Saturday, June 30, 2007


A very nice girl non-crazy (at least she claimed she wasn't crazy) called Lisa emailed me from Derry in Northern Ireland to tell me I am a googlewhack with the words flibbertygibbet and incestuous.

I'm so proud.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday Night Meme - soundtrack to the movie of my life

I'm sitting here while Martin watches Futurama, noodling and twiddling and poking about and fiddling and decided to nick this meme. Been a while since I did a good meme. Anyway, this one has complicated rules. So you copy all the categories below and then you open I-Tunes and pick Shuffle. You refresh for every category and hit next song. This was FUN. And now I want to write a movie for the soundtrack. Plus it's been ages since I've listened to music through headphones. I forgot how cool it is.

Some of them are spooky-accurate. I cheated once. The fight song. Sorry, but if I had to fight to The Lighthouse by the Waifs, then it would be one of those fights that involves lots of moody glances and no fisticuffs. I want crunching bones. I'm wicked violent like that.

Opening Credits: Since I've Been Around - The Waifs

Waking Up: Mysterons - Portishead (ah, Portishead, bless you. Sooo nineties - I'm having getting my hair cut Winona Ryder style flashbacks, c.1997)

First Day At School: Up Against the Wall - The Whitlams (ha ha ha)

Falling In Love: Call It Up - Nizlopi

Fight Song: I'm Not Your Baby - Sinead O'Connor and U2 (yeah, swearing. Crunching bones)

Breaking Up: Mother of God - Patty Griffin (um, I don't even know where this came from! But it's lovely. Must be courtesy of Darebin library)

Leaver's Dinner (what that other continent calls the Prom): Martha - Tom Waits

Life: I Am A...- Justine Clarke (Yay!!)

Mental Breakdown: (no bullshit, this is what came up) Cries Too Hard - The Whitlams

Driving: Humpty Dumpty - The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (don't laugh, I share my Itunes with Fred. But it's actually beautiful, lovely Great Ocean Road music)

Flashback: Careless - Angie Hart

Getting back together: Spiders - Moby
(surprisingly apt actually)

Wedding: Deeper Water - Paul Kelly (upside, beautiful song, downside, the wife in the song's narrative dies).

Birth of Child: Raspberry Swirl - Tori Amos (it was one song away from being Justine's 'It's My Birthday Today'. Luckily Tori is so (delightfully) obscure it could be about anything.)

Final Battle: Handle With Care - Jenny Lewis & the Watson Twins (oh yeah, baby)

Death Scene: Love Should - Moby (and oh how it rains, and oh how it pours)

Funeral Song: What if - Coldplay

End Credits: Empire - Bomb the Bass featuring Sinead O'Connor (or Wiggle Bay - okay so I cheated twice)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

What the young folk are wearing to prom

How fantastic are this outfits made of DUCT TAPE!?

You can look at all the finalists of the competition here (I think you need to be a North American resident to vote), plus if you poke around the site a bit you'll find heaps more, and lots of them are just as good if not better than the finalists. I first saw a post about this at whip up. I am so blown away by the innovative designs. These are fully gutsy kids. I wish I could see them on the night. It strikes me too that duct tape might be a good contraception for those who don't want to lose it on the night - no zips or buttons. Then again, after lots of sweaty dancing, maybe it would start peeling off before you hit the hotel room...could go either way really. But hey, at least people aren't going to be talking about you for what happened after the prom if you show up in duct tape. Unless you wear it like Cher.

Monday, June 25, 2007

teenies not tweenies

I wandered into Readings and Borders today as I ambled home from a meeting with my thesis supervisor. My mission was to check out junior fiction (what Borders classifies as books for 4-9 year olds) as I am writing a book that currently sits between two age groups and my editor suggested that it would be nice to write it a bit younger as she said there isn't as much around for that younger age group.

