Monday, December 1, 2008

R.I.P. Ivan Southall

Sad news: Ivan Southall died on November 15, aged 87. Many of his books are true Australian classics, in particular Ash Road, Hills End and To the Wild Sky.

But my favourite of his books is Josh, which is the only book by an Australian to ever win the Carnegie Medal, which it did in 1971. In fact, not only is Josh one of my favourite Southall books, but it's my favourite book full-stop. I think that even though it looks like prose on the page, Josh is as much a verse novel as many others which make that claim. Written in present tense, it truly is poetic, with short, incomplete sentences. In fact, I remember reading one particular line as a boy -- Josh drowning. -- and being struck with an epiphany: that all the grammatical rules I'd spent so much time learning in primary school could in fact be broken, and usefully so.

One of the proudest moments of my writing career came a year or two back when UQP re-released Josh in its Children's Classics series. There I was, quoted on the back cover of my favourite book, below the blurb. It was taken from something I'd written some time before:

This is the story of a boy who isn't sure who he is or who he's meant to be. It's about the lost child in all of us. And that's why we hold our breath when we read.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mr President

I'm not American, and yet I'm very happy this afternoon.

I'm frequently reminded of what a great country America is. Lately, I've been reminded mostly by Americans. I'm sure they're right, but what's undeniable is that their present president, one George Walker Bush, has overseen a dramatic devaluation of the USA's global reputation. Electoral corruption, corporate nepotism, rampant greed, political incompetence, an unpopular, immoral and possibly criminal war, and well publicised stupidity have all left America's once strong reputation in tatters.

Now, I'm not alone in seeing the possibility that the US's reputation can begin to be restored. This would be great for Americans, but the world needs a strong US as well. So today brought good news. If Obama's leadership ability is reflected in the campaign he ran, the strength of his rhetoric and his powers as an orator, America has just taken its first step towards some kind of redemption.

The cynic in me wants to say: 'We'll wait and see.' But the optimist in me is cheering long and loud.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Shiny new website

Yes, that's right. After a long-overdue overhaul, the new website has gone live. I used iWeb, which is pretty easy to use. In fact, it might even be too easy, since it allows you to do all sorts of visually gorgeous stuff that actually makes your site really slow to load. So I've had to trim it like crazy, but in reality, the only solution might be to start again, with less pretty.

I might wait and see if there are complaints.

The website can be found HERE.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Confessions of a slack blogger

I've been slack. Sorry. Will remedy.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Away for a while

For the next few weeks I'll be the writer-in-residence at the Insideadog blog of the Centre for Youth Literature, based in the State Library of Victoria. And since I'll be blogging my little bottom off over there, I'll be leaving this site more or less alone for a while.

In the meantime, you can find me at Insideadog.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

"Then" by Morris Gleitzman

You know that feeling you get when you've just finished reading a book by someone else, and you've just finished correcting the proofs of your own book, and you feel so impressed by the book you've just read that you wish you didn't have to return your proofs to the publisher, but could instead take the time to rewrite your own book, and to do it properly?

Well that's how I'm feeling right now, because I've just finished reading Then by Morris Gleitzman (Viking).

All right, without giving away the plot, I just want to mention a couple of things that impress me about this book.

1. It's so simple in style, but packs a huge wallop, which is all any of us as kids' writers can hope to do. And there is plenty of horror in this book, both of a physical and emotional nature, but it remains, for the mid-grade reader, such an accessible read. (Accessible - a word that gets used far too often in our industry, but in this case, it's so true.)

2. The way Morris uses the direct voice to the reader so cleverly. For example, on the first page is this masterpiece of writing for children:

You know how when you and two friends jump off a train that's going to a Nazi death camp and you nearly knock yourself unconscious but you manage not to and your glasses don't even get broken but your friend Chaya isn't so lucky and she gets killed so you bury her under some ferns and wild flowers which takes a lot of strength and you haven't got much energy left for running and climbing?

That's how it is now for me and Zelda.

That's why I haven't put my page-proofs in the mail yet.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The new cover

Courtesy of Stella Danalis, here is the front cover for Hunting Elephants, my new one from Woolshed Press, for release in October.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

I dare you not to smile - a reply

It's not quite as "awwww" as lili wilkinson's linked "Where the Hell is Matthew?" video, which I thought was fantastically moving, but I do lay down a similar challenge:

I bet you can't watch this without laughing. (Caution - it is kinda cute.)

