Friday, January 29, 2010

J.D. Salinger, RIP

By now, pretty much everything that can be said about the death of JD Salinger has been said, but I'm going to weigh in with my 0.02c, anyway.

I didn't like The Catcher In the Rye.

Not the first time I read it, anyway (aged 12 - got to roughly chapter 4, from memory).

Nor the second. (aged 16, read about half)

Nor the third. (18, for uni. Finished but didn't really see what all the fuss was about.)

But about five years ago, as part of my early research for my PhD, aged 32, I read it again, for the fourth time.

And it rocked my world.

The Catcher in the Rye changed the way I think about my writing. It changed the way I think about the people I write for, the people I write about, and the reasons I write. I have no idea why it took so long for me and that book to 'click' with one another, but I know for certain that it's one of the few books that fundamentally shifted my perspective on almost everything. How many books can you say that about?

Rest in Peace, JDS.

(and here is a brilliant obituary written by those too-clever-by-half folk at The Onion)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australians All Let Us Rejoice?

So, it's Australia Day today. Happy national day, everyone. 

Once upon a time, this used to be my favourite day of the year - absolutely without question. Back when I used to row competitively, my mates and I would spend the 26th January down at the boat shed by the Swan River. We'd pull a couple of ratty old couches out onto the river bank, set up a barbeque and a stereo, and listen to the Hottest 100 while cracking a few beers. We'd play cricket. Kick the football. Chuck a frisbee around. When it got too hot, we'd go for a dip in the river. After sunset, we'd move out to the shed's launch ramp and watch the fireworks over the city, a couple of kilometres upstream. One memorable year we filled the bottom of an old rowing 8 with ice, and (no doubt in contravention of almost every maritime safety regulation in the world) converted it into a 40 foot long, row-able, floating esky (with about an inch and a half of freeboard, but that's okay...) and headed out into the bay for several very pleasant hours.

Yep. Fun. Relaxed and fun.

These days, though, I've gotta confess that I've got mixed feelings about Australia Day. It might well be just me but it feels, well, different, somehow.

One of the things I loved about our days by the river was that it was a celebration of everything I really love about living in this country - mateship, being outdoors, enjoying the utterly beautiful environment we've been gifted with, but at the same time it was somehow understated. Australian, if you like.

Not so much, any more.

Even aside from the ABC accidentally leaking the results of the hottest 100 (not that this matters to me nowadays. In recent years I've become more of  a radio national listener. Yes, I'm old and boring. And I have utterly no idea who Mumford and Sons are.) it feels like Australia Day has become, in recent years, more and more ... unsubtle. More overtly nationalistic.

It's no longer enough to just get out and quietly have a day off work - nowadays it seems like you can't turn around without seeing some hotted up bogan-mobile with ten little plastic Australian flags (made in China) hanging off it. There'll be guys at the beaches and at the Big Day Out wrapped in the flag, as though they have something to prove. Some idiot will tell a news crew that "If you don't love it, then leave". It's all a bit jingoistic. Worse, it's all a bit too unthinking.

I dunno. Perhaps I'm just becoming old and curmudgeonly. Very likely I'm looking back at the 'good old days' of my youth through rose-coloured glasses. And don't get me wrong - I'm a big fan of this country. Love it to bits. I just don't feel like I have to prove it to anyone.

And there are things we need to think about: Indigenous health, terrorism and our response to it, global warming, the ongoing racism present in so many parts of our society, whaling and our role in the Antarctic, our place in South East Asia, our water useage - these are big issues that are going to shape both the cultural and physical landscape of this country for our children and generations to come and to my mind, Australia Day should be the day where, as well as celebrating our country, we call it in to focus - we talk about the country we want to live in, and the ways we might achieve that. 

To my mind, an unquestioning celebration of anything isn't a celebration worth having. Let's celebrate our past achievements, sure. But let's also use the opportunity to map out our future ones.

The 26th of January celebrates the day when the first fleet sailed into Sydney Harbour and dropped anchor, just off the beach where today the Sydney Opera House holds court across the water. It celebrates the birth of a modern nation, an inventive nation, a resilient and tough and brave and beautiful nation.

