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A ‘Dear John’ Letter

‘Dear John -- Oh how I hate to write…’ We all know that old song, about a girl who is jilting her beau in favour of his brother. This ...

About Me

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I am a writer, editor, reviewer and dance teacher based in Perth, Western Australia. You might enjoy my books - The Dagger of Dresnia, the first book of the Talismans Trilogy, is available at all good online book shops as is Book two, The Cloak of Challiver. Book three, The Seer of Syland, is in preparation. I trained in piano and singing at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. I also trained in dance (Scully-Borovansky, WAAPA) and drama (NIDA). Since 1987 I have been writing reviews of performances in all genres for a variety of publications, including Music Maker, ArtsWest, Dance Australia, The Australian and others. Now semi-retired, I still write occasionally for the ArtsHub website, and I still teach dance at Trinity School for Seniors, an outreach program of the Uniting Church in Perth.

My books

The first novel of my trilogy, The Talismans, is available as an e-book from Smashwords, Amazon and other online sellers. I do have paperbacks of The Dagger of Dresnia at the low price of $AU25 including postage within Australia. I also have a short story, 'La Belle Dame', in print - see Mythic Resonance below. Book two of the trilogy, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available again shortly. The best way to contact me is via Facebook!

Buy The Talismans

The first two books of The Talismans trilogy were published by Satalyte Publications, which, sadly, has gone out of business. Book one, The Dagger of Dresnia, is up on the usual bookselling web sites as an e-book, and I have a few hard copies to sell to those who prefer Real Paper. Book Two, The Cloak of Challiver, will be available soon. The easiest way to contact me is via Facebook.

The Dagger of Dresnia

The Dagger of Dresnia
Want a copy? Contact me at satimafn(at)gmail.com

The Cloak of Challiver

The Cloak of Challiver
Available again as an ebook soon!

Mythic Resonance

Buy Mythic Resonance

Mythic Resonance is an excellent anthology that includes my short story 'La Belle Dame', together with great stories from Alan Baxter, Donna Maree Hanson, Sue Burstynski, Nike Sulway and nine more fantastic authors! Just $US3.99 from Amazon. Got a Kindle? Check out Mythic Resonance.

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Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

Places I've lived: Manchester, UK

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Places I've lived: Gippsland, Australia

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Places I've lived: Tamworth, NSW

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Places I've Lived - Sydney
Sydney Conservatorium - my old school

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Places I've lived: Auckland, NZ

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Places I've Lived: Mount Gambier
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Places I've lived: Adelaide, SA

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Places I've lived: High View, WV

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Places I've lived: Lynton, Devon, UK

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Places I've lived: Braemar, Scotland

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Places I've lived: Barre, MA, USA

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Places I've Lived: Perth by Night
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Thursday, 10 May 2018

A ‘Dear John’ Letter


‘Dear John -- Oh how I hate to write…’ We all know that old song, about a girl who is jilting her beau in favour of his brother.


This ‘Dear John’ is not one of those. It is a post to try to tell you about a beautiful friend who passed away earlier this week.

(Photo by Nigel Dowling Smith)
Dr John Rouse Terry was a scion of an old NSW family: ‘pure merinos’ they were (the early C19 slang among the convicts deported to NSW for the free gentlemen who took up land to breed fine-wool merino sheep). But my friend was not a farmer — he was a musician, and a fine one. We were fellow students at Sydney’s Conservatorium High School back in our halcyon days. The ‘Con High’ was then, and possibly still is, the most ‘selective school’ in Australia. All the pupils had to be promising music students, enrolled with one or more of the fine teachers ensconced there.

John fulfilled the requirements perfectly. Not so yours truly – I was a barely adequate piano and singing student. John was made of sterner stuff. He could play all the classic composers by ear or by sight, and when I knew him, he was already composing his own music. Unlike me, he was a dedicated student.

