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24 December 2008

Merry Christmas!

So this year I'm trying to save polar bears, and have therefore made all my Christmas presents.

Beekeeper mittens for Dad:
A Celestial Dragon for Mum:A Stagecrew Scarf for Jen:
A Bicycle Scarf for my KK:
Knee-warmers for my arthritic Grandma:
And mince pies, honey, honeycomb and gingerbread for many other peoples...

Merry Christmas! Peace on Earth, Goodwill to all, etc.

17 December 2008

Mince Pies

Another of our family Christmas rituals is making the mince pies. Mum has talked a bit about this on her blog, and here is the recipe, with illustrations.

(makes two dozen)

the mince
100g currants
100g raisins
100g sultanas
50g dates, chopped
50g slivered or flaked almonds
1 ripe banana
4 tsp brandy
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
50g candied peel
juice and rind of 1 lemon

Mix it all together. (complicated, huh?)
Every member of the family has to have a stir:
Well, almost every member:
the pastry
450g self raising flour
225g grated butter
pinch salt
1 large egg
50g soft brown sugar
milk to mix

Mix flour and salt, rub in grated butter, stir in sugar. Make a hollow, and put in the slightly beaten egg with a tbsp of milk. Mix to make a pliable dough, then roll out onto a floured surface to .5cm thickness.

Cut out round circles for the bottom and either lids or stars for the tops, and use the bottom circles to line a greased tart or mini-muffin tray.
Add mince and tops:
Bake at 200 degrees celsius for 13 mins in a fan-forced oven, or 20 mins in a normal oven. Dust with icing sugar when cool:
Om nom nom, etc:

06 December 2008


(the following post is inspired by this utterly beautiful piece by Libba Bray)

(also, if you're under the age of, say, 10, I wouldn't read on if I were you)

When I was six or seven, I walked in on my Mum in the shower (in, like, March), and demanded that she tell me the truth, once and for all. Was there really a Father Christmas?

Mum said later on that she wasn't going to lie to me. She'd pretend along with me, but she wasn't going to lie. So she told me the truth.

And I was sad, but not particularly shocked. I mean, it's not like it was a particularly plausible thing, and old guy on a sleigh delivering presents.

The next year, Mum was in China over Christmas for her Uni course. I wrote Father Christmas a letter that said that I still believed in him anyway, and that I didn't really want anything for Christmas, but I wanted him to deliver a present to my mum, who was in China where they didn't have Christmas. This may have been the most adorable thing I ever did as a child.

I also remember finding a tooth in a little box in my parents' room. It was my first tooth (here is where I lost it). I confronted my parents, and they confessed.

Then, a while later, I was bragging to my babysitter about how I knew the truth about the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas. She laughed and said "yeah, I remember when I found out about the Easter Bunny.' And I sort of lost my shit. The Easter Bunny was all I had left! Never mind that it was by far the least plausible of the gift-giving trinity of childhood. They took that away from me too.

Mum asked me the other day if I would do the Santa thing with my children, and I replied that of course I would. How could I deny my child the magic and excitement of Christmas? The reindeer, the elves - it's all happening up at the North Pole, and I loved to imagine it. Tolkein's Letters from Father Christmas is one of the most beautiful expressions of parental love I've ever seen.

I know the truth about Father Christmas now, but that doesn't stop me from getting that twinge of excitement at Christmastime. And I look forward to believing it all over again with baby H, and with my own kids one day.

Scrooges Beware

I really like Christmas.

Someone asked recently how I can justify getting my Yule on with so much enthusiasm, when I'm a proud, card-carrying member of the I-don't-believe-in-God Society. And I don't know if I can justify it, but I'm going to try anyway and if you're still confused you can go and ask Walt Whitman to explain.

I quite like the Christian Christmas story. The idea of a poor family denied any kind of welfare and having to give birth in a barn is appealing to a bleeding-heart lefty like me. And the bits about the star, and the wise men - awesome. The stuff good stories are made of. And it is a great story, whether I believe it really happened or not. Also, there are some great Christmas carols about it, and I do love to get a little bit carolly at this time of year.

But Christmas isn't about religion to me. Mum and I went to Midnight Mass one year in Adelaide (just for something to do), but it was really hot and there was standing room only and I fainted just before Communion.

So for me, Christmas is about family, friends, food, glittery things, fairy lights, gifts, and something else that is strange and magical, which I suppose some people call God but I prefer to think of as the entirely non-supernatural spirit of Christmas.
Anyway, I'm going to be blogging about some Christmassy things over the next couple of weeks, so Scrooges should probably go and count their lumps of coal until the 26th, because I'll be unashamedly soppy and full of cheer.

30 November 2008

Barbie + Amy Pohler + Smart Girls = Awesome

I've always appreciated Barbie. 

Barbie is the kind of woman who says 'Hey, girls! You can be a surgeon or a sign language teacher or a UN Ambassador or an astronaught or a paleontologist. And wear a nice hat and pretty shoes.' Barbie had careers. Barbie ran for President in 2000, long before Hillary or Palin came on the political scene. Barbie was never defined by her male partners. And Barbie showed us that deformity can be beautiful too. We don't judge Barbie for her scary legs or her twisted pointy feet.
Barbie is equal opportunity. She has black and Hispanic friends, as well as a friend with cerebral palsy, who gets around in a pink wheelchair. She cares about the environment, and about children's rights.

In the current billion-dollar lawsuit of Barbie vs Bratz, I am 100% on Barbie's side.

And now, Barbie's latest campaign is for the smart girl. She's launched a web TV show with Amy Pohler (of SNL fame), called Smart Girls At The Party. It's basically a show that celebrates smart girls - girls who write, read, play music and think. I highly recommend.

23 November 2008

Thomas Henry Brain

I'd like you all to meet my great-great-grandfather, Thomas Henry Brain.

He lived around the corner from our family home in Clifton Hill, which is weird because neither of my parents even come from Victoria, let alone this area.

He was a brewer, and a travelling salesman. And a Freemason. From which we can infer that he liked drinking, secret handshakes, and cosplay.

Don't you think he looks like he's on his way to a sci-fi convention?

20 November 2008

Christmas Pudding

Much like the Onions, I am loathe to do anything Christmassy until December 1. But there are some things that need to be thought about ahead of time, and puddings is one of them.

Making the Christmas Pudding(s) is a great tradition in the Wilkinson house. My mum and I do it together every year, about mid-November. I do the mixing (with my hands, in a bucket, because we make several), and Mum does the measuring.

We serve the pudding after Christmas lunch, on fire. It's incredibly impressive, and super nommy. And the secret - it's REALLY EASY to make.

