National Sorry Day

Back home in Canberra the prime minister is making this historic apology on behalf of the Parliament and the Government of Australia:

Today we honour the Indigenous peoples of this land, the oldest continuing cultures in human history.

We reflect on their past mistreatment.

We reflect in particular on the mistreatment of those who were Stolen Generations—this blemished chapter in our nation’s history.

The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.

We the Parliament of Australia respectfully request that this apology be received in the spirit in which it is offered as part of the healing of the nation.

For the future we take heart; resolving that this new page in the history of our great continent can now be written.

We today take this first step by acknowledging the past and laying claim to a future that embraces all Australians.

A future where this Parliament resolves that the injustices of the past must never, never happen again.

A future where we harness the determination of all Australians, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to close the gap that lies between us in life expectancy, educational achievement and economic opportunity.

A future where we embrace the possibility of new solutions to enduring problems where old approaches have failed.

A future based on mutual respect, mutual resolve and mutual responsibility.

A future where all Australians, whatever their origins, are truly equal partners, with equal opportunities and with an equal stake in shaping the next chapter in the history of this great country, Australia.

Today I am proud to be Australian.

Sometimes it really sucks to be so far from home . . .


In the vociferous arguing about the ins and outs of who behaved worst over the second test etc etc there are people implying that criticising the Australian cricket team is unAustralian and whingey.1

Please! I love my country, I love cricket, but when the men’s team behave like dickheads they should be called on it.

People who play sport at a professional level are not exempt from the social contract. No one is. Writers (to pick a random example out of the air) shouldn’t behave like dickheads either. Recently I was at an award ceremony where the speeches of the winners were generous and moving. All but one. This one person got up to accept their award without a gram of graciousness. Their speech was about the importance of their book and the judges’ perspicacity in picking it as the winner. That speech left me not wanting to read anything by that writer. I don’t even want to meet that writer.

Very few people in this world achieve things without considerable help; acting like you did it all on your own is graceless and rude.

Ponting’s and the rest of the team’s arrogance and inability to admit that they ever do anything wrong makes me ambivalent when Australia wins test matches. Don’t get me wrong. I love for Australia to win, but, well, I love it a lot more when they’re gracious in victory.2

So, yeah, this debate isn’t just about cricket. It’s about how people should behave. How we should treat the people around us. There’s a reason that photo of Flintoff offering commiserations to Brett Lee has become so famous. It captures a moment of perfect grace:

Getty Images

  1. Though what’s more Australian than whingeing?! []
  2. And aren’t ropeable when they lose. []

Not cricket

I’ve had a few people writing to ask why I’m not commenting on the disastrous second test between Australia and India. There are several reasons. I’ve not been able to follow any of the cricket as closely as I’d like. I haven’t had time.

But mostly because I’m embarrassed. And, well, I think Greg Baum and Mike Coward have expressed what I feel about it so well that i don’t really need to add anything.

I will though: I’m sick of Aussie sportsmen (and, frankly, it’s the blokes, not the women) behaving like dickheads. I’m not Indian, so the bad behaviour of the Indians doesn’t make me ashamed, and, you know what? We’re the host country here. We should be behaving like hosts. What’s wrong with a bit of graciousness? The Aussie team of 1960-61 managed it up against that fabulous West Indies team. Why can’t our current team be more like them?

Look, unlike Mike Coward, I don’t think there was ever a golden age of well-behaved cricket teams. There’s always been cheating and sledging and arrogant behaviour.1 But it didn’t used to always be us. Right now the Aussie cricket team reminds me strongly of the English under Jardine back in 1932-33. It’s not a pleasant thought.

That said, I still wish I’d been able to see it . . . And I really hope the next two tests are less horrible with much better umpiring!

  1. In fact, there’s a whole book about it: It’s Not Cricket : A History of Skulduggery, Sharp Practice and Downright Cheating in the Noble Game by Simon Rae. []

Back in Sydney town

My dad continues to send me photos from home. These two are taken from Bicentennial Park which is just round the corner from my parents’ house:

Yes, that’s the Harbour Bridge in the background there—that teeny arch.

I loves me some Rozelle and Blackwattle Bay . . .

Homesick, me? Don’t be ridiculous.

New Poll (updated)

Because Eric Luper had the temerity to suggest that quokkas are not the cutest animals on the planet I have devised a new poll. It goes up exactly a day after the last one which I successfully managed not to break—so you were all wrong. Yay, me!

