Word Power–written, spoken & sung

Think of all the words we read, speak and write in a week, a year, a lifetime. What might encapsulate your output, by which people remember you? Politicians know a word, phrase or speech that can fast track their career. Or batter it (as in “things that batter” from Alexander Downer). Remember these?

  • I have a dream…” Revisit Martin Luther King Jnr.’s words in light of recent world events.
  • Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables”
  • Julia Gillard’s “misogyny” 
  • Paul Keating’s “the recession we had to have” 
  • “Drain the swamp”…

Do your words speak vision – or derision?

Freedom of speech is much debated at present. It’s allied with freedom of religion, seen through a kaleidoscope. Political perspectives and stances are volatile. We reel from the terrorist attack on tolerant Sweden, which welcomed so many refugees.

What of regimes where words are censored?

Many who enjoy freedom of speech and religion cannot imagine life under repression. Between 1987-1991, hundreds of thousands of Estonians expressed their patriotism in the only way they could – singing. Their Singing Revolution joined with fellow Baltic Republics of Latvia and Lithuania in nonviolent protests that gained their independence from the Soviet regime in 1991. See a documentary and SBS Great Continental Train Journeys: Riga to Tampere. (Where my great-uncle Edvard Back fought in the Civil War, as you can read in Midnight Sun to Southern Cross.)

Edvard Back soldier 2_NH

Finland fought for Independence with war and music

in 1899 (the year my great-uncle fled Finland, pursued by Russians at Suez), Jean Sibelius composed “Finland Awakens” (later renamed “Finlandia”) for a benefit concert to aid journalists repressed by the regime. Growling tremolo and biting brass chords paint in sound the “Great Hate” for Finland’s oppressors that contrast with a plaintive hymn tune. As Finns also expressed patriotism in choral groups, they added vocal lyrics: “Finland, behold, thy daylight now is dawning” and “Be still my soul, the Lord is on your side.”

The Finn Choir sings this at my book launch 23 April, 2–4.30pm

“Midnight Sun to Southern Cross” tells much of Finland’s struggle for Independence, whose centenary is celebrated this year.Midnight Sun front cover

Dr Bill Glasson, AO, who shares similar heritage, will launch the book at St Lucia Uniting Church, Brisbane. A recital of Finnish music will use the organ that my grandfather W.A. Back donated in 1954. Finnish oboist Emily Salonen plays The Swan of Tuonela by Sibelius on cor anglais.
Hear relevant passages from the book and footage of voices from the past.
It’s a free event and all welcome, but do let me know for space and catering.

Finnish pastries!

Afternoon tea will be catered by Finnish chef Bianca Kasurinen, who worked with Jamie Oliver. So please RSVP by reply email, or (61)411782404.

Where to order copies?

Autographed copies are available at the launch, or pre-order copies online.

Cheques can be mailed to PO Box 422, The Gap, Qld 4061 Australia. Or email for direct banking details. Like its predecessor, Burn My Letters, this second book of the saga, Midnight Sun to Southern Cross will be available as eBook (Kobo, Amazon, Book Depository).

So what’s it about?

In the tradition of great family migration stories, Midnight Sun to Southern Crosscontinues the saga of the Back brothers’ flight from Russian-occupied Finland to Australia as the nineteenth century turned into the twentieth.

From frozen Finland to the lush rainforests of northern New South Wales, to the dry and dusty sheep country of western Queensland, you follow the highs and lows of their new life under the Southern Cross.

It is an extraordinary tale of success, failure, hard work and dreaming. What drove the wheeler-dealer Wilhelm Anders Back, known as WA, to became in his time Australia’s richest Finn? And what stirred his eccentric writerly elder brother Karl Johan, KJ, pacifist and political dissenter? What sustained those who stayed behind in Finland, as they bravely struggled to oust the Russians from their homeland? This book, and its predecessor, Burn My Letters, are timely in the centenary year of Finnish Independence.Inside Cover F

Ruth Bonetti, WA’s granddaughter, also contrasts his and Karl Johan’s formative years in Finland with her own upbringing in outback Queensland. For her, it is a voyage of discovery and self-discovery as she tells of her extensive search in Finland and Australia for the broad Back family history and weaves the story of her own life from shy bush girl to musician and writer, wife and mother.

Enjoy the Saga!

PS. To attend the launch, bookings (email, Facebook or phone) are essential.

 

Socks, jocks or books for Christmas?

Each Christmas, my dear departed mother gave shirts to the men in her life. Mine know they’ll receive books for the coming holidays. At writers festivals, I choose likely books, queue up for authors’ autographs. Don’t people love that personalised touch?

Some of these gifts become dog-eared, I confess. Because, er, I do check that the books and recipients are matched. Recycling helps save the planet. That’s one excuse.

