Friday, June 25, 2010

Just one more time...

In this world where things happen in threes, a dear friend left us this week. It was unexpected, the first of our Breakfast Club, which has been meeting up on weekends for years. Not someone's dad or mum, but one of us. As the rest of us gathered together in disbelief, there was some comfort in being together. A friend later said, 'I just want to talk to him one more time.'

If there were a chance, what would we say?
I love you. You are a gentle man. That was a bad haircut. Sorry we're eating meat around you. Thanks for the chillies. What possessed you to buy all those milk boilers off eBay? I think you're a good father. How can you barrack for Melbourne? What are your dreams, your fears, your joys?

Why is it that we go through life not saying or asking the things that matter?

Hey, Schaubs.
We'll miss you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hostage, released October 2009

Pollyanna doesn't live here anymore

In the same way I used to play the Glad Game (thanks to Hayley Mills, aka Pollyanna) I've been assuring my friends (and mainly myself) for years that life hasn't really changed that much. It isn't a harsher world that we live in. No need for helicopter parenting. Etc etc.

Today I received a phone call from my daughter suggesting I may need to pick her up as the trains aren't running due to the shooting at X station. She said it in that nonchalant way that only 17 year old girls can affect when their peers are listening. My response was equally nonchalant, although my first response was to rush to school and personally escort her to the car.

I can honestly say I never had to face this problem when I was in high school. Although, to be fair, I never used trains to get about, so maybe this isn't a fair comparison.

Pollyanna was a favourite story at one time in my life. I particularly liked the crystals that Pollyanna used to make rainbows in some crotchety old woman's house. I thought it very brave of her to climb the tree outside her bedroom window — the poplar trees in our back yard not a patch on her tree. I still play the Glad Game, much to my friends annoyance, always looking at the glass half full instead of half empty. It's not a bad way to live, although sometimes it needs to be acknowledged that the glass is nearly empty and it's time for a reality check.

Maybe life isn't as innocent as it was in those halcyon 70s?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

It's like, so random...

As an author writing for teens, dialogue always poses a question 'Where does real teen speak end and fiction dialogue begin?' The problem with giving characters the language that is used today is:
a) it quickly dates the book
b) teen idiom changes across the nation, across the globe and even across suburbs. Hooking up, for instance, can mean one thing for one group of teens but can have a different nuance with another group of teens.
I was talking to another author about this the other day.
Basically, she said unless the author can get the teen speak spot on, dialogue written in teen speak can add a barrier to the acceptance or reading pleasure of the reader, who may find the language used inappropriately.
It's a balancing act of not having teens sound like university intellectuals and being able to get your story across without confusion or losing face with the intended target market.

At the moment, sick is no longer used, random is still in, so is hooking up, skank, try-hard, jun and station rat.
Jun was the most interesting word for me. There was hot debate over how this was spelled.
Apparently bogans are on top of someone in the social ladder — who would have thought?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

At the next roundabout, take the second exit...

I can empathise with the plight of Burke and Wills who strode off into the unmapped Australian interior never to return. I felt the same way the day I was awarded my driver's licence (what were they thinking?) and let loose on the roads.

As a teen I was a a dreamer (I'm sorry, has something changed?) and never took notice of my journeys to and from, as the driver took care of that and it gave me a chance to read or just daydream to the sound of the radio.

When I did get my licence (finally, at the age of 19, because really what did I need one for, I had a boyfriend with a car, I know, am a feminist at heart, but it really was too much bother), one of my first journeys without a navigator was a quick dash across town to visit my Nan who had had a stroke. (She later went on to make a full recovery and go back to work, retiring ungracefully at the age of 74.) My co-pilot was my 15year old sister. We got there and back, but not without some anxious moments.

I would like to say my Melways became my greatest friend, but we had our moments. (Why is it legal to have more than one street with the same name?) The Sat Nav seemed to me an answer to my prayers, and it's true we have had some wonderful moments together. (Although she does not have a sense of humour, especially when I hop on Eastlink which she hasn't been updated for.) However, there have been times when we have argued. (At the next roundabout, take the second exit.) The other day in the city, she was so confused I turned her off so I could have some head space. (You have reached your destination. Umm, this is a carpark. You have reached your destination. Shut up!)

