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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)