But let's not forget that it also celebrates the invasion. The introduction of European diseases to the Aboriginal people. The introduction of the firearm and the use of power to dominate the disenfranchised. It celebrates the introduction of European models of land use - clear felling and large scale grazing - into a landscape just not suited to it. It celebrates the beginning of erosion, salinity, the slow decline of the barrier reef, the damming of rivers, the draining of the Murray.

Australia Day is not just a celebration, but is a day of duality, and always has been. We need to remember that.

Because it is a lucky country, and we are young and free, and the moment we forget the costs of that achievement, that's when we start to become less than we might be.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

News, and a little bit of pimping

My friend Karen Brooks has a new website and blog. You should check it out here. It's really nice. I'm possibly kind of jealous (though not really; my website was designed and built by my clever wife, which I find very cool, too. The last website I put together for myself looked like the internet equivalent of duplo.)

On other matters, if all goes well, then Daywards should be off to the printers this week. The cover is done, the blurb written, the internals looking *pretty*, we've dotted all the i's, crossed the 't's' and removed all the preposterous words from the text. Like, well, 'preposterous' for example. It'll probably even be out on time, and in time for any lucky people attending the Somerset Celebration of Literature to be the first people in the country to be able to buy a copy.

My next book, Orion is a little stalled at the moment, owing to the vagaries of start-of-semester madness. Hopefully once things get going at uni in a couple of weeks, and my daily routine becomes a routine again, rather than a series of crisis-management triage moments, then I'll be able to get back in to it.

Anyway, it's hot as hell here, and we're off to Toby's grandmother's place for a swim.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

Okay, so I know I'm a bad blogger

Dear blog,

I'm sorry. Really. I know I've been neglecting you, and not putting enough effort into this relationship of late. I know that a week ago when my family were away I couldn't get enough of you, but now that they're back it seems like I've just cast you aside like so much internet introspection.

And I know I could offer you excuses like 'I've been playing with my son' or 'we had to get a new childcare place organised' or 'just when I think I've done the final little bit of work on Daywards something else comes up' or 'semester starts in a week and I just discovered that I have an entire unit outline which I've not put together yet' or even 'it was my wedding anniversary and I had other things to do'. But I won't. You deserve more than that.

So I'm sorry for neglecting you so badly this last week. I'll do better next week. Promise.

best,

Tony

Monday, January 18, 2010

Family Matters

So tonight Imogen and Toby are coming home. I can't wait. They've had a lovely week over in Perth, staying with my parents, while I've had a lovely week of getting in to work stupidly early every morning, and then getting a lot done.

And I'm over it.

I have achieved quite a bit, though. One of my two units is almost totally done - lectures complete, website built, tutorials ready - the whole bit. The other is well along the path, though it's new territory for me, so will be a little more full on.

I've also got a good chunk of my next book written. I'm enjoying writing it, and hopefully will have the first draft almost finished by the time I have to start actually teaching.

The other day, my editor Kristina and I went through the final tweaks for Daywards. We wrote the blurb. We signed off on the cover. It's looking really good. It should be going to the printers tomorrow or wednesday. I can't wait to hold it.

Lets see... what else...

Saturday I went out to a Gliding Club in Goulbourn with the intention of going flying. Sadly I got there just as an enormous thunderstorm rolled over and turned the airfield to mush, so I missed out there. I did get to sit in a glider, though. On the ground. In the hanger. Wasn't quite the same, somehow.

I also sold my old road bike. This was a bittersweet moment. This was the bike I bought when I was in my late 20's and still doing triathlons fairly seriously. At the time, it was a state-of-the-art road bike, with carbon fibre forks, Ultegra groupset (bike-people will understand), a flight deck computer, Rolf 18-spoke racing wheels, the full bit. God I loved that bike. And I rode it, too - my mates and I put in thousands of kilometres around Perth and up and down the coast. Most saturdays we'd do a lap of the river - about 55 kilometres, stopping in Fremantle for a coffee and then up the coast a bit before heading back in to the city. Lovely days.

But for the last three years, my road bike has been sitting in my carport under an increasingly thick layer of dust. A spider had nested in the front brake. It was too hard and uncomfortable for riding on the *really shitty* Canberra roads, and so a year ago I got myself the bike equivalent of a station wagon. A big, wide-tyred, soft seated, low geared Shogun for riding in to uni.

And so this week, after putting it off for three years, I sold my shiny red road bike. I got $300.00 for it. Which I then spent on a Baby Bike seat and helmet for Toby, so from tomorrow, I can take him for rides on the 'station wagon'. I think this is a good investment.