The Wilkinson Family Pudding Recipe:
(makes 1 pudding that serves 6-8)

225g currants
100g sultunas
100g raisins
100g peel
25g almonds

Then add:
100g plain flour (sifted)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp mixed spice
225g barbados sugar
100g breadcrumbs
225g grated butter

Then add:
rind and juice of 1 lemon
2 eggs
1 tbsp treacle
4 tbsp mixed milk and rum (half/half)

Then put it in a pudding-bowl, and slosh a little more rum over the top. Cover top with greaseproof paper and then foil, and secure with string.

Put the tied-up bowl in a large saucepan of water, and boil for 3-4 hours (refilling water as needed). Put in cupboard.

If you like, you can 'feed' it regularly with an extra slosh of rum, just to make it really deadly.

On Christmas Day, boil the pudding again (as above) for 3-4 hours. Make custard to serve.

To Flame: Put pudding on table and dim lights. Heat two tablespoons of rum in a metal ladle over a flame. Once the rum is hot, set the ladle alight and pour molten fire over your pudding. Pretty!

(photo by Snazzy)

19 November 2008

Nice words

So Scatterheart was longlisted (but not shortlisted) for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize. Which I think is not a bad effort considering it won't even be published in the UK until early next year.

The lovely people at Waterstones had some excellent feedback about the book:
I loved this book!! I loved the convict/Australian story was superb and really enjoyed the fantasy tale running all the way through it. I thought the characters were complex, no two-dimmensional disney baddies with twirly moustaches here!

I enjoyed this book so much, that as soon as I had finished I wanted to share it with someone else, but also went straight on-line to see if it was available to buy from anywhere now. Want my own copy!!

Loved it! I thought the way that the tale of Scatterheart ran alongside the main story was great, the parallels were not too obvious but it did give the story a nice 'fairy-tale' feel. Great characters, great story - definately one for the shortlist!

A gritty (Celia Reesish ?) teen novel that somehow manages to be both intensely real, moving and compelling - but also manages to be this year's North Child. Or should that be South Child?

Sheer 'Quality'.

I loved this book, it really captured me.

With marvellous characters to love and hate and a capturing tale, this book will take you on a heartfelt journey.

Of what i have read so far to do with the prize this is my fave. adventure, love and characters you can't help but like.

I'll join in the praise! I thought it was a compelling read - especially on board the ship. I thought the characters were really well drawn and was terrified but fascinated by the way Hannah's life completely changed in a heartbeat. For me, 'Scatterheart' will be hard to beat!

Love, love, loved it! A real journey in physical and emotional terms. I think the ending was spot on, I won't ruin it, but hopeful without being unrealistic. Definitely for fans of Celia Rees' wonderful Witch Child.

I really enjoyed this book. The mixture of fairy tale and gritty history worked so well. I was enchanted by Hannah's journey all the way through (and polar bears are my favourite animal!) Definitely one for the shortlist.

This was a quality bit of storytelling and if anything is going to give 'Hunger Games' a run for its money - it's this. Proper period writing [literally], infectious characters [literally]...stop me someone please! Hey i just really enjoyed this and this has been another story set on a boat that's been great.

10 November 2008

The Kids are Alright

You know the one age group of Californians who voted against Proposition 8?

CNN exit poll*
Vote by Age Yes No

18-29 39 61

30-44 55 45

45-64 54 46

65+ 61 39

Proposition 8, for those of you who might not know, was a proposed constitutional amendment that would make gay marriage illegal in California. It passed, being the one nasty small-minded smudge on what was otherwise a proud day for America.

But have a look at those numbers. The only group who voted No - voted against discrimination - was the young people.

Have a look at this map, sent to me by the wondrous Snazzy.

It's often easy to cry that the world is going to hell-in-the-proverbial, but sometimes it helps to take a step back. Yes, there is still sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, religious fanaticism, poverty, discrimination, global warming and racism in the world. But we're getting better. Overall, long-term, things are getting better. And from what I see in the world, and what the data above suggests, is that, over time, we are becoming more open-minded, more unprejudiced, more understanding**.

Here, also from Snazzy, is a letter written by an eight-year-old Filipino-American girl to Barack Obama with some advice about a dog, and a request that he make a law that requires everyone to recycle, and also ban unnecessary wars***.

In Obama's response, he writes, "I want you to look up the word 'empathy' in the dictionary. I believe we don't have enough empathy in our world today, and it is up to your generation to change that... I hope you will always be an active participant in the world around you, and that you will seize every opportunity to make the world better. Seeing young people like you who care about making things better inspires me and gives me great hope about the future of our country."

In today's New York Times Op-Ed, Al Gore proposes to make all of the US's electricity renewable within 10 years. The article is passionate and practical, and I highly recommend you read it (especially you, Mr Rudd). But here is the bit that made me cry:

Looking ahead, I have great hope that we will have the courage to embrace the changes necessary to save our economy, our planet and ultimately ourselves.

In an earlier transformative era in American history, President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon within 10 years. Eight years and two months later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. The average age of the systems engineers cheering on Apollo 11 from the Houston control room that day was 26, which means that their average age when President Kennedy announced the challenge was 18.

This year similarly saw the rise of young Americans, whose enthusiasm electrified Barack Obama’s campaign. There is little doubt that this same group of energized youth will play an essential role in this project to secure our national future, once again turning seemingly impossible goals into inspiring success.

People often ask me why I write for teenagers. This is why.

*Nicked from this post by Justine.

**I was going to say "more tolerant", but I've made a personal pledge to stop using that word. The dictionary tells me that "tolarate" means "to accept or endure something unpleasant or disliked with forbearance". It's a horrible thing to say (I'm looking at YOU, Palin).

***She is an Obama fan despite the fact that her parents are named John and Cindy. For serious.

05 November 2008

Dear America: Yes You Did

So I've been following the US election pretty... obsessively. Like, REALLY obsessively.

And there are a few people who have been eyerolling me whenever I mention it. Because, after all, it isn't MY country. I didn't vote. It isn't MY president. Why should I care?

This is, of course, ridiculous.

I'm sick of people saying "they're all the same". I'm sick of people saying "one vote never made a difference". This is nonsense. Every vote makes a difference. And they are not the same.

I've got a lot more to say on this particular issue, but I'm very tired, so for now I'll just say - today was a good day to be alive. I'm off to bed with the knowledge that when I wake up tomorrow morning, the world will be a little bit better than it was this morning.

