Thursday, January 26. 2012
And so an era comes to an end. Misrule has been operating on the Serendipity platform since its inception in about 2003, including an earlier version that got swamped by spam comments and had to be taken down all together. I hope my tech guy might still have those posts archived somewhere—something to ask him about next time I see him.
But the time has come to move Misrule on to the more flexible and easier to format WordPress. At the new address, I'll be able to add all the documents—my interviews and articles and so on—that are currently languishing on the VERY homemade root website (misrule.com.au) and have a much zhooshier looking site and blog. The site is now live, although there's very little there as yet, and it will change A LOT as I am looking into installing a fancier theme, and will be working on the overall design with my dear friend Donna Rawlins. I intend to keep the blog name the same, and while I'll keep these posts up here at Serendipity, I will be starting from scratch at WordPress. I don't know if this will cause any problems in terms of search engines and so on finding the new blog, but if you could add the new address to your reader, that would be a big start in terms of knowing how to find me.
So here it is. misrule.com.au/wordpress Any advice from you all about any of the above would be gratefully received. I have some plans for revitalising the life of old Misrule, including publishing interview with authors about the craft of writing. In fact, there's one nearly ready to go, with John Larkin, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
And so, onward and upward! Thanks, Serendipity, it's been fun. See you all on the new site.
Wednesday, January 18. 2012
Happy new year, everyone! I had a lovely, if too short, break over Christmas and into the middle of January, and am now back on deck at the Day Job. The exciting news from that front is that WestWords now has its own Facebook page, with a Twitter account (once we decide on a username, as WestWords is taken by a non-Tweeter, dammit) and (fingers crossed) our own website to follow very soon.
So if you're on Facebook, please hop on over and Like! us! I'm hoping we might get 100 likes in our first 24 hours. No reason why, just excited that after 4 years, we now can promote the amazing work we've been doing for the young readers and writers of western Sydney.
Like our logo? It's by the wonderful team at XOU Creative.
Friday, December 2. 2011
I've just got home from a school drama performance. I don't go to these very often any more—I have a few nieces and one nephew who were into drama, but they've all finished school now, and anyway, it was only the nephew who was in Sydney, so I didn't see too many of the niece's productions at their school in Canberra. And I don't have kids of my own, and I'm not a teacher any more—so what was I doing at a high school drama performance?
It was, of course, related to the day job, but this is in fact a school that, curiously, I have a strange kind of long-standing connection with.
More than ten years ago, when I was working on the Nestlé Write Around Australia program at the State Library of NSW, I got my dander up one day reading yet another tribute to private schools in the Sydney Morning Herald. This time, they reported on the end of year speech given by the principal of some posh eastern suburbs or north shore or wherever the hell it was school. Truly. The principal's speech given at the speech night. Featured news. But only if it's a private school. So I took up my pen (actually, that's sheer rhetoric; I wrote it on a computer of course) and wrote a letter to the editor that went something like this:
They published it.
The next day, the principal of Rooty Hill High School, Christine Cawsey, also had a letter published in the paper, thanking me and saying she'd be delighted to supply said speech any time the Herald cared to run it.
I was horrified, because to be honest, I wasn't even 100% sure when I wrote the letter that there WAS a Rooty Hill High School. I chose the name because Rooty Hill is such an iconic western Sydney suburb and I just knew that it would have the right resonance for the point I was trying to get make. But when Chris's letter was published, I was mostly just worried I'd inadvertently offended her, and the school and the students.
So I rang her. And she laughed and said nothing could be further from the truth. What had happened was some of the school's senior students had read my letter (extraordinary enough, because as we know, kids don't read any more, especially not newspapers and especially not kids from a suburb like Rooty Hill and even if by chance they did it would especially not be the Sydney Morning Herald*) and rushed into her office saying, Ms Cawsey! Ms Cawsey! Is your speech going to be in the paper? and so alerted her to it (because school principal really DON'T have time to read the newspaper, especially not the letters page, although knowing Chris as I now do a little, I bet she would have got to it eventually). And so she wrote her response.
And we laughed more about the whole stupidity of the media's bias towards public schools and how we'd, together, struck a blow against it, and that was that.
I heard or read Chris's name often enough over the years—she's been president of the public schools' principal association and was and is often asked to comment on a variety of issues to do with (public) education, on the radio, in the papers—but as far as my personal association with the school went, that was kind of it.
Until I started in the Day Job.
I don't write about the day job all that much on this blog. It's tricky—writing about work is always tricky, for any blogger, but made particularly so by the fact that WestWords (aka The Western Sydney Young People's Literature Project—like our fancy new name?) is hosted by a local government council, and there are very very strict media protocols for council employees, which I am, even though our project is a regional one funded by Arts NSW (of which, more anon). But it's been a good week for WestWords** and for me as a result, and I don't think there'll be any objection to this particular post.
Since then, I've been invited every year to the school's annual creative writing competition presentation, and then this year, the connection kicked up into a whole other level.
Back in April 2011, we attempted to run a series of weekend poetry slam workshop, in partnership with Miles Merrill's Word Travels company, leading up to a poetry slam night at Blacktown Arts Centre as part of Blacktown's youth week events. It was a big investment for us, and a lot of work, but we just weren't getting any kids to enrol in the workshops. It was looking like the whole thing was going to crash and burn, until I got an email from the Head Teacher English at—Rooty Hill High School.
They had a whole bunch of kids interested in the poetry slam, but they couldn't, or wouldn't, come to the workshops on Saturdays. Either they couldn't get there under their own steam (public transport infrastructure in western Sydney being even crappier than public school funding), or their parents couldn't commit to driving them into Blacktown three weekends running, or they just lacked the confidence to step outside their (emotional and geographical) comfort zone. (Remember, Rooty Hill is a suburb of Blacktown, but it's also its own community—Blacktown is HUGE!—and many of these kids don't travel far from home at all, ever.)
And so we took the workshops to the kids, and to the school.
I collected two amazing slam poets from Blacktown Station and we drove to Rooty Hill High (past the Rooty Hill RSL, so big it ran a mock campaign to get its own postcode!), where Bravo Child and Tom ran the most fantastic workshop with a large group of some of the most wonderful, self-aware, open and brave teenagers I've ever met in my life.
The kids loved Bravo and Tom, who were fierce in their admiration for and support of these kids—about 6 of whom turned up at our first big venture into evening youth events, the inaugural Blacktown Youth Week Poetry Slam—The Rumble.
It was SUCH a night! We had about 40 audience members turn up—awesome numbers, trust me—and these amazing young people got to perform alongside experienced and professional performance artists, including Miles and Michael Simms, a national slam champion from the US. We even had a primary school student—the younger sister of one of the Rooty Hill High kids—perform the speech she was to give at her school's public speaking competition. She was tiny and awesome. Bravo coached the kids again before the event, and I still remember how emotional the whole night made me.