Also, I buy many books written by writing buddies and colleagues. And help them by posting reviews on Goodreads.com – an addictive site where one can check out readers’ reviews of books before deciding whether to buy or borrow. Reviews are pure gold to authors hoping to be noticed amidst millions of competing titles. Especially as Indie publishers don’t have advertising budgets of the big imprints.

See Goodreads 5-star reviews of my recent book

Burn My LettersTwoCovers

There is nothing dull about this historical search, from the start I was drawinto the story, entertained, amused, challenged and moved.’

 

…a charming blend of well-researched narrative non-fiction and creative imagination. Ruth’s writing is cohesive and easy to read.’

Order on Amazon, as hardcopy and eBook. For autographed copies order here. There, buy Book 2 of the series at pre-publication special price.

Or send cheques to Words and Music, PO Box 422 The Gap Qld 4061 Australia.

Thanks for the great reviews! Feel free to add your own comments on Goodreads.com

Book 2 Midnight Sun to Southern Cross launches March 2017

It marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution, which spread to Finland and on to Finnish Independence.

WA St Lucia view LRIn March 1937, 70 years ago, the University of Queensland foundation stone was laid. Book 2 of the Back Saga documents the development of St Lucia, and my grandfather W. A. Back’s part in the Coronation Park Ltd syndicate. This developed 148 acres of which the University resumed 200 blocks of land bought with The Mayne Inheritance. (Now, there’s a tale!) See him surveying his domain from his ‘Big House’ in 1950s Hawken Drive–and my contribution in Brisbane Art Deco

Book 2 moves between Australia and Finland to contrast Granddad’s formative years in Europe and my own upbringing in outback Queensland and in St Lucia, the iconic Brisbane suburb he developed. And of my own studies at that same university, after the culture shock of Ironside State School – a big stretch from correspondence school – and then Somerville House.

Edvard_c

What of family members who remained in Finland? Read the parts they played in the struggle to oust Russian overlords from their homeland. (My father’s uncle Edvard on right)

Granddad’s story is bookended by ‘Those who go, those who stay.’ In 1920, Sister Anna Sanna (Ny)Holm joined her brothers, the first complete Finnish family to emigrate to Australia. Holms leave Finland_LR

 

 

What better Christmas holiday than to relax with a book?

Enjoy reading! 

Walk Out – Talk In-clusive

The audience of ultimate indignity…someone walked out of your keynote. How to continue, wondering what nerve was hit? What sacred cow did you shoot?

We imagine the worst, take it as a condemnation of our words. But perhaps they went to take an emergency phone call or to the bathroom?

Misread Body language?

If pressured, we may misread signals. As I did, presenting my first American sessions, aware that a co-faculty member sat with bland face–as he processed my words. Yet he came first to shake hands and say “I was intrigued that you said…”

Some do tell it straight…

By posting a blog as did Yassim Abdel-Magied. She protested that acclaimed author Lionel Shriver’s Brisbane Writers Festival keynote address targeted “cultural appropriation, identity politics and political correctness.”

Stay on topic

To their credit, festival organisers quickly mounted a right of reply, saying Shriver “didn’t stay with the agreed brief” of “community and belonging” but reverted to her submitted topic of “fiction and identity politics.” Even a respected author who won awards for We Need to Talk About Kevin should stay on topic. 

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Natural habitat

Writers festivals are my natural habitat. They attract thinking, articulate people, who discuss reactions, smiling as they plod though mud between tents to absorb yet more challenging ideas. Mega thanks, Byron Writers Festival and Jesse Blackadder for the opportunity to launch my book Burn My Letters.

This inspiring festival is unique amongst others in giving space for humble indie authors.

Hear radio interview

A new writers festival

And for Sunshine Coast International Readers and Writers Festival where director Wendy Hanlon launched Burn My Letters in an innovative, inclusive and friendly atmosphere. In it, I give voice to one who was censored, I “step into other people’s shoes, and try on their hats” (to quote Shriver) as authors do.FullSizeRender

I’m thrilled with 5-star reviews on Goodreads.

What’s it all about?

Out of town, I missed the BWF keynote furore. But reading the transcript I’m of two minds. I sympathise with those who felt confronted by the speech, but wonder how many silent majority audience agreed. The sort of people Hillary Clinton dismissed as “deplorables” who feel so ridiculed for conservative beliefs, and disenfranchised that they would even consider voting for extreme right politicians.

Some commentators including The Financial Review sided with Shriver.

Bring on the debate – pro and con

Did some nod at her words: “The left’s embrace of gotcha hypersensitivity inevitably invites backlash. Donald Trump appeals to people who have had it up to their eyeballs with being told what they can and cannot say. Pushing back against a mainstream culture of speak-no-evil suppression, they lash out in defiance, and then what they say is pretty appalling.”