And she's so right. Which is so weird because there used to be. Enid Blyton of course comes immediately to mind, but also Noel Streatfield, Rumer Godden (I love her - Miss Happiness and Miss Flower, Holly and Ivy, Mr McFadden's Halloween to name a few), Nina Bawden, Jane Gardam, E Nesbit, Lucy Boston, Michael Bond's Paddington books, Mary Norton's Borrowers series, E.B. White (most notably Charlotte's Web of course, but also Stuart Little), Joan Aiken (Gobbolino the Witch's Cat), Joan G. Robinson's Teddy Robinson books, the My Naughty Little Sister books, Roald Dahl (specially The Magic Finger, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox for the very young), Milly Molly Mandy, the Flat Stanley books...Oh and Ramona. Of course Ramona. And Beverly Cleary's other books too - The Mouse and the Motorcycle springs to mind. A lot of these books are in constant reprint and it's not hard to see why.

There are so many freaking FAIRY and PRINCESS books it also made me want to vomit rainbows and butterflies. Jeez louise. Look, I have nothing against either princesses or fairies. But come on. Where are the books about ordinary girls with ordinary problems? And why does it all have to be so flipping twee? I love fairies, I even have a tattoo of one on my back, but fairies should be wild creatures, unpredictable, often malevolent. They are not all enviro-freaking-mentalists with great hair, whose biggest problem is finding a handbag to match their vaguely left-wing morality. And yes, the princess paradigm can be empowering. But these, I'm sorry, are not. Nothing that over-commodified can be empowering, nothing that slight and undernourished with ideas and complexity. And don't even start me on what there is for boys which is pretty much


Look don't get me wrong, there are some great books still being published for this age group. I picked up The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson and was struck by the distinctive voice and the very authentic characterisation (you know, considering it's about owls). Oh no hang on, it's 20 years old.

I love the Tashi books by Anna Fienberg and her mum, Barbara. Martine Murray's Henrietta books are freaking cute in a slightly hairbrained freewheeling way (that's meant to be a compliment). There's some really good quality writing in the Penguin Bites series (Jane Godwin's The Day I Turned Ten is a really beautiful book in its own right). Ursula Dubosarsky has written for this age group and I know it must be elegant and captivating. And there are more, I know there are more. But the bookshelves in both Borders and Readings are so disappointing. All these generic spines, and princess and fairy books, so disappointing. Oog.

And before I get riled up I want to add that I don't think publishers are to blame. Clearly they want stronger books in this market, or mine does anyway. I just wonder if we've lost the knack somehow to write for these girls. Is Bratz to blame, with its commodified bodies and capitalist culture? Or are we scared of challenging them? Looking at that list of classics above, there's lots of books there that aren't 'easy' reads, many of them have rich voices and challenging vocabulary. Some have quite sinister characters or bad behaviour or daunting themes (like Roald Dahl's bad guys, or Charlotte's death). They're many of them not very politically correct. And yet they remain in print and popular. Are we scared to write like this, so we're letting another generation tell our children stories, not reflecting the (perhaps more complicated and confusing, certainly faster paced) world around them, where kids have more information available to them much earlier - are we scared we can't speak five year old anymore? Or has the nursery culture dried up, the days of cosy third person narrators with their readers on their knees, are we scared they don't want to sit and listen anymore?

Come on, people. Tell me some good early chapter books. Cheer me up. I know there's heaps for those slightly older kids (8-10), but those very first, keen readers who want something more than just a reader, who are confident enough with language to want characters to identify with and a really great story, please tell me there's more for them out there than Princess Perfectly Boring Pants and Fairly Stupid Fairies.

Thursday, June 21, 2007


For those of you who missed it, Drift is out in Australia.

You can admire it online here and read the blurb.

You can buy it here and here (except good lord, that's the wrong blurb - it's Michael Pryor's The Chronicles of Krangor. Silly Dymocks people) and here and here and here and here and in NZ here or whatever other online bookstore you prefer.