But that wasn't it. After our event, Miles stayed in touch, and ended up going to the school himself for a follow up workshop, and from that, a core group of three students—G, I and S (excuse the initials but I have to be really careful about identifying them without their permission) ended up performing at—get this!—the Sydney Writers' Festival.
The Sydney Writers' Festival. I kid you not.
I wasn't there—which I will always regret—but these three amazing young people from western Sydney got up and performed their stuff—about who they are, where they come from, where they want to go in life—in front of 400 people at the Wharf as part of Sydney Writers' Festival.
And what were they most excited about?
They got to meet The Chaser in the Green Room.
I love those kids.
Right about now, I have to mention their drama teacher, Anjelica. Anjelica is only in her second year out, as we teachers (and ex-teachers) say—her second year teaching. She's young, she's tiny, she's talented and dynamic and so committed to these kids it makes me weep. She has most recently organised for the company that is touring Kevin Spacey's Richard III to hold their secondary drama student workshops at Rooty Hill, and all those kid will get to go and see the production and attend a Q and A with Spacey and the company. And she's set up a drama club at the school—with plans to take it regional—which brings me to where I was tonight.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Anjelica, written by her wonderful drama kids, thanking me fore the opportunities they'd had through WestWords and the poetry slam, and inviting me to their first production. It was such a gorgeous, heartfelt invitation, there was no way I could have, or would have wanted to refuse. And I'm so glad I could be there.
With, apparently, only about 6 weeks of rehearsal, students from across several years, rehearsed and produced an abridged version of Othello. Not only that, they also wrote their own (hilarious, if somewhat anarchic) play called The Trial of BB Wolf and Curly Pig, in which BB Wolf (played with astonishing comic timing and utter conviction by our afore-mentioned slammer, 'I') is plaintiff against Curly Pig, whom he accuses of attempted murder for that pot of boiling water in the fireplace...
Honestly, the Pig V Wolf play was a delight and a hoot, but with minimal props or set, and, it has to be said, experience from the cast, their reduced Othello was actually extraordinary.
We were in the school's dance studio—a double classroom, really, so the "stage" was about 5 feet deep and as wide as a classroom (less, actually—there was "wing" space as well). Some of these young people had never acted before. Our slammer/wolf 'I' played Roderigo with equal parts humour and pathos. Cassio had the flair and charisma of an adolescent Toby Schmitz. Iago stalked the stage with menace and threw a mightily sinister glance over his shoulder every time he left the stage. Desdemona was sweet and loving and frightened; Emelia moved from frustrated and slightly desperate to deep grief and anguish and guilt—she made me weep. And Othello hit his stride in the beautifully choreographed scenes of demented jealousy and rage—his presence grew with every scene.
The highly multi-cultural cast turned the racial elements of the plot upside down and inside out.
** We've had triennial funding confirmed from Arts NSW—project secure for 2012-2015! plus we will soon have our own dedicated website, woot woot!
Sunday, October 2. 2011
Amber Benson, Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, on her new(ish) career as a writer and her love of, among numerous writers, Diana Wynne Jones. (And if anyone has read her middle grade novel Among the Ghosts, I want to hear from you.)
My goodreads review:
Timecatcher by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Disclaimer—Marie-Louise is a dear friend and one of the loveliest people I know. She's been a picture book artist and writer for many years, and this is her first junior novel. I'm not even going to pretend to be unbiased—I loved this book and read it in one sitting on a rainy Sunday afternoon with my cats playing tag-team on my lap and a couple of small squares of home-made chocolate fudge to hand. Perfect reading conditions, in other words.
But friendship and personal admiration aside, I really did love this book. It's a classic adventure novel, with ghosts and a type of time travel, but also with a slightly darker contemporary edge. Set in the old mill building where Marie-Louise had her artist's studio for many years, it's the story of 12 year old Jessie, recently moved to Dublin after the death of her father, who stumbles across a bead factory with her dress-designer/maker mother. The bead factory turns out to be a front for a couple of private detectives, who are actually investigating paranormal activity in the building in the shape of a mysterious portal at the top of four steps that lead to a brick wall—and a couple of ghosts.
One of these ghosts is the enormous Greenwood, who was hanged on the site of the building in 1201 and has been trying ever since to solve the riddle of the Timecatcher (a kind of vortex behind the portal where time past continues on), which he accidentally opened before his death.
The other ghost is that of G, a boy about Jessie's age, who died in an accident in the abandoned mill building some forgotten years earlier. G can't remember who he was, which he puts down to the head injury sustained in the accident. G quite likes being a ghost, but is frustrated by his inability to leave the confines of the mill, and remains angry with the friends who left him to die.
Add to the mix the evil spirit of a man hanged alongside Greenwood who is determined to re-enter the Timecatcher and steal the source of its power, chuck in a bit of Viking mythology, a great big whack of Irish history, all in the hands of a writer with great control over her narrative (voice and rather complicated plot) and you end up with a terrifically fast-paced but also intellectually challenging plot for smart kid readers (and others). Enjoy. And think of my friend M-L!
View all my reviews
Monday, August 1. 2011
Only Ever Always by Penni Russon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I loved Penni Russon's mysterious, elliptical novel of place, dreams, grief and identity. I was going to add time to that list, but that's not strictly accurate—it's not a time slip novel at all, although it feels very much like one, and reminds me of books like Charlotte Sometimes and even somehow Jill Paton Walsh's Goldengrove Unleaving. (The latter, I think, largely somehow in a shared mood or tone, as well as the non-straightforward narrative, of which, it must be said, I am a fan. It might also have something to do with the melancholia in fairy tales that Penni refers to in her author's note.) I also reckon fans of Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy would find much to be challenged and intrigued by in Only Ever Always—there are echoes of Lyra-like characterisation in Clara in particular. And from there we can also draw a line to 19th century literature, in the somewhat Dickensian overtones to Clara's world (has there ever been a more over-used word in book reviews than Dickensian?!) and the narrative courage of the great Victorian novelists.
There's a lot to say about Penni's narrative choices in Only Ever Always—in particular, the use of the second person narrative voice in certain sections of the novel, which somehow seems to draw in and implicate the reader as a participant, as a third version of Claire/Clara—but that might be best left to my teaching (and personal ruminations). What can I say, I'm a narratology geek (although not as big a one as I'd like!).
With parallel stories, worlds and characters, this is not a novel for a casual reader—it requires close attention, not just from the intellect, but from the heart. It's a book where not having all the answers is the most satisfying and in fact only conclusion—because life isn't always neat and tidy, and open endings suggest adventure and the great wonder of uncertainty—for the brave. If that sounds like a book for you— as it is a book for me—then I whole-heartedly commend Only Ever Always to you.
View all my reviews
Thursday, July 7. 2011
No, no, no, not THAT ABBA—my favourite band of the 70s (one day I will share my ABBA scrapbook with you all). No, the lovely UK writers (will you just check out that list!) who collectively blog at ABBA—An Awfully Big Blog Adventure are holding an online literary festival at the ABBA blog. Hooray!
