Ursula Le Guin is my literary hero. Her translation of the Chinese classic, ‘Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching, A Book About the Way and the Power of the Way’ is my bible and if I was allowed only one book to take with me to a desert island it would be that one.
In the introduction she writes that her father introduced her to this book and marked chapters he would like to have read at his funeral. She also marked chapters to have read at her funeral. (How I wish I knew which ones they are). My mother also chose chapters to read out at her funeral and so I did. And I have done the same because this book in its simplicity speaks to the soul.
Ursula Le Guin ends her introduction by saying that there have been many translations of the Tao Te Ching but –
“I wanted a Book of the Way accessible to a present-day, unwise, unpowerful, and perhaps unmale reader, not seeking esoteric secrets, but listening for a voice that speaks to the soul. I would like that reader to see why people have loved the book for twenty-five hundred years. It is the most lovable of all the great religious texts, funny, keen, kind, modest, indestructibly outrageous, and inexhaustibly refreshing. Of all the deep springs, this is the purest water. To me, it is also the deepest spring.’
If you are interested in purchasing the book, here is the link https://www.shambhala.com/lao-tzu-tao-te-ching-896.html
You can read her introduction in full in the photos below.
Vale Ursula Le Guin
The first half of this year is filled with exciting happenings and much travel.
Chinese painting, Port Fairy,
writers’ festival, Perth,
art exhibition, Melbourne,
children’s book fair, Bologna,
Ting Ting the Ghost Hunter launch, Melbourne,
Ting Ting the Ghost Hunter bookshop and schools tour, Brisbane.
At the end of January, I’ll be travelling down the coast to beautiful Port Fairy to give Chinese painting, writing and illustrating workshops to kids and adults at Blarney Books and Art. Details for these events are on the Events page.
In February I will be appearing at the Perth Writers Festival. I’ll be in-conversation with artistic director, Matt Edgerton and stage designer, Zoe Atkinson from Barking Gecko Theatre Company who are adapting my novel, A Ghost in My Suitcase for the stage. I’m so excited about the play. I will be announcing details about the premiere later in the year. This is a free event. It would be lovely to see you there!
I’ll also be appearing as part of the Schools Program talking about ghosts and magic and China. Details for both Perth Festival events are on the Events page
March I will be exhibiting original illustrations as part of the monthly window exhibitions held at Di Mase architects in North Fitzroy. Each month a new creator is featured which helps promote local artists.
Two and a half years ago I would not have had the confidence in my art to do this. Or to design my own book covers which I did for The Beast of Hushing Wood, and now for my forthcoming novel Ting Ting the Ghost Hunter. I also illustrated a new cover for A Ghost in My Suitcase. But as they say, practice is the key. I get so much joy from painting and find it a lovely balance to my writing. My days consist of writing in the mornings and making art in the afternoons. How perfect is that! I am very lucky. And now, since renovating our house I have a beautiful new studio.
All artwork in the mini exhibition will be for sale.
Following the exhibition opening I’m off to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. It’s the biggest fair for children’s books in the world. I’ve always wanted to go so now I’m all booked. I’ll also be attending Madrelingua, a language school in Bologna to brush up on my Italian. I’ve been learning for about 10 years with little progress. I’m not a natural at languages. But the trip has made me dust off my Italian books and to practice on Duolingo every day. I am improving, but the way to really learn a language is to live in that country. That’s how I learnt Chinese. I spent five years part time majoring in Chinese at Melbourne University, but it wasn’t until I went to live in Taiwan and China that I became semi fluent.
The month of June brings a holiday in the Hawaiian Islands visiting rainforests and volcanoes and enjoying the warmth of the tropics. I went to Hawaii in my late teens and fell in love with the place. It wasn’t only the rainforests and the mountains that look like elephant legs and the surf that resonated, it was the first place where I felt as though I belonged. Because it’s a melting pot of races, I didn’t stand out like I did in the very white Australia of my youth.