Abdel-Magiel has appeared on GotchaLand ABC QandA panels.

But it’s simplistic to dub a walkout as as publicity stunt, not knowing sensitivities that prompted it. We value our country’s freedom of speech that enabled Abdel-Magied her voice. We can always learn from criticism.

But as a wordsmith, I worry that increasingly, words are curtailed, censored, criticised.

Shriver cited recent authors that the left judges for “cultural appropriation.” Do we add the white Harper Lee whose To Kill a Mocking Bird and Uncle Tom’s Cabin that took on American racial prejudices? Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood?

What price words?

The Australian government deems words so cheap that they consider changing laws to cut copyright to a mere 15 years. Or allow parallel importation of books, that would decimate authors’ already meagre incomes.

We need to talk, with open minds, respect and sensitivity. Dialogue, not monologue. Unless we’re the keynote speaker.

 

Burn My Letters fires at literary festivals

Burn My Letters launched at Byron Bay Writers Festival, launched by author Jesse Blackadder. Thanks to Captain Honey who made it possible amongst greater luminaries of the literary firmament. The Brisbane launch was uplifted by gypsy/klezmer band Greshka, and by a choir of Finns who sang Finlandia to many moist eyed listeners. Georgiana Poulter, director of the Institute of Modern Languages, University of Queensland launched it. Some footage is on Facebook.

KJ launch

Radio interview

Sibelius featured of course in the ‘My Journey in Music’ interview about this and a coming Brisbane Symphony Orchestra concert on Radio 4MBS Classic FM (103.7) repeated on Sunday 8pm. Listen via live streaming .

A Book Week talk, then next…

The Sunshine Coast International Readers & Writers Festival includes my launch in the (apt!) Smorgasbord of Authors, Saturday, 10 September.

Thanks to Suomi Newspaper for including half-page spreads in three recent issues.


Book 2 to launch in November

Midnight Sun to Southern Cross is written, edited, but needs another read through before putting it between pages. The plan is to launch in November, amidst this present whirlwind…I’ll keep you posted.

How to order?

Those who helped along the journey, and others who bought pre-publication copies should have received books by now, with international posting ten days ago. It’s now up on Amazon as eBook and of course, if you prefer an autograph, order from my website.

TwoCovers

Our first review!

Karl Johan and I are thrilled with a review on KJ’s book page

Lisa Nitschke wrote: ‘Just finished reading “Burn My Letters” and really enjoyed it! Being a teacher, I usually never read much during term time, but I got involved in the story and found it was a welcome break in the evenings to see how the story unfolded. Having recently visited Byron Bay and surrounding hinterland, I could picture KJ making his home there. Looking forward to the next book!’

It’s on the way…

It don’t mean a thing…

…If it ain’t got that swing. As the classic song goes. (Tap along to Duke Ellington.)

Or ZING. Australia’s federal election last Saturday proved a double-disillusion. It flagged questions about the communication skills of key players on the national stage. Without naming names, let’s draw lessons for all those who present through words or music.

Communicate!

Reach out to your listeners, involve them, get to know them. Before a presentation, mix with the masses in the foyer, refer to some by name during your presentation or question time.

Clarity!

Convoluted rambling puts listeners to sleep, however mellifluous the voice, however beautifully modulated and paced. It leads to misplaced expectations.

Customise!

Adapt to different audiences rather than repeat worn out text, slogans and mantras. Listen before you speak. Create fresh, relevant zingers.

Commit to being and giving your best– don’t condescend. 

Never underestimate audience intelligence and insight. They see through ego, fake sincerity, and an attitude that “it’s all about me!”

Concise!

Pithy. To the point. Less is more. It’s easier to speak (or write) long than short.

Congruent – Be yourself

People, whether as audience or voter, want to relate to real people, not puppets or figure heads. Humility and reality cover a multitude of glitches.

WE HAVE LIFT OFF! BOOK LAUNCHES – Burn My LettersBML Cover med

After many drafts, edits and proofs my next book Burn My Letters is off to the printers!

102 Main Street Kangaroo Point (free parking, ferry to Holman St. Terminal)

(Bookings essential: email 0411 782 404 or 07 33002286)

Enjoy live music from Greshka, soprano Lyn Moorfoot and Finlandia sung by Finnish singers; give-aways; author Q&A, as you sip lingonberry saft (or stronger from cash bar) and taste smörgåsar (canapés).

lloyd@sbctc.com.au

Autographed books at launch (RRP $27.99), Paypal or email for bank transfer info.

The International Connection

I’d love to include those who’ve helped me along my journey. Join us at the Brisbane launch via live streaming on YouTube/Google. Or record for later download. (SOS for techies who can make it happen!)

