Pixi’s Book of Circus

I have known Pixi, ever since we met at a Writing Group in Wollongong. She once kindly gave my family tickets to go to see Circus Oz as well when we last caught up in Brisbane over ten years ago! I was delighted to hear she has recently published a book on circus especially for children, but attractive for all ages.  Pixi has lived and studied circus, and her book is written from a true first hand and an academic researched understanding of what circus actually is.

Pixi was born in Perth and studied classical ballet.   She worked on circuses in Germany and England, flying trapeze, aerial ballet, riding elephants. Back in Australia she married a fellow-performer on Swiss Circus Royale in the “big top”. A founding member of Circus Oz, Associate Artistic Director for the first three years of The Flying Fruit Fly Circus.   She has an associate Degree in Visual Art at Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA), BA (1st Class Hons. Writing) and a Masters at Edith Cowan University. She self-published Bunty Armitage – Circus Girl (2014); Tempo – a circus romance (2015) both on Lulu.com; A Book of Circus (2017) and you can order on FB.  She is the Oceania Co-ordinator, World Circus Day and Co-organiser, Australian Circus Festival.

 

1.What is your earliest memory of circus? 

Seeing Bullen Bros Circus or Ashton’s Circus, or possibly Wirth’s Circus (can’t remember which but saw them all) in early 1950s in Perth. It always rained when the circus came! My main memory, is of massed girls spinning in the air, the sound of the circus band, andthe evocative smell of exotic animals.

 

2.When and why did you begin to write this circus book?

It grew out of another project, a serious, slightly academic picture book on the history of Australian Circus. I felt it was important to share the important cultural aspects of circus in the colonies and in the present day; most people have no idea of this rich, vibrant history.

 

3.Why did you pick the style of the book? And how would you describe it?

This is a picture book using real photographic images of historic and contemporary circuses and performers. The use of drawn or painted illustrations was not a consideration as too much of “circus” is presented as fantasy while it is, in fact, gutsy and earthy and real.

 

4.Why did you independently publish your book?

I’ve been submitting unsuccessfully to publishers and agents for quite some time, even though I had a Second and a Highly Commended from the Children’s Book Council of NSW “Frustrated Writers’ Awards” which ultimately led nowhere, so decided a few years ago that I just better do it myself as I can’t seem to get past the gate-keepers of the book publishing establishment.

 

5.Who is your main interested audience for this book?  Why?

The Book of Circus is designed for young circus audience members, circus fans and collectors of circus books; it has eye-appeal for children (target audience) and grandmas who buy treats at the circus. For adults it  contains information about general circus history and some facts about circus animals. It is a resource for schools, libraries and other interested parties with listings for all the travelling circuses in Australia, circus schools, circus shows and circus equipment suppliers.

 

6.What five words would your use to describe this book?

Colourful; fun; entertaining; affordable; informative.

 

7.Share  your favourite short excerpt from the book.

Given the current (and puzzling) hysteria surrounding clowns, I’m quite pleased with my explanation aimed at young children in an endeavor to normalize our clown colleagues:

Clowns are ordinary people wearing face paint and funny clothes”.

 

8.What is your favourite image in this book?  Why?

I love them all, which is why they’re in the book, but I have to admit to particularly loving “l is for lion” – young Cassius West from Stardust Circus with his favourite lion cub, just beautiful. This family of animal trainers, acrobats, aerialists and circus proprietors shares a special affinity with the Big Cats.

 

9.What advice would you give to anyone wanting to go into circus work?

Aspiring circus performers and workers need to understand that it is a way of life, not just a job, whether you are an artiste, an animal handler, the fairy-floss maker, or the on-site school teacher. Rather like farming, really, in many ways: the weather, the outdoor aspects, the animals, the constant harassment by animal activists, but with the bonus of constantly changing scenery! So if you chose this path you have to be committed 100% to 24 hour days, 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year. Hard work? Yes, of course, but more rewarding than you could ever imagine.

 

10. What advice would you give to new writers when picking a topic to write about?

Let the topic pick you. I never meant to write about circus, but it just keeps happening, ha, ha!