I like having polls but I definitely need less buggy WordPress compatible software.

The “How To Rewrite” post will go up as soon as I, um, finish, the book what I have to rewrite . . . And the manga/manhwa/graphic novels one not long after that. Promise!

Update: Eric Luper jinxed me into breaking the poll! Oh noes. Oh well, at least the quokkas were ahead. But I had planned to leave it up for a few days. And I am too deadline addled to come up with a new one. Stupid crappy poll software! Stupid deadlines!

And now it turns out the poll is not broken. That’s it! I’m backing away from the intramanets, leaving the polls alone, and becoming a rabbit farmer.

Gah! We cannot wins!

All my life I have stayed out of the sun, diligently following the instructions of the anti-skin cancer campaigns. I have slipped on a long-sleeved shirt, slopped on sunscreen, and slapped on a hat.1 As a result (unlike quite a few people back home) I’ve never had any skin cancer scares. But it turns out that I’ve been putting myself at risk of rickets:

MILLIONS of Australians are exposing themselves to bone disease, fractures, diabetes and cancers by failing to get enough vitamin D, a crucial nutrient produced when skin is exposed to sunlight.

Experts have warned the highly acclaimed “Slip Slop Slap” campaign may have been taken too far by a nation terrified of skin cancer.

So I’ve avoided skin cancer but now my bones are going to spontaneously fracture? Fabulous. What to do? Apparently there’s a very “fine line between getting enough sun exposure for adequate vitamin D levels but not too much to cause DNA damage that leads to skin cancer.” My cause of action is clear then: I should go out in the sun more but not too much more. Um, where exactly is that thin line?

I shouldn’t be surprised. This is how the world works, innit? Everything is more complicated and tricky than it seems at first. Everything is a balance. Nothing is black and white. Still, I quite liked having one certainty: that minimising my exposure to the sun was good for me.

Le sigh. And of course here I am stuck in a place with absolutely no sunlight. Pass me those Vitamin D tablets, please? Thank you.

  1. That campaign turned me into a life-long hat addict. []

Political blogging

When I started this blog I was very definite that I wasn’t going to blog about politics or religion. I’d seen too many flame wars, too many blogs overrun by indignant trolls. My blog, I decided, was going to be sweetness and light and avoid incendiary topics.

But then the John Howard regime finally fell and I couldn’t contain myself. And, you know, what? I’ve gotten not a single troll. The discussions generated by my political musings have been thought-provoking, fun, and, most unexpectedly, my traffic is up. Who’d’ve thunk it? I love youse all!

I now feel free to blog about whatever the hell I want to blog about. If any trolls show up I’ll just nuke ’em.

That said, I’m facing a whole series of dread evil deadlines over the next month. So my promised posts on how to rewrite1, curing insomnia, my favourite manga, manhwa and graphic novels will prolly all have to wait.

In the meantime I’ll try to keep posting but may not be as substantive as I’d like.

So here, have another quokka:


  1. which has just gotten yet another request []


If I could have any pet at all I’d have a quokka.

I once heard Tim Flannery say in a radio interview that they make excellent pets and that we would be doing them a favour by bringing them into our homes. Flannery reckons that a sure fire ticket to species survival is domestication. You don’t hear much about cows, horses, cats, dogs or pigs being on the verge of extinction, do you?

So there you have it. I wants a quokka.



Not really.

For all the papers are touting the enormity vastness hugeness snufflufflagusness of Labor’s win back home I think it’s important to remember that the gap between Labor1 and the Coalition is not that big: 41.59% of voters gave the Coalition their first preference and 43.9% gave it to Labor. Then there’s the 7.57% who voted for the Greens and the 1.97% who gave Family First the nod. In fact the only places where there was a genuine landslide for Labor was at certain polling booths in the Northern Territory. Indigenous voters gave Labour more than 90% of the vote. Hmmm. I wonder why?

But in most of Australia, there are people around you who did not vote the way you did. Who do not agree with you and are not happy right now. I kind of think it’s important to remember that. They’re feeling now what we were feeling over the last eleven-and-a-half years.