Now, what is an online literary festival, I hear you ask. Well, to be honest, I'm not entirely sure—at least, I wasn't when I first heard about it on Facebook and Twitter. But as I've checked it out, it appears that, over 2 days this weekend (UK time), a series of blog posts from a huge range of writers will appear every half hour or so. If you go here, you can see the line-up: and if you're like me, you'll be squealing with pleasure at the wonderful names that are there. Adele Geras! Hilary McKay! Malachy Doyle! Mary Hoffman! Susan Price! and so many many others.
I am also reliably informed that there will be:
So check it out. Follow it on Twitter (hashtag #ABBAlitfest) or subscribe via your preferred RSS reader. It should be brilliant fun.
Garn the poms!
Thursday, June 16. 2011
I attended a talk by Valerie Lawson, biographer of PL Travers at the State Library of NSW tonight. Valerie and one of the Library's curators, Emma Gray, who put together a Mary Poppins exhibition at the library a couple of years ago, spoke about Travers' archive, held by the Mitchell Library, and a good selection of items from the collection were on display for us to look at. These included type-written notes by Travers about the script of the Disney film of Mary Poppins (which she hated), a letter from Julie Andrews during the making of the film, and a range of letters from children and people like Ted Hughes about the books. There were various editions of Travers' books (not just Poppins books, but also a copy of a children's novel called I Go By Sea, I Go By Land, which I'd really like to read), photographs and memorabilia of the film, including the program from the '65 Oscars and a program from the UK premiere which was 100% ads! (Apart from a photograph of Princess Margaret.) So some things don't change.
The talk was interesting, although I knew a fair bit of the Travers story, but it was a real treat to see the archives. These are available for the public to access, by the way, as are all the items held at the Mitchell. And I forgot to take my copy of Lawson's book (originally titled Out of the Sky She Came, the new edition is called Mary Poppins, She Wrote) and Valerie kindly offered to sign it if I send it to her, which I will do.
An added treat to the night was I at last got to meet Matthew Finch, who I've been corresponding with for a while. I'm not sure how to best sum up Matthew—he's been an academic, primary school teacher and is a writer with a steady stream of freelance from work. Matthew has a particular interest in creativity in education and is on a self-funded tour around the world to check out innovative programs in and out of schools. Matthew got in touch with me when he read a post I wrote about Patricia Wrightson after her death last year, and then to ask me more about the Paint the Town Read early literacy strategy I'm involved with in the Day Job. He's specifically here to check out Paint the Town Read, which he tells me is a world-leader in its whole-of-community approach to early literacy. He was at the Paint the Town Read reading day at Auburn last week and was totally blown away by it. Matthew's taught in areas of London with a similar demographic to Auburn and he was deeply impressed at the way parents and community members, such as the proprietor of the local Michele's cafe, were engaged with the project. He's off to Parkes next week, where Paint the Town Read began, to speak to Rhonda Brain, the project's creator, and the PTTR team out there.
There's not actually a central website for Paint the Town Read, so I'll link to the Blue Mountains version, Paint the Blue Read.
Matthew and I headed out after the Travers session and found a cafe in the QVB where we chatted over toasted sandwiches about teaching, the limitations of the curriculum and the hideous effect systemic standardised testing is having on schools and education, and we swapped stories about the kinds of creative arts programs we've seen and been involved with. You should check out his blog; it's an eclectic compendium of interviews (he has very wide-ranging interests!) and reports on the projects he's been seeing on his world jaunt.
This is one of the best things about the work I'm involved with—meeting like-minded people from all over the world. We're planning on treating ourselves to a night at Mary Poppins, the Musical before Matthew heads off to whatever his next destination ends up being!
And here, for your enjoyment, is a picture of Mary Poppins by Mary Shepherd, stolen from the State Library website.
Wednesday, June 15. 2011
I first used this phrase in my blog post about this year's Sydney Writers' Festival in context of the panel I chaired on the young adult/adult cross-over novel that was, rather ironically I thought, called "When is a children's book not a children's book" (ironic, because it wasn't about children's books at all). This is what I wrote:
but to be honest, we didn't really answer the question. I think, from memory, we all kind of agreed that children's books don't get much attention and then moved on to questions.
Because not a lot seems to be about the children's book, these days. The children's novel, to be precise. YA gets vastly more of the blog space, media attention and arguably, reviews—although the picture book probably gets a fair bit of review space as well (and Shaun Tan's done a hell of a lot to make the picture book an acceptable topic of conversation in adult society). And increasingly, I've noticed that when a children's novel does get critical attention, it's suddenly claimed as being young adult.
It happened to The Graveyard Book. It happened to When You Reach Me. And these are both classics examples of children's literature, as far as I am concerned. I've argued the toss on this online and elsewhere, especially about The Graveyard Book, which people seem to want to claim as YA primarily, I think, because it deals with death and because of the extremely scary opening scene where the family is murdered (oh shut up, that's not a spoiler). My argument about The Graveyard Book is this: it ends at the point where most YA takes up: Bod has to leave the graveyard to find his agency, and we don't get to see that process. The rest of the novel—Bod finding who he is in the context of the only family he knows, through adventures that are often perilous, coupled with the exploration of friendship—is the classic stuff of the children's novel.
The claim for When You Reach Me as YA puzzles me even more. Thematically, it shares nothing in common with the typical YA novel, but is firmly in the tradition of the great children's novels—Harriet the Spy, A Wrinkle in Time. Andre Norton's Octagon Magic springs to mind for some reason. I'm also thinking of The Game of the Goose and the lesser known The Games Board Map—children's novels with a puzzle to be solved at the heart. There's no subtext of the achieving of subjectivity, such a classic feature of the YA novel. These are all novels about children, with the concerns of children at their heart—friendship and family and belonging and home.
(For the record, I had a conversation about this with Rebecca Stead at Reading Matters last month, and she is firmly of the opinion that she writes children's novels—and she says the letters she gets from her readers bears this out. So there.)
The only thing I can put the claim for such books to be YA down to is this—that they are books that are literary, meta-textual, substantial books full of ideas and complex plotting. They're books that need time to read and consider and digest—books that take, as a frustrated parent of a frustrated 12 year old reader once said to me, longer than an afternoon to read. But complex doesn't ergo mean older.
It's as if we've all forgotten what kind of books we read as children. It's as if the whole rich heritage of 20th century children's literature has become some kind of quaint historical anomaly. It seems to me that the huge emphasis on writing and publishing books for "reluctant readers" (often code for "boys") over the past 20 years has pushed the classic children's novel so far out of our collective consciousness that we don't even recognise it when we see it any more. If it's longer than 200 pages, if it has serious ideas and challenging language, it has to be for young adults—almost seemingly regardless of the age of the protagonists and the thematic interests of the story. And it bothers me enormously that the gifted, devoted, passionate child reader doesn't seem worthy of our attention any more.
