Thursday, 30 April 2015

April Competition

To win one of five copies of Kate Forsyth's The Wild Girl, answer the question below in the Comments section:

"What is your favourite re-telling of a fairy tale, whether by Kate Forsyth or another writer in the genre?"

Please also send your answers to: so that I can notify you if you win.

Closing date 7th May

We're sorry our competitions are open to UK residents only

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Interview with Kate Forsyth - Gillian Polack

Today's guest is Australian author Kate Forsyth. Gillian Polack took the opportunity to ask her some questions that she's wanted to ask for quite a while.

I met Australian author Kate Forsyth back in 1999. There are a couple of questions I want to ask her. They’ve been lurking, all this time.

Normally, when I interview someone, I have a pile of linked questions and I weave through them more or less elegantly. In your case, Kate, I just want to know everything, instantly, and I’ve given up on elegance. I had to rewrite the questions, in fact, so they weren’t all “Tell me now!”

Kate, to get us started, would you tell us about yourself and your fiction?

I've always known I wanted to be a writer. Even as a small child, I was always writing poems and stories and telling people it was what I wanted to do when I grew up. I wrote my first novel when I was only seven, and have never had a day since when I wasn't writing something (even if its only my diary that I've kept since I was twelve). I am passionately interested in history and folklore and fairy tales, and they weave their way into all of my work, whether I am writing poems or essays or novels. My first poem was published (in the school magazine) when I was eleven and my first novel was published when I was thirty (it was the first in a heroic fantasy series set in a magical world very much like seventeenth century Scotland). I am now the proud author of thirty-six books ranging from picture books to poetry to epic historical sagas for adults. My best-known book is BITTER GREENS, which is a retelling of Rapunzel in a Renaissance Venice setting, interwoven with the dramatic true life story of the woman who first wrote the tale, the 17th century French noblewoman Charlotte-Rose de la Force who had been banished to a convent after a series of scandalous affairs. The book won the American Library Association Award for Best Historical Novel of 2015, and has also just been voted one of Australia's Best 101 Books. I then wrote THE WILD GIRL, which tells the story of the forbidden romance between Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild, the young woman who told him many of the world's most favourite fairy tales, against the heart-rending backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars. It was voted the Most Memorable Love Story of the year by Australian readers, a wonderful endorsement! It is just about to come out in the US and is already getting some wonderful reviews.

I've also just finished writing a five-book fantasy adventure series for children called THE IMPOSSIBLE QUEST, and am in the final stages of another historical novel for adults called THE BEAST'S GARDEN, which is a retelling of the Grimms' Beauty & the Beast, set in Nazi Germany. So you can see I really do spend most of my time writing!

I’m fascinated by your fascination with fairy tales. Bitter Greens and The Wild Girl instantly come to mind when I think of this, but your work has had an element of fairy and folk since your very first novel, hasn’t it?

Yes, indeed. My early fantasy books all have a strong element of fairy tale and folklore woven through them, from motifs of cursed towers overgrown with roses to girls who change into owls or wolves. And DANCING ON KNIVES (which is the first novel I wrote as an adult but was not published until a few years later) draws upon The Little Mermaid fairy tale even though it has a contemporary Australian setting.

It all began, I think, because I spent a lot of time in hospital as a child after being savaged by a dog when I was just two years old. There was not much to do in hospital in those days except read, and so I read a great deal. I think I was particularly drawn to tales of magic, adventure and escape because my own life was so constrained by illness and the fear of illness. My mother gave me a beautiful red leather-bound copy of Grimms' Fairy tales when I was about seven, and I read the book so many times it fell to pieces. Those wonderful, frightening stories wove themselves into my imagination and have continued to fascinate me ever since.

My greatest interest is that you don’t simply take the tales and re-tell, you find their cultural and historical contexts and weave them into the tales. Would you tell us more about your relationship with fairy tales and folk tales?

