Friday, June 26, 2009

Blame it on the Boogie

I don't mind telling you that when I was scanning Wikipedia for the title of this gem, I found most of the Sweet Dreams title eerily familiar. In fact I may well have read Every Single One (I could do three in a night and still have time to fit in an episode of A Country Practice).

Anyway, this gem was about a girl who lived her dream - yes *squeesallround* she was IN A MICHAEL JACKSON VIDEO CLIP! Likeomigosh, she's the luckiest girl in the whole wide world. Exclamation mark! The love interest was not Michael Jackson, but another boy (whose name, I believe, was also Michael, and he looked like Michael, and he danced like Michael...he was like Ersatz Jackson). My memory of the storyline is that she decides to Get Noticed by Real Michael, embarks on a series of cringeworthy embarrassments and almost succeeds in alienating Ersatz forever, but finally she realises, that the minor C-grade celebrity is the boy for her after all.

From memory, I found this book quite exciting. My sister owned it, so I read it several times. There was something genuine about the brush with celebrity it offered. Perhaps because Sweet Dreams World usually never intersected Real World (except for the odd mention of Pat Benetar and Laura Brannigan).

I think by the time I read it, Michael Jackson had already begun his lifelong affair with a bizarre combination of self-hatred and egotism having plastic surgery. To me his life was a tragedy, and I'm really really not sure what his death was. But, such as it is, this is my tribute to Michael, or at least, this is a thread of a memory, a place of innocence from which I beheld him.

Here's hoping he finds some corner of afterlife to do over, and have a life that seems - to me at least - to have been taken from him, because the boy could sing, and there must be money in that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blog of Plenty

You have all given me lots of ideas about blogging and for that I thank you. I am going to try and do them all.

In the meantime you can read me over here talking about the novels hidden away in my hard-drive. Have I mentioned what a rocking chick Steph is?

And now, without further ado (except the further ado of saying without further ado), the winner of one mint condition copy of Penni Russon's novel, Little Bird, a novel Bookseller and Publishing magazine describe as 'unnerving' (woohoo!), a 'mature text' (woot!) and dealing with a 'vast range of human emotions with integrity and poise'...

(drumroll please)


for his suggestion:


It was hard to choose and I wish I had a book for each of you. But quietness was the right word at the right time.

Do you know this book?

Without a doubt one of my most popular posts via google is one I wrote about my favourite childhood books. And overnight someone left this plaintive little cry for help on that post:

do you think you can help me?
i'm looking for a book for a friend. and this is all the hints I have.
Its about a monster that this little boy finds in the forest.
and he take him to his basement to live and feeds him.
and then he grows really big and his mom kicks it out and he's sad.
the little boy is sad he has to say goodbye to his friend.
(its a story about friendship)

the illustrator reminds me of the illustrator Where the Wild Things Are.
You have no idea how much you would do if you could help me.

Does anyone know? I feel like I almost do... Anyway, leave a comment here, and I can email him.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


My friend Jasmin has been raising funds for an awesome project that helps women living in poverty start their own business. This isn't the first time I've mentioned this project on Eglantine's Cake - I entered Jazz's creative challenge last year. Anyway, she has less than two weeks left to reach her target so I wanted to help her spread the word - so I conducted this brief interview on Twitter. I just want to say that I think Jazz is awesome - she's taken her interest in social media and shared creativity and turned it into a force for good.

I started off asking Jasmine to describe the project.

wonderwebby @eglantinescake
Hi Penni! I'm raising funds for a two year program which provides business loans to Filipino women current living in poverty

the program helps between 15 and 30 women and also provides them with training on running a biz and weekly meetings

oh and it's run by Opportunity International Australia

eglantinescake @wonderwebby
What made you get involved in this project?

wonderwebby @eglantinescake
I heard Anita Pahor share her heart for the poor and disadvantaged. And then I made a decision to set a goal & do something.

also I had seem some great examples of women using social media to raise funds like @kanter , so I thought I'd have a go

eglantinescake @wonderwebby Has it been hard raising money for a relatively unknown charity? Or is part of your long-term goal raising awareness?

wonderwebby @eglantinescake
I became a formal volunteer ambassador with Oppty to raise awareness as well as funds, but yes it's a challenge

some people direct lending, but what I like about this program is the support and education that comes with it

eglantinescake @wonderwebby
How has your mission evolved as you plunged deeper in?

wonderwebby @eglantinescake
it has made me think about poverty on a daily basis. It has challenged me. Some days I feel hopeful, discouraged at times

eglantinescake @wonderwebby What's been your experience of using social media as a platform for fundraising? Tell us a + and a -.

wonderwebby @eglantinescake
- you still need face to face contact at times, when you are talking about poverty and things of the heart.

for instance how do you explain and convince someone to donate to a cause in 140 characters?

+ I am SO grateful that people around the world have joined in, I could never have done this on my own selling chocolates

You can learn more about Jazz's project here.
You can donate here. Every dollar counts.

Friday, June 19, 2009


I woke up to a present from Fred. She'd made the book herself,
illustrated it and written the poems while Martin and I slept in.



I went to the horse
to dance with it of course
I will go


Duck went to the park
with her babies


Owl I love
the owl the best


Grey rainbow why
are you grey


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Untitled, on account of my condition

I have blogger's block.

I can't think of ANYTHING to blog about. If I was Buffy I would sing: 'Give me something to blog about...'