Why am I banging on about this all of a sudden? There are two reasons: first, a long-standing concern and second, something I read today that really got up my nose. Here's the first: the second will come right at the end of this post.
Reason for Banging On the First.
Well, first of all, the near-demise of the children's novel, in this country at least, has been a concern of mine for more than a decade. It's not just that YA is sexy and dark and dangerous and so excites the blood of the "won't someone think of teh children" brigade (and yes, I get the irony that here they're actually NOT talking about children at all, but treating young adults as if they WERE children) and so gets all the media attention. (No, I will NOT link to the notorious Wall Street Journal article; that damn woman has had far more than her 15 minutes of attention and I won't be party to giving her a second more. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, google WSJ and dark and young adult and you'll find it. Don't say I didn't warn you.) It's more that the categories—children's and young adult—seem to have been pushed so far apart from one another, in awards in particular, that there seems to be this huge gaping space into which the children's novel, as we have known and loved it for about 150 years, has fallen.
If you're not sure what I'm taking about, go to the Children's Book Council of Australia's website and compare the shortlists for the Book of the Year Award either before there was a split between Older and Younger Readers categories, or even in the early years of separation of the age categories. Look at the books shortlisted in the 60s, 70s and even 80s for the 8-12 year old reader (what the Americans usefully call "middle school") compared to the Younger Readers shortlists of the past 10-15 years. Note how these days, there's only one or two really substantial novels for this age (what I've always thought of the "golden years" of reading), with the rest of the shortlist made up of short, illustrated chapter books, typically for the under 8 years olds, and even picture books.
I'm not saying that those other books, the chapter books and more sophisticated picture books, are bad books or should not have been selected as books of merit—I just look at those lists and wonder where are all the great novels for children? Isn't anyone writing them any more? Or is no-one publishing them any more?
Over the years, I've heard different views on this from Australian publishers. A decade ago, they were telling me they weren't publishing them because they couldn't sell them—apparently schools and libraries wanted the inheritors of the Paul Jennings phenomena; Aussie Bites and books with a wider market appeal—and it wasn't economical to publish literary fiction for that age. So the readers, like the child of that parent I mentioned earlier, who I spoke to when I was working in a children's book shop who said he his daughter needed books that lasted longer than an afternoon—those readers either had to buckle down and read more mature fare that they weren't really ready for, or stick with the classics, or read books from the US or UK, where they still seemed to be publishing real novels for the devoted child reader.
More recently, they tell me that the problem is that writing a really great children's novel is incredibly difficult, and they just don't see the quality manuscripts. Australian publishers tell me this; and Amanda Punter, the Penguin UK publisher on that Sydney Writers' Festival panel, said it too. I just remembered! Yes! That was pretty much the answer to my question—Whither the Children's Book? It's hard to do well, and we'd publish more if we saw more of them.
Maybe that's true—I suspect there is some truth to it. I can't imagine the level of gift it would take to write a Hazel Green novel or a Tom's Midnight Garden. But it's an odd argument at the point that once upon a time there weren't really any YA novels and plenty of wonderful children's novels—has it somehow become harder to write a great children's novel, or have writers turned their attention to other audiences?
What I am sure is true is that there are vastly more books published for young readers now, a greater variety and indeed, I've argued that there are more books for different kinds (and abilities) of young readers than ever before, and that's a great thing. (I made that point in answer to a question at the Sydney Story Factory panel on children and writing at the Sydney Writers' Festival, and I think it's true.) So maybe it's just that there are more books vying for incrementally less and less attention (see another recent post where I mentioned the shrinking of book review pages across the board in mainstream newspapers and the like).
But I can't help but think that there are fewer contemporary children's novels of the type you and I grew up devouring, and that's emphatically not a good thing. And to circle back to my previous point, for some reason when we do see those books, they somehow get shanghaied as young adult. Which they're just not. Which brings me to:
Reason for Banging On the Second.
Yup, you read it right. "Young-young adult."
Is that really what we're calling it now?
Heaven help me.
I don't mean to have a go at you, goodly Alpha Reader blogger, but for god's sake. It's not "young-young adult". There's no such THING as "young-young adult." It's a children's novel. A novel for children. There are still children in the world and they still need novels.
So maybe, after all, I am saying, will no-one think of teh children? But more than that—will no-one think of teh children's book?
Tuesday, June 14. 2011
I caught up with my one-time student Roberta Lowing during Sydney Writers' Festival, where she was on the program to talk about her first novel, Notorious, published by Allen and Unwin late last year. Roberta was in a class I taught in writing for children and young adults in the MA in creative writing at the University of Sydney about 8 years ago now, I guess. I've bumped into Roberta and several other students from that class over the years, but I hadn't seen her for a while and hadn't caught up with the news of her novel.
So imagine how thrilled I was to discover that Notorious was shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Awards! I haven't had the chance to read the book yet—it's longish, and looks like it needs some serious time to concentrate on it, and most of my reading is done in shortish bursts these days. Congratulations Roberta! It's such exciting news. And Roberta tells me she's planning on going back to her children's novel next, which pleases me very much!
And of course, which reminds me that I didn't blog the announcement of the shortlists for the children's and young adult books either. I have friends on these lists, which is wonderful of course, but they are both also just really strong, interesting lists, and while I have my personal favourites, I think any of them would be most worthy of the top gong. And the good news, of course, is that the $100,00 prize money is being shared around the shortlistees. So heartiest congratulations to the following—the winners are announced early July.
Friday, June 10. 2011
Wednesday, June 8. 2011
I'm very bad at blog post titles, and this one is dull but functional. Because it has indeed been a crazy few weeks. As many of you will know, I had an insanely busy (but wonderful!) Sydney Writers' Festival this year. As always, it kicked off officially with the Premier's Literary Awards dinner, which I always attend (only two missed since my first stint as a judge in 1995) but especially this year because I was one of the three judges on the Ethel Turner Prize (young adult literature). There turned out to be a few other excellent reasons to be there this year, not least of all because it's so much fun and I get to see "my people"!
It was a different dinner this year, because the winners didn't know in advance. I wasn't thrilled with that decision—it's not the Oscars, and people might want to bring along family members if they know they are going to win (tickets are expensive!). And most people didn't prepare speeches (writers are superstitious folk!), which was as I expected. But despite all that, it was a fantastic evening—at the Opera House this year, gorgeous venue (but small) and I just wish I got the chance to spend more time with people.
My good friend Dr Anita Heiss gave the speech (which you can download here)—it was equal parts wise and witty and fabulous, much like Anita herself. Do read her speech—it's just a shame you won't get Anita's delivery!
