This is Lili's OLD WEBSITE! Go to liliwilkinson.com.au for the shiny, better, more up-to-date, awesome version.

25 December 2007

Christmas at the Wilkinson House

8am. rinse turkey and season with lemon, garlic and herb butter.

8:30. toast and tea. open presents. 

9:15. turkey in oven. baste every 15 minutes for the next three hours.

9:30-11:30. make bread sauce and stuffing, prepare veggies, put pudding in to boil. shower, tidy, set table.

12:30. turkey out to stand. make gravy. crank up the oven for the veggies, stuffing and bread sauce. steam veggies. cut ham.

12:45. open the wine.

1pm. eat. crackers, more wine. terrible jokes.

2pm. swear you'll never eat again.

2:30. pudding. soak in rum on the plate, and then heat rum in a ladle, set on fire and pour liquid fire onto pudding. nom nom nom.

3pm. swear you'll never eat again.

4pm. chocolate santas and mince pies. pictionary, chinese checkers.

5pm. walk to the park (SLOWLY).

6pm. small nap.

7pm. turkey and stuffing sandwich.

7:30. swear you'll never eat again.

8pm. maybe one more mince pie.

8:30. It's a Wonderful Life on TV (or a Muppet Christmas Carol). Graze on nuts, chocolate santas, ham, leftover veggies. Try and learn the difference between port, muscat and tokay by having one glass of each.

11pm. Bed.

Merry Christmas, blogosphere!

14 December 2007

Real or Fake? The Christmas Tree Dilemma

I love Christmas. I love everything about it. I can even tolerate a tiny bit of Jesus-lovin' at Christmas time (as long as it's the Away in a Manger kind of Jesus-lovin', not the 'Jesus wants me to carry a gun' kind).
And one of my favourite things about Christmas (apart from the food) is a Christmas tree. But there is the dilemma: real or fake?
Real is nice because it's... well, it's real. It is a tree and it smells nice. But there are a couple of things that are problematic with real ones, namely:
1. They go brown very quickly, and don't last until twelfth night.
2. Things live in them. Like snails who eat wrapping paper.
3. I am violently allergic to them, and can't be in the same room as one without medication.
and
4. Monterey pines, which are the only kind of Christmas tree available in Australia.
These are Christmas trees:

This, however, is not a Christmas tree:

It just isn't.
So I've gone fake. If I could get a Douglas fir or a Fraser, then I might be prepared to deal with the snails and the vast amounts of Claratyne. But not for a Monterey Pine.



12 December 2007

Takadanobaba

We're staying in a ryokan in Takadanobaba.

The REALLY nerdy among you will know that Takadanobaba is the birthplace of AstroBoy (or Tetsuwan Atom, as he is known in Japan). When you get off the train here, the station PA plays the theme song. 

Also, me and AstroBoy share the same birthday.

11 December 2007

Flying

If you ever have the opportunity, fly from New York to Tokyo*. The route goes north, up though the very top of Alaska, over miles and miles of pure white snow and frozen lakes, with absolutely no sign of people. Then a short stretch of ocean and then down through Siberia. This time with enormous cliffs and mountains of snow that drop dramatically into the ocean.

It was perfectly clear the whole way, and as we were flying west in the late afternoon, we had a perpetual sunset for most of the way. It was amazing.

------------------------------------

* But don't fly American Airlines. Ever. No matter how cheap it is. It's like being in jail. But I'm sure you get better food in jail. There isn't even any booze! Not even to BUY!

09 December 2007

The True Story of a Squirl who Loved a Soldier

So I'm standing in line, ready to get on the ferry to Ellis Island. It's a long line, I'll be here for an hour and a half. It's also outside, and about 1 degree. Brr.

There's a gruff-looking soldier standing, supervising the line with disinterest. A Swedish guy goes over to him and asks in broken English where to buy tickets. The Gruff Soldier stares at him, and does this irritating thing where he refuses to anticipate what Swedish is trying to say, even though he's struggling, and also even though Gruff must get asked that question about a million times a day. He doesn't even smile or nod to indicate that he's listening. He insists on waiting until Swedish has managed a complete sentence before he jerks his head and mutters a few words.

'Nice,' I think. 'Very courteous. Bloody Americans.'

There is a Squirl* sniffing around the park, eating all the things that the tourists drop. He stops near Gruff and looks up at him, its Squirly nose all twitchy and adorable. Gruff looks down at Squirl and continues to look gruff.

Squirl is clearly disconcerted that Gruff didn't acknowledg
e him. So it shuffles a bit closer, and puts a little Squirly paw on Gruff's khaki trouser leg. Gruff exhibits no discernable emotion.

Squirl is just plain pissed now. Can't this stupid man see how CUTE the Squirl is? The fluffy tail? The twitchy nose? The adorable wide eyes?

Squirl does a little shudder of the tail, and then runs up the outside of Gruff's military issue trousers, grabs his belt, and fixes him with a beady and slightly pugnacious eye.

Gruff looks down at the adorable ball of fur attached to his hip pocket.

And he winks at Squirl.

--------------------------------------------

*Squirrel. Like this one:

28 November 2007

Spectacular

So I could tell you about the amazing off-Broadway play we went to last night, directed by Ethan Hawke. I could tell you about the awesome cast. Or I could tell you about the famous people who were mere seats away from us in the audience.

But I'm not going to.

Because tonight we went to the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes. And it was made entirely of cheese, Christmas and Awesome. There were fireworks and midgets and children and camels (real camels) and ice-skating and toy soldiers and a whole bit where we put on 3D glasses to watch Santa fly his sleigh over New York. I cried with joy the whole way through - even the Jesus bit (but mostly because of the camels. also the donkey).

25 November 2007

Thankful

So I had my first ever Thanksgiving on Thursday. So this is my list of what I'm giving thanks for:

1. THIS.
2. Maureen & co for making such an amazing feast.
3. Justine & Scott for introducing me to the aforementioned.
4. THIS.
5. Turkey.
6. Staying up til 5am New York time with S&J and Snazzle to read the words landslide, mauled, humiliated and crushing defeat.
7. Pumpkin pie.

Happy holidays, Australia. I am proud of you once more.

22 November 2007

New York Minutes


Scott, Justine, Sarah and I are walking through the East Village on our way to dinner.

me: (randomly musing out loud) I should call David Levithan to see if we can get on the set of the Nick and Norah movie.
sarah: (pointing) Uh, isn't that him there?
David Levithan: Oh hai.
Yeah. They were shooting on that street. Unfortunately Michael Cera wasn't there (playing Nick), but this guy was, playing Jesus with no pants on.


(justine photographing david listening to movie).

Start Spreading the News...

So this is New York. It's cold, but not too cold. It's full of people and trains and shops and museums and Christmas trees.

At the moment we're staying in Queens with Sarah's Uncle Larry. His car's SatNav has a mind of its own, and is always trying to take us to other places.

Yesterday we visited the American Natural History Museum, which had this great way of explaining the universe. There's an enormous sphere (about 35 m across) called the Hayden Sphere. And you walk around it down a spiral ramp. At the each station on the ramp, there is a comparison, like 'if the Hayden sphere is the size of the known universe, then this marble is the size of the Virgo supercluster of galaxies'. As you move down you get smaller in powers of 10, until the comparison is 'if the Hayden sphere is a raindrop, this (small lump) is the size of a red blood-cell'. It was an amazing way of describing scale and understanding the universe.

Tomorrow is my First Ever Thanksgiving.

18 November 2007

Lili is...

in Tokyo.

It's strange being back here. We caught the train past my old apartment, and went to some familiar shopping haunts today (not too fat for Japanese clothes!).

I also learnt that the difference between Western Breakfast and Japanese Breakfast is - Western Breakfast has a knife and fork. Otherwise it's still fish and miso (oiishi!).

Tomorrow - New York.

08 November 2007

So what's this Golden Compass film all about then, eh?

