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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Night After Leaving The Doghouse

So, what do you do when your writing commitment is over?

I'm going to read and read and read tonight. I've just started a new iMovie project, putting together my students' book trailers. I really can't put them all up, even if I had their permission, because there is too much need to check out how much material is copyright, although it was all credited. Too much hassle! But I will be burning it all on to DVD for the staff's professional interest, so they can see what Year 8 English students can do when they try, and catalogue it for my library, and I will be showing it to my class before we all go off for holidays.

If any of the authors want to see what 8B has done, I'll be happy to pop a copy in the mail for them. They're not perfect, but they did what I needed - showed they understood the book and that they had got something out of it. Also, they hopefully persuaded the viewer it might be a good book to read.

Here are the books: Pool, by Justin D'Ath,  Dragonkeeper by Carole Wilkinson, Burn Bright by Marianne De Pierres and Once by Morris Gleitzman. A Ghost In My Suitcase was saved as a plain Powerpoint because I couldn't open the original file (pity - they could have changed it to .wmv - if  only I'd known! )However, two other students prepared interview questions for Gabrielle Wang, who has kindly agreed to answer them and offered to publish it on her own web site as well as this one.  Anyway, if any of you guys who wrote these books are reading and are interested in a copy, let me know.

I'm also about to prepare some interview questions for Miffy Farquarson, who has agreed to answer questions about being a CBCA judge.

So, while I won't be blogging every day now, I will be keeping busy.

Today I got such a nice email from Bill Condon, who had been a WIR on Insideadog too, and said how much he had enjoyed my posts. It does feel a little lonely when you blog away and nobody - or, in my case, almost nobody - commented. But it's nice to know.

Late dinner time - I'm off to eat and read.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Insideadog - The Last Post!

Well, my month's gig on the Dog is over. I am very, very tired. I spent lunchtime today supervising students who were selling frog-in-the-pond for their Pathways community assignment. I think i may have given myself ten minutes to eat an unsatisfactory sandwich and a little fruit after lunch was over. After work I went to the year's last Booktalkers at the State Library. We got goody bags! With books in them! Michael Pryor was there to talk about his new book, and Paul Collins had finally been invited to talk about the new Ford Street publications, including the new anthology with my story in it ... and an Obernewtyn prequel by Isobelle Carmody, which you'll have to buy the anthology to read.

Tomorrow, more supervising of Pathways projects and no lunch break at all, and another long day.

But I was determined, tonight, to get that last post done, so go over and hopefully enjoy. Good night!

January 24 2013

And since this post has had so many hits since I wrote it, I am finally attaching the link to the Insideadog post itself - go check it out! That was a great month and the one and only time I have ever had this sort of gig!

Monday, November 28, 2011

On Being a Library Teacher - second-last post for the Dog

I suddenly realised that I'd left out my post on YA book blogs, so I popped that up this evening. Then I put in tomorrow's post, which will be about my other hat, that of library teacher, and some of the things we've had happening in the library in the last year or so.

I am very tired, alas, and hot and ready to go take a shower and fall into bed. Tomorrow night I will be at the State Library for the last Booktalkers for 2011.

It would have been nice to be invited to speak at Booktalkers myself,  some time, but being on Insideadog for the last month, and meeting the challenge of a post a day has been good.

I'm already throwing myself into review books so that I'll have those to blog about in a few days. And I suppose I'll need to go back into slushing for ASIM.

Meanwhile, thanks to those of you who have been following. You might be interested to know that in the last month or so, my hit rate seems to have tripled!

Keep visiting! :-)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What's On TV Right Now - Pride And Prejudice

I've just finished my post for the Dog, on YA book blogs. After sitting through one book-based TV show, Brideshead Revisited (Revisited - it's a remake) while working on my post, I'm having trouble tearing myself away from that wonderful version of Pride And Prejudice with Jennifer Ehle and the gorgeous Colin Firth, even though I have my own copy of the DVD, autographed by Andrew Davies, the scriptwriter. I remember when it was first on and all the female teachers at my school gathered every Monday morning to drool over Colin Firth. And the producers knew what effect he'd have. That wet shirt scene and the one where he's in the bath were never in the novel... :-)

This episode is the one where Elizabeth and Darcy are finally realising that they just might be right for each other (just before she gets the bad news about Lydia and has to go home).

