How To Tell The Bulldogs Apart, Part 3

Players 11-15
(Lucky it's school holidays and I can bang this out instead of making lunches...)

11. Sam Reid
Baby burly midfielder. Was diagnosed with diabetes Type 1 last year and has become a diabetes ambassador. Brave boy.

12. Tom Williams
Tall goal-stopper. Very fragile! Handle with care! Has been the great white hope for about the last three years but keeps breaking himself so hasn't played much. Also tends to panic under pressure (hey, I would too, with all those big scary footballers coming at me).

13. Daniel GiansiracusaKnown as Gia, or to my sister-in-law, "Gira." Spunk of the club and he totally knows it. Always chosen to model the Bulldogs merchandise in the catalogue. Plays pretty well from time to time too. "Silky." Mmmm.

14. Callan Ward
Lovely boy with a shy smile. Grew up round the corner from the Whitten Oval and walked to training. Always wears one sock up and one sock down. A star in the making.

15. Ben HudsonHis beard has its own fan club. Big tall scary ruckman. Came late to football so has a sense of humour about the whole bizarre business. Gotta love the Beard!


How To Tell The Bulldogs Apart, Part 2

Players 6-10

6. Brad Johnson
Goal-kicker. Our captain. Already ancient, he may well play until he's 80. Known as the Smiling Assassin. Because he's always smiling. Except when he's swearing. Just played his 350th game.

7. Shaun Higgins
Goal-kicker. Possessed of a large head and walking with a swagger, Higgins will probably be our next captain. Club legend Scott West personally chose him to inherit his number, which is like being anointed by John the Baptist.

8. Mitch Hahn
Goal-kicker. Tough nut with a head like a Prussian bullet. Strong like a bullock.

9. Lindsay Gilbee
Goal-stopper. Supposedly the best kick in the league. Would be nice to see evidence of this more often. His dad died last year.

10. Nathan EagletonMid-fielder. Known, entirely predictably, as the Bald Eagle. Senior players took a pay cut so he could play for one more year.

More tomorrow!


How To Tell The Bulldogs Apart, Part 1

And so the heady euphoria of the pre-season gives way to the painful reality of Round 1: a 36 point thumping by Collingwood. Ouch.

Suddenly all those giddy hopes that 2010 will be The Year of the Dogs, the media hype, the seemingly miraculous resurrection of Barry Hall, have been punctured. Hangovers are never pleasant, and all the worse when they're self-induced. But at least there is comfort to be gleaned in the reflection that there are still 21 games to go. It's a long season; anything can happen... can't it?

In the un-Bulldog-like spirit of not giving up hope at the first hurdle, I hereby embark on the first of a series of player profiles. Warning: this series will contain no more than trace elements of actual football information. It is designed to share the stuff that I find interesting. It is perfectly possible that no one else will agree. It is also quite likely to be wildly inaccurate.

And so, in numerical order, players 1-5:

1. Jarrad Grant
Future goal-kicker. Young, tall and spindly. Has only played one senior game and kept getting knocked over. May be the first Vulcan to play AFL football.

2. Bob MurphyGoal-kicker. Not your average footballer. Writes a weekly column in The Age about the romance of football, among other stuff. Creative and clever on the football field as well as off it. Hurt his knee last year but was back to his twisty-turny best yesterday. My favourite Bulldog.

3. Andrejs Everitt
Goal-stopper. Young and rangy, hasn't played often. St Kilda tried to grab him in the pre-season draft so he must be good, right? Sulked last year because he wasn't playing often but seems to be trying harder. Used to have dreadlocks but perhaps realised that they weren't helping in his quest to be taken more seriously.

4. Daniel Cross and 5. Matthew Boyd
Sorry, I still have trouble telling these two apart. The busy Bobbsey Twins of the midfield, they both rack up heaps of possessions without being particularly noticeable. Boyd was picked in the All-Australian* team last year, one of only two Bullies selected.

* An odd and purely hypothetical concept as there isn't really anybody for them to play.


Writing, Rewriting, Writing, Rewriting

I wasn't expecting it to be like this.

It's bedlam at the airport.

It was long ago, but not so far away.

I'm a Territory kid.

I step off the plane at Jackson's Airport and the heat hits me like a furnace blast.

I stepped off the plane at Jackson's Airport and the humidity hit me in the face like a hot wet towel.

This is my sixth attempt at beginning Independence (which may not be called Independence any more, by the way), my "New Guinea" novel. Some writers spend days on a paragraph and don't continue until they've got it exactly right. In this way, their novel falls from their fingers like a heap of perfectly formed leaves.

But when I get stuck, I start all over again. I am a chronic re-writer. And even after I get a whole draft, I will cut and paste and type it out all over again, tinkering as I go, three, five, a dozen, twenty times over, poking and moulding and tweaking, shaping and trimming and layering.

There is a Jorge Luis Borges short story in which an author strives to understand the mind of Cervantes so well that he can rewrite Don Quixote word for word -- yet it is not the same book, though the words are the same. Sometimes (though I ain't no Cervantes, nor Borges either) that's how I feel when I type out the same words for the twelfth or thirteenth time. They are the same words, but the story is not the same, because of the those twelve or thirteen versions that have gone before.


The Party's Over

Sorry for my long silence but I spent most of last week on the Gold Coast, at the Somerset Celebration of Literature. I've just discovered heaps of photos and a much better description of the event than I could muster here at Camille Santiago's blog -- she was the official photographer and her photos are a lot better than mine! (If you scroll right down to the end of the post there's even a picture of me.)

