By Jennifer Ann Davies

NCWQ Arts and Letters Adviser

Almost holiday time for some!! Wonderful wit, warmth and wisdom wait for us, this holiday season!

For the ‘time-poor’ there’s the novella!

For the ‘pocket-poor’ there’s the library!

For the eternally avid reader, there’s a range of interesting publishing houses!

For the heart-sore, the saddened, there are songs and there is world music!

For the seekers of social, political and cultural truths – there are some welcome reprints!

For the newer arrivals, there are visually artistic images and photographs of our diverse cultural mosaic in small and large galleries!


The Novella is a short novel or narrative. Emma CHASE is author of an hilarious legal briefs’ series of novellas. Emma lives with her husband, two children and two naughty, but really cute dogs. ‘SIDEBARRED’ a legal briefs’ novella.


Borrowed from a local library, the novel ‘NIGHT SWIMMING’ is a funny, diverse story of family, love, friendship, crop-circles and goats! Offbeat, quirky and blending light-heartedness and depth, this rich novel is a delight. Author Steph BOWE was born in Melbourne in 1994 and now lives in Queensland. She has written three novels: ‘Girl Saves Boy’, ‘All This Could End’ and ‘Night Swimming’ 2017. 


To ‘restore’ writers conveying our social history, Diana GRIBBE wanted to create an independent publishing house that would find books to enlighten, challenge and entertain us. In 1990, she founded TEXT CLASSICS, publishing our most loved writers who tell our stories.

…thusly, ‘THE DYEHOUSE’ …

Mena CALTHORPE (1905-1996) was born Ivy Bright Field, in Goulburn, NSW and baptised Philomena. Because of her own struggles in business, having left the tablelands for Sydney and running an unsuccessful shop in Paddington; Calthorpe became a committed socialist and was active in the Australasian Book Society and the Australian Society of Authors.

“The Dyehouse” (1961), draws upon the writer’s experiences of a textile factory and other workplaces to create a deftly observed account of working life in postwar Sydney. The novel was published in translation in Europe and republished in Australia in 1982.

“The Dyehouse” is a novel about work; and according to Studs TERKEL, the great American cataloguer of labour, this means that it is “…by its very nature, about violence – to the spirit as well as the body.” Mena Calthorpe’s political comments and convictions are specific and convincing and brought to us by an ensemble of characters alive with vivid mobility.  The Text Publishing Company, Melbourne Vict. 1961. Introduction copyright Fiona McFarlane 2016. “The Art of Work” pp. vii-xv.

Fiona McFarlane writes about reading ‘The Dyehouse” as “…a process of rediscovery – of a lost voice, the precise, insightful voice of Mena Calthorpe. Of a lost Sydney…of a lost literary tradition – the Australian books, many of them by women, that imagined work and the worker in the unreliable light of communism. What a pleasure to see (this book) published again, in a new light. May it remain unforgotten.” Fiona McFarlane, 2016.


World Music Series!  Ajak KWAI from Sudan is an icon of Sudanese sound and this singer/songwriter and story teller is described as inspiring and soulful. Her performances are infused with funky afro-beats, echoing the depth and richness of her roots. Ajak tells stories of experiences as a refugee exiled from home and family. She sings in Arabic, Sudanese and English and projects a strong image of her Dinka heritage.

Her songs and stories of hope, exile, freedom, love and cows reflect an optimism and belief in the best of human nature. Poignant and refreshingly clear and honest, this graceful, dynamic woman stretched her hands out to her audience whilst she smiled and sang “I Receive You” – a holy welcome to us all!

Choked-up during a live performance, I recalled the real-life stories of my own refugee students, and watched them dance and smile and sing and clap and taste a delicious Joy. That night I watched a Mum who had witnessed her husband having his throat cut in view of their children; who has since lost sons; who has survived war, murder, poverty, fear, rape, and loss that may be hard for some to imagine, dance! I watched the infusion of liveliness and joy and movement and connection and belonging that Ajak re-ignites in the hearts of her people. The concert was exceptionally beautiful and joyful and I have had the honour of having scribed CD’s delivered to me from Ajak, for which I am deeply grateful.  Enjoy! – Ajak is on FACEBOOK under her own name: Ajak KWAI.


Funny, feisty and all-too-true, Claire SANDY provides warmth and lots of laughs with busy mum, Fern, who loves her imperfectly perfect family and has fun preparing endless meals for them……well?

