Tuesday, May 10, 2016

more france

I'd been hoping to get back to France for years and years now and so when my friend Becky said, hey, I've got to go to Montpellier for work – want to come stay? I said ... OKAY!

Cathedreal in Angers, early(ish) in the morning.

Beautiful, spooky art to commemorate the prisoners held inside the Chateau d'Angers.

I was unable to capture the Sagrada Familia properly with camera or phone but I was able to stand and stare for most of the afternoon.

Old folks in Sergovia out for a Sunday stroll.

Madrid turned it all on for me.
Maybe I'll move there.

Montpellier alleyways are made for flâneuses like moi.

Street art, Montpellier.

La poste (le chien).

Crèpes equal delicious, with wintery sun and blue skies.

La Seine, Paris, on my birthday.

Have any writers ever died for Australia?
Would we build a crypt for them if they did?

Paris street art.

View from my fenêtre, Montmartre.

Wee baby Basile!

Coming up the metro steps to go home for the night.

Monday, March 28, 2016

le café

‘so,’ asks becky, ‘if a coffee is un café and a café is also un café, how do you know which one you’re taking about?’
the french glance at each other, shrug frenchly.

the french love their coffee. it’s a habit, an institution, the closing punctuation to a meal. something consumed from a tiny cup while you stand at the counter of a brasserie or sit on a cane chair smoking, your dog at your feet. (I LOVE french cliché!)

but it’s also nearly always bitter and/or grainy, made with a grimy espresso machine, or served at home from a lukewarm percolator. 

(but sometimes there's a time and place for this style of coffee)

not long before I left for my holiday, my friend hannah posted this link on my facebook page.

popular french coffee shops in paris, according to instagram

challenge accepted.
challenge not always photographed.

café kitsuné:

coffee club (this one is actually in montpellier):

honor café:

boot café:

and a sneaky london lunch at monocle cafe:


Thursday, March 17, 2016

la lecture

I don't know about you, but I believe one of the best things about going to France is THE BOOKS.* And behold my haul.

As you can see I was quite reserved, really. I shopped in Bordeaux at an enormous (absolutely staggeringly big) bookshop (i got lost once) called Mollat, in Les Enfants sur le Toit, a children's bookstore in Montmartre, and at Chantelivre in the 6th arrondissement.
  • Cupidon Power by Luc Blanvillain, published by l'école des loisirs (MG), in which a young boy has the magical ability to make people fall in love with each other – but he can't benefit from it himself.
  • Dysfonctionelle by Axl Cendres, published by Editions Sarbacane (YA). Fidèle has a pretty crappy home life – Dad back and forth from prison, Mum from the psych ward – but she's clever, and so goes to a posh school in a nice suburb. I'll take a torn-between-two-worlds story ANYDAY.
  • La pyramide des besions humains by Caroline Solé, published by l'école des loisirs (YA). This one was recommended to me by Coline Ribue, a publicist at l'école des loisirs who was kind enough to meet with me and chat all things book – answering all of my questions about how 'surely france respects books above all else' and hearing back that actually, like here, kids books get pretty overlooked in terms of reviews in mainstream media ...more about this another time – and she walked me around Chantelivre, the indie bookshop right next door to the office. This YA novel is about a reality TV show based on the idea of Marlow's hierarchy of needs. I'm going to have to read it to understand more...
  • Quand le diable sortit de la salle de bain by Sophie Divry, published by Notabilia (adult fic) about a young woman, unemployed and bogged down in her novel. I try not to think about this one being too close to home. Sophie, the character, has a personal demon called Lorchus, so we're different that way.
  • C'est chic! by Marie Dorléans, published by Seuil Jeunesse (picture book). It's about a merchant who can't shift his wares, until one day he gets a touch of heatstroke and begins pitching very strange goods: coffee shoes and rain carpets?? And the snobbity rich folks, well they think these things are just so unique!
A closer look at all things chic...

Isn't it magnificent?

  • Le merveilleux dodu-velu-petit by Beatrice Alemagna, published by Albin Michel Jeunesse (picture book) and which is about a little girl who just wants to get the best present for her mother's birthday – better that anything her sister could get...
 I couldn't not buy the Beatrice Alemagna, even though she's pretty often translated into English – and this title is already, it's called The Wonderful Fluffy Little Squishy – but I had read an article about this one last year, in which Beatrice was asked (I believe) to redraw a scene in which a butcher brandishes a bloody, dripping knife at our little main character Eddie. American sensibilities etc. I don't know if she had to censor it in the end, but I know I wanted the bloody knife version for myself.

