Monthly Archives: December 2015

A Writer’s Notebook

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A Writer’s Notebook – Eartha Kit

The incomparable Eartha Kit.

Season’s Greetings and Magical New Year to All.


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A Writer’s Notebook – Shared from Katherine Martinko

The beautiful Icelandic tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve
Katherine Martinko
Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair)
Living / Culture
December 21, 2015

Book lovers will want to adopt this lovely holiday tradition, which melds literary and holiday pleasures into a single event.

Icelanders have a beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading. This custom is so deeply ingrained in the culture that it is the reason for the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,” when the majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas giving.

At this time of year, most households receive an annual free book catalog of new publications called the Bokatidindi. Icelanders pore over the new releases and choose which ones they want to buy, fueling what Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, describes as “the backbone of the publishing industry.”

“It’s like the firing of the guns at the opening of the race,” says Baldur Bjarnason, a researcher who has written about the Icelandic book industry. “It’s not like this is a catalog that gets put in everybody’s mailbox and everybody ignores it. Books get attention here.”

The small Nordic island, with a population of only 329,000 people, is extraordinarily literary. They love to read and write. According to a BBC article, “The country has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world… One in 10 Icelanders will publish [a book].”

It seems there is more value placed on physical, paper books than in North America, where e-books have grown in popularity. One bookstore manager told NPR, “The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift, you give a physical book. You don’t give e-books here.” The book industry is driven by the majority of people buying several books each year, rather than the North American pattern of a few people buying lots of books.

When I asked an Icelandic friend what she thought of this tradition, she was surprised.

“I hadn’t thought of this as a special Icelandic tradition. It is true that a book is always considered a nice gift. Yes, for my family this is true. We are very proud of our authors.”
It sounds like a wonderful tradition, perfect for a winter evening. It is something that I would love to incorporate into my own family’s celebration of Christmas. I doubt my loyalty to physical books will ever fade; they are the one thing I can’t resist collecting, in order to read and re-read, to beautify and personalize my home, to pass on to friends and family as needed. Combining my love for books and quiet, cozy Christmas Eves sounds like a perfect match.

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A Writer’s Notebook-Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chavez


Joaquin Alberto Vargas y Chávez (9 February 1896 – 30 December 1982) was a noted Peruvian painter of pin-up girls. He is often considered one of the most famous of the pin-up artists. Numerous Vargas paintings have sold and continue to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Born in Arequipa, Peru, Vargas moved to the United States in 1916 after studying art in Europe, Zurich, and Geneva prior to World War I. While he was in Europe he came upon the French magazine La Vie Parisienne, with a cover by Raphael Kirchner, which he said was a great influence on his work. He was the son of noted Peruvian photographer Max T. Vargas.

His early career in New York included work as an artist for the Ziegfeld Follies and for many Hollywood studios. Ziegfeld hung his painting of Olive Thomas at the theater, and she was thought of as one of the earliest Vargas Girls. Vargas’ most famous piece of film work was for the poster of the 1933 film The Sin of Nora Moran, which shows a near-naked Zita Johann in a pose of desperation. The poster is frequently named one of the greatest movie posters ever made.

He became widely noted in the 1940s as the creator of iconic World War-II era pin-ups for Esquire magazine known as “Vargas Girls.” The nose art of many American and Allied World War II aircraft was inspired and adapted from these Esquire pin-ups, as well those of George Petty, and other artists.

I have a pictorial book of pictures painted by Vargas who painted truly beautiful images of women. His paintings  of the forties reflect a time when women loved to dress up.


I have just pressed the send button on the final edit on my novel: Castle of Dreams to be published in April 2016 by Allen & Unwin.

The story is a duel narrative and one narrative is set in the forties of the last century. It’s an era I love. I pondered over this while I was writing because I feel a powerful connection to those days. “Fabulous Forties and all that” a character in my story says reflecting back on the time when war raged across the world for the second time in twenty years.

I have thought often of the people born  to live through two world wars: men who fought, women who lost husbands, lovers, sons or daughters; whole families lost to war. I also thought of the two separate generations of young people who  marched out the door and never came home again;  these were the things that informed the narrative of my story.

On a lighter note the forties was the time of a live for the moment attitude among young people. I have set part of my novel in  Queensland, Australia where thousands of American troops were based during the Pacific War. There were dance halls: Cloudland and the Trocader being two of the most popular, the jitterbug, “the Americans were the best at that” a character in my novel says, the girls wore swing skirts and victory rolls in their hair. They fell in love with American soldiers, as did Vivien in Castle of Dreams, and our boys ended up in New Guinea where my own uncle died on the Kokoda Track.

Having older parents who told me stories from those times made it easier for me to bring the story alive in my novel. It was like having my own private viewing of the past and some insight into the secrets waiting to be discovered there.

Now the siren song of a new novel is calling I have a feeling I might revisit this era.


Ref: Wikipedia

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A Writer’s Notebook – The Divorce, ABC Opera Performance, Television


Looking forward to this innovative production.

Australian Arts Review
The Divorce

2015 – Opera, Performance, Television
Elena Kats-Chernin_Helge Krückeberg editorialExploring the universal themes of love, passion, regret, greed and longing, The Divorce is a contemporary comedic opera written and designed especially for the screen in an Opera Australia, ABC TV and Princess Pictures collaboration.

After a long and satisfying marriage, wealthy couple Iris and Jed are happily getting a divorce and are throwing an elaborate party at their elegant home to celebrate. But by the end of the evening, Iris and Jed’s divorce has triggered a renegotiation of all certainties and the characters are set on an unanticipated course.

Originally commissioned by the Opera Conference, The Divorce features music by internationally acclaimed composer Elena Kats-Chernin, a libretto by award-winning playwright Joanna Murray-Smith, and features an impressive ensemble of stars from stage and screen including Lisa McCune, Marina Prior, Hugh Sheridan, Kate Miller-Heidke, John O’May, Matthew McFarlane, Melissa Madden-Gray and Peter Cousens.

“The Divorce pushes the boundaries of the opera art form via the screen,” says Opera Australia Artistic Director Lyndon Terracini. “We have assembled a magnificent cast supported by the musical and vocal expertise of the Australian Opera Ballet Orchestra and Opera Australia Chorus.”

The Divorce is a unique multi-platform project that re-invents opera for television, film and online audiences all across the country, in a playful new approach to a traditional art form in a collaboration between ABC TV Arts, Opera Australia and Princess Pictures, bringing together exceptional creative talent from multiple genres, including comedy director Dean Murphy (Cliffy, Strange Bedfellows) and cinematographer Roger Lanser (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries).

“Luscious, light-hearted and over-flowing with talent and glorious music, we look forward to bringing this daring production to screen audiences, opera devotees, lovers of music and comedy and the curious,” said Andrea Denholm, Princess Pictures Producer.

For more information, visit: or for details.


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