There appears to be a rather big dummy-spit going on in the US about Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Here are some claims and comments:

In the last book, a boy and girl are depicted representing Adam and Eve and they kill God.

They are hoping that unsuspecting parents will take their children to See the movie, that they will enjoy the movie and then the children will want the books for Christmas. That's the hook. Pullman says he wants the children to read the books and decide against God and the kingdom of heaven.

I couldn't believe that in a children's book part of the story is about castration and female circumcision.

IF you're goal is to raise your child in a way that would cause them to grow and know God as He is described in the Bible, you should shield them from the writings.

I want more than anything else I want for my children, even their own happiness in this life, for them to believe in God, Who is their salvation.

i dont know much about pullman or his writings but the Word of God is the truth and the Bible says that Lieing is a sin.*By pullman writing this book he is lieing and he knows not the truth and the truth is not in him But God is truth and His word never fails and God has the final say. So Mr Pullman God wins you lose.

If a book is written by an atheist, the spirit of everything in that book is one of atheism.

Why risk filling your childs head with thoughts that you may have been able to prevent?

Why indeed? I'm pretty sure this stuff don't need any extra commentary. Just imagine me jumping up and down being REALLY angry. And then imagine some Stupid People complaining about books they CLEARLY HAVEN'T READ.

These comments are all from beliefnet, which i'm not going to link to because I don't want them all coming over here and dirtying up my blog with their petty and repressive thoughts.

_________________
*So what does the Bible say about spelling?

02 November 2007

Why I Love the State Library

People often ask me what my favourite part of the State Library is. Sometimes I say the dome, or the Mirror of the World exhibition. But I'm lying.
My real favourite place in the Library is right next to my staff kitchenette. It's this:

I like to think of it as a rather profound and existential statement on the human condition.

26 October 2007

The Inevitable Post about Dumbledore

"The Potter books in general are a prolonged argument for tolerance,"
-JK Rowling

I find with all things Harry Potter, that I really enjoy it, until I start thinking, and then I get irritated. It was the same with Rowling's recent announcement about Dumbledore's sexuality.

At first I thought "awesome! positive gay characters in children's literature!"

And then I thought 4 things.

Thing #1
"He is my character. He is what he is and I have the right to say what I say about him."
Once your book is published, it doesn't belong to you anymore. It belongs to your readers. Let THEM tell YOU what happens next, not the other round.

Thing #2
"If I'd known it would make you so happy, I would have announced it years ago!"
No. You should have announced it years ago anyway. You should have put it in the books. You are probably the most influential human being in the world for young people. You have more power to influence young people's attitudes than the United Nations, Sesame Street and their parents combined. You had an opportunity to present them with a positive gay role model, and you chose not to, I assume, because you were scared of the reaction from the religious right.

Thing #3
[Rowling] didn't feel the need to be explicit about Dumbledore's sexual preferences because she wanted to focus on character development.
I'm going to skip over the fact that many gay people might find that sentence deeply offensive.
Dumbledore was brave. Dumbledore liked to stick it to the Man (no pun intended). Dumbledore was never afraid to tell anyone his opinion, no matter how powerful or dangerous they were.
Except no one in the Harry Potter world knew he was gay. Not Harry, or anyone else that we know of. So he was in the closet.
So if a man as open and brave as Dumbledore felt he needed to keep his sexuality a secret - exactly what kind of a world is the Potterverse? How homophobic must the world be for Dumbledore to conceal such an important part of his identity? That's not a "positive message" at all, or a "prolonged argument for tolerance". It's sad and regressive and scary.

Thing #4
Seriously. Like Rita Skeeter wouldn't have known and put it in her book.

23 October 2007

Improve Your Vocabulary - help developing nations!

Check out Free Rice, a project from poverty.com

For every word you correctly label, poverty.com will donate 10 grains of rice to a developing nation.

It's procrastination AND worthy AND promotes literacy!

10 October 2007

Advertising and Bunnies

My parents always mute the TV and go and do something whenever the ads come on. I do too. Most of the time.
Except ads are getting... well... really good.
Advertising companies are obviously hiring some fresh-thinking film school graduates to make amazing, expensive, innovative short films with brands attached. Like that (and I can't believe I'm saying this) that Golden Arches ad where all the kiddies climb out of the grown-ups tummies. And the eBay one with the shopping trollies and the snow (although I kinda don't like the way it implies that when you buy so
mething from eBay, it's never what you expected).
But my very favourite ads are the Sony Bravia ads*. You know, the first one was all the millions of little bouncy balls bouncing their rainbowy goodness down hills in San Francisco? And the one with the building being demolished with layers of coloured paint exploding out of each floor as it went?
The think I like the most about these ads is they REALLY do them. They really did let a million coloured bouncy balls loose in SF. And they really did explode a building full of paint. Bugger all this CG nonsense (sorry, Gollum).
Well now there's a new one. And it has bunnies in New York.
_______________________________
*due to my leftiecommiepinko guilt at essentially giving Sony some free promotion, I need to link to this article about how plasma screens are really bad for the environment.

05 October 2007

Freedom to Read

There is an organisation called the Happy Endings Foundation's East of England Cheering Committee.

What do they do? (I hear you ask.) Do they reunite orphans with their long lost parents? Do they find Handsome Princes for Lowly Peasant Girls? Do they provide support and counselling for failed Idol participants?

No. This lady and all her lovely, caring friends are out there to make sure that kids don't get too upset by books with sad endings.

Oh (you say), that's nice. They talk about why the Snowman melted, and why the puppy had to go to the Big Doghouse in the Sky.

No. They just burn all the books with sad endings.

(they WHAT?)

They burn them. With fire. They call it a Bad Book Bonfire, and they have them quite often.

So the newspaper article says that Lemony Snicket is on the pyre. But I'm thinking you'd have to torch The House at Pooh Corner, Charlotte's Web and Bridge to Terabithia as well. And let's not even mention The Velveteen Rabbit.

Now seems like a REALLY good time to mention that it's Banned Books Week.

This weekend, read a Sad Book or a Bad Book or a Banned Book to celebrate your Freedom to Read...

02 October 2007

Memetastic

(from Penni)

1. My rock star name (first pet and current car)
Mishka Swift (hott. with two 't's.)

2. My gangsta name (ice cream flavour plus cookie, or biscuit)
Cookies & Cream Shortbread (sounds more like a fluffy bunny)

3. My fly girl name (first letter of first name, first three letters of last name)
L Wil (meh)

4. My detective name (favourite colour, favourite animal)
Green Bear (rawwr)

5. My soap opera name (middle name, city of birth)
Mei-Ling Melbourne (i can totally see her. she'd wear lots of awful faux-Chinese dresses)

6. My Star Wars name (first three letters of your last name, first two of your first name)
Wil-Li

7. My superhero name (second favourite colour, favourite drink, add “the”)
The Blue Water (She surfs. She wears a bikini. She's on the ABC. She's soft porn for teenagers...)

8. My Nascar name (first two names of my two grandfathers)
Jack James (I like this one a lot)

9. My stripper name (favourite perfume, favourite sweet)
Olene Musk Sticks (how foxy is that? She'd be a totally classy strippper)

10. My witness protection name (mother’s and father’s middle names)
Ann Richard

11. My weather anchor name (fifth grade teacher’s name, a major city beginning with the same letter)
Jeremy Jakarta

12. My spy name (favourite season/flower)
Spring Jasmine

13. Cartoon name (favourite fruit plus garment you’re wearing, with an “ie” or “y” added)
Cherry Red Bootsie (she'd be unreal)

14 Hippie name (what you ate for breakfast plus favourite tree)
Peanut Butter Toast Ornamental Cherry (well, if by 'hippy' you mean 'utter nonsense')

15. Your rockstar tour name (favourite hobby plus weather element, with “the”)
The Reading Fire. (sounds a bit Christian Rock...)

