Why I Love Becky Hammon (updated)

In a recent interview Becky Hammon, who plays for the San Antonio Silver Stars had some very smart things to say about feminism. She’s an amazing and very smart ball player, but her response to the following question made me love her even more.

    Silver Stars Nation: What would you say to younger girls that play basketball but yet do not support women’s and girls basketball as a whole?

    Becky: I think that is one of the saddest things I come across. For a couple reasons.

    First of all, lets not forget our history ladies. It wasn’t so long ago that women weren’t allowed to compete in sports. So many unfulfilled dreams, so many opportunities that were denied simply because you were a woman. We all stand on the foundations that some one else who went ahead of us built. And more than likely the foundation was built out of blood, sweat, broken dreams, and tears. And if we’re not careful, and if we don’t support each other, all that hard work could crumble. The opportunity is not promised to be there tomorrow. Its still fragile, because its still a very young ideology.

    Secondly, young girls, young women, middle aged women we are failing to see the bigger picture here! Its not just about the WNBA or sports, its about equality and respect-which every human being deserves, whether male or female. Breaking barriers and stereotypes so that when YOUR daughter, YOUR niece, YOUR mother walks into that job interview SHE will have an EQUAL shot getting hired and paid the same as if a male walks in for that same job position.

    So ladies, we’re not there yet, we still have a long ways to go, but if we don’t have support each other now, it may not be as bright as a future for us as it could be.

    So boys, girls, men, and women support the WNBA if you have a mother, a sister, a niece, a girlfriend, a cousin or whomever, because the bigger picture is its for all people and affects all people.

    I love when a little boy or girl comes up and has my jersey on, or wants an autograph, why? Because they’re growing up in a culture that views women as strong, smart, athletic, capable, and worthy of respect.

    Last point: I get tired of hearing people say, “well you walk into a women’s basketball game and you see so many women.” WELL, I’d counter, you walk into a men’s game and you see mostly men. THIS is an important point, because at the end of the day, it can’t be an “us” verses “them” mentality. We all need each other. In GENERAL it is mostly men who watch, support, follow sports, and that’s why I go back to my point of even if you’re not an athlete, or not a women, or you don’t know an athlete, it’s still important to support it, because in the end, it affects everyone one of us, male or female, because of the bigger picture is represents in our society. UNITY is an amazing word and when its captured, produces amazing results. But ladies, how can we ask the guys to support it, when we don’t support it ourselves! WE need EVERYONE, but, ladies, lets start with ourselves!

I have nothing to add other than: what she said.

Update: The photo is of wee Becky Hammon, 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in), guarding Margo Dydek, 2.18 m, (7 ft 2 in). Dydek was the tallest woman to ever play in the WNBA. Oh and the credit for that photo belongs to Gregory Bull, AP. I never tire of that photo.

Is it 4PM yet?

I have a mountain of work to get through before I head out on tour. But all I can think about is the third game of the WNBA finals, which takes place in Indianapolis today at 4PM (US Eastern time). So far this has been the best WNBA finals series I’ve ever seen and I’ve been following the WNBA since 2000.

The two best teams in the league, Indiana and Phoenix are battling it out. Indiana is renowned for their defense and Phoenix for their offense. Though both teams have been proving in this series that they’re not exactly slouches at the other end.

They’ve won one game each both played in Phoenix. The first game was the highest scoring game in WNBA history 120 to 116 (Phoenix won). The second was every bit as exciting (Indiana got the win). The third game will have a crowd of at least 18,000. Last I heard they were just shy of a sellout.

I don’t have a favourite in this series. I like Indiana a lot. I’m a huge fan of Tamika Catchings and Tully Bevilaqua (an Aussie, don’t you know) and Ebony Hoffman has totally won me over, not just because of her awesome play, but also because of how smart and funny she is in post game interviews. And Briann January is a hell of a rookie.

But Phoenix also has an Aussie, Penny Taylor, who’s just astonishing. I think her absence in the second half of the second game is a big part of why Phoenix lost. Cappie Pondexter and Diana Taurasi are two of the best players in women’s basketball. Taurasi is the current Most Valuable Player of the WNBA. Then there’s Tangela Smith and Dewanna Bonner. I love Phoenix’s style of play. Run and gun, take no time outs, except for injury.

So, no, I don’t know who I’m going for. They’re both great teams. It would be gorgeous for Indiana to win it’s first championship, but I’ll be happy no matter what happens.

Is it 4PM yet?

YA & Girls Playing Sport

Back in early August, Doret Canon of the wonderful blog, The Happy Nappy Bookseller, wrote to thank me for linking to her and ”put in a request for a YA novel featuring girls playing sports. Any sport will do.” I misread her as asking for recommendations for such YA novels when she was in fact asking me to write ‘em. (What can I say August was kind of mental for me.) I was ashamed to discover that all I could think of was Catherine Murdock’s Dairy Queen series and my own How To Ditch Your Fairy. It transpired that Doret knows more about YA sports books than anyone else on the planet. We soon got to talking about books, sport, and YA about girls playing sport.

Justine: What came first for you a love of sport or a love of books?

Doret: Oh, man, that question is hard. I’ve loved sports and books for so long. Though I have to say books.

Justine: Me too. Do you remember the first book you read that was about sport?

Doret: Growing up I didn’t read sports books. It wasn’t until I started to work at a bookstore that I started to combine my love of both. In the mid 90′s a children’s biography of Satchel Paige by Lesa Cline Ransome and James Ransome—that book stopped me cold and said come here. And, I was like Shut Up, a bio on a Negro League Player, here I come. I had to read it right there.

Another biography—Wilma Unlimited (Wilma Rudolph) by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by David Diaz. Again I had to read the book on sight. I loved both biographies and I quickly learned sports and books go so well together.

Justine: How did you come to love sports?

Doret: I get it from my dad who is a big sports watcher himself. Baseball is my first and favorite. Growing up I used to love watching baseball games and giving my dad the scores. Any sports fan knows there is an art to giving the score.

Justine: Absolutely. That’s very similar to how I got into it. Watching cricket in the summer with my family.

Which are you most obsessed with? Or are you an equal opportunity sports lover?

Doret: Yeah, I pretty much enjoy watching any sport. In high school I would set my alarm so I could wake up to watch the Wimbledon finals. At the time I was also really into the NBA and would stay up late to watch West Coast playoff games.

I wasn’t born with the coordination to play but I have the mind for them. The announcer could be speaking Portuguese but I’ll still watch and understand. I’ve just always gotten sports.

Justine: Ah. So you have what I call “sports brain.” You can sit down and pick up any sport lickety split and then you have to be careful not to get addicted. (During the last Olympics I kind of got addicted to handball.)

Are there any sports you don’t like? (I can’t come at golf or American football.)

Doret: What? No American Football? I love the strength of that game. With the Olympics it’s usually volleyball that gets me in. Car Racing. I get the excitement in the last 5 laps but 500? That’s too much.

Justine: American Football seems designed to fit ad breaks on TV. Also I don’t hold with a sport that has entirely different teams to play offense and defense (and where most of the key decisions are made on the sidelines). One of the things I love about cricket is that you get to see players struggling to do something they’re not that good at: i.e. the fast bowler struggling to bat. It’s why I don’t approve of the designated hitter rule in baseball. It’s fun to watch the pitcher struggle with a bat.

I don’t like car racing either. But then I hate cars. Volleyball is awesome. I even like beach volleyball.

Doret: Have you heard of Beach Tennis? Just learned about it last week. Still not sure what I think of it.

American Football designed to fit ad breaks on TV? Man, that’s harsh. Think of football players as position specialists with something to prove. Football players don’t want to let the other side down. That’s especially evident on a 4 and goal play. Both sides are so determined for that one yard, it’s beautiful to watch. We may never agree about Amercan Football but we will always agree about Baseball. Pitchers should hit. I hate the DH rule as well. Some pitchers are actually starting to look halfway decent with a bat. Evolution at work. Did you know, this year in Japan for the first time a female pitcher was called up to the majors? Eri Yoshida, she is 17. I don’t know how she is with a bat but she’s supposed to have a wicked knuckball.

Justine: Well, we’ll have to agree to disagree on Gridiron. Glad you hate the DH rule though.

Beach tennis? Ha! I’ll have to check it out. I love regular tennis. Especially doubles.

Did you have to go searching for YA and middle grade books about girls playing sport?

Doret: A few months back I went on a serious reading kick with book featuring girls who play sports. It started because a sports blog I visit mentioned the 37th anniversary of title IX. The book and sport loving female that I am I didn’t think the anniversary should be ignored. I did have to make an effort to find a lot of the books but it was worth it. I discovered some wonderful new books. Though it’s frustrating that there aren’t more books about girls playing sports. The ones that are out don’t get much exposure. Girls playing and loving sports is not a new concept it goes well beyond 37 years. YA is geared towards girls and maybe even Middle Grade fiction to some extent, yet there’s such a limited amount of books featuring female athletes. I am so over the let’s put a girl on the boys’ team. It’s nice that male authors are recognizing female athletes but it’s not enough. Publishers need to realize girls play and love sports too.

