The Pendants in Pendants and Paperbacks

Given my blog is called Pendants and Paperbacks, I’d better give pendants some air time.

I admire the way my mum dresses. I have since I was in my thirties and started looking out beyond myself. I had also become a mother and knew how difficult it was to pull on a non-food-plastered item of clothing and look half decent. At that time she no longer had children at home and being too self-centred before my thirties I probably didn’t notice the clothes she wore in a previous lifetime.

But when I did start noticing, I saw a fashionable woman in her fifties choosing outfits that complimented her figure and her colouring, and I noticed how she wore scarves. I loved her scarves. I loved the way she flung them nonchalantly around her neck where they would sit in perfect unison with her outfit. I wanted to be like her – stylish and scarf-savvy. But scarves made me look like a clothes horse pegged with damp socks, so for a while, I abandoned my mission to dress like her.

Then one day, quite by accident, I found my signature style with necklaces. I can’t remember the first necklace I bought or when or where I wore it. Nowadays I have a wall-hook filled with necklaces, and I never travel overnight without at least five to choose from.

Last year my husband and I went to Toulon, France. Yes, I took a bundle of necklaces, but I wasn’t leaving Toulon without at least one new one. We were there in time for the Christmas markets and one of the stalls was filled with necklaces (one was filled with huge slabs of chocolate but that’s a story for another day). The necklaces were a little more delicate than I normally wear but after trying on just about every one available I selected two. At that point, I had chosen my blog name, Pendants and Paperbacks, so I just had to get the one that looked like a pile of books. I loved the colours and the jagged stack – it was perfect. The other one was an asymmetrical cluster of geometrical shapes in red and black – my favourite combination.

One reason I went for more delicate choices is that I was shopping with my husband and anything more flamboyant wasn’t going to fly. Outside the Toulon Opera House, there was a woman selling the boldest and most outrageous neck ornaments (for they were so much more than a necklace or pendant) in huge floral arrangements. I loved them. But the look on my husband’s face told me not to buy one. Normally, I don’t kowtow to what he thinks but, if I’m honest, they felt a little too chichi even for me. But, you know how there are some non-purchasing decisions that you regret? This is one of mine. I wish I had bought one. Even if I had never worn it, it expressed so much about the person I can be but who often isn’t seen. Now, when I long to see them again, I realise we took no photos; we didn’t even get a business card or ask if she had a website. And, funniest of all, the Toulonaisse I am working with on my novel research says she has never seen or heard of the floral pendant lady who sits outside the Opera House!

Pendants and paperbacks, necklaces and books, signature style and favoured genre, whatever way you look at it stories and costume jewellery are my happy place.

Book Review – Once Long Ago

Once Long Ago, the book I read as a child until it fell apart, is the book I have chosen for my first review.

Once Long Ago: Folk and Fairy Tales of the World, first published in 1962 by Golden Pleasure Books, is a collection of 70 traditional tales from 49 different cultures retold by Roger Lancelyn Green and illustrated by Vojtěch Kubašta.

As well as compiling myths, legends, and fairy tales from around the world, Green was a biographer of children’s writers and a member of the Oxford literary group, the Inklings, along with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis.  In Once Long Ago, Green’s writing retains the fairy tale format of earlier versions while creating a magic that appealed to me as a child, and still does as an adult. My old favourites, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Snow White, are all included and I quickly gained new favourites: the Australian tale, The Bunyip, the Flemish tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, and the Norse tale, Why the Sea is Salt.

I have read questions online about how accurate Green may have been in writing stories from cultures other than his own. We have to remember that this book was published in 1962 and to have a volume of such diverse tales from a wide range of cultures is to be commended. I am choosing to believe that Green researched these stories thoroughly and took due care and time when creating his versions of them. The English story, The Three Bears, does support this view since there is no Goldilocks in sight. Instead, the original character, a little old woman, is the antagonist.