Surprise events leap from hors d’oeuvres on mismatched plates, dog walking, running her own business, a daughter who is an eight year old militant feminist, a pair of teenage accidental parents and a husband having a midlife crisis!

Fun! ‘A ‘not quite’ Perfect Family’. Claire Sandy, Pan MacMillan, London N1 9RR, 2017.


Soaking WET, yet enthralled, audiences enjoyed The Glen Miller Orchestra, which recently toured DANCE BY TWILIGHT 75th Anniversary Tour. Nostalgia seems to be a recurrent element of the arts throughout 2017, and this was highly evident during this beautiful event in Munro Martin Park, Cairns. I am sure, however, that many were highly hopeful for the completion of our Civic Centre, still in process, and a solid ROOF, under which to enjoy such spectacles!


In many of our regions, there are few BOOKSTORES. Happily, the odd ‘pop-up’ shop surprises readers at times, and enriching and useful dictionaries; reprints of Collins Latin Dictionary and bestselling bilingual dictionaries are made available. Harper-Collins Publishers, Glasgow. Classics and best-loved books are varied, and I will try to advise a variety of websites for your collective reading pleasure.


“Intelligent, well-crafted and impressive.” Sunday Times. Ross WELFORD, author of ‘Time Travelling with a Hamster’, popped up with his 2017 publication “What NOT To Do If You Turn Invisible!” An astonishing and funny novel about a girl who – by disappearing – will write herself into your heart forever… Harper Collins Publishers Ltd., London SE1 9GF 2017


The Heart of Art – Beautiful but brief glimpses of some of our people from diverse cultures were enjoyed and pondered over, during the recent Cairns Festival, when artistic and photographic images allowed a mercurial look at the extraordinary international mosaic that is the fabric of this northern city and region. Historically, the area was always peopled by a variety of cultures, all sharing language, customs, music, song, dance, foods and connections. Rarely have the images been showcased and it is hoped that lovers of the visual and of our own historicity, will see more of this wholesome, varied and enriching art, in future.


Reprinted ‘THE LOST EUROPEANS’ – first published in USA 1958, the current paperback edition was published in the UK 2016 by Apollo, an imprint of Zeus Ltd. ‘The Lost Europeans’ was copyrighted by Aaron LITVINOFF 1958. The Introduction to this reprint is from Michael SCHMIDT 2016.

This particular reprint and possible holiday read is posited as “The great forgotten novel of post-war Berlin.”

There is a co-existence of pressure and political protocols for European writers who are curious, brave and bold enough to explore behind the vanished, the Wall (1961-1989); and the most brutally patrolled fault line in the cold war.

During the life of author, Emanuel LITVINOFF, who died in 2011 at the age of 96 years, Europe suffered decisive erasure. A loved friend, the late Paul Kamslar senior, explained to me how so many ‘laundered’ their past, to survive the future.

One cannot but chuckle at the cheeky but honest Introduction, in which the astute Michael SCHMIDT writes: “The narrator never knows anything for certain. English readers, keen on facts, experience a sinister world of ‘seems’, shadows and erasures.” p.ix This is a rich and intriguing read.


Australian writer, Glenda LARKE, now lives in Malaysia, but regularly visits her daughters in Scotland and Virginia and her family in Western Australia. Her two great loves in life are writing fantasy and conservation of rainforest avifauna. This author has also lived in Tunisia and Austria where she has taught language English, as she has to Korean, Japanese and Malaysian students.

‘The Shadow of Tyr’ – “The Mirage Makers”

Book two of a trilogy

Harper Collins Publishers Australia, 2007.

Fresh, strange and intriguing Sunday Age, ‘The Shadow of Tyr’ is packed with universal hopes and truths, garbed in new textual robes, as well as adventure, magick and the myriad mysteries of the personal and collective psyche!

“She let a smidgen of power leak…in the deepening dusk, she glowed with a silvery light.” p.145. “I know a lie when I hear it, but at the moment I wish others had that ability…” p.145. Truly interesting and proudly from the pen of an Australian author and adventurer.


The University of Queensland ART MUSEUM

University Drive   St Lucia – Open daily 10am – 4pm

Free entry – Free parking on weekends

Many interesting events, displays and discussions!


Queensland Art Gallery now presents the Australian Collection Reimagined, an exciting change is on display now, capturing major historical moments from first contact to colonisation; and exploration to immigration. Dedicated curators and Director, Chris Saines, are proud of the reconfigured spaces in which the art works tell the stories of Queensland and Brisbane, from the region’s perspective.

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