52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 38 – Troy Cassar-Daley’s Things I Carry Around

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Things I Carry Around is the memoir of Troy Cassar-Daley who has 30 years experieince in the music industry and is winner of 32 Golden Guitars. He’s also an APRA, ARIA and Deadly Award winner. But his fabulous life story told in this volume, tells us so much more about the Goori fella from northern NSW.

From reading his story I can tell you that Troy Cassar-Daley was in earlier times a self confessed ladies man, believing in his youth that he was the local Love God with a mullet hairstyle, skinny black jeans and pointy boots. I’m sure the fact he liked a bit of Brut 33 didn’t hurt either.

In his own words he was “cocky as shit’ when young. But maybe he had reason to be: he mastered many skills including mustering and branding cattle, working as a mechanic of sorts at 5 Mile Wreckers yard, and he was a chef at Nautilus Resort Coffs Harbour in his late teens.

He’s played in bands with names like the Bundjulung Beat, Southern Comfort and Little Eagle. He rates Goanna’s ‘Spirit of Place’ in his top three alums of his life, while the Warumpi Band from Papunya gave him an appreciation of culture.

Troy had his first guitar lesson at 10 and first visit to Tamworth Festival at 11, where he met Jimmy Little and it started a lifelong love affair with the town and its music, even though Keith Urban once beat him in Starmaker at the Tamworth Festival.

For the stalkers, you might like to know that he eats Promite and avocado on toast. If this doesn’t sound like an interesting person and read, then some of the titles in this book might pique your interest: “You shot me, you fuckin idiot!’, ‘Splinters, black-stained hands and a nine-pound hammer’, ‘How long can you blow on that thing – the Highwaymen tour’, ‘Distracted by Halle Berry’s Bum’ and ‘When love finds you’.

Troy says Things I Carry Around is the stuff people won’t read about him in the papers or on social media etc. This is his story in his words. And we learn about his family first…

We read about life in Vincent Street, a wonderful myriad of memories with family – aunts, uncles, cousins, some sad like Hoppy, many happy like his time with Uncle Buddy who sounded like a prankster / joker. There are so many wonderful memories of his Nan who was a good shot with the single-plugger thong, and Nanna Cassar was a big hearted Catholic woman. And stories of singing with his dad.

And while I wanted to be a nun and Ginger from Gilliagan’s Island when I was a kid, Troy wanted to be a train – and even wrote a song about it – ‘Wish I Was a Train’.

Much of the memoir is about Troy’s journey as a muso – discovering music, including learning guitar, playing on stage with Jimmy Little in Tamworth at 15, the Brian Young tour, touring with The Highwaymen supergroup (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings), smoking a joint with Merle Haggard at end of their tour, his first album deal with Sony and his Breakthrough albums Beyond the Dancing and True Believer.

We read about meeting the love of his life, and now wife, Laurel on the road and their Nashville wedding and Australian weddings.

Most of all we learn of Troy’s success as a family man  and how he is a wonderful role model for Indigenous Australians.

I had the enormous pleasure of interviewing Troy at the Brisbane Writers Festival on Indigenous Literacy Day and in my 20 years of participating in the BWF, it was quite possibly one of the most enjoyable and engaged events I’ve been part of. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

Get your copy of Things I Carry Around  and get some of the same insight, engagement and enjoyment.

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52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 37: Time Out

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Excercising at daybreak with a view over the city is a great way to start the day!

My friends, colleagues, family, especially my Mum often ask: When are you going to take a break? When do you stop? They comment I am always on the go, racing around, running – literally – everywhere. It’s true. I’m busy. I like to be busy. Life is short and there’s so much I want to have done before the end of it. And I fill the void of loneliness also by being on the go, all the time.

However, the body and mind do need a spell, time to relax, reflect and recharge. I’m a huge fan of the power nap. I prioritize my weekends and some workdays around lying down for 20 minutes in silence to just regroup, especially when I am on a book tour, which I’m on until September 17.

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Breakfast with a view and good company makes for perfect ‘me time’.