So the story of how Wills navigated his way from one end of Australia to the other — without a map or a Sat Nav — is extremely impressive and humbling to me. It's a fascinating story of pride, stubbornness, vanity, ambition, integrity and adventure which has seared itself into the pages of the short history of white Australia.

As someone famous once said 'It's the journey, not the destination' that counts.

Burke and Wills
Expedition Off the Map
Released June 2010, published by black dog books

Monday, June 14, 2010

A little help from my friends...

I am in love with Scrivener. I used the corkboard feature when writing my last book, Hostage, but for my latest book, Six, I have started to tap into its real capabilities. I have yet to discover the real strength of the program but there are two features that I am loving at the moment.

The first feature is the ability to type in a document while the rest of the screen is blanked out. It's just you and the page, no little icons at the top of the page telling me the time, telling me whether my Internet is linked etc etc. Just me and the page. If I want to I can pull my mouse over the bottom of the page I can get information if I want to.

The second feature, the one I really love, is the statistical information window that I can keep open while I'm working, setting a projected number of words to write per session and watching the bar in the overall projected number of words for my project inch towards my destination. It's kind of like having a little friend on my shoulder, urging me to keep my seat for just 100 more words (or 1000).

It's also easier to toggle between chapters — including character profiles — and return to the spot you were working on, or to check on a map that I've turned into a jpg and dragged into the program. You can also link the chapters and edit it as a whole document, then toggle back to chapters again.

Writing can be a solitary occupation. Which is why it's always good to have a little help from a friend...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

When will I, will I be famous...?

Well, I can't answer.
I can't answer that (who was that band?)

Anyway, you give birth to your children, nurture them, give them the best start that you can, then you send them out into the world and only hope that the world will treat them kindly.
You know that some people just won't get them - your kids are complex creatures, with layers of sophistication not always recognised at first glance.
You know that they will make fair weather friends who will use them then discard then without a second thought.
Some go out into the big world, never to be heard from again.
But some, like David Mortimore Baxter's Famous, will fly back and say 'Hey look what I did.'
Which is what happened today when my US publisher advised me that Famous had been listed in the prestigious Bank Street Best Children's Books of the Year 2010.
That's my boy!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Love, lust and lies

I wonder if Gillian Armstrong realised the commitment she was taking on when she began documenting the lives of three teens from Adelaide in the 70s.

Last night a group of us (women all) went to the Nova to catch up with her latest instalment for this documentary - Loves, lust and lies . It was a late session and we shared the cinema with another group of women. At the end of our voyeuristic journey, we sat and talked, still in our cinema seats, while the group behind us did likewise. Finally we turned around and the discussion group expanded as we put forward our opinions about the women on screen whose lives were we picking over like scavengers over a carcass.

Is it just women who feel the need to poke and prod and turn things inside out? Or are we just more vocal about it?

The film has stayed with me today as I wonder where to from here for those three women and their families. Good films are like good books, they stay with you beyond
The End.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Hello? I've just got to let you know...

I've been thrown recently by finding out that a friend from high school had died three years ago.
I was thrown, because in my mind he was still 17, with hair, a cheeky grin and a wicked sense of humour.
I was thrown, because I have been writing YA and thinking about my Year 12 (Form 6 year) so he was
very vivid in my mind. I imagined discussing some details with him.

But Kismet has a way of finding me.
Another friend from that era got in touch through Facebook several days ago and mentioned this death
in casual conversation.

I have met many other people since high school, some who still remain friends, so I wonder why it is
that high school friends and the time spent there has such a nostalgic pull.
Was it because it was a time of 'firsts' or such intense emotions
that we learn to reign in as we became adults?

Maybe it is because it is a time of such promise.
We are invincible.

Vale Tony.