Last night I started revisiting The West Wing, beginning again from series one. This show is such a brilliant piece of television. If you've never watched it, then (a) what's wrong with you? and (b) you need to do so.

But I'll be honest - I cannot wait to go to the airport tonight and have our little family back together again. Last week when they left, Toby was walking a lot, but still crawling about 50% of the time. Now, I'm told, he's running pretty much everywhere.

And I can't wait to see it.

As I write this, Min and Toby should be just about on their way to Perth airport, and it's almost knockoff time for me, so I'm going to go home and get the house organised.

Or perhaps watch a couple more episodes of The West Wing.

Fly safe, family.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Letter From The Missions...

My Dearest Darling,

It is hot here tonight. A sultry, restless heat that seems to hang in the air with all the listless energy of a paper bag full of warm custard. The natives seem unphased by it, but we who have grown up in cooler climates are not yet accustomed to it, and so are suffering terribly. Possibly the fact that the natives all have airconditioned houses, while our missionary accomodation is far more rudimentary - consisting of a tent beside the villiage cesspit - also has something to do with it.

Still, I must not complain. Captain Jones-Farnsworth is suffering far worse than I . Yesterday he received some terrible news from home - his favourite Labrador, Miffy, was apparently eaten by an alligator. We were all a little surprised at this, as alligators are not traditionally associated with Sussex, but we have no reason to doubt it. While this came as a blow to him, it was nothing compared to the shattering event which befell the Captain later in the evening, when - according to the locals and in a wholly unexpected and rather ironic twist of fate - he too was eaten by an alligator. While such an occurance is admittedly less surprising here than in Sussex, the fact that the Captain was last seen thirty feet up a palm tree pretending to be a rooster has us all a little puzzled. None of us even knew that alligators could climb, but the villiage Chief assures us this is the case.

Either way, it was a difficult evening.

But not to worry, tonight the villiagers are cooking up a special feast to cheer us up somewhat. A stew of some description, by the look of things. I'm not certain what the meat is, but it smells a lot like chicken.

Reverend Chumfoth sends his regards. He is such a good man. Always ministering to the natives at all hours of the day and night. He particuarly takes special care to watch over the villiage women during the days when the men are out hunting, and then at night he often joins the younger women of the villiage in their communal hut for prayer meetings. Several of us have expressed our willingness to assist him in this duty, but he says it is a burden that has been laid upon him alone. All of us are heartened by his selfless attitude. Personally I regret that since our arrival here I have not had any such burden laid upon me.

I received your last letter with much pleasure. Since our supplies ran out, we have been making do with leaves and suchlike, and several of the native species have nasty stinging spines which can make for quite awfully uncomfortable experiences if inadvertantly applied. While I'm not complaining, I must confess that it is nice being able to sit down again. And walk in a straight line. Please write more often, and longer letters.

Other than these small trials, our work here proceeds apace. I have been befriended by one of the Natives, a small boy whose name I cannot pronounce, let alone spell, but who I refer to as 'Betsy'. He's a talented lad, who is doing his best to make me comfortable here. Yesterday he took my clothing - which was, quite frankly, getting rather high - off for cleaning. I imagine he'll return it any moment now. In the meantime I am making do with a rather fetching palm frond and several lengths of braided hair from my beard.

Betsy was also very interested in my small library of books. I was happy to loan him several of my favourites by Rudyard Kipling, R.M. Ballentyne, Jules Verne, Daniel Defoe, and Chuck Palahniuk. I will look forward to discussing them all with him, particularly Fight Club.

In any case, my darling, the night grows long, and I grow weary. Later this evening it is my turn for alligator patrol and while I am a little nervous about this, owing to our lack of rifles and ammuntion, all of which went missing at around the same time as Captain Jones-Farnsworth, I do not expect any difficulties. Betsy has given me a stout pole made of a wood that the natives refer to as 'Breadstick' and which he tells me is ideal for defending myself, or anyone else against any alligators that I might encounter. He also informs me that before my patrol I should baste myself for several hours in a mixture of spices and warm oil. He hasn't explained why, but I can only presume it is a measure to ward off the alligators. He is a true friend, is Betsy. I shall have to have a meal with him and his family, at some point.