So, while I was in Melbourne (twice in seven days) for the writers festival, having decided not to fly back to Brisbane for two nights only to return for the third time in ten days, I took some time out, some ‘me time’. Some time to sit and enjoy breakfast, to lie down and read, soak in a bath, have coffee with friends, look in a frock shop without a sense of having to rush. I spent extra time in the gym; meeting my 100km aerobic challenge my gym had set me for the month of August. I managed to fit in a massage, facial and pedicure and I felt like a pampered girl again. And I did all of that, plus some work in two days.

The time out for me, which included a daily nap, renewed my energy and spirit enough to get me back onto the roundabout of the writerly life and back into Festival mode for an event with Michael O’Loughlin and Kicking Goals.  We had a fab day talking to 100s of school students from around Victoria. If you work with you young people (or former AFL players!), you’ll know you need all the energy you can muster to keep everyone engaged!

52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 36 – Book Week

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Authors love Book Week, although we know that parents sometimes don’t. I watched my Facebook feed during Book Week and saw numerous mothers complaining about having to pull together a costume for their child (or children). I totally understand the pressure on time and resources in an already jam-packed parenting week (okay I’m not a parent but I am around parents a lot!).

But what I wanted to say in this blog post is that what the parents might not see is the absolute joy in the classroom, as students explain their outfits and share with pride who their favouite character is and why. As an author, it’s wonderful to see young Australian students engaging with literature when they have the opportunity to do so. Book Week is the one week of the year when the entire school community – teachers and parents included – go the whole hog(worts) – see what I did there?🙂

In Book Week this year I spent a fabulous day at Helensvale State School running writing workshops with their student authors in Years 3-6. We had a blast creating characters and settings on the page. In between those classes I spoke to classes about my books, aiming to inspire the little people to also write. I didn’t have to try hard though at this school. When I asked students who wanted to be a writer – hundreds of hands shot up in the air! It was extraordinary. Also good to see a few teachers admit their desire to write the great Australian novel as well.

So, this week I am grateful for Book Week and the parents, teachers plus the all important teacher librarians that make the week a memorable one for all those who participate.

And I’m incredbly grateful for the invitation to visit H.S.S and work with some extraordinary students. I hope to be attending their book launches one day!

What was your Book Week experience this year?

52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 35 – Avid Reader, West End

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I have posted here many times about Avid Reader – the West End institution and haven for book lovers, the community minded, coffee and home-made-cake-connoisseurs. The bookshop owned by local legend Fiona Stager (below) is a navigation point for me in Brisbane. I measure distances from Avid Reader – my home is 1.5km by foot. The State Library is 1.3km. My Epic Good office is 800m. When I am in Brisbane Avid is not far from me. Or should I say I am not far from it!?

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The shop is not just about books. It’s about the way the staff – each and everyone one of them – makes people feel when they walk through the door. Everyone is a rock star; everyone is someone to be considered (or so it seems), as someone who belongs there. It is a place I always feel welcome. It is a place that helped me decided to move to Brisbane.

This week I am grateful for the sense of family that Avid Reader has given me. It is the reason I choose to have my book events there – because launches are about celebrating with family. It is the reason I put my hand up when I can to participate in events they have like National Bookshop Day. And community events they participate in like Swim The Reef.

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Thank you Fiona for being such a role model in the local community but also the literary world. Thank you Krissy (below) for not only years of unconditional friendship but for hosting the best events an author could hope for. Thank you Christopher for some of the funniest tweets the Twittersphere has seen. Thank you Stuart for the impressive treats your prepare day after day (please don’t let me eat too many!) and thank you to all the staff, you make being fabulous look sooooo easy!

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52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 34 – Routine

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The calming effects of the Brisbane River is part of my daily routine

I live a good life; there is no doubting that. But while the flying around for events where I connect with readers and re-connect with old friends are all food for the soul and warm the heart, the travel also takes it’s toll on the body and mental well-being.

With that in mind, I am always grateful to come home to my own bed, bathroom, kitchen (okay so most of you know I don’t cook but it’s still my kitchen) and the peacefulness that living by the river brings me. It was the same when I lived in Sydney. I just wanted to get back to Matraville where I could swing by Maroubra Beach, suck in the salt air and feel the calming effects of an at at-times forceful sea.

