News in June
Well, hello again, many months later!
lt’s winter with a vengeance. We have been battered by the most violent, howling winds imaginable for this part of the world. (If you get bored by weather news, or my family news, read into the middle. It gets more interesting.)
Covid has recently hit two members of my family, our dearest and nearest, both of whom have survived, obviously, or I wouldn’t be calmly updating a website. Both were ill in different ways in the same house. Our grandson (12) had temperatures of 39C, whereas our daughter had terrible chills and couldn’t get warm. They both coughed their hearts out, but put them back afterwards! Gross joke, sorry. The chills, fevers, aching, tremendous weariness, and lack of energy were so debilitating that we all wondered how much sicker they would have been had they not been vaccinated to the hilt.
It was dreadful not being able to be with them, but we provided a good catering and shopping service nevertheless, and our dog had a daily visit to cheer them up. One sunny day my daughter sat on her veranda for a precious ten minutes while I sat as far away as possible in her little garden. It was the nearest we had been to each other, and the longest chat we’d had, face to face, for two weeks. It made me realise yet again how utterly miserable it must have been to have lived in Melbourne last year, in lockdown for 16 weeks. Our grandson longed for hugs. Physical contact. We all did. This is me last week (late May, 2022) taken by my daughter when I was in her garden, in the last of the autumn sun.
I’m still reluctant to be out and about myself, suffering as I do from Covid-fear. As an ageing asthmatic with feeble lungs I’m on a sort of death-deadline (another terrible joke) trying to get the huge number of my so-called ‘papers’ in order, to go into a newly-named Mem Fox Space in Adelaide. It’s a thrilling State Library of South Australia initiative. They have designated the heritage-listed Institute Building on North Terrace, the first library established in the state, as the place to house it. Forever. I’m excited, needless to say, and honoured and humbled, and all those other things. It will be a vibrant centre for children, parents, carers, librarians, teachers, tourists and anyone else off the street. I’m not personally involved in the project or progress of this vision, but I do have to organise everything precious or interesting, valuable or hilarious, ancient or modern, and it’s taking a lot of time. And all the while, I’m thinking that Covid may kill me with only a week’s notice. So the race is on. (I’ll feel very foolish if I live to be as old as the queen. My grandfather did.)
So! I find I’m in a frenzy of professional de-cluttering that’s consuming my days, when I’m not looking after my family, which is a busy part of my life and probably the most pleasurable.
These folders alone, among my many other papers, hold every email, about every event, here or in the USA or elsewhere (Oman, China, you name it…), between 2001-2010: travel details, focus of presentations, who the audience would be, the organisation that invited me, financial agreements, and so on. They are a ‘small’ part of my papers. I can’t wait to deliver them to Sue Ward, the delightful archivist at the State Library whose overwhelming job it will be to sort this all out. She will have a heart attack, as have I, to discover that 2009 is missing. Where could it be? I’ve had to stop this update in its tracks because that file is missing and I’ve had to search for it, without any luck. It was purple, I remember that. I’ll tell you if I ever find it. It’s made me so mad! But getting the files and folders in order did help me remember how hard I had worked during my very active years. There were 118 trips to the USA, for a start. I made that trip seven times, two years running. Then there were all the far flung, tiny places I visited in Australia, as well as the major cities and towns. I remember the endless preparation of presentations, the tiredness and tears, the buzz and the busy-ness. My husband was equally frenetic, arranging every endless detail of the travel. So nowadays in the supermarket when the checkout person says, ‘Busy day?’ I always reply, ‘Good grief. I hope not!’
Meanwhile, back in the real world from which I’m hiding, here’s a piece of news from Professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington, the Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Enterprise at the University of South Australia, who is about to welcome the first of the Mem Fox Visiting Research Fellows: Professor Frank Serafini. The Fellows generate ideas, papers, grants, and practices during one-month Adelaide residencies, collaborating with our research leaders, business, and the community.
Sponsored by me and supported by the Australian Literacy Educators Association, Professor Frank Serafini is visiting UniSA from 6 June to 3 July. He will present his lecture on “Critical, Artistic, Literary, and Multimodal Frameworks for Investigating Picture books” on Tuesday 21 June in the Bradley Forum Hawke Building, City West Campus. You can find out more information and register Prof Serafini’s keynote here.
Professor Serafini will collaborate with hosts Dr Jill Colton and Dr Jenni Carter, working with HDR and Education Futures researchers on a children’s literature project. The project focuses on theoretical and methodological approaches to reading children’s literature texts and will involve the formation of a multimodal literacies working group for ongoing reading, research, and writing. Professor Serafini will also be meeting with members of CRESI (Centre for Research in Education and Social Inclusion) to lead discussions about multimodal methodologies for research
A highlight of Professor Serafini’s visit will be a 2-day seminar from 27 to 29 June which will bring together researchers from UniSA, Deakin University, Monash University, Western Sydney University, QUT, Arizona State University, and the University of Cambridge. The seminar will explore “Stories that Matter: the Matter of Stories” over two days and lead to writing towards a shared publication on day three.
This is all tremendously exciting, so you’ll understand that I’m devastated not to be able to attend any of the events or presentations. It doesn’t feel right not to to be involved, but safety first. The idea of being seated in a large audience fills me with horror.
As all this self-aggrandising Mem Fox stuff is happening, in the larger sphere the horrendous war in Ukraine is blighting the lives of both Ukrainians and Russians. let alone the many other nations whose lives depend on the wheat, potassium, and oil that those nations provide. The ramifications are being felt everywhere, in one way or another. In Australia, gas prices are about to soar to such an extent that entire businesses may have to close, with terrible job losses, never mind the rising cost of gas to individual households. Much of the problem relates to climate change, a fact denied for ten years by the worst series of conservative governments in our history. Happily, a Brave New Labor Government (Democrat, for those in the US) has recently been elected in Australia. Although its challenges will be enormous, I feel far safer with them at the helm than I otherwise would have. My state of South Australia also elected a Labor government back in March, making it the first time in my life that I’ve lived in Labor electorates federally and at state level, and it feels so good. This photo below was my contribution to the elections. Lots of people walk down our street to go to the beach and many know that I live here, so I decided to show my colours as it were. (I didn’t colour co-ordinate. It looks so bad. Sorry!)
Now, of course, I’m still a writer and still writing. I was to have had one book out in Australia this year but that’s been delayed to next year, so there will be TWO out next year: one here and one in the USA. Someone on tv said recently, in relation to a piece of misconstrued research from Edith Cowan, an Australian University, that I was too old and too white to be writing for children in 2022. Surely we can include the old in our new-found passion for ‘inclusivity.’ Anyway, old? Who, me?! Let that person not forget Whoever You Are, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, and I’m Australian Too: three best-selling examples of comforting inclusivity in my own writing.
Finally, in my otherwise mundane, tiny, hermit-like life, this is the lemon tree in our front garden, which provides us with not only with winter cheer and colour, but the juiciest of juicy lemon juice. It was given to us in a pot by my my sister Jan and her husband at the time: Clem (RIP), so we call it the Clemmon tree. It’s been in the ground for many years, and thrives because I look after it like a baby—unlike the way I care for this website. Thanks for hanging in there, like a lemon, over the many months of no colour and dead silences.