The Death of Language

A further instalment in the "me being a self-righteous git" category...

Yesterday, at the reception desk at a hotel in Manly, I heard a tour director for a Canadian Christian group turn to a group of four girls, hand them a key pouch and say: "Jessica, Emily, Amy, Amanda, these is your guys's keys."

I don't even know where to begin.

(And before anyone gets on my case for my spelling of "instalment", the British spelling only has one L in it. And since Australia isn't the 51st American state just yet, and since we are - despite the best efforts of a number of inspired and hard-working people - still under the rule of Queen Elizabeth II of England, I will spell it the British way. So shut up.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

It almost was ...

Ironic how, after I put up a make-believe post about my 'last post' for Blog Like It's the End of the World (BLITEOTW08), it almost was my last post.

Here's why.

(NB: Mum, if you're reading this, stop reading now...)

Two nights ago Lesley Reece and I were flying in a 50-seat Fokker 50 from Perth to Albany to run a writing workshop day for 65 young people. Problem was, we flew into a storm in the south-west that in fact (we found out later) flattened trees, caused major flooding and claimed a life at the exact time we were trying to land. Twice. I've flown in some wild conditions before, but this was something. I don't usually get frightened in planes, but I was frightened. Similarly, I never throw up on planes, but this time I went perilously close to joining the dozen or so others who were emptying their guts into little bags. Loudly.

As I say, the pilot had two gos at landing, but with the plane bucking, weaving, yawing, pitching, rolling, dropping metres at a time, it was a terrific relief when the pilot came on the PA and told us that we were heading back to Perth. My main cause for relief was that my last meal wasn't going to be the rather ordinary chicken casserole served in a very small plastic bowl.

Cue forward a few hours. It's 4:15am, and Lesley and I are catching a cab back out to the airport to catch our replacement flight to Albany. And this time ... a perfect - and I mean perfect - three-point landing.

Mental note to self: never tempt fate by blogging about disasters, even in jest.

Until next time, and the time after that, and the time after that, this is James signing off.

Friday, June 13, 2008

My last post?

I don't have a lot of time to write this, because the battery on my laptop has almost expired. The power went out in our entire street, so I grabbed my computer, jumped into the car and headed into town, looking for any kind of signal. Hell, any sign of life would have been good.

I found a weak signal where I'm now stopped, which was weird, since there's no power anywhere in town. Streetlights, traffic lights, shop fronts, houses, all dark. And no people.

Once I found the signal, I stopped the car and started browsing for news. There isn't any - not on the local sites, the overseas sites, newsfeeds, anywhere. Oh, I have a signal, and I'me getting through to the sites, but none of them have any news from today. Everything just stops at June 12. Weather, sport, stock market reports, horoscopes, everything, frozen on yesterday.

Speaking of things that have stopped, my car has just died. Completely. I've tried to call for help, but there's no phone signal. Internet, but no phone - go figure.

It's creeping me out just typing this, sitting here in my dark car, in a darki street, and the little red cross has just appeared on my battery icon. It's a fair walk back to my place, so I wonder


Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Death of a Salesman

Last night my friend Phil and I went down to Penrith to the Q Theatre, to see Sean Taylor and Jacki Weaver in Arthur Miller's classic American play, Death of a Salesman. I've seen some great theatre in the Q over the years, and I've seen some lousy theatre as well, and last night was definitely in the former category. With the exception of a couple of slightly uneven New York accents, this was a very well directed production of a wonderful play by a great playwright.

Sean Taylor played the deluded, angry, decaying-before-our-eyes Willie Loman, and Jacki Weaver played his wife Linda (Weaver and Taylor are real-life partners, by the way). But the standout for me was Anthony Gooley as Biff. The big kitchen scene at the end had me feeling breathless and claustrophobic, thanks mainly to him. Fantastic, goose-bumpy stuff.

Most interesting to me was the rustle that went around the audience when the character of Uncle Ben walked on-stage. Ben was played by Norman Coburn, who for many years played the part of grumpy old principal Don Fisher on Home and Away. A number of the audience were Yr 12 students from a local high school, who are studying the play for their HSC, and of course they recognised Old Flathead Fisher straight away. Which they then proceeded to point out to one another. It must really suck to be forever defined by one role.