If I said I'd never had so much fun in all my life that would sound a bit tragic, so I won't. But it was really, really good. I got to hang out with a gang of lovely, funny, sweet, droll and clever authors and illustrators (downside - had irresistible urge to blow all my earnings on all their works, conveniently located at the festival bookshop. I may have come out in front, but it's close...) And I got to sit in on many sessions and hear them all talk about their work with such passion and humour and love and energy. It was inspirational for me, I can only imagine how it affected the thousands of kids who attended.

Highlight of the festival was the last night, when we all let our hair down, elbowed the other guests at the literary dinner aside, and took over the dance floor. The band (Somerset students) were all about sixteen, but they belted out "Blister in the Sun" and "Throw Your Arms Around Me" as if they were ooh, at least two years older, and us authors were loving ourselves sick as we partied like it was 1999 and as if we didn't all have to go home tomorrow.

But it was really all about the books -- and it's confirmed to me just how lucky I am to be surrounded by people (alas, not often enough!) whose main aim in life is to bring the joys of reading and writing to kids of all ages. What a great business to be in; what amazing, generous, gifted people you all are; what a privilege to meet you.

Thanks, Somerset. If only the festival could run all year round. But then I guess it wouldn't be so special.

* I'm labelling this post as "work." Hah!


Advice From My Daughter

Alice: Mum, you should write a series called "The Bum-Droppers" -- you'll laugh so hard, your bum will drop off. This will improve the money you earn and the prizes you win. Every child will know your name. You must aim to beat Andy Griffiths. People will be screaming for your autograph! They'll be hilarious books that will catch the tweens. The tweens are the starting point. Andy Griffiths will have only a handful of admirers, you need a bagful, you have to make them love you.

This thing needs to be hilarious. You have to make your reader believe there is an actual fight in there. Give them a turnover, give them a hit! That's the kind of children this world needs. They'll fall on the floor and laugh their heads off. You need the exact right peppermint of violence -- too many and you feel sick, not too less, give a teaspoon of violence, 1% of the whole book is violence.

The tweens love good hilarious books, that's practically all they read these days. Catch the boys: whole schools, packs, countries of boys! Andy Griffiths has that. Throw him out of the way! You can do it! Also you have to beat Zac Power.

Put letters in, telegrams, more describing words. Super Gun Ball, come home immediately, your father's had a heart attack. They'd find that hilarious! You must express anger -- maybe a few swear words, but they have to be beeped out. Everyone loves a good swear word. Cars exploding! Maybe a murdering footy player. If you don't grab these teens and tweens, who knows what they're capable of!

Me: So what should these books actually be about?

Alice: (gives me a withering stare) I don't know. At the moment we're just talking about marketing.


Seven Things That Have Inspired Me

Sandra Eterovic has inspired this post, by tagging me to reveal seven things about myself. (She looks at seven aesthetic themes that inspire her visual art, here.) (You can also find seven sources of inspiration for Christine McCombe, a composer friend, here.)

I thought I might share one source of inspiration for some of my books -- of course every novel has too many seeds to count, or even remember, but here are some that sprang to mind.

1) Blake's 7This dystopian British sci-fi series ran from 1978 to 1981 and I used to stay up late in a darkened house to watch it. The sets wobbled but the dialogue sparkled with wit and moral complexity. I developed a hopeless crush on Avon, the darkest and most cynical of all the characters, played by Paul Darrow. The character of Darrow in The Singer of All Songs was named in his honour, but the notion of a roaming band of outlaws, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, was the ultimate inspiration for Calwyn's motley band of chanters. (Blake's 7 was itself inspired by Robin Hood, Westerns, and South American revolutionaries.)

2) The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon

I read this thousand-year-old Japanese notebook of personal reflections, observations and poetry as I was beginning work on The Waterless Sea, and something of the atmosphere and rituals of life in the ancient Japanese royal court seeped into the culture of the Palace of Cobwebs in Merithuros - elaborate wigs, poetry tournaments and strict rules of etiquette, as well as political intrigue.

3) Belly dancing classes
Bless my friend Heather who persuaded me to join her in a belly dancing class at our local Neighborhood House. For six weeks we self-consciously tried to shimmy our post-baby hips, convinced the instructor was staring pityingly at our pathetic Anglo attempts to gyrate and undulate. But Ozlem's instructions turned up in The Tenth Power as Briaali's encouragements to the stiff priestesses of Taris to shake their booty for the final dance of Becoming that heals Tremaris.

4) Kissed a girl
The story of Jem and Mackenzie in my first Girlfriend Fiction title, Always Mackenzie, was inspired by two (girl) friends who had conducted a passionate affair at school and attended their school formal together. Still the closest of friends, one is now good-as-married (to a bloke) with two kids, while the other is good-as-married (to a lovely lady) with one daughter. Love you both.

5) Quakers
While I was writing Winter of Grace I remembered attending a meeting of Quakers in North Carlton, and how deeply impressed I was by the silence and stillness of their communion with God. In the first draft of the book, Bridie ended up joining the Quakers, but in the final version I decided to leave her still seeking. I think their mediatative approach to worship and their staunch social activism would appeal to her, though.

6) Burnham Beeches

This beautiful old house in the Dandenong Ranges outside Melbourne was the model for Eloise's enchanted Art Deco house in Cicada Summer. Though as far as I know there's no swimming pool.

7) Tarot cards
I've told fortunes since I was at school, but never found a way to include the tarots in a book until Penni suggested that India in Dear Swoosie should share my psychic gifts! India is a bit more psychic than me (though I have had some startling successes). For me the attraction of the cards is more the psychology that lies behind them, and the seemingly magical way that they elicit confessions that wouldn't appear in any other context. Hmmm.

If you've read this far, consider yourself tagged!