26 October 2008

Tender Morsels

Reading one of Margo Lanagan's short stories is like running across sizzling tarmac and then plunging into a deep pool of clear, cold water. It's an enormous shock to the system, but it's wonderful. Except by the time you've acclimatised to the cold, you have to haul yourself out of the pool and sprint across the tarmac again before you can jump in the next pool and start all over again. It's an amazing experience, reading a book like Black Juice or Red Spikes. But it takes work.

So I admit I was a little nervous about Tender Morsels. I thought it would be hard work. I knew it would be beautiful - it's Margo, after all, and she is one of the greatest writers in Australia. But I thought it would be one of those books you had to push yourself through.

I was wrong.

Tender Morsels sucked me in from the opening sentence*, and kept me held tight until it rather cruelly spat me out at the end. It is gripping and sad and beautiful. The language is breathtakingly stunning. The characters are real and wonderful. It takes old and tired elements of fantasy - magic, medieval villages, wolves, bears** - and reinvents them, new, glittering, fascinating.

I cannot recommend it highly enough, even if (especially if) you are one of those frankly unenlightened people who thinks they don't like fantasy.

It's published here as an adult novel, in the US and UK as YA. I think it's both. It's crossover. There are... controversial bits.

Read more in this interview with Margo, which includes a lolsome fictional grilling from Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert. Here's a sample:

Well, after Jon/Stephen had mentioned all Tender Morsels' sexual content and general weirdness and darkness, and waved the book around and asked "What is in the WATER down there in Australia, that your young people read this sort of story?," I would say:

"This book sits right on the upper edge of the YA category, and in fact in Australia it's fallen right off the fence and is published as an adult book. But, categories-schmategories, Jon/Stephen - this is just a story. I'm going for a sense of story that may be hardwired into us, or at least is laid down when we're very young, and never goes away. If you've ever enjoyed being creeped out by a campfire story, or enchanted by a fairy tale - or in fact if you've ever had an imaginary refuge that you go to in your head, a mountain cave or a sunlit forest glade - you'll like Tender Morsels. This story is the kind that pushes everyday life out of your head completely."

JON/STEPHEN: And replaces it with fornicating bears?

MARGO: Well, bears have gotta do what they gotta do, no? And I have it on good authority, from one grown-up female reader, that some of these bears are dead sexy. There's a lot of bad sex in this story, but the bears get some of the good stuff.

She's right. The bears are totally hot.
*For those of you who have read the book: yeah, that pun was intentional.

**The BEARS. Oh, Margo! The BEARS. I loved them so very much.

22 October 2008

Spring Things

The splendiferous Brigid Lowry is in The Residence over at insideadog, and is encouraging a creative spring clean. And lists! I love lists.

Things That Would Make Me Happy
  • a night at home eating chili and watching the West Wing
  • a title for my crusades book
  • an Obama presidency
  • about 700 years to catch up on reading
  • for Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels to never end
  • making all my Christmas presents this year

Things I am Prepared to do Without
  • Australian Idol
  • for that matter, television-on-television (DVDs is different)
  • alcohol on weeknights
  • books about dead girls in country towns
  • the twelve political blogs I'm currently reading (i could prolly cut it down to eight)
Relax, Trust, Surrender.

18 October 2008

'Whaddya mean, no adverbs?' asked Tom swiftly.

I've said here before that adverbial dialogue tags are a bit like bay leaves - you put 'em in at the beginning to get the flavour right, but you gotta take 'em out before you serve up.

But if used in a safe, controlled environment, adverbs can be fun! As evidenced by the existence of the Tom Swifty. Those of you who follow me on Twitter will have already seen these, but for the rest of you, here are my attempts:

'I just closed my eyes for like, FIVE SECONDS,' protested Little Bo Peep sheepishly.

'Do you hear the people sing?' asked Les miserably. 

'You call this a seafood platter?' said Melissa crabbily. 'Where's the lobster?' 

'You know there's a reason why nothing rhymes with orange,' she told the redhead gingerly. 

'You know, there's something missing from this bouquet,' muttered Jo lackadaisically. 

'This one is really loud - it goes up to eleven,' said Jacob amply. 

'You see, I am a professional linguist,' he said cunningly.

'And stay down!' squeaked Piglet overbearingly.

'One for you, and one for your little dog,' clanked the Tin Man heartlessly.

'Here, why don't we swap gloves?' said the kitten intermittently. 

Lili padded up to the edge. 'What is that frog sitting on?' she pondered wetly.

Your turn!

17 October 2008

Video Friday: Election Special

Here is Hayden Panatierre talking about John McCain:

And here is the entire cast of Gossip Girl talking about John McCain.

And finally and most lolsomely, here is Martin Sheen giving Paris Hilton some advice on her fake Presidency.

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

14 October 2008

An Announcement, Cybils and Human Rights

1. Oddly enough, I don't really talk much about books on this here blog. Mostly because I didn't want it to be a book reviews blog. But I think I'm going to start talking about books a bit more. Not every book I read, but the ones I have something to say about. Stay tuned.

2. I'm going to be a Cybils judge this year! The Cybils are the premier web awards for Children's literature, and I'm a judge for the YA section, along with some hugely awesome people. And there's still time to submit your nomination!

3. And finally, here is a beautiful animation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: 

13 October 2008

Diminishing the Intellect of Cab Drivers

Dear Anonymous,

I'm writing to respond to your comment to my blog post of last week about a taxi driver that had never heard of Google.

Here was your comment:

Anonymous anonymous said...

The Internet is an elite organisation; most of the population of the world has never even made a phone call.- Noam Chomsky

Does it make you feel good to diminish the intellect of a cab driver for not meeting your standards?

So, two things.

1. Noam Chomsky was wrong. Or at least he is now, I'm not sure when that statement was made. As of 2007, half the population of the planet own a mobile phone (you can read more about it here), and billions more have used one (or a landline). Furthermore, the digital divide in Australia has all but ceased to exist. Some people may choose not to use computers, but almost everyone in Australia has access to one, if not at home then at schools or public libraries.

And this wasn't the deepest depths of the outback. This was Launceston. A city. I visited a few of the public libraries in Launceston, and I assure you they had plenty of free computer terminals. With Google and everything.

The cab driver wasn't stupid. He seemed to have a pretty good grasp of the taxi's GPS (which is, in fact, a computer, but I didn't really want to get into that), and could hold his end of the conversation. But he was anti-intellectual, racist and narrow-minded (I won't repeat the things he said about the Indian family that had recently moved in near him - but they were unsavoury). That wasn't what the post was about. Which brings me to...

2. You're the one who inferred that my post was about "diminishing intellect". It wasn't. The anecdote was about how all adults who don't know anything about children's literature automatically and instantly compare all childrens/YA authors with Harry Potter. Even people who have never heard of Google still know about Harry Potter. And still think it's okay to imply that you're a failure because you don't have a castle in Scotland.