PS: Judith Ridge, you're a slacker for not going. Seriously. Call yourself a literature expert, and you've never even seen Death of a Salesman. Hah! You've been outed!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Vietnamese spring rolls

Last night's dinner...

This is too easy. You'll need:
  • the meat from a barbecued chook, shredded up with your fingers
  • a couple of carrots, grated
  • a cucumber, grated
  • half a smallish capsicum, grated or chopped up very finely
  • a couple of handfuls of sprouts (watercress, mung bean, snowpea, alfalfa, whatever you fancy)
  • a good bowlful of thin rice noodles, soaked in boiling water until they go soft
  • a small chili if you like a bit of zing, chopped super-fine
  • a couple of glugs of soy sauce
  • a generous handful of chopped mint
Mix it all up in a big bowl.
Now soak round rice paper sheets one at a time in hot water until they go soft. Lay the sheet out on a damp tea towel, or it'll stick to the table.
Plop a big pinch of your filling on one edge, fold in the sides and roll it up. Voila, a spring roll!
Make a big stack of these bad boys on a plate.
Grab your favourite sauces - soy, sweet chili, satay, whatever you think will go well.
(Note: now's not the time to get all precious about cultural authenticity - they're your tastebuds, after all. If you think barbecue or tomato sauce will work, go your hardest. I mean, I don't think they will, but if that's wh at you want to try, who am I to stop you?)
Finally, sit down with your big plate of rolls, your dipping sauces, a good friend and something crisp, like a James Boags Premium. Enjoy, guilt-free.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Voices on the Coast '08

Just back from the excellent Voices on the Coast festival on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. Sunshine Coast? Yeah, right. More like Cyclone Coast. I was there a few years ago, and they've really let the place go, at least as far as the weather goes. On Monday the rain was falling sideways, and all of us ended up with smaller audiences because a large number of schools couldn't get through the flood waters to get the the venues.

Than there was the fire alarm late in the day, which led to most of us standing in the drizzle while people in fluro vests and helmets looked confused.

Oh yes, if nothing else, Voices '08 going to be memorable.

Despite the problems of the Monday, it was a really well-run festival, thanks primarily to Kelly Dunham, who was running the show for the first time. Kelly is unflappable. I think anyone else would have crumbled, but Kelly just kept smiling. She's a star, and she did such a great job. We are all very grateful, and I'm not just saying that because I want to be invited back. Even though I do...

The weather was much better on the Tuesday, so it wasn't a complete washout. And all the usual festival fun was had; the best thing about these events is that we get to hang out with other writers and illustrators, and talk shop. It's like our AGM, or staff meeting. It's just a shame that we couldn't have enjoyed a bit more of the Coast's legendary fine weather, especially since we were being accommodated at the lovely Seaview Apartments, which are across the road from the beach in Mooloolaba.

But hey, writers like it when things are a bit out of the ordinary. It gives us something to whinge - I mean write about.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The illusion of promise

In today's Sydney Morning Herald, a sometimes amusing article from the Guardian quoting Hanif Kureishi, author of My Beautiful Laundrette and Something to Tell You. One of the issues Kureishi discusses is the increasing number of universities offering degrees in creative writing, which he calls "the new mental hospitals". He makes a point that I myself have made many times, including directly to university writing students; that "creative writing courses set up false expectations that a literary career would inevitably follow."

We all know that if one completes an architecture degree, one can realistically expect to find a job as an architect. Likewise a teaching degree, a nursing degree, a plumber's ticket, and so on - they each lead directly to employment in one's chosen field. So the obvious assumption on the part of the creative writing graduate is that their degree will fast-track them up the ladder of writing success; that commissioning editors will read the qualification listed on the CV and take the manuscript in question straight to the top of the slush pile.

I am assured by several editors that it simply doesn't work like that. Great writing is great writing, regardless of who wrote it. Likewise crap writing. Really, the only possible uses for creative writing courses are to teach the students something new and useful about the craft of writing that will enable them to write better (in fact, shouldn't all courses actually teach us something rather than simply leading us through hoops for the sake of an educational transcript?) and to allow the graduate to work as a teacher of creative writing, although one could argue that runs on the board are of far more value than a whole bunch of theory one has never used in one's own practice.