I love fairy tale retellings. Growing up I devoured the work of writers such as Eleanor Farjeon, Nicholas Stuart Gray and - a little later, Robin McKinley - who wrote what I call 'pure' retellings - ones set in a fairy-tale-like setting with plots that closely follow the best-known variant of a tale, which is usually the Grimm Brothers'. Such 'pure' retellings have become very popular and we have seen work by such writers as Gail Carson Levine, Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, and Edith Pattou, who have all written fairy tale fantasies for a young adult market. Then we began to see such fairy-tale-inspired fiction for adult readers, by writers like Juliet Marillier and Margo Lanagan and Jane Yolen, who have taken old stories and reworked them in marvellously new and innovative ways. And I loved their work as well.

I have also always loved historical fiction - its my favourite genre of all. Growing up, I read Rosemary Sutcliff and Geoffrey Trease and Leon Garfield, and now I read as much historical fiction and non-fiction as I can. I think it was because I loved history so much that I first got the idea of re-writing 'Rapunzel' as a historical novel, rather than as a fantasy. Or perhaps it was because I come from an academic family (my father was a scientist and my mother studied psychology & anthropology) and so I was raised to question everything and to dig deeper, to look for facts rather than hearsay. And because I am an oral storyteller as well as an author, I was always going to be interested in who told the tale. All of these obsessions - history, psychology, folklore, storytelling - led me to want to know as much as I could about the background of the tale and the tale's tellers. I ended up doing my doctorate on 'Rapunzel' - since I was doing so much research I thought I might as well use it! - and along the way discovered the extraordinary life of an all-but-forgotten 17th century fairy tale teller. Bringing Charlotte-Rose de la Force's story to life meant trying to understand the milieu in which she lived, and so I was also researching the life and times of her cousin, Louis XIV, the Sun King, and the world of the royal court at Versailles.

In all, it took me seven years to research and write BITTER GREENS and to finish my doctorate. And my later fairy-tale-inspired-historical novels, THE WILD GIRL and the upcoming THE BEAST'S GARDEN, both arose out of discoveries I made during those years of research.

THE WILD GIRL in particular was a challenge, because very little was known about Dortchen Wild, who told a quarter of all the tales collected by the Grimm brothers and published in their first edition of fairy tales. Like so many women of her time, she left very little behind her in the way of letters, diaries, stories and other writings, and I had to use the stories she told Wilhelm as a template for her inner life. It was a truly fascinating process!

Now, of course, you’ve done a doctorate on fairy tales. How does it fit with your earlier work? Has it changed your writing and the tales you want to tell?

As we discussed earlier, I have always been interested in fairy tales and folklore, and so undertaking a doctorate in that area has only fed my obsession. During the time I was doing my doctorate, I also studied oral storytelling and am now an accredited master storyteller with the Australian Guild of Storytellers. So these two interests of mine have continued to lead me deeper onto the dark, tangled woods of fairy tale studies. I cannot tell you if it has changed my writing, though I can see a difference in style to the books I wrote in my 20s and the ones I am now writing in my 40s. I think that is a natural growth and progression.

For the moment, I am bubbling over with ideas for new books that combine historical fiction with fairy tale retellings in new and innovative ways. One that I am just beginning to play with is a retelling of Sleeping Beauty set amongst the love affairs and scandals of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. I am coming to the UK in June to run a writing retreat in the Cotswolds and plan to spend my spare time gazing at paintings and prowling around At and Crafts houses. It's very exciting!

You also have an interest in history. Is it the pull of a period or place? Is it an interest in research and the past? Is it the need to delve into the background of the story and to ground it in something our culture knows? Why history? Which history? Whose history?

