Wendy Blaxland's blog

Wendy Blaxland's blog

Grant proposals...

Part of being a writer is finding funds to support yourself, particularly when your writing tastes run to expensive forms such as theatre.  At the moment I am orchestrating three such applications to different Councils to help fund Blaxland and Daughter's current show CROSSING, written to commemorate the early crossings of the Blue Mountains. A lively interactive show with three actors taking over forty characters to bring history alive, CROSSING will play in primary schools and public performances throughout Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Bathurst and even Orange in Term 3 2014 and Term 2 2015. Want to find out more? Visit www.blaxlandanddaughter.com .


Writing processes blog tour


What am I working on?

I am working from historical material at the moment. My first project, Pioneers in Petticoats, is a play about Australian women in colonial times. It follows from last year’s successful play CROSSING, a play written for the Bicentenary of the crossings of the Blue Mountains, in one of which my ancestor Gregory Blaxland took part. Like CROSSING, Pioneers in Petticoats will have a short version for primary schools and a longer one for families in public performances, which will include more material. Pioneers will bring to life a number of feisty, extraordinary women from Australia’s past, such as Mary Bryant, a convict who stole a small open boat with her husband and others and escaped in it, with her two young children, all the way to Batavia (Indonesia). Then there’s eleven-year-old Eliza Hawkins, who travelled with her family on a bullock dray to Bathurst, painter and scientist Fanny Macleay who kept busy looking after her eight younger siblings while helping her father with his insect, shell and plant collection, Matilda Fish who owned one of the early land grants on Sydney’s North Shore and was robbed (twice) by bushranger William Geary, and much-married exotic dancer Lola Montez, whose exploits (including horse-whipping critics she didn’t like) fascinated the Victorian press from Bavaria to Ballarat.

I’m also gestating a novel for young people about Eliza Hawkins, based on her mother’s vivid account of the crossing of the Blue Mountains and other family documents. Oh, and a Babies Proms play for the Opera House this Christmas.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Very few other people are producing plays for young audiences based on historical characters; yet this is such a vivid way of engaging them with the history of their own country. It takes both wide and deep research (and generous historical consultants to check my script) to give an authentic idea of what life used to be like, especially for women.

Why do I write what I do?

I write about topics that fascinate me: real life events that still give me space to create my own characters and voices; but I also write about topics that producers or publishers suggest. Anything can be wonderful if you have the right attitude. I love creating.

How does my writing process work?

With my historical work, I look first for riveting stories that make me want to find out more. That’s my next task: finding out as much as I can about the real story and characters, their society and others like them. Then I have to leave my source material behind and create a play or novel that has its own structure, rhythms and characters, so that it lives. Now I know the process I can feel when the characters begin to stir inside me, and speak with their own voices.

Then I need to write and discover the form that best fits the material – poems and songs are also part of my plays - and read it out loud again and again to find out whether it works. Next I test it with colleagues like my co-producer daughter, the director and actors, before a final script emerges. I work with composers and designers to bring in the elements of music, set and costumes. Theatre is a very collaborative process – and so is writing a novel, where a good editor is a huge help as they query, support and suggest.


Space Symphony!

Gorgeous photos of my very first Babies' Proms show at the Sydney Opera House: 'Space Symphony'. See them at http://www.sydneyoperahouse.com/whatson/kath/space_symphony.aspx?gclid=CPWIpfjGor0CFQdepQodwDoAIA  


Happy International Poetry Day!

Here's a poem for you!
photo by David Hill BMLOT

To celebrate International Poetry Day, I'm sharing part of the CROSSING play: a poem called 'Build a Road', commemorating William Cox and his party of 30 convicts who constructed the first road across the Blue Mountains in six months during 2013 and 2014: what a feat!



by Wendy Blaxland


How do you build, do you build d a road? Build a road to last?

Step by step, you build a road, build a road so fast.


How long does it take to build a road? Six months for men like us.

Mr Cox to lead and a good square feed, it’s enough for men like us.


How many men to build a road? Thirty men like us.

We’re fit and strong, it won’t take long, we’ll work without a fuss.


Out in the bush in good clean air it’s grand to work at last.

I break the stones, I may crack my bones, but the road is moving fast.


And we’re the men who fell the trees, fence off the drop with rails

For William Cox, I blast the rocks, I beat the iron nails.


And we’re the ones who stir the pots, who fill the bellies up,

You work real well if you know the bell means good grub coming up.