I need to be reminded of:
The million things or more
I should be blogging for:
All the joy life sends,
Family and friends,
All the twists and bends,
Knowing that it ends...

So I am handing it over to you. You pick the topic, and I'll blog about it. All requests seriously considered.

The best blog topic suggestion as judged by a panel of me and probably my huzzband will win a copy of Little Bird. Winner will be announced on the 23rd June, which gives you a week to think up blogalicious ideas.

Entry open to everyone, those who know me, those who don't, regular readers and people who came here looking for Fifties/Lizard/Car Crash Cake or Cher or "henson storyteller nudity" (ew ew ew - no, you can't enter) or "I like listening to heart beats" (aw, me too. You can enter.) or "turkish delights of apples, blueberries en seaweed" or "melbourne window shopping ha ha" or "sad littles" or "ssh -i" or "sorry my love I'm very busy."*

*On sadness
Sometimes google breaks my heart - the sad and lonely thoughts and questions people type in to their search boxes - searching is a lonely activity, it implies desperation. Searching, what are we searching for? Go try typing the beginning of a question in google and look at the suggestions that come up in the drop down box, there is something utterly plaintive and anguished about all the questions we're asking, and even sadder about the statements and demands we make: how will we die, how to kiss, give me a job, give me an answer, give me money, give me your eyes, find my family, find my past, find my dream girl, am I fat, am I pregnant, am I an alcoholic, am I in love, am I depressed, am I ever going to see your face again. Am I? Will we? Are you afraid of the dark? And there's nobody there to receive those curling question marks. It's love without hope, without object, unrequited searching...
What if we looked and there was nothing there?

Your search - glosobturt - did not match any documents.

Make sure all words are spelled correctly.

Try different keywords.

Try more general k
Keep asking. Don't give up. Ask another question. There are answers here somewhere.

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Tale of Two Books

Little Bird
We're all home sick today. I'm wearing Martin's biggest flannelette shirt. The girls are in their jarmies, watching a strange dubbed Italian live action version of Pinocchio and playing with blocks, building and demolishing towns.

A truck just drove up and parked outside our house. This doesn't happen very often on our little dirt road. Martin and I watched out the window, wondering aloud if he had something for us. Sure enough, the guy walked towards our house with a box. Martin went out and relieved him of it at the front gate, what with me wearing only a shirt and all. 'Let's all sit round the table together and watch Daddy open it!' Fred said. Martin got a knife. Una brough her bowl of chopped up apple. Out of the box were unearthed 12 copies of my new novel, Little Bird. Hello Little Bird, nice to see you out in the world. The girls were not overly excited.

The strange thing about being a writer is that by the time a book comes out you've been finished with it for ages, and the finished product is like a manifestation of the recent, but finished with, past. In the time that Little Bird has been at the printer I've written a whole other novel. Well half of one. Which brings us to...

The Top Secret Super Exciting Collaborative Novel
aka Dear Swoosie
In March one of the Onions asked Kate if she happened to have a spare Girlfriend novel ready to go, as they had a gap early next year. They said they'd need it by late May, early June at the latest. Kate said probably not because a) no ideas and b) she only really has one day a week to write, but if she had a marvellous idea she'd let them know. We had a chat about what she would write about, I told her how much I loved her blog bio, where she says 'I used to tell fortunes that sometimes came true'. In the course of this conversation we said 'hey you know what would be great if I wasn't so busy and you had more time would be to write a Girlfriend together'.

Somehow this turned into 'Hey, let's write a Girlfriend together!'

And in the end it was the perfect project for both of us. The sad thing was delaying the publication date of Only Ever Always AGAIN, but considering I had just taken on three days a week of teaching, I thought that was probably the best decision for the book anyway, it's too complex a novel to be squeezing into one day a week.

As it was, Dear Swoosie practically wrote itself (well, it certainly felt that way when I opened up our Google document to discover a whole new chapter had appeared). We plotted it out within an inch of its life, first with a dead mother and then - because we're sick of dead parents - with a mum who has nicked off to find herself instead. Then we wrote it a chapter each at a time. Concurrently, we also wrote the series of letters that form the heart of the novel, letters the two girls find hidden away in the school attic that were written between best friends in 1989. The letters are heading towards the Winter Formal, the novel culminates in a twenty year reunion for (you guessed it) the Class of 1989. The letters were great to write, easy to squeeze into a spare moment. However the odd affect was that Kate and I hardly spoke to each other or saw each other as we were writing, most of our contact came through the novel. When we wrote a big falling out, we actually had to ring each other and make sure everything was okay between us.Bizarrely, we actually wrote the Winter Formal letters, just as we were about to start writing the Reunion chapters, so the story parallels are even stronger.

The absolutely best thing about writing this novel was how fun it was. When you write for a living, writing can become work. Little Bird ended up being a lot more complicated than I thought it would be and Only Ever Always has proved a huge intellectual struggle. Often when I write part of me is always fantasising about the book I plan to write next, the perfect, unsullied book, the book that has not yet succumbed to the laws of limited possibilities (where, one you write a certain amount, you have closed off a number of options about what the book could have been). But I always loved living in the world of Swoosie. Having someone else live in the world of the novel so completely, someone who knows your characters as well as you do, who brings life and freshness and unpredictability to your world, well, it's more like play than work.

On Tuesday I wrote the last chapter. It was so sad to have it come to an end, but exciting too, because we can't wait to show it to other people and find out if everyone thinks we're as clever and funny as we do.