It's all these things! And yet, each book is a little different too. Setting is very important to me, and so I am drawn to certain times and places, such as Renaissance Venice or Paris and Versailles in the time of the Sun King, which were the settings of BITTER GREENS. Yet I was not at all interested in the Holy Roman Empire of German Nations during the Napoleonic Wars ... it was the untold love story Wilhelm Grimm and Dortchen Wild that drew me to that time and place and I had to do a great deal of research before I could even begin to understand it and bring it to life in THE WILD GIRL. I was always deeply fascinated by the Second World War, and in stories of heroism and resistance during that dark time, and had always wanted to set a book then. Somehow my subconscious mind put that wish together with the desire to retell Beauty and the Beast, and came up with something truly surprising and unexpected.

I am also very interested in art and poetry and music and so these things work their way into my fiction. The Venetian artist Titian was a key character in BITTER GREENS. In THE WILD GIRL, I grew very interested in the German Romantic poet Novalis and also listened to a great deal of Beethoven. And I've always loved the Pre-Raphaelites and their art, and so this new book is born out of a desire to know more about them ... and also to rescue the all-but-forgotten Victorian fairy tale teller, Mary de Morgan, who was a shadowy figure on the edge of their bright circle,

Many of my books are about untold stories ... and forgotten women ... and the redemptive power of storytelling in its many different forms. Why I am drawn to telling these stories? I don't know. Mystery is at the heart of all creation. I suspect it has something to do with a fear of being forgotten myself ... which is in itself a fear of death. I just know that these stories come to possess me, and that I cannot rest until I have brought them to life, in the most beautiful and meaningful way that I can.

Speaking of history, would you tell us something about your work as the patron of the Historical Novel Society of Australasia?

It would be my pleasure. About twenty years ago, when I was a young woman who desperately wanted to be a writer, it was hard to find the kind of books I wanted to read. I felt very alone in my passionate love for historical fiction, and would search the bookshop shelves for anything I could find that had a historical or quasi-historical setting. Some years later, I wrote my first historical novel (THE GYPSY CROWN, a children's adventure story about two Romany children during the final weeks of Oliver Cromwell's life.) I heard that there was a Historical Novel Society, which published magazines of book reviews and held an annual conference somewhere in the world. I was tremendously excited and joined up straightaway. I poured over their magazines and highlighted books I wanted to read, then hunted them down over the internet. When my novel THE PUZZLE RING was published (a children's time travel story about a twelve year old girl who goes back in time to the days of Mary, Queen of Scots), I used my a good portion of my US advance to go to my first-ever HNS conference in Chicago. It was so wonderful! I made so many friends and I learnt so much. If I could, I would go every year - but its hard for me to be away from my little family too often and it can be very expensive. I wished that we could have a conference here in Australia. Other Australian writers and readers wished the same thing. And a few stalwart souls did something about it (Chris Foley, Elisabeth Storrs, Wendy Jean Dunn, Diane Murray, and Greg Johnstone) and put together an absolutely brilliant weekend event in late March. My job as patron was to spread the word as best I could, make a rather alarming amount of speeches, and turn up and smile. Which I was very happy to do. It was a resounding success, and the next conference is already being planned for Melbourne in 2017. Any English historical fiction who have ever dreamed of visiting Australia may want to plan about it (A Tip: Australian readers are big book buyers!)

Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at seven, and is now the award-winning & internationally bestselling author of 36 books. Recently voted one of Australia's Favourite 20 Novelists, Kate has a doctorate in fairy tale studies and is an accredited master storyteller. Her adult books include The Wild Girl, the story of the forbidden romance behind the Grimm Brothers’ famous fairy tales, and Bitter Greens, called ‘the best fairy tale retelling since Angela Carter’. It won the 2015 ALA Prize for Best Historical Fiction and came in at No 27 in Dymocks 2015 list of Australia’s Top 101 Books. Kate’s children’s novels include The Impossible Quest, The Puzzle Ring and award-winning The Gypsy Crown. Kate is a direct descendant of Charlotte Waring Atkinson, the author of the first book for children ever published in Australia Read more at

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Sapper Smith's Gallipoli diary, by Clare Mulley

Last weekend marked 100 years since the start of the First World War’s tragic Gallipoli land offensive, aimed at securing the strategic peninsula in the Dardanelles - the vital sea route to what was then the Russian Empire. It was the first combined naval-army operation in history, but both offensives were effectively repelled by Turkish forces. After eight gruelling months, Allied forces had to be withdrawn to Egypt. This was a serious defeat with significant political and military repercussions, and an estimated over 60,000 men from Britain, France, Australia and New Zealand killed and possibly 87,000 from Turkey, as well as huge numbers dying from disease.