The full article can be found here.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Public animation

Terms of reference (my own, not Webster's):
  • Animation = use of multiple images to create the illusion of movement, and thereby to create a visual narrative.
  • Public = opposite of private, in this case referring to a space that is accessed and 'owned' by everyone.
  • Patience = what this guy has in spades...

MUTO a wall-painted animation by BLU from blu on Vimeo.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A roller-coaster of emoticons

The last fortnight has been what one would have to describe as a roller-coaster of emoticons. To summarise:
  1. I learn that I have won the Ethel Turner Prize in the NSW Premier's Awards :D
  2. I hear that my grandfather is gravely ill :[
  3. I learn that my grandfather has passed away. As a family, we are both saddened :( and relieved :|
  4. We bury Grand-dad, for which my brother flies out from the UK. So it's sad to have a funeral, :( but good to see Rob and his son Lachlan :)
  5. Rob and Lachlan leave to return home :[
  6. Vicki and I head in to the NSW Art Gallery to attend the presentation of the Awards. :)
  7. On the night, Frank Sartor announces that the prize money has been doubled, as of this year. :o 8O :D
  8. I collect my award. :)
  9. Vicki and I return to our car to find the back window smashed, and my Sony Vaio laptop stolen. :o >| (I know, I know, I should have taken it inside... And that last emoticon does little to express the rage I felt.)
  10. Vick and I stay in Sydney overnight, and the following morning, after a very odd, rather sleepless night, I catch a 6am flight to Brisbane to go to a school. zzzz
  11. That afternoon I get an email from someone saying that they "accidentally" bought a second-hand laptop, and they want to give it back, having realised that this is in fact one of my tools of trade. 8o
  12. Now I've got the flu ----------------
So that's my fortnight. I honestly don't know how I feel at this moment. If I had to find an emoticon for right now, it would be :?

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Mamre boys

Yesterday I attended a entirely uplifting event. It was the graduation for the boys from the Mamre Project Links to Learning program. This was originally set up by the Sisters of Mercy to help Year 8 and 9 kids from the Penrith/St Marys/St Clair area who have been deemed to be at risk of not completing Year 10.

Basically, for two days a week over twelve weeks, the students head out to the Mamre homestead in St Marys and have intensive work on relationship-building, boundary setting, some school stuff (writing, reading, maths), and a lot of sport. They establish their own rules (respect, no put-downs, no fighting, only building each other up etc) and abide by them. The program's been going for almost eight years now, with two groups a week, for two 12-week blocks a year, and the outcomes have been fantastic, not least of all the fitness outcomes.

I got involved last year, when I was asked by a friend to go and chat to the boys about writing. They'd been reading Problem Child together, and when I got there for my first session they were pretty buzzed, and very keen to talk about the book. In fact, on three occasions now they've kept the last couple of chapters unread so that I could finish the book with them, which has been terrific fun.

So yesterday was the graduation, and the boys were all dressed up, with parents, teachers and others turning up en masse to support them. They were very proud, those guys, and so were their youth workers, Mat and Mel.

But for me the proudest moment was when one of the boys rather nervously read a speech he'd written, all about setting personal goals. He said that Problem Child was the first book he'd ever read all the way through, and that he was now halfway through Tomorrow, When the War Began.

And at risk of sounding mushy and sentimental, isn't that what it's all about?

Personal inventory II

  • State of desk: prohibitively cluttered
  • State of mind: mentally exhausted
  • Number of writing projects currently under way: 3
  • Writing mindframe: Oh, is that what I do these days?
  • Number of Facebook friends: 152
  • Number of spam emails waiting to be junked: 71
  • Sleeps until Voices on the Coast: 16
  • Faith in human nature: mildly positive, hopeful
  • Number of words written so far today (not counting blog): 0

Monday, May 12, 2008

Vale Ron Roy

Last Thursday my grandfather died. Ronald Maitland Roy was 94 years of age. He was born the same week that the Ford Motor Company introduced the production line. He was born in the same year as the zipper was invented, the Panama Canal was completed, construction began on Canberra, and Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring premiered in Paris. He lived with his parents, his two brothers and his two sisters in a dirt-floor house, sleeping on sacks filled with straw.

Ron dedicated his entire working life to the Sanitarium Health Food Company, working at the Weet-Bix factory in Cooranbong, then going on the road as traveling salesman (I think they call them sales reps now), and finally working in health food shops in Tasmania and Victoria.

