Tuesday, June 30, 2009

I learnt something very cool yesterday...

My brother Rob and his son Lachlan are currently on a motorcycle tour of Central Europe.

(That's not the very cool something I learnt yesterday - I already knew that.)

A few days back, they went to a city in Germany called Hildesheim. This is the place where my great-grandfather Gustav Bachaus (later Gus Backhouse) was born. I was reminded of this when Rob put a bit of info about the place in his travel blog, and mentioned how special it was for him to be in the birthplace of a forebear.

(This is where the cool bit starts.)

I looked at the name of the city, and that, in conjunction with Rob's description of how much of Hildesheim was bombed flat during the war, reminded me of something. The familiarity of the name, and the rebuilding following the war, the state in which the town resides...

Then I remembered. (And this is the cool bit.) The German edition of my book Town is being published by Gerstenberg, a publishing house based in (guess where!) Hildesheim! Where my great-grandfather was born! How incredibly cool and circular and appropriate is that?

One more cool (but mostly unrelated) thing: on the front of the Gerstenberg website is a link to the German edition of Eric Carle's 'pop up buch', Die Kleine Raupe Nimmersatt, which translates literally to 'The Little Caterpillar Glutton.' I thought that was kind of cute.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Writing quote X

He that uses many words for the explaining of any subject doth, like the cuttlefish, hide himself for the most part in his own ink.
(John Ray)

The end.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Poll results - CBCA Younger Readers

Twenty-one votes this time, which isn't a huge number, but 50% better than last time, for those of a statistical bent.

And here are the results:
  • Catherine Bateson: 6
  • Sandy Fussell: 6
  • Morris Gleitzman: 5
  • Glenda Millard/Steven Michael King: 3
  • Emily Rodda: 1
  • Christine Harris/Ann James: 0
So, there we have it - a completely unreliable guide to who will win this year's CBCA Younger Readers category. My vote, for what it's worth, was for Then, by Morris Gleitzman. Read my review here.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Twitlit (Parte the seconde)

Anthony Eaton is a very funny chap. After several days of no Twitlit (classics retold in 140 characters or less) he came up with four in as many minutes.
  • Moby Dick: Call me Ishmael. It might be just me, but I think the Captain's kinda mad. I don't see how this voyage can end well...
  • The Caine Mutiny: Call me Keith. It might be just me, but I think the Captain's kinda mad. I don't see how this voyage can end well...
  • Heart of Darkness: Call me Marlow. It might be just me, but I think Kurtz is kinda mad. I don't see how this voyage can end well...
  • Into White Silence: Call me Downes. It might be just me, but I think the Captain is kinda mad. I don't see how this voyage can end well...

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Writing quote VIII (and IX)

Two quotes today, both from the inimitable Mark Twain, and both more or less about the same thing. Here's the first:

As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.

And the second:

Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very;" your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.

That's damn good advice, don't you think?

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


The term 'Twitlit' has been coined before, but only for original work, as far as I can tell. By that I mean that contests have been set up whereby people wrote short stories in 140 characters or less, a la Twitter. (Although I think you'd be hard pressed to top Hemingway's classic uber-tweet short story: For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.)

But the way Anthony Eaton has used the term, it refers to tweeting a very brief synopsis of a novel that already exists.

Some of Tony's examples:
  • T.G.Gatsby: In my younger days, I met Gatsby. He and my cousin killed a mechanic's wife. Then Gatsby got killed himself. Sad.
  • A Tale of Two Cities: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Then worse again still. Then slightly better. Then awful. The end
  • Crime and Punishment: I'm Raskolnikov. Killed a pawnbroker and family. Didn't feel too bad about it. Now I do. Off to Siberia...
I particularly like that last one. I've attempted a couple, but I don't think they're as good as Tony's.
  • LordOfTheFlies: Mayday. Unplanned trip to an island. If Piggy still had his glasses he'd be OK. Would you rather be Ralph, Piggy or Simon?
  • Hamlet: Dead dad, whorish mum, sleazy uncle, crazy girlfriend. Best friend is pretty cool, though. Sounds like classic YA to me...

Poll results - CBCA Older Readers

Last week I set up a blog poll asking who would win this year's Older Readers category of the CBCA Book of the Year awards. The participation numbers weren't huge (fourteen, to be precise) but a clear winner emerged. Here they are, in actual vote numbers.
  • Anthony Eaton: 7
  • Shaun Tan: 3
  • Melina Marchetta: 2
  • DM Cornish: 1
  • Jackie French: 1
  • James Moloney: 0
As I say, it's not a huge sample group, but the result is clear enough for Tony Eaton to almost certainly claim 'kissee-of-death' status. In fact, he already has.

