The Writing of Flame Stands Waiting
Flame Stands Waiting by Corinne Fenton, Illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione and published by Black Dog Books (now an imprint of Walker Books Australia.)
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 gem of the idea jumped into my head and then began to form itself as a story in my mind. One day my mother said to me, ‘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.’
I had been very lucky to know my great grandmother and remember her well, her name was Clara and that is the name I gave to my child heroin in the story. So those three beautiful women, my Mum, Grandma and Great Grandma all had a part to play in this book.
I wrote much of the scribbled part of the story actually at Luna Park either beside the carousel or sitting on the back of the horse I call Flame.
Flame was the kind of story I wrote, then fiddled with – the story had many, many re-writes. It went to several publishers and at one point a publisher asked if I would rewrite it 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 told this way. I wrote to the publisher telling them I had tried to write it as they had suggested, but the story was no longer speaking to me. For me Flame was always meant to be a picture book and I guess, like Flame, 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 him again. In the end I had three publishers wanting to publish it.
The firm my husband worked for at the time, held their staff Christmas parties at Luna Park, so once again I sat on Flame’s back – much to the extreme embarrassment of my then teenagers – going round and round feeling how Flame and Clara would feel, spinning and turning, changing and altering some words, disposing of others. For me writing ‘in the real’ is the greatest asset – that ‘sense of place’ is so important when I’m writing.
When it came time to illustrate, I gave illustrator, Sebastian Ciaffaglione a photograph of Mum when she was about Clara’s age and Seb kindly illustrated her. Here’s that photo of Mum with her dog Donny.
I happened to be at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair at the time the book was released and it was such a thrill to see Flame Stands Waiting displayed there beside the thousands of beautiful books.
There is some wonderful history about the Luna Park carousel in Melbourne and it can be found on the website: http://equusart.customer.netspace.net.au/
While I was writing this blog post, I found the following blog review from a mother and was reminded, once again, why we writers keep writing.
As I write, my tired husband reads your book Flame Stands Waiting to our 5 year old. She says ‘Dad you missed a page’ her eyes shining, loving the story, dreaming of meeting Flame and of a special magic that lives in toys that are loved. I told her about how you wrote the story for your grandmother, about the carousel at Luna Park. I only wish I managed to get a note from you in her book at the Ballarat Writers Festival. It is Erin’s most favourite book – she got it last year from Santa. ‘Corinne must have given the book to Santa’ she says. Thank you so much! Bev