The other reasons I was thrilled to be there were that my colleagues at Blacktown Arts Centre were honoured with a shortlisting (in the Community Relations Commission Award) for the play My Name Is Sud that was developed and produced at the Centre with members of the Sudanese community. The play didn't win, but it was an enormous honour, and the young people who wrote the play with the South African director and writer (and now my good friend and once upon a time student!) Robert Colman were able to be at the dinner. Robert actually came back from South Africa for the evening, which is an indication of what a significant moment this was for everyone involved.
The other reason was that the CAL Western Sydney Writers' Fellowships were announced at the dinner. These are the Fellowships that the Cultural Fund of the Copyright Agency Limited are funding and my day job project is delivering. The three Fellows were also at the dinner: Alli Sebastian Wolf, Vanessa Berry and Majok Tulba. I'm in the process of setting up planning sessions with these guys to develop the workshop component of their Fellowship. Each of them will be working with young people in western Sydney as part of their Fellowship. It's such an exciting development for the project—which actually got quite a few mentions at the PLA dinner, as it turns out.
And that was largely down to Libby Gleeson, who was awarded that night with the Special Award which in this case was for a body of work that includes not only Libby's writing, but her years of advocacy and support for the writing community. (I can't seem to find the citation, alas.) Libby didn't know she was receiving this award, and I can tell you, it was a long four months for me, not being able to tell her. Libby is not just a good friend of mine, she is the Chair of the Advisory Group to the day-job project, and Libby spoke warmly of the satisfaction the project gives her and announced our new name—WestWords. Do you like it? We like it! And lots of other people seem to like it too.
So here is a photo stolen from the PLA website of the new Premier (who made some rather startling statements about his enjoyment of literary experiences at the dinner!) and the new arts minister (who expressed genuine enthusiasm for his portfolio). The CAL Fellows are there (1st, 3rd and 4th on the left), as is Libby in the stripey jacket, along with Patricia Wrightson Prize (children's books) winner Sophie Masson (The Hunt for Ned Kelly) in the white jacket in the middle, and the lovely Cath Crowley peeking out with the curls, 2nd from the right. Cath, of course, won the Ethel Turner with her wonderful novel Graffiti Moon. And a shout-out also to Debra Oswald, writer of terrific teen fiction, who won the Script Award for the pilot of TV show Offspring (two to the right of Libby). (Great interview with Debra here.)
And all of that was before the Festival even began!
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, I was MCing the Festival's school days at Parramatta and Penrith. Those days are the best fun, and I love introducing the speakers, and getting out amongst the kids at lunchtime and after the end of the day, talking to them and their teachers about the event. The big name this year was Cassandra Clare—rock star!—but the local writers (and Bernard Beckett, who almost counts as local, being from New Zealand) were terrific and really well-received too. (By the way, listen to this interview with Bernard on ABC Radio National's Book Show; he says some fantastic things about why he unapologetically writes for teen readers.)
Friday I chaired a panel with UK author Anna Perera and Penguin UK publisher Amanda Punter (I'm going to run out of adjectives to describe all the utterly delightful people I saw and worked with during SWF). The panel was called "When is a Children's Book Not a Children' Book", which was actually about the YA/adult cross-over novel, but given the title, I also brought in the question of Whither the Children's Book in a world when YA and the cross-over gets all the attention. To b honest, I felt like this was kind of an old discussion, the whole YA/adult crossover thing, but then it clearly wasn't for the audience, and it seemed to go really well. People in the audience of the panel certainly seemed to enjoy it, and I got nice feedback from friends and colleagues in attendance. This session was recorded and will, I understand, be broadcast at some point on ABC Radio National's The Book Show.
I also did a one-on-one with Anna Perera on the Sunday morning. If you haven't read Anna's books Guantanamo Boy and The Glass Collector, I really recommend them—they deal with young men in very difficult circumstances with grace, intelligence and compassion. We talked about research, creating characters, finding voice and making hard decisions for your story. I really enjoyed the session, as did Anna—and so, I am told, the audience. And what a lovely woman Anna is. It was lovely to get to know her.
And as lovely as it was to meet Anna, I was beyond thrilled to meet Kristin Cashore, with whom I also did a one-on-one In Conversation. Kristin and I have been corresponding for a few years, since I first wrote to tell her how much I loved her first novel Graceling (and subsequently Fire). And not just me, but the nieces I gave it to. One of those nieces came along to hear the In Conversation, which happened when Kristin told me she was coming to Australia for a holiday and would be in Sydney the week of SWF. (I'm not THAT influential, but I guess my enthusiasm for Kristin and her books was clear to Festival Director Chip Rolley, who agreed to add her to the program on my recommendation.) Anyway, it was so amazing to meet her at last and we had such a lovely chat. And my niece Lucy did indeed come all the way up from Canberra to hear the session, with her dad, my brother David. It's actually the first time any of my family have heard me do a session like this, I think, so that was a treat for me too (although nervous making!). Lucy is in Year 12 and is doing Honours English, which requires her to attend literary events of some description or the other. She got Kristin to sign her program for evidence.
Again, Kristin and I had a terrific chat about her amazing fantasies. A friend in the audience recorded it for me (I couldn't find my iPhone, damn things are so skinny), and I hope she'll be able to get the audio to me. Apparently it's quiet but clearly audible. I'll put it up on one of those sound cloud thingys if so. Anyway, after that, David, Lucy, Kristin and I had lunch, and I managed to get this perfect shot of Kristin and Lucy on the iPhone, which I eventually found in the pocket of my book bag...
But wait! I wasn't done yet! One more session—a panel on children and writing, put together to lead into the launch of the Sydney Story Factory. This one was chaired by Catherine Keenan, Sydney Morning Herald journalist and founder of the Sydney Story Factory, and featured Markus Zusak, Robyn Ewing (Sydney University and me fellow PLA judge) and me. Robyn and I got in a few jabs about the way the curriculum and preparation for tests such as NAPLAN have side-lined creativity and the teaching of narrative writing in schools, even to the point that they are now using extra-curricula programs such as creative writing competitions as NAPLAN preparation. Depressing. But the session was good. The whole Festival was good. Maybe my favourite week of the year.
Something else pretty exciting happened as part of Sydney Writers' Festival this year. Back in April, during Youth Week, I was working on a poetry slam event for the Day Job. In partnership with Miles Merrill and his spoken word company Word Travels, we had initially planned to offer workshops to teens on weekends leading up to The Rumble—Blacktown's first poetry slam event at Blacktown Arts Centre. Unfortunately, we couldn't get kids to come to two consecutive weekend workshops, so we ended up going into Rooty Hill High School to work with their drama students. This is such a great school, with a strong creative arts program, and the kids and their drama teacher, Angelica, were amazing. About 5 of them ended up performing at The Rumble, and then with the encouragement of Miles and the Word Travels team, three of them came into town and performed at the Word Travels industry showcase on the Wednesday night prior to the Festival proper.
