Sunday, January 29, 2012

Next up (or not, as the case may be)

UPDATE 9/2/2012: THIS EVENT HAS BEEN POSTPONED. Will post new date when it is confirmed.

It's Words at the Warrandyte Cafe on 12 February, where I'll be talking about reading and writing, and perhaps a little about research.

Words at the Warrandyte Cafe is a new regular event organised by the Warrandyte Neighbourhood House - local author Corinne Fenton was the first speaker late last year.

It's from 4pm to 6pm at 61 Yarra Street, Warrandyte (that's in north eastern Melbourne, Victoria) or you can contact the Neighbourhood House for details on 9844 1839.

Ain't I a woman?

Poet and author Alice Walker reads the earth-shattering (and sadly still relevant) 1851 speech of abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Appearances and residencies

I'm proud to appear in the Word is Out program this year, part of Melbourne's Midsumma festival.

I'll be reading a snippet from Tragédie in Works in progress: other times on 19 January. Makes me a tad nervous - nobody but my uni colleagues have heard or read it before.

Then on 22 January I'm part of a panel (in excellent company) called Truth, dare and promises: issues in youth literature. Here's the blurb:
Could Young Adult fiction be better described as ‘trauma’ fiction? Has it become too dark, or has it always been that way? If pressure on some writers, by agents and publishers, to ‘de-gay’ their characters is just about increasing sales potential, is this homophobic? Have supernatural themes gone too far? What ‘facts of life’ should young people be exposed to?
Sounds pretty good, eh? Wish I could just go along and listen but instead I'll be trying to either get a word in edgeways or sound like I know what I'm talking about.

Right now I'm blogging as the author in residence on inside a dog, the teen reading website of the State Library of Victoria. (That's where I work part-time, too - but the residency is part of my author life, not my day job. I know. It's complicated.

So over there you can find me rambling on about writing and reading and other stuff for the rest of January. Go take a look. Even if you're not a teen reader. You know you want to.

Now some residency announcements.

I feel both honoured and very lucky to have been awarded residency fellowships for 2012 by Varuna Writers' House and the May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust.

Both are precious and named in honour of some of the country's best loved writers. Varuna is Australia's national residential writers' house in the former home of writers Dr Eric Dark and Eleanor Dark, author of The Timeless Land. Varuna is in the Blue Mountains, and I'll be there in April working on Tragédie

The May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust supports writers and illustrators of books for children and young people by providing residencies in apartments in Adelaide, Brisbane and Canberra. Its purpose is:
... to ensure that the high quality of work attained by May Gibbs in her time is achieved by contemporary Austrailan children's authors and illustrators; that they are able to retain the Australian voice and to develop the literary heritage of the future.
What better?

Thanks to the Trust, I'll be spending a month in Brisbane working furiously on The Sultan's Eyes over April/May.

So it's a big year. And we're only three weeks into it.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Not rocket science

If it has horses and swords in it, it's a fantasy, unless it also has a rocketship in it, in which case it becomes science fiction. The only thing that'll turn a story with a rocketship in it back into fantasy is the Holy Grail. 
- Debra Doyle

Friday, January 13, 2012

Hemingway's Nobel Prize acceptance speech: "A writer should always try for something that has never been done, or that others have tried and failed".

Lately I've been...

In residence on inside a dog.
All January.

Albert Nobbs - Restrained Glenn Close playing opposite a hearty Janet McTeer. Always wonderful to see Pauline Collins, too. This time upstairs. Subtly and quietly tragic. The whole story. As indeed it must have been. And that's all I can say without spoilers. Though perhaps the screenplay is just wee bit Banville.

The Iron Lady - I'm sorry, but I can't feel a shred of empathy with Margaret Thatcher, I don't care what the script says. Nor am I comfortable with the bulk of the film's lionising of her, and the claim that her economic policies led to recovery. All bollocks. We get to the truth of the matter in a brilliant Cabinet scene in which she has clearly gone too far, but that's treated as if it's a one-off - a harbinger - whereas in fact she was a thug in Cabinet and out. But Meryl Streep is magnificent and it's worth seeing for the performance. And Giles is in it. As Geoffrey Howe, no less.

It'll be Streep versus Close at the Oscars. Close might win it, since if you wear men's clothes you're almost certain of a statuette. Unless you're actually queer, of course. Sad but true.

Mission Impossible 4: Ghost Protocol - Actually not bad for a blowing-things-up movie. Though why, in this day and age, the otherwise kickass woman agent (Paula Patton) has to get dressed up in a slinky evening gown to seduce a bad guy is inexplicable. And then there's Tom Cruise, who always does that stupid sprinting thing and yet never catches anyone. Not to mention the hair. But, you know, someone does blow up the Kremlin. And that's always fun. Holiday movies.

I Love You Phillip Morris - Jim Carrey. Why? Nothing more to say except Ewan McGregor is just beautiful. Always.

Damages - (on DVD) Glenn Close again, absolutely petrifying. But now she's freaked me out and I'm too scared to watch the rest. That means it is very effective TV.  Also I'm a wimp.

I was on holidays, so I've been on a binge, and not reading anything at all related to French opera or 16th century printing. Instead, I've been reading:

The Chanters of Tremaris, Kate Constable's YA fantasy trilogy set in a beautifully imagined world laced together by the magic of song.

The Old Kingdom, another YA fantasy trilogy, this time by Garth Nix. It's also perfectly imagined, but much darker: worlds of old magic held in place by necromancy and ... ooh, makes me shiver just thinking about it.

Mortal Instruments. Yes, one more YA fantasy series, this one by Cassandra Clare and set mostly in New York. I like the world, and the logic of it, and she's a dab hand with the snappy dialogue, but the characterisation is very thin. Still, what would I  know? She sells millions and they're making a movie and girls everywhere want to marry Jace and apparently that's what matters.

War and Peace and Sonya by Judith Armstrong. This was on my wishlist for Christmas and then it arrived and I was happy. Tolstoy, through the eyes of his wife Sonya. A wonderful premise. Then I read it.  I struggled, dear reader, I'm sorry to say, because I really wanted to like it. But the voice doesn't work for me, it's strained and clunky, the pace is inconsistent, all telling and then mostly awkwardly. Bits of it read like a university book review. And it's oddly lacking in passion.

Why be happy when you can be normal? This is Jeanette Winterson's memoir of the Oranges are not the only fruit years and their aftermath. Oranges, she has argued in recent years, was fiction or something between fiction and memoir. This is the real story and it is, as she says, even more bleak. It's Winterson in essay mode, sometimes fragmentary but not showing off, not trying to do anything but tell some truths and understand. (I don't mind it when she shows off, by the way - she's allowed.) It works, as an extended riff on life and religion and class - and honestly with a mother like Mrs Winterson she need only present her to us in all her glory, and you can't tear your gaze away. The only shocking new revelation: Winterson voted for Thatcher once. That's big.

The Last Jew, by Noah Gordon. Actually, this was vaguely research, as it's set in Spain in the early years of the Inquisition, but it didn't hurt my holiday brain too much. Well-written historical fiction and interesting for me because it's along the lines of a quest, but one in which there's no great crescendo of action or denouement. It is, like Isabella's quest in The Sultan's Eyes, about searching for home.

Which I'd really better get on to...