Or of course go to your local bookshop. I'm all for locals. If for some shocking reason they don't have it in stock, give them a good scolding and then ask them to order it in for you. The isbn is 9781741660890. If they tell you they can't order it in they are being lazy (this sometimes happens). But make sure you are spelling my name right before you burn down the shop and dance on the ashes. Actually, I don't condone violence, so only metaphorical burnings please. The dancing can be real. It is even encouraged. Consider yourself incited.

There's no publication date in the US yet. I signed a two book contract when I signed Undine with Greenwillow and at that stage wasn't even sure there were going to be sequels - the second book could have been anything as far as I know. The Life and Times of Bellybutton Lint. The Fascinating History of the Pickled Herring. The Day My Chickens Turned into Emus and Kicked the Dunny Down (or Mum Was Surprised). So Drift hasn't actually been signed there yet. All those negotiations take place between publishers and I know Random House's fantastic Rights Manager Nerilee Weir is on the job...I'll let you know more when I do.

As my new favourite blogger Audrey says, Peace Out (only she speaks in blue).

Monday, June 18, 2007


Go read guest-blogger Sophie Masson's post on the Good Reading Magazine blog about why she writes for children and all the comments from lots of great kid's book writers (including me).

We are loving Good Reading Magazine at Eglantine's Cake right now because Anastasia Gonis gave Drift a FIVE STAR REVIEW in the June issue.
This magical trilogy is a reading experience. The sequence is never linear but written in loops, in and out of alternative worlds, governed by the laws of physics. Drift is full of significant meanings within meanings: highly intelligent and imaginative.
We also love Good Reading Magazine because it's about books, and it actually devotes serious critical attention to children's books.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Why reading matters

"What are you here for? That's the question you have to ask. Reading matters, we all agree upon that. Why does reading matter?"
David Levithan

Please, listen to him say this and more. It is both educational and elivening, edifying and inspiring. Kids need books. Kill the vampires. Listen to Levithan. If you are a parent, a teacher, a writer, a publisher, a librarian, a reader, a teenager, if you ever were a teenager or if you are planning on being one sometime. If you are gay, straight, stupid, smart, happy, sad, angry...if you ever went to the bookshelf and the book you wanted wasn't there, the book you've always looked for and never found, the book that would help you discover who you are, the book that was about you, about a girl, about a boy like you, then listen. If you found the book, found yourself in books, then listen and imagine what it would have been like if that book, or those books, hadn't been there.

Via Lili, who fights the good fight.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Magical, yet silly. Daggy, yet awesome.

I have this weakness for musicals. When I was a kid, like about eleven, I loved the album of Chess, The Phantom of the Opera was a close second. The movie Grease 2 was also a favourite (with the foxy talents of Michelle Pfeiffer, so my choice if she and Olivia Newton John were ever going to have a battle). There's something so daggy about them (musicals, not MP and ONJ), yet there's a magic too, suddenly everyone knows the words, the moves...those big dance numbers are always the best. A Chorus Line was my absolute favourite...a musical about musicals. Back then I was an aspiring actor too. Apparently quite a few women writers start of wanting to be actors. Interesting.

When Joss Whedon did the musical Buffy episode, Once More With Feeling I was in musical paradise. An ironic musical about musicals, about how daggy yet magical they are (and in this case everyone sings because of magic), and with a rocking soundtrack to boot, showing a genuine affection for the utter silliness of the genre, with heart.

As Wikipedia says, in a musical, when the emotion gets too much for words, you sing. When it's too much for song, you dance. It's hilarious. It's also deeply moving, music is such an effective way to stimulate immediate emotions, even if part of you is in internal hysterics about the saxophone solo.

Anyway, last night Martin and I went to see Miss Saigon. Martin bought me a ticketek gift voucher for my birthday, intending for us to see Swan Lake, but we forgot to book (oops) and eventually we had to pick something last minute, since we looked at the vouchers at the end of May and realised it expired in June. So it wasn't exactly our first choice, but we knew it would be a spectacle. Plus I have this secret weakness for musicals.