Give my best to Bunky and Binky, and to Boingo, Poingo and Droingo. I miss you all terribly, but console myself with the knowledge that we are doing good work here. And now I must go. The Reverend has just come back from his prayer group meeting, and looks utterly exhausted.

All my love,

Alfred.

Monday, January 11, 2010

And Awaaaay We Go.... (Home Alone Day #2)

This morning, I was at work just a little after 7 am. This is actually not as bad as it sounds because:

a) It's 38 degrees in Canberra today. My office is air conditioned, my house is not.
b) Getting here early means that I don't have to feel too bad about leaving here early (which I'll be doing very soon) and
c) Thanks to the motivational effect of my poll over there ---------------------------------------------------------------------->
I've been able to pull my finger out and have actually written the better part of 5000 words today! Woot!

This, of course, means that I don't get to hire a Porsche, unless there's a last minute run on the voting, but even so, it's a good result.

The best part is, I've been working on this new book in small dribs and drabs for about three months, but today I hit the point where I'm really starting to break inertia with it. By the time I stopped writing this afternoon, at just a shade under 9000 words, both the story and the writing were just flowing, and I know that when I sit down tomorrow morning and start again, they'll keep flowing.

And the story?

I don't want to say too much about it yet, in case I jinx myself, but I can tell you that it's fun. It's loaded with action, it's got a really nice suspenseful backstory a lot of which is revealing itself to me as I write (A new experience for me - I'm usually a meticulous planner), and it doesn't require a trip to Antarctica to research it. In fact, the sort of research required can largely be done by Googling things like 'fast cars' and 'big handguns' and 'breeds of pygmy iguana'

Actually, I've only had to google two of those three. You can decide which is the odd one out.

But it's nice, you know? To be writing something that hasn't been in my head forever, and which hasn't been hanging over my head, either. My last two big books were both contracted a long time before they were finished and it's really refreshing to be just writing for the spontaneous fun of it again. I'd forgotten what an important aspect of creative writing that is - to write for the adventure of it.

So thanks to all the people who took the final option on the poll and gave me a well needed kick in the bum. I appreciate it.

Of course, the poll is open for another day, and it's not too late to pick the Porsche, instead...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Suggestions, anyone? (Home Alone Day One)

So last night Min and Toby flew off to Perth to go to a wedding. I didn't.

And now it's Sunday morning, and I'm home alone. But not in a Macauly Caulkin way, just in a gee-the-house-is-really-quiet kind of way.

Now, I could mope around, feel sorry for myself and watch foxtel in my undies.

But no, I've decided to do something positive about the situation. Which is where you come in.

Poll is on the right hand side, people. Can't guarentee that I'll follow through, but you never know, do you? Perhaps as the week wears on...

And, of course, I'm happy to listen to any alternative suggestions. Feel free to comment away.

But now I have to go. I think Gilmore Girls is starting...

Friday, January 8, 2010

A Baby Ate My Dingo!


Well, technically speaking, 'poked' is a better description than 'ate', but you get the general idea...

Nothing New Under the Sun.

Just in the last week or so, several people have asked me (jokingly) when I'll be launching my lawsuit against James Cameron. Apparently there's some similarities between Avatar (Which I've yet to see) and the Darklands Books - most particularly Skyfall.

Now, having only just watched the preview of Avatar, I can see that there might be some very broad similarities, but only in the same way that you can see broad similarities between, say, Les Miserables and Crime and Punishment. Sure they're both broadly about redemption, and there's some fairly common tropes about the nature of humanity in the face of moral dilemma, but the approaches to the story are fairly different.

It's got me thinking, though - one of the big risks you take whenever you put something creative 'out there' is the risk that someone's done it first. It's something that will, I suspect, happen to most writers at one point or another.

 I remember vividly one particular night in 2003 when Imogen and I were living in Brisbane and I was in the final editorial stages of Fireshadow. About three months before the book was due for release, I read David Metzenthen's Boys of Blood and Bone, which had just hit the bookshelves.

Imagine: There it was - a YA story set in the World War One (mine was in WW2), with two protagonists both in their upper teens (same as mine). One has gone off to fight the war (same as mine), while the other is a contemporary youth struggling with that period immediately after school (same as mine.) The chapter structure was the same - each chapter alternating between past and present with the present narrative told first. The similarities - especially across the first half of David's book - went on and on. The breaking point for me was when I got to the point where his protagonist goes off overseas unknowingly leaving his lover pregnant (Same as mine). That was when I yelled an obscenity and hurled the book across the room. 