The series was clearly made by people who loved the book. There's the beauty of the countryside, the costumes and the music. The actors are just right for the roles. And if you know about it, there's the delicious fact that Anna Chancellor, who plays the role of the snooty and jealous Miss Bingley, is actually related to Jane Austen.

It's my favourite of Jane Austen's books and this one does it full justice, in my opinion.

Has anyone seen Lost In Austen? Loved it! Especially that scene where the heroine, who has somehow swapped places with Elizabeth Bennet, asks Darcy to please walk into the water so she can see him in a wet shirt. (wide grin)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Welcome, Emma! A new link

Welcome to the new member of this site, Emma McGregor, who was kind enough to attend my writing workshop at the Bendigo Catholic College Lit Fest (see my post about this visit on the Dog).

Emma has her own blogs, one of which I've added to the links on the right hand side of the page. I really need to work out how to make it a proper blog roll. That wasn't an option when I started this site, but I'll get there.

Emma's site, Be The Change, has lots of terrific social justice and environmental stuff on it and useful links to things like Fair Trade sites - no more having to go Googling it all (which I have been doing) just check out on Emma's site. Emma is also a writer and I hope she sells lots of books, a lot earlier than I did. Meanwhile, why not do yourselves a favour, guys, and join  Be The Change?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Procrastination - a post from early in the month

This was up on Insideadog earlier this month. I put in a link and so many people have checked out the one on this site which just said, "This is my new post" and put a link to it that I thought maybe I should put up the actual post here in case anyone else wants to read it.  It's the only one for which I got any comments at all, AFAIK, both from Goodreads friends. The comments thingie on IAD is confusing. To add a comment or even to see if there ARE  any comments, you have to click the heading. And I don't think there are instructions, or anyway, not where I can see them.
Which is a lot of waffle, but for those of you who didn't follow the link or who have just discovered this blog - enjoy!

When thinking about this post, I went on-line to look up the word “procrastination”, which means, “putting it off”.
 Here’s what I found on
1540s, from L. procrastinationem "a putting off," noun of action from procrastinare "put off till tomorrow," from pro- "forward" + crastinus "belonging to tomorrow," from cras "tomorrow," of unknown origin.

Notice the date? 1540s? So even back then, it seems, people were putting off doing things. I’m sure they were doing it before, but in the 1540s, someone must have said, “I’ll just go watch the execution of the King’s wife before I finish making dinner, cleaning the house, writing my poem… hey, there should be a word to describe that.”
 This is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), the idea being that you write 50,000 words in a month and if you break it up nicely you can get it done, even if you have a day job. I believe people have met the challenge and some have actually sold their writing month books.
   I don’t think I could do it, but I can totally relate to the idea that if you have a deadline you’ll somehow meet it. That’s one reason why I love writing non-fiction. It’s commissioned, you have a deadline and you can break up the work. If you can’t actually write something just now, you can do some research.
 Right now, I’m putting off washing last night’s dishes (I made chocolate truffles for my students and the sink is a mess) because, knowing how I do put off things, I’ve set myself the challenge of writing a post for Insideadog every day this month.
 Having a deadline helps.  Even if you only get a draft done, you have the pleasure of seeing the whole thing in front of you. Who cares if it’s a mess? You can fix it later.
 There are other ways. I have to take public transport to work each day.  I take along a notepad and scribble away. While I had time off work to write Crime Time, I took my laptop to the local café, where I could have another pot of tea without having to get up. That way I had no excuse for not writing.
 Mind you, I was putting off cleaning the house and doing the wash…

