Elaine Forrestal with copies of To See the World: a voyage of discovery aboard the sailing ship Uranie.

The CBC WA is a remarkable group of volunteers who promote children’s books and reading while also providing a range of opportunities for authors and illustrators to connect with their readers. During the week I had the great pleasure of sharing my research and talking about my book, To See the World with the CBCWA Book Discussion Group. While I always enjoy talking about my books it is particularly satisfying when the audience is as well informed, knowledgable and interested as this one.

Of course we didn’t only talk about To See the World. My latest project, which is still in its infancy and has the working title of Those Magnificent Men, also came in for some discussion and comment. This will be, I hope, a biographical fiction telling the story of Charles Ulm. He was a pioneer aviator who flew with Charles Kingsford Smith, as co-pilot, on all of his early recored-breaking flights. Together they were the first men to fly across the Pacific Ocean, the Tasman Sea and the first to circumnavigate the Australian continent by air. Like the stories of Black Jack Anderson and Rose de Freycinet, this one is also full of adventure. Between 1926 and 1934 these men flew incredible distances through every kind of storm – dust, rain, hail, even ice and snow (during the Tasman crossing). They often flew through the night, with only the stars to guide them. Their plane, the redoubtable Southern Cross, had an open cockpit and only the most rudimentary instruments. There were times when they had to land on incredibly small patches of ground and take off from long beaches because runways, when they existed, were not long enough. Firmly believing that aviation was the way of the future they performed hair-raising stunts, in those most basic of planes, to raise public awareness and establish regular air services for passengers and freight. Then, during a flight from America to Australia in 1934, Charles Ulm and his plane disappeared without trace. His son, John, was only 13 years old when he lost his father, who was not only his hero, but one of  Australia’s bravest pioneers.

So stay tuned. You will be hearing a lot more about those magnificent men, Charles Ulm and Charles Kingsford Smith, in the near future.

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