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: http://equusart.customer.netspace.net.au/
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.