Clearing out

We have a big shed. Big. It’s even got a big loft, for the storing of more treasures. Give it time, though, and the biggests of sheds seem to fill. As did ours. We spent the long weekend clearing it out and booking a hard rubbish collection. Yes, we did it in that order…sometimes you gotta seize the moment and do the paperwork later. We managed to empty and tidy and reorder without drawing blood. Close, but no blood.

It was a journey of discovery. Benches gave up their secret stashes, piles revealed lost treasures. The homemade go cart was uncovered, batteries stolen from the broken electric scooter and trips around the block made. The table tennis table had an outing, although as this used virtually all the regained space, it soon returned to its now more accessible spot. But the point is, once gained, the space has been in almost constant use. In the months (did I say years?) preceding, the shed, with its tools, raw materials etc had been used less and less until even the bikes struggled to find a place to sit.

Sometimes my brain gets a bit like that. Too many ideas, too much information, everything jostling for space, and none of it seems to be accessible or useful for anything. Take some time out, even a short time, and suddenly so much becomes clear. For me, swimming mindless laps with goggles and earplugs, or walking a familar route will provide the time to clear the clutter, file the keepers and work out just what the heck I’m doing.

Now if only I could find the words for what the doohickey needs for it to be fixed to the whatchamacallit…I’d be sorted.

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How do you measure success?

I was in Port Melbourne today, for a reading of ‘A Nest for Kora’ in independent bookstore, ‘Readings’. Judith Rossell was there too, with sketches and original artwork from Kora.

We only sold one book.

So was it a success or a failure? How do you measure?

Readings have a great mail-out, and website, both of which featured Kora. They have signs up in the store, lovely eyecatching signs advertising the reading. Athina, children’ book buyer, and our ‘looker-afterer’ looked after us royally. And there was a para in the ‘kids & activities’ article in the A2 section of today’s Age newspaper.

We had a good turnout and children and parents seemed to enjoy the stories (asking for more, so I read my other picture book, ‘Ebi’s Boat’). It was a fun thing to do, share the story with a new audience. A couple of parents lingered and Judith and I spoke about the process of a picture book.

Because we will be there again on Tuesday, Kora stays front and centre in the children’s section of the bookshelf.

It’s all good.

Favourite childhood books

At dinner at a friend’s place last night, conversation flowed from one subject to another, and often back again. We discussed the changing position of Cerberus, a ship in the bay (which was put there as a breakwater), the various merits of boarding schools, early Melbourne township, town planning consultants, schools vs education and myriad other things. We also discussed favourite childhood books. Not strange conversation for me, but less usual for others of our company.

There were discussions about how rereading of a favourite childhood book had shown just much books for children have changed. (The consensus was that quality is generally much better now). We also talked about titles that went in and out of favour (Little Black Sambo, Noddy and Big Ears). I hadn’t known that the song ‘Alexander Beetle’, sung by Melanie, was actually commissioned to bring one of A A Milne’s poems to music. A 20 year old male talked about ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ as a favourite. We talked about overt moral lessons in books and whether that was a good thing. Views on that ranged widely.

I’ve recently sorted through my children’s bookshelves. Some books went to the op shop, some into my bookshelves. Each of my children had different favourites, even though they don’t remember all of them. I wonder if the ones I kept are the ones they remember, or the ones that I remember they liked, or the ones I liked.

I came home determined to reread novels of my childhood and see how they stand the test of time.

Another milestone

For a long time, my first readers were my children. When they were quite young, they were happy just to hear the story, and reading it out loud was a good way for me to spot problems. Then as they grew, they’d offer first reader feedback, like ‘that doesn’t make sense’ or ‘what happened to that character – they’ve changed’. One by one, they grew too old, they said, to want to read my stories, until it was only the youngest who read them. He was very good with feedback, with a wonderful nose for inconsistencies.

But yesterday, he signalled the end. He read the two stories I asked him to. Provided good feedback too. But that’s the end, he said. He’s no longer in touch with my target audience, he said (although he used different words). I’m sad in a way, but also quite impressed with his ability to verbalise that change. And he let me down gently.

Don’t believe everything the world says about teenage boys. I reckon they’re great.