The sets were incredible, including amazing use of animation with the helicopter lifting out troops. The acting was great. The music was a wee bit eighties in places (and not always the good kind) but in places it was just incredible, peaking with the song The American Dream at the climax, sung by the character of the Engineer (a pimp), played by Filipino actor Leo Tavarro Valdez, which is one of those songs that shows you why the Eighties were let to exist.

The story however failed to satisfy me.

**Spoilers start now**
The basic plot involves a whirlwind romance between a G.I. called Chris - disillusioned by war and an exploitative, ugly Saigon - and a young, 'innocent' Vietnamese woman, Kim, who has been forced to go into prostitution (gosh, but luckily it's her first night, so she's still 'pure'). It was told with a leap in the chronology, we see them fall in love and kind of 'get married' and then there's a three year gap in which she has ended up living on the streets in Saigon (later you find out with a 3 year old child) and he's married, but tortured by nightmares, in the US. In the second act there's a flashback to the night they got separated. However the flashback (while visually amazing) doesn't actually reveal anything we haven't managed to work out for ourselves. And it kind of slows down the pace of the story so that the ending feels rushed - to me the emotional heart of the story was lost.

I was uncomfortable with some of the themes. Of course the depiction of Asians is deeply flawed, Orientalism at it's worst, dealing with the tedious stereotypes of sexual object/china doll, rigid traditionalism/rush to embrace the seedy side of the West, and not able to really grapple with the psychologies of its Asian characters. And the sexual objectification of Asians depicted bordered closely on becoming objectifying in itself - there was something a bit too video smash hits about the lap dancing women. For example, why did all the actors have to be tall, thin, busty and beautiful? Surely not all the prostitutes in Vietnam were? Later in Bangkok there's more pole dancing, a kind of automaton asexuality on one hand, and yet again, I felt uncomfortable that it bordered on glamorising their plight, the costumes, the perfectly sculpted bodies. I felt there was a layer of critique missing, that the spectacle was more important than the ideas behind the spectacle. It was a case of being told one thing, but shown another.

However, it is equal opportunity racism. There is a similar restriction in depicting Americans, who are also portrayed as a cluster of stereotypes. Only one character really came across as genuinely complex to me, which is a second American character, John. In the opening scenes, in Vietnam, he comes across as shallow and exploitative, however in the three years since leaving Vietnam he has become obsessed with helping the children parented in Vietnam by American G.I.s. While this change isn't mapped, it's an intriguing glimpse of psychological depth and character growth - he seems to genuinely care about these children (perhaps wondering if he had parented some himself?). And yet there is a cultural currency in the way these kids are discussed, as if a part of America has been left behind, that also made me uncomfortable. All of the other characters struggle with duality and ambivalence (love and hate, innocence and experience) yet I didn't feel that this was fully portrayed...perhaps some of the sets were too awesome, perhaps there needed to be a bit more character and a bit less environment, a bit more nude lighting...but the flaw is largely in the writing. Sometimes sets and lighting in a musical (or any kind of theatre) gives you a sense of being actually inside the character's head - Miss Saigon managed this with, say, The American Dream, playing out the Engineer's fantasy life. But I think one of the weakness is the story tries to be about America and Vietnam (so the scenes were more about portraying the sense of place), with the characters representing aspects of the place and the troubled relationships between the two countries, and so we miss out on some of the internal life and texture of the characters.

Maybe for me the problem was that our attention was shifted from the lovers to the child, the vestige of the love. And in that moment the Love (which I didn't really buy at the beginning, I didn't 'feel the love' until later on, when Chris was singing to his American wife about how Kim was the only real thing he'd seen in Vietnam, which seemed quite believable, even haunting) truly became object rather than dynamic force. It made love seem static and sited elsewhere, the child actor (a boy of about four?) was lovely and gorgeous and did a great job, but the way his presence was used, the way he was carried about the stage further created this impression that he was an object rather than a dynamic continuation of the love between Kim and Chris. He was a prop more than a character. The second act was slightly unsatisfying, the ending felt rushed. This musical at least wasn't about character, and perhaps for me, character is what I look for. Someone so overwhelmed by their emotions that goddammit, they just have to sing...and when their voice fails them...there's always the medium of dance. Maybe Miss Saigon needed more dancing.