I couldn't believe it. At that point I'd been working on Fireshadow for about five years. At that point I'd never met Dave Metzenthen. We'd never spoken, lived on opposite sides of the country and yet had managed to come up with two remarkably similar books, on similar topics and with similar narrative approaches, just six months apart from one another.

Wierd.

But it's the nature of ideas, I guess. 

According to Stephen King (I'm paraphrasing here) a lot of the time writers have no idea where their ideas come from, or what particular forces are shaping the way they see the world, but it's fairly probable that if an idea has occurred to you, then somewhere, someone is working on something very similar. And when it happens, it's awful. That night reading Boys of Blood and Bone (which is a book I love, by the way) was one of the most horrible moments of my life.

I think the secret, though, is to make sure you put a lot of yourself and your own world into everything you create. That's where the differences lie. Someone might have the same idea as you, but as long as you make your story your story, chances are that the points of difference will shine through and lend your work the unique elements that all creative works need.

That said, if James Cameron wants to cut me in for a percentage of the royalties, I'm willing to talk... 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Writing Gospel According To...(insert name here)

I read Steph Bowe's really interesting (not to mention useful) summation of several notable authors' rules for writing a little earlier on today. (Have a look at it here). It came along at an opportune time, to be honest, because I'm literally right in the middle of planning the course material and content for one of the units I'm teaching this semester - Introduction to Creative Writing. (And yes, I fully intend to use the material in Steph's blog in my opening lecture)

This unit is a biggie - about 200 students - and is one of the foundation units in both the writing and arts degrees here at the uni, so it's kind of important to get it right.

And as a result, writing it has been freaking me out slightly. Partly because it's an awful lot of responsibility - I remember the units I did during my first year at Uni, and how a badly planned, un-engaging unit managed to completely kill all the interest I had in one particular area of study. (thus consigning my interest in the study of History to, well, history) - and I'd hate to do that to my students.

The other reason this is playing on my mind is because, like most writers-who-teach (which, let's face it, is pretty much all of us - in one form or another), I'm finding myself a little plagued with the problem of second-guessing my own qualifications to 'introduce' anyone to 'creative writing'. Who am I to tell people how to go about writing? Just because something works for me, doesn't mean it'll work for everyone.

Take journals, for example.

Conventional 'how-to-write' wisdom generally requires writers to keep journals and diaries, and to be meticulous note takers on everything that happens to them. Textbook after textbook advises emerging or ambitious writers to note down every little event and observation in their day-to-day lives, to carry their moleskine with them at all times, and to mine their piles of journalled experiences for ideas. Hemingway apparently worked in this fashion, therefore it's what we should all be doing.

Except I don't. Never have. Never will. Frankly, keeping a diary bores the shit out of me. At the moment, my daily diary would read something like:

Got up. Fed Baby. Changed Nappy. Went to work. Came home. Changed Nappy. Played with Baby. Fed Baby. Changed Nappy. Bathed Baby. Changed Nappy. Ate. Went to bed.

Not exactly The Old Man and the Sea. (Though you could probably make a case for The Sun Also Rises)

I do use journals, but not in the 'traditional' manner - I have one journal for each major work that I've written. It's my bible for that project; filled with sketches, jottings, notes, chapter maps and plans and references, but it's very much a working document specifically targetted at a particular project. I only start my journals after I'm fully committed to a particular idea, never before.

So who the hell am I to stand up in front of 200 enthusiastic writing students and tell them that they should all keep a diary with them at all times?

Nobody, that's who.

Now, I'm aware that there's a bit of potential hypocracy involved here, given that I posted this here last year. But actually on balance I don't have a problem with writers giving tips or advice based on what works for them. I know I put my approach to writing together by listening to, experimenting with and then shamelessly stealing elements of it from Gary Crew, James Moloney, Isobel Carmody and numerous others .

I suspect its the notion of providing 'rules' that sets my teeth on edge. It's writing. There shouldn't be any rules. (well, okay, there should be at least some rules, like learn how to use apostrophes, but you get my meaning).