I'm excited, though a little overwhelmed, at all the reading-in-a-second-language I'm about to do. I'm trying to improve my French from basic-conversation-fluent to something a little more nuanced and sophisticated. Books is the answer, I think.

Do you read in foreign languages? How do you source your books? Do you feel, like me, that we would all benefit from an increased amount of works translated from other languages in this country? How can we make this an affordable process?

 *croissants, baguettes and rocamadour cheese obviously a close, tied, second-best.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

has it really been a year?

january 2015. the girl is a full-time editor again. she walks the docklands trudge; walks saltwater sandals beside the bankers.

the people are kind, interesting, creative, friendly, very tall. mothers of punk singers. mentors, inspirations, enthusiastic, passionate, helpful.

Find Me A Castle by Beci Orpin
the girl is given the most incredible projects to work on. there are more people to meet: busy, successful arty people who work really hard doing what they love. (beci must not sleep, i think.)

Ickypedia by The Listies
there are hilarious loose cannon first-time authors to work with, who write clever, disgusting things and are very good at puns and drawing queues. (‘pub date?’ they ask. ‘which pub shall we go to?’)

Celebrating 30 years of Paul Jennings!!
there are the authors who’ve been around for yonks, been your childhood favourites. this, this was pretty damn special. have you read ‘a dozen bloomin’ roses’ lately? or ‘skeleton on the dunny’, ‘nails’ or ‘cow dung custard’? have you ever, ever felt like this?

coffee by long shot, mostly. and bonus grammar fun with mary norris! (seen at the interrobang & you can listen to the podcast of the event.) many excellent books over the year. some writing (more on that later). lots of changes, lots of learning. lots of fortunate moments (hashtag blessed).

december 2015. the girl will wrap up her job at the end of january and bid farewell to the random penguins. elle va aller en france pour se détendre et ... 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Sunshine Heighs PS Writers Festival

Last month, the kids at Sunshine Heights Primary School had a Writers’ Festival at their school, organised by art teacher and writer powerhouse Francine Sculli (along with her in-school writers' group). First up there was a panel of guest writers: Meaghan Bell, Jennifer Down and me.

Jennifer is getting her first novel published, Meaghan is a poet and I've met Andy Griffiths. So we were kind of like rockstars. The audience was brilliant. They had questions upon questions and weren't afraid to double check the facts.
‘What was that metal word you used?’ asked a teeny front-row preppie.
A moment of confusion, but then Meaghan redefined meta(l)phors and similes (using an analogy, which I may have misremembered but the cuteness factor remains).
The preppie sat up straight, smiled, and confirmed: ‘So...a simile is the wind was like a feather. And a metaphor is the wind was a feather...but it’s not really a feather, it's a metaphor.’

Then the P/1/2 classes and I trooped over to the gymnasium to CREATE A PICTURE BOOK of our very own. First off I read My Teacher is a Monster, because it’s brilliant. But we had to keep things simple given our one-hour time limit. So five-page OPPOSITES books it was.

First off we workshopped some classic opposites: big/small, loud/quiet, tall/short, happy/sad.

But some kids were cleverer and more unique than that...

And some just loved sharks:


All the kids got right into it, even the ones who sometimes find it hard to concentrate in class. Even if they didn't finish all their pages I'm pretty sure each of them was proud to be a real author at the end of the session. It was absolutely the best day. The End*.

*except not the end. I would do it again right now.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


In August 2009 this blog was born. I was reading The Ask and the Answer.

On this day in 2010 I was singing along to Darren Hanlon's latest (at the time) album.

Around this time in 2011 I was reading Yellowcake and enjoying some MWF sunshine.

In 2012 I  was being brief (though excited) about books, and keen to hear The Futureheads' acapella album, RANT.

August last year... who knows, really... But I had been to see Joan Baez (has it really been a year?!) and was soon to muse on the cost of books.

Skipping to the present day...


Four months (almost to the day) after being retrenched from my in-house editor job, I am cheerfully living the #rockstarfreelancelifestyle, editing picture books for Little Hare and proofreading whatever comes my way.

I have also returned to my original career as a children's bookseller! I like to think of it as working at the coal face. Excitingly, this includes visiting local primary schools...

And there's time to read.
The protag has already eaten at least one "simple meal".

I loved it. In spite of this cynical review.

Some pop-lit-psych as an entree to understanding literacy.

And the end of August is bringing SPRING to Melbourne. It's (starting to be) T-shirt Weather!