But let us loose and boy, did we have fun! Sticky chewing gum on a teacher’s chair. Playing hide and seek underground in the forbidden regions of the Conservatorium’s cellars, hiring a practice studio and creating a ruckus that brought complaints from people genuinely trying to teach or practice nearby — and once, to celebrate the end of studies for the year of 1959, wagging school completely to go to the beach. That earned me the only bout of genuine sunstroke that I ever had. My parents and I were travelling by car to Melbourne the next day and my father had to stop several times so I could throw up by the roadside. Sic transit gloria mundi. (Well, yes, it really was a 'Sick Transit’.)

I never did ask John if he got sunburned too, but as he was fair-skinned, like me, it’s very likely he did. He and I did a bit of kissing and canoodling on the beach that day – the only time that I recall our relationship becoming physical. A few years later, along with a few other former classmates, he was to attend my first marriage. After that we almost lost touch – I travelled widely and seldom lived in the same place for more than a year or two. However, we ran into each other occasionally, and in more recent years, John’s sister, a fellow Shakespeare lover and former president of the Shakespeare Club of Western Australia, mentioned John from time to time. The last time John and I met, sadly, was at the funeral of his brother-in-law.

Ave et vale, beloved friend. I’ll bet you’re giving those heavenly choristers a good workout!

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Artshub Reviews



I love the Festival of Perth in all its manifestations - the Festival proper, the Fringe Festival, and the Writers Festival. However, I was only able to see a soupçon of the Festivals this year - one visit to review the intriguing show CollageN, which you will find at
http://performing.artshub.com.au/news-article/reviews/performing-arts/carol-flavell-neist/review-collagen-at-fringe-world-255283

And just one day of the wonderful Writers Festival, which is online at http://publishing.artshub.com.au/news-article/reviews/writing-and-publishing/carol-flavell-neist/review-writers-week-perth-festival-2018-255282






Thursday, 15 February 2018

Fiat Lux



As a teenager, I was lucky enough to spend three years at the NSW Conservatorium of Music, which has its own high school, known familiarly as the Con High. I was there from 1957-1959. 

This year marks the school’s centenary, and the celebrations can be heard right across the country in Perth, thanks to Facebook. Check it out at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1271076779693709

My schooling was chaotic. The family moved around a lot, and by the time I was fourteen, I had been to six different schools and hadn’t liked any of them.

But the Con High was a joy. At last I wasn’t the only weird kid on the block. People of an artistic temperament (and I mean that as praise, not as the subtle criticism you so often hear when someone says, ‘She has an artistic temperament, you know’) do best when they mix with others of their own kind. The public school system recognises that fact these days. Here in Perth, Western Australia, there are specialist public schools for all branches of the arts, and I imagine the other states are similarly endowed. Fiat Lux, ('Let there be light') the Con High’s motto, sums up the essence of a good education – cast light on a student’s abilities and he or she will flourish.

When my long-suffering mother heard about the Con High, she couldn’t get me there fast enough. I was auditioned by the education department’s head of music, Terence Hunt. I dutifully played the schoolgirl standby, Für Elise, and he commented to my mother, ‘Well, she doesn’t show any signs of genius, but she should be capable of becoming a teacher’.

I had just started third year (equivalent to today’s year 10) at Liverpool Girls High, but for some reason I had to repeat second year at the Con. I suspect it was my mother’s idea. She told me there was no room in third year, but I quickly found that wasn’t the case – the two years shared a classroom and there were roughly equal numbers in each: a total of about twenty-eight. The entire school had only about sixty pupils, with girls outnumbering boys by something like five to one.

My mother was right. Repeating a year enabled me to consolidate my learning. I had never done very well academically, but at the Con High I did extremely well, perhaps due to the small classes. I was almost always dux of the class in academic work, but musically I was far behind many of my classmates. Most of them had reached AMEB Grade VI while I was lumbering along with Grade IV. Several of my fellow students had perfect pitch and most of them could sight-read me into a cocked hat (or maybe into the grey beret that was part of our uniform).

I studied piano with Raymond Fisher, singing with Renee Goossens   and I also learnt Speech and Drama with a lady whose name escapes me. (We had moved around so much I had an unplaceable accent that must have been partly Yorkshire, partly Lancashire and partly Australian.)