E-readers and me - from The Doghouse

This was yesterday's post. I have suddenly realised that putting "Residence" into the link meant you had to be logged in to find the page that way. And of course, you can't log in unless you're a member. But you can just go to Insideadog and find the page. However, to save hassles for everyone, here it is. I'm working on this morning's post, whoch is about my visit to Bendigo Catholic College.
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I don’t have an e-reader yet. When I was growing up, you never saw one outside of science fiction. You’d read novels set hundreds or thousands of years in the future and everybody in them would have shelves of book spools or tablets. Come to think of it, in the TV series of Hitch-hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, made in the 1980s, the alien Ford Prefect handed earthling Arthur Dent what looked like something we’d recognise now as an e-reader.

Now that they’re all over the place, not that far into the twenty-first century, what are they going to do in three or four hundred years? Have a chip installed in their heads, perhaps, to deliver books directly to your brain? Urk!

There’s something magical about choosing a book on-line and downloading it straight to your e-reader or even your phone. A friend who had bought his Kindle at the supermarket  demonstrated by buying my novel Wolfborn from Amazon and downloading it straight to his e-reader. “Ooh!’ I breathed in wonder.
Another nice thing about it is the lightness instead of carrying a load of books with you, you can carry a whole lot on your little reader that goes in your bag or pocket. You can change the font  size– terrific for people with poor eyesight.
The fact that a lot of these readers have pre-loaded books means that you might read something you wouldn’t choose in a bookshop of a library; one of my students is reading Frankenstein because it came free with the reader. That has to be a good thing.
And yet – for me, there’s nothing like the feel and smell of paper, the curling up in bed with your book, the overcrowded book cases in my study. You could put an entire encyclopaedia on e-reader, I suppose, but why not just go on-line where it would be up to date?
Because I don’t read non-fiction just for research, I like to browse the bookshops and libraries for books I might enjoy; you’d have to have some idea of what you want to get it from a web site. It’s just not the same as discovering that book about astronomy of the Middle Ages or the Faeries of Brittany.
Tell me you can do that on-line, ordering from a catalogue!

Guys, this post is shorter than most I’ve done so far because it’s getting late and tomorrow I’m heading up to Bendigo with a bunch of other writers from Ford Street Publishing to do some workshops at a school there. Wish me luck and if you’re going to be there, do come up and say hi!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

For the Dog: On E-readers

I don't have one. I say so. Go take a look on the Dog and I hope you enjoy. Me, I'm going to bed - I have a long trip to Bendigo to do my first writer visit and I really, really hope it works out. I'll be one of about sixteen guests and we all have to do workshops with students who have paid to be there.

Fingers crossed for me!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Books and Covers

Today's Dog post is about the importance of book covers. Go check it out. Sorry i can't be witty right now, but I've returned from the Year 12 Formal, I'm still sitting here in my fancy clothes and longing for a shower and bed. I have a very short time to sleep. But I'm determined to get a post a day on to Insideadog till the end of the month - it's my very own NaNoWriMo.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Today's Insideadog post - Books and Travel

Once every few years I travel overseas. When I do, I’ll try to go somewhere connected with a book or a writer. It’s just a nice thing to do, to know that where you are is where a writer lived or a favourite story happened in the book world.

I’ve been to England twice. While I was there, I visited some places connected with writers I loved. A friend took me to Stratford-on-Avon, where I visited Anne Hathaway’s cottage. Anne was the wife William Shakespeare left behind when he went off to London to be an actor. The house was where she lived with her parents and Will would have visited her there before they got married.

Passing the Stratford Tourist Information Office, I spotted a small plaque on it that told you how old the place was; Shakespeare’s daughter Judith lived there with her husband.