**Spoilers end**

Still it was great to have a night out and to enjoy a real spectacle. I am sure Miss Saigon has come a long way over the years since prosthetic 'Asian' eyes and minstrel-esque faux tan faces. It will be interesting to see if anyone ever manages to direct it in a way that tells some of the story that remains untold. I know I came home writing the screenplay in my mind. And yes, there was dancing. And it was directed by Joss Whedon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Lightning Bug News, plus meet Scuttlebug

Martin has been busy updating Lightning Bug, including a great new page with a bunch of writing exercises.
He's also started a blog called Scuttle Bug. The plan is to get some guest contributors to write posts about writing - from the planning stages to the end result. He already has a few writers lined up, including yours truly, I'm going to write a post about characterisation in a few days. The first one is already up, by Martin about mind-mapping for story planning. Hopefully, like Lightning Bug (which gets hundreds of visitors ever day and has had lots of positive reviews and reception online) the blog will end up being a great resource for a range of writers and educators.
Because Martin is just across the table from me, I asked him a few questions, which turned into the interview below.

Why did you update Lightning Bug?
Because of feedback I received from school groups, home educators and writers about making it easier to navigate, plus suggestions about the general look of the site and resources they wanted.

Who is Lightning Bug for?
Lightning Bug is for everyone! For already confident, literate writers and those just starting out. Plus there's stuff to help anyone who has to write write a story for school if they're not really into writing.

Who is using it now?
It's really popular with homeschooling networks. School and university groups. And I get lots of nice feedback from individuals, from Masters Students to younger kids who have found it by themselves.

Have you had an opportunity to use it in the classroom?
Yeah and the kids respond well to it and use it as a homework resource. One of the kids from North Fitzroy Primary School came up with the writing topic this month for Firefly.

How would you recommend a first time visitor should use the site?
Depends what stage of writing they're at. If they're really just beginning, they could go to the 'what sort of writer are you?' page. If they're looking for story ideas they could go to the develop a story idea or writing exercises page. There are ideas for breaking writer's block on the finding inspiration page. If they have a story already they might like to submit it to Firefly.

What made you build Lightning Bug in the first place?
To help young adults engage with story writing, because it's such an effective way to express a point of view and because I'd seen it in action in classrooms. But also I wanted to design a story writing resource that catered to adults as well, and I wanted to find a way of marrying the skills that I'd gained from a professional writing and editing course and what I'm learning studying Education, plus all the years I spent working in information technology. Carlos Fuentes said 'Writing is a struggle against silence.' I think it's really relevant for young people, who need to find a voice to speak for themselves, to struggle against the fact that sometimes no one seems to be listening. To learn to express yourself articulately and with originality is like finding a key to the adult world.

What inspired the 'What kind of writer are you?' page? That's really quite a unique approach, isn't it?
The Thinking Hats of Edward De Bono. For particularly young authors who are less confident about their writing abilities, it shows that you don't have to be a particular kind of person to be a writer. If you're sporty, you can still be a writer. Steven Herrick, who now writes verse novels, used to be a football player at school. There's ideas for people who are more visual, or for kids who like science or maths.