Not only is this book a fine example of great storytelling, it is also a work of art. Born in Vienna, Kubašta moved to Prague when he was four. He studied architecture and civil engineering but soon moved into his life-long career as a commercial artist and book designer. He is perhaps most famous for his pop-up books. His illustrations in Once Long Ago are bold, bright and filled with emotion: the image of the old witch on her raft of snakes in the Armenian tale Zoulvisia is impressively evil, the arrogance of the chicken in the Spanish tale The Half-Chick is cleverly depicted, and my favourite image of all, that of the girl in the English tale Coat of Rushes accepting her new silver dress from the fairy, is hauntingly beautiful.

A few years ago, for a significant birthday, I treated myself to my own copy of the book to the tune of $NZ500. It may seem odd that I am reviewing a book now classed as “hard to find” and costing a fair penny to buy should you find a copy. What I want to illustrate is the need for children to be exposed to traditional tales. In New Zealand, books of Māori myths and legends by Peter Gossage or Gavin Bishop are strong contenders for any bookshelf, Xoë Hall is creating stunning editions of myths and legends in English and te reo Māori, and Annie Rae Te Ake Ake has retold 15 tales all impressively illustrated by young Kiwi artists. Look for volumes further afield too. I learnt about people different to me through the tales in Once Long Ago and I would like to think this created a strong foundation for fairness, acceptance and tolerance. I encourage you to find a modern collection of traditional tales from around the world; one filled with gorgeous illustrations and magical stories, preferably one where the stories are written and illustrated by people who grew up with them. Since this is such a personal choice I can’t recommend what volume you buy, but I can say that if your children read it until it is faded and frayed then it is a book well-loved and one they will carry with them forever.

The Re-Launch of Katharine Derrick

Welcome to the re-launch of katharinederrick.co.nz, rebranded as Pendants and Paperbacks.

I am a writer and a reader and have been known to read books until they fall apart. The first book I read until it was faded and frayed was a huge volume of folktales, called Once Long Ago. Unfortunately, it was on loan; I hope that when Mum returned it to the original owners, they understood just how much that book was loved. Since then the Harry Potter series has joined the ranks of books with sad-looking spines, although I maintain that was due to my children as much as me.

Once Long Ago started a life-long search for story. My first published work was a fifty-word micro; more recently I have been published in takahē magazine with my short story ‘The Auburn Trail’. I have had numerous pieces of flash fiction appearing online in Flash Frontier, one of which gained a Pushcart nomination. I am a key organiser for writing events in Northland, New Zealand, and teach applied writing online at NorthTec. My current works-in-progress are picture books and a YA novel.

Besides a love of reading and writing, one thing that defines me is the necklaces I wear. Now, I have no sense of style what-so-ever, I wear the most casual of clothes, I rarely wear make-up, I ignore my stylish mother when she tells me to dispose of a favourite, well-worn and tatty jacket. But I do make a statement with my necklaces – the bigger and bolder the better. What better tagline than one that encompasses who I am? And so Pendants and Paperbacks was born.

My aim with this blog is to be eclectic, to write about anything that takes my fancy, to be varied and interesting, to be me. Story is a key part of my life so I will review, discuss and comment on what I’m reading or studying or watching. And, of course, I will need to document my sense of style, so posts on necklaces or my favourite designer or things I wish I had the courage to wear will appear sporadically, as will posts about my pets because I think they are cute and funny even if no one else does. And very irregularly you might find me posting about what’s going on with me in the writing world.

Posts will appear every three weeks or so, or maybe every three months, or maybe randomly, or maybe never – let’s see how we go with that! This should give you confidence that you can follow my blog and not be inundated with my ramblings. I promise – unless something absolutely amazing is going down – once every three weeks will be the minimum gap between posts.

Thanks to Shelby Derks-Wyatt for the banner design. A selection of Shelby’s work can be viewed here.

You might also like to visit The Wonder of Words: Engaging readers in children’s literature, where I blog along with five other children’s authors.