That said, here’s what I hope the new government does over the next three years:

  • Make the banking system not the most expensive in the whole entire universe
  • Not go ahead with Gunn’s pulp mill in Tasmania or any new pulp mill ever
  • Do more than just say sorry to the Stolen Generation
  • Get rid of all refugee detention centres
  • Do everything that can be done to combat global warming
  • Devote way much resources to working on the Australia-has-no-water problem
  • Fix broadband. I’m in the US of A right now which has—compared to Europe—a very crappy broadband service and it pees all over what’s on offer back home
  • Start funding the arts again. Especially the Australian film and television industry which has almost disappeared entirely. And could you spend some of that money on script development?
  • Not sell uranium to anyone. Don’t mine it either.

And lots of other stuff I can’t think of right now. Like can I have a Vivienne Westwood ballgown?

Do I think it will really happen? All of it? Prolly not. But some of it’d be good. I reckon, anyways.

  1. For those who are wondering, no, I’m not spelling it wrong. It really is the Labor-without-a-U party. It is confusing and annoying. []

Compulsory voting

In Australia voting is compulsory. Everyone is expected to do it. Basically that’s because everything back home is geared towards making voting as easy as possible. Over here in the US of A it often seems to me like everything is organised to make voting as difficult as possible. What’s up with that?

In Australia if you don’t vote you pay a fine. Some people routinely pay the fine. Others who don’t want to vote register their dissatisfaction by filling out their ballot wrong or donkey voting. Often by scrawling a message across the ballot. Usually their message is a bit on the rude side. That’s fine. They’ve done their democratic duty. They showed up. The percentage of people who donkey vote is pretty small.

Some people object that many people are too stupid or ill-informed to vote.

Sure, I respond. But who’s going to make that determination? I kind of think what you just said is stupid and ill-informed. Should you be banned from voting? I think liking certain books by certain unnamed writers is stupid and ill-informed. Should they be banned as well?

Others say that voting should only be for the people who care passionately about the issues. When voting isn’t compulsory then only those who really care vote.

The problem with that is many of the people who really care are kind of crazy. Fanatics even. Who wants to live in a country where it’s mainly the fanatics voting?

Non-compulsory voting also leads to campaigns to stop the people you think will vote against you from voting. See: Florida and Ohio. It also leads to doing everything you can to get people you might be able to persuade to vote for you to the polls. Sometimes this is done in less than honest ways.

So you USians can give us limited terms and we’ll give you compulsory voting. You might also want a spot of preferential voting1 and weekend voting. Or at least have a national holiday. Also you could probably lose the Diebold voting machines. Other than that you’re good.

  1. that way protest votes—a la Ralph Nader in 2000—are not such a big deal. []

Australia’s timid heart

It wasn’t until I’d lived outside Australia for awhile that I realised just how anti-intellectual my homeland is. One of the worst things you can be back home is a “wanker” which more times than not is used to refer to someone who thinks too much. Oh, the horror!

At most of the schools I attended it was far better to be good at sports than at schoolwork and no one ever admitted to studying hard. “Oh this? I only started it ten minutes before it was due. Don’t know what the teacher was thinking giving me such a good mark.” Roll of eyes.

I’m still not sure what we were afraid of. Well, yes, the scorn of the other students—no one wanted to be seen as a swot. But why? Why was a love of ideas and learning scorned? What’s wrong with being smart?

At the time, I never questioned it. I barely even noticed it. It was just the air I breathed. Hiding that you were smart, underplaying your intellectual achievements, that was just what you did. Or tried to do. Some of us were crap at it. We were the wankers.

During John Howard’s eleven-and-a-half-year reign the anti-intellectualism grew. When I went through school we were taught about the dispossession of the original inhabitants of Australia by the English invaders; I keep meeting people much younger than me who were not. I keep meeting Australians who cannot comprehend that admitting Australia was invaded does not wipe out the achievements of those invaders, those early settlers. You can be an invader and you can be a brave settler. At the same time.

In The Guardian Richard Flanagan, a Tasmanian novelist, reflects on the Howard legacy:

In the wake of his defeat the attacks on Howard’s legacy will turn ferocious, but at their heart will be an unease, a ritual exorcism of something deeper that Australians would perhaps rather not admit. For a decade Howard’s power had resided in his ability to speak directly and powerfully to the great negativity at the core of the Australian soul—its timidity, its conformity, its fear of other people and new ideas, its colonial desire to ape rather than lead, its shame that sometimes seems close to a terror of the uniqueness of its land and people.

Its conviction that real life is going on somewhere else.