25 September 2007

BY NOD LET IN

So, if Enid Blyton left secret codes in her books to tell the world how much she hated her first husband... well, that would be Made of Awesome.

But the "clues" that biographer Duncan McClaren found in the Mystery books are... unconvincing. To say the least:

  1. Her husband used to drink in the cellar. The bumbling policeman got locked in the cellar. Once.
  2. Her husband had no imagination. The bumbling policeman had no imagination.
  3. Her husband's name was Hugh. The bumbling policeman's name was Theophilus Goon, which anagrams to O Hugh Spoilt One or O Let Hugh Poison.

Yeah? Well it also anagrams to Highest I Polo On and Eighth Oil Spoon. And Sleigh Hop In Too.

There are, in fact 32250 legitimate anagrams of Theophilus Goon. Yep. THIRTY TWO THOUSAND. Secret code my foot.

So let's give up on that particular "theory", and look at the awesome new promotion for the Wyoming Library.

22 September 2007

Pros and Cons

Pro: singing karaoke with my peeps til the wee hours of the morning.

Con: my head today which is ouch.

Con: getting out of bed.

Pro: doughuts.

Con: going to the office on a Saturday.

Pro: (from The Age) "Apart from Ruth Park's Playing Beatie Bow, there are few stand-out young adult books with an Australian history background. Scatterheart is a notable exception."

Now it is time for a nap.

20 September 2007

What I Know Is

1. Heroes is much better when you watch it in Spanish*. (it's pretty good normally, but Made of Awesome in Spanish, especially if you do funny voices over the top of it.)

2. Old people Baby Boomers are far more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviour than teenagers. Take note, Today Tonight and Jim Schembri: "Middle-aged hooligans!", not "teenage hooligans!". Binge drinkers? More than double the amount of boomers than teens/early 20s. Illegal drug-death? Five times more boomers. For shame. (via Justine)

3. The following statement could not be more untrue:

Children’s book protagonists skirt past private wounds; they are too busy exploring Narnia or Neverland and fending off witches, pirates and Indian chiefs — or hostile saleswomen at Bendel’s.
Only adult fiction indulges the grown-up delusion that children are interested in their parents’ personal lives.

Too busy exploring Neverland? Please. There's a reason why Mr Darling and Captain Hook is usually played by the same actor.

____________________

* This may not be true if you actually speak Spanish.

17 September 2007

Launch of a Lili





All of these photos were taken by the wondrous Snazzles, who is made of awesome.

06 September 2007

Shortlisted!

Joan of Arc has been shortlisted for a NSW Premier's History Award!

It's the Young People's History Prize, and I'm shortlisted alongside John Nicholson (for Songlines and Stone Axes) and Peter Macinnis (Kokoda Track: 101 Days).

I'm awfully glad to be on a shortlist with such good company.

04 September 2007

Scatterheart review

I promise I won't do this for every review. Just the ones that use the word "brilliant".

(from the Sydney Morning Herald)


Equally brilliant, but quite different again, is Scatterheart by Lili Wilkinson, children's literature critic, author and blogger (see, thinkingsofalili.blogspot.com). This epic tale begins in 1814 London, where 15-year-old Hannah Cheshire awaits trial for a crime she did not commit.
The descriptions of the prison itself, and of those imprisoned alongside Hannah, are vivid and gruesome. Hannah is convicted and sent to Australia on the convict ship the Derby Ram, another wonderfully realised setting. The hopelessness and injustice of the situation is palpable but Hannah proves surprisingly resilient, finding strength in new friendships and the possibility of a rediscovering old ones.
Wilkinson weaves the narrative together with great skill - from Hannah's present situation, back to when she led a life of wealth and privilege - revealing bit-by-bit how the naive young woman has ended up in such awful circumstances.
Also entwined with Hannah's story is a fairytale, Scatterheart, which bears many similarities to what's happening to Hannah, and allows the reader to hope that she will find her "happily ever after". The fairytale shares the same epic qualities as the novel, as well as creating a strong contrast between fantasy and gritty realism.

29 August 2007

Scatterheart launch

Come to my book launch!

Tue September 11, 6pm
Readings Hawthorn
701 Glenferrie Road Hawthorn

rsvp by September 7 to rsvp@bdb.com.au

27 August 2007

Making a difference

Watch this if you're a teacher. No, watch it if you think that being a teacher is a soft option. Just watch it.

25 August 2007

Harry Potter: Tree Killer

If an editor had taken out all of the unnecessary adverbial dialogue tags and other nonsense from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, there would be 130 000 more trees in the world today.

24 August 2007

THE SCATTERHEART SMALLTOWN COMPETITION

The Deal:

Remember Douglas Adams' Meaning of Liff? Where he and John Lloyd took place names and gave them dictionary definitions?

Well I want you to do that with some of the places I've been to in the last fortnight (on tour with work). They are all actual places in regional Victoria. And the best two will win a free copy of Scatterheart.

An Example:

Yeungroon: (verb) The noise you make when you've eaten three vanilla slices in rapid succession. The girl went a funny greenish-yellow colour and let out a pained yeungroon.

Now it's your turn. I offer the following placenames for your consideration:

Manangatang

Patchewallock

Boinka

Boigbeat

Teddywally West

Bollangum

Minyip

Wycheproof

Nyah

Boomahnoomoonah

(submit your entries in the comments. competition will be open until... i don't know. a fortnight? we'll see. you can enter as many times as you like. apologies to anyone who lives in these towns, or speaks the language that they are named in, and is offended)

17 August 2007

Friday lolz

I used to love the idea of these books as a kid, but was always deeply disappointed. I also went through a phase where I read those Fighting Fantasy books, which was like a Choose Your Own Adventure but played with dice. Except I always cheated - cause who's gonna know?

Anyway, for your Friday lolz I purloin present: The Choose Your Own Adventure Novels That Never Quite Made It.



More here. (check out the Deadwood one on page 5 that I am not posting here because of Delicate Young Eyes)

Also, I am guilty of six of the 20 most overused things in YA literature. The shame.

13 August 2007

PostSecret

This song always makes me cry.

03 August 2007

Scrivener (a somewhat advertorial post)

So instead of talking about the book that just came out on the shelves, I thought I'd talk about the book I just finished writing. (writing the first draft of, that is).

Actually, I'm not going to say anything about the new book, other than: It was so much fun to write.

What I am going to talk about is how I wrote it.

I wrote it without Microsoft Word.
(shh, don't tell Bill Gates)

Scrivener is a word-processor for people who write books. Or plays, or films, or articles. People who write stuff.

It does everything that Microsoft Word doesn't do - and you don't realise exactly how much Word doesn't do, until you've tried Scrivener.

Scrivener sorts your book into chapters. You can split the main window if you like, and work on two chapters simultaneously (awesome if you're cutting and pasting, or doing Big Edits). Or, if you'd rather, you can have a chapter open in one pane, and an image/website/audio file/video file/pdf in the other and transcribe.

It also has some unreal subject/category sorting things, so you can just hit a button and see how many times I've talked about spelling in a chapter. Or how many times Tarni does something dumb.

I'm currently loving the target options. I can say: My novel needs to be 40 000 words. This chapter needs to be 2500 words, and I want to write 1000 words in this session. And it will give you lovely sliders to show you how you're going on all these.

Ooh! And research. You can attach research to any section or chapter, and have notes and things just sitting there all the time, when you need them. And link to other bits in your book or another file or website.

BUT

Here are my two favourite things.

Thing #1: Full Screen Mode, to Avoid Distractions:

Thing #2: The Corkboard, for the Structure Fiend in You
And the icing on the cake?

Microsoft Word Professional costs US$399.99.

Scrivener costs US$34.99.

Bill Gates can bite me.

02 August 2007

I'm a Thinking Blogger!


The tiny and delightful Lisa has given me a Thinking Blogger Award. I am quite flattered.

