Research communities

Arnissa today

Ostrovo (known as Arnissa) today. Photo courtesy of Nikiforos Sivenas

It’s wonderful how research communities and people can cross paths. As mentioned in an earlier blog, World War I Link gathers a lot of these communities together under the one umbrella.

My blog about the Scottish Women’s Hospitals is a member and so is Jenny Baker’s Looking for the Evidence. On a particular post about the Scottish Women’s Hospitals on my blog at Debbie Robson Nikiforos Sivenas crossed my path. He is researching the SWH because as a 10 year old his father encountered the women at the field hospitals and couldn’t believe that women were driving ambulances. The memory stayed with him and his son has been discovering more about these marvellous women and where they worked. He has supplied Jenny Baker and myself with some wonderful photographs of the region then and now. Above is a shot of the small township of Ostrovo as it is today.

I am currently going through various webpages including the Imperial War Museums, the AIF Database, the National Archives of Australia and the Australian War Memorial website. More websites that may help other people researching Australians involved in a world war or other conflict, are listed in Shane Pilgrim’s excellent article at ABC Open – 7 easy ways to research your family’s World War history.

I am so glad to be a part of such fascinating, resourceful and giving communities.

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The ABC Open Community

ABC OpenABC Open is a wonderful community I’m proud to be a part of. It “is real stories made by real people from all around Australia”. Every month new projects are set to inspire the community. They are are a combination of writing, video and photographs.

The current writing projects are: 

500 Words: Testing the friendship
Open Drum: The Vaccination Divide
Unsung: an inspiring person in your community

The current video projects are:

Makers and creators
Where you’ll spend me: How you spend your summer
Mother tongue: Sharing Australia’s first language
Unsung: an inspiring person in your community

The current photography projects:

Portrait: Neighbours
Snapped: Water

Come on and join in! It’s a great place to hang out.

ABC Open






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My Adventures with the Australian Women Writers Challenge


aww-badge-2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge

The Australian Women Writers Challenge was founded by Elizabeth Lhuede to support and promote books by Australian women. I joined the challenge in 2013 and it has certainly been a journey for me. I am now much more aware of the books written by women and not just Australian women. This year I joined the challenge as a volunteer, as well as a reviewer. I am doing the monthly roundup of Historical Fiction and it is fascinating to see what is being read and reviewed in this genre.

Here is a link to the wrap up.
January 2015 Roundup: Historical Fiction
It’s not too late to join. Hope to see you there!

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WWOnelink – Gathering together WWI projects

Last week, through twitter, I discovered this marvellous site. WWOnelink is about linking your Great War Commemoration Project to the world. Definitely a collaborative workspace in my books.

The site explains: “WWI Link is a research project database established by the history-loving team at Inside History magazine. This website is an online register of research projects taking place across Australia during the centenary of WWI, promoting our WWI heritage and creating an important record of the ways in which Australians commemorated this significant centenary.”

WWOnelink is a marvellous resource, particularly for smaller project owners, who now have a very effective tool to help raise the profile of their project. Projects can be searched by State, Region and Type. Please spread the word to other history lovers and all those interested in finding out more about the Great War.

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A community of writers

TranscendenceEarlier this year I was lucky enough to meet Angela Walton when she dropped in to one of my Starving in a Garret community meetings. They are informal gatherings usually on a Saturday at a local cafe. I post on the net where I will be, generally writing or researching, and my friends or interested parties can come and say hello.

One Saturday Angela dropped in with her friend Renata and we’ve been buddies ever since. In June this year Angela’s book Transcendence was published by Custom Book Publications. Last month I read and reviewed her book on Goodreads and it was mentioned in a roundup of last month’s Australian Women Writer’s Speculative Fiction Round-up.

Here is Angela’s Webpage. Drop by and say hello to one of our Starving in a Garret writers!

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How fiction/historical fiction can save historical fact


Barquentine City of Sydney – formerly steamer City-of-Sydney_SLV_Green, Source: State Library of Victoria Author: Allan C. Green 1878 – 1954

As history is very important to me I’ve uploaded this post from Debbie Robson
at WordPress.

From oblivion is what I mean. One of my main aims in being a writer is to preserve little known facts and make them sing in my fiction. I might have touched on this before but there were two facts (above all others) that I wanted to preserve in Tomaree and that was to do with the US servicemen based in Australia. But let me start at the beginning.

Tomaree is inspired not just by a real life love story but by a fascinating time in Australian history when approximately half a million US serviceman were stationed in Australia during World War II. There are a lot of facts in Tomaree – details of the Fly Point camp, the way Nelson Bay used to be in 1942 (just a jumble of small shops) details of campaigns in the Pacific and much more. But the two facts, that may seem trivial, but I wanted to include are: 1. that the American serviceman hated all our loose change. They couldn’t abide it heavy and jingling in their pockets – the threepenny, halfpenny, pennies etc. As related to me by a Nelson Bay Resident, the soldiers would dig their hands in their pockets offer up the change to the nearest small child and say, “Here kid, buy yourself an icecream.”