What Flanagan says is true. And it’s also not true. The tension between the two is a lot of what it means to be Australian. I think of how proud I was when Paul Keating gave the Redfern speech so many years ago. My pride, too, in John Howard’s immediate introduction of gun control laws following the Port Arthur massacre back in 1996. The horror I felt as the babies-overboard scandal was unfolding. Not to mention Tampa. And, of course, Howard’s continuing promotion of racism and intolerance: in the last days before the election he declared that the two things he was most proud of were the undoing of political correctness in Australia and renewing Australia’s pride in its Anglo-Celtic heritage. What of those Australians who do not have an Anglo-Irish background? What of the indigenous peoples of Australia? The immigrants from all over the world? What of their extraordinary contributions to Australia?

I don’t believe that each nation has a particular character. Or that all Australians are the same. Yet I cannot deny what Flanagan says about the Australian soul (whatever that is). We are a nation deeply suspicious of education and learning, who have produced an astounding number of prominent intellectuals, scholars, scientists and writers. Who, more often than not, go elsewhere to pursue their careers and contributions to learning and knowledge.

I am extraordinarily relieved and happy that John Howard is gone. I can’t imagine that Kevin Rudd will continue Howard’s legacy of anti-intellectualism, racism and intolerance. I could be wrong though. Those things existed before Howard took up the Prime Ministership and they’ll continue to exist long after him. It remains to be seen whether the new government will be as dedicated to improving the intellectual and moral climate of Australia as Howard’s government was to destroying it. The promise to say sorry is a good start.

But governments have come in before promising much and then delivering little. We’ll see, won’t we?

No more than two terms

There’s a lot I don’t like about the US political system, but there’s one thing they have absoluately right: No head of state should be in power for more than eight years.

I think John Howard has demonstrated this truth as did Robert Menzies before him and Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in the UK.

I agree with George Washington that any one person staying in power for too long starts to stink of monarchy.1 It leads to corruption and to the one person believing that they are more important than party or country. This is not a good thing.

I would love Australia to adopt four-year terms and also a provision that says no one can be elected to the office of Prime Minister for more than two terms.2

  1. I am with Winston Churchill who said, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time”. And monarchy is amongst the worst. []
  2. And while we’re at could we get rid of the Queen? I want her off our money and no longer our head of state. No more Queens and Kings, no more governors-general of the country or governors of each state. And we do not need to replace them with a naff president or whatever. Isn’t the Senate a good enough check on Prime Ministerial power? []

Giving thanks

So today is a big ole USian holiday where at some point you’re all supposed to give thanks for all the stuff that’s making you thankful. It’s called—wait for it—Thanksgiving. We have no equivalent in Australia. Though we do have, Australia Day, where we commemorate the successful invasion of Australia by white people. As you can imagine the indigenous population consider it to be a day of mourning.1 The USian Thanksgiving has an equally complicated history.

But all that aside, I love the idea of a day given over to thankfulness. Here’s what I’m thankful for:2

  • That paper cuts heal quickly.
  • My iphone. I kisses it!
  • That the cold of this evil Northern hemisphere winter won’t actually kill me if I stick to my cunning plan of staying indoors.
  • That cricket exists and is being played right now even if I don’t get to see it.
  • The fingerless mittens with hoods that Cassie gave me. Another tiny defense in the face of this rampaging malign Winter. Yay!
  • The talking Elvis pen that Libba gave me because, hey, it’s ELVIS! and also because it’s so much cooler than Maureen’s lame High School Musical toothbrush. I win!
  • That there are two Australians in the house (yay, Lili and Sarah!) to lessen my homesickness and so we can all follow the election back home together.

What silly little things are you all grateful for?

  1. I’m one of those weird people who thinks there are things to mourn and celebrate about that day. As in, yes, Australia was invaded and taken over from the people who were already living there. And, yes, the early settlers of Australia were also brave and resilient making new lives for themselves a billion miles from home in a very inhospitable place. And, yes, the indigenous population were astoundingly brave resisting them against such overwhelming odds. My country bares the scars to this day. []
  2. Settle!—I’m not going to get too wet about this. []

Not home

I so wish I was back home right now. I’d get to follow the cricket and the election. It would be warm. The sun wouldn’t be setting just a few hours after it rose. No one would be asking me about my accent. People would know that Errol Flynn is Australian. I’m sick of being a foreignor. Back home I don’t have to explain myself nearly so often. I can’t tell you how tiring it gets.