My bloggy birthday passed several months ago, and I didn't even realise. It's been lovely and surprising how many people come up to me and tell me that they read (and enjoy) my blog.

Here are the TBA rules:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the 'Thinking Blogger Award' with a link to the post that you wrote.

So here are Five Blogs that Make Me Think:
1. Misrule, for thought-provoking and interesting things about the world of children's and YA lit.
2. Audrey and the Bad Apples, for ranting, raving and being rosy-cheeked, all with astonishing style and poise. (and also for proving that bloggers can become Real Live Friends)
3. eglantine's cake, which takes equal parts of thinking, feeling and laughing and bakes something very tasty with it all.
4. Justine Larbalestier, who has the amazing gift of being prolific and not-boring at the same time, AND managing to write kick-arse books while she does it.
5. the munkey can type, who doesn't blog nearly often enough, but when he does it's always made of awesome. Even when it's about Big Brother.

Go forth. Read and think.

31 July 2007

Scatterheart in the wild

I have just received a missive from the delightful Simmone Howell telling me that Scatterheart has been sighted in the wild! (in Readings, to be precise).

Hurrah! I declare this to be Scatterheart Release Week, and tomorrow I will blog in more detail and maybe even think of a Competition.

27 July 2007

This is why the world is fucked

In the US...

1/3 of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives.

42 percent of college graduates never read another book after college.

80 percent of U.S. families did not buy or read a book last year.

70 percent of U.S. adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.

57 percent of new books are not read to completion.

70 percent of books published do not earn back their advance.

70 percent of the books published do not make a profit.

53 percent read fiction, 43 percent read nonfiction. The favorite fiction category is mystery and suspense, at 19 percent.

55 percent of fiction is bought by women, 45 percent by men.

About 120,000 books are published each year in the U.S.

A successful fiction book sells 5,000 copies.

A successful nonfiction book sells 7,500 copies.

On average, a bookstore browser spends 8 seconds looking at a book's front cover and 15 seconds looking at the back cover.

Each day in the U.S., people spend 4 hours watching TV, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines.

From here.

23 July 2007

Spoilery Pottery Initial Thoughts

I have such a complicated relationship with Harry.

I approach him as a reader, a fan, a critic, a children's literature professional and a writer.

I spent the weekend with my peeps, curled up on sofas under doonas, munching on pumpkin cupcakes and bagels and listening to Snaz read the book aloud. It was awesome. We laughed, we cried, we complained at the huge tracts of exposition. I thoroughly enjoyed myself, as I always have whenever I've read a HP book.

There are a lot of criticisms I could make, but I'm going to skip over most of them. You can overlook a lot of faults for a book that inspires so much hype, joy, love and enthusiasm.

BUT.

There's just this one thing.

The muggles.

I really, really, really wanted there to be a Muggle in the final battle. I wanted, just ONCE in the entire 7 part series, for there to be a Muggle who was a Good Guy. Not someone nasty or stupid or ineffectual. Someone GOOD. I really thought that we might see the New Improved Dudley again.

And after the series railed for so long against the Slytherins and Death Eaters for their attitudes towards halfbloods and mudbloods and purebloods - what happened with the Good Guys in the end? All the wizards married wizards and had little pureblood wizard babies. No mixed marriages. No 'squibs'. It just totally validated everything the bad guys were gunning for.

Even the single interracial relationship (Lupin and Tonks) wasn't permitted to exist in the Happily Ever After. And tell me Dobby wasn't totally the black guy who dies in the first half of an action movie.

Finally, I just need to share the cover of Melbourne's right-wing tabloid propaganda machine Sunday Herald Sun, on the day when most of the English-speaking world were reading Harry Potter:
For a moment I wasn't sure if I was seeing the Herald Sun or the Daily Prophet. Then I saw that peculiar use of the word Wizard! and wondered if there was a Harry Potter musical.

18 July 2007

Guess the Book Title!

What book am I quoting from?

#1
He walked right around the cave, touching as much as the rough rock as he could, occasionally pausing, running his fingers backwards and forwards over a particular spot, until he finally stopped, his hand pressed flat against the wall.
'Here,' he said. 'We go on through here. The entrance is concealed.'
...
He stepped back from the cave wall and pointed his wand at the rock. For a moment, an arched outline appeared there, blazing white as though there was a powerful light behind the crack.


still wondering? try this bit:


#2
...a dead man lying face up inches beneath the surface: his open eyes misted as though with cobwebs, his hair and robes swirling around him like smoke.
'There are bodies in here!'

Anybody? Anybody?

14 July 2007

Film Festivals: A Cautionary Guide

I love the Melbourne Film Festival. I go every year. A lot. But I've learnt a few things about which films are good, and which ones make you want to stick blunt pencils in your eyes. So I've cast my eye over the 2007 program, and want to share some thoughts.

Avoid all films which contain the following in their descriptions:

"harrowing"

"questions the very meaning of existence"

"a thought-provoking exercise in stretching film vocabulary to its limits"

"casts an austere gaze"

"the human need for emotion and tenderness"

Lars von Trier

"gritty metamorphosis of deeply wounded people"

"bitter and broken"

"walking the fine line between derision and sympathy, pessimism and very dim hope"

France

"passive and isolated"

"grim"

"hypnotic"

"stark"

"organic and raw"

"a whimsical exploration of existential angst"

"oppressive reality"

"sumptuous mood piece on longing and mourning"

"a sculptress whose marriage is an unfeeling abyss"

"unrelenting"

"this muted drama builds into a brooding study of loss, responsibility and incomprehension"

"a gruelling, often painful, occasionally dangerous marathon"

"introspective and minimalist"

Are you getting the picture? Some of these films SOUND like a good idea. Oh yes, a film about the relationship between an elderly couple, where, half-way through, they switch locations froma village to a hospital and replay all of the dialogue from the first half? Sounds interesting. Sounds experimental.

Consider this. According to an online calculator, I have 479688 hours left to live. I expect you have something not dissimilar. Do you REALLY want to spend two of those hours watching something described as a "free and minimalist portrait of nascent narcisissm?"

13 July 2007

Punctuation is Awesome

?
Did you know that the question mark is a stylised q on top of a very tiny o? It was monkish shorthand for questio, which they used to write at the end of a sentence to indicate it was a question.

!
Oh, and the exclamation mark is a stylised io, which means "exclamation of joy" in Latin.

&
This little critter didn't get a name until the 19th century, when it was taught as the 27th letter of the alphabet. The kiddies felt Awkward saying "w, x, y and and", so they said "w, x, y and, per se, and". Which turned into ampersand.

via Neatorama.

11 July 2007

I love Eight, Eight is Great, Eight is the Number I Do Not Hate

From Penni.

Here are the rules:

A. Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves.

B. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed.

C. [there is a Rule C about tagging 8 people, but given that most of my friends have, of late, fallen off the bloggery bandwagon, I shall make this a bit more open] If you're reading this, consider yourself tagged.

1. I was born in the front room of the house where my parents still live. They buried the placenta in the garden and planted a tree on top of it. The tree died.

2. I am scared of vomit, infidelity, heights and rollercoasters that go upside down.

3. I am not scared of spiders.

4. I am an atheist.

5. I am waiting for the day when scientists invent a) an electric blanket that can cool you down in summer, and b) mashed potato that makes you thin.

6. I am an insufferable know-it-all.

7. At my year 12 formal, I took the first boy I ever had a real crush on, although I no longer had the crush. My ex-girlfriend took my then-boyfriend. It was a really good night.

8. I am an only child, and I wouldn't have it any other way. My only regret is that I'll never be a real auntie.

06 July 2007

Four Reasons Why Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer is the Best Film You Will See This Year

(spoilers, but really, like you're ever going to see it)

1. Jessica Alba had lots to do as the only woman in the film. Like... whinge about how her wedding keeps getting interrupted by having to save the world. And not quite be able to hold up the London Eye (resulting in a nosebleed). And... be sensitive and the catalyst for the Silver Surfer not to kill them all because she reminds him of his shiny silver girlfriend back home. Oh, and die.