Sorry I didn't contact you in person to say these things, but you forgot to leave a name in your comment. But if you have any further questions/comments, you can either leave them below or email me at lili AT


Lili Wilkinson

11 October 2008

The Secret Life of Bears

So ages ago I bought this book, called Bears by Kent Rogowski. It's bears, inside out. I just love it, because while I am very fond of bears, the saccharine-ness (saccharinicity?) of teddy-bears is a bit grating. And I love the idea that inside every cuddly teddy, there's a rather strange monster inside, waiting to get out.
And I meant to do my own version, and bought a lonely bear from the Salvos. And then I forgot about him for a year or so, and rediscovered him this morning.

So here he is, my inside-out bear.

And here he is with a friend:

09 October 2008

YA for Obama

It's interesting how YA authors don't talk about politics.

Sex, drugs, rock n roll, rape, incest, self-harm, even occasionally religion. Fine. Bring it on!

But politics? Irresponsible. Swaying the impressionable minds of the young. Just Not On.

But this year it's different. Here's Scott Westerfeld:
Since we've started YA for Obama, a few folks have asked, "How dare we?" As in, how dare we muddy our special duties as tribunes of youth with something as icky as politics.

We answer: "But our books are all about sexuality, racism, the future, who's got money and who hasn't, and figuring out your place in the world. What could be more political than that?"

They say: "Yeah, but those are all pleasantly fuzzy moral issues, which teens should be thinking about. But YA for Obama is about real politics---like, it contains the names of actual politicians. And that's just too . . . specific!"

YA for Obama* is a social network for authors of Young Adult literature, and their readers. It provides information about the candidates, strategies for helping out, and opinion essays from authors such as Judy Blume, Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, John Green, Lauren Myracle, Cecil Castellucci, Sara Zarr, Gossip Girl's Cecily von Zeigasar and Maureen Johnson, the mastermind behind the site.

The idea behind the site is - just because you're under 18, doesn't mean you can't make a difference. And it seems to be working. The site has nearly 1300 members, all contributing tips and strategies, from transporting seniors and people without cars to polling booths on election day, to letter-writing campaigns, to (shock horror) talking to your family about how they will use their vote.

You don't have to be an author to join. You don't have to be a teenager. You don't have to be American. You just have to care. And it also helps if you think that the free world shouldn't be run by a zombie and a moose-hunting beauty queen who can see Russia from her house.

Here's Scalzi on whether or not authors should talk about politics. And here's Paolo Bacigalupi. And here (in case you were wondering on where I stand on this issue) is a video of John McCain referring to his fellow Americans as his "fellow prisoners". That slippery Freud!

*for those who are curious: yes, there is a YA for McCain. It has five members.

06 October 2008

Overheard in a Taxi

The Scene: Four authors pile in to a taxi outside a suburban Launceston school. Lili, Penni and Kirsty squeeze into the back. James is in the front.

Taxi Driver: Are youseall teachers, then?
James: No, we're authors.
Taxi Driver: You're what?
James: Authors. We write books for teenagers.
Taxi Driver: *suspicious* Fair enough, then.

The conversation drifts towards issues of intellectual property (does anyone every try to pinch your ideas?) and the Fifth Beatle. James makes a comment about being able to look stuff up on Google.

Taxi Driver: What's a Google?
James: *blinks* Google. The search engine.
Taxi Driver: Sorry, mate.
James: The internet?
Taxi Driver: Never used a computer. Is it like Windows?
James: *stunned silence*

There is a Pause, while we all look out the window and contemplate being in the presence of a true Digital Virgin.

Taxi Driver: Kids' books, eh? Like Harry Potter? Have youse been on TV?


24 September 2008

The Story Machine

So I just had this really interesting meeting at the Australian Children's Television Foundation. And it got me thinking about stories, and narrative. And the way we consume those things.

There was an article in the New York Times that I meant to blog about a couple of months ago. It was one of those OH NOES kids don’t read anymore articles. The kind that seem to be written entirely with the purpose of pissing people like me off.

One of my favourite bits was this:

“Whatever the benefits of newer electronic media,” Dana Gioia, the chairman of the N.E.A., wrote in the report’s introduction, “they provide no measurable substitute for the intellectual and personal development initiated and sustained by frequent reading.”

This is the kind of ridiculous truism that really gets my hackles up. No, electronic media doesn’t provide the same kind of intellectual and personal development as reading does. But neither does watching TV/ getting plenty of fresh air and exercise/ eating leafy vegetables/ being good to your mother. BECAUSE THEY ARE DIFFERENT THINGS.

Nobody (outside the sensationalising of journalists) is saying that one should replace the other. And there are plenty of benefits sustained from engaging in electronic media that are not sustained from frequent reading.  

I spend a lot of time talking to teachers and librarians about technology, and why it’s important to use it in their classrooms (and why writing up an essay using Microsoft Word isn’t using technology any more than using a pencil is). I also spend a lot of time talking to teachers about how to foster a love of reading and books in the classroom.

The other day someone asked me if I thought there was an inherent contradiction there.

And I laughed.

Back to this New York Times article. It mentions a teenager called Nadia, who got really attached to a Holocaust memoir, and her enthusiastic parent tried giving her a fantasy novel (because that’s OBVIOUSLY the next step), and she didn’t like it.

Despite these efforts, Nadia never became a big reader. Instead, she became obsessed with Japanese anime cartoons on television and comics like “Sailor Moon.” Then, when she was in the sixth grade, the family bought its first computer. When a friend introduced Nadia to, she turned off the television and started reading online. Now she regularly reads stories that run as long as 45 Web pages. 

Okay. So she didn’t like the fantasy novel, and that experience turned her off reading novels. That’s sad. But she reads manga, and online fanfic, often. Voraciously, even. So exactly what part of this demonstrates that she is not a big reader? None of it. Nadia is a big reader. She spends a significant amount of her leisure time reading comic books, and reading online.

As do I.

The article goes on to say that Nadia writes her own fanfic as well, but then spends several paragraphs pointing out that some fanfic has lots of spelling mistakes.

Way to bury the lede, New York Times.

Can we go back for a minute? Past all the doom-and-gloom-kids-today bullshit and just rethink this?

This girl, Nadia, loves story.

She loves it so much that consuming it isn’t enough. She wants to spend more time with her favourite characters. She wants to push them into situations beyond the ones they experience in canon.

And every time Nadia reads or writes or watches or hears a story, it feeds her own story machine. It deepens her understanding of the way narrative works. And this understanding of story, of the mechanics of story, makes her love story even more.

