Wine stalwart turns hand to creative writing

Well known Penola local Doug Balnaves recently celebrated publishing his own book, Dusty and Other Stories. Dusty, illustrated by John Draper, is a gentle, fictional book that comprises 18 short stories led by Dusty the sheepdog, which capture life in rural Australia.

The stories are based around Coonawarra and use plenty of humour, but also explore a philosophical path, including some stories based loosely on fact. The release of Dusty was celebrated with a launch at the Balnaves winery. Mr Balnaves said a wonderful group of people attended the launch, including Alan Atkinson and Bryan Dawe from the ABC.

Dusty and Other Stories was approximately 10 years in the making, so Mr Balnaves said it was good to see everything come together. “It took nearly 56 years for me to get around to it, so I did not rush into things,” he said. “So here we are now, thanks to several people who encouraged me very strongly.”

Mr Balnaves said an English exchange teacher during his final year at Penola Area School encouraged him to write and Penola’s Marg Muller held inspirational writing workshops. “That helped me along quite a bit,” he said. “And Marg is very encouraging.” Mr Balnaves is also a member of Writers SA, who introduced him to retired ABC news editor Mr Atkinson, who became his mentor, editor and great encourager. “I have been very lucky with the people who have helped me along the way,” Mr Balnaves said.

Mr Balnaves hoped people would enjoy reading Dusty and that it would appeal to rural people. “I think because, particularly in the country, people can relate to a lot of the stories that are there,” he said. “There’s been some very encouraging feedback so far.”

Mr Balnaves said sales had already been encouraging, with $10 from each sale going towards the Stand Like Stone Foundation’s Annette Fund, dedicated to Mr Balnaves’ late wife Annette, who was a foundation member of Stand Like Stone. Although he is not planning another book, Mr Balnaves said he is constantly inspired by the stories around him and enjoys the challenge of putting his ideas on paper.

Dusty is available to purchase on the Balnaves of Coonawarra website, at the Balnaves cellar door and the Penola Newsagent.

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