I also visited the mediaeval town Shrewsbury, which is on the border of Wales. It’s a very beautiful place. At the time I was reading Brother Cadfael, a series of mediaeval crime novels by Ellis Peters. Ellis Peters was actually Edith Pargeter, a woman who wrote both historical fiction and crime fiction. She put them together to create Brother Cadfael, a mediaeval monk and amateur detective, living at the abbey in Shrewsbury during the mid-twelfth century, when there were two people fighting over the British throne.

In Shrewsbury, there were Brother Cadfael walks, Brother Cadfael souvenirs, bookshop windows with Brother Cadfael displays. The church which was a part of the abbey mentioned in the books was still there. I snapped photos outside it. A gentleman walking past called, “Dare I ask if you’re a Brother Cadfael fan?”

I smiled: “Need you ask?”

After that, he told my mother and me about the church and pointed out some places mentioned in the novels. What was really wonderful was that you could walk along the streets and recognise the layout from the novels.
In Oxford, a friend took me to the Eagle and Child, a pub where J.R.R. Tolkien and his friends used to go regularly for a drink. It was known locally as the “Bird and Baby”.

And speaking of Tolkien, I couldn’t go to Hobbiton or Gondor, but, after the release of the Lord of the Rings movies, I could go to New Zealand, where the movie was filmed. New Zealand is a gorgeous country, whatever your reason for going.

In 2003, I booked a tour on something called Magic Bus, travelling New Zealand and went.

One place I visited was Queenstown, in the south. Queenstown is a place well-known for its sports facilities. You can do everything from skiing to bungee-jumping. Only one member of the tour group wanted to bungee-jump, though, and while we all cheered her on, we stood on the bridge across the river and gazed at the water that had played the role of the River Anduin in Fellowship of The Ring. Of course, they’d had to remove the traffic from the background and add in giant statues of Aragorn’s ancestors, but it was pretty impressive anyway.

During the three days we were there, my mother and I went on a half-day Lord Of The Rings tour. The tour guide was a pleasant American-Kiwi gentleman who had been cast as an Uruk-Hai orc. He took us to the Remarkables, where the Misty Mountains scenes were filmed.

We also got to see a bit of stream where the Nazghul had turned up to threaten Frodo.

Once we’d seen all these places, it was easier to notice them next time we saw the films.

Book – and movie – travel is a special thing to do.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tomorrow's Dog post: My own world-building (and chocolate)

It's Sunday night and I need desperately to get to bed, so I'll just urge you all to go along to Insideadog and check out my post for Monday. I give a lot of detail about what I did in my world-building for Wolfborn and add a recipe for chocolate truffles, just because I can.

Good night!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Eagle movie

A part of the Ninth Legion went to Scotland and never came back. Some years later, Marcus Flavius Aquila, the son of the cohort commander, comes to Britain and, when he's invalided out of the army, goes north to find out what happened and retrieve the legion's lost Eagle, without which the legion is shamed and can't re-form. He finds out, perhaps a lot more than he wanted to, but comes to accept what he can't change and get on with his life...

I finally got the chance to see the movie of The Eagle of the Ninth (called The Eagle as a movie), on DVD. While watching it I wrote my post for Insideadog and it was about Rosemary Sutcliff, not the movie. Watching it made me think again of her books.

I'm glad I saw it on DVD, because I got to see the alternative ending, which I think better than the one they used, if not like the novel either. I also got to see two deleted scenes which showed bits that were in the book - the one where Marcus is trying out a chariot and horses belonging to a local and the one where Esca goes into detail about his family's death. Those were right out of Rosemary Sutcliff - why did they scrap them? I have some ideas about that and about why the ending was changed, but won't go into them here. I also watched the doco, in which the director says he read and loved the book as a child ... so why did he do things to it?

If you haven't read the book, you may not know the point was that the legion had become corrupt before they ever went north to Scotland and, while the hero's father was not a part of that corruption, the legion really is better off not re-formed. This point was missed in the movie, even in the alternative ending. A LOT of the original points were missed, in the producers' eagerness to shout, "Look! American imperialism! Aren't we clever?"