My schoolmates and I blossomed in the hot house that was Sydney Con. Where else in the world could we have sat in a maths class with musicians of the calibre of David Oistrakh or Clive Amadio practising in the room overhead? (When Oistrackh was rehearsing, dear Mr Teasdale gave up trying to teach us maths for the duration, and read his newspaper while we listened, entranced.)

There were some incredibly talented students at the Con High. Many subsequently made their livings as orchestral players or teachers in the music field. One of my classmates who shall remain nameless eventually became a famous concert pianist. I am telling tales out of school here, but this lad developed an attachment to a friend of mine in Liverpool, and would spend weekends at my place to woo her. He practised enthusiastically on my family’s upright piano and managed to break the back-touch (that simply shouldn’t be possible!) which distressed my mother no end.

At the end of fourth year, I realised that I would not have the right subjects to matriculate – I had given up maths because I was hopeless at numbers, and algebra seemed to be beyond my capabilities. Geography was the only ‘science’ subject I had, and it was to be shifted from the sciences to the humanities in 1960 – the year I should have matriculated.

Dearest Betsy Brown — a beloved teacher who eventually became headmistress — coached and coaxed and dragged me through the final year’s syllabus over the summer vacation of 1959-60 so that I could sit the Sydney University’s Matriculation Exam in January, and, wonder of wonders, I passed! So against all advice I left school in February, 1960 to study Arts at Sydney Uni – but that’s another story.

Miss Brown was eventually awarded an OAM in recognition of her service to music and education. She died on about 23 Jun, 2002. As she started teaching in 1943 – the year I was born! – she must have been about eighty years old. If I have a patron saint, it is Betsy Brown.

The Con High was, quite honestly, the making of me. I never took up music professionally (I am a writer and a ballet teacher by trade) but the Con High nurtured and protected me for three wonderful years, and the friendships I made there gave me much joy. Long may its light continue to shine!

Monday, 29 January 2018

Shrinking Brain!


Can it really be so long since I last posted? Excuses: illness (not serious), forgetfulness (likewise, but probably permanent) and, of course, holiday stuff. I spent three precious weeks with my sister Anne, who lives in Mount Gambier. (The distance from Perth is roughly the same as London to Moscow: Australia is Too Big, I reckon.) Anne and I had a great time together and I also got to catch up with my nieces and nephews, as well as my daughter, Billy Jo, who lives in Adelaide.

The forgetfulness is apparently due to 'frontoparietal atrophy', which means that part of my brain is shrinking. I've been taking Aloe Vera, Gingko Biloba and lots of B-vites, all of which are said to be helpful to this condition. They have made a bit of difference to short-term recall, but sadly, the worst symptom is constant dizziness, and so far I have found no help with that one. We are living far longer than previous generations, and many of us are keeping physically fit, but apparently there's no treatment for brain shrinkage.

However, I'm determined to enjoy life for as long as possible. I've been having a virtual school reunion, thanks to a Facebook page devoted to people who attended Sydney's Conservatorium High School, which is celebrating its centenary year. Sydney, of course, is on the other side of Australia, yet there are several 'ex-Cons' living here in Perth, and last weekend four of us got together. One of the quartet attended the Con at the same time as I did, so we had lots of yarns to exchange. Another lady was there in the 1940s and the other one was there in the seventies. We hope to get together again before too long, and I am hoping to go back to Sydney for the school's Big Bash in October. My new schoolfriends are in the photo with me - Gillian, Dianne and Marguerite. Charles, Gillian's husband, snapped the shot.

Shrinking brain notwithstanding, I hope to get the final book in The Talismans Trilogy off the ground this year. It only consists of  few ideas in my head at present, so I really must knuckle down to it, in between Shakespeare Club, teaching dance, fitness classes and other commitments. Wish me luck!



Saturday, 18 November 2017

Weigh-in time!


