Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A New Virtual Home for me...

So... those of you who've been following my writing career with interest (hi Mum!) will know that I was, until quite recently, the proud owner of the URL. This was where I hosted my website which had links to my books, awards, that kind of stuff.

But, to be honest, the website was a bit difficult to maintain. Without having the requisite CSS and Webdesign skills to update it myself, it meant outsourcing it, which posed problems for all sorts of reasons.

So I kind let it... lapse.

Then, a little while back, I started getting confused emails from readers. Generally they wanted to know why I was really into Thai football. This came as a surprise, until I discovered that my website had been gazumped from under me.

This is entirely my fault, and I feel kinda dumb about it now...

On top of that, this little blog here (and the lack of any activity on it) has also been hanging over my head for a while now. With one thing and another, I've let it rather slip into inactivity and despite the best of intentions, haven't been able to find the time or energy to get back into blogging in any serious way. Plus, looking over it, it occurred to me that over the years it transmogrified somewhat from a blog about my writing and academic life into one that was mainly about my family. Which is fine. But not overly useful in a writerly sense...

So I've solved both problems by putting up a new combined website / blog over at wordpress. It'll deal exclusively with my books, and the blog will deal only with writing. Any family or personal blogging I decide to do will still pop up here in Musings from an Outer Spiral Arm from time to time. But for all book-related stuff, please visit me at Anthony Eaton, Writer

In a few weeks, after the two or so people who still follow this blog have had time to adjust their settings, I'll be switching Musings... into a more locked down mode, for family and friends (and, of course, any existing followers who are still even vaguely interested in my occasional musings...)

So thanks to anyone who does still check in here, and I hope to see you over on the other side soon!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Popping my head above the parapet...

Was going to go for my whole 'one blog post per year' average, but just thought I'd pop by (on the off chance that someone out there still occasionally swings by and might be interested) to point you to a guest post I've just done at my wife's blog. This might also explain the long nothingness here at 'Musings from an outer spiral arm…'


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

So, Uhm… Yeah...

Well. Two posts in 12 months.

That's gotta be some kind of record, surely?

So then, let's start with the apologies.

Sorry. You know. To anyone who still bothers to occasionally check in here. I'm going to do much better next year, promise. This is primarily because next year:

1. I've done my 2 year sentence stint as course convener, so can go back to not having to deal with mountains of admin that serve many useful purposes, but which primarily suck the joy out of life.

2. We won't be having a baby. (more on that later…)

3. I've also managed to divest myself of a big unit, which generally pulls in about 300 students, so will have more energy there too. (though to be honest, I'm slightly torn about that…)

4. I've got study leave for the second six months of the year, so will have time to, you know, write shit.

In short, 2014 has been a big year. A very, very big year. And while I haven't managed to get a whole lot of blogging done, I've managed a lot of other things that I'm pretty proud of.

Speaking of which, here's a question for you. If you have a mother-in-law named Amanda, and a mother named Margaret, and you are a children's writer and children's literature studies academic, and you are lucky enough to have a daughter, what should you name her?

Introducing Millicent Margaret Amanda Eaton!

Yep. That's right. We named our baby Milly Molly Mandy. She's either gonna love us or hate us for it when she's thirteen. Possibly both.

Still, Millie's arrival has been the highlight of the year, for obvious reasons. She's a very chilled out little girl, and all of us, especially her big brother, are totally in love with her. Which is, you know, good. It's amazing how quickly we've all fallen into our groove as a family of four.

In other news…

Busy year academically. In addition to a pretty full on teaching load first semester (nearly 500 students in two units…) I've also managed to get a couple of papers published. A piece of creative research here in TEXT, and a paper up here in FUSION journal on digital picture books, which I'm pretty proud of.

Plus I pulled together an application for study leave next year, and managed to get it approved, which is awesome news. We'll be taking off for a couple of months in sunny England, where I'll be working with my friends and colleagues at the University of Winchester on a couple of very exciting projects.