He was pretty much deaf for most of his life, so he wasn't considered a good fit for soldiering. His deafness kept him in a bit of a cocoon much of the time, and he would often be heard sitting quietly in a chair, whistling to himself in his warbly fashion, or sometimes playing the harmonica.

The things Grandpa loved most in life were (in no particular order) his wife Rene, his son Don and daughter Dianne, his vege garden, fruit-n-nut chocolate, his grandkids, and his four great-grandkids. Even when he was very frail and nearing the end of his life, his face would light up when the kids walked into his room. I feel very grateful that my girls, who are 15 and 12, got to know their great-grandfather, and that he got to know them.

His greatest regret? He always wanted to go to the Holy Land, but back in the 80's, when the conflict reached the Sinai Peninsula and took Mt Sinai off all the travel itineraries, he decided that he'd never go. He was a very devout man, and the way he saw it, if he couldn't go to the place where Moses was handed the Ten Commandments, he didn't want to go at all.

He had some views that were reflective of his generation. He had some views that were reflective of his upbringing, and one or two of his views made me cringe. But one thing was certain - he never shied away from his opinion.

We're burying Grandpa tomorrow. It's going to be a tough day, but we'll get through it. I'll be expressing a few thoughts on behalf of the grandkids, and I suspect that I might have to stop a few times. But it's a weird thing, that losing someone who is so very old and who has lived such a full life should be so very sad. 'He's had a good innings,' people say. Yes, that's true, but with that comes the sobering knowledge that so much history and so many memories have been lost forever.

Friday, May 9, 2008

A saltine battery

I've added a new category to my blog today. The "me being a self-righteous git" tag will be reserved for posts that deal with my single greatest literary bug-bear -- those people who stuff the written English language into a sack, tie off the end and proceed to kick thirteen shades of crap out of it, inspired by nothing other than complete ignorance of what certain words look like.

For example, yesterday I saw, on one of those school signs with the slide-in letters, the following message:

One might argue that the T had slipped slightly to the left, but what happened to the O? And how did it slip, when the whole message was locked behind a quarter-inch-thick sheet of perspex?

And then, this very morning, on a newsblog comment page, someone wrote this gem:

One hour is long enough, little lone eight.

Clearly the creators of these sentences know what said sentences should sound like, but haven't ever seen them written down.

I fear that this won't be the last of these posts.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

NSW Premier's Literary Awards Shortlist

At Gleebooks today, the shortlists for the 2008 NSW Premier's Literary Awards were read out. And joy of joys, Town was on the Ethel Turner (young adult) shortlist! The winners will be announced on Monday, 19th of May.

In a feeble attempt to make up in some tiny way for the years of the kids'/YA lists being neglected in the press at the expense of the 'real' books, here is the Ethel Turner shortlist and the Patricia Wrightson (children's) list. The rest of the categories can be found here.

Ethel Turner Prize for young people’s literature
Lollie Barr - The Mag Hags - Random House Australia Pty Ltd
David Metzenthen - Black Water - Penguin Group (Australia)
Robert Newton - The Black Dog Gang - Penguin Group (Australia)
James Roy - Town - University of Queensland Press
David Spillman & Lisa Wilyuka - Us Mob Walawurru - Magabala Books Aboriginal Corporation
Lizzie Wilcock - GriEVE - Scholastic Australia Pty Ltd

Patricia Wrightson Prize
Aaron Blabey - Pearl Barley and Charlie Parsley - Penguin Group (Australia)
Martin Chatterton - The Brain Finds a Leg - Little Hare Books
Li Cunxin & Anne Spudvilas (illus) - The Peasant Prince - Penguin Group (Australia)
Liz Lofthouse & Robert Ingpen (illus) - Ziba Came on a Boat - Penguin Group (Australia)
Emily Rodda - The Key to Rondo - Omnibus Books
Carole Wilkinson - Dragon Moon - Black Dog Books

Friday, April 11, 2008

Woolshed Press off and running

On Wednesday evening (April 9) a sizable crowd hit the offices of Random House Australia in North Sydney to celebrate the launch of Australia's newest publishing imprint, Woolshed Press. The publisher is my dear friend Leonie Tyle, formerly of UQP.