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My morning walks with Shaz to the Goodwill Bridge for a coffee with Brendan and the biceps is a great way to start the day!

And so in Week 34 my gratefulness is the routine of daily life: wake at daybreak, run / gym alone or walk with Sharon , a smoothie or green drink, the library or Epic Good Foundation, coffee with a friend, lunch in the sun, home on my couch watching mindless television, ironing, talking on the phone, bed with a book. Routine. I love it. Routine you see keeps me sane.

Am I the only one who craves routine at times?

“I’m Aboriginal. I’m just not the Aboriginal you expect me to be.” // Review of “Am I Black Enough For You” by Anita Heiss #aww2016

Title: Am I Black Enough For You? Author: Anita Heiss Genre: Memoir/Non-fiction Date Read: 01/08/2016 – 09/08/2016 Rating: ★★★★ Review: Normally memoirs don’t really get more than three…

Source: “I’m Aboriginal. I’m just not the Aboriginal you expect me to be.” // Review of “Am I Black Enough For You” by Anita Heiss #aww2016

Thank you Cowra!

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On Friday August 5, the town of Cowra commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the Cowra Breakout. Within the day’s events, the Mayor Cr Bill West launched my latest novel Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms. I was grateful to be back on Wiradjuri country at the significant historical POW campsite and to be part of another moment in local history.

I’d like to thank the Mayor for his words about myself and the novel (some can be read in the Cowra Guardian coverage of the launch), and a heartfelt thank you to the Cowra High students Nathan Dixon and Caitlan Howarth (pictured below) for delivering a welcome to country in both the Wiradjuri language and English.

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I’d particularly like to thank all the locals who came along to share in the moment, because I wrote Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms for those in Cowra and for anyone who calls Cowra home.

I wrote this novel because I felt compelled to write the shared history of Cowra during the war, so that Australians understood there were two ‘camps’ at the time, one where my own family lived with fewer luxuries than the POWs. Paramount to my storytelling was weaving in my mother’s memories, paying tribute to Wiradjuri families of prominence and showing respect to local Aboriginal people who had fought in World Wars.

No story about history is ever owned by one person, and so I need to thank all those who were part of pulling together the many stories that became Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms.

Firstly, my mother Elsie told me her own stories about growing up at Erambie, and that process of sharing made writing this book worthwhile for me personally. What a wonderful project for us to do together. We sat at the dinner table, me with notepad and pen and she loving the opportunity to talk. She tells me she’d like to write book one day, but if she doesn’t, she has this one.

Anita Heiss Book Launch 050816 (14) But it was the support from people on the ground here in Cowra that really made this book possible. The knowledge and wisdom and generosity of time of some key people helped me complete the work: local Koori historian Dr Lawrence Bamblett is the author of Our Stories are Our Survival. Laurie advised me from day one when I sent my idea to him. I told him that if he thought it was a bad idea I’d bin it straight away. I trusted his judgment living and working on country, when I was so far away. His advice kept me on track and I’d like to thank him for sharing the vision of telling the world about Erambie history.

I owe an enormous amount of gratitude to Lawrance Ryan – former President of the Cowra Breakout Association – for touring me around the former camp site. He gave me so much detail about the history and the logistics that the work is richer for his input. Lawrance generously read drafts and did research way beyond what I could have hoped for when I first had the idea to write a story about the Breakout. I know first hand that Laurence Ryan’s passion for history is infectious and Cowra is blessed to have him as an educator and ambassador.

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Lawrance also introduced me Graham Apthorpe – the author of A Town at War: Stories from Cowra in World War II Graham rightly asked me, why a novel Anita? Why not a history book? Well, the thing is Graham had already written an outstanding and comprehensive history of the Breakout – it formed the foundation of my knowledge of the history. I wanted anything that I did to complement his work and that of Laurie Bamblett’s. I also wanted to capture an audience that might not pick up a non-fiction text to read about war, but might pick up something like Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms. I think there are many stories and many ways in which to tell them, so I see my novel working in tandem with others. I’d like to thank Graham also for his commitment to documenting the stories of Cowra so that others can learn about our town.