You don’t look up, you don’t look down, you work and you never stop

And then one day you look round and say, ‘Hey men, we’re at the top’.


So why do we work to build the road? To build this road so fast?

Cos when we’ve done, we’ll tell our sons we built this road to last.

Yes, when we’re done, we’ll tell our sons we built this road to last.



As an extra celebration, we're also giving schools which book a CROSSING performance before Thursday 27th March a free signed copy of my children's book The Princess and the Unicorn. Booking details at http://blaxlandanddaughter.com/schools-bookings/ .


Enjoy the day!

'Brief Encounter' at the Concourse - great theatre

Saw the fabulous show Brief Encounter by the British Kneehigh Theatre at the Chatswood Concourse this evening: wonderful, heartwarming, funny, musical - devised after the story and film by Noel Coward. Some fantastic moments - and such good actors/singers/musicians/dancers.

My son Tom and I absolutely loved Brief Encounter. It combinsd an awareness of the essential advantage of live theatre (the presence of an audience) by deliberate interaction with the audience, with ways of using other media such as film to enhance the live action. I also admired the clever way actors stepped from one medium into the other. I enjoyed the use of music, both well-known songs and purpose written ones, and was in awe of actors who could act, sing, dance AND play musical instruments. Loved the humour, the counterpoint of three stories on the one theme, the use of actors playing a number of roles, the dance sequences, the clever use of props, puppets, even circus effects, the characterisations, the switch of pace and use of movement and image to show emotional impact. Adored the train, of course, and the dogs; these were highlights. Makes me proud and glad to work in theatre – and I learnt a lot as well as just simply enjoying myself thoroughly.

Just go see it, please!




CROSSING article and video

Did you see the video the Sydney Morning Herald made to accompany its article on CROSSING earlier this eyar? See it here: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/theatre/small-details-make-historical-crossing-tale-20130502-2ivrh.html 

Carl Batchelor, Lisa Bluthal and James Lee in CROSSING 2013


Children's Book Council Northern Suburbs meeting - publicist talk

Just home from a lovely friendly meeting (as always) at St Kevin's School, Dee Why (thanks, Kirsty) of the Children's Book Council Northern Suburbs Branch. We managed to fit in both our AGM and a great talk by Zoe Bechara from Random House about her role as a publicist.

If you enjoy children's literature, want to write or illustrate, or just enjoy bringing childrng and books together, why not think about coming to our Christmas celebration on Wednesday 13 November? $55 for a great dinner and even better company. Find out more from Kirsty O'Rourke at kirsty.o'rourke@dbb.org.au

Zoe Bechara, publicist from Random House, tells us about her current role.


A fantastic sculpture exhibition

A great exhibition last night by Leonie Robison, at the Brenda May Annexe, Danks Street, Waterloo. It is a series of sculptures which are Leonie's response to the appalling problem of infanticide: cloth sculpted aound air to show the space of absent children. Very moving; do take the chance to see it. Runs till the 28th September.

and the back page of our poster...

So, when can you come?


See you there!


Front page of our poster



Fantastic successes for CROSSING!

Wow! Just home and almost recovered from a hectic ten days away with CROSSING from Blackheath and Wentworth Falls through to Lithgow - and that was just a few of our public performances, while over 6,000 schoolchildren have sat entranced and rocked with laughter at schools performances as far afield as Oberon. The amazingly versatile and hard-working team of actors and stage manager has been shifting sets from our blue and yellow bus lent by the generous Blue Mountains Bus Company into school halls and venues such as Treeview Lifestyle Resort's lovely Community Centre; stage manager Jess has been up at all hours washing and ironing costumes and repairing sets with gaffer tape - and we have all fallen in love with the clean air,  wide spaces and warm hearts of the people from the Blue Mountains and beyond. What an experience this is all proving, with plenty of backstage dramas that prove live drama is edgy, fascinating work.


You have a last couple of chances to see this amazing play for yourselves: the Union Theatre, Lithgow at 7pm Thursday 6th June (yes, this week!); at Brush Farm in Eastwood 7pm Saturday 8th June (sorry, 2pm show sold out), and 2pm and 7pm Saturday 15th June at the magical Richmond School of Arts. Book at MCA-TIX 1300 306 776 and www.mca-tix.com.au and find out more at our website www.blaxlandanddaughter.com. See you at the theatre!