Why a blog?
Because it's another way to help engage reluctant writers and encourage regular writing which is a key to develop as a writer. It's also a way of discussing and engaging with ideas about writing and technique, like the mind maps. I'm hoping that the blog will help broaden Lightning Bug as a concept, with a more active involvement from the Lightning Bug audience. I'm hoping it will get young writers more involved with using it as an active resource (not just a static piece of reference material). It also makes it more accessible for some writers. The only way to be involved before was to send a story through to Firefly once a month and some writers just aren't confident enough for that yet. Ultimately I'd like the comments to provide some forum for discussion and maybe sometime down the track some of Lightning Bug's users might want to contribute some articles of their own to Scuttlebug.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Party Shift

Una, who is generally a talented sleeper, woke up at 2am this morning and didn't go back to sleep. She was cheerful, singing, playing...AWAKE. Both Martin and I are now zombies. Una is at creche. She looked pretty dreamy when I left her. Like she might go to sleep in a bowlful of morning tea. Martin got up with Una around 3 and gave me a 'sleep in' (ah, it's such a relative term) till 7. I remember when sleep in meant the other side of lunch.

Martin and I have been having serious flashbacks to Fred's toddler sleepage. Or lack thereof. She spent chunky chunky periods of most nights wide awake - this was when I was writing Breathe. Perhaps it bled in, the scenes where Trout walks the streets at night...perhaps that was me, mentally roaming the dark streets below our second storey flat, that solitude of being awake at night when all the world seems to be sleeping - a kind of island, a reversal of days, it so perfectly reflects the sense of being fragmented and remote from the practical world as a new mother (which to me was both a pleasant sensation and sometimes a deeply lonely one). Martin used to recite time tables at her. We sang too, song after song. We carried her round the house, we'd bathe with her, feed her, pat her, read to her (her favourite book at the time was Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten by Bob Graham, as a baby she tore some of the pages but I can steal recite it word for word, even though tracts of text are missing). As a small baby Fred never cried. Really. She was two months old before she did, after she reacted badly to her shots and after that too it was only occasionally, she smiled wherever we went, at everyone. She slept pretty well too for the first 9 months or so, and would sleep anywhere. Evena s she got older, I could take her out all day and she would sleep well in the pram, in the car, in my arms. It wasn't until she was 14 months old that she began having inexplicable crying sessions, usually at night; long, inconsolable crying that made us feel helpless. Not related directly to anything, not teeth or sickness or hunger or food, just a kind of inexplicable build up that could only be released through tears. It didn't happen often but it panicked us when it did. She still cries like that sometimes, cradled in my arms. Occasionally when she's sick or overtired I still sing her to sleep in my arms. There's something magical and amazing about being there in that moment, watching your child drift off, the slow blinks, the shift in breathing. Although those wakeful years were long and sometimes hard, peaking in the first months after Una was born, I wouldn't exchange the night time memories for anything, the feel of her brow, the trembling of her lashes.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Sony E-Reader

(By the way this post dates me, I am exactly 15 months behind the times - I live in a circa April 2006 timewarp).

I've decided I want one. It's pretty and slim and it has a leather case, and although it currently retails at $299US ($50 off regular price), there's a free book package with that (if I can make up my mind to be an impulse buyer within the next few days, I think the deal ends on the 17th of June, though Americans write their dates funny. Or I do. Depending on your perspective.)

The two major weaknesses is it's not Mac OSX compatible (though there seems to be a way around that) and you have to mostly use their ebooks, and the bookshop is of course very US-biased, since the reader hasn't been released outside of the US (can't find anything to indicate this will happen any time soonish either). I don't mind that too much since I can easily get Australian releases at the library. The bookshop isn't great on Kids/YA books either, but there are plenty of books on there that I've been wanting to read and I think reading adult fiction will probably be extremely good for me. I don't do it enough (hmm, am I thinking about spending several hundred dollars to trick myself into reading grown up books?)

I like the idea of training myself to enjoy technology when it comes to reading. Of course I love blogging, and I like trees and I like trees not being cut down and pulverised. Though I do think technology is nowhere near addressing our environmental, consumable resources concerns, not till mobile phone are built to last for years and be solid and reliable, and people are reprogrammed to keep computers for longer than a butterfly minute.

