Old favourites, new foods

I’ve had a good reading January. I’ve managed to finally make it to the bottom of the pile of books by my bed and the pile by my computer. I decided it was time to catch up on a couple of childhood favourite books I wanted to reread. I moved around a lot as a child, including moving to PNG when I was 10. There wasn’t room to take all my toys and books and many of them disappeared but having grown out of many of them, I hardly noticed. But many years later, as an adult I discovered that my books hadn’t actually been ‘disappeared’ but given to my cousin whose three daughters had read them. Her girls were done with them, so some of my favourites came home again. There were Russian Folk Tales, Tales from Eastern Lands, a bumper collection of fairy tales and a few novels. One of the books that didn’t come back was Johanna Spyri’s ‘Heidi’ although one of the sequels did.

So yesterday I went to the library and borrowed ‘Heidi’ and ‘Pippi Longstocking’ (the latter I’d never read, or didn’t recall). ‘Heidi’ I enjoyed as much as I did as a child. I was amazed to discover that it was written in 1880 (!!) and translated from the original German a few years later. ‘Pippi Longstocking’ I enjoyed too for all the humour and offbeat happenings.

Now I’m back to more recent books. I’ve got ‘Requiem for a Beast’ and ‘Flavours of Melbourne’. The former caused controversy after recognition in last year’s CBCA Awards, and the latter is a food history of Melbourne. I’m looking forward to reading about what was eaten in the 1850s Melbourne.

Penguins and things

We went to the Melboune Aquarium on Sunday to see the new penguin exhibition. They have two species of penguin, the Gentoo and the King. Both seemed quite at home in the new exhibit where there was both snow and water. The thing that surprised me most was the shape of their feet/toes, much plumper than I’d imagined. They looked like fat fingers in black latex webbed gloves. Amazing to watch their antics both in water and on land.

Of course we visited all the other exhibits as well. One thing that struck me was the faces. I could see where designers of fantasy movies get inspiration for their characters. There are some seriously odd looking creatures in the underwater world.

My book, Ebi’s Boat was in the bookshop. An unexpected but pleasant surprise. Not so pleasant the reaction to my offer to sign the copies. Sigh.

We caught a bus to the base of the new Southern Star ferris wheel thingo. Up close, it is quite tall! And it never stops moving, not for getting on or off. They do slow it down a bit more for those who need it, but mostly people entered the moving capsule easily enough. We will take a ride one day, but didn’t on Sunday.

The waterfront was abuzz. There was a market and childrens activities and these sand sculptures. Amazing detail.

And how is any of this related to writing for children? Who knows? I wouldn’t begin to try to predict what may or may not inform future projects. But I do know that writers never clock off.

More roundabouts and swings

I moped about yesterday after my rejection, even soliciting the sympathy of my middle son. What would you do if you didn’t write? he asked. Get a waged job. And then what? he asked. Be less happy. Hmm. He’s right of course. Time to soldier on.

I finished a draft of a new short story today. I’m happy with it too. And then a phone call came offering me a gig at a festival. Back on track.

One of the trials of being a freelancer is the uneven nature of the work. Feast and famine. Feeds the emotional roller coaster too. Rejection can feel so personal, when it seldom is. It’s business.

I was talking to some friends today about one of my picture books currently in production and telling them that by the time it is released it will have been 12 years since I wrote the first draft. It made them feel better about progress on projects of their own which are taking longer than planned.

And it earned me a glass of wine!

Happy New Year!

Two weeks into the new year and the publishing world is returning from holidays. I’ve had conversations about changes to an accepted manuscript and submitted some supplementary material for another book due out next year.

And I’ve had my first rejection for the year. And it hurts. I was sure this manuscript was a good fit for the publisher and my agent agreed. Conventional wisdom suggests not spending a night in the same house with a rejected manuscript, but this one will be sleeping here at least tonight.

I am heartened by a conversation with a writer friend who has just placed a manuscript. She reports that the story began in another form and underwent several metamorphoses before this sale.

Where there are words, there is hope.

Tourist in my own town

…my friend Cath and my son Richard at 333…perhaps slightly over the tourist photos???

We’ve just farewelled visiting interstate friends. They were with us for far too short a time, but we managed to do quite a lot. We trained it into town (but unfortunately weren’t on trains with the Moving Galleries exhibition and ‘Pompeii Dog’) and visited the State Library

and completed a self-guided walking tour of (some of) Melbourne’s wonderful lanes and arcades. While some of lanes and arcades were familiar others were less so. All were worth visiting. The gent at the info centre also suggested a couple of side excursions into two buildings in Collins St. One was the ANZ bank building…an amazing gothic construction and the other we know as 333. Again a stunning foyer and walk through. Without his guidance we’d not have entered either building.

I’ve been to the State Library a few times recently but usually I have a purpose and limited time. So I’d not made it to the galleries around the wonderful La Trobe Reading Room. There are exhibitions there – many of them. We started slowly but a lunch commitment meant that we had to hurry through the last ones. Fantastic and varied. There was the Ned Kelly exhibition, an amazing one on words through history and much much more. And all free! Well worth a repeat visit…or two.

We managed to sample a number of cuisines too. In our two city days, we sampled Italian, Greek, Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, French and more. Just as well we did all that walking really.

We resolved to be tourists in our own town…to seek out new corners and new experiences. With and without visitors.

This is detail from the Manchester Unity Building Arcade – corner of Collins and Swanston St.

Bring on 2009!

My mum brought these roses when she and my dad came for tea last night. They were pruning and thought they were too good to just discard. I have to say I agree with that! They are lovely. Blousy, some of them almost overblown, but scented and glorious. They make me feel good just looking at them. Thanks Mum.