And on a side note—Last year I read a book called Out of His League by Pat Flynn, an Australian author. The main character is a great Rugby player in Australia he moves to Texas to finish high school. He joins the football team and even introduces a few rubgy plays. It was a very fun read. Is it easier to find sports books with girls in Australia?

Justine: I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know whether there are many girl sports books at home. Hopefully people reading the interview will be able to tell us.

Justine: Could you explain a little bit what Title IX is? (Quite a few of my readers aren’t from the US.)

Doret: Explain a little bit about title IX? You didn’t say anything about homework!

Justine: I’m sneaky that way.

Doret: I will happily do it and go for a little extra credit while I am at it. Title IX was passed in the United States in June of 1972. It requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding. Title IX extends past the field into the class room. As far as sports goes money must be fairly distributed for boys’ and girls’ teams. Before its passing girls’ schools teams were under funded or completely ignored. Even with the passing of Title IX, many people still dismissed female athletes including tennis champion Bobby Riggs. In Sept 1973 Billie King defeated Bobby Riggs in three sets. 40 million people watched that match know as Battle of the Sexes.

“I just had to play . . . Title IX [the ban on gender discrimination in federally funded educational programs] had just passed, and I . . . wanted to change the hearts and minds of people to match the legislation.”

You gotta love what Billie Jean King said and did. There are some moments in sports that transcend beyond the game. In the U.S. King defeating Riggs is definitely one of those moments.

Justine: You get the extra credit! Thank you.

What do you think of the theory that girls who like sports don’t read? (I’ve had several girls write and tell me that they loved How To Ditch Your Fairy despite all the sport in it. On the other hand, I had another girl write and tell me she loved it because she’s a point guard. She comes from a family of basketball playing twins.) There does seem to be a conviction that girls have zero interest in sports books.

Doret: I haven’t heard that theory. Though I have heard that sports books featuring girls don’t sell. How can girls buy books they don’t know about. I always feel bad when a girl comes into the bookstore still in uniform mind you, searching for sports book and I have nothing to show them. It totally sucks. Also it sends an awful message to girls who play sports, that they must hunt down stories that reflect a big part of who they are. Let’s just hope that sports self esteem is working because under representation is bad for anyone’s psyche.

Justine: You said it. I can’t think of any girl sports books that have sold really well. I’m hoping that’s just ignorance on my part. Can you think of any really popular girl sports books?

Doret: No, you’re right there aren’t any sports books featuring girls that have sold really well. But, they haven’t been given a chance. It seems like such an obvious market and I don’t know why it’s being ignored. There are readers waiting and wanting and I am not just talking about the athletes. There are others like myself who simply enjoy and appreciate the games.

I would like to think the idea that girls don’t like sports is changing. A few years ago I was in a store and saw pink baseball gloves. Last Saturday while waiting for the train I saw a dad tossing a football back and forth with his little girl. They were on their way to a college football game. The other night on ESPN highlights, they showed a dad giving a foul ball to his daughter, she threw the baseball back onto the field. These girls may never play but there is no denying that they being raised to enjoy and appreciate sports. If girls don’t like sports then who are the pink gloves for? If girls don’t like sports, why is the WNBA still around? Hmm I wonder what would happen if a basketball book was marketed to female fans at a WNBA game or a softball book at the Softball World Series.

“For the past several years ESPN has televised the Big League Softball World Series, yet the competition has garnered so much attention that the network has decided to move this year’s final game into prime time television.”

People must be watching (and playing) softball for ESPN to move it to prime time, and it can’t be all men. Woman are all over ESPN as players, fans announcers and analysts. My television is constanly turned to that channel, so the idea that girls don’t like sports sounds ridiculously outdated to me.

Justine: I so agree! The idea that no girls like sports is nuts. Sadly, it persists in publishing. I wonder if it’s part of the whole boys don’t like to read thing. The idea being that boys would rather be outside playing sports (or their X-box). So that even if girls do like sports then they won’t like reading because sports-obsessed kids don’t read. I am unconvinced. Reading and sports are not opposites.

Do you get a lot of girls looking for sports books?

Doret: We get a few girls looking for sport books. Probably more girls aren’t seeking out sports books because they are conditioned not to, a reader can take “no we don’t have anything for you” until they just stop looking. That whole boys don’t read thing is ridiculous as well. Anyone who thinks a sports-obsessed kid wouldn’t like books about sports, has never read a sports book. If they did they’d know sports books are written by fans, athletes and players. They would realize that the best sports books describe the indescrible plays, making fans and players feeling lucky for getting it, and feel sorry for those who don’t.

Justine: So true! Publishers have to be more proactive. If the books aren’t there then people can’t find them, and you’re right, they stop looking. The publishers have to stop using the “there’s no audience” excuse when they have no evidence that that’s true. Drives me nuts.

Doret: Yes, it’s an awful cycle, I always get mad thinking about it.

Justine: I have been very interested to see that many of the reviews of HTDYF did not mention that the book is set at a sports high school and almost all the characters are athletes. The focus is on the fairies.

Doret: I loved the idea of an all sports school in HTDYF. I was very happy at the mention of cricket, don’t get much of that State side. Though I must say I felt teased. There was wonderful talk of cricket in HTDYF but no match. My sports brain was all ready to enjoy a game. I could see reviewers talking over that part of the HTDYF if they only cared more about the fairy aspect. I know sports fans would love the idea of a sports school though they would want more games. Writing that I realize, it must be hard for authors to satisfy all readers, sports related or not.

Justine: It is, indeed, tricky. Though I did fail with HTDYF. There was a lot more sport in the earlier versions but descriptions of games really bogged the book down and I wound up having to cut them. (Much to my sadness.) I found it really interesting that I couldn’t find a way to have it be a true spots novel and also be the novel that it is. I truly did try. I do have plans for a basketball novel—WNBA to be exact—at some point in the future. It’s on the list. (It’s a very long list though.)

Doret: A WNBA novel? Sweet. As much as you love basketball I know it will be great. I used to love basketball until the Knicks wouldn’t stop drafting guards. Bastards, took my joy. Now I just do playoffs and March madness.

Justine: But you could follow the Atlanta Dream! Their transformation this year has been totally amazing. From worst in the league last year to making the playoffs this. And I love their shoot and run style of play. They have Angel McCoutrey (not sure I’m spelling that right. Spelling’s not my strong suit.) who’s been on of the best rookies this year and has a hell of a career ahead of her. Frankly I enjoy the WNBA way more than the NBA. (Though I just watched the worst game ever on ESPN 2. Damn those refs.)

And, yes, the Knicks are a disaster. Have been a disaster ever since they traded Patrick Ewing and Jeff Van Gundy left. They have truly horrendous management.

Doret: Maybe I will watch a few of the playoff games. When the WNBA started the Liberty drafted Rebecca Lobo, (I am from NY) I always thought she was just okay player, and not someone to start a team around sure enough the LA Sparks seemed to win all the time. At the time Atlanta didn’t have a team so I couldn’t watch or go to any games. I do enjoy women’s college ball. Refs can be awful sometimes, all I can do is scream at the TV, and it makes me feel slightly better.

Justine: Ugh. Refs. I mean, yes, it’s a tough job. They don’t get paid enough. And the fans hate them. But I have seen too many games ruined by over officiating. I quite like Lobo as a commentator but, yeah, her pro basketball career was underwhelming. You do not want to get me started on the management of the New York Liberty!

Let’s end on a positive note: What are your five favourite girls playing sports books?

Doret: Boost by Kathy Mackel—Basketball, fans of Murdork’s Diary Queen series will enjoy this.
Soccer Chicks Rule by Dawn FitzGerald—A must for girls who enjoy Meg Cabot and playing on their field of choice.
Keeping Score by Linda Sue Park—Baseball, like me this protagonist isn’t a player, simply a lover of the game.
Necessary Hunger by Nina Revoyr—Basketball, a very beautiful multi-layered story. It’s one of the few featuring people of color.
A Strong Right Arm by Michelle Green—A biography of Mamie “Peaunt” Johnson. One of three women to play in the Negro Leagues and the only pitcher.

I am going to try and be smooth here and slip in two more, making 7 the new 5:
The Ring by Bobbie Pyron—Boxing and Twenty Miles by Cara Hedley Hockey.
I really enjoyed both books. I love that both have female protagonist playing sports that some wouldn’t consider lady like. No one should be limited by gender or race.

Justine: That’s exactly the note to end on. What Doret said, No one should be limited by gender or race.

Why Being a Writer is Better Than Being a Pro Sportsperson

At BEA there was much speculation about the end of publishing as we know it. How fewer books will be published and less money spent on them thus it will be harder for writers to make a living. I’m not actually convinced things are as bad as all that. Besides I don’t think it matters that much to most pro writers’ chances of making a living. It’s just as hard to make a living as a writer in good economic times as it is in bad. I know plenty of brilliant writers who make very little from their writing and only a handful who make anything close to a living wage.

But it’s not nearly as tenuous and fraught as being a pro sportsperson.