Anyway, I love the fact that the Sony Reader isn't backlit so no glarey hurty eyes, which I get from the computer. I like it's dimensions. I like the idea of buying books 'for keeps' without seriously compromising our already limited living space. I personally like the fact that I can't write on it - I don't wanna.

I have resisted the call of the ipod. I do have a mobile...somewhere. I don't think I've switched it on since, well, circa April 2006. But the Sony Reader is a sweet sweet siren song. Maybe because I've just read Questionable Content all the way from number one to number 900, and I loved it. I never would have thought I could get so deeply involved in a narrative online. But now I am having serious comedown issues. Now it's finished, my life feels emptier. Must fill gaping hole with...Sony Reader...

Thursday, June 07, 2007


I found this poking around youtube last night, looking for poetry. More here and here
Actually there's a few, either follow the links on You Tube or search for Billy Collins.

Billy Collins was the U.S Poet Laureate. You can download audio or Ipod Note versions of his poems here. I'm not very up-to-date with who's who in the poetry world so I had a look for the current U.S. Laureate, turns out it's Donald Hall. Canada's Laureate is John Steffler. In the UK it is Andrew Motion, has been for ages.

Australia has never had one. Here's John Kinsella's reason why we don't need one. We did have an Olympic Poet. Crashing success clearly, since I never heard about it. Maybe that's because I don't watch television...but I doubt it.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Yesterday when Una thought no one was looking (Martin and I were both watching from the dining table) she launched off into the open space of the lounge room, taking about 10 steps. Then she stood up in the middle of the room and walked back again. She's a little over 20 months. For a few weeks she's been taking one step between me and Martin, but once she'd done it a few times she lost interest. Then she discovered knee-walking, frankly a ridiculous looking progression, I am sure she got to her feet after all the babies in the Jungle Room at creche laughed her down. But the difference betyween the few steps she was taking and what she's doing now is she's finally found her centre of gravity, she's not just, as Woody would say, falling with style.

Actually, I think she's finally decided to join the world. For the last few weeks she's been asking to 'hop out' of the pusher when we've been out (um, no Una, you cannot knee-walk down the street, I'm just a big bundle of unfun that way). On Sunday she had her first 'walk-walk' (as she calls it) down the street, holding my hands and was devestated when it was all over. I think she finally gets what the good of it is. She didn't need to learn, she needed to be persuaded.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

bad reviews and good relationships

There's a really, really bad review on Amazon of Undine. Actually it's not such a bad review as a wounded, outraged diatribe. I would link to it, or quote from it, but I can't actually get onto Amazon from my home computer due to some problem with our provider (I can't get onto ebay either - it's actually quite restful). Anyway, it's been on my mind since I read it yesterday. I have been lucky to get mostly good reviews for Undine. Of course there have been some perfectly reasonable criticisms, but most of them have been intelligent and thoughtful, and generally it's because they've wanted a different sort of book, a good book, but not the book I set out to write. These people have been polite enough to point out what Undine gets right before drawing attention to their perceived shortcomings. But the rant on Amazon is from a different kind of reader. He/she feels like I entered some kind of contract to write the book in a particular way and is howling because I failed. He/she clearly feels some kind of personal grievance because the book is not the book he/she wanted. Aspects of the book others have loved he/she is bitter about. This person wanted a book about families and instead got a book where family, friends and relationships are intermingled. They seem to think it's an incredible weakness of the story that Undine's magic is so directly linked to her sexual identity. But this is my book, and Undine is a part of me, born of my experiences, my views, values, my enchanted debris, my internal narratives. Undine's magic is linked to her sexual identity because my first experience of my own power (after I'd lost the supreme power of childhood) was linked to my sexuality. The amount of feedback I've had from adult readers suggests I am not alone in this experience.