Whatever your politics - and I'm not going into mine here - why shove it into a story where it wasn't written or intended? The book was written in 1954 and it was about Marcus and his coming to terms with his life - and the adventures he has while it's happening. In the end, he stays in Britain and marries Cottia, a British girl who was left out of the movie, probably because it would have been less of a buddy movie if she'd been there.

Here are some of my thoughts about the film: It was better than I expected, though I have a number of issues with it.

 Unlike a lot of people who complain about Tatum Channing as Marcus, I don't mind him. He looks like a Marcus to me, if a little older than the original; he had to deal with the script he got and he did it well, in my opinion. And let's face it, Anthony Higgins, who played the role for the BBC, is WAY  too old to do it now! :-)

 I did prefer Jamie Bell's Esca, the British slave who goes with him. What I didn't like was that in the movie he's still a slave when they go north, because the producers are planning to change the storyline and if he's not a slave at the time they can't make you wonder what he's up to. In the novel, Marcus frees him before they leave on their journey because he can't ask a slave to go into danger with him. And he does ask, not demand.

In the book, Marcus goes as an eye-doctor, as they're welcome everywhere, and actually does some healing - not in the film. Would he be dumb enough to take no thought for what might happen if the two of them just turn up in Scotland and are caught? It seems so.

The scenery is amazing. The second part of the movie was actually filmed in Scotland and who's to say that the blue-painted Seal People with the mohawk hairdos, or their historical equivalents, weren't ancestors of the extras who charged across the landscape? I liked that they took the trouble to have the Seal People speak in Gaelic, because we don't know what the Picts spoke. I believe that they searched for a Gaelic-speaking boy for the Seal child.

The costumes are believable and look lived-in. The music is beautiful, lots of Celtic-sounding pipe skirls in it, and I will get the soundtrack when I can.

Marcus's uncle lives in Calleva, which was a Roman town - so why is his house surrounded by acres of open land? I wouldn't mind so much, but he actually says that this is Calleva.

In the novel and the film, Marcus meets Guern the hunter, actually a Roman, one of his father's legionaries, who tells him what happened, but in the novel he isn't interested in coming back. He's settled into this life, has a wife, family and friends. In the film they seem to decide, after all this talk about imperialism, to let a bunch of elderly ex-legionaries redeem themselves. And, just to make sure it's okay for them to fight the pursuing British victims of imperialism, the Seal Prince does something very nasty in front of them.

I'd give this film a B rather than an A, if I was scoring it, perhaps 3 1/2 stars. It has a lot going for it and at least the makers loved what they were doing. It just doesn't respect the spirit of the novel as much I would like.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Finally Found A Copy!

My previous post, written for IAD, talked about the joys of stuff you find in discount and second-hand bookshops. Well, I've unearthed Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber collection - finally! I thought it was out of print, or, at least, you'd need to order it on-line, but there it was at the Bookgrocer in town, and I got it for $10 in the spring sale.

I'm halfway through already and I can see why it's a classic. More on this when I've finished. I also have a Ranger's Apprentice volume to finish and some review books. I don't often put up "reading" on Goodreads because the computer message comes and nags you if you haven't updated it for a while. So this will go up when I've finished it.

Latest on the Dog - bookshops!

 Posted on Insideadog this morning - enjoy!

I woke up this morning listening to the rain on the roof, one of my favourite sounds. That’s the time when I make up stories in my head for later. Right now, I’m trying to think up a story for a science fiction and fantasy anthology about how things started. I don’t know much about it yet except it’s going to be something about the Trojan War and begin with, “It started with that stupid wedding invitation. The one I didn’t get…” and be seen from the viewpoint of Eris, goddess of trouble.

At some point I’m going to hit the discount and second hand bookshops to see what I can find to help. I already have plenty, but you never know and any excuse will do. I just love the kind of shop where you can find books on everything from chocolate to gladiators and what they ate in London in Shakespeare’s time, along with recipes. I found most of my folklore collection in a second-hand bookshop in the middle of Melbourne. It came in handy for my research for Wolfborn and I was interested to find out that Melissa Marr, author of the Wicked Lovely series, found her fairy information in a lot of the same books I used.
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 (Not my shelves - I'm not at home to take the pic. But these shelves also belong to a writer...)