If I was in Sydney right now I would go for a long walk. I’d hear flying foxes in the trees. I’d smell all the night flowering plants. I’d watch the light sparkling on the harbour. I’d be HOME. And I’d go to Forbes & Burton for breakfast. I miss you, Adrian! I miss all my friends and family back home.

Where do you wish you were right now?


I’ve been cooking with pumpkin a lot of late.1 Mostly butternut because I loves it. But also spaghetti cause, well, weird! And I’m starting to experiment with pumpkins I’d never seen before. The US is the land of gourds. But I’m running out of ideas.

Here’s the thing though: I do not have a working oven or grill. All I have is gas burners on top of the stove. I can boil, I can steam, I can fry. I cannot bake or grill.

Thus far I’ve made pumpkin stir fry, pumpkin curry, lots of different pumpkin salads,2 steamed pumpkin with herb3 garlic butter, pumpkin mash, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin fritters. I’ve discovered that pumpkin and maple syrup are a match made in heaven.4

Anyone got any other ideas? But PLEASE no recipes requiring an oven or a grill. Pumpkin pie and scones are not a possibility in this particular New York kitchen.

Thank you!

  1. Note for USian readers, Australians do not use the word “squash” to refer to anything pumpkin-like. Squash is a soft vegetable that bears no relationship to any gourd. []
  2. Thai, Moroccan, and out-of-Justine’s brain []
  3. marjoram, chives, parsley []
  4. I’m sure you North Americans already knew that. Australia is not really the land of either pumpkin or maple syrup. []


I was asked today why I say sorry so much.1

It’s true. I do say it a lot. I say “Sorry!” even if I am not even slightly at fault: like when, say, someone has bumped into me, or spilled something over me. I say sorry for pretty much everything. Even when I’m not at all sorry. Mostly when I’m not at all sorry.

As to the why of all those sorrys. I used to think it was just me. That I have this weird sorry-saying nervous tic. But I now know it’s cultural. I say sorry all the time because I am an Australian girl.

I realised this when I was living in Spain and one of my friends there blew up about it. She yelled at me that if I said sorry one more time it would drive her insane.2 That I could keep my “sorrys” and my “thank yous” and “pleases” and shove them [somewhere unpleasant]. She never wanted to hear them ever again. After that it became a joke between us. Every time I slipped up I would say—you guessed it—sorry. She would glare at me and then I would say sorry for saying sorry for saying sorry.

The Spanish, I learned, do not say “sorry”, “please” and “thank you” a million times a day.

When I went back to Sydney I noticed—for the first time—that I was not alone. Pretty much every woman I know says sorry just as much as I do. More even. It was quite the revelation.

I have since noticed that many English women suffer this malady. And quite a few USians—especially the ones from the South.

I have no idea what it means. But I have dark suspicions.

  1. not for the first time []
  2. ¡Me vuelvas loca! []

The unteasable

There are many Australian writers in town at the moment and there has been much socialising to celebrate.1 I can’t tell you how much fun it is to be in NYC and not be the only Aussie in the room.2 Especially when the other Aussies are fabulous folks like Deb Biancotti, Rob Hood, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Cat Sparks, Trevor Stafford, and Jonathan Strahan. Much fun has been had.3

And much teasing has been teased. Aussies are a much more teasing people than most of my USian friends. It’s been such a relief to have several sessions of full-bore teasification. The Aussies were excellently mean to me. Such bliss.

In the course of this teasefest I realised that I have a friend who is unteasable.

Now I have friends I don’t tease cause I know they’ll get upset. Making people cry is not fun. Many USians fall into this category. But I have a dear friend I have never teased simply because it has never occurred to me to do so. I know she would not cry. She is not an easily offended person. I mentioned her unteasability to her. She says no one has ever teased her, or mocked, or been mean to her. Not at school, not at university, not ever.

Isn’t that bizarre?

I have been trying to figure out why this is so and if I’ve ever met anyone else who was so unteasable.

I can’t think of a single person.

My first theory is that it’s because she’s so unflappable. But I have other unflappable friends I tease and mock. So I’m not sure that’s why. Then I thought maybe it was because she does not tease. But that’s not true she teases her husband all the time.

I am at a loss and must study the problem further.

How about you lot? Are you unteasable? Have you ever known anyone who could not be teased?

