- March 14, 2018 at 5:16 pm #1672230
Thanks Kai (hugs). Really lovely to have you call in & leave a comment.March 14, 2018 at 9:31 pm #1672289
kaiMemberMember since: January 4, 2008
Same back at you Val (hugs) should be back in the swing by the weekend!!!
Cheers From KaiMarch 14, 2018 at 9:40 pm #1672291
Varied and BeautifulMarch 15, 2018 at 9:59 pm #1672485
Beautiful NZ (click to enlarge)March 15, 2018 at 10:06 pm #1672490March 16, 2018 at 12:10 am #1672495
kaiMemberMember since: January 4, 2008
Did a long post and it all disappeared , Cant believe it just was gone!!!!
so run out of time now Thanks for all the fab posts and nostalgia Val
catch up over the weekend
Cheers From KaiMarch 16, 2018 at 9:20 pm #1672622
What a pain, Kai, losing all that writing – but that is one of the joys of computing…..NOT!!! lol.
Thanks for the Ch CH pic – that brings back memories of my cycling days – a looooooong time ago haha.
Take care, wee buzzy, and come back soon 🙂March 16, 2018 at 9:25 pm #1672623
Rosina Ruth Park (1917 – 2010)
Born in New Zealand in 1917, Ruth Park moved to Australia in 1942 to work in journalism. She was widely read and well-loved for her books which were as equally successful for adults as for children.
Park was catapulted into fame when she won the inaugural Sydney Morning Herald Literary Competition in 1946, with her novel The Harp in the South which was awarded the prize of £2,000 in the first Sydney Morning Herald novel competition in 1946, and which raised such a hullabaloo as is rarely known in journalism. This book has never been out of print.
The book was set among the slums of the then poor Sydney suburb of Surry Hills, where Park lived with her husband D’Arcy Niland, also an author who is best known for The Shiralee. They had five children.
Park followed up that success with another novel about life during the Depression, Poor Man’s Orange. She won the Miles Franklin Award in 1977 for Swords and Crowns and Rings.
Her literary reputation grew as she honed her craft, writing fiction and non-fiction, winning a variety of awards and much acclaim. Her output of work spanned nearly seven decades.
She was also a successful children’s book author, with her most cherished creation being The Muddleheaded Wombat. She also wrote Playing Beattie Bow.
Peter Pierce, editor of the Cambridge History of Australian Literature, said: “She can properly be regarded as a child of the Depression and a marvellous chronicler of that time.
“She was a prolific writer, from the social realism of her novels to the children’s books. She was one of those remarkable New Zealanders who made a life and career here.”
Ruth Park died in December 2010.March 16, 2018 at 9:32 pm #1672627
The piece below was written in 1988. Ruth Park tells her young readers about her life and the reason she became a writer.
BECOMING A WRITER
by Ruth Park
Many years ago I was born in that green, snowcapped archipelago called New Zealand, and I’m very glad I was. Probably I am a writer because I had a singular childhood. My first seven years I spent all alone in the forest, like a possum or a bear cub. It was rainforest, qve apathless, dense; its light was a dim green twilight. How did I get there?
My father was a bridge builder and road maker; he drove some of the first roads through the forested Crown lands of northern New Zealand. My mother and I travelled with him, living in tents beside mountain streams lively with trout and eels. My father’s head was crammed with the savage hero tales of his ancestral land, Scotland. How lucky I was that he had the gift of storytelling! You must imagine lamplight, owls hoo-hooing, the tent fly cracking with frost, and myself, this bear cub child, listening to the stories I would play out by myself in the bush, next day. I developed an imagination both rich and rowdy. But there was one thing I had not imagined. When I went to school at last, I was totally astounded, almost frightened, to see children playing together. I hadn’t known they did that!