My grandfather, Alfred Smith, a naturally quiet and peaceful young man, was among those who served at Gallipoli. Having worked in the local post office in Malton, Yorkshire, before the war, Alf had chosen to enlist with the Signals Division of the Royal Engineers, serving his country by laying the insulated telephone cables that would enable rapid military communications, and as a signaller himself.

My grandfather, Alfred Smith's 1915 war diary

Alf's war-time diaries start on 14 April 1915 when he left Biggleswade to join the ship that would transport him across the Bay of Biscay; ‘sick’ he scribbled in pencil. He then continued to the African coast, ‘Boxing contest aboard ship’; and past Malta to Alexandria in Egypt. From there he was sent to Imbros, now Gökçeada, the largest Turkish island in the Aegean, just across from Gallipoli, where he watched the ‘checking of Dardenelles by warships’. His diaries are never effusive, at most four short lines a day, with more space given to notes on signal flags and so on, but they provide a fascinating glimpse into his months at Gallipoli.

Because of its strategic location, Imbros had been retained by the Ottoman Empire in 1913 when the other Aegean islands were ceded to Greece. However the island remained under Greek administration. The first Allied attack on the Dardanelles had been launched in February 1915, followed by more sustained action a month later. During the battle, according to an account by the Ottoman General Staff, ‘all telephone wires were cut, all communications with the forts were interrupted’, but the enemy forces rallied and the British fleet was forced back, giving a huge morale boost to the Ottomans. Over the following month Allied ground forces assembled in Greece and Egypt, tasked with eliminating the Ottoman artillery so that Allied minesweepers could clear the way for the larger vessels to return. The Royal Engineers were also sent in to lay communication lines. However, a month’s delay allowed the enemy to prepare effective defences. The land campaign was launched in late April, with appallingly heavy casualties on both sides from the start.

Alfred's diary, April-May 1915

It was now that Alf’s ship arrived in the area. Although his was not an active combat role, he would soon find himself serving under fire. In early May, still onboard ship, he noted the ‘heavy bombardments’, and reported watching ‘severe fighting all morning’ on shore. Nevertheless, whenever there was a lull in the fighting and he was not sending cables, Alf managed to swim from the ship or listen to piano on deck. They docked on 19 May, and for the first few weeks Alf’s diary is filled with the heavy work of laying cables, as well as cleaning rifles, blue skies, desert winds, and ‘rumours of pay’.

The battles continued through the spring, and by mid-June Alf was noting ‘heavy bombardments’ again, and on 1 July, ‘shells falling all day… near our dug out. One, just behind, killed two men and eight horses’. Later that week he witnessed a troopship torpedoed and sunk in five minutes, and after that there is little let up in the bombing. ‘Turks using incendiary shells’ he wrote on 22 July, ‘which fired gorse on left flank’. Alf chose not to dwell on the horrors he must have witnessed, although he recorded when one friend was killed while bathing, and others were killed or wounded during the shelling of the signals camp. A few lines later he noted that ‘fresh fruit is obtainable’. Small pleasures had become remarkable.

In August Alf was sent to Suvla Bay on the mainland peninsular, five miles north of the Anzac sector, as part of the final British attempt to break the deadlock of the Battle of Gallipoli. Fortunately, he was in the second landing. Had he been in the first, his chances of survival would have been slim as wave after wave of men were shot down as they disembarked. The land there even today is full of bones and spent bullets among the broken seashells. With no picture of the wider battle strategy, Alf's diary comments only on the action nearby, the courage of the Australians, casualties among his signals staff colleagues as they worked to repair and extend communications, and the consolation provided by their meagre pay, mostly spent on cigarettes.

