Friday, June 29, 2012

A quick one. Very Very Quick....

Hi all...

Conference last week went well. Swimmingly so, in fact. Lot of happy little campers and a very exhausted (but also happy) me. In fact, I can't believe it's a week already since things wrapped up. Highlights included all three keynotes, Shaun Tan's evening event (after which he signed books for something like an hour and a half - consumate professional that he is!), and getting through my own paper with some vague sense of coherence, despite the fact that I'd had three hours sleep the previous night (Thanks, Toby and every cat in the neighbourhood!), no lunch, and was effectively running on pure caffeine and nerves.

This week has been a blur of post conference wind up; finalising the budget, cleaning up office etc... plus catching up on backlogged uni-related emails and student matters, before getting ready for...


Yep. This time tomorrow, Min and Toby and I will be in Singapore. After an ungodly early start tomorrow morning, we're off for THREE WHOLE WEEKS!

I might try and blog a little bit while we're away, but I'm not sure what my internet access will be, or my energy levels. Either way, the bags are packed, the dog at the kennel, the chickens accounted for, and at 6.25 tomorrow morning, we're outa here.

So if you don't hear from me again for a while, have a lovely winter. I'll be thinking of y'all ;)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Okay. Here we go...

Righto. So tomorrow morning, after two years of work, the 2012 ACLAR conference begins here in Canberra at the National Library of Australia. We're opening at midday with a keynote address from a scholar I've long admired- Deakin university's Clare Bradford. On Thursday we have Shaun Tan keynoting, and then on friday Professor Kerry Mallan from QUT - another incredible thinker and scholar, and just a perfect fit for this particular event.

Plus, of course, we've got a whole range of other interesting and exciting papers from scholars, writers, students and interested parties from all points of the children's literature compass.

We've got 75 ish delegates, from all over Australia, New Zealand, the US, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and (I'm pretty sure) a few other places.

We've got a function on Thursday night, with Shaun's academy award winning film The Lost Thing being screened, followed by an in conversation with Genevieve Jacobs, one of our fantastic ABC Canberra presenters, who is generously giving up her evening to help out.

At this point, I've got delegate bags done, running sheets and checklists organised, catering ready to go, a little gang of brave volunteers prepared to run the length and width of the NLA to make sure that all goes according to plan, I've done the first airport run, followed by some of the worst navigating I've done in the five years since we moved to Canberra (Poor Clare got a tour of all of the most 'exciting' parts of the parliamentary triangle while I attempted to track down her hotel*)

Oh, yes, and I've also written my own paper, which I'm delivering tomorrow afternoon in the second concurrent session**. I'm talking about American author John Green's most recent novel The Fault in Our Stars. I'm not sure how it'll go down, actually. Because JG - who I've met, like, and admire tremendously as both a person and a writer - has a spectuacularly devoted fanbase, and while I'm not being gratuitously critical of his book***, I am looking at it through a specifically academic lens, and calling a couple of aspects of it into question. But nicely. So I'm hoping nobody will get upset. It's part of the difficulty of being both a children's and YA writer and a children's and YA literature scholar. Even though the two jobs have, in many ways, a really lovely synergy to them, the latter often requires you to adopt a very different perspective on books and writing, and to look at them through a quite specific theoretical and critical focus. It's not always the most comfortable situation to be in. But it is what we do. And it's important - and I really believe this - that scholarly discourse be fearless and objective, so that it is able to make a really solid contribution to the cultural life of a society.

But enough of me on that particular bandwagon...

In any case. I am (touch wood) organised. And it's only taken 24 months!

And to take my mind off things, before I go home tonight, I'm going to a party! Actually, I'm speaking at the party. I'm launching the debut book by one of my colleagues here at the Uni of Canberra - one of our masters students and tutors, Ben Stubbs. Any regular readers of the Sydney Morning Herald will probably recognise Ben's name, because over the past few years, he's become one of their more prolific travel writers. But he's also been working on 'Ticket To Paradise' - the story of his hunt for the descendants of the Australian colony of Cosme, which was established in Paraguay during the early 20th century, by a group of disaffected Queensland shearers, who set off across the Pacific intending to establish their own socialist utopia.

