The Writing of ‘Flame Stands Waiting’

© Corinne Fenton

Set in the time when a carousel ride was a highlight of a child’s life, Flame Stands Waiting is the story of wanting something enough to make it real.

The idea of a story about a carousel horse, standing waiting, came to me before I ever knew of an elephant named Queenie and long before I thought of writing the story behind the legend of The Dog on the Tuckerbox.

I remember the exact moment the thought jumped into my head and then began to form itself as a story in my mind. One day my mother said, ‘You know, the first thing your grandmother wanted to do when she came to live in Melbourne (from Tasmania) was to ride on the carousel at Luna Park.’

So that’s where Flame began and I started scribbling. I wrote much of the initial part of this story at Luna Park either beside the carousel or sitting on the back of the horse I call Flame.

Flame was the kind of story that I wrote, then fiddled with – it had many, many re-writes. It went to several publishers and one asked if I would rewrite it as a junior novel. I took up the challenge and tried my hardest to write Flame in this form, but for me the story was not right, it was no longer speaking to me. For me Flame was always meant to be a picture book and I guess, like Flame himself, I had to stick with believing in myself and my dreams.

At this point Flame went back into the bottom drawer for quite a while – years I think, before I resurrected it again. In the end three publishers were interested in publishing it.

My husband’s work Christmas parties are always held at Luna Park, so once again I sat on Flame’s back – much to the  embarrassment of my teenagers – going round and round imagining how Flame and Clara would feel, spinning and turning – changing and altering some words, disposing of others. For me writing ‘in the real’ is a huge bonus, as that ‘sense of place’ is so important when I’m writing. Although the story is set on the Luna Park carousel, the story could be on any carousel anywhere in the world. There are some magnificent carousels in Europe and America and I am sure, in many other places.

We live in such a fast-paced world now, that it gives me pleasure to think back on how things once were. Clara was actually the name of my great grandmother, who I was lucky enough to know well into my adult life, so for me this story in many ways is a celebration of the women in my family and their hopes and dreams. It’s about following your heart.

There is some wonderful history about Melbourne’s Luna Park carousel on the Equus Art website:

Although this carousel has 68 horses, 66 are jumpers (moving up and down) and only two are standers (stationary on the platform.) The horse I call Flame is one of the standers, but in his heart he wants, more than anything, to be like the other horses. One day a girl called Clara comes to the park and although she gazes at all the other horses, Flame is different, and it is Flame she wants to ride.

The Grand Carousel at Luna Park in Melbourne is the only one made for export from America where it was manufactured in 1913 in Pennsylvania, by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company.

Research information came from the St Kilda Historical Society, Equus Art P/L, Friends of Luna Park, State Library of Victoria, Port Phillip Library Service and the National Trust of Australia.

Although the story is set in a long-ago time, the good thing is that the carousel at Luna Park has been lovingly restored to its original beauty and any child today can visit the park and the carousel and even ride on Flame’s back.

The story is set in the period of The Great Depression, (1929-32) when there was very little money. It was a time of extreme hardship and unemployment for many people in Australia. A visit to a park and a ride on a carousel was a highlight in a child’s life.

The setting takes us back to a time of more simple pleasures. There is something special about carousels and merry-go-rounds that draw us to them where-ever they stand, in towns and cities all over the world. Some are magnificent with gracious horses and shiny paintwork, while others are small and humble. But all of them have something magical, something that takes us away to another place or time.

‘Flame Stands Waiting’ by Corinne Fenton, Illustrated by Sebastian Ciafflaglione and Published by Black Dog Books, 2010.

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  1. Claire You made it! Yay. Fascinating to hear the story behind the story. PBs are a bit like icebergs aren't they, with so much, so many of the words unseen.
    July 14, 2011 at 9:55 am · Reply
    • corinne Thanks Claire. Yes, I agree that Picture Books are a bit like icebergs - often there is so much else that isn't obvious and so much work behind them.
      July 14, 2011 at 9:51 pm · Reply
  2. Chris Bell Thank you for sharing the amazing and inspirational background to the writing of Flame, Corinne. Such a process and so much time and history, personal and factual behind it and what a gorgeous result. Chris
    July 15, 2011 at 9:52 am · Reply
    • corinne Thanks Chris. Glad you enjoyed reading it - and that's the short version!
      July 16, 2011 at 3:14 pm · Reply
  3. Kaye Baillie Your blogs are beautiful stories in themselves. Thanks for sharing, Corinne. I feel that you write about stories that are close to your heart. Well done.
    July 17, 2011 at 1:00 pm · Reply
    • corinne Thank you Kaye, you are very kind. I do write stories which are close to my heart - the only kind. Have you had a recent publication?
      July 18, 2011 at 6:02 pm · Reply
      • Kaye Baillie Corinne I have not had a book published for quite a while but I was delighted recently to have a story selected for the 'Hopscotch' anthology with Jelli-Beanz publishing due out in November. Still plugging away with ideas and opportunities for PB's. I get an idea, and often I go cold on it quickly. I do believe it has to inspire the writer for it to become a worthy book.
        July 20, 2011 at 10:05 am · Reply
  4. Julie Murphy Thanks for sharing your story-behind-the-story, Corinne. Your post is not only very interesting (and beautiful), but inspiring and encouraging for those who, like me, have yet to publish a picture book. Perhaps one day all my rewriting and "fiddling" will also lead to a gem like your "Flame".
    July 19, 2011 at 10:08 am · Reply
    • corinne Thanks for your lovely comments Julie. Keep up the writing and 'fiddling'. I truly believe that persistence is the most necessary quality in the world of writing.
      July 20, 2011 at 7:29 am · Reply
  5. corinne Yes, all accessible from my website.
    July 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm · Reply
  6. Class 2T at St Clement of Rome Primary We really enjoyed the story of Flame Stands Waiting. We first thought that the story was set at Luna Park and now we know that it really was! The story is interesting and it makes us feel as though we are actually there, riding on the carousel ourselves. Reading the story brings us sadness when no one rides on Flame but then happiness when Clara finally chooses him. We really liked the illustrations in the story because they are colourful and imaginative. Congratulations on writing a fantastic story! We look forward to reading your next book.
    July 29, 2011 at 1:26 pm · Reply
    • corinne Hi 2T, How lovely to find your wonderful post waiting for me and what great comments you have all made. I'm looking forward to seeing you all again on August 15.
      August 2, 2011 at 7:12 pm · Reply
    • corinne Thanks so much for this lovely post.
      August 17, 2011 at 10:14 am · Reply
  7. Alana pileggi I love flame stands waiting because its really happy and it makes you dream that you were there
    July 31, 2011 at 5:36 pm · Reply
    • corinne Hi Alana, Thank you very much, I'm glad my book makes you feel that way.
      August 2, 2011 at 7:10 pm · Reply
  8. Alana pileggi Hi corinne i love all your books
    July 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm · Reply
  9. Alana pileggi Hi corrine, I'm looking forward to seeing you again at st clements. Love from Alana Pileggi
    August 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm · Reply
    • corinne Thanks Alana. Make sure you come up and say hello next week.
      August 8, 2011 at 3:54 pm · Reply

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