Every time you read a book, an article, a piece of fanfic, watch TV, go to the cinema, you are feeding your story machine. It’s like breathing in.

And when you write a story, or blog, or draw a picture, or tell someone a lurid anecdote about what your crazy aunt got you for your birthday, or make a video, or write a song… you are also feeding your story machine. You breathe out.

And everyone who loves stories does this. Even if it’s just telling someone about a great book you read. 

It’s all breathing in, breathing out. 

Feeding the story machine.

(for a good way to feed your own story machine, check out the Inkys Creative Reading Prize)

14 September 2008

Ten Things Which I Heart

  1. SPRING.
  2. Muppets.
  3. People who pack out ACMI cinemas to watch Muppets.
  4. Especially the guy who gasped in horror in The Dark Crystal when [a spoilery thing happened near the end].
  5. Text messages.
  6. Brownies.
  7. The Spensley Street kids who recognised me on the street the other day.
  8. Spensley Street kids in general.
  9. Babies who can roll over.
  10. Skype.

09 September 2008

Also, I write books

It has been brought to my attention that I haven't been posting much about my actual writing of books. So I present an interview with Lili Wilkinson, Author. By me. About what I'm writing.

Self: So. Lili. How's the writing going?
Lili: Very well, thank you.
Self: Are you working on a book at the moment?
Lili: Actually, I'm working on two books at the moment.
Self: (mutters) Overachiever.
Lili: (modest cough)
Self: So what are these books about?
Lili: Hmm. They are about (in no particular order): love, high school, bisexuality, belief, obsession, silvery fish, musical theatre, the Holy Land, stage crew, Isaac Newton, pirates and pink cashmere jumpers.
Self: I'm not sure that was a very helpful answer.
Lili: Fine. One of the books is about bisexuality, stage crew and high school musicals. The other is about the Children's Crusade.
Self: The what?
Lili: In 1212, an army of 10 000 kids marched through France and Italy to save Jerusalem from the Infidel.
Self: Wow! Really?
Lili: Probably not, actually, given that there are no contemporary records of it. But it's a great story nonetheless.
Self: Did they get there? To Jerusalem?
Lili: No. They were kidnapped by pirates and sold into slavery.
Self: A feel-good kind of story, then.
Lili: It's your average boy-meets-spiritual-guru-and-follows-blindly-into- mortal-peril romcom. Think Stand By Me meets Ten Things I Hate About You meets John 6:5-15, with just a whiff of The God Delusion for good measure.
Self: Right. And the other one? The musical theatre one?
Lili: It's about a lesbian who secretly thinks she might like boys.
Self: A going-back-into-the-closet story?
Lili: Sort of. It's supposed to be my response to this.
Self: Is it just me, or are both these books a little... controversial?
Lili: Pfft. I'm just getting started.
Self: Do either of these books have a title?
Lili: The stage crew one is currently called Pink is for Girls, although that may well change. The Children's Crusade one has no title, and I shall pay cold hard cash for a good one. Anybody? Anybody?
Self: Well, it's good to see you've been keeping busy.
Lili: Thank you. Can I get back to it now? I haven't met today's deadline yet.
Self: Right, of course. Carry on.

03 September 2008

29 August 2008

Juicy Writing

We ran a writing workshop today at the Library with Brigid Lowry (most marvellous author of Juicy Writing and the PLA shortlisted Tomorrow Everything Will Be Beautiful), and It Was Good.

I joined in, and here is one of the pieces I scribbled out:

My shoe is made of leather and iron and eyelashes.
My shoe leaps skyscrapers in a single bound, and travels seven leagues in one step.
Every night, I wear my shoe out from dancing, and every morning it is born fresh and smelling of shoe polish.
My shoe taps against the ground, impatient.
It is red, silver, glass, frustration.
My shoe is as heavy as a breath, as light as an eyebrow raise.
It traps me under cold gemstones and lifts me up to dance on stars.
Is my shoe enjoying its freedom?
Or does it miss being one of a pair?

25 August 2008

My City of Literature

Last week, Melbourne became a UNESCO International City of Literature.

It's been a long time coming - Melbourne has always been a very literary place. I'm writing this post in a pretty literary building - the State Library of Victoria. Marcus Clarke used to work here, as well as a host of other awesomely literary luminaries. The Library will also be home, next year, to the Centre for Books and Ideas, being the Melbourne Writers Festival, the Victorian Writers Centre, the National Poetry Centre, the Emerging Writers Festival and Express Media.

I love Melbourne. I love its cafes and bookshops and bars and libraries and laneways and did I mention bars? And I love the way, in the middle of winter, hoardes of Melburnians brave the cold and the rain and line up for hours to see some obscure German film at the Film Festival, or see a motley bunch of writers talk about themselves at the Writers Festival.

I love this. I love the way Melburnians get out there. I love the way we think about things and talk about ideas and sure, a lot of us are total wankers, but I kind of love that too (from a distance).

I've been involved in the Writers Festival for the past three years, but this is the first time I've really felt like I belonged. It's like I've hit critical mass - last year I had one non-fiction book out, and a forthcoming novel - now I have two novels and anthology with my name on the cover. I can say I'm an author and not feel like I need to justify it. I know people, this time. YA people, publishing people, Express Media people, and many others.

It's my town. My City of Literature. And at the risk of sounding like a greeting card - it's yours too.

22 August 2008

Melbourne Writers Festival

I'm kind of in the process of writing something longer and more profound about this whole City of Literature thing, but suffice to say - ftw!

Anyway. Participate in the City of Literature by coming to see me at the Melbourne Writers Festival!

Featuring me:

Learn from Lili Wilkinson and Margo Lanagan, two experts from the blogosphere!

Join John Marsden, Margo Lanagan and Lili Wilkinson as they speak about the books they’ve loved over the years. 

Chaired by me:

Rachel Cohn and Simmone Howell discuss how they made their cities and suburbs come alive in their writing.

The books of both David Metzenthen and Elizabeth Fensham have mixed the past with the present to best tell their story. Find out how they do this and why in this engaging session.

21 August 2008

FREE melbourne

Here's my attempt at Penni's Things to do in Melbourne for (almost) Free Meme.

1. Kirsty already mentioned the State Library of Victoria, but I'm going to get specific and mention the SLV's Mirror of the World exhibition. It's in the gallery above the Domed Reading Room, and is all about the history of books and ideas. It's got some very old things (the oldest is a 4000 year old cuniform tablet, plus lots of illuminated manuscripts), some very beautiful things, and some very interesting things. As an added bonus, you can go upstairs to the Changing Face of Victoria, an exhibition on the history of our state, including Ned Kelly's armour, some hair from Bourke and Wills' camel, and Hoddle's chain.