Through Laurence Ryan I also met Marc McLeish who introduced me to Aunty Norma Wallace (Newton) and over a couple of meat pies we sat around the kitchen table and I learned about the Newton brothers in World War II, and they have been included in Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms too. I experienced so much generosity from locals wanting to help make this book complete and I am overwhelmingly thankful to them, including Marc and his extended family.

I relied on family to read drafts and to be happy with representations and I thank Anne Weldon (Coe) for reading pages on behalf of the Coe family who I wanted to recognize in the story for their contribution to the Australian war efforts throughout history but also as a respected family at Erambie.

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I was fortunate enough to travel to Japan also to meet Professor Mami Yamada, (pictured above) – a Japanese historian and author who had done comprehensive research on the Cowra Breakout, interviewing many former POWs. She gave me an insight into some stories that had never been told publicly, and unfortunately are not published in English. She read drafts and gave valuable feedback particularly on cultural representations of the Japanese in the book.

Collectively, a lot of other experts have helped me weave the facts around the Cowra Breakout and life at Erambie into a love story between Mary and Hiroshi. It is important for me to say that I am not an expert on the Breakout; I am not an expert on Cowra or Erambie. I am just someone who wrote a book because I wanted school students around Australia to be talking about World War II from an Australian perspective, inclusive of Aboriginal people. I wanted book clubs to be reading this novel and discussing the themes within it. I wanted Australians generally to realize that while we treated the POWs here in the 1940s as we were meant to under the Geneva Conventions, we have gone backwards as a nation today where we have the UN Refugee Agency saying we treat those imprisoned on Manus Island and Nauru in inhumane conditions and we are torturing young people in detention in the Northern Territory in places like Don Dale. There are lessons to still be learned from the history of Cowra, and I hope that my novel goes some way to being part of the education process.

I also want the world to know that Cowra is a deadly place to be. That it is the home of the UN World Peace Bell as well as the home of past, present and future Aboriginal leaders – like Nathan and Caitlin.

I think this is my 15th book and it is the one that means most to me because it holds the story of where my own story begins. And with that it mind I sincerely thank anyone who chooses to read the work and I hope it speaks to your heart and mind.

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Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms is currently available from:

Avid Reader,

Riverbend Books

Readings

Gleebooks

Constant Reader

Booktopia

And for my international readers, Book Depository will deliver anywhere in the world for free.

52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Week 33 – Thank you Sydney!

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I landed in Sydney on August 3 and it was bucketing down. The perfect weather to stay in bed and read, but not so perfect to head out into the rain to get a new book. And yet, avid readers, my friends and my family all trudged through wind and rain to celebrate the release of Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms with an event at Stanton Library and a launch hosted by Jumbunna, Indigenous House of Learning at UTS.

This post is to thank the friendly and fabulous group at Stanton Library – with an audience made up of sista writers Lisa Heidke and Pamela Freeman – pictured above. Thank you also to Constant Reader Bookshop for coming along and also taking away a truck load of autographed books!

It was my first public appearance for the novel – released on August 1 – and the friendly crowd couldn’t have made the debut any easier for me. Thank you! (Can I just say also, that when I retire I look forward to going to the library to listen to guest authors because it’s a great way to spend your time)

IMG_1881A few hours later, in the dark and cold of the night, another group of well-wishers joined me as Professor Michael McDaniel – a Wiradjuri fella from Forbes – launched the novel. I have had the good fortune of working alongside Michael over the years and have seen the power of his own storytelling and the impact that has had particularly in the education system. (Check out Michael at his best here!)

And so I was humbled he agreed to read his first ‘romance novel as a form of social commentary’ and then share some thoughts on the book. Thank you Michael for your wisdom and enlightened words about how we need to look at the human rights abuses of today that are far worse than how we treated POWs in the 1940s. And indeed how the lives of Aboriginal people are still impacted on in many ways, in line with life on Erambie mission back then also. Resized_20160804_102931

Thank you to Professor Larissa Behrendt who MC’d the launch. Larissa is a longtime friend, a sista-novelist (check out her books here!) and a woman who has no fear when it comes to social justice and saying what needs to be said. Is it any wonder I have the strength to do what I do, when I have such amazing people like Michael and Larissa to learn from. (Thanks also to Larissa for the deadly interview on Speaking Out, recorded the following morning – and here we are in the studio above with Renee at the ABC!)

