It was fun writing 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'. I wanted the story set by the beach where I lived for a term as a teenager. We were looking for another farm to buy after selling up in Queensland.
Again, as with 'Jihad', my daughter Lenore wanted this book – a book about a young girl and her struggle with her image and just being herself. It is a universal theme for I can remember having some of the problems that Caz does. Lenore asked me to read it to her chapter by chapter and when I put it away for a few years to work on other titles, she would often ask me about it. 'When will you finish it, Mum?' Finally, I was awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship which gave me the time to devote to the 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'. I stayed in Canberra three weeks where I was able to finish it at last.
During the early days of writing, I had good conversations with Gareth Sobey about King Arthur. He gave me the book, 'The Keys to Avalon'.
Some books I read when writing 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'
Blake, Steve & Scott Lloyd, 2000, 'The Keys to Avalon', Element, Shaftesbury, Dorset.
Buechner, Frederick, 1977, Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy &Fairy Tale, HarperCollins, NY.
Clarissa Pinkda Estes, 1992, 'Women who run with Wolves', Rider, London.
Eldridge, John, 1997, 'The Sacred Romance', Thomas Nelson, Nashville.
Nouwen, Henri JM, 1992, 'Life of the Beloved', Hodder & Stoughton, London.
Lord Tennyson, selected poems.
Dogs that I met
Tyler and Vinny, Golden Retrievers. They belong to Barbara and David Gilbert who love having their dogs' names in this book.
Some themes explored in 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'
Self-identity, sexuality, spirituality, cultural and religious diversity, displacement, rural/city differences, Cornish identity, family, peer pressure, and image.
Some motifs in 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'
1 'The last virgin' – from the story about the 10 virgins/bridesmaids in the Bible; a picture of Caz as unprepared fro life, for spirituality, for living as she truly is. She runs out of oil, her courage, self image, love for God, herself and for others.
2 'The ugly duckling' – Caz has to find her place – what she is like, who she is, before she can withstand peer pressure.
3 'The sea' – Caz is tossed like the tide or flotsam in a rip – being pulled along because she has no set course, until she feels engulfed, drowning in what others want of her.
4 'The swan' – the swan dovetails with the ugly duckling story. Caz is a swan all along; she just has to find out for herself and believe it.
5 'The bride' – Caz finally realises that she is loved as she is – she doesn't have to do as others say or to conform. She is as beloved as a bride.
6 'The holy grail', at first Caz's motivation is Byron. He is her holy grail – her object of importance. She realises this is not a worthy goal for her whole life. Better to realise herself, who she is, her potential, to reach for the stars.
The Exeter Book riddles can be found at the following sites:
http://www2.kenyon.edu/AngloSaxonRiddles/ This site has different translations and numbers for some of the riddles.
A good site but not all the links work.
Riddle poems and how to make them:
The Holy Grail
See The Camelot Project at the University of Rochester at
The Holy Grail is generally considered to be the cup from which Christ drank at the Last Supper and the one used by Joseph of Arimathea to catch his blood as he hung on the cross. This significance, however, was introduced into the Arthurian legends by Robert de Boron in his verse romance Joseph d'Arimathie (sometimes also called Le Roman de l'Estoire dou Graal), which was probably written in the last decade of the twelfth century or the first couple of years of the thirteenth. In earlier sources and in some later ones, the grail is something very different. The term "grail" comes from the Latin gradale, which meant a dish brought to the table during various stages (Latin "gradus") or courses of a meal (from the above website).
The primary source of the historical Arthur was Geoffrey Monmouth's 'History of the Kings of Britain' written in 1135. Some scholars say Arthur was probably a warrior, and an illegitimate son of King Uther, who became the overlord of a territory in the southwest of Britain. He fought successfully against the Scots, the Picts, and the Saxons. He led a victory at Badon in 516 AD. He was a mighty war leader and had a dog called Cabal. Some say he was a Christian and bore the image of Mary into battle. In 537 was the battle of Camlann, after which some believe he was buried in Lethowsow (a sunken land off the coast of Cornwall) in one of the carns. They believe he will return.
