Wednesday, 4 September 2013

A lesson from an old classic


I'm delighted to be taking part in this brand new blog. The energy and excitement feels almost palpable and I'm looking forward to many great posts to come. The chance to focus on the high-quality and varied writing of the Australasian region will be a boon for all who read this as we have lots to offer.

I was thinking how much our situation resembles an episode in an old classic novel I enjoyed in my youth. Little did I know a few decades later I'd come to back to it and realise, "Hey, that's us." It isn't an Australasian book but a Canadian one, Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

In a chapter entitled An Open Door, a successful businesswoman, Miss Janet Royal, comes for a brief visit to her old, provincial home, Prince Edward Island. Miss Royal is the literary editor of a flash women's magazine and also a reader for a noted publishing house. Having read a story by young Emily of New Moon, she makes the teenager a stunning offer.

"You mustn't waste your life here. Come with me to New York and in ten years time, you'll be a household name."

When the initial rush of excitement fades, Emily reflects, prays and consults her visceral feelings. On the surface, this seems like a no-brainer. Success would loom so much closer, certain, brilliant and quick were she to accept Miss Royal's offer. Yet why is she having so much trouble making the big decision?

Her old former school teacher, Mr Carpenter, tells her that he wants her to be a Canadian through and through, doing something for the literature of her own country, keeping her unique tang and flavour, although he concedes that there are not many dollars in it. Emily realises the sense of what he is saying. To use her own words, 'the fountain of living water would dry up in her soul' if she left to pursue the big time, and she wouldn't succeed there either.

Miss Royal is disappointed by her decision, and tells her she'll never amount to anything. "The big editors won't look past the address of Prince Edward Island on your manuscript." With that, the novel is close to the end. But well into the trilogy's final, Emily's Quest, our heroine causes a stir with a lovely book named, The Moral of the Rose. Miss Royal writes her a letter admitting, "You were right not to come to New York. You could never have written that charming tale here."

Is it a simple lesson to go with your gut or could it be even deeper for us? Is the message in this old classic a reinforcement that our Australasian, Christian focused writing also has its special tang and flavour with the potential to touch many readers deeply? Physically moving our geographical location to get more exposure is not necessarily a wise or practical move. Nor is watering down our Christian values to make stories that may appeal to more secular audiences. But in spite of the feeling we may sometimes get from the rest of the world that our region is regarded as a bit parochial and removed from the rest of the world, we know in our hearts that what we have to offer in our faith-filled literature is like a strong vein of gold.

If you own a globe of the world, I challenge you to take hold of it and look at the Australasian region, deep in the Southern Hemisphere, surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans. You may understand why it may seem easy to overlook, as it's geographically far away from North America and Europe. But I know through experience that our people, descended from generations of brave settlers and influenced by our rugged landscape, have a lot to offer the world in our writing. If you aren't familiar with this part of the world, you may like to become regular followers of this blog, to familiarise yourself with the names on the toolbar for a start, and get ready for lots of excellent reading.

Giveaway
Don't forget that by commenting on each blog post this week you go into the opening weeks giveaways. For more information check the launch post. Remember you need to fill in the form and post on the blog posts. No comment means no entry.

Paula Vince is the award-winning author of several contemporary inspirational novels set in her own beautiful environment, the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. She believes that a well-told story is a powerful tool to change hearts and touch lives. She likes to fill her own stories with suspense, drama and romance. Visit her at www.paulavince.com, or follow her blog, www.justoccurred.blogspot.com.     

47 comments:

  1. Thank you Paula! What a lovely, encouraging post. We are unique and special in our own way - with our own flavor and 'tang.'
    Love that.

    I'm walking away with a smile.

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    1. Thanks, Catherine. Glad to give you a smile so early in the day. It's true, about the flavour and tang, isn't it?