No. 2 is that wherever the soldiers were stationed in Australia, it was common for local residents to send a small boy (never a girl from what I read in a history book on the subject) into the street looking for a Yank to invite him home to tea. My Amercan Signals Officer is approached by such a small boy but has to refuse because he already has a dinner invitation. I feel very privileged to have the means to keep these sort of little known but important facts alive for the reading public of today. It’s what motivates me to seek out historical fact (like many historical fiction authors I’m guessing) and weave it into my fiction.

In a strange way too, fiction also preserves historical facts for readers. For some time now I’ve been researching Sydney in the 1920s. There are actually not many non fiction books available on the subject. Frustrated, I turned my attention to fiction but wondered where all the female fiction writers were who were writing at that time. There didn’t seem to be many listed in anthologies and literary records. At first I thought there was simply no significant female authors writing during the first two decades of the last century. I have since read Dale Spender’s Writing a New World and discovered that is not the case. They have been deliberately left out of literary collections and reviews – but that’s another blog. In this one I want to highlight how I have found historical fact in fiction.

As mentioned I turned my attention to fiction to help me research the 1920s and luckily discovered Ethel Turner’s daughter Jean Curlewis. Last month I read her third novel Beach Beyond set near Palm Beach and written in 1923. This week I have just finished her first novel written in 1921 – The Ship That Never Set Sail. Here is what I have been looking for the last six months – a real, vibrant Sydney – the Sydney of 90 years ago!

Here she is writing about Darling Harbour:

“They were gazing right down on to the littered decks of ships – they could almost have dropped pebbles into the holds – they caught intimate glimpses of donkey-engines and capstans and flying bridges and fo’c’stle hatches at a proximity impossible at the Quay. The huge funnels towered up right beside them. They could count the cases and barrels and mysterious bulging sacks and great green clusters of bananas scattered on the wharves – gaze down into the dull green water, deep-hued as a peacock’s tail with a film of oil from some passing steamer. All the vast detail of the fifth port of the Empire was spread beneath their eyes: “the beauty and mystery of the ships”; all Darling Harbour stretching like a river between its vessel-teeming banks into the very heart of the city.” Marvellous and better than any history book!

There are also descriptions of White City, now long vanished, a ball on board a warship, something called a gypsy tea, the Blue Mountains when it was smaller and quieter with barely any cars on the road, and Pittwater. A wharf at Newport is mentioned and a pier “that ran out from a green garden full of white pigeons, scented verbena and mauve blue Love-in-a-Mist.” This is very near where I used to live but of course the garden is long gone. I’m so thankful to have found Jean Curlewis. Her words have been helping me to recreate in my mind another Sydney. I hope to track down more lost authors, to read, review and discover the Australia they lived in.

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Author platforms and protecting your intellectual property


This is a cross post from Debbie Robson – Researching and writing an historical novel on WordPress.

We are constantly told that we need to work on our author platform – as many social media sites as possible. Well that’s fine. That’s the way the world is in the 21st century but how to find the time to maintain them all that is the big question! Of course it is a matter of personal preferences as to which ones you chose of the many. Personally, I have found that Pinterest, WordPress, Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and LinkedIn are the most useful for me – the first five in particular.

But I’m not writing this blog to say get on all these now. I actually want to talk about a problem that seems to be overlooked. And that is protecting your intellectual property. In Goodreads, more so than Amazon, I’ve found that unless an author completes their profile and identifies which books are theirs, things can get really confusing.

I am a librarian on Goodreads, a Goodreads author and a participant of the wonderful Australian Women Writer’s Challenge. What’s been happening recently for me is that I have read several books where the author’s profile is not up on Goodreads. This may not appear to be a big problem for a lot of authors. It’s just one of the platforms they don’t have time for. But what they don’t realise is that when their profile is not completed a search of their name (without a profile) will bring up all the books for that name and some of the titles will not be theirs! In other words the author is not claiming and separating from other authors, their intellectual property.

As I am, like a lot of authors:
Working full time
Writing my novel,
Doing my research,
Maintaining my author platforms
Answering emails
Blogging. And, as well:
Participating in the AWWC
And of course, trying to have a personal life…
There is not really much time for extra stuff.

That’s why I am endeavouring to help in a small way. I hope to assist all the poets that I have featured here on my community page in making sure Goodreads reflects what they themselves have written. I am also either putting up profiles of authors who don’t appear on Goodreads but whose book or books I have just read. And sometimes this might be an author who has died but whose work I feel deserves a new audience such as Jean Curlewis. (I still have to put up her three other books).

In regards to separating titles that is a delicate process that I only do in collaboration with the author. I cannot presume to know all the titles they have written. So authors make sure Goodreads reflects who you are and what you have written. You mightn’t want to have to tackle this but you do want readers to find your books easily – and that, finally, is what a successful platform is about.

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