Carl Batchelor, Lisa Bluthal and James Lee play forty characters among the three of them. Live theatre at its best!


News about the Crossing Play

Well, the Bicentenary of the Crossings of the Blue Mountains was officially launched on Saturday 23rd February at Echo Point, Katoomba, in a downpour that reminded all of us what visitors to the Mountains have often had to endure. But this couldn't dampen the spirits of all of us there.

I was proud to stand between Auntie Mary Cooper-Knight of the Gundungurra mob, and Her Excellency Governor Marie Bashir, patron of the Bicentenary Commemorations. Congratulations to Blue Mountains Mayor Daniel Myles, BMLOT Head Randall Walker and everyone who worked so hard to make this event the warm and community-oriented success it was!

Our wonderful hard-working actors showcased a snippet from The Crossing Play with Mrs Elizabeth Hawkins and her family travelling to Bathurst on bullock drays in 1822 - with all eight of her children ranging from twelve and a half year old Tom down to baby Edward and her seventy year old mother Mrs Lilly. Meet them at the show! Details of venues trhough the Blue Mountains, Lithgow, Bathurst and Sydney at venues to be advised very soon.

A clip made by VisionTV about the Bicentenary launch.



Eleanor's birthday, 31st December 2012

Here's our gorgeous girl, who turned 26 on the 31st December. Today the sky was as intense a blue as the afternoon she was born, with treeferns pressing against our bedroom window in New Zealand. Now we have treeferns outside my study window back here in Australia...Happy birthday, Eleanor!


Eleanor with a proud papa, Allan, at afternoon tea


Wendy and Eleanor

Owls have always been an important symbol for Eleanor

So there were owls aplenty today for her, with a mug from Finland via Norway, a purse from India via London (thanks Jess and Tom), raspberry chocolate from Galler, chocolatier to the King of Belgium, and an Art Nouveau bookmark and cards from the Horta house in Brussels - yes, how lucky we have been to travel again this year - ah, pardon, last year now!


Happy New Year, everyone! May the owls guide us with their wisdom and protect us with their calm clear sight. In this year, may we know the sweetness of superb food and better books,  the blessing of good  friends and family that wraps us like a hug. Welcome, 2013!




Exciting Article about 'Crossing'!

29 December 2012


This might be a late Christmas or early New Year present - I don't care!  The Crossing! project made the front page of the Lithgow Mercury today! http://www.lithgowmercury.com.au/story/1208103/one-more-notch-in-the-proud-family-tree/?cs=12 .


This is the fantastic photo they included:

Thomas Blaxland Ashby, Wendy Blaxland, Eleanor Blaxland Ashby at the Hartley photo shoot to publicise the Bicentenary of the Blue Mountains Crossings in 2013. Taken by Len Ashworth of the Lithgow Mercury.



Just to put the record straight, Gregory Blaxland is my four 'great's grandfather, and it's five for Eleanor, Jess and Tom. It was a sweltering hot day last Sunday for the photo shoot - not quite what Blaxland, Wentworth and Lawson experienced on 30th May 2013.


Blaxland later wrote in his published Journal about the temperature that morning:


'The climate here was found very much colder than that of the mountain or of the settlements on the east side, where no signs of frost had made its appearance  when the party set out. During the night the ground was covered with a thick frost, and a leg of the kangaroo [that they had shot for food] was quite frozen. From the dead and brown appearance of the grass it was evident that the weather had been severe for some time past. We were all much surprised at this degree of cold and frost in the latitude of about 34 degrees.'


A frozen haunch of kangaroo - brrrr!  They were sleeping under canvas (literally) too. No down sleeping bags and sleeping mats in 1813. The recreation trek in May 2013 (called the Blue Wave - an extarordinary undertaking by a dedicated band of individuals) is going to be verrrry interesting. I've put myself down for spending a day and night on the trek, as a Blaxland descendant; and I hesitated long and hard before NOT choosing the 30th May...didn't fancy frozen haunches of my own...


Read my earlier blog below for more photos from this great photo shoot, and details of the Crossing! play (written and co-produced by me) to be performed through the Blue Mountains and on to Lithgow and Bathurst in 2013!




Here are the details of my Next Big Thing!


27 December 2012


The Next Big Thing is a game of tag for authors.

That great author Felicity Pulman wrote about her exciting new book A Ring Through Time, to be published in March 2013, at www.felicitypulman.com.au/blog . Then she tagged me!