2. The Nicholas building (cnr Swanston and Flinders Lane) is one of my favourite buildings in the city. It was built for Alfred Nicholas in 1926. Nicholas was the guy who reinvented Aspirin after the Nazis "lost" the recipe. The Nicholas building is one of the last buildings in Melbourne to have a real "lift lady" who pulls the lever and makes the lift go up and down*. The Nicholas building is home to many crazy, eccentric artists and workshops, as well as the Victorian Writers Centre, and (my favourite) Buttonmania, home to the best button sale around.

3. The Alfred Nicholas Memorial Garden. Yep, same guy. Very nice fancypants gardens in the Dandenongs. I think there is actually an entry fee, but it's an honour system, so if you are so stumped for cash you can't pony up the $6, I'm sure Alfred won't mind.

4. The Farmer's Market at the Collingwood Children's Farm in Abbotsford. It's $2 for adults and free for kids, which includes a whole day's access to the farm. The market is lovely, and the farm is full of cows and pigs and chickens and horses and other things to pat and smell. It's on the second Saturday of each month.

5. The Abbotsford Convent. Absolutely one of my favourite places in Melbourne. It's right next door to the Children's Farm, so you can absolutely make a day of it. There's a great Sunday Arts Market on the first Sunday of each month, as well as a Shirt and Skirt fashion market at the same time. But mostly it's just lovely to walk around the beautiful gardens, look at the buildings, wander down to the river...

*Eagle-eyed readers will recognise this lift, and the Nicholas Building, in The (Not Quite) Perfect Boyfriend.

Back to Anthony McGowan

Remember this post about Anthony McGowan's opinions on Pink Books?

Well the post received an anonymous comment that implies it's from McGowan. If it isn't, I sincerely apologise to Mr McGowan. If it is, he should maybe think about being a little less anonymous.

Anyway. I thought I'd just copy the anonymous comment, and my response. FYI*.

Here's what he originally said:

The leathery-skinned hacks who churn out the Pink books present a vision of young people as self-obsessed, shallow, blind automata, swilling about in a moronic inferno. Reading these books will leave your soul as shrivelled as one of those pistachios you sometimes find, blackened, in the bottom of the bag. Teenage girls, read the Brontës, read Elizabeth Gaskell, read George Eliot, read anything else - even Jane Austen - but keep the pink off your shelves.

And here are his response, and my response:

Anonymous said...

In case you didn't notice, all the authors i recommended were women, so cut the white man bullshit. And the author i had in mind was Louise Rennison - read three of her books, as a judge in various competitions. I can't deny there was little of the wind up about the blog, but I'd still stand by every word.

lili said...
Hi "Anonymous",

I would much rather the youth of today read Louise Rennison than anything by the Brontës (the very definition of "self-obsessed, shallow, blind automata, swilling about in a moronic inferno", in my opinion).
And it's a bit rich to dismiss a whole genre based on one author's work. There are some amazing Pink books out there that are challenging, thought-provoking and empowering - Meg Cabot's Ready or Not is an example that springs to mind.

Can you say the same things about your books? Are The Bare Bum Gang books challenging, thought-provoking and empowering for their young readers?

I haven't read them, so I can't say.


Lili Wilkinson.

*Why does this always happen to me? First Frank Cottrell Boyce, now Anthony McGowan.

19 August 2008

Another review

For The (Not Quite) Perfect Boyfriend, this time from Sue Bursztynski at January Magazine.

Yes, it’s a teen romance and yes, it sticks to the formula that... [redacted due to spoilerage]... But there’s more to it and this one is very funny.

The rest is here. Oh, and the review is a bit spoilery, so stay away if spoilers make you itchy.

17 August 2008

The Fambly Network

I've been thinking and reading a lot lately about the global communication revolution (did you know that, as of this year, half of humanity owns a mobile phone?), and specifically, how it relates to young people and learning.

And I confess that I don't have anything particularly profound to say about it right now, because it's lunchtime on a Sunday and I really should be cleaning the house. But I've become very enamoured with Twitter lately (if you're not reading this on an RSS reader, you can see my current Twitter status over there -------------->), and the way it encapsulates my favourite thing about Facebook - the status update. Short, sharp, often funny, pithy little statements that let us share ideas, links, and moments in our lives. I find Facebook pretty irritating most of the time - the zombies and ninjas and growing things was fun at first, but I'm kind of over it now (except for Scrabulous. Youse are all invited to play Scrabulous with me). But it's useful, for events, or for contacting people - for networking.

And lots of people shake their heads and say "I just don't have the TIME" etc etc, but the thing is - these networks are USEFUL. We are a species that has built our success on a bedrock of community - we learn from each other, all the time. Constantly. And the bigger our network is, the more we learn. But those connections have to be meaningful, which is why today I deleted my MySpace page.

I got one, because, you know. Networking. Getting the word out there about me and my books. But I never visited it. I had a couple of hundred friends, none of whom I'd ever met. It didn't mean anything.

Here is a map of my Facebook network:

And here's my very new and petite Twitter network:
There's some crossover between them, which is fine, but they are different in two very important ways. My Facebook network is people that I know. "Friend" is a misleading word - these people are not all my friends. But I do know them all, even if I haven't face-to-face met some of them.

But my Twitter network is different. Some people that I follow - like Cory Doctorow or Merlin Mann or Barack Obama - I don't know. And they don't know me. And they don't follow me, which is fine, because why would they?

And there are some people who follow me who I don't know, and I don't follow. Twitter doesn't have to be a two-way relationship. It's also a lot more public, which allows for a much more hivemind sort of learning experience. Big news tends to ripple through Twitter like a shock wave. On Facebook it's a much more intimate - semi-private, one-on-one conversations.

What's my point? I don't have one really. I'm just really enjoying being a part of the Giant Global Communications Fambly, and watching it grow and learn and evolve.

15 August 2008

Read While Waiting

Nicely timed with the Writers Festival...

(via Kirsty Murray)

11 August 2008

Anthony McGowan On Pink Books

I know this is a wind-up, but still seems a bit much from the author the Bare Bum Gang books.

OK, so not many teenagers are going to be reading Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade, but there's a whole world of books that I'd ban straight away if I got the chance: pink books. Yes, down there with Nietzsche and De Sade I'd place those terrible teeny-chick lit "novels", the ones about snogging and boyfriends and make-up and nothing else. The novel is supposed (says who? says me) to exalt the soul, to show humanity what, in its greatest moments, it might achieve; and yet also to reveal our vulnerability and our helplessness.