2. The villain was awesomely cool. I mean, what could be cooler than the shiny silver guy from Terminator 2, with Laurence Fishburne's voice (sounding a lot like Legion from Red Dwarf for all the geeks out there). ON A MAGIC SURFBOARD. (oh, except he's not actually the villain. The villain is really The Nothing from the Neverending Story.)

3. The bit at the end where Ioan Gruffudd (Hornblower! What happened to you!? You went all blah!!) looks around at downtown Shanghai, looks at poor eat-a-burger Jessica Alba and says "This gives me an idea". Cut to... them getting married... in Japan.

4. Julian McMahon's success-fat.

01 July 2007

Holding it in your hands...

...is an incredibly exciting moment.

It’s a huge relief that it’s actually finally actually finished. It’s also terrifying. I can’t bear to actually read any of it, in case I find a bit where James is called Jack (he was in an earlier draft) or Molly “closes her eyes” (she only has one).

More terrifying is that people are actually going to go and read it now. What if they hate it? What if they find typos? What if they get bored and never finish it?

Anyway. It’ll be on shelves in a month. There’ll be a launch. I’ll let you know.

The Soundtrack to my Life

It is Sunday, so it is time for a Meme. This one is stealed from Penni.

The usual iTunes on Shuffle thing. No cheating. If my life were a movie, this would be the soundtrack:

Opening Credits
Thanks a Lot by Third Eye Blind

hmm, not really a cheery one, but at least there are zombies

Waking Up
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band by The Beatles
it was twenty years ago today…

First Day At School
Just B’Cos, Machine Gun Fellatio
I see your shape in the crowd
I turn to know where you are
But all around is a stage of high-density housing


Falling In Love
Hernando’s Hideaway by Doris Day (from The Pyjama Game)
I know a dark, secluded place
a place where no one knows your face
a glass of wine, a strong embrace.

I’m going to fall in love in a speakeasy!

Fight Song
Happy Feet by Kermit the Frog

can’t you imagine him kicking someone in the head to this?

Breaking Up
The More You Ignore Me by The Smiths
Beware! I bear more grudges
Than lonely high court judges


Prom
A Little Less Conversation by Elvis (via JXL)
A little more action, please!

Life
Great Southern Land by Icehouse
so you look into the land and it will tell you a story
story 'bout a journey ended long ago
if you listen to the motion of the wind in the mountains
maybe you can hear them talking like I do

Mental Breakdown
Dive by David Bridie
the ocean is rising, i feel the water storming in
the ocean is waiting, it's waiting for me to dive right in

Driving
Sparks by The Who

Flashback
A Menuetto from the Bach Cello Suites, performed by YoYo Ma

Getting back together
Wingspan, by Cymbals.
Spread your wings so wide / Free your mind

Wedding
There is a Light that Never Goes Out, Neil Finn
And if a double decker bus kills the both of us
Today by your side, is such a heavenly way to die

If i ever get married, this is totally going on the playlist.

Birth of Child
Caroline by Old Crow Medicine Show
They say you were born in St. Claire’s hospital
I say you were born up in the sky
You come floatin’ down over New Orleans
To the sweet green levee on the river side
And your voice chirped like old squeaky shoes

Final Battle
Sad Professor, by REM.
Dear Readers, I’m not sure where I’m heading
I’ve gotten lost before.
I’ve woke up stone drunk face-down on the floor.

Death Scene
Every Day Is Like Sunday by Morrissey
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon - come armageddon!
Come, armageddon! come!

Funeral Song
Sing by the Sesame Street Kids.
Sing, Sing a Song. Sing out loud. Sing out Strong.
Sing of good things, not bad.
Sing of happy, not sad.

wow. i totally want that at my funeral!


End Credits
Calling all Angels, KD Lang and Jane Siberry
but if you could...do you think you would
trade in all the pain and suffering?
ah, but then you'd miss
the beauty of the light upon this earth
and the sweetness of the leaving

Hmm. Doesn't sound like it's going to be a feel-good romcom type of film/life. Oh well.

16 June 2007

The Good Fight

At the launch of Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist*, both Ros Price (the publisher) and David Levithan (one of the two authors) said some very nice things.

I don't think it's entirely true to say that the book only got published in Australia because Mike and I pushed so hard for it. The book got published in Australia because it's fucking awesome. We just pointed that out to some people (okay, everyone we met), and Allen & Unwin were nice enough to listen.

It is very gratifying to learn that, when it comes to YA in Australia, my opinions count for something. It's flattering. It also feels like a responsibility.

I have a pile of signed books from Reading Matters, from writers who I respect more than I can say. And many of these authors, above their signatures, thanked me for "fighting the good fight".

This is, in part, a reference to David Levithan's amazing, moving, provocative and inspiring talk about "Killing the Vampires" and making sure the right books get to the teens who really need to see themselves on the shelves of their library.

I can't do justice to what he said with a neat summary. You will have to hear it yourselves. It was a talk for librarians, but everyone needs to hear it. At the conference, it received a standing ovation. I was not the only person moved to tears.

And you need to do more than hear it. You need to copy it, you need to put it on your blog, you need to tell people about it, talk about it, think about it. It has a Creative Commons license, so use it as you will.

Help us fight the good fight.


---------------------------------------------
* review here and first chapter here

12 June 2007

Ephebiphobia

Dear Mr Schembri,

My friend Jellyfish has just sent me a rather irate email containing a link to your latest offering in The Age.

In response to your '10 key reasons why children should not be allowed in cinemas', I would like to alert you of '1 really key reason why Jim Schembri should not be allowed in print'.

The other day, David Levithan said that homophobia was the last acceptable prejudice. He was wrong. There is another one, and it is ephebiphobia. The fear of young people. (or pedophobia, the fear of children and babies).

Do you think if Jim Schembri had written an article on 10 reasons why we shouldn't let WOMEN or JEWS or BLACK PEOPLE into cinemas, it would have been published?

Why does our society see young people as some kind of lesser species?

Apart from all of the absolute bollocks you see in the media about "teens running wild" and all of the head-shaking and 'in my day'-ing that goes on today, have a think about these 10 things:

1. children as young as 12 can be tried for crimes as adults

2. children can't vote, as they are cited to have a lower level of reasoning. But adults don't have to prove any level of reasoning to vote.

3. the 'lower level of reasoning' line was also used to prevent people with different coloured skins and vaginas from voting up until the 20th century.

4. Senile people have a say in how their country is run. Alcholics and psychotics and murderers and rapists have a say in how their country is run. Not young people.

5. children are forced to attend underfunded schools, have little or no access to free health care, and will have to grow up coping with catastrophic global warming, but have no voice to protest or bring about change.

6. they also have to pay taxes AND superannuation, if they are earning money (not to mention the fucking GST), but with no legal say in how those funds are managed.

7. in the US, poverty among young people exceeds all other age groups, yet the government spends 10 times more on each poor senior than each poor child.

8. you can be a Christian and a child. A Muslim and a child. You can be gay. You can be disabled. You can be poor. You can be homeless. But you're not allowed to have an opinion. (or, if Jim Schembri has his way, go to the fucking cinema)

9. many people in Positions of Influence seem to think that young people should constantly be educated - that books must be either Classics or about Real Issues (see the YA winner of the WA Premier's Award for a recent and tooth-grinding example), television should only be documentaries, and computers are just plain evil.

10. I'll stop ranting now and quote Goosebumps author RL Stine: I believe that kids as well as adults are entitled to books of no socially redeeming value.

Stop picking on the young people. Or at least give them an opportunity to respond.

(With thanks to the NYRA and this episode of the West Wing.)

