Friday, August 31, 2007

the two p's

I was reading that Hollywood likes Australian CGI houses like Animal logic for the particularly Australian combination of passion and pragmatism. And that struck a note with me, and with why I think our publishing indusry is so successful internationally.

Melbourne Writers' Festival supports independents?

"MELBOURNE is, without a doubt, Australia's literary capital," says former state premier Steve Bracks in the program for the 2007 Age Melbourne Writers' Festival.


Melbourne is "the home of independent small publishers in Australia", Cameron says, and to that end she has broadened the festival's focus on publishing. The attendance of American husband-and-wife writers Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida is a coup, not just for their writing but their publishing company, McSweeney, which produces quarterly and monthly journals. "If you're a young writer, you want to get published by McSweeney's," she says.


But not to be published by one of Melbourne's independent publishers? Who, presumably, don't need the support of the local writing community?

Interestingly none of our authors were on the program (not the schools not the kids part). And I wasn't seeing much of Scribe or Hardie Grant or Hardie Grant Egmont or Black Inc on the program. I thought it was these sort of publishers who might be making Melbourne a literary capital. The industry thought so in its awards.

A new sort of cultural cringe?

Saturday, August 25, 2007


I was in Queensland a week ago, attending the CBCA awards dinner, and I took the opportunity to get out and about, and I was really impressed by the strength of school booksellers in Queensland, and the enthusiasm for Australian books on Australian topics by Australian authors, which reflects the enthusiasm schools, kids and especially the strong network of teachers librarians have for Australian literature (fiction and non-fiction). In Victoria and New South Wales, the teacher-librarians are being stripped out of schools - and we're much the worse for it.

Friday, August 24, 2007


40% of British publishers turnover comes from export but only 5% of American publishers. An interesting fact to toy with. The British market is a harder market to sell in to than the American.

Dave Eggers opened the Melbourne Writers Festival

Fascinating. Amazing guy. And for a commercial, privately owned, limited-liability-company-publishing-house -challenging. Then to challenge authors - who else donates their royalties to subject/inspiration for their book.

The foot thing was interesting too.

Just in case a few quick links:

Wikipedia entry

McSweeney's Internet Tendency

changing times

There's a halal pizzeria around the corner (perhaps explained in part by the mosque a couple of streets back).

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Digger J Jones

I finished Digger J Jones (by Richard Frankland, Scholastic) on the weekend - and I reckon everybody should read this,, adult or child, and it should be in every school and public library. For the originality of the voice among other things. The book's set in 1967 and it's about the referendum. Here's the Wikpedia entry, which is worth quoting in full:

The referendum of 27 May 1967 approved two amendments to the Australian constitution relating to Indigenous Australians. Technically it was a vote on the Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967, which after being approved in the referendum became law on the 10th August of the same year.
The amendment was overwhelmingly endorsed, winning 90.77 per cent of voters and carrying all six states. It was put to the electorate on the same day as a referendum on the composition of parliament, which was rejected.
The referendum removed two sections from the Constitution.
The first was a phrase in Section 51 (xxvi) which stated that the Federal Government had the power to make laws with respect to "the people of any race, other than the Aboriginal race in any State, for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws." (This is known as the "race power.") The referendum removed the phrase "other than the Aboriginal race in any State," giving the Commonwealth the power to make laws specifically to benefit Aboriginal people.
The second was Section 127, which said: "In reckoning the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth, or of a State or other part of the Commonwealth, Aboriginal natives shall not be counted." The referendum deleted this section from the Constitution. This section should be read in conjunction with Section 24 and Section 51(xi). The section related to calculating the population of the states and territories for the purpose of allocating seats in Parliament and per capita Commonwealth grants. The context of its introduction was prevent Queensland and Western Australia using their large Aboriginal populations to gain extra seats or extra funds. The 'statistics' power in Section 51(xi) allowed the Commonwealth to collect information on Aboriginal people.
It is frequently stated that the 1967 referendum gave Aboriginal people Australian citizenship and that it gave them the right to vote in federal elections. Neither of these statements is correct. Aboriginal people became Australian citizens in 1948, when a separate Australian citizenship was created for the first time (before that time all Australians were "British subjects"). Aboriginal people from Queensland and Western Australia gained the vote in Commonwealth territories in 1962. However, the Commonwealth voting right of Aborigines from other states was confirmed by a Commonwealth Act in 1949 (the constitution already gave them that right but it was often interpreted differently prior to 1949). They got the vote in WA state election in 1962 and Queensland state election in 1965.