  1. And, yes, that plus deadlines plus the blah blah blahs being out of control has put a crimp in my bloggery. Sorry! []
  2. Also for once it’s all of them who are jetlagged while me and Scott are perfectly fine. It’s usually the other way around. []
  3. Though it’s making me really homesick . . . []

Many Aussies and one permie ressie

We’re two Saturdays away from an all-Aussie (+ one permanent resident) fantasy explosion: the Printz-honour genius Margo Lanagan, editor extraordinaire Jonathan Strahan, bestselling author of the Sabriel and Keys series Garth Nix, not to mention Aussie-by-marriage Scott Westerfeld, oh, yeah, and me!

Has there ever been such a line up?

No, there has not.

Saturday, 27October 27
Books of Wonder
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY

Stick it in your dairy. Tattoo the details on your little brother’s cheek ((Okay, don’t really do that. That would be wrong.). Carn out and see us!

We’ll read (a little), answer all your questions (almost), and teach you how to talk Australian (maybe).

Oz GLBT YA books (updated)

David Levithan’s speech at Reading Matters inspired me to put together a list of Australian gay and lesbian young adult books.

I could not do this on my own. Thank you Lynndy Bennett, Kate Constable, Susannah Chambers, Pamela Freeman, Simmone Howell, Judith Ridge, Penni Russon and Ron Serdiuk for all your help and suggestions.

This list is definitely not complete and is not annotated. It’s just a start. If you can think of any more titles, please let me know! And if you’ve read any of the books on the list and can say a bit more about them that’d be great too.

Lili Wilkinson has said that the Centre for Youth Literature will give the list a permanent home.

So here it is:


    Will by Maria Boyd 2006
    Settling Storms by Charlotte Calder 2000
    The Rage of Sheep by Michelle Cooper 2007 (It will be released in August—so soon that I figured no need to stick it in the forthcoming list.)
    The Tiger Project by Susanna van Essen 2003
    A Trick of the Light by Susanna van Essen 2004 (Lili Wilkinson says “two dads”.)
    The Other Madonna by Scot Gardner 2003
    White Ute Dreaming by Scot Gardner 2002
    Square Pegs by Nette Hilton 1991
    Out of the Shadows by Sue Hines 1998 (Lynndy Bennett says, “From memory—it’s years since I read this—it is not the teenage characters but some of the parents who are gay or lesbian.” Update: I’ve now heard from a few people that there are gay teenagers as well.)
    A Charm of Powerful Trouble by Joanne Horniman 2002
    Obsession by Julia Lawrinson 2001
    Suburban Freak Show by Julia Lawrinson 2006
    Tumble Turn by Doug Macleod 2003 (Lynndy says “there is the assumption the protagonist is gay”.)
    Hot Hits: The Remix by Bernie Monagle 2003
    Thriller and Me by Merrilee Moss 1994 (Lynndy says, “From memory—it’s years since I read the book–it is not the teenage characters but some of the parents who are gay or lesbian.)
    Mr Enigmatic by Jenny Pausacker 1995
    What are ya? by Jenny Pausacker 1987
    Sky Legs by Irini Savvides 2003
    A Candle for St Antony by Eleanor Spence 1977 (Penni Russon says “a friend said it was a memorable book about an intimate relationship between two boys, though I think the homosexuality is very understated. It’s more about love than sex, I think the boys actually tell each other that they love each other and then kind of have to deal with the intensity of their emotions in the face of their peer groups.”)
    Peter by Kate Walker 1991
    Camphor Laurel by Sarah Walker 1999
    The Year of Freaking Out 1997 by Sarah Walker
    Loose Lips by Chris Wheat 1998

    Forthcoming novels
    Truly Mackenzie by Kate Constable 2008

    Clouded Edges by Nette Hilton 1997


    Ready or Not: Stories of YA Sexuality edited by Mark MacLeod 1996
    Hide and Seek edited by Jenny Pausacker 1996


    Holding the Man by Tim Conigrave 1995 (Penni Russon says “it wasn’t published as YA, it’s also not strictly fiction I think. But it is about two young men (a lot of it is about the relationship they have at school) and it’s such a beautiful beautiful weepy wonderful book.”)

    Inside Out: Australian Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered People Write About Their Lives edited by Erin Shale 1999

David Levithan: Vampire Slayer

The wonderful speech that David Levithan gave at Reading Matters is now available as a podcast. You all should listen to this passionate, galvanising call to arms that left most everyone wanting to go out and slay vampires right that very minute. Or, you know, get the books that kids need into their hands.