The new poll is now up - it's the turn of the Younger Readers category.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Kinross Wolaroi School Winter LitFest

Yep, that's where I've been, in the 'City of Colour', Orange.

It's cold in Orange at the moment. I used to think Wagga Wagga, Glen Innes and Armidale had the cold inland cities market cornered, but cripes, I think we have a new contender. On the first morning, as I was reversing my car out of the hotel car space, I felt a bump and heard a squeak. I got out of my car, and this is what I found under my back wheel...

Dead polar critters aside, I had a great time at KWS, as part of their inaugural Winter LitFest, working alongside David Legge, Frances Watts and Charlotte Calder. Lovely kids, generous teachers, friendly and warm library staff. So big congratulations to Amanda Foster, to Nicole and all the other library staff for putting on a great event, and I hope you keep the momentum going. I know it's hard work, but it's so worth it, and the students truly appreciate it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Writing quote VII

Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
(Anton Chekhov)

Chekhov, regarded by many as one of the great writers of the short story, could be talking about a couple of things here. In fact, I'm almost certain he is. First, he's putting another angle on that age-old writing maxim, 'Show, don't tell'. This is a quote I often pull out in my workshops, because it's a perfect way to describe this important idea.

But I suspect he's also saying something about the use of sadness and personal imperfection in our writing. When he was thirty, Chekhov found a new passion and purpose in life: prison reform. His letters and observations from Sakhalin Island penal settlement in far east Russia are graphic depictions of human degradation, and amongst his most moving writing.

There's another Chekhov quote which I really like, but it's got more to do with the way we construct our stories. If the earlier quote is about showing rather than telling, this one is about foreshadowing:

If in Act I you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act.

Saturday, June 6, 2009


Yes, you saw correctly.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Haiku kin'youbi

(...which translates crudely to "Haiku Friday".)

in the produce hall
pumpkins huge as kettle drums
that's a lot of soup

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Without wanting to dwell too much on a pretty wild ride with the State of Origin boys last night, I'd like to say how sick and tired I am of constantly hearing about Queensland passion, like anyone north of the border has a mortgage on fighting spirit. Our hugely inexperienced lads managed to push what amounted to the Australian backline to within an inch of an embarrassing defeat. Before the game one of the Queenslanders was saying how much they enjoy holding 'underdog status'. Please -- they haven't had underdog status for three years now, yet they keep claiming it, which allows them to persist with this 'extra Queensland passion' nonsense.

That is all.

Monday, June 1, 2009

I think I'm getting an irony migraine

Reading Matters

I'd been looking forward to the Reading Matters conference in Melbourne for months. I love presenting at festivals and conferences anyway, but this one was especially exciting: not only does RM have a great reputation for quality and inspiration and meticulous planning, but it featured a wealth of presenters I was keen to meet, and to hear speak. And best of all, (like always) it was in Melbourne, my favourite Australian city.

I really want to thank Paula, Mike and Lili and all their many helpers (especially Erin, who MCed the student day) for inviting me to the conference, and for providing such an incredible and thought-provoking experience for everyone who attended. I can't imagine anyone went home even slightly disapointed.

I could go on and on for several pages, but I won't. Instead, for your edification, I'll simply list my highlights and lowlights of Reading Matters '09.

  • John Green's wonderful opening address.
  • The enthusiasm of the audiences, both adult and student.
  • MT Anderson explaining (with help from a live concert violinist) how he uses the cadence of 18th Century music to influence the pattern of his narrative.
  • Hanging out with Isobelle Carmody, who, despite accidentally applying a drop of superglue directly into her eye, managed to be a great deal of fun and encouragement.
  • Tony Eaton's blue hair, which somehow didn't distract from his excellent presentations.
  • The privilege of introducing overseas guests to the spectacle of 40,000 screaming Victorians watching AFL in an indoor stadium.
  • Tristan Bancks' polished delivery.
  • Shooting the breeze until well after midnight with the charming Mo Johnson, who somehow convinced the concierge to reopen the bar, just for us.
  • Spending time with the warm, generous Mal Peet and his equally warm and generous wife Elspeth.
  • The Hypotheticals session on Thursday night.
  • Riffing on-stage with John green in the closing session.
  • The calm professionalism of the Reading Matters staff, and their attention to detail. (They even stapled tram tickets to our program to help us get around town.)
  • Each of the sessions.
  • Everything else.
  • I lost a sock.