Between book commissions, I just like to read non-fiction, any non-fiction that looks good. You never know when information will come in handy. Like that history of the Roman games I found in a discount bookshop last summer. Did you know that executions happened at lunchtime, between the real entertainments? While Christians faced the lions, in the stands above people were digging in their picnic baskets for the last of the olives, wondering if they should go to the lavatory or the hot food stands and risk losing their seats. And if you think fast food began with Macca’s and the Colonel, forget it! Most Romans lived in flats. The cooking facilities were pretty much non-existent and dangerous anyway, because the buildings were wooden, so they’d go to their favourite cook shop and buy dinner there.

Will I be writing a book set in ancient Rome? Who knows? Who cares?

I’ve just found a biography of Nicholas Culpeper, a seventeenth century guy who wrote a book about herbs (I have it somewhere on my crowded shelves). Herbs are important to someone like me, writing mediaeval fantasy. So I keep it on my shelves for when I need to know the properties of a particular herb or what they might have used to treat a wound before modern medicine. Meanwhile, it’s nice to know about the author.
There’s lots of great stuff out there, but buying it on-line or ordering it for your e-reader means you have to have some idea what you want. Bookshops mean you can browse and discount and second-hand bookshops have a wider variety than regular ones.

 Libraries are great too. I found some wonderful craft books in my school library that no one had read in years and got to take them home. I now have a book or two on weaving, something I may need to know one day.
Now excuse me, I’m going back to bed to read about food in Shakespeare’s London.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Insideadog - on book blogs

Well, this is a book blog and a lot of teenagers do write them, including some of my on-line friends, so why not post about it? This will be up on the Dog tomorrow morning at 7.00 a.m. Why not check it out?

I'm over the hump now, past the halfway mark on my Residency. It's been a challenge, so far, coming up with a different topic every day, but worth it.

And, interestingly, it seems to be raising the hit rate on this blog! I do hope you'll all continue to read this one after November.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Insideadog - Doing Research The Hard Way

This is an adapted version of a post I wrote originally for the Random House blog back in February, soon after my novel was published. It will be up on the Dog on November 17.

In it, I talk about being hit on the head over and over at the Society for Creative Anachronism, in the interests of research. My favourite fight arranger is Terry Walsh, who used to do it for Robin of Sherwood.  Nasir, the Saracen warrior, seemed to have only a couple of moves, but on the whole, I could believe the fights in that show. I did gape over the scene in one episode where two Saracens are fighting in Sherwood using Japanese katanas...

Anyway, the IAD post is just about me and the SCA and how I used it in my fantasy writing. And my friend Robert, who was bashing a light pole for sword practice, when a watching policeman asked, "Is it dead yet?"

Names In Harry Potter

First posted on Insideadog November 16 2011
Have you ever wondered what writers have in mind when they name their characters?
 I’m going to take a look at some names in the Harry Potter books because there are so many that are appropriate for the characters.
 Let’s start with the staff at Hogwarts.
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Albus Dumbledore means “White Bumblebee”.
 Professor McGonagall’s first name is Minerva – the Roman goddess of wisdom, which certainly seems to suit this wise lady.
 The school nurse is Poppy Pomfrey – poppy, in the old days, was used as a painkiller.
 The Herbology teacher is Pomona Sprout. Apart from the obvious “sprout”, Pomona was the Roman goddess of orchards and fruit. How appropriate is that?
 Professor Remus Lupin is a werewolf. Remus was the name of one of the twin founders of Rome, who were raised by a she-wolf and “Lupin” is connected with “lupine”, wolflike.
 The school caretaker, Argus Filch, has a name taken from Greek mythology; Argus was a guardian of the goddess Hera’s herds. He had a hundred eyes. What better name to call a character who is always spying on the students? To filch something is to steal it.
 All the members of Sirius Black’s family have starry names, but his is so appropriate. Sirius is the Dog Star and combined with Black, it’s “Black Dog” which is his Animagus shape.
 Bad boy Draco Malfoy has a name that means “Dragon Bad Faith” – nice!
The Minister of Magic is Cornelius Fudge. To fudge something is to cheat on it in a sneaky way. Another meaning is “to fail to perform as expected” or “to avoid commitment”. All of them work for me as a description of Cornelius Fudge.
 Voldemort means “ flight from death” or “steal from death” which makes sense for a man who wants so badly to avoid dying.
 There are stacks more over-the-top names with meaning in the books and all I can say is, J.K.Rowling must have had great fun choosing them!