Alf's Royal Engineers cigarette case

The failure of the August Offensive finally showed the Allied leadership that the Gallipoli campaign could not be saved, but the knowledge was slow to effect change on the ground. Alf was still there when autumn brought relief from the heat, but gales presented new problems. He was now tormented by ‘dust and wind’ and often ‘terribly cold’ at night, even after second blankets had been issued. The dugouts flooded when the rains arrived, and a friend died from hyperthermia during one freezing period.

From late September through to December Alf was busy filling in old dugouts and digging in new foundations, helping to mend roads, make mortar and lay bricks as they shifted camp, as well as spending long days laying new cables. He must have been extremely fit. Perhaps it was a relief to work hard physically, although he was saddened to have to destroy ‘an old Turkish house, rather fine old place which has had very fine gardens’. His humanity shows in such details. He used his rare days off to inspect a downed aeroplane, explore the local town, help some fishermen to haul in their nets, and bring back sour oranges picked from roadside trees. 

Alfred Smith, front right, and friends from
the Royal Engineers Signal Corps,
Imbros, November 1915.

A black and white photo shows Alf and five sun-tanned pals in front of their heavy canvas tents back on Imbros in late November, all in shirt-sleeves and army trousers, one wearing a Fez, and each with a pipe or cigarette clamped into their mouths. The British Cabinet confirmed the military decision to evacuate in early December. Alf was finally shipped out to Egypt, heading for the ‘Cleopatra Camp’, two days after Christmas. ‘Not a bad ship,’ he wrote, if ‘somewhat crowded’. He would spend the rest of the war laying cables and sending signals from Egypt and Palestine.

Alf had a hard war, losing many friends and, while in Egypt, contracting the malaria that would plague him for the rest of his life. However he was fortunate to have been accepted into the Royal Engineers and, unlike so many, to survive both the Gallipoli campaign and the rest of the conflict. His greatest achievement, he said, was to have done his duty without having had to kill anyone. In 1919 he returned to work for the Post Office, moved to London, married his sweetheart, and in 1930 became father to my mother. Like many, he rarely spoke about his experiences or elaborated on his diaries – but he did not destroy them either.

Alfred Smith's war medals: The 1915-18 Star,
The British War Medal 1914-1918, and the Victory Medal.

Along with a few possessions, photos and some letters, I have Alf’s service medals. Still kept in the small cardboard box in which they were posted to him are his British War Medal 1914-1918, and his 1914-15 Star, stamped on the reverse to ‘Spr; A, Smith.’ – a more modest name you could hardly imagine. He also received the beautiful golden Victory Medal with a great winged angel on the front, and on the reverse the inscription ‘The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919’. This was never threaded onto its fine rainbow-striped ribbon, and it is clear that Alf did not choose to wear it. Indeed I wonder how much any of his medals saw the light of day; my mother says she never saw them during his lifetime. Perhaps as these were fairly standard medals he did not seem himself as a hero, or perhaps he could not share his nation's official sanction of the conflict, having witnessed slaughter on such a scale to so little end at Gallipoli.

Back of Alf's Imbros, 1915 framed photograph

Alf's 1915 photograph, however, of himself and his mates from the Royal Engineers, who all courageously served during the Gallipoli campaign, was carefully dated, annotated with their names and home towns on the back, and framed with a hook to be hung on a wall. The photo is yellowed from exposure to the light, and was clearly highly prized. Alf died when I was a child and I never spoke to him about his war-time experiences, however I think this says much about how my gentle, very decent grandfather chose to remember his war. 