The leathery-skinned hacks who churn out the Pink books present a vision of young people as self-obsessed, shallow, blind automata, swilling about in a moronic inferno. Reading these books will leave your soul as shrivelled as one of those pistachios you sometimes find, blackened, in the bottom of the bag. Teenage girls, read the Brontës, read Elizabeth Gaskell, read George Eliot, read anything else - even Jane Austen - but keep the pink off your shelves.

From here.

05 August 2008

The (not quite) Perfect Boyfriend: Chapter One

Sometimes I wish I could just grow down and go back to primary school. Everything was easy then. School was fun, I was the Grade 6 Spelling Champion, and my best friend and I thought boys were disgusting.

When I wake up on the first day of Year 10, I realise how much has changed. School is hard. My best friend is boycrazy. I have never kissed a boy. And no one gives a rat’s fund ament about spelling.
I drag myself into the kitchen for breakfast. Mum and Dad are talking, but stop when I come in. Mum looks down into her cup of tea, and Dad leaves the room.
‘Is everything okay?’ I ask as I eat last night’s ravioli straight from the Tupperware container.
‘Fine,’ says Mum, then makes a face. ‘Imogen, that’s disgusting.’
Mum named me Imogen because it sounded like imagine, but everyone calls me Midge. Even Mum only calls me Imogen when I’m doing something wrong.
I pop another piece of ravioli into my mouth. ‘What?’
‘You could at least heat it up.’
‘I like it cold.’
Mum empties the dregs of her tea into the sink and then smoothes her shirt. She was a total hippie before I was born, but now she works for a classy law fi rm in the city. She still burns incense and talks about karma, and she gets all hot under her Country Road collar when I call her a sell-out.
I finish the ravioli, and rummage through the fridge to find something worthy of a sandwich for school.
‘Don’t bother making your lunch,’ says Mum, gathering up the official-looking papers that decorate the kitchen table. ‘I’ll give you money to buy something.’
I freeze. ‘What have you done with my mother?’ I ask suspiciously.
‘It’s your first day back at school,’ says Mum. ‘You should have a treat.’
I raise my eyebrows. ‘This from the woman who started a letter-writing campaign to our local council insisting they serve tofu in the school canteen.’
She just smiles and snaps her briefcase closed.

Tahni bounces up to me at my locker in the Year 10 corridor. She’s been in Queensland with her family since after Christmas, so I haven’t seen her in forever. We squeal and hug and do the girl thing, then she launches into a lurid and, I suspect, highly exaggerated description of the boys she met on the beach, and the bikini she wore, and the expressions on the faces of the boys when
they saw her in the bikini, and the photo she gave them of her in the bikini (airbrushed, of course – Tahni became a Photoshop expert last year with the sole purpose of being able to airbrush her own photos). I zone out after a couple of seconds. I notice a sign on the wall:

“Welcome” Year Ten’s

I can forgive Tahni her tendency to turn even the most mundane events into a drama worthy of Ramsay Street, but there are only two things worse than poor spelling. One is misplaced quotation marks. The other is unnecessary apostrophes.
‘So?’ asks Tahni. ‘Did you meet any hot boys over the summer?’
She says it in this annoying sing-song voice which makes me blush. Because she knows the truth. She knows I’ve never kissed a boy. She’s the one who tells me at every available opportunity that I’m going to be a lonely old lady with eleven cats in a caravan. I feel like the whole school is judging me. Me in all my pathetic loser-y glory.
This is an extra-special bonus level of Not Fair. It’s not like I’m ugly. I’ve spent hours in front of the mirror, trying to figure out what is wrong. I have good skin. My eyebrows are nicely shaped. I don’t have crooked teeth or a hideous squint. So. What. Is. The. Problem??
Tahni laughs and makes miaowing noises. I envisage a whole year of this. A whole year of every girl in the school who isn’t me pashing anything with a Y chromosome. And I can’t handle it. I would rather die.
So I say it. I don’t think about it. I just say it.
‘I did meet a boy.’
Tahni giggles. ‘Cousins don’t count, Midge,’ she says. ‘Or pizza delivery boys. Or the boys who work at the video shop.’
I glare at her. ‘I met him at the library,’ I say. ‘He has wavy brown hair, and he’s English.’
I pause. What am I talking about? I didn’t meet any boys.
‘So he’s a nerd,’ says Tahni, cautiously.
Does that mean she bought it?
I grin. ‘A hotty Mc-Hot nerd.’
Tahni nods appreciatively. Who doesn’t love a hot nerd?
‘Wow,’ she says. ‘You really met a boy. When can I meet him?’
‘He’s gone back to England,’ I say. Where is this all coming from?
‘So you’ll never see him again,’ Tahni says dismissively, like it doesn’t count.
‘He might be moving here.’
What am I doing? I’m crazy. There’s no way Tahni will buy this.
But she is. She’s leaning forward, her eyes intent. ‘Did you pash him?’
‘Of course.’
Tahni lets out a little squeak of excitement. ‘Are you off your V-plates?’
I give her a Look. ‘Don’t be gross,’ I say. ‘We only met a month ago.’
‘So what did you do?’ asks Tahni. She looks slightly defensive. Maybe she’s worried that I have a better story than her never-ending Bikini on the Beach masterpiece.
I’m enjoying this way more than I should.
‘We went on a picnic by the river,’ I say. ‘We had a picnic rug and lemonade and dip and squishy cheese. He made me a garland out of daisies and willow branches and called me a princess.’
Tahni frowns, and I know I’ve gone too far. ‘Sounds kind of wet,’ she says.
‘It wasn’t,’ I say. ‘It was romantic.’
The bell rings. ‘More on this later,’ says Tahni over her shoulder as she hurries off to form assembly.
I am officially insane.

(more here)

30 July 2008

The (not quite) Perfect Boyfriend

I have a new book out!

It's my first ever Pink Book, and I LOVED writing it. It contains the following things:

-imaginary boyfriends
-possessed Care Bears
-live action role playing

Here is an early review.

And here is the publisher's site.

Maybe next week I will post an extract.

29 July 2008

Kennett: appalling

So a trainer at the Bonnie Doon Football Club was fired because he came out as being bisexual.


Then, ex-Premier, wannabe-Mayor and head of Beyond Blue, Jeff Kennett said that was a good thing. Because having a bisexual work as a football coach was like having a pedophile working as a masseur at the club.

I'm sorry? Let's have that again:

It was like having a pedophile working as a masseur at the club.

You'd be forgiven for not knowing this, given that it was reported quietly in the Herald Sun, but not in The Age or The Australian at all.