And it wasn't a completely writing-free year, either. I've continued working with Cheryl, my lovely and very patient agent, and have (fingers, toes and everything else crossed) almost finished my final rewrite of The Hunter. As those of you who read* this blog know, this freaking book has been a bit of a marathon. I finished the first draft in 2010, intending it to be a quick, 50,000 word, light and fluffy action adventure story. Now, almost exactly four years later, and with just two new chapters left to write to complete it, it's coming up fast towards 100,000 words, has morphed into a cyberpunk novel, and has a really gritty and quite nasty secondary plot running through the whole thing. This is what I love about writing. It just takes you places you never expected to go… In any case,  The Hunter should be finished and away by mid-January, and hopefully we can then start putting it out there for publishers to look at…

I've also almost finished writing another long-term side project, tentatively called Stepsister, which was started (and not completed) as a NaNoWriMo novel in 2012. It's everything The Hunter isn't - funny, for younger readers, written to be read-aloud, and dealing with (among other things) the problems that arise when you shave a cat. 'Nuff said on that…

So next year should be a pretty productive writing year. And I promise to include at least a bit of blogging in that equation. Certainly it won't be difficult to better this year's effort. (To be honest, I'm amazed I could still remember my login details!)

But for now, it's Christmas Eve, I've only had one coffee so far this morning, and the sounds currently echoing from my eldest child's cavern bedroom suggest that I'd better get the second one in quickly…

Have a lovely festive season, everyone, and I'll chat to you all in 2015!

*that's the past tense read, not the present tense one - I'm assuming there's nobody left who present-tense-reads this any longer) 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Another wall in the way of Baby Boomer Relevance

In this age of selfies and X-factors, spare a thought for the insidious damage that is being done to the development of Australian serious culture. Given that Bob Dylan may have sung ‘…don’t criticize what you can’t understand, your sons and your daughters are beyond your command, your old road is rapidly agin’. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand…’ should we be bothered? Yes, very bothered indeed.

The reality that is hidden from many in the Australian community, is just how pervasive the myopia of looking back to a ‘golden age’ is in promoting older generations’ inability to engage with the contemporary world. Moronic grumbling about young people is celebrated and published in major daily newspapers such as the Age and the SMH as significant and worthwhile. If you think I am overstating the case, well consider this.

The vanity that is known as elitism pervades the culture to a corrosive extent. Older people have lost the ability to know when something is art, and worthy. Instead, they hang on every word of their preserved conservatives, mouthing broad and unsubstantiated generalities.

Taiwan-born director Ang Lee says that, wait for it, “Kids don’t even read comic books anymore. They’ve got more important things to do – like video games.” If that isn’t selective use of a curmudgeonly out-of-context citations to back up a spurious argument, what is? Then there’s the toe-curling indulgence of those music stars, like the late Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. He claimed that; “In opera, as with any performing art, to be in great demand and to command high fees you must be good, of course, but you must also be famous.” Oh please! Can you imagine Josh Pyke saying anything so crass?

Or how about this kind of Pavarotti self-centered twaddle: “For me, music making is the most joyful activity possible, the most perfect expression of any emotion.”

The Boomers lap up this kind of self-conscious exhibitionism as a “serious” statement, as they have precious little comparative contemporary comment beyond what is grumbled about at the bar during intermission in one of the recent Ring Cycle performances, or in the staffroom at certain elite private boys schools at lunchtime.

So, who’s at fault? Baby Boomers need do a little more about engaging with contemporary, progressive culture, much of which is building upon the so called ‘high culture’ of the past. Digital technology, multi-platform narratives, higher mathematics references in ‘The Simpsons’, young adult fiction that crosses readership boundaries and adds to the ongoing cultural discourse of the nation. Serious contemporary cultural artifacts that require patience and understanding need to be explained in small words to grumpy, unwilling middle-aged pupils.

In Australia, elitism is the privilege of a few, who then get into Parliament and rip funding from the public education system and universities, while complaining about ‘jingoistic egalitarianism.’ But perhaps this is going too far?  Who should have to appreciate the finesse behind a slam poem by Omar Musa? Or who on earth Sonya Hartnett or Shaun Tan are? As for admitting the value of institutions like the National Institute of Youth Performing Arts, forget it. There are many other examples.

Why this matters is that without a sense of cultural progress, then we will be stuck in the past, with only so-called ‘high cultural markers’ as the cornerstones of our national cultural identity, and of cultural discourse more generally. We won’t be able to really really concentrate or appreciate, for example, Mahler, because we’ll have no familiarity with the musical traditions and skills that have been built upon those very foundations.