And here's the link to Richard's website:

Saturday, August 11, 2007


We just purchased a posh new microphone. So look forward to a lot more audio on our website: readings, audio from our pd nights, interviews with authors and others.

Bryson's Shakespeare

I've started reading Bill Bryson's Shakespeare. The sumptuous dump bin display in Readings Hawthorn caught my eye - and I thought, I must have that.

I was at Readings for the Danny Katz and Mitch Vane's "The Little Election". A black dog August release. (A sumptuous jacketed hardback with a NY flavor). Danny and Mitch put on a great show. They ran their own election, with booths and ballot boxes, courtesy of the Electoral Commission, (& boy do they fold up into a neat box.) Millie stood up from the audience for the "No School" party and Tom was all for the "Creativity Party" and brave Rachel stood up and started the "Free Lunch" party. Millie is now PM, by the way.

Little Lunch(es) have always been favorites - and The Little Election takes it to new highs (and lows - but not too much booger humor, thought the crowd loved the sprinkling of it).

If any bookshop wants a fabulous weekend bookshop event: this is it. The crowd was in stitches.

Anyhow, back to Bill. It cames as a bit of shock to be reading the light Bryson tone about such a meaty topic. I'm only a few pages in and I'll blog again to say whether I think the weight of writer, tone and topic worked for me.

Any other readers out there care to comment?

The villages of Melbourne

Melbourne is said to be a series of villages. (The same is said by pundits in most big cities I imagine.) And I'm trying to work out what those villages are. The question arose coming back from Oakliegh. Which is so definitely one village of Melbourne (centred on a Greek influence?). Then I'd nominate mud-brick Eltham; with its satellites - The Patch/Warrandyte/Kangaroo Ground etc. Then Springvale, maybe also Box Hill. Public-servant Northcote. The white-bread Hills - KT says some people grow up, work, marry and die and never come down to the lowlands. The eastern private school village. (Toorak is a village of its own - one which would like to a walled enclave.) Then northern Melbourne: McLeod etc. Is Lilydale a village?

It would make a fascinating map.

Any other suggestions? And I'm hopeful people will want to disagree with my divisions.

And I'm wondering what the villages of Sydney are?

paying your own heating bills

A line in a restaurant review struck a resonance:

"When a chef opens their first restaurant, it can go badly very quickly … Some chefs see it as an opportunity to strut the staff their bosses always kept in check."

Though it's not an exact parallel, it made me think of how few successful independent publishers have come out of the biggies, from corporate refugees running up the flag of independence. Most of the new publishers that spring up from people leaving the multinationals seem to disappear. Of course most new publishers fail, regardless of origin; but I think there is a contributing element of corporatized overconfidence.

It's cold and chilly out here, and it takes quite a different mindset to survive when you have to pay your own heating bills.

Sunday, August 05, 2007


I just came across this fabulous new word from Wikpedia
"Disambiguation in Wikipedia is the process of resolving the conflicts that occur when articles about two or more different topics have the same "natural" title. Most of the pages in this category are disambiguation pages containing no other content, only links to other Wikipedia pages."

bdb non-fiction

I realised in a small moment of epiphany on the week end is that what we don't want to do in our non-fiction for children is to condescend, And it is why I think our non-fiction reads well for adults as well as children.