As some of you may know I’m a fan of the New York Liberty, New York’s Womens National Basketball Association team, and I follow the entire WNBA closely. This year there’s one less team than last so those players were dispersed to the remaining teams. At the same time all the teams have to reduce their roster to 11 players. That means that the transactions page looks like this:

    May 31
    The Seattle Storm waived La’Tangela Atkinson and Kasha Terry.
    The Atlanta Dream waived Chantelle Anderson.
    The Phoenix Mercury waived Murriel Page.
    The Chicago Sky waived Jennifer Risper.

    May 30
    The Minnesota Lynx waived Kamesha Hairston and Aisha Mohammed.

    May 29
    The Chicago Sky waived Liz Moeggenberg.
    The Atlanta Dream waived Marlies Gipson.
    The New York Liberty waived Abby Waner.

Those are all players being let go. They’ve had a couple of weeks in the pros and now it’s over.

There is a chance of being picked up by other WNBA teams. But there are fewer places—only 143—and more players than ever competing for them. Many talented amazing players are not going to make it. Some of them will find places on overseas teams, but most won’t.

Those are just the players who got picked up by a WNBA team in the first place. There are many many many college players who weren’t drafted in the first place. Some overseas players are also trying to break into those 143 spots available in the WNBA.

And if they do make it onto a team they can be traded at random to another team in another city. Often the press finds out that they’re now going to be living in San Antonio before they do.

Pro basketball players are lucky if their career lasts into their thirties and almost never into their forties. They rarely make it through without at least one serious injury resulting in surgery. When they’re older they wind up with arthritis.

I’m sure as with writing the rewards of doing what you love most for a living outweigh everything else, but, well it looks crazy hard to me and it makes me very glad I’m a writer not a basketball player.

My Week as a Primary School Kid

On Tuesday we went to the Extreme Mammals exhibition. It was good. There were very big mammals and very small ones. I liked the ones with the really big eyes best. Weird. It was a good day except for when we walked through Central Park afterwards and my juice box exploded.

On Thursday we went to the school days pre-season New York Liberty game. That’s basketball in case you don’t know. It was good too. There were six thousand of us primary school and middle school and high school kids and some grown ups and we yelled A LOT. My favourite part was everyone dancing to Beyonce and when the cheerleaders fell down from being balanced in the air and when the Liberty won. We yelled EVEN MORE then. It was so loud my ears exploded.

Then we went to our dance lesson. The teacher was nice. She says I stick my elbows out and take too big steps but my knee bends and hand holds are good. There were lots of mirrors and we were sposed to look at ourselves in them. I was too embarrassed. We had to say slow-slow-quick-quick a lot. Scott had to learn to spin me. The music was bouncy. It was hot. We sweated. Afterwards my foot hurt exploded.

The End

Today is L-H day

I have booked five lindy hop lessons with one of the studios Frankie Manning once taught at. Today at 4pm I have my first lesson.

I am afraid. Very afraid.

If you don’t hear from me by tomorrow, you’ll know what happened. Remember me fondly!

And now I am off to hear many eleven year olds screaming super loudly. The first pre-season New York Liberty game. It will be chaos. I love chaos!

Women in sports

I wonder why it is that women in sports get so little attention. Unless they’re tennis or golf players and pretty. Or winning gold medals during the Olympics.

I’ve been following the women’s world cup online, but apparently I don’t have much company online or offline where very few folks have been going to their games. I don’t get it. The NZ v Pakistan game sounds like it was amazing. Wish I’d been home to see it.1 Games were $5 each or $35 for a pass to see all of them. Standards were high yet attendance was crap.

And then there’s the WNBA which I love passionately. But the only coverage it gets is all about Candace Parker, who isn’t even going to play this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think Parker’s phenomenal, but she’s not the only phenomenal player in the WNBA. Why do articles about female athletes always begin by disquisiting about how gorgeous they are? Yawn. Who cares how pretty she is when she can play like that?

It’s 2009 and I’m watching Mad Men and there are so many ways in which the world has changed not one iota. Having a women’s basketball league and a women’s world cup in cricket does not make the world cease to be sexist. Neither does having a black man in the white house end all racism.

But I am an optimist. Some day, I’m sure, all those isms will disappear. Some day . . . I just don’t think I’ll be alive to see it.

  1. Here’s hoping the Kiwis can crush the Poms in the final. Guess, I’ll find out when I wake up. []

Liberty wins + appearance

The New York Liberty won the first game of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was an ugly win. An ugly game. The only grace notes were Deanna Nolan’s gorgeous shooting—I swear she stays up in the air for seconds at a time, she looks great even when she misses—the great turnout, and the fact that we won.

I didn’t think it was possible for me to hate Bill Laimbeer more than I do. But his performance tonight pushed my hate a few notches upward. How he managed not to get a delay of game call or a technical I will never understand. Sit down, Bill!

Later today I will be in Larchmont, which is a mere twenty minutes from Grand Central:

Saturday, 27 September 2008, 1:00PM
Voracious Reader
1997 Palmer Ave
Larchmont, NY

I am wondering if this is the Larchmont that the term Larchmont lockjaw comes from. I hope I get to meet some of you there.

A most excellent day

The sun is shining, the sky is clear, you can see the entire length of the avenue, the Chrysler Building gleams and last night the New York Liberty made it into the conference finals. Let’s go, Liberty! (And San Antonio got through to their conference finals. Oh, how I long for those two to meet in the WNBA finals. That would make my year!)

My editor loves my new book, work is going great on the even newer book—how much fun is it researching NYC in the thirties? VERY FUN—and HTDYF keeps getting lovely reviews. In my world everything is fabulous.1

How about youse lot? I had to shut down the old Good News post on account of evil spam so why not tell me your good news and sources of happiness here instead?

Me, I’m turning the computer off and going out to enjoy the glorious, glorious day!

xo

Justine

  1. *Cough* It helps to not read newspapers or news blogs. []

I wish I had studied maths

I stopped studying maths in Year 7. Before that I’d made a bit of an effort but in my first year of high school (in New South Wales high school starts in Year 7) I downed tools. I was bored, annoyed, and couldn’t see the point so I quit. Technically I kept going to maths class—it was compulsory until the end of Year 10—but I failed each year and was never made to repeat. I didn’t learn anything new after Year 6.

At the time I thought it was excellent that I could get away with it. In class I read novels under the desk. I never studied and finished my maths exams quicker than anyone else cause I guessed all the answers. Thus giving me more time to read novels.

Now I regret it. My regret is very very very big. Because now I don’t have the underpinnings to understand even the most basic mathematics and science. (I also stopped studying science very early.) Writing the Magic or Madness trilogy was a nightmare. It’s very difficult to write a character who is a mathematical prodigy when you yourself are a mathematical moron.

My current regret, however, is fuelled by the Rethinking Basketball blog. Quentin who writes it is a numbers boy. He has all sorts of fancy formulas and statistics to map the performances of different WNBA players and teams. Like how to take defence into account when figuring out who the Most Valuable Player should be.

I understand almost none of it and that fact fills me with despair. If I could go back in time I would tell the bored and cranky twelve-year-old me that maths would come in handy later on and I should really pay attention to the nice man. (My Year 7 maths teacher was a sweetie, who did not deserve me as a student.)

But plenty of people—including my parents—were telling me that at the time and I ignored them. I probably would have ignored the adult me as well. Sigh.

So it’s now more than a little bit ironic that I am in the position of telling twelve year olds that they should pay attention in maths class. But you really really should. Who knows when or where it will come in handy. But trust me, it will. Don’t be as stupid as I was.

This has been a public service announcement. You are most welcome.

From an undisclosed location

Scott and me has run away to finish our novels at an undisclosed location. Posting from behind the walls of our hidden bunker may be intermittent and on the shortish side. Book must be finished on the soonish.

In the meantime, it is conclusive, “monster” and “white-ant” are verbs only in Australia. For confused non-Australians a white ant is a termite. Thus to white-ant someone is to undermine them: to bore away at their foundations, you know, like termites do. Is most useful verb.

Thanks for the Cadel Evans commiserations. Second two years running. Surely next year.

Yes, I is stoked that the Liberty are in the second place in the Eastern conference. Here’s hoping we come out after the Olympics break ready to take over first place from smelly Connecticut.

Here’s hoping youse lot are happy wherever in the world you are. I sure am.

I got what I wanted (Updated)

Candace Parker played. She played very well indeed. I was impressed.1

And WE WON!!

And we are now a mere game out of first place in the East. Life is very good indeed.

Thank you, New York Liberty, for improving in so many different ways. We have post players. We have two good point guards. We have DE-FENCE. In fact, other than Indiana, I think we’re the best defensive team in the WNBA. I love our full-court pressure. I love the many ways we made LA turn over the ball. Twas bliss.

Now all we have to do is shoot a bit better and we’ll be perfect.

Too exhausted and happy to get more analytical. This has been the best New York Liberty year in AGES. Colour me ecstatic.

Let’s go LIBERTY!