The impact this will have on audiences is cause for concern. In the next two decades, the elders or keepers of the cultural treasures will be gone, and it’s completely impossible to conceive that anyone currently under the age of forty will ever have any interest in the cultural life of the country. You know, apart from all those ‘students’ who are currently enrolled in various forms of ‘higher education’ in the ‘arts’ sector.

But then, where are the audiences going to come from if today’s students are stifled in their ability to express and explore their world and culture, other than through exposure only to ‘elite’ artforms? This is already happening. Ticket prices are not the cause, either. It’s most likely to do with outdated attitudes to education among certain elements of the teaching profession who are unable to engage their students outside of a very narrow prism of experience. Clearly in the contemporary world, this is a significant problem.

Sure private schools (like all schools) are potentially important in destroying this damaging ‘elitism’ in cultural discourse. I taught in one, and I taught serious, demanding contemporary literature, right alongside serious, classically demanding literature. Was it elite? Not if I had anything to do with it. But neither did it pander to the lowest common denominator. Like all good literature teachers, I tried to teach my students that context is everything, and that a nuanced observation of contemporary adolescent life, like Melina Marchetta’s Looking for Alibrandi (or even her more contemporary works, written in the proceeding 20 years, such as The Piper’s Son or On the Jellicoe Road) have as much to offer to an enquiring, critical reader as, say Jane Eyre. Can you compare the two? Absolutely. And you should.

This goes beyond subjective taste. Does Lou Reed compare with Segovia? Well… it’s kind of an odd comparison, but I guess that they might. Both were significant musicians of their eras, both served to act as focal points for the development of their musical disciplines, and if someone more knowledgeable than I were to apply themselves to the task, I’m pretty certain that it would be possible to draw lines of stylistic influence from The Velvet Underground  back to early 20th century guitar virtuosos, such as Segovia. But I could be wrong. It’s certainly not a no brainer. Rather an interesting question, really…

These ‘frozen oldies’ are wedged in narrow cultural doorways of fifty years ago, and are unable to push through into the wider, room of cultural discourse beyond. They suck up smoothies of conservative pap when anyone says anything “pithy” out of an increasing and inevitable sense of their own irrelevance. But ‘pithy’ is a relative term. Listen to Kurt Cobain, who articulated the disaffection of his generation with the elitist ‘cultural worthiness’ continuum espoused by previous generations, and left this “mortal coil” (Shakespeare, in case you haven’t been patronized yet, today) with the following:

“I don’t have the passion any more, and so remember, it’s better to burn out than fade away. Peace, love, empathy.”

Compare the immortal lyrical beauty of John Keats, who also died young and said, “I feel the daisies growing over me.”

Uhm… okay. Aside from the obvious difference in style, both clearly capture the essence of their context (that pesky context thing again) and both therefore have cultural worth. It might be possible to argue that the more allegorical approach taken by Keats to his impending death was reflective of his awareness (owing to his death being slow, by tuberculosis) of his own mortality, whereas the quote from Cobain’s suicide note reflects a stronger sense of finality, and evinces the emotional trauma evident in much of the cultural discourse of the time. Not sure what the point of the comparison was, but there you are…

The ambivalence that certain ‘Elite’ members of the Baby Boomer generation have to any mention of ‘contemporary culture’ is reflected in its suspicion of what appears to be difficult to understand. In this sense, Boomers have opted out of their responsibility to simply broaden their cultural awareness to include both Banksy and Hogarth.

The fear I have, is that cultural elitism will be seen as preferable, even desirable, while damaging and inaccurate generalisations are made about entire demographics, important contemporary cultural works and performers are overlooked and unable to develop careers, and culture fails to progress at all.

Of course, I might be wrong…

(Note to add: Of course I'm aware that, for the most part, the Baby Boomer generation is in no way reflected by the views expressed by Christopher Bantick in his column, and that I've been horribly and deliberately general in this response, but given the flawed premise undermining his piece, I figured it only appropriate to return the favour.)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

So… yeah. Hi.

Remember me?

Tallish guy, glasses, used to hang around here a bit? Yep. That one.

