Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This is an experiment - I have just uploaded a photo to see if I can finally get that function to work. We'll see when I publish! The photo is of some Australian bush at Lancefield.
I'm madly writing course manuals at the moment - not very creative, but then the thought of travelling to Hong Kong to present them is a great incentive. I'm looking forward to it, and wondering if the shopping will be as good as they say it is.
Have my Lonely Planet guide in hand, and my colleague, Sue, and I have registered our new business. TextConnection - writing/editing/training.
At the moment the website material is hosted by me on my site, with URL forwarding from www.textconnection.net
Have done very little fiction writing recently, apart from working on a picture book. I am planning out a new chapter book, and have been trying to find time to write a first draft. No luck yet.
Meg Files arrives from Arizona on Saturday - she is my exchange person, a terrific writer and teacher from Pima College. My two weeks there last year was great, and I am looking forward to "hosting" her here.
End of semester assignments will be flooding in this week and next. Kitchen renovations move on - at least I have cabinets, running water and (in a couple of hours) fully functioning power. In the meantime I spend my spare minutes up a stepladder, washing the ceiling and walls ready for painting.
Reading? I manage a few pages at night before my eyes give up. Another Lee Child from the library, and then a serial murder mystery where the FBI agents are psychic. I thought it would be stupid but it was quite a good read!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

There's nothing like house renovations to make you realise how much space you actually have - and how much junk. Having to move everything out of my kitchen means the computer room (spare bedroom that attracts junk at the best of times)is full of boxes and bags of food, kitchen implements, pots, all the phone books and recipe books, and the toolbox. The lounge room has the fridge and microwave and more food. As my husband said the other day, we are getting plenty of exercise, walking to and fro, fetching things and forgetting what we went for.
Then today I read an article in the Age about dumpster diving, people who call themselves freegans, and get all their food from the dumpsters out the back of supermarkets. I do know how much perfectly good food gets thrown out, but this article was astounding. Made me look at the groceries stacked around me right now and wonder if we really need all that food!
I am very pleased to announce that my friend from Chatauqua, Brian Anderson, has his first children's book out - Zack Proton and the Red Giant - published by Simon & Schuster. It's illustrated by Doug Holgate who is actually Australian. I'll be ordering my copy today! Try out Brian's website too - www.zackproton.com - it's hilarious.
Yesterday I bought a new Sharon Creech children's novel, "Replay". It's very interesting to see how she uses present tense and plays with time and imagination jumps. The voice of the book is light on top and thoughtfully deep underneath.
Only 2 weeks now until Meg Files arrives. She is my exchange person from Tucson. If you've read my blog for a while, you might remember my visit to Pima College in Tucson last September. Now it's Meg's turn to come here and I am so looking forward to it and seeing her again. We'll get to talk books and writing for 2 weeks!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

This weekend I have been at a local event, the Willamstown Literary Festival. It's great to take part in, or be in the audience (I did both) of a smaller event. The Melbourne Writers' Festival has big name writers but you only get to see them on stage in the distance, and they are often reading prepared speeches and seem vastly removed.
A small festival allows you to really engage with the speakers and you also don't feel such a fool when you ask questions!
Yesterday at the festival Paul Collins and I launched our Quentaris novels, No. 21 and 22 in the series. I got to dress up as a pirate (albeit a restrained pirate, with a skull and crossbones Bandaid on my eyebrow) and teach the audience how to talk 'proper' - lots of Arrrrrrrrrs and Avasts and Aye ayes. And I threw chocolate gold coins and lollies in an old-fashioned lolly scramble. What great fun - and I did explain that pirates didn't understand public liability insurance before I threw them.
I also made a cake like a pirate flag, complete with skull and crossbones made out of white chocolate. If I could master the art of posting a photo on this blog (no luck so far) I could put up a photo. In the meantime you might have to visit my website News page, when I finish reformatting. Andy Griffiths did a good job of the launch, and we sold about 70 books between us. That's a healthy number!
Today I was the speaker in a session on Writing for Children, then sat in on a session about "The Death of Australian Publishing". Very interesting, and the focus was on literary fiction, which seems to have been dying in Australia for some time. Half the number of novels are now being published compared to ten years ago. Makes a person glad not to be writing lit fiction (but the yearning is still there! probably why I still write short stories. It's like hanging around the margins).