Speaking of choosing, how about another cast member for the Ranger's Apprentice movie? For the role of Gilan, that yummy former apprentice of Halt's, I think I'll have Orlando Bloom. :-)

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Insideadog - Names in Harry Potter

Tomorrow's post will be on the subject of names in the Harry Potter books. There are so many appropriate ones. The author has a good classical education and uses it. Really, this post is just a list of names (nowhere near all of them) and what they mean or where they come from and how they work in the context.

Go check it out?

I'm halfway through my residency. I hope the lurkers out there are enjoying it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Competition judging as discussed on the Dog

Here's my full post on judging the Mary Grant Bruce Award from Insideadog ... just in case you didn't check it out...
So - why would anyone volunteer to judge a writing competition? Especially one where you don't at least get a bunch of free books out of it? Is it the power? Mwa ha ha! All those trembling writers who have entrusted you with their magnificent stories and you alone have the choice of which one wins? (Clap of thunder! Again - mwa ha ha!)
Or - maybe you're just terribly flattered to be asked?
Years ago, I won a writing competition called the Mary Grant Bruce Award for Children’s Literature – twice (see my post on writing groups). The first time, I shared the prize with Robin Klein, whose novel Hating Alison Ashley was made into a film, at my school (I was an extra, but you won’t see me, as they cut my scenes). It told me I was a children’s writer – and I never looked back.
 One day I got a phone call from Adrian Penniston-Bird, who ran the Victorian Fellowship of Australian Writers. Adrian said that I’d won twice, so would I judge it this year?
 I agreed and the FAW sent me seventy-five stories. On request, the stories had been submitted without names except on a cover sheet. Well, mostly; I got one story which not only had the author’s name on it, but the fond mother’s information that the author was only twelve. (Remember what I said about Alexandra Adornetto’s submission to HarperCollins? She didn’t need that sort of back-up to sell her book.)
 After I’d weeded out the stories clearly not for children and those with awful grammar, I read the rest thoroughly.
 On a side note, I had a friend who had entered the competition before. I told her that if she’d entered this year I didn’t want to know about it! I read a story that I strongly suspected was by her, because I knew her style. Still, I didn’t know; it was a good story, so it made the short list of seven.
 I handed the short list to two children to read, as I’d been asked. Once they had made their choice, I decided that I’d at least give an honourable mention to a couple of stories I had liked. One of them was the story I suspected was by my friend.
 When I rang Adrian to announce the winner and honourable mentions, he confirmed that one honourable mention was, as I’d thought, by my friend Edwina Harvey! She had won that fair and square, so she received a certificate and came to Melbourne to collect it at the prize-giving dinner.
 The winning story was published later, though I can’t remember the title or the publisher, it has been so long, but Edwina worked her story into a novel, which was published in 2009 as The Whale’s Tale.
 I haven’t judged any competitions recently; it’s hard work, and I only had to read short fiction. Imagine what it’s like to read hundreds of novels for a major competition like the Children’s book Council Awards, never mind a few dozen short stories as I did! It was an interesting experience and I’m glad I did it.
 Still, I’d much rather be writing.

