have the experience of growing food and learning how to cook it so that we can hope for healthier and happier children who grow to become discerning consumers less vulnerable to the constant promotion of processed and convenience food.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

I admire those who can see the glass as half full. And who are always positive. And I admire good strategic thinkers and enthusiasts about anything at all.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To devote energy and time to friendship. To advance the cause of pleasurable food education in Australia as far as I can. To stay as healthy as possible.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

I would not dream of giving advice to any other writer.

Stephanie, thank you for playing.

Click here to order A Cook’s Life from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


Rhonda Hetzel, author of Down to Earth: A Guide to Simple Living, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Rhonda Hetzel

author of Down to Earth: A Guide to Simple Living

Ten Terrifying Questions

 ————————-

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

The first of our family came to Australia as convicts in 1799. My father’s family lived in Queensland, my mother’s family were in NSW. I was born and raised Sydney, went to a convent girl’s school in Enfield and left Sydney to travel in the mid-1970s.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty?

I don’t have clear memories of certain ages. I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger but university was expensive and my parents couldn’t afford to send me there. I have been a writer all my life but I don’t remember thinking about writing as a career until I was about 40.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At 18, all my beliefs were strongly held and I’m pretty sure I would have been a real pain. I remember loving music then and hating football. But maybe the strongest urge for me was to shop and be fashionable. Now I rarely shop and I’m about as far removed from fashion as is possible.

4. What were three big events – in the family circle or on the world stage or in your reading life, for example – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced you in your career path?

I think my reading was influenced a lot by my mother and her sister. Mum always bought books and magazines for my sister and me and encouraged us to go to the library. My aunty gave us books for our birthdays and at Christmas. I still have some of them.

I was strongly influenced by reading Ulysses about 25 years ago. It showed me that language is beautiful and always changing.

But I guess what moved me towards writing more than anything else, was gaining an Arts Degree in my late 40s. I majored in Literature, Journalism and Communication. Overall though, I don’t believe a writer can be taught. I think you can learn the technicalities of writing but I believe a creative force is within you when you’re born, and is nurtured by your circumstances as you age.

5. Considering the innumerable electronic media avenues open to you – blogs, online newspapers, TV, radio, etc – why have you chosen to write a book? aren’t they obsolete?

My book is based on my blog and I wrote it because I was approached by Penguin and asked if I was interested in writing a book. Naturally I said yes. Who wouldn’t say yes to Penguin? And no, it’s still a wonderful thing to hold a book in your hands.

6. Please tell us about your latest book…

It’s called Down to Earth – a guide to simple living. It’s a practical guide to moving away from rampant consumerism and towards a simpler life. There are many pages full of information about growing vegetables, cooking from scratch, developing routines, home maintenance, looking after what you own, paying off debt, making soap and ginger beer and many other things. It also contains some of our story and I hope that is what will motivate readers to make their own changes and believe they too can live an enriched simple life.

Click here to buy Down to Earth from Booktopia, Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7. If your work could change one thing in this world – what would it be?

I would like to see every credit card buried six feet under. I know that’s not realistic but at the very least, I’d like readers to think about only buying what they can pay for in cash.

8. Whom do you most admire and why?

Paul Keating. I love his strength of character, that he has strong beliefs and a sharp intelligence.

9. Many people set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

My goal is to see my grandchildren grow to be strong and resilient adults.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read, and write every day. Develop your own style and don’t be afraid to take chances.

Rhonda, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Down to Earth from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Indira Naidoo, author of The Edible Balcony : How to Grow Fresh Food in a Small Space Plus 60 Inspiring Recipes, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

Indira Naidoo

author of The Edible Balcony : How to Grow Fresh Food in a Small Space Plus 60 Inspiring Recipes

Ten Terrifying Questions

————————–

1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Pietermartizburg in South Africa to Indian parents and raised and schooled in Zambia, England, Australia and Zimbabwe. Now you can see why I can get a little confused about things.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

When I was twelve I wanted to be a professional swimmer specialising in butterfly. I was a state representative swimmer in Tasmania and wanted desperately to represent Australia at the Commonwealth Games or at the Olympics. The only problem was I wasn’t Continue reading

THE BOOKTOPIA BOOK GURU’S MOTHER’S DAY GIFT GUIDE

THE BOOKTOPIA BOOK GURU’S

GIFT GUIDE FOR MOTHER’S DAY

The greatest of all days on the calendar is fast
approaching Mother’s Day.

I don’t say Mother’s Day is the greatest day of the year just because I am frightened of my mother. I am, but that’s not why I say it. (And by saying that Mother’s Day is the greatest day of the year I mean no disrespect to the world’s religions, or the diggers, or the nation.)

I believe Mother’s Day is the greatest day of the year for the simple fact that without mothers you wouldn’t be reading my gift guide. (You thought I was going to get sentimental, didn’t you?)

Visit Toni Whitmont’s Mother’s Day catalogue with hundreds of great gift  ideas


MULTI-TASKER MUM

All mums are multi-taskers but only the Multi-Tasker Mum wants you to know it. She’s a conspicuous over-achiever. With child on hip, iPhone in hand, she’ll make you a cappuccino on her new machine whilst explaining that she must fly, for she has a meeting with a someone interested in investing in her latest start up – Mindless Mums, a childminding service.


SWEETNESS AND LIGHT MUM

There is something altogether spooky about Sweetness and Light Mum. Her home is always spotless, the aroma of baking cookies adorns in the air, and she seems permanently prepared for unexpected guests. Sweetness and Light Mum has a kind word for everyone, will discreetly clean away any mess you’ve made and has nothing to tell the police about her husband’s recent disappearance.


4WD MUM

At heart, 4WD Mum is the most caring of beings. She bought the 4WD to protect those most important to her – her kids. It’s just that every time she climbs up into her rig a change comes over her. She becomes one with her machine – she is powerful, strong and large, able to crush Mini Coopers beneath her wheels, drive over Continue reading

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