Wednesday, November 27, 2013

For now, a short break

Be kind, we are regenerating over here. Percolating content and deciding on direction.

There will be more read.

There will be more bean.

I'll see you all next year.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Visiting Fitzroy

From time to time you meander from Brunswick to even more inner inner-north suburbs. You can go to the artists' market and buy tea-towels as presents for friends who think butter makes everything better.

When you lived on the cusp between Carlton and here you knew this place like the proverbial back of the hand. But that was a frightening number of years ago.

Visiting now, you might get a shock when you realise there is now a cafe where the Rose Street brothel used to be.

It's called Grace. The Syndicate coffee's good and breakfast is tasty (and you can order a berocca, with no judgement, it says so on the menu). This change isn't quite as good as a holiday, but perhaps not a bad weekend.

Rose Street Artists' Market website
Visit Grace's website
Buy stuff from Able & Game

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

catching up


Isn't Cold Comfort Farm just wonderful
It's what I wanted Evelyn Waugh to be...



Visit The Ampersand Project tumblr for writing tips &
 other sundries by me and the team at HGE.
Working some more:

A sneaky peek at something new for next year. 
More on Anastasia another time.

And puppies:

But how are you?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

buying books

Them there books sure are 'spensive these days. Sigh. If I had a dollar for every time someone said this to me...*

And I know. It's true. $30ish dollars for a trade paperback adult novel isn't a small amount of money. $30 is my share of the kitty in my sharehouse for a whole week. It's just over four days travel on your MYKI. Around 3 pints of beer - and don't try to tell me you've never dropped that in one evening without even thinking twice about it. 

Purchased and borrowed from a variety of sources.

Books cost a lot. We're such a teeny tiny market in this country, we just can't compare with America or even the UK. Things just cost more here. I'm sure that if we lived in the States my housemates and I could buy way more stuff with our $30 each a week.

I totally get the allure of Amazon and the Book Depository. But try to understand that they are basically the devil. How can we expect to have a local publishing industry if people continue to send their money to companies that don't even pay tax in Australia?

Mark Rubbo, the managing director of Readings, in a recent interview with the Design Files said: '...the huge share that online booksellers, especially the overseas ones, have is another challenge. It galls me that these monkeys don’t have to collect GST – they rip the guts out of local publishing and bookselling and on top of that they avoid paying tax.'

If you love Australian books, support them with your money. Buy books. Make a point of buying locally. If you want to buy books online, try Bookworld. It's not as good as buying from a real shop, but it's easy and quick, they offer some sweet discounts.

Perhaps aim to buy one book from a local independent bookshop each month. This is my rule, though usually I end up buying more and have to sacrifice something else - usually credit card repayments. Then source your other reads elsewhere if you want, especially if you're a voracious reader or poor  (or both). Libraries, secondhand bookshops, Bookworld, the Little Library ... or maybe work for a publishing house so you can get copies of some books (for me: Wild Awake) to keep for your own. Better yet - buy kids' and YA books - they're cheaper!

Maybe you love reading so much you want to be a book blogger. Publishers will probably be quite happy to send you books to read and review - and there's a vibrant YA blogging community in Aus, with readers from all over the world.

I just ask one thing. Bloggers, when offering your readers the option to click through and buy the book, consider not linking to those devilish sites mentioned above. You're in the business of selling books too, by recommending them. When you've been able to read a book for free, make sure you do right by its publisher, and especially its author.

Oh so many great Australian books!

There's so little money in books and publishing. Let's just make sure we put it in the right places in order to keep all the good stuff coming back in return.

*(I could buy so many more books) 

Friday, August 9, 2013

50 years ago I bought you some cufflinks...

It was nineteen ninety something and I was probably fifteen or sixteen. My family went to Byron Bay, in the car. It was hot and we ate sugar cane bought from the side of the road. We alternated between Triple J and 774. Our parents played their tapes: The Travelling Wilburys, Cat Stevens ... and Joan Baez's Diamonds and Rust album. It's the soundtrack to that holiday; I played it on repeat - kids, what I mean is I just kept turning the cassette around over and over again.