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  2. Excellent point. I am Canadian and by the way related to Lucy on my father's side. Canada and Australia and all the other countries have their own stories and their own way of speaking. I have read several Australian books in the past 2 years for my book blog and enjoyed every one of them. There have been a few words that I wasn't sure of but the context made them perfectly plain and it was interesting to say "oh, that's what they call it!". Being true to your roots makes for the best reading I always think.

    Now for a shameless plug for new followers. I have been ill and closed my blog but now am able to restart it. In order to rejoin Booksneeze I need 30 followers, and I also need some followers and 6 months of new posts to rejoin ACRBA. So if you have an urge please come click at http://wynswonderland.blogspot.ca

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    1. Hi Wyn,
      I'm pleased to be able to pay homage to one of your nation's great authors. And you have that family link, wow! One place I would love to visit is PEI, to walk in the footsteps of LMM. I've visited via Google Earth and it looks as beautiful as she describes it.
      BTW, I'm glad to think we're all broadening your education with our Aussie-style words :)

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    2. Cool about being related to LMM.
      Good to see you here Wyn and I am now a follower of your blog

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  3. Thanks so much, Paula--you have started us off on a great note! I love the idea that our 'faith filled literature is like a strong vein of gold'. And thanks for reminding me about the 'Emily' books too, which are still on my shelf--I look forward to re-reading them soon.

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    1. Hi Jo-Anne,
      It's an image I like too. I love to get the old youth classics down from time to time, to have a re-read. I think, because they were written in a slower-paced time, some of that more leisurely, contemplative beauty still comes through the pages to us.

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  4. What a great comparison to that novel. I'm not sure if I ever finished the Emily books. But that was a great post. Thanks Paula.

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  5. What a great comparison to that novel. I'm not sure if I ever finished the Emily books. But that was a great post. Thanks Paula.

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    1. Hi Amanda,
      LMM was certainly prolific, but there were only three in the series, so they're pretty quick to get through. I mention that sometimes to the people who think they should start by delving straight into Anne. I'm sure you probably have heaps on them on your shelves too.

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  6. Great start Paula. In some ways the world seems so small these days that we can feel like a tight knit community of writers from so many countries, and yet it seems readers can easily limit themselves and miss out on so much coming from the other side of the globe. Hope this site will open up the world for many.

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    1. Hi Carol,
      That's my hope too. Sometimes I hear or comment from somebody overseas which just makes me think, 'They don't know a whole lot about our corner of the world, and I'm sure they'd love it if they did.'

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  7. HI Paula, great post. Like Jo-Anne, I stopped to savour your line, 'we know in our hearts that what we have to offer in our faith-filled literature is like a strong vein of gold.'

    The settlers, the pioneers, the convicts.... have gifted us a legacy no writer could ignore. I know many in this group are working hard to write these stories. From colonial to contemporary ~ the unique flavours of Australia provide something for every reader.

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    1. Hi Dorothy,
      Such a legacy indeed! It's been a short history compared to other ancient places, but so much has been crammed into it. And as Wyn's comment up above shows, even when we think our flavour might not be coming through, it really is.

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  8. Thank you Paula! What a wonderfully encouraging post!

    As I was reading the post, I was considering the fact that just like the United States, Australia and New Zealand were settled by pioneers, convicts, and other immigrants. We have similar histories to the US, but with different flavours. We have all been affected by the early gold rushes, the world wars, taming the land we now call home, droughts, floods and famines, and the emergence of the global community, which now brings us to a place where we can share our history through story with the rest of the world.

    I myself have been amazed by the stories I have discovered of pioneering women who endured some very challenging circumstances, and in some cases the conflicts between the NZ settlers and the native Maori have echoed the experiences of the colonial settlers of the US with the native American Indians. Laura Frantz is one Christian novelist who addresses this in her books, and if our stories can match hers, they will be welcome reading the world over.

    'we know in our hearts that what we have to offer in our faith-filled literature is like a strong vein of gold.' Hear, hear. I couldn't agree more.