Some poetry by Lord Alfred Tennyson
'The Holy Grail' from 'The Idylls of the King'
'Lancelot and Elaine'
'The Lady of Shalott'
'Idylls of the King'
'Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere'
Some news articles for discussion
1. Jill Pengelly, 'Model Aspirations of our Miss Average size 16', The Advertiser, Wed Nov 17, 2004, p 3. (About image)
2. Amanda Blair, 'Talent has last laugh, for once', Sunday Mail, Nov 28, 2004, p15. (article about Casey when she won Australian Idol)
3. Paul Lloyd, 'Love in the 21st Century', Advertiser, Saturday magazine, Feb 28, 2004, p2-6.
4. Jessica Hurt, 'Surprise role for fashion models', The Advertiser, Wed, Feb 1, 2006, p33. (the case for models)
5. Natasha Hicks, 'All that matters is being yourself', the Advertiser, April 3 2005, p 83.
6. Phoebe Marshall, 'All work and no play in teen life', The Advertiser, Mar 6, 2005, p 43.
7. Rhiannon Hoyle, 'Learning to be friends for life', The Advertiser, Sat Mar 19, p5.
8. Candice Keller, 'Ideal Shape is your own', Sunday Mail, Ap 3 2005, p24.
9. Candice Keller, 'The Date doctor's guide to wooing', Sunday Mail, Mar 13, 2005, p 48, 73.
10. Alison Sandy, 'Battle for heart and mind to cut teen pregnancies', Sunday Mail, Sept 11, 2005, p 44, 77. (inc. teen support services)
11. Youth Opportunities, 'The Power of Positive choices', Sunday Mail, Sept 11, 2005, p42. (who we choose to be friends with)
Other related books and films
o 'You'll die a Virgin', chapter in 'The Glory Garage', Ed: Nadia Jamal and Taghred Chandab, 2005, Allen & Unwin, Crows Nest, NSW.
o Julia Lawrinson, 'The Bad Bad Thing'.
o Hating Alison Ashley
o Mean Girls
o A Walk to Remember
Some activity ideas for 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'
1 Prejudice is fuelled by fear. Do you agree with this statement? Show instances of prejudice and labelling in 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'. Show how Caz finally stops being discriminatory.
2 People who dare to be different are gutsy people. Do you agree with this statement? In what way do you show your individuality? Who shows their individuality in 'The Last Virgin in Year 10? Show how Caz finally decided to be 'different'.
3 What does Caz learn from her friendship with Mary and Laila?
4 Why do you think Matthew gave Caz the riddle? Show by events in the story how Caz learnt the riddle's answer.
5 Read the 'Lady of Shalot' by Lord Tennyson. How does Caz feel like the Lady of Shalott? Why does Matthew call his mare after the Lady of Shalott?
6 Rewrite 'The Ugly Duckling' from the point of view of one of the characters. How has Caz related to the ugly duckling?
7 In what ways do we label people in our society? Is it fair? What attitude would help us not to do that?
8 Caz is living a script that someone else wrote. Show how and why she is doing this in 'The Last Virgin'. What makes her change?
9 Know thyself.
Find out who wrote this.
Is it important to know who we are? What does that mean for you? What difference does it make for Caz to know who she is?
10 What was Caz's hold grail? Why was it detrimental for Caz to have such a goal?
11 What is popularity? Is it important to be popular? Why did Caz think so? Does she change her mind about being popular? Is Josephine popular as well as knowing herself? Is it possible to be both?
12 Is peer pressure a problem in your school? How could the situation be changed. Relate your answer to examples in 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'.
13 Do you think 15 is too young to have sex? Why or why not? Why didn't CAz want to have sex with Byron?
14 There are some views on sex in 'The Last Virgin in Year 10'. Choose two opposing views in the novel and compare them.
15 Oliver says that some kids have a hard time because they don't know what to believe? Do you think this is true? If so how could a belief system help young people?
16 Caz says the media tells us what to do, to wear etc. To what extent do you think this is true? What advice would you have for Caz in the first half of the novel?