06 June 2007

5 things to know about my novel

1. The first word is "The"

2. The last word is "story"

3. It is 375 pages long

4. It is, according to Ursula Dubsosarsky: For lovers of reality and romance, history and fantasy - a truly endearing book

5. It is FINISHED.

05 June 2007

Buttonmania

If you live in Melbourne, and haven't been to Buttonmania, now is the time. They're having a sale. Even if you're not into buttons, you should go anyway. It's in the Nicholas Building on the corner of Swanston and Flinders Lane, which is one of my favourite buildings in Melbourne. It's full of twisty corridors and strange little shops and studios, and has a creaky old attendant lift. And a man on the top floor who makes cyber-fairies.

This is my haul - under $20 - think of all the creatures I can make!

04 June 2007

Dear Next-door Neighbour,

Hi!

How are you?

I'm great. You wanna know why? Because I have a week off work. I plan to write a lot, see my friends, and sleep in.

EXCEPT.

Except you don't want me to do that, do you?

You have chosen this week to demolish your apartment.

And you seem to like, more than anything, starting work at SEVEN O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING. WITH A REALLY REALLY BIG DRILL. INTO YOUR WALL, WHICH ALSO HAPPENS TO BE MY WALL.

IT'S LIKE YOU ARE DRILLING INTO MY HEAD.

And it's not like I can just go 'oh well, no sleep in for me, I'll just start writing!'. No. It's a bit hard to be creative when someone is

a) yelling to their mates
b) playing crap music really loud
c) DRILLING INTO MY HEAD

Please stop. Please go away. Please move to Altona.

Love,

Lili.

(ps. ok, when i said 'please stop', I meant stop everything, not please stop drilling and start banging.)

01 June 2007

Lili's top 10 ways to procrastinate make proofreading fun

1. Eat chocolate.

2. Have a glass of wine.

3. Exfoliate, and apply face-mask.

4. Crochet.

5. Check if term "fired" (as in "you're fired") was used in 1814. (it wasn't. first recorded usage is in the US in 1885)

6. Deliberate on the various merits of the em dash () or the spaced en ( ).

7. Check what font my novel is set in. (Garamond Simoncini. Claude Garamond was a typesetter in the early 16th century, but this particular typeface was designed by a later bloke called Jean Jannon)

8. Check out today's lolcats, lolbots, lolprezs and lolpilgrims.

9. Make lolproofreedin:
10. Blog it.

31 May 2007

Zzzz

So Reading Matters was over, and I was all ready to have a nice, quiet week. Go to work, go home, watch TV, eat mac&cheese, see my friends. Wear pjs a lot.

Then my editor sent me this email on Tuesday afternoon that said:

Scatterheart is going to press on Monday...

Monday.

MONDAY.

That's the day after the day after the day after tomorrow.

MONDAY.

So now my nice quiet pjs and mac and cheese week has turned into a CRAZY PROOFREADING AND LAST MINUTE CHANGES week. With a constant tirade of emails saying things like "I'm wondering if we should delete the possum scene, to increase narrative flow".

(But they wanted more sex! the possums were HAVING SEX! Oh well.)

Okay. I'm going to go and eat a banana now.

27 May 2007

Reading Matters

I've spent the last few days/weeks/months subsumed in Reading Matters 2007. Reading Matters is the YA literature conference that I organise with my colleague Mike Shuttleworth.

This week, we had a three-day conference of 350 delegates, 25 authors, 1300 kids and about 300 members of the general public. We talked about What Matters (more on that anon). I had the enormous privilege and pleasure of hanging out with Scott, Justine, David, Margo, Ursula and everyone else.

My head is so full of ideas and thoughts, but right now I am tired and emotional and perhaps a little drunk.

I love my job.

18 May 2007

Lloyd Alexander

Lloyd Alexander died yesterday, two weeks after his wife. He'd just finished his last book, The Golden Dream of Carlo Chuchio. He was 83.

I consider the Chronicles of Prydain to be one of the formative texts of my life. I actually came across them in a very Gen-Y sort of way - when I was 7 or 8, my mum bought me the computer game of The Black Cauldron, based on the Disney film. It was the first computer game I ever played, and I seriously don't think one has ever been made to rival it. I didn't see the film until many years later, but I loved the game.

Around the same time, Mum was learning Chinese at Victoria College. She had an evening class, and instead of being babysat by some creepy neighbour, I usually opted to go with her, and hang out in the library. Luckily, it was the same part of the university that taught education, so there were plenty of children's books there.

I have such a strong memory of wanting something new to read, and thinking I'd pick something from the A section, and work my way through to Z. I went over to A, and low and behold, there was a book called The Black Cauldron! And not just one book, a whole five-part series! I borrowed them all and was immediately hooked.

As a tribute and a thank you to Mr Alexander, I'm bumping everything else off my to-read pile and re-reading the Chronicles. I will also re-watch the film this weekend, and perhaps see if there's some sneaky way that my iBook can run the game. I will blog with thoughts.

16 May 2007

Remembering


24 September, 1936 - 16 May, 1990

15 May 2007

Three good things for every (three) bad

This is my new tactic to not sound like too much of a whinger.

So first, I present three lovely things that I saw on the train this week, that made me love people.

1. An octogenarian reading a large print Harry Potter.
2. A man doing tai-chi alone, in the middle of a vacant lot, surrounded by early-morning mist.
3. An amazing piece of urban art, where lego-style men made from dozens of coloured milk crates scaled a large building between Victoria Park and Clifton Hill.


Now, three things that make me ashamed to be a human.
1. The Pentagon has decreed that all military in Iraq who blog must submit their posts to a superior officer for approval before posting. They've also banned YouTube, Myspace and a bunch of other sites. Their excuse is that their super-uber-mega-military computers are
being "slown down" by people watching stupid videos of cats playing the piano, and being exposed to viruses (I'm sorry, but if US military servers can be taken down with a virus you get from surfing MySpace, then Georgie, we have a fucking problem). Nothing at all to do with stopping stuff like this getting out. Oh, no.

2. This site. Just go there, and then hang your head in shame and take out the recycling.

3. That our government seems to think that the way to solve education problems in this country is to a) give more money to the schools who are already doing well, and b) give money to parents who have dumb kids.
Here's a conversation I expect will be happening in many an Aussie household if Our Illustrious Leader gets back into power:

Mum: Hi, kid. How'd you do in school this week?
Kid: Great, mum. I got an A.
Mum: You little shit. Couldn't you be a bit dumber? I could really use that $700.


Wow. That lowered the tone. Better have a cheezburger to cheer us all up.

Oh, alright. Just one more.

12 May 2007

09 May 2007

SEX

Apparently, my novel isn't actually about convicts and giant White Bears at all. According to my publishers, it's about SEX, and becoming sexually aware.

And all the bits where I tried to be subtle (like the man who has syphilis, but I never SAID it was syphilis) - they need to go. Just put it all out there.

HEY KIDS! THIS IS A BOOK ABOUT SEX!!*

AND DON'T HAVE UNPROTECTED SEX, CAUSE YOU'LL GET SYPHILIS AND YOUR NOSE WILL FALL OFF!!!

Seriously, though. It is unbelievable difficult to write sexual tension without it falling into a revolting pit of slimy, writhing, throbbing millsandboon cliches.

...her heart swelled...

...she felt a quickening...

...their eyes met...

...he touched her hand, she she felt a tingling...

Yech.

__________________________

(((*there is no actual sex in the book, though**. except for that bit with two very minor characters up against a wall.)))

((((**much like MY LIFE))))

05 May 2007

A Week in the Life of a Lili

I have no memory of Monday.

On Tuesday, I walked into a lecture theatre filled with about 120 year 8 girls. They all stood up and chorused 'Good mo-orning, Miss Wilkinso-on'. I nearly turned around and walked out again.

On Wednesday, I saw Keating! (musical about Aussie ex-Prime Minister featuring songs set in the key of Awesome), and will never be able to think of Alexander Downer in the same way ever again.

On Thursday, I did a double-take as I went through airport security in Sydney, when I saw a billboard advertising Schapelle Corby's book. Airport security. Yeah.