Update: The crowd was just shy of 13,000, which is the biggest we’ve had all year. So the atmosphere was incredible. We screamed ourselves hoarse—especially cause there were a few too many pockets of evil LA Sparks fans in the audience. My fave part was when the Beat LA! Beat LA! Beat LA! chant got going in our section. We may have had something to do with that . . .

  1. She’s not dirty in defence unlike, say, Lisa Leslie or Delisha Milton-Jones. []

I am happy (Updated)

The WNBA has handed down the suspensions for Tuesday’s brawl. I know many are unhappy about the lenience towards Candace Parker in particular. But for extremely selfish reasons I am very very very glad. Because this means I get to see her play on Friday. Woo hoo!

What’s making me cranky is the total absence of anything said about the abysmal refs. Where’s their punishment?

Update: Though I’ll admit I am very nervous about Leslie and Parker being so rested before we play then in the Garden.

Quick stuff

I may not be blogging so much for the next few weeks. I is busy. Plus book still not writing itself. But here’s some links for youse:

  • Maureen weighs in on the should-you-major-in-creative-writing-for-your-undergraduate-degree debate and manages (as usual) to be both funny and wise.
  • Rethinking basketball, my new fave WNBA blog, talks about last night’s Detroit-LA brawl. I disagree that it will have a negative effect on attendance, but I do worry that they’ll wind up over-officiating games to make up for last night’s shoddy under officiating.
  • Publishers Weekly has named How To Ditch Your Fairy one of the wackiest Fall titles they’ve come across more specifically it’s the “Least Practical DIY Guide”. Via way too many folks to thank all of ‘em.

You may have noticed I haven’t gotten around to answering all those excellent quessies for my FAQ. It will happen! In the meantime feel free to hit me with more quessies.

And now I must write book while listening to the Liberty defeat the Mystics.

Upset

I just watched a hard fought game between the LA Sparks and Detroit Shock that ended in a real fight. The ending was horrible with three players and one coach ejected and, I’m sure, lots of unwelcome attention from the press which ordinarily completely ignores the WNBA. Gosh, maybe now even the New York Times will cover a game.

I was most shocked by Detroit Assistant Coach Mahorn, who is male and well over 7ft tall 6ft 10inches, pushing over Lisa Leslie. He needs to be suspended for the rest of the season. You do not touch the opposing team’s players ever. Under any circumstances.

But mostly I blame the referees. There were several incidents leading up to the fight between Parker and Pierson. Cheryl Ford should’ve been T’d up. So should Coach Laimbeer. And Candace Parker. The officials let things get out of control. They let the nasty atmosphere boil over into violence. Can the refs be suspended for the rest of the season? I’d like to see that.

And now several players are going to be out for a bunch of games. Plenette Pierson, Candace Parker and Delisha Milton-Jones for sure and most likely Muriel Page and Deanna Nolan as well. Not to mention Cheryl Ford getting injured trying to keep Pierson from attacking more LA players.

I hate this crap. This is not why I follow the WNBA. If I want to watch people brawling I can watch the thugby (otherwise known as Rugby League) or the NBA. The New York Liberty plays the LA Sparks on Friday. It’s not going to be as good a game without Parker and Milton-Jones.

And all because the officials couldn’t put a lid on Laimbeer and Ford and Parker. When a coach is screaming abuse at you, when players have to be held back, when players are going after the ball long after the whistle is blown—T them up. And if they do it again—throw them out. As I saw tonight that aggressive nastiness spreads.

I really hope this is the WNBA’s first and last brawl.

Congratulations, Atlanta

Atlanta Dream: 91; Chicago Sky: 84

The first win for the Atlanta Dream has made me very happy I can’t imagine how thrilled the Dream fans are. They have had the longest losing streak (0-17) in WNBA history without actually being a bad team. Quite a few of those losses were thrillers. I know. I watched the game where the New York Liberty barely beat them.

I think it’s astonishing and wonderful that more than 8,000 people have shown up for every one of those games even when they’d lost ten, fifteen, seventeen in a row. And now they have their first win. Woo hoo!! And w00t! It’s good for Atlanta and it’s good for the whole league. May it be the first of many many more.

Charlie haz face!

And now that she has a face I’m even happier with the cover than I was before and, let me tell you, I was pretty happy. But now she’s not only escaped the headless woman curse, it’s also clear that she bears a bit of a resemblance to Leilani Mitchell of the New York Liberty, who looks exactly how I imagine Charlie would look if she wasn’t, you know, imaginary:


Copyright 2008 NBAE. Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Goose meet gander

Apropos of Becky Hammon playing for Russia comes this article from The New York Times about all the foreign nationals that are playing for the US Olympic squad:

Marching into Beijing Stadium under the American flag this August will be a kayaker from Poland, table tennis players from China, a triathlete from New Zealand, a world-champion distance runner from Kenya and a gold-medal-winning equestrian from Australia.

Though I am shocked, SHOCKED to my core, that an Australian would desert our fine country to play for another nation especially when they’re a good shot a gold medal. How are we going to keep coming third in the Olympics despite our small population if the big countries steal all our Olympians? Huh? Way to take your tax-payer funded training and give the benefits to the peoples what didn’t pay those taxes!

Um, what was I saying? Oh, yeah, if it’s fine for the US to have representatives from other nations than it’s fine for USians like Becky Hammon to represent a different nation. And, er, I guess that goes for Australia too, what’s had any number of foreign nationals represent it over the years.1

  1. Wow, that was really hard to write. []

Becky Hammon becomes Russian

There’s controversy right now in US women’s basketball because an American player, Becky Hammon, is going to play for Russia in the Olymics. The coach of the US Olympic squad, Anne Donovan, has called her a traitor. Others have different views: like how can Becky be a traitor when she was never asked to try out for the US squad despite putting up MVP (most valuable player) numbers and being one of the best guards in the world?

Mechelle Voepel writes a very smart and nuanced article about the furore:

It’s all fascinating to me on a lot of levels because it has made me think about so many things: what the Olympics really are, the ways the world has changed in my lifetime, the difference in thinking between “generations,” the bizarre economics of global women’s basketball . . . and, not least by any means, the amazing cult of Becky Hammon.

There are Hammonites:

The Hammonites are made up of these folks (Group 1), who include lesbians and straight guys. That Hammon effortlessly projects a confident, playful, tough-gal swagger is just more fuel for that fire.

Also among Hammonites are people (Group 2) who aren’t in the “Becky Babe Watch” mode but simply admire Hammon for her tenacity and fearlessness as a player, plus fondly see her as being like their daughter or granddaughter or niece. And lastly (Group 3), there are youngsters who just want to “be like Becky.”

The Hammonites are united in their belief that 5-foot-6 Becky always is underestimated—going back to her Colorado State days, her “undrafted” status (although it was because she got out of college in 1999, the year the ABL players were drafted into the WNBA) and her being “ignored” by USA Basketball.

I’m not sure where I fit in there. I don’t have a crush on Hammon, I don’t feel like she’s my daughter or niece, and I don’t want to be like her, but I admire her play. As a New York Liberty ticket holder I watched her play for years and get better and better and better. I certainly agree that she’s been consistently underestimated. in fact, Voepel leaves out what to me was the most egregious underestimation: Liberty coach Adabato never making her a starter, despite her earning it over and over again. She became a starter after he was fired and replaced by Patty Coyle.


(Photo credit: D. Clarke Evans)

The day I found out Hammon had been traded to San Antonio I almost cried.

Hammon is a joy to watch. She’s tough, smart and a gorgeous shooter and has a kind of physical charisma that is more commonly associated with men than women. She saunters, she grins, she commands the court. Part of it is the way she doesn’t let her lack of stature (she’s 1,68/5-6) get in the way. Our rookie point guard Lelani Mitchell (1,65/5-5) kind of reminds me of Becky though (as yet) she has none of that charisma. There are many reasons to be a Hammon fan.

What’s most interesting to me about Becky’s decision to play for Russia is the economics of it. The money in women’s basketball is not in the US, right now it’s mostly in Russia. Hammon will be moving up from being a popular player on the winning CSKA team to being on the national team. There will be more endorsements and thus a lot more money.

We’ve all heard about women making 70% of what men make in the same jobs. But women in the WNBA earn about 1% of those in the NBA. Indeed, the worst-paid player in the NBA makes twice as much as the best-paid among the women. And, perhaps more astonishing, there are dozens of male players who make more than the total league-wide payroll of the WNBA.

(Photo credit: Gregory Bull, AP)

That’s a huge disparity and it’s the reason why the majority of the women play in more than one league. The WNBA in the (Northern) summer and Russia or Israel or Italy or wherever in the (Northern) winter. And many of the USians have non-American passports to get around the rules about the number of foreignors on a given team. Taurasi has an Italian passport, Sue Bird an Israeli one and as of the beginning of this year Becky Hammon has a Russian one.

I think part of the anger and discomfort around Becky’s decision is that in the past players who’ve come to play for the US or Australia (to cite the countries I know about) have come to escape oppression and to live a better life and earn WAY more money. The idea of the latter happening in reverse is startling. It plays on our fears of globalisation: the good jobs are moving overseas, along with the real economic power.