This month I will also send my new novel Ting Ting the Ghost Hunter into the world. This is the sequel to A Ghost in My Suitcase. There will be a launch in Melbourne and perhaps one in Brisbane. If you would like an invitation please email me firstname.lastname@example.org
In July I’ll be travelling up to Brisbane to give a writing and illustrating workshop for kids at Riverbend Books, and to talk to librarians about Ting Ting the Ghost hunter. I’ll also be visiting schools around Brisbane so if you are a teacher and you would like me to visit your school please contact Speakers Ink. Link on Events page.
Well, that’s the first half the year taken care of.
May 2018 bring you love and light and rainbows. And may you dream of tigers.
This is my latest book where I retell two traditional Chinese fables – The Magic Fishbones which is an early Cinderella story. It first appeared in Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang by Duan Chengshi around 860.
The other story is The Weaver Girl and the Cowherd.
It is one of the four great fables of China. It is a love story celebrated on the 7th day of the 7th month on the Chinese calendar called the Qixi Festival when lovers look up to the heavens.
The illustrations are by David Allan. They are beautiful and delicate and remind me of woodblock prints.
The book is dedicated to my mum, who used to tell me Chinese fables when I was too young to read.
This is my entry to the Migrations Postcard exhibition held in Bratislava, Slovakia. The exhibition hopes to draw attention to the plight of thousands of children and their families who are forced to flee their homes. It will feature original postcards of birds by illustrators from all over the world.
Review taken from The Never Ending Bookshelf
Recommended for children 10 -13 years old.
The Beast Of Hushing Wood is an adventure style novel perfect from children on the cusp of young adulthood, but not necessarily ready for the older themes of Young Adult books. It’s the kind of book that will appeal to adventure/risk takers and lovers of magic and the unknown. It’s a book that continued to surprise me and kept me guessing for the entire 180 pages of the novel.
With adventurous themes and settings, magical aspects and mythological beings, there is a lot to take in and love about The Beast Of Hushing Wood. When the book opened, I expected a self-discovery-slash-coming-of-age style narrative and while there are elements of both of those things in the story, the narrative has so much more to offer in a remarkable short amount of pages.
For one, it’s illustrated! I can’t remember the last novel I read that had illustrations scattered throughout the pages and so I really enjoyed the illustrations that spanned everything from a two page spread to small chapter style headings. Not being familiar with the author’s previous work, I wasn’t aware at the time of reading that Wang is both the books author and illustrator and looking back knowing this gives the book a larger than life feeling. You can literally see and read the tale unfold before your eyes as the author intended it to be and that’s kind of magical in itself..
I loved the book’s sense of otherness. The world of Hushing wood and the town Ziggy and her friends call home is crowded in by the woods and not kind to foreigners. But then there is Ziggy, a spirited eleven year old who knows her own mind. She’s not easily mislead by the closed mind towns folk and uses logic and her limited knowledge of the world to problem solve. If anything I think the world needs more books about young girls like her. What’s more the use of Eastern mythology and the re-telling of those tales brings a sense of wholeness and completion to the story. By including these tales that many westernised kids are not used to, Wang is both teaching and widening the readers knowledge and social construction, while adding another level of mystical and compulsion to the book.
But perhaps my favourite aspect of the book was the insistence on the power of one’s imagination. There are countless examples within the novel that express to the readers that your imagination is fantastic. With children from 12 plus heading to a highly indoctrinated and exact educational system, our imagination and it’s place in our day to day lives is often forgotten and left behind. We are not taught to be creative and imagine life outside the walls presented to us, but it happens every day as a child, and again as a reader of any age through books.
“But the imagination isn’t real,” I say.
“People only say that because their power of imagination is weak. When it becomes strong, your imagination can take you to incredible places. These are real places, although you cannon touch them with your hands.’ He taps his chest. “True imagination is your door to a real world. Sometimes people glimpse this world when they’re not looking straight at it.”
The Beast Of Hushing Wood is a highly imaginative and creative story that will appeal to readers of all ages. The best way I can sum up the book is to suggest that it has the power and intensity of adventure of J.R.R Tolkein (with perhaps no where near half as many characters), the magical and paranormal immersion and focus of Holly Black’s Darkest Place Of The Forrest, the mythological presence of Rick Rordan’s Percy Jackson’s Series but the light heartedness and tenderness of a book suitable for readers from 10 plus, while remaining a safe stepping stone into Young Adult themes and narratives.
I am very happy to reveal the cover of my forthcoming novel The Beast of Hushing Wood.
Ziggy Truegood has always felt like an outsider and lately she has been having dreams that she is going to drown on her twelfth birthday. She lives in a tiny town deep in Hushing Wood, where strange things are happening. The townspeople are fighting, Ziggy feels like something is hunting her, and her beloved woods have become dark and hostile. When exotic Raffi and his grandfather arrive in town, Ziggy finds herself strangely drawn to them. But are they there to save Ziggy, or are they the hunters?
The Beast of Hushing Wood published by Penguin Books Australia
Coming Out on April 3rd.
For preorders go to Penguin Australia
I’ll be announcing the details of the book launch very soon, so stay tuned.
Looking to entertain your children musically in Melbourne next week? This is a one off show for 5 – 8 years old.
Friday January 13, at 11 am
If you come along I’ll be there so please say hello. There will be no books available to purchase but if you have your own copy, I would be pleased to sign it.
Tickets can be purchased HERE
‘This beautiful retelling of the classic Chinese legend is a joy to read.’
A long time ago in Ancient China, the Jade Emperor, ruler of heaven and earth, held a great race between the animals. He declared that the first 12 animals to cross to the other side of the mighty river would have a year named after them and thereby be forever immortalized on the Chinese Zodiac.
The animals lined up on the shore, eager to begin. Some chose to race honestly while others were more devious. Some helped their friends, while others raced alone. Some were distracted, while some focused with all their might on winning. But 13 animals raced for only 12 places on the Zodiac. Who would come first? And who would miss out?
One of China’s favourite fables is brought to life through an intercultural arts experience for inquisitive young minds. Follow the story of The Race for the Chinese Zodiac and discover your Chinese Zodiac animal. Gabrielle Wang’s picture book is transformed into a multifaceted theatre production incorporating animation, storytelling and an original Chinese score played on traditional Chinese instruments performed live by the Australian Chinese Music Ensemble. Don’t miss this wonderful introduction to Chinese culture.
It’s been a busy few months. My gorgeous daughter, Lei Lei was married in February and now she’s off on her honeymoon road-tripping around the US.
I took this in the bridal car as we headed to the ceremony.
So now it’s back to writing and illustrating and thinking about story. Really though, once you’re a writer your mind automatically hones in on all kinds of stories no matter where you are.
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of illustrating which is fun and so different from writing. I’m working on a picture book called The Runaway Zoo.
With illustrating I can listen to music. I paint standing up so I can also do a bit of dancing in between brushstrokes. Painting is so good for the soul. It makes me happy.
When I’m writing I can’t be distracted. It’s a totally different way of using your imagination. With writing you need to get deep down inside your subconscious. You need to peel off the layers until you come to the heart of your story where your characters dwell.
I’m still editing my novel, Hushing Wood and have now come up with an idea for the front cover which I’m rather pleased with. I hope my publisher will like it as well. All I need is to work out a colour scheme. That’s hard for me as colour is not my strength. But I’m getting better at it with practice and it is fun playing around with beautiful paints.
Here are some roughs for The Runaway Zoo. The little girl is called Ivy after my grand niece who turned one the other day.
I’m not sure about the little dog yet. He has three legs so I was going to call him Tripod.
What do you think? I’m open to any suggestions.
I’m superstitious. It goes hand in hand with believing in magical things which is why I write the kind of books I do. So when Chinese New Year Day comes around, or Spring Festival as it is called in China, I follow some of the traditions. I’m selective though. I follow only the ones that gel with me and are easy to do.
The Chinese calendar is a lunar one so this year, Chinese New Year falls on February 8th.
Here are the Do’s and Don’ts I stick to.