I would be very interested to know if any readers have inherited similar papers, photographs or possessions?

c. Clare Mulley

Monday, 27 April 2015

A Brief History of Sculpture (or, rather, of A Sculpture) by Louisa Young

Many are the strange places to which our writing leads us. Last week it led me to a four-day sculpture course for maxillo-facial reconstructive surgeons. (Those who know my books will know that historical maxillo-facial reconstruction is rather key to them.) The idea is that as the surgeons' training tends to the scientific and the two-dimensional, it is a good idea to let them build a human head from scratch, out of clay, so as to learn the true nature of the shape of a head, hands-on. The pioneers of this type of surgery in the UK, Major Harold Gillies and Sir Henry Tonks, were both trained artists - Tonks was a professor at the Slade School of Art, as well as a surgeon. Many of you will have seen the profoundly moving pastel portraits he made during the time Gillies ran the Queen's Hospital at Sidcup for the facially injured of WW1, as a record rather than as, specifically, art. Here is one -  

Gillies employed sculptors as well to make masks of the wounded men out of plaster, so he could design their surgery without having to pester them all the time. My grandmother, at the time a successful portrait sculptor in London, was one who worked with him. (My sister Emily Young is a sculptor too. I am curious about sculpture and women.) Gillies entirely recognised the importance of art - his first book, published in 1919, was called The Principles and Art of Plastic Surgery. I won't go on again about the injuries and the soldiers and the genius of those times; today's story is more about the importance of art for reconstructive surgeons, and history trickling down. And why is art important? Because it really makes you look, and it records what you see. Including, in sculpture, seeing with your fingers. Purely practically, sketches were a lot less faff than photography at that time, and still today a skilful diagram or model saves a thousand misunderstood words of explanation.

We all pitched up at a school near Harley Street, and the portrait sculptor Luke Shepherd took us in hand. First he showed us a beautiful pre-Roman terracotta head of  a lady. Not this one, but this sort of thing. Get some clay, sculpt it, fire it . . . the techniques haven't changed much. It's an innate, isn't it, the desire to replicate ourselves?  

The surgeons included three consultants, one of them 'the best nose man in London', and a surgeon from the Jordanian military. The trainee surgeons included three beautiful young women - one Egyptian, one from York, one Chinese and pregnant, and a young man who after a day's sculpting was going on to do the nightshift in a hospital which shall remain nameless.  

We started by wrapping newspaper in a plastic bag, and taping it to a wooden stand. Then you stick a stick though it. Not so ancient, but I seem to remember people used to do it with chicken wire, so of course techniques change a little. 

Then you wrap it in clay. 

Of course you need a lady. Ours is called Hannah; she is a paragon of patience. We measure her with calipers, from her temporo-mandibular joint (just in front of the ear) to her other temporo-mandibular joint. Then from her temporo-mandibular joint to the tip of her nose, then from her other temporo-mandibular joint to the tip of her nose. Humans can be wonky. It's lucky we are, or how would we tell each other apart? 

Put a small black dot on each point you measure. Write down ALL the measurements. Clip the stick to length, so each end of the stick represent a temporo-mandibular joint. Measure the angle and distance to her eyes - draw the line. Mark where the eye will be.

Then measure out to where the tip of her nose would be . . . a point, in the air, as yet unrecognised, unacknowledged. 

And the same with the chin. The points in space become points on the end of a piece of clay.

Measure her again. And again. And again. Measure every angle and plane as you come to it. 'If your work is well done,' Luke says, quoting the French sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, 'resemblance will come of its own accord.' I like this phrase. I suspect it can apply to writing as well.  

Did ancient sculptors work like this? We know that painters didn't recognise perspective till the 14th century, but sculptors seemed to know the difference between a mask and a head - which is more than I do, at the start. It had never occurred to me that a mouth is curved like a jaw, the middle further forward than the ends. But of course it is! I cry now. But it had never cross my mind. Eyes too. They're practically diagonal. We smile as we work. We are learning stuff.