And yet why the wounded outrage? I've decided to take it as a compliment. A warped scary don't ever send me flowers laden with poisoned insects kind of compliment. But the only reason that person would get on there and write such a long incensed review is if for some reason he/she believes the book is (or could have been) important in some way. Generally if I read a fairly crappy, disappointing book I don't then get onto Amazon and rage eternal about just how crappy and disappointing it was. I just put it down (probably without finishing it these days) and move on. But for some reason this person thought they would find something in Undine. For some reason the absence of that something has left a wound and rage in them. That's not actually my fault. Of course it's possible they just thought it was a bad book and that's okay too.

Gwen Harwood said something about how you can't pin a note to a poem and say 'this is a good child' when you send it out into the world. As a mother now, I triply understand that anguish. When Martin is out with Frederique and she throws a tantrum and knocks his glasses of his face, he is embarrassed. He worries that other people will think he's not in control of the situation. When she does it to me, I worry that other people won't like her. And I feel the same about Undine. As much as I'd like to stick up for it now and tell you all about why it's a good book really, it just has to make her own way in the world, occasionally making enemies in its journey to find other people who will understand it and, occasionally, love it for what it is, not the book it could have been.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Friday, June 01, 2007


Sharon tagged me ages ago and I forgot! I haven't done a meme for ages, so here it is.

1. Four of my favourite jobs
I haven't actually had all that many jobs.
*My first favourite job is being a writer. I can't believe I get paid for something I would do anyway. But I am glad I do get paid for it because I push
*My second favourite job is being an editor. The first time I said to someone, 'um...I get paid to read in bed' was a good, good day. I love being part of a book, I love talking to other people about characters and ideas and what works and what doesn't work, I love being able to live in someone else's head, someone else's world for a good prolonged while.
*Okay, pretty much after that I can only think of the crappy jobs I've done like childcare (which isn't in itself crappy, actually it's quite fun, but the conditions and pay are shocking) and market research - I seriously felt sick every time I dialed a number.
*I feel weird saying being mum to Fred and Una is a job because a) it's not, it's just daily life and b) I have a job. (However, I fight for the right for other people to call it a job though, I think otherwise there are serious status issues for stay at home mums).
2. Four of my favourite local places
Despite the plethora of cafes, parks and places around here my first response is:
*Kate's house.
*Zoe's house
*John St, our creche. I have serious love for that place, for the role it has in our lives, for the relationships Fred and Una have forged there.
*Um, I think I have to say, for things in walking distance, Ceres. Anywhere outside that kids can go wild and run around and I can sit and drink coffee is all right by me. Or the library. Love the library.
But I also love Souk (the teahouse), Westgarth cinema, Alphabet City, the sourdough bakery, Psorakis (market where we get our fruit, veggies and meat). Slightly further afield, the museum, the zoo, and Collingwood Children's Farm (all a bike ride away) and our close proximity to Melbourne Uni and the cbd. I love Melbourne's CBD, I love the energy of it.

3. Four of my favourite foods
*Fish with ratatouille
*Pumpin and chorizo
*Ricotta cheese on fresh sour dough bread
*Polenta cooked with milk, mashed with fruit (baby food)

4. Four of my favourite international places
*Amorgos - because I got married there
*Athens - there are two types of people in this world. People who HATE Athens and people who love it. I love it. I love the combination of modern life and ancient things, relics that loom over the landscape. The whole city feels drenched in time. If there is a crack anywhere in the world that you could step into the past, it's in Athens.
*Amsterdam - I love a walkable city, and all the toyshops are so beautiful. There's also something kind of compatible for me in the cool, slightly aloof, yet friendly reception I got as a young woman travelling on my own. I wasn't fussed over at all, which suited me.
*Parga - despite the touristiness of this mainland, coastal Greek town, it's stayed with me, an amazing sense of place. We hired a motorbike and it was such a fantastic day, driving around the countryside. We saw the Nekromanteion (oracle of death) and the River Styx, as well as a tortoise crossing the road, pelicans nesting on the roof of a church, an old man driving his herd of goats down the was pretty much the best day ever. Ending with a swim in the beautiful sparkling Ionian Sea.

5. Four name's of people I am tagging
Consider yourselves tagged.