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    1. Hi Ellie,
      Yes, if we can achieve what Laura Frantz is doing for her own region, that would be great. I've only read "Courting Morrow Little" so far, but it was enough to show me that such histories deserve to be woven into stories. You're right, when we think of our pioneers and what they coped with, we can do the same. In fact, I've been busy studying the discoveries by our old explorers such as Tasman and Cook in homeschooling.

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    2. And here's another homeschooling topic for you - New Zealand as a "State" of Australia.

      In the Australian Constitution, we are listed as one of the "States" of the Commonwealth of Australia
      http://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Senate/Powers_practice_n_procedures/Constitution/preamble

      And here is a page exploring that fact:
      http://www.oocities.org/nzstatehood/

      And a wiki page about the topic of proposed states of Australia, including NZ:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_proposed_states_of_Australia

      Makes for fascinating reading ;-)

      New Zealand was administered as a part of New South Wales before the Treaty of Waitangi was established. Definitely something to keep in mind if ever we write something set back that far!


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  9. Lovely post, Paula. A great 1st blog post for ACW. Now what will I write for the 2nd one? Hmmm...

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    1. Hi Ian,
      Thanks, and I'm looking forward to whatever you have to share on Friday. I'm sure it'll be great :)

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  10. Thanks Paula for reminding us how blessed we are to be Aussies and present our outlook on life to others.

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  11. Hi Dale,
    Yes, that's true, isn't it? Judging from the feedback of international friends who have already discovered us, it's just a matter of reaching more people. I hope this blog will help fill that gap.

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  12. Great post, Paula. I have many of Montgomery's books still on my "keeper" bookshelves but while I read the Emily ones many years ago also they are not there. However, one of the first downloads on my new Kindle this year was all her books on one download from Amazon. Now I have to make time to read the Emily ones again. So very true what you have reminded us of. An old hymn, Jesus Bids Us Shine,came to my mind when I read your post. It has words that impacted me in my childhood days and perhaps should even more so today "- "you in your small corner and I in mine." Let us each separately but together light up the world for Him!

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  13. Hi Mary,
    That sounds like a great Kindle download. All the LMM books together like that. I agree with you, we continue to shine in our own ways from our corners of the globe. It's getting exciting in our times, when internet and the electronic book industry make it easier than ever to do this. I'm sure I've heard you say so too.

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  14. Paula, thanks for sharing a great analogy of our unique place in the publishing world :) I have wonderful critique partners who help me tweak the Aussie expressions in my books. It's challenging to write books for an American and international audience without losing the tang and flavour of our heritage. Somes words can translate in context, as Wyn has mentioned, and others either don't make sense or have a totally different meaning. btw, I'd love to visit PEI and see the 'Anne' places.

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    1. Hi Narelle,
      I've had a few people help me like that too. Some of the terms which I was told might not make sense to the rest of the world totally surprised me, so having critique partners and international friends like that is a great blessing.

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  15. Hi Paula,
    A good reminder that we have something to offer from our small corner of the world - with a rich history even if European settlement isn't so long ago. I must say though, that one thing I enjoyed about the latest book by Rose Dee - New Resolution - was her protagonist Anika Deumer's indigenous background and how that was weaved into the story.
    On another note, my daughter and I have been reading through the Anne books. We are up to Anne of Ingleside and I'm looking forward to Rilla of Ingleside. Now I know we have at least another three tomes to pursue - the Emily series :)
    Thanks for your clarion call to continue true to our calling.

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    1. Hi Jenny,
      I loved that about New Resolution too. I wasn't surprised to see that it was a CALEB finalist.
      I'm sure, from what you've shared about your other reading material, that you and your daughter would both love the Emily trilogy. I highly recommend them.

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  16. Great post, Paula, reminding us of our roots, which is why I love the 'Australasian' flavour of this group. I often feel split in my affiliation but here I get to be a bonafide KiRoo - the best of both worlds! Must go back and read LMM over again. I'll hop on a plane with you to visit PEI anytime :)

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    1. Hi Andrea,
      Yeah, let's do it!
      I hate to admit I've never been to NZ either, let alone Canada. I'd love to visit both, as I've heard so much about their beauty. And any KiRoos will definitely feel at home at this blog.