 

 

How to get hold of the book

Pixi is now taking orders for A BOOK OF CIRCUS.  $15 plus postage. VIA email:  sumarapixi@hotmail.com

You can find out about her other circus books via Lulu

More information about Pixi is HERE

 

Tempo on Lulu

Thanks so much for appearing on the blog Pixi!  May you write many more books of circus!

 

 

Walking out the Writing Beginning Blues

June Perkins. Taken on my phone

Dear Readers,

Walking and thinking are truly a cure for a bad case of procrastinating starting something new.

Recently I have been  constantly perched at my desk, and sometimes a lovely green recliner chair in front of the fish tank (that is when I can ‘rent’ some time from my daughter who just loves this chair) planning and planning a new novel, character by character,  scene by scene, and furiously studying how to build scenes through reading a text-book.

I’ve been researching setting (more still to do) and yet the first pages remained unwritten for several weeks.

I’ve been writing other things; four poems, a short prose piece,  a short observation piece; as well as editing several picture books.

I’ve been reading quite a few books for children, young adults and adults to see what I like in my own reading and what techniques I like from other writers.

I’ve been avoiding my novel project.

But a couple of days ago I knew I just had to start doing the hard yards of writing and completing my first novel, lest this become the novel unwritten!

I began to do more walking. Something about the fresh air, and moments to observe and day-dream suddenly lead to a productive writing session of the opening! As I walked the voice to open the novel became clear. That’s it!  I suddenly felt like the journey of writing this novel was on!

Now heading into my third day of writing I have four scenes,  and have established three central characters.  I have made a pledge not to miss a novel writing session every day, even if its short, it is the sticking at it that is going to get me through, together with some change of scenes, and thinking breaks when required throughout the day, and of course I do have other things to do, being a mum, running a household, being a tutor and conquering some other things in life to enable me to grow as a human being.

I am doing the first draft, and have a goal of when I would like to complete it.

The outline does make me feel more confident that I can do this, although the characters may do some dynamic things, but I have a compass for them to help us all make it to the end.

Switching from short forms to long forms and finishing long forms has been a bit of an issue for me, and a recent realisation that many of my short stories are novels, or novellas in the making is a jolt to the writing senses.  I have actually started three novels and not completed them.  I could sigh,  and say, ‘I just have to do this and make it through the first one!’  But I want a better attitude than that, and want that being in the flow writing experience. I do so love these characters and want to honour them!

On one of my trips out into the real world – I came across this random cafe poetry. It made me chuckle.   It reminded me this novel cannot be completed by being chained to my desk.

June Perkins. Taken on my phone

Wondering about the opening

Apathy sets in

Lingering on other tasks until

Kickstarting this dream with the first scene after a walk.

Well I can’t stop in too long to this blog because there is a novel waiting for its next scene and a few submissions to put in so as to earn a crust.

Yes, I am walking today, and who knows what novelistic ideas I will daydream whilst I walk through my next scene.

Have a brilliant week wherever you are, and don’t forget the power of a walk and dream session!

All the best,

June

Art Class

I have been delighted to have some work published at Australian Children’s Poetry blog.

blurred

 

Art Class

For Vincent’s  ‘The  Starry,  Starry Night’

 

Outlines crash into swirls

Miss Del Amico asks, what do you see?

Is that a sky of blue curls?

Outlines crash into swirls

Time to dive for some pearls

Will I find this painting’s key?

Outlines crash into swirls

Miss Del Amico asks, what do you see ?

June Perkins
  • Submitted in response to Poetry Prompt #8

poetry-prompt-8

 

 

 

June said: This is a triolet using the prompt ‘Blurred.’ The first words that came into my head were, ‘outlines crash into swirls’.

The trickiest thing with this poem was picking the artist.  Would they be someone I personally knew who painted, a fictional small child, or someone who everyone knows that paints?  I thought of a famous artist who used swirls, Vincent Van Gough.

I added the dedication to help with understanding of the poem.

I imagine this poem is an art class for early childhood with a teacher who likes to introduce the children to great artists, and likes to encourage them to look beyond the surface of the painting, into what it means to the artist who paints it.  I decided to name the teacher after my favourite art teacher at high school.

