Marianne Musgrove

My New Mascot

Every sports team has a mascot to cheer them on, but to my knowledge, no writer has ever had a mascot to barrack for them. Yet there we are, tucked away alone in our garrets with a goal to reach and the need of encouragement to get there. With this in mind, I decided to commission my neighbour, 12 year-old budding artist, Montana, to draw a mascot for me. I explained to her about my current project and we took it from there.

The brief: I’m presently working on an historical novel called Blackbird. It’s a story set in the 1880’s about a boy called Narua whose brother is blackbirded (kidnapped) from his home in the South Sea Islands and forced to work in the sugarcane fields of Queensland. Determined to find his brother and bring him home, Narua signs up to go to Australia on a recruitment ship, and so begins his search.

Drawing of a blackbird taking off with wings that resemble fire

Montana decided to draw a blackbird with wings of fire, recalling the idea of a phoenix that appears to have died but is actually in the process of being reborn. This creative idea perfectly captured how the South Sea Islanders have suffered and yet their legacy survives in the contribution they’ve made to Queensland’s booming economy, and in their descendants, many of whom live in Queensland to this day. The fiery wings also tie in with the way the sugarcane fields were set on fire in order to make the cane easier to harvest.

As for the ball and chain, Montana used this symbol of slavery to show that while many islanders came to Australia voluntarily, an estimated 5000 were tricked, coerced or kidnapped. The practice finally came to an end which is why the chain in the picture is broken in two.

My new mascot is now up on my wall beside my writing desk. It’s a fabulous picture and a daily encouragement for me to keep going with my novel.

Frieda is launched

I’m excited to announce the release of my new book, Frieda: A New Australian. The official launch was part of the Unley Libraries Festival 2016: Record Rewind Relive.

Covert art of Frieda: A New Australian by Marianne Musgrove

Frieda is the story of a German girl who migrates to South Australia in early 1914. Then World War One breaks out and her father is accused of being a German spy. How will she manage to survive the war if her father is locked up and everyone is suspicious of her? Will her new friends stand by her?

Marianne Musgrove signing a copy of Frieda with a young fan

Many people came to the launch, including members of the local German community. For years, Australia’s practice of interning innocent Germans during the two World Wars has remained hidden. These stories are now coming to light, and sharing them plays an important part in healing the past, and ensuring we don’t ever repeat this.

Kitchener bun - jam roll with cream inside.

After the talks, many a Kitchener bun was eaten. Kitchener buns were originally called Berliner buns, but anti-German sentiment was running high in during WW1 and people didn’t like the connection to Berlin. They still liked the buns though, so they renamed them after British Field Marshal, Lord Horatio Kitchener.

Many thanks to those who came to my launch and made it the great celebration it was.







Unsticking Stuckness: the Unexpected Benefits of Book Spine Poetry

I found myself struggling with writer’s block today. I was a bug stuck to the fly paper of my plot, flapping about going nowhere. It was time to free myself and, as so often happens, that required doing something completely different. So I set aside my novel and decided to have a go at book spine poetry.

Here’s my first effort:

Book spine poem: The LIst of My Desires, Chocolat, A Room with a View, I Can Jump Puddles, Available Light, The Getting of Wisdom, Blue Shoes and Happiness, An Authentic Life, Led by Love.

For those of you who haven’t heard of this increasingly popular art form, it’s very simple and a lot of fun.

How do you make a book spine poem?

Step 1

Raid your bookshelf for interesting titles. Each title will be a line in your poem.

Step 2

Arrange the titles so they run together to make poem.

Step 3

Stack them in a pile and photograph it.

Step 4

Send the photo to your friends and family and await their admiration!


If you have a lot of book shelves, you might want to write down where you found each book so it’s easier to put them back later. I learned this the hard way!

If you go to school, have a chat to the librarian and see if they’d be up for a book spine poetry challenge.

Here’s another one of mine, this time on a serious topic:

Who is coming to our house book spine poem

And a final one to close:

Way of the Heart book spine poem

And remember, “There’s no money in poetry, but there’s no poetry in money, either.” (Robert Graves)




When the Moon is Swimming Naked

Whenever I read the English language version of a poem by, for example, the fabulously-named Polish poet, Wisława Szymborska, I wonder how it is translators manage to convey the essence of the original poem as they cross the river from one language to the next.

Cover art for poetry anthology, When the Moon is Swimming Naked, featuring picture night sky with picture of the moon.

I’m fortunate enough to be part of a project that has attempted to do just that. Mark Carthew (based in Australia) and Kit Kelen (based in Hong Kong) have brought together a bunch of Australian poets and Chinese translators to create the collection, When the Moon is Swimming Naked: Australasian Poetry for the Chinese Youngster (ASM Poetry, Flying Island Books).

Now Chinese and Australian children can enjoy this very cool collection of fun, lyrical, mysterious, realistic, fantastical poetry featuring contributions from such poets as Claire Saxby, Mark Macleod, Mark Tredinnick and yours truly.

I’ll update this post when the collection is available for sale online. Till then, here’s one of mine!

Brave Borrower of Books

I’ll lend a book to you provided this:
I wish to see it come straight back
And smudged with grubby prints

I want to hear you read it on the bus and in the bath
I want to find you read it with a torch beneath your quilt
I want to know the tale enthralled
You didn’t sleep till 12 a.m.
And then, exhausted, bent the cover underneath your head

I have no time for prissy, pristine readers
Who loiter at the edges in their gloves
You must immerse yourself
Leap fully clothed
Then come up
For Air

Just grant me this eccentric guarantee
And you may choose a book or two from me.