But the room in Building 10 was full of amazing people. Some I hadn’t seen for many years. Some I know from business networks, others from uni and school days. It was like a reunion and book-birth in one. Below is a dear friend Sonia – we first met at UNSW way back in 1992 and still see each other – infrequently, but always quality!

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Launches are really about the opportunity for the author to thank the many people who support us along the way; which I did on the night. But right now, I want to thank those who braved the weather to share the moment, for I am now, as I was on the night, incredibly grateful. I am sometimes embarrassed but always humbled by the support of friends and family, and even strangers who come along to my bookish events.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my dear friend Julie Reilly ‘Why are you so good to me?’ – when she had ventured out in the blistery cold of Melbourne to see me at my hotel. She responded, ‘Because I love you’.

It felt like there was a lot of love in the room last Wednesday night, if not for me, then for storytelling and books. And for all of that I am grateful.

Finally, thank you to the staff at UTS for hosting the evening. I’m proud to be associated with Jumbunna and I’m thrilled that the launch of Barbed Wire and Cherry Blossoms could be part of your cultural program.

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Here’s a group of amazing women that inspire many – Michelle Deshong, Becky Harcourt, Terri Janke and Robynne Quiggin. And I get to call them friends!

 

 

52 Weeks of Gratefulness: Wk 32 – Australian Outback (half) Marathon

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I’m leaving Uluru and I don’t want to. Every time I visit here I leave filled with gratitude – for the Anangu people who welcomed me, for the spirit of the landscape that enriched me, and for the tranquility of the place that allowed me to just be present.

I’m writing this blog while I wait for my delayed flight and I’m reflecting on what has been an extraordinary visit, yet again. The last four days have given me new friendships, new levels of fitness, new ways to consider place, and time to reflect on how blessed I am to even be able to travel to the heart of this country. FullSizeRender

I came here to run in the name of reading. I wanted to use the Australian Outback Marathon to raise awareness and cash for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.  I set up an everyday hero page and over the course of two months and the race, I was supported by 74 donors who generously gifted over $6000 to the cause. THANK YOU! I am incredibly grateful to each and every one of you for your support.

I’m also grateful to Jenni Curtis – a sista from Western Australia – who first introduced me to the Outback Marathon. Last year Jenni invited me to run with her and a group of yorgas as part of their team. I didn’t have the funds to get myself here back then, but I vowed to do the run this year. It became a bucket list priority for me. And so when Antoinette Braybrook – a sista from Melbourne – said she was keen, we booked. And we didn’t look back.

The event was more than just running for me. In fact, the race became secondary as I spent time with likeminded people, running on Anangu country with Uluru and Kata Tjuta as backdrops. It might sound strange but I don’t remember my legs moving across the landscape for 21km – it didn’t feel like I was running like it does back home. Maybe that’s because I was too busy talking, laughing and taking photos of Antoinette and our other running tidda Wendy – because, well, that’s how we roll in life.

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Photostop at 18km with Uluru in the background

I expected the red earth underfoot to make it difficult to run. I expected I would struggle on soft sand and feel my usual aches in the knees, ankles and hips. But I felt none of that. I felt at peace. I felt fulfilled. I felt like I was much lighter on my feet than my actual body frame is. I felt like I was part of an extraordinary life experience that married some of the things that matter most to me; running, being around good-hearted-fun-people and fundraising for charity.

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There’s nothing like holding the finisher’s medal🙂

So I leave Uluru today incredibly grateful – to the locals, to my tiddas Antoinette and Wendy, to the organisers of the Outback Marathon, and to me – for ticking the run off the “bucketlist” and preparing me for the next challenge in life.

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Thank you Tina from Travelling Fit for being the most awesome rep to work with!