If you order books via PayPal we’ll absorb extra international shipping costs.

Book 2 of the saga will launch in November

BML back cover

It’s written, edited, and will release after yet more edits and proofs.

Thanks, Peter Fenoglio for the luminous covers.

Enjoy reading!

“Playing” music…for free or fee?

Some non-musicians can’t understand that because we “play” music, it’s our livelihood. That we have invested years of decades’ study to finesse our talents. That we still put hours into practice and in many cases into arranging and composing. OK, I’m preaching to the converted. But…

Practice or play?

Why not choose a positive title like “Practice Makes Perfect” someone asked when I published Practice is a Dirty Word: How to clean up your act.

I’m allergic to the words perfect and practice in the same sentence.

practiceIn it I wrote:

Let me explode a myth.
Practice does not make perfect.
Not exactly. Not always. Hey, not ever. Let’s face it, we can’t be perfect.
Even top performers cannot be perfect. None of us can be a hundred percent perfect. Trying to be so is the biggest single cause of nerves, insecurity, depression, low self-esteem. These can cause even the most capable and talented people to give up.
The whole problem is that “practice makes perfect” has been garbled and used as a whip around our ears. Who coined that phrase, anyway? No one admits to it, but the closest we can get to its origin is that the ancient Greek philosopher Periander said: “Practice is everything.” 

But what to call it? Play?

I wrestled to find another word for “practice”. Play is the closest, implying active, creative engagement. (But we know for some it means –er–lack of focus.)

There’s the pitfall…

Some can’t imagine we should be paid real money for mere PLAY.

I must offer professional fees for live musicians at the book launch.

Thank you to those who’ve supported my crowdfunding campaign.Special mention to Althea O’Dee for her heart-warming email:”Congratulations on your new writing project! You inspire me so much. I am working in China at the moment. I’d like to donate to your fund, but when I open the fund-site, it is all in Chinese. Could I donate into your bank account… and you don’t need to send anything in return? I just want to help you, since I already own a couple of your music books, which have really helped me.

We hit the goal! Now to pay musicians at book launchTwoCovers

When my books are between covers, we’ll raise a glass to my wonderful supporters. With live music of course. These talented musicians deserve REAL fees, not mates’ rates.
With extra funds I’ll book a singer and commission son André to arrange Scandinavian music to perform with his gypsy band Greshka).

Because Words and Music are my fortes

There’s a few days left support my campaign. Do check out my crowdfunding site.

Thanks for your support!

 

Novel way to publish books

How to hook a mainstream publisher? That question keeps authors too busy to write their next book. We spend disheartening time on pitching, proposing, publicity. All writers know the pain of rejection.

• Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling were rejected by a dozen publishers, including Penguin and HarperCollins.

• Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind was rejected 38 times before publication.

• Orwell’s Animal Farm: “It’s impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.”

• To F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You’d have a decent book if you got rid of that Gatsby character.”

TwoCovers

When some publishers are interested and enthusiastic, we’re buoyed and tread on clouds. Until we discover they’re academic or vanity press, offering little recompense for our hard work, intellectual property and writing skills. Even asking us to pay for the privilege of seeing our words between covers. Might as well self-publish.

Last year I swore I wouldn’t indie publish. Even though I have already published books for musicians and teachers through my Words and Music imprint. But I’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign for the last leg of a long journey.

Even print on demand needs outlay of funds. Thanks to my son Paul Bonetti who helped, having successfully crowd funded his second album. (You can hear my clarinet backing on a few tracks.) I’m encouraged by the successful campaign to reprint Brisbane Art Deco, which includes my contribution about my Granddad’s house in St Lucia, Brisbane. Back House main BCC-B54-1976

Granddad (W.A.Back) was a Finnish Swede who emigrated to Australia to escape conscription into the Russian army. When his black sheep brother fled in 1899, Russian military police searched for him in Suez. He dodged them and found refuge in Australia. But why did he write home to “Burn my letters?” A decade’s research found answers to such questions. 

Letter KJ Back 1899:2

A treasure trove of archival letters

I’m blessed that my relatives gifted me with illuminating archival letters. These helped me piece together the story of my forebears.

What an inspiring, empowering story!

There’s a degree of memoir as the books cover:

  • Growing up in the Australian outback
  • Schooling in Brisbane: at Ironside State School, Somerville House and University of Queensland.
  • (Granddad led a consortium that developed St Lucia)
  • Studies, research and work in London, Sweden, Finland and more during 7 years in Europe.
  • My musical and life journey

My books that tell their stories and my own journey to discover heritage are ready to go. But I need help to afford printing. Please support my crowd funding campaign so I can put my books between covers.

http://pozible.com/burnmyletters
It’s going well, but not quite safe yet!

Many thanks in anticipation!