We give them temporary ears, for guidance - see below. I feel she is verging on a perfect likeness. One of our consultants is a top ear man. Later he explains to us how to make an ear - a real one - from scratch, by carving it out of a piece of rib, and growing it under the skin. 

Oh. Maybe not such a perfect likeness. Also she seems to have had a sex change while I wasn't looking. 

No. Terrible. We need to look from every angle, at the topology and geometry of the skin. Return to measuring. I measure the eyes. The sticks mark the inner and outer canthus, the corners of the eye, and the pupil.

There are good new words. Canthus. Philtrum. Conca, scafa, fossa, tragus, Darwin's tubicle, incisura intertragica. The ear-building consultant teaches us drawing on Day Four; he loves this last term so much he almost dances as he says it, and comes and writes it on my sketches of my drawing partner, the Jordanian military surgeon. Have you ever spent eight hours staring at and being stared at by a man you do not know who has recently been sewing people back together in Iraq and DRC? It is - surprising. You are required to stare at him, and he at you. You see each other's thoughts - not what they are, necessarily, but that you are having one. 'Why are you smiling?' 'What are you laughing at?' It is only after many hours of staring, towards the end of the day, that I see he has the little bruise on his forehead that denotes a lot of praying. His devoutness - devotion? - is right there to see. He sees me see it. He is a nice man. Not very good at drawing though.

Before and after the drawing lesson. Oh well.

Back to the sculpture. I nickname mine Cecil. He is clearly a minor Cambridge poet of the inter-war years. At the end of the day I spray him, and he goes into a bin-liner for the night.

Next Day: Good morning Cecil. You are all wrong.

Luke is an extremely good teacher. Within moments, Cecil has a softened, female brow, filled in eye-sockets, lots more flesh, and some hair.

She gets a neck. Her jaw is wrong, but he points it out. You have to look. And measure. And look and look and look and record how it all fits together, all those planes and angles, all that topography. You do that to Hannah, and then to your sculpture. Take her off her stand and look at the top of her head; kneel before her and look up her nose, the underside of the back of her head, every curve and camber. The surgeons know the names of the muscles. 

Here an academic from Essex appears to be sculpting the actual lady.

Getting there. The mouth is not flat, and nor is it just what the surgeons call 'the vermilion'. It is a muscular outcrop - most visible in sexy French film stars, the 'mouth on a stalk' pout. But we all have it to some degree. I give it to Cecil, or Cecile as she is now, and s/he becomes all the more female. 

I like still having the lines demarcating the planes and angles. It makes it look rather fifties, and kind of like I know what I'm doing.

Hair! How can you make hair out of clay? Clay is the very opposite of clay. 
Spot the difference. Hair, and ears. 

Ears. Dear god, ears.

They go in a lot further than you'd think. They are a series of helices. They have a Y shape - is that the bifid tragus? No, the tragus - well there's two of them - are the, how to explain - the bits at the bottom  above the lobe, the forward one is just behind the TMJ, the posterior is the sort of horizontal ledge just behind and below it, and the icisura intertragica is the dip in between . . . what, you're not following? This is why surgeons need to be able to draw. How swiftly I could point it out on a sketch. 

And finally, with many a Bake-Off joke, we lay down our tools and line up our host of Hannahs. Here she is, a flock of her, all in a row.

This is mine. As I said, Luke is a VERY good teacher. 

Are you still wondering about the TMJ? See the dot just by her ear? That's it. That's where we pull the stick out at the end.

Work in Progress:

And here are the surgeons at work. Bear in mind that they usually sculpt in flesh. Some of them did have to dash off occasionally for a little light operating in the course of the days, but they all without exception found it a very enlightening and useful course. As the Jordanian said, 'Few things in life sculpt its effect inside us, and this course is one of these things'.

And as I can't offer you a picture of my own deep concentration, 
here instead is a sculpting selfie

And here's our lunch. It's true what they say about medics and their diets.