In the meantime, I love kid's books, and I love meeting kids at the launch and giving them large slices of my chocolate pirate flag cake.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Back in Melbourne and of course we have lots and lots of snow on the mountains (which aren't that close to the city but you would think we were sitting on top of them) and the temperature didn't even make it to 15C today. Brrrrrr. It was a fight to get close to the heater tonight as two cats took up prime positions and would not be moved.
Third day of the conference was as engaging and interesting as the first two. I had thought that Michelle Paver had pulled out, but in a session that was titled Book to Film (and had her name on it) she appeared and proceeded to keep everyone on the edge of their seats. Not an easy thing to do by just talking, but she told lots of stories about her research, including one about meeting a bear by a stream and nearly dying of fright, and another about horse riding in Northern Europe (didn't catch the name of the place) and eating raw seal liver and blubber.
She also told some very funny stories about her obsession as a child with the Stone Age, and how she slept on fake fur on the floor for 3 years and skinned a rabbit in her garage. Her mother must have been very understanding! It certainly explains why her books (Wolf Brother, Spirit Walker etc) are so wonderful at evoking life in the Stone Age. But it's also her writing style - very strong verbs, short sentences, great drama and tension - and her main character that makes her books a terrific read. I loved Wolf Brother and am reading Spirit Walker right now. Her books are being made into a film (by Ridley Scott) but that wasn't actually the topic.
Doug MacLeod and John Misto combined to create a very funny session on writing for film and TV, and the session on merchandising was amazingly informative. The changes in technology they expect over the next 10 years mean although we will still have books, there will be so many other options for how we use "content" that writers need to start thinking ahead. It's vital that we keep control of our content (our stories) and it confirms what I have thought about copyright. It is all the author has to sell, and even if you think you won't sell it (i.e. get published and paid for it), you don't actually know that. You just might not have approached the right market.
The conference ended with a debate - That the Film is always better than the Book - and of course the Book won, but the debaters were very funny all the same.
Some other interesting notes from sessions - in one on picture books, a speaker pointed out that picture books teach young children visual literacy, and the adult's job is to unlock the story for the child.
David Lloyd said when he reads a pb text to Helen Oxenbury, if she laughs then he knows she will agree to illustrate it.
Now back to normal life - kitchen renovations, planning permits, teaching, prep of class notes, reading, paying bills and all that stuff that gets in the way of writing! I have three picture books to work on, and have just joined an online picture book critique group (all ex-Chatauqua people) so hope we can all be useful to each other.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Children’s Book Council Conference – Sydney
Arrive in Sydney and discover there is still sunshine in the world! Melbourne is grey in the mornings now, and cold and wet. Found the hotel and it’s good – not flashy and not as noisy as I thought. The Vulcan. I am on the slightly-below-ground floor which means if I have the window open, I can see people’s legs going past.
First day of the conference and the queues are enormous. It doesn’t help when Meredith and I have stood in the wrong queue for half an hour before we get close enough to realise we should have been in A-K.
Into the auditorium for the opening session and I am glad I brought my glasses as the stage is a very long way away. We begin with an Aboriginal speaker and didgeridoo music which is interesting and eerie. One session with Helen Oxenbury and her publisher, David Lloyd, was very funny and very British. Helen speaks in measured, slow tones which makes it even funnier. David reminds me of how important it is to read your picture books with gusto and verve.
Day One ends with a cocktail party where there were copious amounts of wine and champagne and only enough food to feed a couple of peckish chickens. Many many complaints are heard the next day about paying $35 for chips and pretzels! And a few sore heads from drinking too much on an empty stomach. The food overall has been pathetic.
Day Two included a poetry session, a session on animals in picture books (which was disappointing because I was hoping for a discussion on anthropomorphism), and Leigh Hobbs and Shaun Tan talking about illustrating and what goes into it. It was great to get the other point of view on picture books. The other session I enjoyed on Day one was Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton talking about their collaboration.
We missed out on dinner with agent and others due to poor coordination of movements. Instead we lobbed off to the Asian restaurant near our hotel and had another terrific bowl of laksa.
The book fair has been interesting – a lot of smaller publishers, some I hadn’t heard of, and a huge range of books. Makes me feel overwhelmed, actually. All those books, more and more coming out all the time. How on earth are my books supposed to compete? And all these new writers, along with all the old ones. Certainly puts you in your place!
Day three program is about books and film. I'm not sure how interested I am in all of this, so will take something to read and might find a spot in the sunshine to read with a good cup of coffee. One of the very nice things has been Pan Macmillan's launches where the books are FREE! Amazing.