But that wasn't the least of it. These amazing young people came back on the Saturday night to the hugely popular spoken word event that Miles organises for the Festival every year—only initially intending to be in the audience—but they ended up performing in front of around 400 people. Apparently they were brilliant. Ack! I wasn't there! I'd had such a week—out every night, on Festival duty every day, and with a full Sunday ahead of me, I just couldn't face the drive back into town. (Remember, I live in the sticks now.) But Sumayyah, Imraan and Gavin, whose photo I can't publish here for obvious reasons—you are awesome. I'm glad you got to meet The Chaser team. I'm so proud of you, and I wish I'd been there.
And lest anyway be in any doubt—this was huge. Huge for these kids to have the opportunity to perform their own poetry at Sydney Writers' Festival. It might be the most exciting thing that's come out of my project to date. And we will be working with these guys and Rooty Hill HS again. So stay posted on that.
Oh! But! Speaking of extraordinary and exciting experiences... Also during SWF—and also something I didn't get to, because I was at Parramatta for the School Day, get this—seriously, this is also huge—writers shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers' Prize went out to Penrith High School, a selective high school with some very bright and talented students indeed. These writers at the top of their game ran workshops with students at the school—an unbelievable opportunity for these kids. And again, it was as a direct result of our project (WestWords, remember?) being out there making things happen for young reader and writers in western Sydney.
So that was Sydney Writers' Festival. Told you it was big. And while all of that was going on, my wonderful manager Jenny and my colleague Jodie and I were working on a HUGE funding application for WestWords. And then Jodie and I—while the funding application was still under way—headed down to Melbourne for the biennial Reading Matters conference.
I can't blog the whole thing here—if you were following it on Twitter (#rm11) you'll have got a flavour. This year's program is here, and if you google it, you'll also find quite a lot of blog posts like this one. My panel, on the Saturday, was on violence in YA fiction, and featured Denis Wright (NZ), author of Violence 101, Jane (JC) Burke (Pig Boy) and Kirsty Eagar (Raw Blue, Saltwater Vampires). Again, it was a really interesting discussion, and I believe it was recorded and will be on the Centre for Youth Literature website soon.
Highlights for me of Reading Matters: Ursula Dubosarsky talking about The Golden Day; Oliver Phommavanh on his scooter; Markus Zusak reading from his forth-coming novel; Kate Burridge on the history of taboo language; the panel on book covers and meeting the utterly gorgeous and delightful Brenton McKenna, creator of the indigenous graphic novel Ubby's Underdogs (Magabala Books). (Dinner at Sahara was pretty awesome too. As was my hotel—see the pic of the view following!)
And then back home to two cats who seemed to have barely missed me, and to that funding application. Which is now done, and submitted—phew!
So yes, a crazy few weeks, but crazy good. Festival season, hanging out with the gang, over for another year. And with the current funding submission in, I'm back to programming work. And that's a big yay.
I hope this wasn't too prosaic a post. Here's a photo of me and Anita and Libby from the Premier's to brighten things up!
Sunday, May 1. 2011
Tuesday, April 12. 2011
They snuck up on me this year! I always have in my head that the shortlists are announced around Easter, but as I'm not actually even sure when Easter is this year, I suppose I am just mostly entirely out of the loop.
I had a flex day from work today, and was looking forward to an internet and email-free day spent with my boys and my books (by which I mean books that I want to read* rather than books that I have to read**, although there is a huge cross over in that particular Venn diagram...). But internet junky that I am, I couldn't help just checking in on Facebook and Twitter, only to discover that today was the day—and not only that, that the Notables were going up a good couple of hours before the shortlist announcement. So that kind of disrupted my work-free day, because with a job like mine, any time stuff comes up that's kids' book-related, it's always kind of work. (There's that Venn Diagram again.)
So then the Notables went up. (Not sure when exactly—maybe 10ish Sydney time? Wasn't wearing a watch. Flex day, remember?) And my first reaction was what a strong list it was, across all the five categories. (You can read it here—far too long to post.) Many of the titles in the older readers list were books I'd read for the NSW Premier's Awards (not all as there are different pub dates for eligibility for the two awards) and so I can attest to the strength of the Notables in this category in particular.
But then that also made me realise that two books that we in fact shortlisted—Belinda Jeffrey's Big River Little Fish and Kirsty Eagar's Saltwater Vampires—didn't even make the Notables. Now, I'm not suggesting for a moment that all awards should have huge cross-over on their lists—on the contrary, the great thing I think about the various state awards is that they do throw up titles that often get overlooked elsewhere. By which I guess I mean reviews and the CBC list, which is, after all, the main game for children's and YA books in this country. I'm cool with the differences between our shortlists (although damn I wish my dear friend Cassandra Golds's The Three Loves of Persimmon had made it past the Notables!***) but I really cannot understand why year after year some of what I consider to be the finest and most interesting books don't even get a Notables nod. And that's two out of two misses for Belinda and Kirsty—writers who I know are held in the highest regard in the broader YA community. Perhaps there's a limit to how many books they list—but it doesn't look like it, if you compare this year's long Older Readers Notables list to last year's paltry 16 (or was that the year before? I think it was last year). So I guess we should be grateful it's as long and as comprehensive as it is. It is a good longlist—I just feel desperately sorry that some really good writers seem to get consistently overlooked.
The Younger Readers notables list is also very healthy, but I still think there's not as many longer novels being recognised for this age group. I often feel like they fall through the cracks, and I wonder where books by the likes of Patricia Wrightson or Lilith Norman or Ivan Southall would end up these days.
But look, I don't mean to be too hard on the awards, because I think these are really strong Notable and Shortlists—and look, I haven't even really got to the Shortlists yet! I guess I think they are a really good representation of what was a bit of a corker year on Australian's children's and YA publishing. And knowing that the majority of the really extraordinary YA books from last year were by women (sorry chaps—some good stuff there but the women absolutely dominated as far as I am concerned) I am entirely relieved to see that the Older Readers category has shaken off it's 20 year bias towards male writers and "boy"'s stories and come up with the first list dominated by women writers in almost living memory. Yahoo!
I do wonder what we're going to do about the graphic novel. Happy as I am to see Nicki Greenwood's taste-dividing take on Hamlet recognised (I'm a fan, for what it's worth) it's not a picture book. I'm not suggesting a new category (heaven forbid) but as other illustrated books turn up on the age-based categories, I think maybe the graphic novel needs to take its chances there instead of in a prize for what is after all a very different medium.
A few other books that also didn't make the cut that I think you should know about: Emily Maguire's Your Skirt's Too Short and John Heffernan's Where There's Smoke. Friends on Facebook have also rightly mentioned Karen Tayleur and AJ Betts.You probably have your over-looked favourites too, so as we most genuinely congratulate the Notable and Shortlisted authors and illustrators, and thank the CBCA for what might be the strongest shortlists in years, feel free also to use the comments to spread the love to some more of the neglected.