 

(Published March 3rd at Australian Children’s Poetry Blog)

How to Be a Poet and Why not to be a Poet

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The last time I was in this lecture theatre was for the launch of Lani Wendt Young’s latest book with the Pacific Community of Brisbane.  Today I am at a partnership event between the Queensland Poetry Festival and QUT, where they are hosting the poet,  Jeet Thayil.

It’s a free public lecture, but there are many poetry students in the audience, students of the immensely talented poet Sarah Holland-Bat (I am pictured on above with her.)

It’s an interesting room with its sloping ceilings and curving walls that give it a Pacific feel,  and the red plush fold out chairs add a feeling of majesty.  It has an arty feeling to it, and is certainly not a sterile feeling room.

Sarah introduces Jeet, an Indian poet, novelist, librettist and musician. He is best known as a poet and is the author of four collections, and as Sarah puts it is a ‘Renaissance Man’.  He was also short listed for the ‘Booker Prize.’  Currently he is the poet in residence.

Jeet then begins his presentation.  He shares with us a series of poems and let’s us know the book will be for sale later.  He gives us a pitch, ‘For the price of a good wine, or a Hungry Jacks meal, why not buy poetry that will last you longer and nourish you.’   $30 is the price of the collection of poems he is selling.

He reads us a poem devoid of the usual poetry tricks of rhyme and scansion, much more like prose.  ‘Declaration of Intent.’  It is a delicate piece, ‘ a love poem perhaps’ and leads to a hushed reflective room rather than applause, but that will arrive later.   He follows this up with a poem equally delicate, called ‘The Haunts’   Phrases float in the late afternoon lecture theatre and hang there’ as a tremble on the stair, a slit on the moonlight’  ‘a white shadow’ ‘ music as a hunger.’  I find myself thinking about white shadows.  So it looks like I am going to have to buy the book to read this poem again.

A change of mood is on the way though, and looking at the audience Jeet performs a series of poem that have a gentle humour and satirical tone,  they are mini – How to manuals.  the first is ‘How to be a Toad’, and is about how not to be beautiful!  This is followed by, ‘How to be a Leaf’, perhaps a feminist poem.  This is followed by ‘How to be Horse’ (with an obscure reference to Song by The Doors), ‘How to be a Crow’ and ‘How to be a Bandicoot.’  In India the bandicoots are unkillable.  Jeet is uncertain if we know what they are, but we do.  The final line of this poem makes me think perhaps these Bandicoots are symbols of Man -‘Adam’.   Accompanying each poem is a gentle tide of laughter which grows stronger with each piece.  But they are more than pieces for laughter and leave traces of ideas to follow up later.

For the next piece he tells us a story before performing it.  He tells us that it is in a set Urdhu verse form,  a Ghazal, that should never be written in English but urdhu and that if you read it in Northern India you will have shoes thrown at you.  He explains the form, but then proceeds to performs it in English, as this is the main language he has command over. ‘Malayalam’s Ghazal ‘

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Next Jeet tackles ‘the myth of the poet’ who burns life at both ends, who lives their life taking drugs, drinking too much, and having relationship dramas. He performs a poem of a love hate relationship with Baudelaire, someone who typified such a life style.

Jeet does not find this kind of poetic life a good model for a poet to have clarity in their writing,  later students will quiz him on the link between drugs and creativity and he will myth bust that quite firmly.

Now that he has shared with us a range of poems, with a range of tones, Jeet gives us 15 reasons not to write poetry.  He begins with ‘it will make no money!’  He develops a theme that he will come back to in question time.  That of the difference between the novelist and the poet. The life of a poet is not easy, as there are no big advances, you fly economy class to conferences, and have an obsession with daffodils, April, names of trees and birds, and everyone asks you what your day job is.  And finally he ends with you make no money.  Just so we won’t forget that.

And now it is a question time.  Jeet is asked about the connection between drugs and creativity.  He clearly refutes that one should take drugs to be creative, and later I find that he has long fought a heroin addiction.

I ask  about the transition from poetry writing to novel writing for die hard poets.  He feels that poets focus on the beauty of language but can often lack the structure of a page turning plot when they write novels, but still they can have a beauty of language intact that some readers will like.