Although I loved school, I wasn’t at all interested in children’s games. However, I learned how. to pretend, and became on the surface just another kid, though inside I knew I wasn’t. This didn’t make me happy. I really believed I was a changeling. (We didn’t know the word ‘alien’ then, otherwise I would have thought I had been dropped by a Rigelian spaceship.) I longed to be like everyone else, but my solitary early life had made me different somehow. My friends were almost all Maori children, little forest creatures like myself.
By the time I was eight I was writing. I entered all kinds of verse and story competitions, and when I was eleven I won one of these. My story was published. This went straight to my head. I saw my life’s work laid out before me, and have never stopped writing since. I think, even at the age of eleven, I felt comfortable writing, more the real person I knew I was.
I was educated mainly in Auckland. I did an external University degree while I worked as a journalist, on the Auckland Star. At this time I also did a great deal of freelance writing – mostly unsuccessful, I fear. There were few markets in New Zealand for a freelance, so I submitted work to journals all over the world. Nobody had a larger mail of returned typescripts than I did! When I was nineteen, I became editor of a very large children’s section on my newspaper. It was really like a small newspaper in itself. Here I learned a great deal about what children like to read, as opposed to what they’re told they ought to like. I made a vow then that I would always be true to child readers. I’d never write for publishers, or editors or critics, or to win prizes. I would just write as best I could for children.
The time came when I knew I had to leave my green islands and find a wider world, so I went to Australia and married D’Arcy Niland, a young short story writer. For a while we led a wandering life. I saw a little of this vast, magnificent land, and was captured forever by its noble indifference to humankind. I felt that one day this continent would give a shrug and shake all the humans off into the sea. But it would, still be its own self. That’s what I call identity.
D’Arcy and I wrote everything that came to hand – stories, films, radio plays and television plays, and then adult novels. Literary work was not well-paid; we had to work very hard, and we were often very poor. But we had five good children, and a happy life.
D’Arcy died suddenly when he was 49 but he had already achieved a great deal. Our children grew up – two quite famous book illustrators, a librarian, a physicist, and a musician. I found work that took me to many countries, Norway, Japan, Egypt, and Britain. This work was mostly television, film, and sometimes special assignments in journalism, but gradually I was able to concentrate more and more on writing for children. I don’t find the latter easy at all.
Most adult writing is designed to expand the reader’s inner world, but children’s writing is largely the reverse. For the child the doors of imaginative vision open outwards; the content of the story is the marvellous world beyond these doors, and one’s technique and style are what opens them. My ambition is to open the magic casements for kids, to help them grow, to feel strong, just a little.
Now I’m quite an old woman, I find I haven’t changed much. I spend part of the time living amongst giant trees, on a little island green as mint and about as big as a handkerchief – Norfolk Island, which is a thousand kilometres off the coast of Australia. I still tell myself and other people stories. I still think the earth is a marvellous home for me and everyone else. I hope you do too.
Text Copyright © 1988 Ruth Park, Photos © Niland Collection.
The light-hearted piece reprinted below, is an article written by Ruth Park in 1949, describing how the writer develops literary characters when working on a novel.
AN AUTHOR IN SEARCH OF A CHARACTER
by Ruth Park
Yes, I know. I know the average writer doesn’t work on a kitchen table with a Kosciusko of pea-pods at one elbow, and a chook’s ghastly cold claws sticking out front under his notes. I know he doesn’t sweat through a crucial chapter with a small child busy under his chair-putting his feet to sleep in a doll’s bed.
Neither does he burn saucepans between sentences, or leave his heroine with her eyes closed, waiting for that protracted and crucial kiss, while he tears off to poke the clothes down in the copper. He does the job sensibly. In the same way, I humbly suppose, he builds his characters with dignity, contemplation, and in solitude.
But not me. Not the housewife. Not for me the building of a character brick by blasted brick. To get my imaginary people I go straight out to the wholesaler’s. And what a job he’s made of them! Those old men in the fruit market, with faces like shiny russet pears! Those splendid fellows who wear sacks for hats, and hump great baskets of bones out of the butcher’s! Those radio announcers with three massaged chins apiece! Those bus conductresses with bobby-socks and earrings!