Basically, though, I like the idea of tips. If you try to follow religiously every single 'rule' set down by every single writer who's taken it upon themselves to set down their take on the writing process, you'll quickly write yourself out of the game, I suspect.

But if you take the ideas of said writers as a loose set of tips, or guidelines if you prefer, and then play with them, I imagine you'll end up a much stronger writer for the experience.

For my money, Stephen King summed up a very healthy attitude to writing 'rules' in the second forward to his memoir On Writing. (Which I've been re-reading today as part of the planning for this course, so it's fresh in my mind.) I'll leave you with his thoughts on the matter:

"This is a short book, because most books about writing are filled with bullshit. Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do - not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad. I figure the shorter the book, the less the bullshit."

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Out With the Old, in With the New...

Sitting here at 7.16 am on a Saturday morning, I've been awake since 3.00am for some reason. The baby is walking around my feet making all manner of odd noises with a toy trumpet, (none of them even vaguely trumpet-like) and I've been reading through some of the many new years blog posts and reflections by my various friends. This has, naturally enough, put me into something of a reflective mood...

2009 was, perhaps, the strangest year of my life. Mainly in that I'm not sure what happened to it. It seems to have just slipped past in a blur.

As anyone who's been reading this knows, '09 was our first year of parenthood and that, probably more than any other single thing, has completely and utterly dominated our lives for the last 12 months. This time last year Min and I were still reeling from the shock of being responsible for this little human we'd somehow managed to create. Now we're reeling from the shock of discovering that Toby is, in fact a real person - a tiny walking, babbling, willful (!), funny, and always surprising little human being. I always swore, back in my pre-parenthood days, that I wasn't going to be one of those parents who only ever seemed to talk about his kid. Looking back across my entries here at Musings... this year, it's immediately obvious that I haven't exactly managed to achieve this ambition - my writing blog has more tags relating to Toby than to writing, but I suspect this is probably unavoidable.

2009 was the first time in seven years that I've had a 'real' job. I got to actually use my shiny new PhD and return to teaching again, albeit in a very different capacity from my former life. This meant I was also able to give up much of the touring and speaking gigs which had formed the backbone of my income since the end of 2002. When I first left high-school teaching for full time writing, I used to love touring; the travel, the meeting people, the seeing new places - it was all new and exciting and adventurous. I loved the adrenaline of doing public performances (which is, let's face it, what 90% of speaking gigs actually are) I loved the buzz of capturing the attention of 200 disinterestd year nine boys and most of all I loved the idea that I was making my way as a writer. But it's a hard lifestyle to sustain, and cutting it back has been one of the highlights of the last 12 months. And I'm so glad I did it - otherwise I'd have missed out on so many of the big changes in Toby.

2009 was my first year as an academic. I've read more and thought more this year than I have in pretty much forever. When I finished my PhD, I actually didn't really think I'd get to use it in any professional capacity - I originally started it for much the same reason that people climb Everest. But at my graduation my uncle, who is a career academic, told me to remember that finishing a PhD isn't the end of your thinking life, but just the beginning. It was brilliant advice.

Writing wise 2009 was, on balance, a good year. Into White Silence did well in the various awards, I was invited to attend both Reading Matters and the Melbourne Writer's Festival, and I had a lovely time at both events. I finally finished writing The Darklands Trilogy, and got to work on it with a new editor - the lovely Kristina, who stepped in to Leonie Tyle's shoes at UQP. This was the first time in my writing career I'd worked with someone other than Leonie, and was both a challenge, but also a really refreshing experience in many ways. With that mind-filling project now signed off, I can get on with some of the other projects I've been looking forward to throwing myself at. It's a bit odd, though - even though objectively 2009 was probably the most successful year I've had as a writer, it's also highlighted a lot of the shortcomings in my writing career - the almost complete lack of overseas interest in my books, for example - and has made me seriously re-think a few of the decisions I've made about my writing career.

2009 was the year I watched a close friend fight and win a battle with cancer. This frightened me more than I like to admit. Partly because of the powerlessness involved for all concerned, and partly because being confronted with your own mortality is always difficult. Hearing that my friend's surgery had gone well, and finally hearing her voice again once she had recovered were two of the best moments of the year.
All things considered, a good year. A crazy, difficult, busy, challenging year, but a good one.
Here's hoping 2010 delivers similar highlights.
Happy New Year, everyone.

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