1.Clean, sweep or dust on Chinese New Year’s day otherwise you will sweep away all your good luck for the incoming year.
2.Don’t lend money on New Year’s Day otherwise you’ll be lending money for the rest of the year.
3.Don’t swear or say negative things or mention death or ghosts. Everything you say should be directed towards a new and happy beginning.
4.Don’t wash your hair on New Year’s Day or else you will wash away your luck.
5.Don’t cry on New Year’s Day otherwise you will cry for the whole year. For this reason children are tolerated even when they’re naughty. Sorry mums and dads of young children.
1.Wear something new, preferably red. Red is a bright happy colour so it welcomes in a bright, happy and prosperous year. I usually wear something that has red in the pattern.
2.Give children and unmarried friends ‘hong bao’ little red packets of money. It should be a nice crisp note. My children love this time of year.
3.Say something nice to the first person you meet. I like this custom. It should be a rule for everyday of the year.
4.If you hear birdsong on New Year’s Day, you are in luck. Living in Australia, where we have so many birds, this is an easy one.
5.And lastly, if it’s your year, wear red everyday until the year ends. This is not as hard as it sounds. When it was my year I wore a red silk thread around my wrist. Some people sew a red thread in their underwear.
The Monkey in the picture above is ink on Chinese watercolour paper. The character on the right is ‘hou’ meaning monkey. The red stamp is one of my Chinese names ‘shuang’ which means frost. My full Chinese name is Wang Xing shuang which means ‘Wang Happy Frost’. Chinese always put family names first.
Those born under this sign are intelligent, clear-sighted, ambitious, rational and gifted. All doors are open to them as they will be successful in anything they do. They are lucky, generous, chivalrous and sociable and often show a gift for languages. They make excellent parents.
Monkeys are born in 1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2016
The Race for the Chinese Zodiac published by Black Dog Books in Australia, Walker Books in the UK, Candlewick in the US and Hubei Children’s Press in China is available through your local bookstore or online retailer. It’s a retelling of the traditional tale of how the animals on the Chinese zodiac were chosen and beautifully illustrated by my dear friend, Sally Rippin.
Happy Year of the Monkey to you all!
May it bring good health, happiness, a lot of creativity and new beginnings.
And, of course, a little bit of magic!
For the past week I have been writing at Varuna, the beautiful writers’ retreat in the Blue Mountains. Every time I go there, and this is my third visit, I come away with an incredible sense of achievement and satisfaction.
It has to do with being in the mountains, in the quiet, in a writer’s house, surrounded by bird song and rolling mist.
It has to do with working in the same environment with four other inspirational writers/illustrators/poets. We have come together to work day and night with words and pictures.
It has to do with getting down, deep down into the layers of your story where things you never realised before suddenly become obvious, where threads merge and twist and you cry out, ‘Yes! of course!’ and then you slap your hand over your mouth because you’re suddenly aware that you are not alone but on a writers’ retreat.
I imagine each one of us in our writing rooms, words and pictures swirling around our heads and I wonder if these swirling clouds of our imaginations overlap and ideas slip, slide and fall into each other.
I went up to Varuna to work on a particular picture book. I came away working on another. I like to illustrate randomly and do so almost daily. I like to play with my imagination, let it go, let it surprise me.
I tried to work on one of these stories but it didn’t excite and I soon grew bored. I began editing my middle grade fiction novel, Hushing Wood instead, and have made fine progress on that. I also worked on a rough for the front cover which I am pleased with.
On Friday in the late afternoon, before going down to Sheila’s delicious dinner, (Sheila comes and cooks for us each night), this sad gorilla turned up on the paper and a story began to form.
The next morning, in that dreamy state between sleep and wakefulness, I saw the book frame by frame and call it, for now, The Runaway Zoo.
It is a work in progress and I do not know where it will lead but it does excite me and that’s the important thing.
Here are a few more illustrations.
I have some other exciting news waiting in the wings but I can’t reveal what it is just yet.
In the meantime here are some ‘random’ illustrations I painted while at Varuna.
Girl with Tiger