If the head of an organisation that helps people struggling with depression publically claims that bisexuality and pedophilia are the same thing, then there is something seriously wrong with the world.

He needs to resign. And forget about being Mayor. Give John So the job for life.

27 July 2008

37 Odd Things About Me

I just read and adored E Lockhart's The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, so much so that I have stolen this meme from E's blog in the hope that some of her genius will rub off on me.

1. Do you like blue cheese?
Oh, yes. Especially mixed in with mac and cheese, a tin of tuna, some fried onion and some frozen peas. Nommy.

2. Have you ever smoked?
Not in the sense that would have made me a smoker. I have tried it. Didn't like it. Stinky.

3. Do you own a gun?
No. Can you tell this meme originated in the US?

4. What flavor Kool Aid was your favorite? 
Also a US question. We don't has a Kool Aid in the Land of Oz. But a quick trip to Wikipedia has informed me that it was originally called "Fruit Smack", which seems somehow appropriate given the whole Jonestown thing. Having said that, further Wikipediaing has revealed that the Jim Jones mass suicide thing was actually Flavor Aid, not Kool Aid.

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?
Nope. Nor dentist. Going to the dentist is kind of like paying a nice man $200 to tell you how perfect you are. Worth every penny. 

6. What do you think of hot dogs?
I confess I don't spend a lot of time thinking about hot dogs. But I do like a good sausage-in-bread.

7. Favorite Christmas movie?
The Muppet Christmas Carol

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Black English Breakfast tea.

9. Can you do push ups?
Yes. Will I? Absolutely not.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? 
A brass locket shaped like a book with a page of Through the Looking Glass inside.

11. Favorite hobby?
Reading. Closely followed by television, procrastination, crochet and sass.

12. Do you have A.D.D.?
It doesn't appear so.

13. Do you wear glasses/contacts?
Glasses for reading and other close work.

14. Middle name?

15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment?
My finger hurts. It's very cold today. Is it Sunday-nap-time?

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink?
Water. Tea. Red wine.

17. Current worry?
The Inkys/my latest novel/global warming

18. Current hate right now?
a) People who use "learning" as a noun, ie. "I think the potential for learnings are high"
b) The film I saw yesterday.

19. Favorite place to be?
Right here. Couch. Home.

20. How did you bring in the new year?
I dragged my fractured foot and me to my parents' place by the beach and sweltered.

21. Where would you like to go? 
The North Fitzroy Star for a cosy dinner with my favourite peeps. I am lucky.

22. Name three people who will complete this? 
You, you, and you, over there, up the back.

23. Do you own slippers? 
Am wearing Ugg Boots right now. They make my feet happy.

24. What shirt are you wearing?
A pink cashmere jumper purchased at UNIQLO New York.

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
No. Sticky. But my new sheets are some kind of Palestinian uber-cotton that is so soft it could be satin.

26. Can you whistle?
Yes, to Figgy's delight.

27. Favorite color?
Depends what for. Clothes? I'm wearing a lot of blue. Crockery? White. Lipstick? I have a peachy one I'm very fond of. Wine? Always red.

28. Would you be a pirate?
Not the peg-legged, scurvy, aaarrrgggh kind of pirate. But it is possible that I have, in the past, engaged in activities that might legally make me a pirate. I may do those things again. Maybe. Officer.

29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
Usually whatever my iPod alarm woke me up with. This morning it was What Is This Feeling from Wicked.

30. Favorite Girl's Name?
I'm not great with girl's names. I like Ingrid. And Evelyn.

31. Favorite boy's name? 
I rather ironically have a thing for Biblical boy's names. Caleb, Elias, Gabriel, Gideon, Isaac, Micah, Reuben. And I also like Finnegan and Finbar.

32. What's in your pocket right now? 
Nothing. Girls and pockets don't mix.

33. Last thing that made you laugh? 
Looking at the stupid photos we took last night at the pub, which were "stills" from dreadful telemovies. You know, like the one where the heiress left all her money to the pool-boy who then murdered her but her seven-year-old nephew witnessed the whole thing and dropped his salamander? Or the one with the bulimic figure-skater? Or the girl who got sent to prison after murdering her parents and then got abused by her warden?

34. What vehicle do you drive? 
I own a dark green Suzuki hatchbacky thing. But I don't drive it very often.

35. Worst injury you've ever had? 
Dad and I had a bike accident when I was 4 that involved a really steep hill and a gravel pit, and resulted in the breaking of Dad's collarbone and 7 stitches in my forehead. Wanna see my scar?

36. Do you love where you live? 
Yes. My house, my suburb, my city, my country. Sometimes I don't necessarily love all the other people who share it with me, but that's why I'm currently living alone.

37. How many TVs do you have in your house?
One. I am morally opposed to TV in bedrooms. Except when the Olympics are on, then it's allowed.

20 July 2008

Devil's Advocate

I have this idea that I'm not sure I agree with, but I'm going to talk about it anyway, because that's just how I roll, y'all.


People are getting knickers twisted because of the current slew of YA books that mention brand names. You know, the seven squillion Gossip Girl* clones out there. Where all the kiddies are wearing Burberry and Manolos and whatever else is fashionable right now. And now companies are paying publishers for in-book product placement. So poor Katie H Protagonist is now slapping on Maybelline WetShine Diamonds in Raunchy Red.

And the knicker twisted ones (whose side I am almost completely on, btw) are saying: "how TERRIBLE that companies are using BOOKS to peddle their wares! BOOKS the LAST TRUE BASTION OF CULTURE etc etc.

So my devil's advocate position is this:

Companies are going to advertise their products to teenagers no matter what we do, or say. Nothing will stop that. So wouldn't you rather a Young Person was getting a healthy dose of Reading along with their advertising? Instead of just on a TV commercial or billboard somewhere?

I suppose it depends on what the choice is. If the choice is: Books With Product Placement or Books Without Product Placement, I choose the latter. But if the choice is Advertising With Character Development And Narrative or Advertising On Irritating TV Commercials, I'll take my ads in books.

Does that make sense?

I also wouldn't want it to go too far the other way. In my latest book, I mention Two Minute Noodles, Mars Bars, MySpace, Google and Care Bears. The story wouldn't have felt as real if I'd not been able to use those things. Nothing pulls a reader out of a narrative like the mention of Three Minute Rice, Jupiter Bars, MyArea, Croogle and Solicitude Bears. Of course Google and the Care Bears didn't pay me anything to mention their products. So I suppose that's different.

But still.

You see what I'm saying?

I still haven't convinced myself. But I'm getting there.
*Speaking of Gossip Girl, have you seen the racy new promos? SOLID GOLD.