It's an incredible read - Ben has infused every page with a real sense of place and adventure, and paints such vivid portraits of the people and their lives today. It's just fascinating. It's also a work backed up by formidable research, lending it a wonderful sense of authenticity.

So congratulations Ben! I'm so honoured to have been asked to officially send Ticket to Paradise out into the world.

Speaking of which, I'd better go and iron my Tux in preparation.**** 

*(which I've actually stayed at twice!)
**Doing a paper at my own conference seemed like such a good idea. In February.
*** Which I enjoyed a great deal.
**** Joke. I don't actually own a tux. And if I did, I doubt I'd ever wear it.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wool. (And no, this is not a post about my wife...)

... despite the fact that she is well into all things wooly.*

Actually, technically, I guess we do have Min to thank for this post, because she's the one who put me on to Wool. If you haven't clicked the link yet, I'm not talking about the warm stuff we make from sheep, and which we have a room full of at home. I'm talking about the e-book by Hugh Howey.

Now, I'll be completely honest and admit (and I can't escape the feeling that I'm about to paint a big target on my back with some people by saying this) that I'm not a massive admirer of an awful lot of self-published e-books. I've read a few, and some of them have been okay. And some of them have been just goddammed awful**.  Very few grab and engage me as much as commercially published (in digital form or otherwise) writing though. I often find myself, even with the good ones, wishing the writer had just learned to self-edit a little more critically, or paid someone to do it for them. Don't get me wrong - there's an awful lot that's exciting about writers having the capacity to 'do it for themselves', and I'm all for it as a general principle. It's just that - to my mind at least*** - it often feels to me that in some of these books the crafting of the writing isn't quite as developed as the ideas driving the story, or the packaging of it.****

But, by God, Wool makes me take all these preconceptions and throw them out the window.

This is great writing. And great reading. Without a doubt one of the finest pieces of sci-fi I've read in a long time. Min got the omnibus edition (Wool 1-5) on her Kindle and loaned it to me (one excellent decision by Hugh Howey was to allow digital loaning of his work), and I chewed through it in two days, reading until 1.30 in the morning. And this at a time when I, frankly, needed every bit of sleep I could muster.

I'm not going to even touch upon the plot - I don't want to risk spoilering any aspect of it. It's too good for that. All I'll say, though, is that it's beautifully written - Howey's capacity to establish and build tension is second to none, and his flair for characterisation reminded me somewhat of Stephen King - and just as importantly, it's beautifully crafted; not a word out of place. It's not a single stand-alone novel, but a series of novellas, a form which has lately been overlooked in publishing, and which harks back to some of the greats of the sci-fi genre; Asimov, Phillip K Dick. And the world of these books. Oh. My. God.

So. In short, if you have a digital reading device, then do yourself a favour and get this. You won't regret it. I promise.

*We got her a loom for her birthday. It made her very, very happy.
**for any potential or current self published e-book authors reading this, don't take it personally. It's not you, it's me.
*** and this is my blog, so my mind is all you get...
**** but then, I'm a commercial writer who teaches creative writing at a university***** so my perspective is not likely to be everyone's.
***** ie: a wanker

Monday, June 4, 2012

A Premiere Event

Wednesday night this week sees the world premiere of a newly adapted stage version of Nathan Nuttboard Upstaged, presented by the Redfoot theatre company at Hale School in Perth. Sadly, owing to the vagaries of conference organisation and end-of-semester grading, I'm not going to be able to get over to Perth to see the show (at least, not on this occasion...) but I'm very excited, nevertheless.

I was big into theatre when I was at high school. In fact, a good chunk of Upstaged draws upon my experiences as a member of the inaugural La Salle College Theatre Group. (Not the 'stage-kiss' scene, though. That was all my own creation. Seriously...) so it's thrilling to know that the first time one of my books has been converted to the stage, it's being done by a fantastic little youth theatre company in my hometown. And I'm really pleased they chose to do Upstaged, which is - I think - one of the most 'stageable' books I've written.

Anyway, even though I've written a direct email to the cast and crew, I just wanted to post something here to say break a leg to all involved, and thanks for taking my work and making it real. Can't wait to see it on DVD!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin