After months in the making, I have finally received a long awaited mail delivery and I can now show it off to the world.
Egmont Publishing has produced a Swedish version of my children’s novel, If Wishes Were Horses, the first book in the (aus)Riding High/ (usa-uk) Ridgeview Riding Club series.
The books have been translated with new covers as part of a promotional activity bag for Min Hast, for those of you who don’t read Swedish (that would be me) that means ‘My Horse’. Min Hast is a magazine for children about all things horse related.
The activity bag includes a sticker set, bag, magazine and a copy of ‘If Wishes Were Horses’. Unless I learn Swedish I won’t be reading my copies but it’s such a treat to see my book with a whole new look.
Thank you to Egmont Publishing and Min Hast magazine for the translation and the gorgeous new covers. All you Swedish kids out there who love horses as much as I do, I hope you enjoy the read. Please feel free to drop me a line and let me know.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Monday 9th January 2017
Grass is a constant when you have livestock. there’s always either too much or not enough of it. Recently, thoughts of grass and hay became a poem.
Spread thin over damp Autumn canvas
Like emerald velvet.
Huddled, hugging frozen soil.
Moist stalks. Sparse grey light.
Olive arms bend to wind’s will,
Taller, taller, fast as blinking.
Camouflage for knees, hooves, tail tips.
Cut down. Prone. Slain victims.
Fades. Dries. Golden stems.
Bashed. Raked. Mounds in rows.
Sucked through steel.
Spat out. Strung in.
Lines like soldiers.
burnt to dust.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Monday 2nd January 2017
2017 we’re standing in it! My new year’s eve was spent quietly with dear friends playing cards. What about yours? A post from another friend inspired me to write a poem. I do love to write rhyme, but this one one came out as free verse. A little something to bring in the year.
New Year’s Eve
bearing whole weight of being,
Champagne breath. A luminous breeze.
Or wistful silence , mute fanfare, quiet contemplation.
Across the 12th divide
Second to second. Tireless momentum. Unfaltering pace.
Carries all. Paths enigmatic.
Ripe fruit for harvest, promises whispered, delights untasted,
Marching, relentlessly forward,
into a shimmering haze of hope
and a brand new year.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Tuesday 27th December 2016
With only a few more days until the door is closed on 2016, I’m making good on my resolution to blog more often. Seems logical to start with a reflection on the past year.
It’s been a big one. No new published books to add to the stable but plenty of writing projects on the go. Time and experience has taught me to think big picture when it comes to writing. Nothing is wasted and all work will come to light at some point, although not always in the form of it’s original idea. One project in particular is moving closer to book stage but it’s too soon yet to announce details.
Writing time has been wedged in around a busy bookish schedule. I’ve visited schools, organised writing workshops, and been a guest speaker at a SCBWI (society of children’s book writers and illustrators) meeting. I’ve attended award ceremonies, and been a delegate at the Children’s Book Council conference in Sydney. And I’ve managed to squeeze in some research trips that could not have been more of a contrast, from the majestic Snowy Mountains, to the starry skies of the Kimberley to the sparkling views over Sydney Harbour.
With the help of some clever ‘Tradie’ types, my 1970’s house has been renovated (finally). It was a relatively small renovation but it took a huge amount of time. We began in February and finally finished in November. I am completely in love with my ‘new’ home so it was all worth it in the end.
I’ve been working on some fantastic new projects at The Story Wizard, my freelance communications business, including developing websites and writing/creating promotional material for a couple of large companies.
When Spring arrived with a vengeance, it was action stations at home. One of the responsibilities of owning a country property is keeping up with maintenance. A wet winter and even wetter spring had the grass growing FAST and me battling to keep up. For months now, it seems like my waking hours have been taken up with mowing around the house, slashing the paddocks to prepare for the fire season, and managing horses to keep them from becoming too fat on all that green growth.
Then came the hay harvest. A group of us followed the hay baler around the paddocks, scrambling to get every bale in and stacked in the shed while the weather held. There were a LOT of bales, and by the time we’d finished the job there wasn’t a part of me that didn’t ache. Keeping up with the property is a never ending job but I love the green hills around me so it’s best to just get on with it. The physical aches and pains fade away, but when I sit out on my deck and look around, I’m healed and sustained as I breath it all in. I’m surrounded by trees, birds and wildlife, and my wonderful horses. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
I consider myself to be very fortunate. I have in my life beautiful family and friends and a wealth of opportunity to follow my passions wherever they may lead me. Not sure what’s next in the story but I’m looking forward to turning the page on this year and opening a new chapter called 2017.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Friday 16 December 2016
So I am writing this post just before I launch my new look website out into the wild. It’s been a long time coming, as work began on it several years ago. Somehow other commitments meant that the website was put on hold. More time this past year has meant I’ve been able to get on top of a backlog of jobs and here we are. The foal in the previous post is now one year old, which is a testament to what a terribly inconsistent blogger I can be. Maybe now I’ll be more regular but then again, maybe not! Soon I hope to add a few more pages to this site, including a store so that people can buy books direct from here. I’ll keep you posted.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Monday 14 December 2015
Life is wonderful and oh so full and busy. Somehow time has slipped away without me visiting this blog for a very long time. So what momentous event has guided me back? Those who have known me a long time and those who know my books will know my passion is horses. I’ve been around them for many more years than I care to count. My favourite place in the world to be is on the back of a horse, my second favourite place is to just be near them. They bring to me the peace that comes from just being, a state I’ve learn’t to recognise over years from the myriad of horses I’ve had the pleasure to know.
I’ve driven horses, ridden horses, cared for them, learnt from them, loved them. But probably the most incredible and inspiring horse experience I have been lucky enough to witness, and sometimes assist with, has been the birth of a brand new foal. Breeding horses can be a risky business and sometimes heartbreaking. But when it goes well, as is thankfully more common than not, it is a joy. I’d thought my breeding days were over. I had two brilliant, beautiful 8 year old Australian Stockhorses in my paddocks, both of them born and bred (arriving on the exact same day) right here with me. Back when they were babies I had decided they would be the last foals I would seek to breed myself. I would miss seeing youngsters in the paddocks but I was happy to let that go and just enjoy watching these two grow and mature.
But sometimes, the stars really do align. Seven weeks ago, an opportunity came along to purchase a pure bred Morgan Mare. As an added bonus, she was pregnant to one of my favourite Morgan stallions. A little luck in business meant I had some extra cash and spare time to go with it. The timing was right. I made a quick decision and before I knew it she was standing in one of my paddocks with a heavy belly and a swollen udder, looking fit to burst and glowing with health. Despite the strong temptation to shout out to the world the pending new arrival, superstition kept me quiet. I wanted this birth to be perfect and trouble free, and I didn’t want to tempt fate.
So her due date was last Monday. Any one who has ever kept foal-watch hours knows the routine. Some people have foal halters on their mares, which sound an alarm to the carer whenever the mare lays down. I’ve never used one but I’ve always been so excited and alert around foaling time that getting to sleep rather than waking up has been the issue. Every night this past week, I’ve risen from beneath the doona and ventured out with my trusty head torch and a starlit sky to see if that night would be the night. I didn’t doubt it would happen in darkness. Usually the only mares that foal in daylight are the first timers. My mare had foaled before.
Last night, after a week of tiring, monotonous, non-action, something felt different. One of the more common signs that a foaling is imminent, is when the mares develop a waxy substance on the end of their teats. There was no wax at all but she was different all the same. There are other signs. In preparation for birth her rump had softened around the tail dock, the skin on her vulva seemed looser and somewhat sagged. Her teats had lengthened and her udder distended, bursting with milk. She was incredibly itchy and let me know it, presenting her rump to me for a satisfying scratch every time I came near.
So when my body clock with the inbuilt foal radar woke me at 2:09am. I dressed in warm clothes, grabbed my torch and went searching for the mare. I knew something was up when she didn’t come looming out of the darkness towards my torchlight, as she’d done every other night. I walked the whole length of the paddock before I found her. She was lying prone, looking almost serene. Protruding from behind, a dark, moving bundle, still half inside her, his head clear but the rest of his body covered in the thick white sac of placenta that had housed him for the past 347 days.
The mare wasn’t interested in me or my satisfying scratches now. I stayed a respectful distance away and settled myself on the ground against a fence post to watch. The foal was breathing and moving. There was no need for me to interfere. Without taking my eyes from the miracle being played out in the shadows from the torchlight, I quietly called my daughter on my phone. She had made me promise not to let her sleep through the event. Before she arrived, the light from her bobbing torch drawing closer with each step, the foal slipped out from his mother with an oh so faint whoosh. My daughter found another post to sit against. There was not much need for conversation.
The mare was up soon after. She ignored the placenta that still hung from her, trailing around her back legs, and got straight to work. Licking and nudging, licking and nudging, prompting the blood to pump faster around his still scrawny little body while the heat from her busy tongue ironed him from wet to dry. For what seemed like the whole time we watched this new life come into the world, like an impromptu fireworks display, a myriad of shooting stars decorated the sky over our heads, making the whole event even more special.
His first attempt to stand went like this: forelegs thrust out in front, a wobbled thrust forward and a scrambling roll onto his back with his legs all akimbo. I resisted the urge to help him up. This was his first instinctive lesson in self reliance. An hour and several ungainly attempts later, he managed to get to his feet. Lurching and staggering like a drunk, he careered toward the fence. He kind of bounced off it before his legs crumbled. Down he went in a tangle of spindly legs. At that moment, the placenta fell from the mare to lie in a slippery heap on the grass.
Now the wire fence posed a potential danger. Where he lay was too close to it. He could easily entangle himself at his next attempt. I decided that now would be an ok time to offer some assistance. The next time he stumbled to a standing position I clasped my arms around him, rump to shoulders. For one so small and fragile looking he felt surprisingly strong and active in my arms. I held on for just long enough that he stayed upright and steady on his feet and then I carefully let him go. His anxious, nickering mother took over from there, placing herself strategically beside him for support. She gave him a few moments to adjust to his new center of gravity, then gently but insistently steered him to her rear end, as if to say, ‘Here’s the milk bar kid. Drink up!’
Once I was satisfied he was up and had indulged in a good long suck to fill his body with that crucial first liquid; the immunity-building, infection resisting, life giving colostrum, I wandered back to my bed. Mother and Son would have some hours before daylight to get to know each other and I would be back in daylight to thoroughly inspect the newest addition to our little equine family. I have named him Starsky, after the meteor shower he was born under.
Curiosity was my initial reaction when I was asked to participate in the Breyer Family Fun Day at Mustad Saddleworld on December 7th. The event was to be held in the Mustad Saddleworld indoor arena, a venue usually reserved for live horse events. Breyer model horses, although stunning in their life-like detail, are distinctly not alive, and significantly smaller than even the smallest variety of breathing equine. But the day’s program looked like fun, and I always love a chance to meet kids who like any kind of horses, so I was in.
So what was I getting in to? Model horse painting with opportunities for artists to show off their work – and win ribbons for their efforts. Miniature ‘live’ shows, ‘performance classes’ face painting, rope halter making, a raffle for Project Hope, a farrier display, a visit from Santa, and a show jumping competition with a unique twist. No horses and no riders but the most fun and entertainment the kids (and myself) could handle. What the? The kids jump off competition consisted of a lowish course of real show jumps, a brilliant commentator in the form of Mustad staff member, Sue Tufnell, and a whole bunch of kids eager to join in and show off their jumping skills against the clock. I hasten to add I didn’t actually jump myself. I left that to the young athletes but hey, what a fun spectator sport!
I had the chance to read ‘Naughty Norton’ to some eager groups of children, and was kept busy signing Riding High and Pony Patch books for readers. A steady line of children streamed in throughout the day and from where I sat the day was a great success. Looking forward to the next Breyer event at Mustads, scheduled for next May.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Monday 20 October 2014
The historic and newly renovated Argus building was the venue for the launch of Australian Writers of Influence on October 11th, 2014. And with a double page spread featuring The Age and The Argus contained within the pages of the book, I could not have asked for a more fitting place to celebrate. The book is part of the ‘Our Stories’ Australian history series by Black Dog/Walker Books and features a selection of early Australian writers who have left a mark on our culture and society with their work. Thank you to everyone who made the trip into Melbourne to help me celebrate, and The Melbourne Institute of Technology for allowing us to use the wonderful space that was once the home of the Argus advertising room. I had a fabulous time and was once again reminded of my good fortune to be blessed with wonderful friends and family, and of the warmth and support that comes from within our fabulous Australian writing and publishing community.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Wednesday 1 October 2014
The first copies of my new book, Australian Writer’s of Influence will be on book store shelves from today. I love writing non-fiction, and what could be a better topic to write about than the pioneering people who paved the way for all of us modern Australian writers today. Researching this book was a joy, and I learnt a lot in the process. The writers, poets and journalists of colonial and post-federation days in this country were a tough lot and they shared my love of words and stories. So it’s out there now. May it find its way into the hands of Australian history lovers and learners.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Friday 15 August 2014
What a lovely warm welcome I received from Willmott Park Primary. The school itself is impressive. I saw committed passionate staff and happy enthusiastic students and what a joy it was to share some time with them all.
There is nothing more satisfying than getting out to meet readers and to share in the work of encouraging and motivating students improve their individual writing skills. Together, the groups and I developed storylines using all the essential elements and some imagination sparkers to get their ideas flowing.