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    2. Wait for me! If you girls got to PEI, I want to go too. :)

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  17. You are so right, Paula, and Australians have contributed to so many breakthroughs in so many sectors, (medical research, invention, sports, arts, could go on and on). For a country with a small population, we are an amazing people.

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    1. Hi Rose,
      And it's all been done in such a reasonably short amount of time too.
      You've reminded me of the end of the Olympics last year, when somebody figured out that, based on our population size, the amount of golds we won was phenomenal, something like one for every 1000 Russian, American or Chinese.

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  18. Excellent post, Paula. You always manage to make me think.

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    1. Thanks, Iola.
      I'm very happy to hear that :) This week is fairly heavy for me, blogwise.

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  19. Right on!! There are Australian readers too! And we like reading about our own country from our own authors! No one else can capture the essence of Australia!
    I've also noticed that Australian books are altered for an American audience, but we still read the original coming from America.
    Don't sell out on either location or Christian standards. I review books on my blog and if there is swearing (even what is considered by some to be minor), I won't be recommending the book and I will be unlikely to buy any more books from that author.

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    1. Hi Beth,
      I completely agree. I think it must be good for other nations to capture our unadulterated essence in the pages of our books. Some international authors have tried to set their stories in Australia but if they haven't been here, it's not quite the same.
      Thanks for giving us a plug in your reviews :)

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    2. Beth I agree also and I'm with you on swearing. Thanks for commenting each day.

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  20. Great post Paula. didn't read LMM as when I tried I was to young. had a reading age belowmany my age and the books at the time were to hard for me. I love reading fom all over although do get frustrated with some English books. I enjoy Aussie books that you can tell the author knows or researched the place or like Robin Jones Gunn writes from the point of view of an American visiting which was so much fun.

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    1. Hi Jenny,
      I'm glad to see that experience you mentioned didn't put you off reading. I know that's how it's happened for others who say similar things. I agree with you about people who know what they're talking about. In such cases, the subtleties are very obvious :)

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    2. No I think I loved reading to much even as a kid. I grew up one Enid Blyton and read and reread them. Mum read Anne of Green Gables as a child and wanted to share it with me. She also read Pollyanna and I loved that and Heidi but they were an easier read. I was about 12 and I was to young for Anne I was still reading the Famous Five. If I tried a few years later would have worked. She did get me the first couple of the Billabong books when I was 16 as she had read them also as a child and loved them and I Loved them read many of them.
      I know it does put kids off reading if anything was going to do that it was being forced to read Lord of the Flies in year 8!

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    3. Jenny, I grew up on the Famous Five too! Re-read my copies for years. :)

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    4. All those you've mentioned were great friends of mine when I was young (if you can call books friends). Good old Enid Blyton was such a prolific author, responsible for such a huge wealth of literature for young people.

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    5. She was wonderful and she wrote books that kids love and could use there imagination with I still remember some of the places in the far away tree.

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  21. I haven't read the book you mentioned, Paula, but I agree absolutely in everything you said in your blog, especially as we can learn a lesson from it. What appealed to me most was that we should not water down our Christian values to make our stories more appealing to others.
    Hazel Barker

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    1. Hi Hazel,
      That watering down can be a real temptation at times, with book shops saying they won't buy Aussie Christian books and pressure from those around us to make our books more 'marketable.' I think this blog will help us all to stay firm and stick to the writing we know we feel called to be doing.

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  22. I had a writing friend (from USA) who said I should have commented that this is an Australian book, but I didn't want to. There was just a few things that are very Australian likie the term "nurse a baby" here means hold a baby, but in the US it means breastfeed a baby.
    We should be proud of our heritage and showing the world Australia

    MEL

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  23. Hi Mel,
    Indeed we should be proud. Differences such as those you've mentioned are the type that often take me by surprise, when I realise that the ones I've chosen to use really are complete different for our international friends.

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