— Marianne Musgrove

Off with the Fairies

I’m delighted to announce the launch my new book, Forget-me-not Fairies, written by me and illustrated by Patricia McCarthy.

Cover art - Forget-me-not Fairies by Marianne Musgrove & Patricia McCarthy - two young sisters fly through the air accompanied by fairies. A picnic is taking place far below.

Join sisters Sophie and Ellen as they explore the magical world of Wishaway Wood. The book contains a collection of fabulously illustrated fairy stories interspersed with songs and activities such as how to make a fairy wand. For girls aged 5-8.

Click here to watch a video clip featuring the dulcet tones of yours truly singing The Wishing Song.

There’s also a special Forget-me-not Fairies site with activities and downloads.

You can pick up a copy of the book at all good bookshops. If not available, just ask them to order one in.


A Notable Revenge

This just in:

The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge has made the Notables list for the 2013 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. Cue: much whooping and woo-hooing (and possibly a little dance of joy in the privacy of my study).

Since a notable book requires a notable dress in which to celebrate, I hunted through my wooden chest and happened across this fabulicious 1980’s taffeta number.

Notable dress

Marianne in her notable dress with her notable book

Thanks go to the CBCA and the judges for all their hard work. Congratulations to all the other notablees and short-listees!

“Don’t get mad, get even.”

– Robert F. Kennedy

My book is about revenge and revenge is certainly in the ether. Just look at the popularity of the TV program of the same name. But is revenge ever a just thing? Is forgiving someone just letting them off the hook or is it the courageous option?

The Beginner’s Guide to Revenge follows the adventures of two thirteen years old, Sebastian and Romola, as they tread this ethical minefield. To read an excerpt, click here.

Beginner's Guide to Revenge title cover

Where does revenge come from?

A guy called Lawrence Kohlberg studied the moral development of humans. He speculated that in a child’s early years, their actions are motivated by avoiding punishment and self-interest. Later, they reason that ‘It’s wrong to hurt someone unless they hurt you first, in which case, it’s open slather’.

The final stage is where a person is guided by higher ethical considerations. For example, ‘I shouldn’t hit that person because it would be bad for society if people went around hitting each other’. From my observation, not a lot of adults reach this final stage!

Ethical quandaries

  • If someone breaches your confidence on Facebook, is it okay to share a secret of theirs in return?
  • The courts put law-breakers in gaol. Is this Government-sanctioned revenge and, if so, why are they allowed to take revenge and not to rest of the population?
  • Can revenge be a form of justice?

And the flip-side of revenge – forgiveness

  • Is forgiveness the same as condoning or excusing an an action?
  • Should you forgive someone if they haven’t apologised first?
  • Is there such a thing as an unforgivable sin?

For more ethical quandaries, check out the teachers’ notes.

Revenge is sweet?


Image courtesy of piyato at

Everyone is familiar with the saying “Revenge is sweet”. Not many are aware of that that the full quotation, by 2nd century satirist and poet, Juvenal, actually goes like this:

‘Revenge is sweet, sweeter than life itself – so say fools.’

Something to ponder …

Thanks for stopping by 🙂


Creativity versus Shame

Welcome to my new blog!

As a creative writer, I thought it only fitting to devote my first ever post to creativity. With that in mind, here’s a picture of me (fourth from the left) having a cup of tea in the sea.

Marianne at Surrealist tea party standing in the sea dressed in suit, bowler hate and tie with several other similarly dressed people.

“But I’m just not creative.”

For some, creativity comes easily, for others, not so much. In an effort to conquer his writer’s block, one famous author went into his study, gave his butler his clothes and told him not to return them until he’d written three chapters. I myself even tried hypnosis!

So why go to such lengths to overcome our blocks? The way I see it, we’re born without a map. Creating stuff is how we chart the country of ourselves.

Shape of a girl walking. Her body silhouette is a map.

Marianne: inner cartographer.

Shame: mortal enemy of creativity

Shame researcher, Brené Brown, argues that creativity only comes when we’re courageous enough to be vulnerable. Unfortunately, being vulnerable tends to prompt shame to rear its ugly head. Shame makes us:

  • numb our feelings (“It doesn’t matter if I get published. It’s not as if my stuff is that important.”)
  • hide (“I won’t show my photographs to anyone and then they can’t say they’re stupid or accuse me of being up myself.”)
  • attack (“I can’t believe those talentless fools got published when I didn’t!”).

I’ve done all of these – still do!

Combatting shame

  • The first step is to recognise a shame reaction for what it is: an attempt to protect yourself from rejection. It’s message of “Hide!” feels legitimate, but it’s not.
  • If you find yourself holding back until your creation is perfect, that’s shame up to its old tricks. Perfection is a myth.
  • Shame fears rejection so it puts the opinions of others front and centre. Keep an eye out for thoughts beginning “People will think …”

For further tips on shame resilience, see Brené Brown’s book, Daring Greatly.

Getting surreal

I recently had the opportunity to take part in a surrealist tea party. Local artist, Andrew Baines, invited members of the public to come down to the beach dressed in a black suit, bowler hat and tie. It looked like fun, but after my initial enthusiasm, I thought: people will think I’ve lost my mind! There it was: “People will think…” Luckily, I recognised my reaction and decided to take part anyway.

Marianne dressed in suit, bowler hat and tie holding a tea cup and saucer at a surrealist tea party at Henley Beach.

130 of us stood in the sea and drank tea while the artist took photos.

Surrealist Tea Party with wave

The outcome? Creativity: 1  Shame: 0. All in all, it was a very good day!

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