I’m sad that Becky never got the chance to play on the US Olympic team. Like Voepel I think she earned that opportunity last year when she turned in the best performances of her entire career (though sadly for San Antonio not New York). She came in second to Lauren Jackson in MVP voting and yet the US Olympic team still wasn’t interested. The US team has a ridiculous amount of talent to choose from. I don’t think Hammon’s absence is going to make much difference to Team USA, but I do think it will make a big difference to the Russians. I suspect that’s something else Donovan’s mad about.

Athletes don’t have a long shelf life. Hammon’s already 31. She has at most six or so playing years left. And then what? Earning as much as you can while you can and saving it in preparation for the many, many years of your life when you’re not playing is smart. Even if it means playing for a country not your own.

If it’s okay for countries like Australia and the US to add last minute “Australian” and “American” players then it should be okay for it to happen in reverse.

Why can’t I be Guest of Honour all the time?

I will confess that I was nervous about going to High Voltage ConFusion. There were several reasons for this:

  • I’m afraid of cold places. And Detroit in winter is COLD.1
  • I’d never been a guest of honour before and was worried I’d be crappy at it.
  • I was aware that most of the people at the con would not have heard of me or Scott and was worried that they would feel dudded of a proper author guest of honour what wrote adult sf and fantasy.

I need not have had any concerns at all. I was right that most of the people there didn’t know us or our work (unless they were a teen librarian or had teen children—there were precious few actual teens in attendance). But it turned out to be a really good thing. No pressure and no expectations. It was really relaxing. One of the most relaxing weekends I’ve had in ages.

Mostly because of Anne Murphy, our liaison. I had no idea that guests of honour get someone to take care of them. It was fabulous. Anne made sure we were fed and happy. She is the best liaison of all time. Thank you, Anne! Why can’t she take care of us all the time? We’re lost without you, Anne!

There was much fun. The Opening Ceremonies were hilarious. A picture of which below. Scalzi interviewing us was very silly and totally enjoyable. Though I was bummed he didn’t bring up unicorns or quokkas.

We got to design our own panels. Thank you so much con organisers for indulging us! And thus were able to vent about stuff that’s been bugging us for ages. Why is there so little sport in fantasy and sf? Why did our audience turn on us during that panel back in Boston in 2004? Do they really just love wheat?

Thus the wheat panel which was FABULOUS therapy for me and Scott, though audience members expecting us to follow the panel description might have been disappointed. Sorry about that! But thank you for not turning on us. You were the best audience ever. Actually, all the panel audiences were smart and engaged and awesome. Me and Scott were dead chuffed that as the weekend went on more and more folks were showing up to hear us gasbag and pontificate. Yay!

The sport panel was also wonderful. Though we had way too much to say and not enough time to say it in. I especially loved that the audience was almost entirely women. Hah! There was also a sports writer, Dave Hogg, in the audience (he really should have been on the panel) who turned out—along with his partner—to be a huge Detroit Shock fan. Go, WNBA! We had an excellently geeky women’s hoops gossip.

I’ll admit that my last few cons had left me with panel fatigue. But now I love them all over again. I wish I’d gotten to see some of the panels I wasn’t on. I heard that all of Kevin Dunn’s (the science guest of honour) were brilliant. He explained soap and and all sorts of other Caveman Chemistry. I can’t wait to read his book.

You’ll be shocked to hear, however, that the best fun was not had during the panels, but at the parties and in the bar, and just generally hanging out. The ConFusion organisers and regulars are the best people on the planet. Seriously I got into so many great conversations and arguments and teasing contests. I can’t wait to go back!2

May I share with you the three best words in the world?

Roaming Pirate Party


Thanks again, Hugh, for the photo.

I haz met the Roaming Pirate Party. They haz rum3 and pirate hats and jollity by the galleon load. Best pirates ever! I shall treasure my pirate hat and t-shirt for ever!

We got to catch up with old friends like Karen Meisner, John & Krissy Scalzi, and Doselle Young. Why don’t they all live MUCH closer to me? I miss you all already. Waahh!! Not to mention making stacks of new friends. You know who you are! Yanni! Brian! Aaron! And SO MANY OTHERS! You all made it the best weekend ever.

Hell, we even got to see a movie: Cloverfield and it were good. Very good indeed.

If anyone needs a guest of honour me and Scott are so up for it!

  1. How cold? Minus a million cold! That’s how cold. So cold that I’m back in NYC and it’s freezing and it seems warm in comparison. []
  2. Any chance you could move it to a warmer time of year? []
  3. Though, obviously, being a YA author I didn’t drink any of it. Heaven forfend! []

Not that anyone asked . . .

. . . but I am hundred per cent in favour of the WGA strike. Doris Egan, who’s a writer on House,1 eloquently explains why. And, yes, a lot of it is about dosh. Why the hell shouldn’t writers be adequately compensated for their work? Here’s my favourite bit:

By the way, I’m not at all sure this understanding [about money] goes up to the CEO’s office; how can it, when that CEO can be handed sixty million dollars just for quitting? Someday I must tell you the story of the famous exec who said, “Why not make this character middle-class? Let’s say he makes $300,000 a year—” and the writers all stared at him.

That’s right the folks who are keeping the writers from having a fair cut of the work they create think $300 grand a year for one person is a middle class wage. Words completely fail me. It’s like those people who crap on about the outrageous amount male basketball players earn but don’t say a word about the insane earnings of the people who own and run the teams and leagues. An athlete’s career is short and physically dangerous.2 Execs get to keep on raking it in when they’re old and grey.

You really have to wonder at a world where it’s the executives around the creative folks who make the obscene amounts of money while most of the creatives are grateful to be paid at all.

Now, to be clear I am not referring to the producers or any of the other staff who are currently out of work because of this strike. That’s right, this strike means lots of people, not just writers, are going to be without pay for the duration. And most of those people—unlike the writers—don’t have a strike fund to keep them going. Not that the big bosses up top give a damn about any of them.

I believe I’ve ranted enough.

  1. and also wrote some of my fave fantasy novels of the early 1990s []
  2. The majority of those who become pros rarely have more than ten solid earning years. []

Fans rule

Day 11 of the tour:

Tonight’s appearance at Books Inc (Opera Plaza) was fabulous. Lots of rabid, smart, enthusiastic Scott fans and passionate arguments about David/Zane. For the record I like Zane better than David but prefer Shay to either one of them.

The most wonderful part of the evening for me was meeting London, who’s a guy from Sacramento, who drove all the way to San Francisco (which is at least two hours!) to tell me how much he loves my books. Isn’t that awesome? Also turns out he’s a Sacramento Monarchs fan and has even met their big star Yolanda Griffiths. I was deeply impressed and we got to talk women’s hoops which always makes me happy.

Equally happy making was the lovely Liset who gave me a beautiful piece of fan art:

Liset’s fan art

What a wonderful day. Thanks to Jennifer and Shannon for all your hard work. You guys are deeply splendiferous!

There’s lots more to say. And a tonne of your comments I want to respond to, but I’m completely knackered.

Tomorrow there are more events. Also we fly to Seattle.

Sleep now!

Woo hoo Phoenix!

Phoenix won the WNBA finals. I am so very happy. I LOVE their style of play. I love Penny Taylor and Cappie Pondexter and Kelly Miller and Diana Taurasi. They are awesomeness personified. They SO deserved to win.

And Detroit totally dogged it. They have not looked that good these playoffs. They barely got past the New York Liberty. Same against Indiana. They did not deserve to win overall. Plus Bill Laimbeer drives me insane. That said Deanna Nolan is probably the most gorgeous shooter I have ever seen. I’d happily watch her play all day long. And Cheryl Ford is crazy strong and brave.

Next year the Liberty are going to knock Detroit out. Oh, yes, we will!

Uni***ns + High School Musical

Libba Bray1 is the best friend a girl could have. Look what she done gived me:

oh my Elvis!

I screamed.

Do you notice the choking hazard warning? And that the evil uni***n is call “Destructicorn”?

Happy sigh.

Have any of you seen High School Musical? I think it may be the most conflict-free movie I’ve ever watched. Quite astonishing. I admit I was a tad disappointed by the choreography. The dance sequences were much better in She’s the Man. Also how come there were so few songs? And is that the richest high school in all of the US of A? The size of the gym! and the theatre! and the gorgeous patio! Wow. Also the basketball team had about twelve different uniforms. Way more than the New York Liberty have.

Speaking of the WNBA. The last of the finals is on tomorrow. Let’s go Phoenix!

  1. and since I’m mentioning Libba I should also mention that Maureen Johnson is not the only one to have already read The Sweet Far Thing. That’s right! Me too. It is deeply awesome. The best of the trilogy. []

DragonCon Blues + Urban legends

The worst thing about DragonCon—other than the way too many people thing—is that it’s on the exact same weekend as the WNBA conference finals. I missed seeing Phoenix sweep San Antonio (woo hoo! Amy—sorry, Rebecca) and will miss all the Indiana-Detroit games (please Indiana win tonight!)