You could write a book about any one of them.
This is where I find my characters, in shops and streets. When I was little, my Grandma used to call me a great fladdy faced gawk, and I feel this is my greatest dowry as a would-be novelist. I like to gawk and listen, and for this reason I am frequently prodded by some irate matron I don’t know, and asked: “You still got your big ear cocked?”
Nor am I any stranger to the drunk who, taking my entranced gaze as evidence of some mysterious passion for himself, pleases the entire tram with a recital of why I wouldn’t suit him.
Yes, first of all I like to find a face for my future character. I feel that the physical characteristics of anyone, real or fictional, are most important. You’ve got to know whether his legs will bend, or if he suffers from rheumatism or deafness, because a person with these diseases is going to react quite differently to the life and experiences you give him from the way he’d react if he were a doctor’s white mouse.
Once I’ve found the body my character is going to wear, I think about him. I think about him till I feel that he’s a relative who won’t go home.
Peeling a potato down to the size of a grain of rice, I puzzle why his mouth puckers this way, or his eyebrows that. And, putting too much salt into the soup, I find out, because just as you cannot expect violin sounds from a trombone, so you cannot expect a mature face to be anything but what the soul and mind inside make it.
Soon I feel that the moral character I have worked out for this man is, if not quite accurate, at least reasonable. That’s the main thing. You can never twist a character to fit in with your plot. If you do, you are drummed out of the literary world, and have all the keys of your typewriter cut off.
No, you’ve got to shape the character as honestly, and as nearly perfectly as you can, and then introduce the fellow to the plot. He’ll make his own action. Most likely he’ll improve on your original idea. Hughie Darcy was this sort of a character. He was the drunken ne’er-do-well father of a poor family in my first book, “Harp in the South.”
Surry Hills is full of his kind. I watched Hughie going home from work, hundreds of Hughies, blue shirts, stubbled faces, black hands, eyes bloodshot from dust and sleeplessness in some verminous hovel.
Some of these Hughies were young, and others elderly, but they were all the same man at different stages of his life, pressed into a mould of fatigue and despair, walloping along on the leaky raft of the basic wage, with every new kid forcing it deeper into the water. Hughie was going to be the villain of my book, the man who drank the rent and the food, and whose feeble efforts at self-improvement were no more than pebbles on his downward slide. But instead of that Hughie came to be the major character, not the villain, but a weak and essentially lovable man confronted with a villain, which was the treadmill existence he had no hope of escaping.
He could be criticised, and so could his circumstances, but I don’t think criticism is the vocation of the novelist. If you understand, and present the character as he is, the reader will do all the necessary criticism of him and his type.
Of course sometimes a character baulks at some incident, and you’ve got to delve deeper and deeper into his workings before you can rationalise the business. This is where the housewife-writer has it, all over the professional novelist. She can go away and do the laundry, and meditate over the snag, and most likely by the time she wakes up she is both starching the socks and already in her mind rewriting that difficult chapter.
The last lap is to find a suitable name for your character. Sometimes this is incredibly difficult. I read the telephone book for surnames, and try each one out with all possible sorts of Christian and nicknames. The right name for a character rings a bell, a loud triumphant bell, and the wrong name is a mental jar, as aggravating to the writer as if he himself were continually addressed by some annoying nick-name belonging to someone else.
I am having this trouble at the moment. I have just concluded another novel, and the heroine is, I regret, still called nothing but “Thingummy.”
Copyright © 1949 Ruth Park.March 16, 2018 at 10:31 pm #1672633
supergoldMemberMember since: May 9, 2009
Ruth Park, I can’t recall ever having heard of her. What a fascinating woman, with such a wonderful childhood, good relationship with her father and a lively imagination. Thank you Val.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.