Sunday, August 29, 2010


I am back from Children's Book Week in Melbourne, having seen parts of the city and suburbs never before encountered, and boggled again at the variety of the place, and marvelled again at the wonderfulness of the inner city - the laneways, ACMI, the restaurants, the bookshops.  Marvelled in a less good way about how fricken cold it was, but it's Melbourne in winter, so you get that.  I had thought-provoking gigs at Beaconhills Christian College in Packenham, Thomastown Secondary College, the Academy of Mary Immaculate in Fitzroy and MacRobertson's Girls High School - the schools filled with vastly different kinds of kids, but all attentive and alert.  It was a lovely change, being able to be a Writer all week, and had productive and gorgeous meetings with my editors and publisher.  Still searching for a name for the virginity novel, so if you have one that might to do the trick, please submit (note: it's for upper high school, needless to say, and the V Girls is its working title, but we want something that captures the essence of the novel.  I know, hard work, isn't it?) 

Now I am back, cooking chicken soup to drive away what may or may not turn out to be the flu.  And yes, for those of you wondering, I did wear my mask to and from Melbourne (although removed it on the way back to talk to witty fellow-traveller Jon Doust). It worked, but gee I got some looks.  I did find out that my habit of whipping out the alcohol gel is very Noo York, so there.  Better cosmopolitan than neurotic, I always say.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Modern phobias

I'm going to Melbourne shortly, mainly to talk to mobs of kids for Children's Book Week (on which note, I congratulate my fellow writers for their success in the awards, particularly the magic-dusted Sally Murphy).  En route I will be wearing a face mask to stave off flu germs, which I've been trying to avoid at home by using vast quantities of alcohol gel and coughing-person-avoidance.  When I worked at the Department of Health, there was a bird flu epidemic scare, which prompted me to buy a water tank, several 10kg bags of rice and hundreds of cans of foodstuffs (since passed their expiry date, and into landfill. Sorry!).  There will almost certainly be a pandemic of some description in the not-so-distant future, for which face masks will doubtless be useless.  Nevertheless, my neurosis re germs knows no bounds. 

I consider my ability to catch public transport, therefore, to be amongst my greatest achievements.  Sure, I may cover my face when people near me cough into the general atmosphere instead of their elbows, and I lather my hands with alcohol gel the minute I get on or off a train, but just getting on with hundreds of other people breathing into the same square metrage I inhabit is commendable.  I do, as regular readers will note, enjoy reading over people's shoulders, which makes up for covering my face with scarves and getting scabby hands from over-washing.

Anyone else have a phobia they'd like to own up to?

And yes, I'm a Virgo.  How did you guess?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The point of writing

... is getting reviews like this:

I love to play chess, so when I went to the library yesterday and saw this book I instantly wanted to read it. I was right about the book. It was so good that I was reading till 11:30. My mum told me to go to sleep an hour and a half earlier. Being an Aussie boy it was nice to have the book being set in Oz. I am sort of like Jackson myself so I could really connect with the story. I'm kind of also like Anna as the only person I can't beat is my dad (but Ive beaten him at least 3 times out around 100). I really like this book.  Julia Lawrinson did really well.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To the Middle Kingdom

My Aussie Chomp Famous! is going to be published in China.  For a book whose inspiration was my experience of the uber-Australian (or should that be uber-bogan) Hey Hey It's Saturday, that's not bad.  Lots of my writing friends have been multiply published all over the world: this is my first non-Amazon trip o/s.  It's a lovely reminder of the unexpected bonuses of writing.  Thank you to the Penguin mob for persisting in getting me out there.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

On the train

In a crowded train on Wednesday afternoon, there was a man hunkered down in the corner at the back of the carriage, muttering.  From my standing-up view, I could see that he looked unwell: when he opened them, his eyes were red-rimmed, and he leaned his forehead onto the palm of his hand, rocking slightly as he spoke under his breath at some times, then louder at others, remonstrating, explaining, repeating.  A man sitting two seats up from him, maybe in his late 20s, dressed in jeans and a beanie, was agitated by the ceaseless muttering: he twisted around from time to time in a (failed) attempt to eye the muttering man, and gripped his newspaper tensely.  Then the muttering man started to chant, 'Dick.  Dick.  Dick dick dick. Dick.'  It was too much for the man with the newspaper: he half-rose out of his seat, located the muttering man and said, loud enough for the carriage to hear, 'Mate, can you stop that?'

Muttering man opened his eyes and said, 'Yeah.  I can.'

Newspaper man, having now seen the state of muttering man, was stuck.  After such a public pronouncement, he couldn't be seen to be backing down, and he also couldn't be seen to be bullying a guy who was such a soft target.  'Yeah, well mate, you better stop it, okay?  I can see it's hard for you to stop, but I don't want to hear it, all right?  If you'd been someone else I would have stopped you by now.'

Muttering man nodded, and, for a time, was silent.