First off the press will be books by Bill Condon and Catherine Bateson, followed by Anthony Eaton and a new writer by the name of Victoria Bowen, with Brian Caswell and yours truly publishing our titles later in the year. Other names on the author list are Anne Spudvilas and Celeste Walters.

It was a great night, attended by a huge number of kid-lit personalities, such as Maurice Saxby, Judith Ridge, Margaret Hamilton, Mark Macleod, Rae Turton, Bronwen Bennett, Marj Kirkland, Chris Cheng, Paul MacDonald, Alyssa Brugman, Deb Abela, Laurine Croasdale, Tony Davis, Ernie Tucker, Kate Colley, Kris and Catherine from Lateral Learning, and of course the afore-mentioned Bill Condon, Catherine Bateson and Brian Caswell. And the list goes on - sorry if I've missed someone important...

Woolshed was launched by the Random House Australia children's publisher, Linsay Knight.
Keep your eyes peeled for some great titles coming soon!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

CBCA Shortlists announced

Well, last Tuesday the Children's Book Council of Australia shortlists were announced. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed that my book Town wasn't on the older readers' list, especially after it was chosen on at least two Claytons lists. I was quite hopeful, and while I'm really happy to be on the 20-strong list of Notable Books, it would have been nice to see it go one step further. Still, I'm in good company - some of the other books that I thought might be on there but aren't are Cold Skin by Steven Herrick, Solo by Alyssa Brugman, and Daredevils by Bill Condon.

I was also hopeful that Problem Child might at least find its way onto the Younger Readers' notable list, but again, no cigar.

In case you've missed the news, here are the Older Reader and Younger Reader categories. Full lists can be found on the CBCA website.

FRENCH, Jackie PHARAOH: THE BOY WHO CONQUERED THE NILE Angus&Robertson (HarperCollins Australia)
HARTNETT, Sonya THE GHOST’S CHILD Viking (Penguin Group Australia)
HEFFERNAN, John MARTY’S SHADOW Omnibus Books (Scholastic Australia)
METZENTHEN, David BLACK WATER Penguin Books (Penguin Group Australia)
NORRINGTON, Leonie LEAVING BARRUMBI Omnibus Books (Scholastic Australia)

CLARK, Sherryl
Illustrated by Elissa CHRISTIAN
SIXTH GRADE STYLE QUEEN (NOT!) Puffin Books (Penguin Group Australia)
FRENCH, Jackie
Illustrated by Bruce WHATLEY
(HarperCollinsPublishers Australia)
Illustrated by Stephen AXELSEN
WINNING THE WORLD CUP Puffin Books (Penguin Group Australia)
RODDA, Emily THE KEY TO RONDO Omnibus Books (Scholastic Australia)

Wee Jasper

I just want to thank the lovely kids from Wee Jasper, Bongongo, Reids Flat, Rye Park and Rugby Public Schools for having me at their adventure camp, held at Cooradigbee. These schools are so small that when they have a school camp, they combine several schools, and everyone comes along - every student, every teacher, even (in one case) the teacher's dog.

We had so much fun. Whenever the kids weren't caving, stalking nocturnal critters, having professional tennis coaching, star-gazing or toasting marshmallows, they were having writing workshops with me.

For the record (and for the benefit of the students who were there), here are my five things:

1. Weirdest thing: the two Yr 6 boys who seemed incapable of saying anything but "Why?"
2. Funniest thing: The reaction when Mason pulled out the snake/legless lizard.
3. Scariest/worst thing: Hearing it rain all night and worrying that I might have to run workshops for 40 Kindy-Yr 6 students for an entire day. Also, having the telescope guys out there on a night of heavy cloud, but not having them there the following night, when the skies were perfectly clear.
4. Best thing: Hearing Ben read. That was pretty brave, Ben. Also, the huge batch of scones the ladies whipped up in the kitchen of the shearers' quarters.
5. The most interesting thing I learnt: Adding a cup of lemonade to your scone mix makes them FANTASTIC!

'Trust Me!'

Ford Street Publishing has just released Trust Me!, a 'sampler' of stories, poems and pictures by 46 of Australia’s best known children’s authors, poets and illustrators. Original stories, poems and art cross all genres: mystery, romance, crime, fantasy, SF, humour and more.

I haven't read every contribution just yet, but the ones that really caught my attention were those by Doug Macleod, Lili Wilkinson and Catherine Bateson. There's also a fantastic Twilight Zoney story in there by Scot Gardner, called Answers.