** Sydney Writers' Festival is coming up and I'm on 4 panels (scroll down to find me alphabetically), plus MCing the school days in western Sydney! So lots of reading ahead—which is where the middle bit of the Venn Diagram comes into it. Want to and have to. Can't hardly complain!
** That "dear friend" thing indicates my clear conflict of interest, but I do think Cassandra s a wonderful writer. Oh well, she has other consolations, one personal (unless you're her Facebook friend!) and one very public indeed!
Thursday, March 31. 2011
There's been so many articles and blog posts about Diana Wynne Jones in the week since her death—more, I think, than I can remember for any other author. And I've read so many people say, on places like Facebook and in the comments to obituaries and In Memoriams, "Oh, I've never heard of this author before, but now I want to read her". And so in the way of these things, a whole new generation (and by that I don't mean age) of Diana Wynne Jones fans is about to be born.
And so, as we all knew, her legacy will live on through her books. But I had a conversation with a friend last night, who, enquiring how I was in the wake of Diana's death (a few people have done that, it's been very touching), said something very beautiful to me. Neil had read my blog (I assume!), or anyway, he knows the story of why Diana means so much to me, and her influence on, and he said to me last night that she will live on, not simply through her books, although certainly that, but through the line of writers that will follow in her wake precisely because of the influence her work had on people like me, who in turn, and as a result, are helping new writers grow. That's kind of a clumsy way of putting it—Neil is much more adept than me at Plain English—but it was such a wonderful way of thinking about Diana's heritage-to-come that I wanted to share it.
Anyway, I've decided to try and aggregate as many of the online media, blogs and other tributes to Diana I can find. Someone wondered out loud on the Diana Wynne Jones listserve if anyone was somehow collecting the vast amount of words that have been said about her this past week, and so I offered. I'll keep adding to this as I find new material, so please fell free to send me any links and I'll add to it. And I've also been given permission to post some of the emails sent to the listserve. Feel free to use the comments to add your own tribute if you feel so moved.
Newspapers and magazines:
The Wild Magic of Diana Wynne Jones by Alison Flood (from The Guardian)
An appreciation from The Guardian from its Book Blog.
The Telegraph (UK) Obit
And also from the Telegraph, this article: Diana Wynne Jones: a wizard writer whose young life was far from magical
Charlie Butler's obituary in The Independent (and he is not responsible for the headline!)
BBC4 Last Word program. Diana is discussed by Nicholas Tucker and Farah Mendlesohn at 10.48
Karen Healey's wonderful tribute at Strange Horizons
Neil Gaiman: Being Alive. Mostly About Diana.
Farah Mendlesohn at Tor.com
Emma Bull, also at Tor.com
Katherine Langrish/Seven Miles of Steel Thistles: Diana Wynne Jones - In Memoriam
Monica Edinger/Educating Alice: Diana Wynne Jones: An Appreciation
Maria Nikolajeva reposts her entry on Diana from the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales
Mary Hoffman: Queen and Huntress
Pamela Dean: I want to tell of our journey down the river
Patricia C. Wrede: Diana
Elizabeth Moon: Reminders of Mortality
Tandaudel: Archer's Gone
Teabag Central: An Exciting and Exacting Wisdom—In Tribute to Diana Wynne Jones
Emma and Rosy Barnes: Sorcerors and Siblings
Debbie Gascoyne: Remembering Diana Wynne Jones
Gili Bar-Hillel: An Appreciation (Gili is one of Diana's Hebrew translators and publishers)
Bookselling with Granger: A Lament for Diana Wynne Jones
Kerry Bryna Mockler at The Moving Castle: Related Worlds
Katiefoolery: To the Most Awesome Diana Wynne Jones
Tales of the Marvelous: RIP Diana Wynne Jones
Delia Sherman's Grand Tour: Diana Wynne Jones RIP
J.L. Bell's Oz and Ends: Remembering the Stories of Diana Wynne Jones
Rachel M Brown's Dangerous Jam
Sarah Monette's Notes from the Labyrinth
The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent. (Andrew Wheeler)
A tribute & illustration from Treacle-Miner
Ellen Renner at An Awfully Big Blog Adventure
From the Diana Wynne Jones listserve:
Kylie/Splanky at LiveJournal
Joyeuce at Livejournal
Hebrew language tributes (thanks Gili!)
Inbal Saggiv-Nakdimon, translator of The Homeward Bounders and A Tale of
Itamar Zohar, Haaretz
Raz Greenberg (a serious Miyazaki fan), Moomoo
Unknown author, Fantasy Society
Posted on the listserve:
From Deborah Meghnagi Bailey: Tribute to DWJ
I don't remember exactly how old I was when I first read one of Diana Wynne
Jones' books. Probably around 8 or 9. I do remember it was Witch Week. I
know that I took it off the shelf in my classroom's small library, and I
also know that I didn't return it; that I kept that red hardback to read,
over and over again. I think I eventually got my mother to return it for me
when my brother, fifteen years my junior, was just about to leave that
school. By then I'd bought my own copy. I'm also fairly sure that Archer's
Goon was the next DWJ book I 'forgot to return'; this time from my secondary
school library. It's not that I thought it was the right thing to do; I just
couldn't bear to part from it. That one eventually got returned too, years
after I'd graduated. I guess I must have felt guilty, though, because while
I remember clearly being utterly haunted and mesmerized by Fire and Hemlock,
and that I found that, too, in my secondary school library, I didn't keep
it. And I'm pretty sure that I read other Chrestomanci books when I was
young, and A Tale of Time City as well. But I was a voracious reader, often
reading a book a night, and so the ones that went back to the school or
council libraries and didn't remain on my shelves faded into my general
memories of the thousands of books I read. I remembered them, sort of, for a
My first favourite author was Enid Blyton (at age 5), quickly
supplanted by C.S. Lewis, quickly supplanted (at the age of 8 ) by Tolkien,
who remained my primary passion until I was 17, when I discovered Guy
Gavriel Kay. Diana remained a favourite though, enough that as I prepared to
move to Israel at the age of 22, in 1995, before the age of the internet and
amazon, I went into WH Smiths and I asked them to look up Diana Wynne Jones
on their computers and I ordered a copy of every single book of hers that
was then in print. That's how I finally got my own copy of Fire and Hemlock,
and was able to lose myself once more in that amazing book about lonely,
creative children and neglectful parents, and books and poems and courage
and how being a hero means ignoring how stupid you feel. That's also how I
discovered Hexwood, which quickly became a new favourite. I still remember
the first time I read it, the way my whole understanding of the book had to
shift right in the middle. And how Mordion joined Thomas Lynn as men to
I don't read C.S. Lewis anymore, and I know I would cringe if I
picked up Enid Blyton. Even Tolkien, much as I love the memory of what his
books did for me, stays on my shelf unopened. I've kept some YA books on my
shelves, through many different homes, but in the past twenty years I think
I've only re-read Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising sequence once, and I
haven't opened Prydain or Narnia. I do dip back into Madeleine L'Engle every
now and then. But Diana Wynne Jones. well, she is in a category all her own.