This is another theme he develops because he speaks about how for him poets are full of joy, and more likely to dance on the tables and stay up late.  Novelists much work hard, and go to bed early to get up the next day and work hard to finish their books.  They treat it much more like a nine to five job.  They also have the chance of being translated, which doesn’t really happen for poets, as they are so hard to translate.

One student asks him what he would do if he had to write a poem for a piece of assessment, and he answers them with a piece of advice, about working a strict form like a ‘sestina.’  He explains that working in strict forms gives you the freedom to dance in a cage, but the cage is actually a place of freedom.

One student asks him about confidence, and he explains that all good writers will always have some doubt, and the day they stop doubting is probably the day they should stop writing.

Someone asks how did the Booker Prize nomination change your life, and he answers, ‘Well I was asked to if some poems of mine could be published in a book.’

There are more questions about the difference between poems written for live performance and intricate poems written to be read several times, from a page, so you can absorb them.

One student asks when should you give up writing, and realise you are just terrible at it. He doesn’t think that poets can or should give up writing, and can write poems whether or note they are published. The road to publication can be long and hard, but it is worth pursuing it, and continuing on with your journey.

He talks a bit about anthologies of poetry, and how difficult they are to edit, because poets are so particular about the lines, and other details.  It is not an experience he would like again, but they are important, in that they highlight the work.

Another person asks about how he began writing, and he tells us about spending many years as a journalist, and then returning home to his Indian Parents, (which by the way they love you doing) who provided him with the equivalent of an arts grant in rent free accommodation.

His definition of ‘what is India’ and who is an Indian writer is broad and disasporic.  He is interested in the Indians who live all over the globe.  This is something I can certainly relate to as a diasporic Papua New Guinean Australian, who like Jeet, knows of my mother’s tongue, but I do not speak it.  Later I will talk to him about having a poem of my own translated by a cousin in to my mother’s village language.  Here I am chatting away.

Jeet asks me about my own writing, and I mention, writing poetry for children and blogs and novels. etc. and the kickstarter.
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(This photograph was tweeted by Sarah Holland-Batt)

This lecture was tentatively titled ‘How to be a Leaf’ but it is perhaps more a guide to ‘How to be a Poet.’

So I write this in tribute to Jeet.

Be not a poet for money or fame
but because you are
to language’s beauty
as a regent skipper to a flame
yet don’t burn your life at both ends
but find clarity and freedom
inside the cage of tiny set forms and
———dance.

Don’t succumb to the cliché of
mad and bad poets in words or in life
and once you know all the rules
then you can trash all the rules.
Your craft is your canoe
although others will often think you
———–insane.

You cannot help but follow  and  fan the
————poetry flame.

(c) June Perkins

*regent skipper – a kind of moth

My Progress in PiBoIdMo

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I see this emu whenever I walk to work. He is looking weathered and split at the moment. Wonder if he will last. June


It’s the perfect time to be doing PiBoIdMo for me.   Why?  

No more tutoring for the year, family still at school, a quiet house during the day, my kickstarter that can’t quite start yet (few tasks but nearly there).  Finally the space to write.

So where are the ideas brewing.

This year is inspired by research.

When I have an idea I see if it has been done before, and if not, I  begin to brainstorm it. If it has been done  I see if I can put a new twist on it, and then persist with it. If not I put it in the ‘don’t bother with it pile.’

I might be inspired by some of the blogs over at Tara’s blog and see whether their ideas help me make it an even better idea.

I’ve been reading a lot of Pasifika mythology, while thinking about a lot of the world endangered creatures and creatures that might not be endangered but who I would like to know more facts about. Who knows maybe I’ll combine these ideas, but how – that will be a surprise.

I’ve been taking note of funny stories my family tell and stories from Mum that I must ask her more about, but which I have a vague recollection from as a child.  Perhaps in these conversations a story idea might be born.

Now if I am sick of my computer, I think a walk might inspire an idea, so definitely heading out for one of those.  The picture at the header of this post is an emu carved by a chainsaw.  Hmm maybe there is an idea in that.

In Australia we have just reached day 5.

Good luck everyone with the rest of your PiBoIdMo. May you find even just one wonderful gem of idea that you feel passionate about dedicating some time to developing and polishing.

Over and out,  June aka Pearlz.

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