Paula Kelly of the CYL will be launching 'Trust Me!' at the State Library of Victoria on April 10 at 4pm. Many of the contributers will be there to sign your copy, so get along!

So for anyone thinking that they'd like to give a different genre a bit of a bash, this is a pretty easy way to do it. $22.95 rrp, wherever good books are sold...

Thursday, March 27, 2008


OK, no comments about delusions of grandeur please: what I'm about to say might sound like I think that I'm the Messiah. I'm don't. I just think it's kind of weird that my blog vanished some time around Good Friday. Gone. Dead. Given up the ghost. And then, three (or so) days after it went to blog heaven (no explanation has been forthcoming from the good people at Google, by the way) it has returned, brighter, more majestic and probably better for the experience.

Now, the tragedy is that all my groovy posts have gone, swallowed up by the everlasting fires of Google hell. Some might say that at least metaphorically, those posts were like my sins, which are now gone. I think that's stretching it a bit. But the hard fact is, all that old stuff was swept away on the Friday, and a reincarnation was back a few days later.

I'll let you make up your own mind.

Anyway, to recap on what went missing when my blog mysteriously vanished...
  • Kevin Rudd's apology speech (good)
  • Brendan Nelson's reply to above apology speech (bad)
  • Some interesting adventures in bad architecture (weird)
  • A response to something lili wilkinson said about something to do with editors, Mitchell & Webb, and something. Oh yeah, the American guy who says that books arouse him in odd ways.
  • Some movie reviews: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (3.5 stars); The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (3.5 stars); The Golden Compass (2.5 stars); Juno (4.5 stars); Hey Hey, It's Esther Blueburger (3.5 stars).
  • An awesome Youtube video of Taylor Mali talking about teachers
  • A couple of pretty schmicko reviews of Town, by yours truly (the book, not the reviews)
  • A couple of photos from our school reunion
  • Some random stuff about books, festivals and other writers (all good, of course)
So now you're up to speed. To paraphrase someone famous and wise (Confucius, Oscar Wilde or Walt Whitman, no doubt), this post is the first post of the rest of my blog.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Apology vs the Apologist

With the historical events of today still fresh, I feel compelled to say something.

The speech in which Kevin Rudd reiterated his formal apology to the Stolen Generations, as they've become known, was both eloquent and moving. His manner, and the words he used, either paint him as a man of great compassion and understanding, or a fine actor. I'd like to believe that he is the former.

The standing ovation at the end of Rudd's speech wasn't in recognition of a fine performance. It was for the content and the intent of the speech, and what it represented. I felt so moved as I saw old and young in the gallery, their faces distorted with emotion. And when he reached the final words in his speech, the applause was, for the most part (I'm looking at you, Wilson Tuckey) spontaneous and heartfelt. Everyone sensed that this was historical in a very real sense. This is a step that had to made to move forward, and the speed with which Rudd delivered on his promise says more about the need for such a gesture, rather than any political motivation.

But then Brendan Nelson had to open his yap. When a short "The Opposition seconds the motion, and I like wish to extend an apology to the people who have been wronged in the past" would have done, he went on. And on. And on.

There is certainly a time for discussion of what happens from now on, but it wasn't today. We all know that many remote communities are struggling with violence, drug, alcohol and sexual abuse, truancy, poor life expectancy. We all know that these things are abhorrent. They need to be dealt with. By what made Nelson feel that today was the best day to drag that out? In what tiny, dark back-alley of his mind did he think that it would be helpful to start spruiking the good work the Howard government supposedly started with the NT intervention, and to do so today, of all days? Why mention that there will be no avenues for compensation, "nor should there be"? Did any of the invited people in the gallery walk out in disgust at that point, cursing the fact that their compensation plans had been scuttled so soon? Of course not, but they did turn their backs in the Great Hall, because they were hurt. They were hurt because they heard the Leader of the Opposition say "Yes, we're sorry it happened, but be careful you don't misunderstand the motives of those who did it." It was a grudging apology of the first order.

Yes, today Kevin Rudd's speech about the apology, whereas Brendan Nelson was about apologetics.

I just hope for Dr Nelson's sake that no one ever drags his children, grandchildren or loved ones out of his arms, never to be seen again.