Seeing all those insanely brilliant costumes is some compensation I suppose. Riding on the train with Holly, Theo, Cassandra, Maureen and Scott ditto. Sitting around in a hotel room with them telling ghost stories also not too foul.

Which reminds me what are your favourite urban legends? Feel free to leave a link in the comments if you don’t feel like telling the whole thing. So far we’ve done the finger nails one, the hook, the headless roommate, the evil clown statue, and the finger licker.

So far so good

Three quarters of the WNBA playoffs have gone exactly how I want them to. Phoenix beat Seattle (two Aussies against one); Indiana beat Connecticut (one Aussie against Satan’s own team); San Antonio beat Sacramento (one Aussie—assistant coach Sandy Brondello + 2 ex-Liberty stars against no Aussies and no ex-Libs).

Now we just have to beat Detroit and my basketball year will be complete. Seriously, I didn’t think we’d make the post-season so for the Liberty to get past the first round would be a second miracle. I love what Shamika Christon, Janel McCarville and Loree Moore have been doing in the post-season. I’m so stoked for the 2008 season. The New York Liberty is going to be insanely good.

This year’s WNBA season and post-season has been the best I’ve ever seen. I cannot believe how amazing the games were tonight. I am in heaven.

Let’s go, Liberty! (And the Opals for gold next year.)

(Frivolous) things I hate

Because today I must share the negativity, a list of my current hates:

  • Referees who only seem to see the fouls committed by my team
  • Bill Laimbeer1
  • Friends who are always late—especially when we’re meeting for dinner and I’m starving and the stupid restaurant won’t seat us until the entire party is there
  • Restaurants that won’t seat you until the entire party is there—What gives? The table is empty and just sitting there. We’ll order stuff. Lots of it! You’ll make more money off us if you seat us straight away. What does not seating achieve except to make us really really really pissed off at you for keeping us hanging in the crowded, noisy bar area?
  • People who never answer the important emails I send them2
  • email
  • Microsoft Word
  • Computers
  • good bloggers who don’t blog every day
  • Bad bloggers who do blog every day
  • Books with female protags who are helpless and passive and can’t walk two steps without falling over
  • Badly written crappy books that sell millions or everyone else I know seem to think are the best books ever. You are all very very wrong! Stop buying crap!
  • Plane travel3
  • People who feel they must share how much they hate sport (and the people who like it) when the conversation has just been all about sport and clearly the other people in the convo love sport. There are other people who share your opinions—go talk to them!
  • People who love the Connecticut Sun
  • The Connecticut Sun
  • ESPN for showing little league baseball instead of most of the Indiana-Connecticut game and right now for showing women’s golf instead of the start of the Phoenix-Seattle game. You suck ESPN!
  • Running out of nectarines
  • AFDs
  1. Though I do love hating him. Don’t ever change, Bill! You were eerily calm and unaggro during today’s game. A game where you don’t get a technical foul is a just plain wrong. []
  2. I am aware that my email responses have been, um, less than optimal this year, but I’m busy! The people who are sposed to be responding to me but don’t are lazy goodfornothings. It’s totally different. []
  3. Have I mentioned how happy I am that we’re going to Atlanta by train? []

Woooo hoooo!!!!!

Can you hear that screaming? That’s me yelling myself hoarse with joy because we beat Detroit in Madison Square Garden last night.

BEST. GAME. EVER.

Almost all the punters predicted Detroit would sweep us. Ha ha ha! Instead Detroit played awful. It was like they’d been cursed. And after an awkward messy first half we played great.

Of course mean old Bill Laimbeer didn’t say a word about how well the Liberty played he just went on about his own team’s suckiness. Whose fault is that, Bill?

Now I think we’re a more than even chance to take Detroit on their home court and I’m cranky that me and Scott’re going to be at smelly DragonCon cause it means we will miss our next home playoff game. At least we’ll be back in time for the finals!

And how about Phoenix’s rout of Seattle? They took Lauren Jackson out of proceedings (yes, I am an LJ fan, yes, that made me sad, but also wow—not many teams have managed it this year) and ran and shot at will. Wow, they are an entertaining team. I also enjoyed the triple overtime Connecticut-Indiana game. Bummer that Connecticut won. At least the next two games are in Indiana. Here’s to Indiana beating the annoying Sun.

I love the playoffs.

And how about Janel McCarville being named most improved player? Woo hoo!!! And LJ defensive player of the year for the first time. Happy sigh.

Let’s go, Liberty!

Washington won their game which meant they were one game ahead of us, but we won our game, which meant we’re tied, but we’ve beaten them 3 times this year so we go through to the playoffs!

YAY!!!!!

Let’s go, Liberty!!!

Liberty rollercoaster

I’ve been a New York Liberty season ticket holder since 2003 (though I saw my first game in 2000) and this year has definitely been the most discombobulating. We started off with that 5-0 winning streak then later in the season we had the horrific 0-7 streak and looked to be no chance for the playoffs. Yet here we are one game left and if we win we’re in. In fact, even if we lose we could still make the post season—if the Washington Mystics lose their game.

This year I have seen the Liberty lose an astonishing number of games they should have won. They’d have a lead at the end of the first half only to come back out in self-destructo mode. I’ve wanted to strangle Cathrine Kraayeveld (her stats don’t list anywhere near as many turnovers as she’s responsible for: Standing immobile when the ball lands on top of you and not getting it—surely that should count as a turnover?) and Coach Patty Coyle (why did it take her SO LONG to give Janel McCarville, Tiffany Jackson and Jessica Davenport more than a handful of minutes?!)

We have missed Becky Hammon something fierce. One look at how brilliantly the San Antonio Silver Stars have played this year speaks to that. Last year they were one of the worst teams in the league; this year they’re second in the West. I fantasise about what the Liberty would have looked like this year with Hammon, Loree Moore and McCarville playing together. Don’t get me wrong Davenport and Jackson are fab and they’re going to be even better in a year or two, but we no longer have a reliable shooting guard. We no longer have someone who will reliably roll in and save our arses at crunch time as Becky has done a billion times.

I miss her.

The trade to San Antonio was brilliant for her but we were left with a big ole shooting-guard-sized hole. We better get one in next year’s draft. Though I’d settle for a forward/centre/guard like, say, Candace Parker.

But it has been a joy to see Loree Moore step up and become a very Theresa Weatherspoon-like point guard. She and McCarville are our solid core. Here’s hoping they’ll get us through tomorrow’s game and into the playoffs.

Lauren Jackson

My favourite basketballer in the entire universe is Lauren Jackson, which every so often puts me in the weird position of barracking for the team she’s playing against. See, I’m a New York Liberty fan and she plays for the Seattle Storm, which very confusingly has the same colours as Australia (green and gold).

Last Sunday her team narrowly beat my team, and on the one hand, I was deeply bummed—it was so close! We almost had them!—on the other hand, damn she’s a fine fine player. And, oh, how much I love watching her play. I just prefer, you know, when she’s playing for the Opals and they’re winning the world championships.

How good is Lauren Jackson? So good that we have to triple team her:
Don't hurt Loz!
That’s Tiffany Jackson, Ashley Battle and Shamika Christon doing the honours. Go Liberty!

She’s 196cm (6ft 5in) but she can run like the wind:
Go LJ, go!

She’s so mighty that mere chairs cannot contain her:
Check those knees!

She smiles like a goddess:
Awwww!

And battles like a warrior:
Grab that ball!
That’s the Liberty’s Janel McCarville attempting to battle back.

She’s my hero:
Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!
Cathrine Kraayeveld (obscured by the non-corrupt WNBA ref) and Shamika Christon attempt to shut the mighty Loz down.

Oh, and um, just in case you think I spent the whole game stalking LJ, I also saw this great hat:

Best hat ever!

All photos by Scott Westerfeld. Thank you, Mr Husband!

The Tour

Marrije asked over on insideadog if I’ll be following the Tour de France this year. Sadly, I will not.

This year has gotten out of control. I cannot afford to spend hours every day watching the Tour and following it online. I am incapable of following the Tour non-obsessively. So for the first time in years I’m not following it at all. (No spousal pressure was brought to bear in the making of this decision. Well, okay, just a little bit. I am not husband-beaten! I am not!)

Waaaahh!!!!!

The New York Liberty (10-8) will have to sustain my sport-following needs this northern summer.

And now I go back to the myriad tasks that confront me. At this point it’s so bad I’m resorting to triage. “Which of these tasks will most blow up in my face if I don’t do it?”

But, you know, Vive Le Tour!

New York Times suckage

New York has a sports team that’s opened its season with a five game winning streak, despite not even making the playoffs last year and no longer having its best and most popular player. How many column inches has the New York Times given this remarkable performance?

Pretty much none. Unless you count the teeny tiny AP reports.

This is because the team is the New York Liberty and it’s a women’s team. The New York Times is incapable of covering women’s basketball unless it’s a profile of a male coach. Especially if that male coach is ex-NBA and coaches a non-New York team.