I’m still mulling over my response to David’s call to arms. On the one hand, I think he’s totally right. On the other, it’s so annoying to have a foreignor come in, spend a few minutes in the country, and then tell us Aussies what to do! We hates it, we do. Especially when they’re right . . .

The Tall One

John Hinde was one of my favourite film critics of all time. He was a wonderfully warm and funny man. He could give charmingly negative reviews to sucky films without a hint of rancour, reviews that made you want to see the crappy film just to see what he was talking about. I always wanted to meet him. When he died I cried.

Now he’s made me cry again by setting up an extraordinary literary prize in his wife’s memory. It’s the “Barbara Jefferis Award for the best Australian novel that empowers the status of females or depicts them in a positive light.” The award goes to an Australian writer, but isn’t restricted by setting or genre, only by the requirement that they postively depict women. (Were Patrick White still alive NO WAY would he win one of these babies.1) So if you’re an Aussie and you write a book set in Uzbekistan about a zombie unicorn apocalypse you’re still in with a shot. That’s in keeping with both the wide variety of films John Hinde loved and with the tremendous range of Barbara Jefferis’ novels.

Barbara Jefferis was brilliant. I read and adored her novel The Tall One when I was eleven or twelve. The book had a huge impact on me.

See, when I was young I was very tall. Much taller than anyone else my age. When I stopped growing at twelve I was 172.5cm (5ft8in). I got teased about it a lot. My aged Old World relatives offered to pay for operations to stop me growing so I’d still have a chance of getting a husband. No, I’m not making that up. My parents were laughing too hard to be horrified. “What are they going to do cut off your knees?”

Despite everything my parents said about the fabulousness of being tall and of being a girl, I was taking in the messages from my insane relatives and the kids at school. I slumped my shoulders and desperately wished to be a boy. Reading The Tall One helped clean that crap out of my mind. It’s about this 182cm (6ft) girl in medieval times in, I think, England (it’s a while since I read it so I’m hazy on the exact setting). Here was someone like me, or, at least, how I’d like to be: Tall and strong, standing up to people putting her down, owning her power, standing straight. And wry and funny too.

I was smitten and started being proud of my height. (After which I promptly stopped growing and ceased to be tall. Whatcha going to do?)

This award is a wonderful legacy from two exceptional and fascinating Australians, John Hinde and Barbara Jefferis. I hope it honours a series of wonderful novels and, even more, I hope it will do something towards bringing Jefferis’ work back into print. I’d love to see The Tall One readily available again.

  1. I am suppressing the urge to list all the prominent living Australian novelists who are even less chance than Mr White. I sit on my fingers. I hold my breath. Must. Not. Be. Bad. []

Yes, I’m blogging. Real blogging . . .

So apparently it’s de rigeur for the first entry of a brand new blog to feature the cover of the blogger’s latest book. I mean, if the blogger in question happens to be a writer with a brand new cover to display to the masses, which this particular blogger does. To wit the cover for the second book in the Magic or Madness trilogy:

Colour me very happy indeed. Aside from anything else, that photo of the tree there? I took it! It’s a moreton bay fig. In fact it’s the fig tree just past the front gates of Camperdown Cemetery in Sydney, which cemetery makes an appearance in both Magic or Madness and Magic Lessons. The photo on the back cover was also taken in the cemetery by Scott. And the fabulous mjcdesign turned those images into a cover of genius. Thank you, Marc J Cohen.

Hope you all like. Hope you also enjoy this my brand spanking new blog. Welcome!

As some of you know I’ve already had a blog of sorts for the last two years. Some people have dubbed it my not-blog blog. Given the classificatory problems of my musings, I decided to be done with it and start an actual blog blog. Here’s how you’ll be able to distinguish it from my musings:

the entries will be completely free of capital letters. That’s right, this is solidly e e cummingsland. even in the comments. and ha ha! nothing you can do about it. I may even do away with full stops and commas (irritating things anyways).

there’ll be discusssion of books, cricket, movies, elvis, basketball, tv and such. opinions will be expressed, but rarely substantiated. there will be no lit crit. i was once an academic and my days of lit critting and footnotes are far behind me (anyways i was always more of an historian). this is a blog damn it! my blog! if I say so then it is so!

There’ll be comments, but disagreement will not be brooked, unless, you know, it’s funny, or well written, or in some other way cool and interesting. Hmm, come to think of it the same rules apply to agreement.

Enjoy! I plan to.