So, as you probably gathered from my last post, about a century ago, it's been a busy year. Real busy. 12 months ago next week, Min and I saw,  fell in love with, and bought a new house (well, technically a rather old house, but new for us). To make life more interesting, we also both started new and very busy jobs. Toby started pre-school (and turned 5 years old last sunday!), I went to Europe for a conference and came back with a buggered ankle caused by falling down the stairs on a train in a most undignified manner, I won a teaching award, finished* The Hunter (which is currently re-titled Tabula Rasa) and sent it off to my agent (still waiting to hear from her on the most recent rewrite). I am also halfway through a NaNoWriMo novel, which is problematic, given that it's now December, and in a week or so we will be leaving for Christmas back in Perth with my gathered family.

There's some other stuff, too, but those are the highlights.

The good news is that, as you may have gathered, I'm actually getting some writing done, again. After a pretty extended period of feeling as though my writing mojo had deserted me, just lately I've been aware of it scratching away at the back door of my brain, begging me to let it in again. So a month or two ago I opened the door, just a crack, and now here we are…

Really it's one of the vagaries of life as a writer - if you want to make a living, chances are that you're going to be pretty busy doing a lot of things that aren't writing, and every single one of them kills off just a little bit of your creative time and energy. Even if you love your job, as I do.

This year, for me, the biggest issue was Course Convening. It's a two year gig, which I'm now halfway through. It means that I get a little bit of teaching relief each week in return for which I do a fairly hefty amount of work: student consultations and course troubleshooting, admission decisions, organising course credits and variations, approving and compliance checking unit outlines, organising staffing for our various units, ensuring moderation processes happen, organising and chairing course advisory committees, ensuring that our units and courses are accredited and compliant with federal standards. Plus lecturing, teaching tutorials, grading and producing research. Phew.

And even though I enjoy most of the work, by the end of the day I'm almost always totally buggered** And that doesn't leave a lot of time for thinking about writing or, for that matter, doing it.

At the start of the year, I tried to block out big chunks of my time - a couple of hours each morning - for writing.

"No phone, no email, no appointments. Just me and my book…" I told myself and anyone else who'd listen.

And, for a while there, it worked quite well. Perhaps a month, or even two.

But, of course, little things began to creep in - the emails began building up, the meeting requests kept coming up on my calendar, lectures needed to be written or revised and, gradually, those precious hours got nibbled away until the concept of 'writing time' was just a dim memory.

So in mid-october, I drew a line under the year, re-allocated my writing time to the start of my days, and started over. And apart from a few little lapses, I'm doing okay. I've added 15,000 words into the next, hopefully final, draft of The Hunter, plus written about 12,000 words of a younger readers novella which I'm thoroughly enjoying.

Plus, of course, all the course convener-y stuff I talked about earlier.

And now I'm back here at Musings from an Outer Spiral Arm.

So, anyway, that's my excuse for being away so long. At least I managed to return before the year was out. Thank you all for your patience. It's nice to be back.

*Agent depending
** who am I kidding? by the start of the day I'm almost always totally buggered

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Thanks for visiting...

Owing to the vagaries of life, I'm on something of a lack-of-time-and-energy-induced hiatus from blogging at the moment. I have high hopes of being back regularly a little later on this year, after I get my life back...

Monday, December 31, 2012

Musings on the End of a *Busy* Year

Okay, okay. I know I said that I probably wouldn't be blogging again until sometime in January but, to be honest, the alternative is getting up on the roof to clean out the gutters of the house and, after having spent a couple of hellish hours up there the other day doing some other work, I'm really not at all enthusiastic at the prospect. (Also, I haven't finished my coffee yet...)

So instead, here we are. Time for that traditional 'Year in Review' type post (though, in my case it's more traditional to do it sometime around Feb 25...)

Looking back at 2012, I can't help but notice that I've only managed to put up a grand total of 14 blog posts here, including this one. This is a significant drop on the previous three years, but not without reason.

That reason being simply this: 2012 was completely bloody insane. I can't remember a time in my life when I've been more constantly busy, or exhausted.

But, that said, it's also been a year of highlights, which is far preferable to the alternative.