On Friday, I submitted some photos for John Green's Brotherhood 2.0 Happy Birthday Hank video. Which is also Made of Awesome.

Today is Saturday. It is the Munkey's birthday party tonight, and he is making us do something Weird and Creative involving Singing. I have busted out the crochet needles again and made him this, as a birthday present:


At the moment his name is Birthday Monkey, but I'm open to suggestions for a better name.

Happy Birthday Munkey!! xx

28 April 2007

A Crafty Wench

I like craft. There's something very satisfying about making something.

Unfortunately, I'm not very good at it. I'm not very patient, and like every other aspect of my life, I'm not very neat.

So when I finally actually get my mum to help try really hard and finish something, I'm pretty darn proud. Like my patchwork quilt made from Japanese Kimono:


So the other night I was sitting around with my Ladies, and we were crocheting, and drinking wine, and watching Doctor Who. (and I wonder why I don't have a boyfriend...) I wasn't really crocheting anything in particular, just trying out some new stitches in rows. Then I started to do rounds, just for something different. And before I knew it, I'd made this:

Ladies and gentlemen, Mistake Bear.

26 April 2007

22 April 2007

Saturday night with the parents

See if you can guess what movie we're watching... (hint: it was a kid's fantasy novel first)


Dad: Who's that guy?

Lili: Obi Wan Kenobe.

Mum: Jeremy Irons.

Lili: Aragorn.

Dad: Isn't the blonde one with the mullet Aragorn?

...

Mum: Wow. It really is like Star Wars, isn't it?

Lili: It's like Star Wars, starring Legolas.

Dad: But shit.

Lili: (nodding) But shit.

...

Mum: What's going on? Where is he now?

Lili: I don't know. Narnia?

...

Dad: Come on, the flying dragon is pretty cool.

Lili: Neverending storrryyyyyyyyy, aaaahahaaahahaaahahaaaaahahaa-

...

(the credits roll)

Lili: Well.

Dad: That was... terrible.

Mum: But short. It was short. An improvement on the book.

Lili: Is that Avril Lavigne singing the credits song?

(it is.)

21 April 2007

Popular

I just read this article in The Age, and as soon as I am wearing something other than pyjamas, I'm going out to find the book.

Was there a single YA author out there who was popular at school? Like, really, capital-P Popular? I can't really imagine it. I certainly wasn't.

I mean sure, I had friends. I wasn't ostracised. Not often, anyway. But I was bullied, a little. Teased, a little more (for having hairy legs in year 7, for being a messy eater in year 8, for not having a boyfriend, for being too smart). The subject of scornful looks and eye-rolling and secret whispers - teenage girls are awful.

I had insecurities - was I pretty? would I ever grow breasts? Was everyone noticing that mole on my cheek? Why didn't boys ever ask me out?

I had crushes on boys - but if or when I actually did talk to them, they were never as articulate or dashing as they were in my fervent, book-fuelled imagination. 14 year old boys are not really articulate, full stop. They also often smell bad. No wonder then, that I found myself falling for (and in a year-long relationship with) my best friend, a girl.

I didn't kiss a boy until Year 12, and then slowly things started to change. He was older than me, so I stopped only hanging out with other schoolgirls. I went to university, and suddenly reading a lot and being eclectic and not listening to Top 40 music was cool. It was like the definition of cool had suddenly been inverted.

I still wasn't Popular, though. But that was fine. I was beginning to realise the terrible, beautiful truth: Popular people are actually a bit Boring.

Of course at my Uni, to be Popular, you had to have a certain degree of what we will call Wankery. You had to do lots of Interpretive Dance (I staged a production of The Little Prince, instead). You had to make Experimental Films (I was more interested in narrative). You had to talk a lot about theorists and theories (actually, I did really like that bit).

Now - post-Uni, at the beginning of what I am a bit scared to call a Career - for perhaps the first time in my life, I am completely proud to be who I am, and I don't feel like I need to pretend to be anything I'm not. The people who love me do so because I'm me.

The lovely Kim Wilkins says this: "Everything that made me daggy and unpopular has turned out to be a blessing", and I couldn't agree more.

Back to being a teenager. Rjurik asked me the other day why I write. I answered that if I didn't I would go crazy. And because I want to make people THINK. Afterwards, I realised what I really meant to say was that I want to make people FEEL (and then think as a side-effect).

If he'd asked why I write YA, I might have said this: To make a connection with the Unpopular ones. To let them know that they're not alone, and that it gets better.

So much better.

16 April 2007

Harold Pinter, eat your heart out.

INT WEDDING RECEPTION, NIGHT

LILI, CAROLE, GRANDMA, GRANDPA, AUNTY PEG and SOME RANDOM WOMAN sit eating profiteroles around a wedding reception table in Adelaide. The RANDOM WOMAN is singing along to Celine Dion. In the background, people are dancing.

In this scene, nobody is called by their correct name. Possible names to use are Lili (granddaughter), Carole (daughter), Raylee (other granddaughter), Rita (groom's first wife, or Carole and Lili's puppy), Kath (bride), Lingi (a dog that died before I was born).

Grandpa: (heavy working class British accent) It were on Ship Street.

Grandma: Here we go again.

Aunty Peg: No, it were on Luvane Road.

Grandpa: Ship Street. It were on Ship Street.

Aunty Peg: No, it were in that house with the chimney that smoked. It were Luvane Road.

Grandpa: Ship Street. I was workin' at the Academy.

Grandma: No, Jack. You were working at the mental hospital.

Lili: You worked at a MENTAL HOSPITAL?

Carole: I used to love it when you played in the mental hospital's cricket team, Dad.

Grandpa: I didn't work in the mental hospital til after the war. This was before the war, it were in Ship Street.

Aunty Peg: Luvane Road.

Lili: Can we please go back to the mental hospital?

Random Woman: "Cause I'm your lay-deeeeeeeeeeeh, and you are my maaaa-aaaa-aaa-aaan!"

Grandpa: We were so poor then, we lived in sackcloth and ashes.

Lili: Never mind, I'm getting a pretty good idea anyway.

Grandma: Get Li-Ri-Ka-Carole to look it up, Jack. She has The Google.

Carole: It's just 'Google', mum.

Aunty Peg: Maybe it wasn't at Luvane Road. Maybe it was at the Rose and Crown.

Grandpa: It were at Ship Street!

Random Woman: "with the power of Loooo-ooooo-ooooo-ooove..."

(the SONG finishes. the RANDOM WOMAN looks disappointed, but busies herself with a profiterole)

Aunty Peg: The ceremony was nice, wasn't it?

Carole: I remember when Brian was just a cherubic little boy.

Grandpa: When I were a lad... I used to ride my pushbike... all the way... ... ...

Aunty Peg: (to RANDOM WOMAN) Cherubic? What's that then?

Random Woman: (reassuringly) I think she meant cherubISH.

Grandpa: And there were pigs in the kitchen... And mud up to your ears... And chickens... ... ...

(another song starts)

Lili: No. Oh, no.

The RANDOM WOMAN abandons the profiterole, and makes for the dance floor.

Carole: Is that the macarena?

Lili: (bangs head on table) No. They are not going to dance to that.

Grandma: I thought it was the nutbush.

Lili: It's the chicken dance.

BLACKOUT.

Kurt Vonnegut's Eight Rules of Writing Fiction

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things -- reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them -- in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

(I found this at Jane Espenson's blog)
(she found it here: Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons 1999), p. 9-10)

(bye, Kurt.)