I’m answering ten questions today about my own Next Big Thing, and have tagged two other authors for next week:

Then they'll tag other authors. Follow the game around the world…Where will it end?

Now, to the questions about my own Next Big Thing!


What is the working title of your next book?

Crossing! – but it’s a play, not a book. It performs next year from May onwards,  through Sydney’s  Blue Mountains and beyond…

Where did the idea come from for the project?

My own history and that of early Australia. Gregory Blaxland, my great-great-great-great grandfather, was one of three explorers named as the first to cross the Blue  Mountains in 1813 and open up the fragile young colony to the west.  2013 is the bicentenary of this crossing – and my play is part of the celebrations.

What genre does your project fall under?

An interactive play for families based imaginatively on history.

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Oooh - Geoffrey Rush, Tim Minchin, Ian McKellen, Rowan Atkinson,  Viggo Mortensen, Johnny Depp, Jeremy Sims, Jake Gyllenhaal, Helen Mirren,  Cate Blanchett,  Leah Purcell,  Helena Bonham-Carter,  Eleanor, Jessica and Thomas Blaxland Ashby and a whole team of Australian actors of Aboriginal and European descent.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your project?

We push through uncharted bush, teeter atop sheer cliffs, marvel at the chime of bellbirds and stories in the firelight until, as our bellies rebel and our feet bleed, we glimpse land far below – and it smells like home.

Will your project be self-funded or is the risk shared by others?

Both! The Crossing! play has a professional, paid creative team, supported by sponsors such as Nova Employment,  local Councils, schools and Chambers of Commerce, far-sighted donors inspired by the project - and yes, our own savings.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The genesis of the Crossing! play lay in a solo performance in 1998, but full-time research and writing has taken ten months this year – so far.

What other projects would you compare this story to within your genre?

  • Peter Brook’s 1970s genre-breaking site-specific work  â€˜Orghast in Persepolis’
  • Sydney Festival’s 2012 Aboriginal version of Australian history ‘The Eora Project’
  • the long-running  family historical show ‘The Ship That Never Was’, in Strahan (Tasmania).

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

  • Gregory Blaxland and all those who like him have had the courage to leave home to explore new spaces, and persist against what looks like defeat
  • my mother and father Audrey and Gregory Blaxland who inspired me about theatre
  • my husband and children who inspire me about life and the future,
  • our high school teacher Julie Morris who led us to think about history
  • all the nameless people and beasts whom history leaves without a voice.

What else about the project might pique the reader's interest?

  • Forty fascinating characters played by three actors
  • the most amazing secrets and funniest adventures from 200 years ago
  • a taste of fresh damper!

Find out more at www.blaxlandanddaughter.com.

And don't forget that next week, on 2nd January, two other wonderful authors will tell you about their Next Big Event:

  • Jacqueline Harvey,  author of the international hit Alice-Miranda series. Her new book Clementine Rose and the Pet Day Disaster will be published on 1st January! See her blog at http://jacquelineharvey.blogspot.com.au/
  • Sally Odgers, from Tasmania. Sally has written so many books I simply couldn’t count them all, including the great Jack Russell, Dog Detective series.  Visit her blog at http://spinningpearls.blogspot.com next week to find out what her next book will be.

Look out for more news about Crossing!, and enjoy this precious time between Christmas and New Year.

Peace to all






We had real fun dressing up for a photo shoot a couple of days ago about the Bicentenary activities, which will include a re-enactment of the 1813 crossing of the Blue Mountains. That's my son Tom at the left in the background. Couldn't fit the newly fringed parasol in this shot, though. Thanks to Margaret Edwards of iMag for the great photo!


Horse and writer meet! I really needed that parasol (authentic shape for between 1810 and 1820, designer Deirdre Burges tells me), on a sweltering hot mid-summer afternoon at the Hartley Saddlery, and the horse was intrigued - or was she about to have a nibble at the flowers on my hat? Hmmm...And doesn't Tom look authentic?

And finally, here you have all four Blaxland Ashbys in Australia (minus Jess, is enjoying yet another English Christmas, but will be back to work on the Crossing! project in mid-February as co-producer): Allan Ashby, Thomas Blaxland Ashby, Wendy Blaxland and Eleanor Blaxland Ashby. Thanks for the support last Sunday, troops!


Wendy Blaxland



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