Over the years I have bought all her books except one, and I just ordered
Wilkin's Tooth today. And I re-read them constantly. I can't think of
another author that I have read this long, and this consistently. To enjoy a
book you first read as an eight or nine year old just as much when you are
thirty years older. that says something very special about the kind of
writer DWJ was. I emailed her once, via her website, although I never got a
reply. Told her, in that letter, that I thought Fire and Hemlock was that
perfect book she had said she kept wanting to write and not quite managing
Thinking about it now, I'm realizing that she is one of the only authors I
have read consistently who has continued to publish throughout my life.
Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, died before I was born. Lloyd Alexander, Susan Cooper,
Madeine L'Engle - I think of theirs as books from my past (although I was
very sad when L'Engle died a couple of years ago). Diana's books have been a
constant presence, a new one every few years, plus that great bonanza when
old ones were reissued. I never knew her personally, but I wish I had. The
spirit that shines through her books is so vital, so generous and clever. I
have been affected profoundly by many books, books that have broken my
heart, books that have inspired me.but I can't think of any other author who
ever infused their work with as much sheer joy and fun as DWJ did, while at
the same time addressing serious themes and creating real characters and
amazingly moving plots. Her books are so varied, but they all have such
soul. When I heard that DWJ was very ill, I started a reread of every book
she'd written, and I started my husband on them too. I felt like maybe it
would be talismanic; keep her with us, somehow.
So many people have described her books so well, I don't think I
should try myself. Just that. so much humanity, and laughter, and wit.
When people raved about Harry Potter, I'd think-Witch Week. Now those are
real children dealing with real problems. Those, I recognized from my own
life; the Theresas and Simons, the Nans and Charleses and Nirupams. To the
nine-year-old I was when I first read that book, it was nothing short of
miraculous that the nerds were the heroes. Brave, plump Nan. How reassuring.
I still have to stop myself from laughing aloud when I read the
brilliant dialogue, the fantastic domestic scenes in Archer's Goon. I would
quite like to be adopted by Quentin and Catriona myself, just to become part
of that verbal sparring. Deep Secret - another brave nerd heroine to love,
and the magids are just brilliant, and Scarlatti being played again and
again in an empty car, and Janine can be a truly evil woman but we can still
laugh at her jumpers. And of course, even though I've only ever been to one
convention, what a delicious depiction! And again; real people, facing real
ethical issues, making real choices for good or evil, but being so. fun.
So many memorable characters who have become part of me. I will
never tire of them, and I truly feel bereaved, that DWJ is no longer in this
world. It has become tangibly emptier, to me, even though I never met her. I
had one sort-of consolatory thought though, remembering her amazing
description of her childhood, and the world going mad when she turned five,
and escaping the blitz. What the world would have lost, had she not escaped!
Seventy-six was far too soon, but at least it was not tragically too soon.
She has given us so much, and from what I understand, she had a pretty great
My son is two and a half. I wonder when he'll be old enough that I
can start reading her books to him? I'm looking forward to that.
(Page 1 of 19, totaling 272 entries) » next page
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Thursday, January 26 2012
WestWords on Facebook
Wednesday, January 18 2012
To beguile many, and be beguil’d by one.
Friday, December 2 2011
Goodbye, and thanks for all the Apples
Thursday, October 6 2011
In which two, or possibly three of my passions come together..
Sunday, October 2 2011
Timecatcher by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Sunday, October 2 2011
Writing retreat in Bali with Phillip Gwynne
Tuesday, September 6 2011
Penni Russon's Only Ever Always: My Goodreads review
Monday, August 1 2011
Hoorah for the lovely ABBA bloggers!
Thursday, July 7 2011
Mary Poppins at the State Library
Thursday, June 16 2011
Fred Martinez about 15 Australian Picture Books Everyone Should Read
Tue, 22.01.2013 19:21
Thanks for the book list! I th ink fiction books are one of t he best ways to understand cul ture. It helps us to und [...]
david white about Farewell Serendipity
Tue, 18.09.2012 07:28
I swapped from Blogger to Word press and the Wordpress platfo rm picked up all my previous b logs and converted them. [...]
Judith Ridge about All That Glitters...
Fri, 31.08.2012 23:56
Hi Anna, I can get a messag e to Gaye on your behalf. C heers, Judith
Anna about All That Glitters...
Thu, 30.08.2012 12:03
Hi, i found this blog and was wondering is there any possibi lity to contact Gaye direct??? If there is one, please [...]
Judith Ridge about 15 Australian Picture Books Everyone Should Read
Tue, 20.03.2012 23:06
Unfortunately, Geraldine, I do n't do very much reviewing on the blog these days. However, if you send me the publi [...]
Anon about To beguile many, and be beguil’d by one.
Sun, 18.03.2012 18:35
So, I came across this article whilst browsing Google. Anywa y, I attend this school and it is truly fantastic to s [...]
Geraldine Goretti Hallahan about 15 Australian Picture Books Everyone Should Read
Sat, 17.03.2012 14:17
Thanks for this Judith ... gre at stuff. Would it be possibl e somehow for you to look at m y picture book:- "My Fea [...]
webgurl about 15 Australian Picture Books Everyone Should Read
Fri, 10.02.2012 16:03
Dog in, Cat out is ridiculous. .try reading it at storytime l ol I'd prefer Animalia (Gra eme Base)and Looking for [...]
Ginny McVarish about Goodbye, and thanks for all the Apples
Thu, 15.12.2011 13:37
Hi, Judith, I;'m late in re ading this -- but I'm going to cut out the Steve Jobs quote from a prinout of your d [...]
Yvette about To beguile many, and be beguil’d by one.
Sat, 03.12.2011 09:43
What a terrific story. These s tate schools are doing terrifi c things. Through the dedicati on of the teachers and t [...]
mezzo g about 15 Australian Picture Books Everyone Should Read
Fri, 02.12.2011 21:01
"In the land of the talking tr ees" by Michael Noonan -a gorg eous fantasy about a soldier i n WW2 lost in PNG and sa [...]
Tristan Bancks about Goodbye, and thanks for all the Apples
Wed, 16.11.2011 08:18
Hey Judith I really enjoyed y our Apple journey. Our school had Apples, too. My wife, a de signer, banned me from P [...]
Ruth Starke about Whither the Children's Book?
Sun, 13.11.2011 12:43
A very late comment, since I f ound your comments reproduced in the Sep. Bookseller and Pub lisher, Judith. I've bee [...]
paul timbiti about Narrative Theory and Children's Literature
Wed, 12.10.2011 04:50
I am a masters student of chil dren's literature at Makerere University in Uganda, East Afr ica. I must say the comm [...]
Charlotte about Timecatcher by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Sun, 02.10.2011 23:22
this sounds great--on my list it goes!
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