The New York Daily has no problem covering the Liberty nor does the New York Post. What’s it going to take for the New York Times to send a reporter down to Madison Square Garden? A perfect season? Sex-change operations for the whole team? Pigs to fly? I understand it’s a hell of a hike from the Times’s headquarters to the Garden. They’d want a really good reason to have to travel so far.

Damn your sexist moronic eyes, New York Times!! Grrrr!!!

Sometimes basketball makes me cry

Today at the New York Liberty versus Phoenix Mercury game (we won!) the Rutger’s women’s team stood in the middle of the court during one of the breaks. We gave them a standing ovation, stamping, and clapping and yelling for them. At every timeout thereafer they were beseiged by well-wishers and autograph seekers. They may not have won last years’ finals but they definitely won the battle against racist radio announcers. Yay!

Kay Yow one of the greatest coaches of women’s basketball ever and Vivian Stringer the fabulous coach of Rutgers were also there. So was Teresa Weatherspoon the best pointguard the Liberty has ever had. All were applauded and mobbed for autographs. It made me so happy. It made everyone happy. I’m still glowing.

Somewhat relatedly, Amy Fiske says she met Michelle Timms. To which I can only say, “Oh my God! You met Timmsie! She’s a goddess!”

Also check out this article about playing women’s basketball in Russia. Incredible stuff.

Genetic gifts

I seem to have rolled out of the ranty side of the bed every morning this week. First I was peeing on the eighties and now I am cranky on account of a particularly stupid thing that was said to me about basketball.

Viz, “I can’t stand basketball. It’s just a bunch overpaid genetic freaks running around with a ball. Who cares?”

As I had just been talking about the joys of my season tickets to the New York Liberty, I clearly care, and you, Mr Shorty Bald man, were being very rude. I poke my tongue out at you!

But that’s not what’s raised my ire, nope, it’s the phrase “genetic freaks”.

So, what are you supposed to do if you’re naturally good at a sport? If you’re built with extra long legs and arms, super-quick reflexes, or extra-big capacity lungs, and happen to enjoy working hard at the particular sport your genetic advantages suit you for? Huh? Work in a circus? Become an accountant? Cut your legs off so you don’t freak out people who are shorter than you?

Show me a professional sport that doesn’t have freakishly talented people playing in it. That’s what pro sports are about: talent (genetic freaks) and hard work. Cause you can be the tallest person in the world but if you can’t run up and down that court, or handle a ball, or get your shots to sink, then you are not going to be playing pro ball. End of story.

Besides show me exceptional people in any field who aren’t in some way genetically gifted. Doesn’t being super smart also mean you won the genetic lottery? Why don’t the top physicists and mathematicians and philosophers piss you off? Aren’t they genetic freaks too for being massively smarter than you the way basketballers are massively taller than you?

And anyway there are pro basketballers who are shorter than you, like Nate Robinson, Mugsy Bogues, Debbie Black and Becky Hammon. (Though maybe Becky’s a little taller than you. My bad.)

Okay, I feel much better now. Why couldn’t I think of any of these responses at the time? Stupid slow brain.

Yours rantily,

Justine

Dope, proofs, hoops, words

Today is going to be insanely off-the-charts busy so instead of the long and thoughtful post on the meaning of the “sublime” that I’ve been working on I’ll

  • recommend Sara Gran‘s Dope what I recently read and loved. Imagine a noir 1950s novel if it was written much more spare, set in New York, and narrated by an ex-(teetering on the edge of non-exness) junkie prostitute who now makes a living boosting jewellery. Not going to tell you another thing about it. Just that it’s short, there’s not a word out of place, and it made me cry. (Mind you Qantas ads make me cry.) Read it immediately!

    Any of you read any read-immediately books you’d like to recommend? Dope was recommended by Marrije. Thank you!
  • and exhalt in the page proofs of Magic’s Child what arrived. It looks like a real book! All typeset and stuff! So purty! So far the proofer has spotted a minor plot oopsie (someone not having something and then somehow out of nowhere having it) and reminded me once again that I’m the world’s worst punctuater. All she does is shift my commas around and remove and add semi-colons. Bless her! And sigh on my inability to ever understand the simple comma.
  • boast of my squeaky wheelness. I wrote to one of my favourite blogs, women’s hoops—twas a mournful letter whingeing that they hadn’t blogged the Aussies winning the World Championships and here’s how they responded. Bless ‘em!
  • The ABC has this fabulous wordmap project where they’re trying to map the regionalisms of Australian English. It doesn’t take a second to add regionalism of your own. My problem is I’m not at all sure where I picked up the words I used. I had no idea “grouse” was more of a Victorian word. I’ve never lived in Victoria. Only New South Wales, the ACT and Northern Territory. I reckon tellie, books, and radio must muddy the waters of pinning down regionalisms more than somewhat.

And now I roll up sleeves and get to work.

Why do you like sport?

This is not a question I get asked very much. Not directly, anyway, but every single time I post about sport someone writes and asks me when I’m going to post about interesting topics again. That’s right, the biggest complaint I get from you, dear readers, is that I talk about sport too much.1

Now I ain’t never gonna stop writing about sport, no matter how many of you are bored into a coma by it. I writes about what I wants to write about. You can suggest topics if you want but if I can’t be arsed to write on that topic then it ain’t gonna happen.

I digress. The complaints do get me thinking about why it is that I like sport so much. Seriously, for me to learn the rules of a sport is for me to become addicted. I’ve had to start studiously avoiding contact with new (to me) sport just to have enough hours in the day to, you know, get books written. I try very hard to only pay attention to cricket, the Tour, and women’s basketball. And the Olympics. I cannot get any work done when the Lymps are on.

I’m not that fussed about playing it. Tennis is great fun, I love swimming and riding my bike but I have zero interest in doing any of them competitively. (Gah!) But I can watch pretty much any competitive sport and I can do it for days and days and days. For me it brings together the aesthetic pleasures of watching athletes at the top of their form, with the soap-opera like joys of a long-running story (what can I say I’m a narrative junky in all its forms), together with the gossip and politics. A good sporting scandal is prolly my most favourite thing in the world.

Clyde Walcott, one of the West Indies' greats.I love how knowing about the history and politics of cricket (West Indies not getting a black captain until the 1950s and then only after a long-running campaign orchestrated by C. L. R. James; the long campaign to get an Untouchable to play for India), and about women’s basketball (Title IX, and when it was allowed into the Olympics, and how little coverage it gets in the mainstream press) adds so much to watching any individual game.Picture purloined from abc.net.au

I love the majesty and pomp. I love supporting (and hating) individual players and countries.

Why do you love the particular sports you love? Sing it, please!

No offence intended but I’m uninterested in why any of you don’t like sport. I’ve been hearing it long and loud from my fellow arty-farty types my entire life. I get that you’re an oppressed minority. I feel for you. But enough already! Let us sport obsessives bond for a bit. And, yes, I will delete anti-sport diatribes.

So fellow sport lovers—time to share that love!

NB The first image is of Sir Clyde Walcott who died earlier this year. He was one of the greats of West Indian cricket. Bless him.

The second is of the Australian women’s basketball team winning the world cup. Bless ‘em.

  1. It’s particularly weird as I’ve hardly blogged sport at all this year. Very little mention of cricket, the World Cup, or the Tour de France; pretty much nothing about the Liberty’s unhappy WNBA season, and hardly any mention of all the various Australian triumphs this year. I’ve been busy, okay? []

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!

We won! For the first time ever we won the world championships of women’s basketball!!

Penny Taylor was awesome! As was Kristy Harrower and Lauren Jackson!

Opals win!
(Picture purloined from abc.net.au)

I am so very very very very very happy!

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!

Tell me stuff (updated)

You are correct that I have not been blogging much or responding to comments like I usually do or even responding to email a whole lot.

The reason is that I’m on a deadline (yes, the same one, yes, it was moved again, yes I really have to meet this one) and am working my arse off. (Oh, how I miss my arse!)

In the meantime I think you lot should entertain me. Here are some questions:

  1. Does anyone have any recs for best brunch place in NYC?
  2. Who’s going to be the first Australian to win the Tour de France (no, it doesn’t have to be this year)?
  3. What’s the best book you’ve read lately?
  4. I just read Out by Natuso Kirino. Loved it. Can anyone recommend a recent crime novel that’s sort of like? I don’t like mysteries—that is I prefer crime books where you know who done it and it’s the whys that are the thing. So I want something all psychologicy. (My fave crime writers are Patricia Highsmith and Jim Thompson.)
  5. Where do I go to buy buttons in NYC? (Yes, that’s right I still haven’t gotten them.) (Oh, and by “buttons” I mean those things that can fasten clothes.)
  6. Is anyone else following the New York Liberty this year? Testing times, eh?
  7. Apparently I need some kind of formal wear, you know, like a dress. Anyone got any recs for cool interesting designery shops in NYC?
  8. What’s your favourite Elvis song and why?
  9. Without googling explain the difference between the Australian and New Zealand flags. Which is lamer?
  10. What new-to-DVD movie should I get to reward myself when I finally meet the deadline?