Latest cast member of The Ranger’s Apprentice movie (which seems to have John Rhys-Davies playing two roles, so I guess I must have been tired) is Sean Bean for the role of King Duncan.
File 4777

Saturday, November 12, 2011

My First SCBWI Meeting

I don't get to these, usually. Somehow, they always seem to clash with theatre or opera or some other thing I have to attend. But yesterday, I managed to get to my first meeting of the Melbourne chapter of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, being held in a restaurant in Carlton, Lygon St.

Children's writers tend to hang out together or at least meet at conferences. It gets embarrassing when someone calls you by name and you can't remember who they are.

Luckily, we all had name tags, but I found there were a few people I knew - Errol Broome, an older writer who says she's had enough of writing for now, Goldie Alexander, with whom I did a panel at the crime conference, my friend George Ivanoff, whom I have known since before either of us sold anything or even realised we were children's writers and Gabrielle Wang, that wonderful writer of gentle fantasy tales for children and a gentle YA fantasy, Little Paradise. I was a bit embarrassed to meet her because my students had prepared an interview for her and the file got lost!

I explained and, while I plan to have it on this blog, she says she will have it on her own as well, if I can get them to find that file!

Meanwhile, I bought copies of her book, A Ghost In My Suitcase, to be signed for them, and one copy of Little Paradise, which I think will be enjoyed by the one who has read the others.

There were two guest speakers - Alison Reynolds, who wrote a series of choose-your-own adventure books with an environmental theme with Ranger Sean Willmore, and a lady who teaches editing and talked about common grammar errors, giving us examples taken from real books, starting with Thomas The Tank Engine. Both were fascinating. I always wondered how you'd do a CYOA-type book - it must be very difficult.

My grammar is pretty good already, but I did agree that any story that doesn't get its grammar right is far less likely to be picked up than one which does.

There will only be two meetings in Melbourne next year, the others will be outside, but there was a tantalising hint about another Sydney conference - must check it out!

Tomorrow's Dog Post: Judging The Mary Grant Bruce Award

Yes, I judged it once - many years ago. Because it was a short story competition, I didn't even have free books to show for it,  and there was no anthology of MGB fiction to give me, but you get so flattered when people think you're worthy to judge others' writing. I did get a free dinner at the awards ceremony.

Would I do it again? Maybe not; I've been slushing for ASIM  for so long, it would feel like a case of "been there, done that!"

I'm not sorry I did it then, though. It was a good experience and I'm sure I learned plenty from it.

Anyway, if you want to read about it, trot along to the Doghouse from 7.00 a.m. November 13.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Insideadog post - Remembrance Day Stuff

Here's what will appear on my Insideadog blog tomorrow morning.

As I write this, it’s still Remembrance Day. I thought I’d put in a short post on the subject. November 11th 1918 was the official end of World War I, or the Great War as it was known then. There hadn’t been any previous world wars. So if you ever read a novel set at that time and find a character referring to World War I (and I have come across it) you can feel free to laugh.

It really was a great – in the sense of huge – war. Millions died during it, on truly horrible battlefields from France to Gallipoli.

And it led to some amazing writing. Just go look up Wilfred Owen and Siegfriend Sassoon, the two most famous war poets of that time. Sassoon lived to a ripe old age, but Wilfred Owen died in the war. The really sad thing was that he was killed in battle in France only a few days before the war ended. Go check out his poem, Dulce Et Decorum Est, which gives you a real feel for the horrors of that war, with its trenches and gas attacks.

Another writer who was involved in that war was J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit. Tolkien served in France, on the Somme. It’s said that when he thought of hobbits and their personalities, he was thinking of the ordinary English soldiers (he was an officer). When you read about Frodo and Sam trudging through the Dead Marshes  you’ll have some idea of what it was like in the French battlefields; that’s what he imagined when he was writing those scenes.

Strange to think some of the most powerful writing ever created came out of such tragedy!