08 April 2007

Red socks, silver keys and exquisite corpses: A Birthday Story

#1 Jellyfish Books: Matilda by Roald Dahl, Let the People Sing by JB Priestley

Alabama Redsock hated playing the tuba.
It was the most unattractive instrument in the world. When she was playing it, it looked like she was wearing a large, golden dog poo wrapped around her body.
The Walla Walla Middle School Concert Band was hardly the coolest musical ensemble to be a part of, but it would have been more bearable if she'd had a better instrument - a clarinet, maybe, or even a cello. But she'd wandered in to music class late one day as usual, and found Miss Jbunic, her insane Polish teacher, shoving the massive tuba in her direction. 'Remember to practice!' the crazy woman chanted at her, before handing over a 'Learn to Play Tuba in any Key' book that dated from about 1970 and featured a lot of photos of a fat German man called Alphonse in lederhosen.
Great, thought Alabama. I am doomed to years of music practice, trying to draw inspiration from some tubby old Nazi in braces and knee-high socks.
Which was pretty much how it had turned out.
To make matters worse, you couldn't just throw a tuba in your school bag like a flute - you had to drag it along behind you on a trolley.
This must be what it's like having a disability, thought Alabama as she miserably heaved the instrument into the school bus each day.
And so Alabama made a promise to herself: I will find a way to get out of playing the tuba before my fifteenth birthday, if it kills me.


#2: Canoe Books: The Story Girl and Anne of Avonlea, both by LM Montgomery

And so Alabama made a promise to herself: I will find a way to get out of playing the tuba before my fifteenth birthday, if it kills me.
She then sat herself down in the old faded armchair and took up the sheet music she was supposed to learn. Outside it was raining and the colour of the sky was a dark forbidding grey. She took out a pair of scissors and proceeded to cut the sheet music to pieces. She used the notes and letters of the title, pasted them onto black pieces of material and then arranged them on a piece of paper that read:

TONIGHT, THE TUBA PLAYER WILL DIE

The white 'T' on the black background looked particularly threatening.
She placed the note in a box, locked it with a padlock and sent it and the key to the music teacher. The music teacher unlocked the padlock and the lid sprang open.


#3 Snaz Books: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer

The music teacher unlocked the padlock and the lid sprang open.
Just as quickly, tears welled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks like a cup too full.
Inside, she had found an infant's sock, red as a pomegranate and as small as the foot of the child she had lost not yet five years hence.
Taking the delicate object in hand, she closed her eyes and remembered.
After one extended, exquisite moment, she opened them again and let the monotony of the past five years flood back in; numb, even and familiar. Her curse.
But then - oh! - she spied one more object, nestled unassumingly in a corner; a tiny silver key. How cruel! How infuriating!
To remind her of a wound long since healed, and scarred over, and then confront her with this...
The key had been her undoing, and it filled her with rage.


#4 The Short Man Books: Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, by Peter Biskind and Away With All Pests, by Joshua S Horn

The key had been her undoing, and it filled her with rage. Intensely, he took the key back downstairs to rejoin the party. After reloading his camera with the film he approached her to confront her about their situation.
After the many months and years working independently on film sets in far-flung parts of the earth, it was obvious that all their indescretions would come to the surface.
The key had been to their best friend's apartment, which they had stayed in numerous times. For him to find the key at that time, in that place, had made it obvious what was going on.
He hadn't even been to the continent for eight months. She had been 'away on business' for a month previous to the party.
With no real destination, flitting from office to office, he never really knew where she was, even though they spoke daily. This situation would be the making of his next major solo photo exhibition. So this had been more than a little fling.


#5 The Munkey Books: The Silmarillion, by JRR Tolkien, and The Pirate, by Some Hack I Forgot to Write Down.

So this had been more than a little fling.
'Damn them both to Hell!' cried the Count, pounding his fist upon the sideboard. For a moment, he was overcome by jealousy and grief at Marion's infidelity.
But quickly this gave way to anger - a white hot malice directed squarely at his competitor.
'How dare that shabby stable-boy have his way with my bride-to-be?' he fumed aloud.
He reflected on the first time he'd met Jonathan - when he had first hired him as a stable-boy at the manor. The Count remembered the cheapness of his clothing, the unrefined awkwardness of his speech.
'It cannot be!' he cried. He ran past the marble statues of the Manor House, rushing into his study.
He dug his finest dagger from the drawer of his desk, and tucked it inside his boot. As he stormed from the house, his blood boiled in his veins. Images crept through his mind, images that made his fury grow hotter and more hateful by the second. The lips of this common country lad had touched his beloved! It was intolerable.
At last he reached the stable-house. He scrabbled in his vest pocket for the key and opened the door. In his rage, without pausing to think, he thrust himself towards the cot where he knew Jonathan slept, drew the dagger from his shoe and plunged it into the sleeping body.
But the shriek from the bed was not that of a man, but a boy.
Drawing the covers back, the Count was appalled to find not the stable boy, but his brother David - just twelve years old. The hilt of the knife protruded from David's head, the blade buried deep in his eyeball. The Count reeled in shock - instead of his rival, he had mistakenly murdered a harmless child.


#6 The Mistress
Books: Hollywood, by Charles Bukowski, The Dark Angel, by Mika Waltari

The Count reeled in shock - instead of his rival, he had mistakenly murdered a harmless child.
That night, upon concealing his crime and fleeing on horseback (at such a speed that branches and thorns scratched at his face, his horse's mouth foamed and the cold wind numbed his face), he returned to find a great banquet underway in the main hall.
Beseeched to attend, he sat in morose silence. Consumed by thought of his ill deed and tirtied soul; while those around him caroused and cavorted like garish drunk meat puppets - expelling filthy air from their insides, masticating the meat of slaughtered beasts in their vile, cavernous mouths.
A ruddied blonde, with meaty folds of weathered skin spilling out every which way from the cheap fabric of her ill-fitting dress, tore a mouthful of bloodied beef from her fork and proceeded to lick the oozing red juice from her chin.
He could feel the acid rise in his throat as he fought to calm his heaving stomach. The world was folding in with overwhelming sounds and smells. His head spun. But then, he saw her.
She wore crimson velvet with a matching feather in her glossy dark hair.
Esmerelda, with her long neck and bright eyes.
He thought of velvet ropes twined tightly around her creamy thighs - the golden lock cinching them togheter. Metal and velvet, both biting into her milky skin.


#7 Byron Books: The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton, Biggles Sees It Through

Metal and velvet, both biting into her milky skin.
The pressure on her wrists was almost unbearable. With every movement, the cold steel cut deeper into her flesh.
As she glanced in the mirror opposite, she noticed the colour of her wrists matched the deep crimson of the scarf binding her mouth. She bit down hard, and her tongue stuck momentarily to the warm, wet fabric, stifling her speech.
Her eyes traced their way up. She was mostly intact. Broken in places nobody would see, but outwardly still the same woman who had walked so willingly into this mess. Her hair, slightly out of place, hung limp, framing her angular face like the deep red welts eather side of her.
His foot was the only thing she could see on the other side of the room. The ankle with the strange 'Q' design imprinted deep beneath those first few layers of skin.
Once white, now a greying yellow, it was the only thing she had left of him, both in her mind, and in the cold, damp room with so little light.
So little fucking light! How Where was the key? How on earth was she supposed to locate the tiny silver object on the damp concrete floor?
She couldn't move. She tried to scream, but realised it was perhaps the one thing that would do her no good.


#8 Lili

Books:
Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons, and The Forgotten Story by Winston Graham

She tried to scream, but realised it was perhaps the one thing that would do her no good.
She was stuck there. Stuck in this trailer park that for the little boy was a house... a home.
She stared at him.
He held up a hand, and she bit her lup.
His fingers were webbed, with a fine greenish film.
He sat in the mud, a webbed, finned child in a trailer park, oblivious to the world around him. In his green webbed fingers he held the key. She felt the knots unravelling before her.
'Really?' she asked him. 'Is this really finally the end of it all?'
The little boy smiled, and held out the key.
She could hear the distant strains of a reality tv show wafting down from the pimped-up caravan. The child scratched his nose, leaving a streak of mud wiped diagonally across his face.
The woman reached out and took the key, sighing.

It
all
finally
made

sense.