I fell for her voice (though sometimes giggle at its rawther dramatic vibrato) and her look, her activism, her passion ... and her proximity to his bobness ... And now I'm seeing her live in concert! This Friday - tonight, now! More a singer than a really beautiful lyricist, but I do still absolutely adore this song in particular:

Diamonds and Rust

Well I'll be damned
Here comes your ghost again
But that's not unusual
It's just that the moon is full
And you happened to call

And here I sit, hand on the telephone
Hearing a voice I'd known
A couple of light years ago
Heading straight for a fall

As I remember your eyes
Were bluer than robin's eggs
"My poetry was lousy", you said
Where are you calling from?
A booth in the Midwest

Ten years ago
I bought you some cuff links
You brought me something
And we both know what memories can bring
They bring diamonds and rust

You burst on the scene
Already a legend
The unwashed phenomenon
The original vagabond
You strayed into my arms

And there you stayed
Temporarily lost at sea
The Madonna was yours for free
Yes the girl on the half-shell
Would keep you unharmed

Now I see you standing
With brown leaves falling all around
And snow in your hair
Now you're smiling out the window
Of that crummy hotel over Washington Square

Our breath comes out white clouds
Mingles and hangs in the air
Speaking strictly for me
We both could have died then and there

Now you're telling me
You're not nostalgic
Then give me another word for it
You, who are so good with words
And at keeping things vague

'Cause I need some of that vagueness now
It's all come back too clearly
I once loved you dearly
And if you're offering me diamonds and rust
Well, I've already paid

O that unwashed phenomenon, so good with words & keeping things vague...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

wild awake, this time in australian

Here's the Aus & NZ cover for Hilary T Smith's incandescent debut novel Wild Awake, published here by HGE.

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away: 

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen: 

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to –
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he –
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things … get a little crazy after that.*
* also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.

Both exhilarating and wrenching, Hilary T. Smith’s debut novel captures the messy glory of being alive, as seventeen-year-old Kiri Byrd discovers love, loss, chaos, and murder woven into a summer of music, madness, piercing heartbreak, and intoxicating joy.

Click here and here for more.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

the halfway mark

Happy June.

For some reason, this year has set out to be a bumper year for change. Most remarkably, the crick-crack-rock-chick best friend made a (small) human. My writer's group is exploding with talent and releasing books willy-nilly, getting amazing opportunities and generally being wonderful people ... as well as making small humans in their spare time or threatening to abscond to Malaysia and/or Spain. I'm writing a bit, and had a birthday. Work's exciting. There's great coffee, and even better books.

Just a few scenes from my world lately:

Bespoke birthday card. Literaryily funny.

Morning coffee.


Celebrating Anna Cowan's UNTAMED. Out now!

First glimpse of Nelika's THE VALE GIRL,
out in September! The real cover is lovely.

A wee honorary nephew; here, just twelve hours old.

Friends who work in bread are good friends indeed.

The Sun Bookshop peeps always bring the wine.

The Merri Creek putting on its autumn frock.

Feeling quite pleased with this year. Keep it up, 2013.

Monday, June 3, 2013

signed copy

at the reading matters conference i told libba bray how the diviners had scared the shit out of me.

pretty sure i love her.

(also told her the libbabaryboobs story)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Wild Awake

It's the first day of summer, and I know three things: One, I am happy. Two, I am stoned. Three, if Lukas Malcywyck's T-shirt was any more red I would lean over and bite it like an apple.
And so opens Wild Awake by Hilary T Smith. This is one I have been waiting for for quite a little while - and it's out now in the US!

You, if you are like me, will adore this. Hilary's words surprise and delight; the prose so careful and deliberate and wondrous. The story pings and zings across the pages, and the voice of protagonist Kiri Byrd (Serious Piano Student) is beguiling. After an unexpected phone call, everything begins to unravel and Kiri pedals through her city and the night, night after night, trying to discover just what did happen to her sister Sukey those years ago and then afterwards she continues on, grasping and gasping at adventure.
Ahead of me, the glittering angles of downtown beckon dangerously, like a drawer full of knives.
Who knew this was out there, waiting for me? Who knew there was an entire midnight world out there while I was lying in bed?
I knew from the first paragraph that this book was for me, but the description of a boy she meets in the fourth chapter just confirmed it:
He's huge. Hagridesque.

Hilary used to be The (anonymous) Intern, you've probably read her blog. It's damn good. Once, we looked at each other's bookshelves. Now she posts not only about books and writing, but also all of her incredible travels and her artistic, nomadic life. She prefers to live for free or for cheap: read about it here at YA Highway, it's truly inspiring. Where can I get me a doom shack?

And the most wonderful thing is that, because I was too impatient to wait to read this book, I casually mentioned it at work and our managing and commissioning editor (also an Intern Spills fan, fortuitously) ran with it. Then everyone in the office read it and loved it and so our m&c ed asked 'please may we buy the rights?' and now we'll be bringing out an Australian/New Zealand edition later this year (not too much later).

I'll post more on Wild Awake in the next little while. It's one of those ones that not only had me reading all in a fluster of page flipping, sharp-intake-of-breath-taking, revelling and reckoning, but also one of those gems that I know will help to grow me as a writer, as well as a reader.

Congratulations, Hilary!

UPDATE: Wild Awake now has a special cover for its ANZ release - see here!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

away from home and back again

Heading Home

Pushing it to a hundred
flanked by paperbacks and pines.