We are more than half way through November and I have not written a blog post. Life goes on as usual: Mondays and Tuesdays I teach dance. Wednesdays and Fridays I go to keep fit class. The third Saturday of each month (that's today!) is devoted to the Shakespeare Club of Western Australia's monthly meeting.

So I should be getting plenty of exercise. That's the theory, anyway. In actual practice I only do two or three fitness activities in a week. However, a friend and dance colleague of long standing teaches an adult ballet class and I've been going to that for the last two or three weeks. I'm spoilt for choice, in fact, as there are several excellent adult ballet classes available in Perth. Some, like the one I teach at Trinity School for Seniors, are for beginners or near beginners: others are open classes for more experienced people. However, my class is the only one, as far as I know, that's intended for people over 60.

Dance, especially ballet, is a very healthy activity. It can help develop and improve strength, flexibility, balance, grace and co-ordination, to say nothing of musicality and confidence. It saddens me to see the number of people of all ages who are grossly overweight. I am glad I will not be a pallbearer at such a person's funeral!

Even so, I'm ashamed to say that over the last couple of years my exercise program has slipped and.I am now well over my 'working weight' - the 7 stone 10lb  (about  55 kg) I used to be when I was dancing professionally. A love of cakes and ice cream accounts for much of that, but is hardly an excuse. I've generally managed, as an adult, to keep my weight under 80 kg, but if I don't watch out, it quickly shoots up to as high as 95kg. Some people, and I appear to be one of them, seem born to be fat.

We have all, I'm sure, met people who seem to stay slim no matter what they eat. Anorexia and induced vomiting aside, it seems our genes must have an important role to play in our weight.

That's my excuse, anyhow, and I'm sticking to it!





Monday, 2 October 2017

Read, Write, Dance


Read, Write, Dance. Those three words could almost be my epitaph. Certainly (bearing and rearing children aside) they are the three activities that have eaten up the greater part of my time since I was a tiny tot. I know most of you are readers and many of you are also writers and/or dancers, and you will know what I mean. We read because we read because we read. Ditto writing. Ditto dancing.

I envisaged an old age that would be taken up by these three beloved interests, and over the last few years I've purchased lots of books. I bought them intending to read them, of course, but somehow reading has dropped to the bottom of the list. I have been writing, of course (although not nearly as much as I should have done) and I do attend fitness classes three times a week (at least in theory -  it's more often once or twice a week).

Until a couple of years ago, I read religiously for an hour before going to sleep at night. It's essential for a writer to keep up with the latest books, especially in one's own genre, so whenever a colleague publishes a new book, I dutifully visit the online bookshops to seek out a copy.

But buying isn't reading. All that's happened is that I have a To Be Read pile which, if I stacked all the tomes one atop the other, would be about twice as tall as I am. I open the new book, read the blurb and possibly the prologue or first two or three pages, and that's as far as I get.

Partly, friends, this is due to disillusionment. I was over the moon when I sold my first novel, The Dagger of Dresnia, to Satalyte Publishing. But Satalyte is no more, and The Dagger of Dresnia (published 2014) has sold fewer than 500 copies. It is back up on Amazon now, due to the kind offices of my friend Andrew Partington of Submarine Publishing, but sales are still few and far between. (If you'd like a copy, contact me via Facebook.)

I think, friends, the self-publishing craze has resulted in a market swamped by enthusiastic writers, each of whom has written a magnificent novel that could change the world, or at least entertain a few people for an hour or two. But self-publishers and small press don't have the same access to publicity as the Big Five, and most of us can only expect to sell a few hundred copies at most.

Edward II
Some writers do very well out of self-publishing — they are usually prolific writers who can turn out three or four books a year. My creative machinery just doesn't work that fast, and nor, I think, do those of most writers. A book every year or two is about as much as most of us can manage.

Enough whingeing.  My current fiction reading is The Rune of Life by Dave Dunn, a long-time colleague from our Online Writers Workshop days, and non-fiction  - Edward II, The Unconventional King by Kathryn Warner, a dedicated historian with a passion for this often overlooked man and his times.

Carry on reading!

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