Thanks! Hope you’re all having a fab weekend (what’s left of it), that all your deadlines are being met and you don’t look at Monday morning with too much dread. As soon as my deadline is finished I promise to be a good blogger again.

Update: bonus question:

Riemannia‘s question here reminds me that I’ve been wondering what you call those metal door thingies that you see all the time here in the footpaths of NYC. You know, that when you open them reveal stairs that lead down into the basement of shops and restaurants and bars. Do they have a name? They aren’t grates so what are they?

Wow

So, last night we got to hang out with the smartest group of folks I’ve hung out with in an age (and I hang with much smartness, let me tell you). At the Teen section of Elizabeth Library, New Jersey, we read a little bit, we told anecdotes, got asked very smart and very funny questions, I got to talk Spanish, and afterwards we got to eat great pasta and drink good wine and enjoy more ace conversation.

I read from my great Australian cricket mangosteen Elvis fairy novel, which I feared would tank with the seventeen-year-olds, but they laughed harder than the Brooklyn audience. Yay! I finally wrote something that cracks people up. And some of them knew about cricket. One guy plays it with his Pakistani neighbours. How cool is that? And many loved basketball and knew about the WNBA, not just the NBA! Heaven.

Scott read from Pretties which kind of tanked, and then from Peeps, which went over huge guns. He read about toxoplasma and there was much speculation about who has the parasite and who doesn’t. (Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then you’ll have to read the book, won’t you?) So many of them had read at least one of Scott’s books. One had read all of them and was full of smart questions. I made Scott do his Donald Duck voice and it slayed them best of all (he can harmonise with himself—next time you see him, just ask—he loves to perform on command). There was a queue of people wanting to have their photo taken with Scott. How fab is that?

And at the end, the library gave everyone a copy of one of my books (they had a choice of Magic or Madness or Magic Lessons—yup, Penguin genorously gave them a whole stack of galleys) and one of Scott’s many books. Though some tried sneakily to take two of Scott’s books. The competition over copies of Peeps was intense. We signed for all of them and thus got to talk one on one to everyone. Great idea, no? It was fabulous fun and I want to do it again.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love libraries? And librarians? And people who love libraries and librarians? No? Well, I really, really, really do.

I Successfully Predict the Future

A month back I confidently announced that the New York Liberty would make the 2005 WNBA playoff season. This has now come to pass. The Liberty are on a five-game winning streak despite having lost Anne Wauters, one of their top performers this year. Now it’s just a battle to see whether we get homecourt advantage or not. Here’s to our winning streak going on and on all the way to the WNBA finals.

I also predicted that Australia will win the Ashes and like Michael Slater I’m sticking to that prediction. Nor do I have any of his “healthy” doubt. It’ll be tough but we will do it.

Thursday sees the beginning of the fourth test at Trent Bridge and the Liberty have their final home game of the season. I’m feeling good about both.

What I Learned Today

Miyazaki’s Spirited Away is, and I quote, “too scary! too scary! too scary!” for two year olds.

At first Marlowe was enchanted. Then it got dark, the parents turned into pigs, and demons started appearing out of nowhere. And that was the end of Spirited Away for Marlowe. “Too scary! Too scary! Too scary!”

Never give up on the Liberty. They always come back in the second half. (Unless they don’t.) Um, Coach Coyle? How come Erin Thorne got more minutes than Shameka Christon?

Never give up on the Australian men’s cricket team (not that I didn’t already know that). Yeah, yeah, England have declared. Yeah, yeah it would be a miracle to get four hundred on the final day of a test. But I have not given up! Just a flesh wound. The merest of grazes!

Rosé is the only thing to drink on a hot summer day. That and young coconut water. Or, you know, actual water. Or champagne. Or whatever drink you happen to like . . .

Thunderstorms rule! (Yeah, I already knew that one too.)

Crowds = Good

Watched the New York Liberty beat the Charlotte Sting in
double overtime last night. Wonderful close fought game, which you wouldn’t expect given that Charlotte have only won four games this season and are already out of playoff contention. But they’ve got a new coach—the glorious Muggsy Bogues (whose height is anywhere between 4ft 11 and 5ft 3 depending on who you ask—whatever—for an ex-NBA player he ain’t tall)—and many amazing players: Sheri Sam, Helen Darling, Tangela Smith, Tammy Sutton-Brown.

I think I know one of the reasons the Sting have been having such a rotten run. There was almost no crowd. The arena in Charlotte was echoingly empty. Surely having almost no-one yelling for you must make it hard to play your best. The Liberty often surpass themselves at home. I’ve seen them fall apart and then pick themselves up because we in the crowd were screaming our hearts out for them. If there’s no-one watching you, there’s no-one there to egg you on, to abuse the refs for you, there’s just silence.

Most published writers know how that feels. I don’t know a single one who hasn’t experienced the audience of none or one. Who hasn’t sat there ready to sign for no-one, staring off into space, looking depressed and forlorn. Just the expression to not attract any impulse purchasers who might have bought your book if you were sitting there looking cool and interesting. That’s why you should always do events with someone else, so that even if you both attract no-one you can at least natter away to one another with insouciance, elan and charisma, or, you know, something just like.

As Fred Dagg used to say, “I’ll get out of your way now.”

A Most Excellent Sunday

Yes, this is more about sport. Look, I know many of you can’t stand sport, but I don’t care (feel free to stop telling me about your lack of interest). Sport—and I’m talking watching it, not doing it—has been keeping me from burning down buildings since I was a wee thing. I’ve a sports brain. I am obsessed. Come the Olympics and I can barely leave the house. (Yes, I like to play some sports too: tennis mostly and not very well. I have a long legacy of sports played and abandoned—largely through injury.) I love following a particular team, knowing its history, the players, the management, the gossip. I love knowing the ins and outs of a particular sport, rule changes, how it’s reported (or not reported a la The New York Times and its total lack of interest in the New York Liberty), fluctuations in popularity et cetera, et cetera.

The Liberty just won their third straight game! And it was on the road. In a low scoring, very very very defensive game, the Liberty held off the Minnesota Lynx (who peed all over us in our last encounter). We even out rebounded them! They’re much bigger than us and yet we outdid them on the boards. It was the most incredibly pleasing victory, even better than our effort against Sacramento because we were tough and gritty and fought. Yay, the New York Liberty!

Between that and today’s slaughter of England and the end of the Tour this was a most excellent sporting Sunday.

That is all.

Going Out on a Limb

The New York Liberty are gonna make the playoffs. There, that’s my money on the table. My team is gonna figure in the postseason.

They’re looking absolutely bloody amazing at the moment. Elena Baranova has come good, blocking, rebounding, being incredible in defence, hell, even Erin Thorne looked good last night. The Liberty just won two games back to back on the road, and last night against the Sacramento Monarchs they were magnificent, never looking like they were going to do anything but win (we’ll just ignore the last two shambolic minutes).

On a good day my team can beat any other team in the league; and, yeah, on a bad day they can lose to any one too. That’s the glory of the Liberty.

Bibs and Bobs

Working hard thus am not so bloggery as usual. Other than the novel I’m writing here’s what’s up in Justineland:

Daphne Lee has posted the unedited (and illustrated) version of her interview with me where I persist in getting the name of Samantha from Bewitched‘s grandmother wrong (got all that?). Daphne reports that Magic or Madness sold out in Kuala Lumpur the week the interview appeared in The Star. How stupendous is that?

Last night the New York Liberty beat the Houston Comets in overtime in Houston. Scott and me, we was screaming at the television like you wouldn’t believe. So happy! And as usual when the Liberty win everybody played their part. They are so teamy and ball-sharey and good. And now they’re better than 500 for the season. Being a Liberty fan is all about the ups and the downs. Thankfully they’re a bit more uppy at the moment. Next live game is Friday. Can’t wait! Season tickets make me happy.

The last two days of the Tour have been heart-stoppingly good. I don’t ever want it to end.

Many of my Oz sf friends are in Melbourne having a really good time. I am not even slightly jealous. Honest.

Write now. Many words.

Ah! That’s more like it! (updated again)

England have to make 35 runs an over in order to win. They have but one wicket left. I’d call that a pretty difficult situation. Though, they could hit a six off every remaining ball, so it’s not technically impossible.

I feel so much better. The world is not spinning out of control. The curse has been lifted. Yes, it’s only pyjama cricket, but I’ll take it! I just hope this Australian victory doesn’t mean the Pistons will lose tonight. Nope, not superstitious, me.

Life is good.

Update: now it’s 61 runs an over. Yup, that’s impossible. And now it’s 73. And now, 120. Now 177. Aren’t numbers fun? And then the match was over. Woo hoo!

Update 2: My superstitious fear was correct: the Pistons lost. Sigh. I have to be honest, though, I wouldn’t trade an Australian victory against England for the Pistons taking the NBA finals. No way. I wouldn’t even swap Australia beating England at tiddlywinks or snap or twister for a Pistons victory. Sorry. England are the age-old, mortal enemy. They must be destroyed! (On a sporting arena. In a fair sporting manner.)