Their branches tremble,
startled by the high-beam halo.

Velvet Underground
drowning out the engine.

Singing the choruses and
dipping lights for oncomers.

Mumbling the verses
and slowing to eighty

through Balnarring and Hastings.
heading for the city,

the freeway and the lights.
Leaving the winter coast

and the house without curtains
for another weekend.
- Adam Ford, Not Quite the Man for the Job (buy it here)

Reading this, I'm reminded of the song Animals by The Guild League, which begins:

Clouds of feathers fleece and foam,
halfway to my childhood home.
In the car and on my own,
white lines where the road is sewn.
Stitches holding down the car,
beside the sun under the stars.
Through the evening coloured so
like pink champagne and eye-shadow.

It's on their album Inner North (buy it here)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

what's a memory?

It begins:

There once was a small boy called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what's more he wasn't very old either.

Have you read it? This most beautiful story is about a little boy who lives next door to an old folks' home, and whose favourite old lady there - Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper - has lost her memory.

He asks all the people in the old folks' home, What's a memory?

Their answers are cryptic, ethereal, esoteric, even contradictory. It's something that makes you laugh, something that makes you cry. It's something as precious as gold. But, armed with their advice, practical Wilfrid sets off to gather some memories for Miss Nancy, because she has lost her own.

Perfectly written by Mem Fox, this one will break your heart in the best way possible. Wilfrid Gordon might seem to approach memory loss and Alzheimer's disease in a naive, childlike way - and he does! - but this book shows the wonderful way that some memories don't have to stay lost, the way objects can be significant and imbued with meaning and just how important it is to make connections with other people - and not just those from your generation. This is how stories are made, and so I hold Wilfrid Gordon close to remind me.

But don't forget the illustrations! You couldn't if you tried... Julie Vivas is some kind of magical watercolour genius. Her pictures bring the story to life in a way that I don't believe anyone else quite could. And it's not just this book, but the others too: The Very Best of Friends, Let the Celebrations Begin, The Tram to Bondi Beach, and of course Possum Magic*. I love her soft colours and distinctive style, I love the droopy socks, I love her chooks.

I don't remember first being read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, but my childhood edition has an inscription:
 To dear Kate
Happy Christmas 1985
Love from Mum and Dad
Meanwhile, pictured here is a first edition copy of this, my favourite book. I was given it as a present for my recent, milestoneish birthday by some wonderful friends. It's an old memory, now wrapped in a new one.

*Possum Magic and I are the same age and, as such, share a strong connection ... though Wilfrid Gordon is my true favourite.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

poem love #1

Having a Coke with You
Frank O’Hara
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it
visit the Frank O'Hara website here

Monday, January 28, 2013

the best coffee in geelong

ladies and gentlemen. i am a native of the bayside town of geelong. i was born there, schooled there, called it my home for my formative years.

until now, it has been (in my eyes) a disappointing and beanless coffee wasteland. bean squeeze gave me some kind of reprieve over the last couple of years (plus the closest one to my parents' house is right next to the mill markets) and while it's still a solid place to coffee i finally visited the COFFEE CARTEL in breakwater.

and i am in love.

for those unfamiliar: breakwater is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. the cafe is surrounded by industrial buildings and factories and hardly any houses. it kind of looks like the place the bikies hang out. which is cool.

they roast their own coffee out the back.*

there were lots of people there on the saturday arvo that i visited.

my skinny latte was very delicious. nice and strong and a brilliant flavour. quite distinctive and delish. it was relatively pricey at $4, but bigger than you'd get from the equally pricey market lane coffee in melbourne...

they do teas and all kinds of coffees, food and cakes and everythink. comfy places to sit and the folks working there were nice.

the local rag confirms it is the best.
visit their website.

* the lady (unwittingly) pictured - how random is this - was my mama bear's form two maths teacher.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

...the more they stay the same

I have in my possession a curious rejection letter from 1953.

Unfortunately, we shall have to tell you frankly, as we would have done if you had inquired in advance, that we do not feel justified under present conditions in undertaking books of fiction by unknown authors. Both manufacturing and general costs are very high indeed in this country, and there has been a slump in the market for hard bound fiction, partly due to necessarily high prices, and partly due to the tremendous sales of paper covered editions.

They go on to say that if she were willing to finance her book they could perhaps take it on. Pretty sure this kind of offer is happening around the traps at the moment...

It's oddly comforting to know our struggles are not new, that the medium can change but the stories will go on. And we still read hardback books, we still buy them. And I'm considering buying an ereader. The world won't end if I do.

I don't have Miss Thompson's manuscript, but do have some of her short stories. And her own life was more fascinating that any book, even though much is still a mystery. She and I are not done with each other yet!