Thanks to the YABBA Ambassadors Program and The Copyright Cultural Fund for the opportunity, which is seeing a large number of Victorian Schools have the opportunity to have Authors and Illustrators visit their schools. Through this initiative, YABBA has provided a wonderfully innovative vehicle to encourage school students to develop their reading and writing skills while spending time with creators.
After non-stop talking for most of the day, I arrived home in a wonderful state of satisfied, happy exhaustion. The students are now developing their storylines into whole stories with their teachers in the classroom, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing some of the results in the not too distant future.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Sunday 10 August 2014
Take A Peep In The Garden and Take A Peep at the Pond are my very first rhyming books. I’ve always enjoyed writing in rhyme and often stories just come out that way when I am working so it’s really great to see these ones in print. Both books are ‘reveal’ books. They include fun informative hints about each pond or garden animal, with tantalising clues through rhyme and Lisa Fox’s delicious illustrations, and a lively surprise pull out for each new creature. The books are published by Five Mile Press or you can email me to order a specially signed copy.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Tuesday 8 April 2014
Come and join me at 11am at Dymocks Camberwell on Wednesday 16th April for Storytime. I’ll be reading about the misadventures of Molly and naughty Norton from The Pony Patch Collection and for the smallest readers from my new Take A Peep books. The address is ‘The Well’ shopping centre, shop 114, 793 Burke Road Camberwell. Would love to see you there.
News | Posted by Bernadette on Saturday 15 February 2014
So in spite of good intentions it’s been a long time between blog posts, but tonight I had an experience so special to me that I just have to write about it. It’s been an eventful week, to say the least. Starting last Sunday with a hurried evacuation of myself, the three horses and my dog, Sniff.
When you live on a country property in Australia, every summer you live with the threat of fires. There has been many occasions when I’ve known a fire is close by, not least on Black Saturday five years ago when I watched with dread and horror the massive plume of smoke, only a dozen kilometres east of us, and listened to the terrifying news reports that told me of the devastation and havoc that smoke represented.
But this time it was my home in the line of fire. The massive plume of smoke to the south was coming towards us, and it was travelling fast. So I loaded the horses, put the dog in the car, and left to spend a sleepless night wondering if, in the morning my house might still be where I left it, only for the fire to pass by us, then start up again the next day for us to relive the helpless and hapless tension all over again a second time. My property escaped the flames twice, and for that I am eternally grateful, and I thank the amazing volunteers from the Country Fire Authority and their wonderful aerial water bombers. Not so lucky were some of my good friends and neighbours. Some lost fences, shedding, pasture. Devastatingly, a few lost their homes. Two very dear friends of mine had the fire sweep through their home like a tornado and leave only wreckage behind. Thankfully, no one lost their lives. So, as I said, an eventful week of processing stress, fear, anxiety, relief for my personal situation, and distress for those not so fortunate.
But tonight, the thick smoke that has hung in the air since Monday has for the most part cleared, the temperature outside is mild, there is a bright moon and the stars are out in force. So before bed I took a late night stroll outside to the horses to stand with them and just breathe them in, as I sometimes do.
Horses have been a part of my life for a very long time, around forty five years or so. There is always something to learn from them and I can still be surprised, but I have to say my experience tonight was something completely new for me. The three horses are the two Australian Stock Horses who were born and bred here, the lovely Palomino mare, Cadence, and my special little chestnut gelding, Jaspa, and of course the handsome big bay Standardbred gelding, Ernie. All three are beautifully natured, willing and amiable. So I wandered out in the dappled moonlight. Jaspa was lying down, the other two standing. I tread quietly toward Jaspa, hoping he would be relaxed enough to just stay lying and not get up. He did, and he was so relaxed he stayed right where he was as I lay down beside him in the grass. The other two looked on for a while. Ernie came up for a closer look at me, then moved away a bit before folding his long legs and lying nearby. Cadence came then. She dropped her head and stood quietly for a few minutes, then she too lay down.
So there I was under the night sky, in bed, as it were, with my three favourite ponies. The only sound was the steady breathing of the horses as we all lay there and the odd random creak of a tree branch. We stayed that way, peacefully resting together, for half an hour or so. For me, it was a gift. A time to sit in silence, to reflect and to just be. I breathed it all in, from the large dark shadows of the horses, the silhouettes of the trees and the rolling hills around us, across the paddocks to the twinkling town lights some ten kilometres in the distance.
Eventually, I got up and quietly walked away. The horses were dozing. They were aware of me leaving, I am certain, but not disturbed at all. It’s difficult to put into words how enriching, and nourishing that half an hour was to me. I read recently that being near horses is therapeutic for people, lowering heart rates and promoting calm. That has always been my experience, but laying in a field with three of them at rest around me, that was something special, and it was soul defining.