Said highlights would include:

  • Signing up 'The Hunter' with my new agent Cheryl in NYC (who has since made me do three rewrites across the intervening months. Feedback on the most recent one still pending, but I'm looking forward to it. As I am to writing the next three books in the series*)
  • Getting the 2012 ACLAR conference organised, and then running it (with lots of assistance from lots of lovely people). In a lot of ways, this was probably the professional highlight of my year, even though I didn't blog too much about it. Seeing two years of solid work come together over three seamless days was a really unexpected thrill. Which was followed by...
  • Spending time in Vietnam and Indonesia with various elements of my family. THis last year has been a big one for family type things. Min and Toby and I spent a couple of weeks in Vietnam with her mother, plus my sister and brother in Law, before travelling down to Indonesia for a week with my sister and brother-in-law and their kids, and my parents. And it strikes me how terribly lucky I am to have such a close extended family in both directions. We even managed to all travel together without killing one another...
  • Developing that theme - Vietnam was amazing. I just completely fell in love with the place. Also..
  • Pho. Best. Breakfast. Ever.
  • Back at work, second semester was similarly crazy, but the good kind. I got a good wrap up in my annual review, a teaching award plus an invitation to apply for a national award next year, had lovely classes, worked with great sessional staff, my honours students all did really, really well, and my PhD students hit a few home runs too at various conferences. Plus at the end of it all I got promoted to convener of writing for next year. In the middle of all that...
  • Attending and speaking at the inaugural 'Celebrate Reading' annual conference run by the Literature Centre in Fremantle. This was another complete highlight, not least because it was effectively three days of hanging out with some of my favourite writer people: Jim Roy, Isobelle Carmody, Gary Crew, Matt Ottley, Shaun Tan, Jackie French, Lucy Christopher and Julia Lawrinson. The final session of this conference, which involved all of us on stage telling our favourite 'War Stories', was one of the most side-splittingly funny hours I've ever spent at a writing event.
  • Helping my clever wife get her PhD finished and submitted. In my last post, I referred to this, but didn't go into detail. Suffice to say that it involved three pretty insane days during which Toby more-or-less stayed with his grandmother while Min and I set up camp in her office at ANU. Her thesis is amazing! And I'm not just saying that because I'm her husband. I'll admit that I went into the proof-reading process expecting to find it a bit of a slog (not being an expert in International Law, and all that...) but was blown away by both the central argument, and the weight of support for it. Really amazing. It was also, in it's own odd way, quite a 'fun' couple of nights. You haven't lived until you've scrounged dinner from a law school vending machine at 2330 on a Sunday night.***
  • Finally, just to round out the year, (and as mentioned last post) we got ourselves a new house. All going well (and it is, at the moment, touch wood...) we'll be moving early february**** Which means that I'm spending my summer holiday valiantly attempting to get about 12 months worth of house repairs and renovation done in roughly 3 weeks. Today the skip bin should arrive so that we can start pulling out carpets. Before then, though, I've got to clean those gutters I mentioned earlier. Plus go to the gym.
  • On top of that, there's the random stuff: learning to play Ukelele (which has, in turn, gotten me back into more regular playing of my other instruments) Judging the ACT Chief Minister's Literary award, which meant that I got to read an awful lot of really good writing, hops up to Sydney and down to Melbourne for various academic and masterclass gigs, having an abstract accepted for a big conference in Maastricht next year, plus lots of other stuff that doesn't occur to me right at the moment.
Finally, of course, one of the very big highlights of 2012 was watching my little boy continue to grow, and turn from being a toddler into a boy. And, importantly, moving from Duplo to proper Lego. I've been waiting for that moment for quite some time... 

So, that's been my year. Pretty crazy, absolutely exhausting for the most part, but reward-filled. And 2013 seems to be heading down a similar path. But hopefully with more than 14 blog posts...

Thanks everyone for your patience during this very sporadic year of posts, and do keep popping by. Have a great and safe New Year's!

* Says the man who swore at the completion of the Darklands books that he'd never, ever, EVER sign up to a multi-book narrative ever again**
**Aplogies to Taylor Swift.
***Though the less said about the 33,000 words of footnotes which I individually checked against the bibliography and thesis references, the better...
**** At exactly the same time as I'm starting teaching for the semester, and stepping fully into my new course convener role. Go me.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin