We’ll all be rooned, said Hanrahan: or why I think we all need a cup of tea and a good lie down

SAID HANRAHAN

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
  In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
  One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
  Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
  As it had done for years.

"It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke;
  "Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
  Has seasons been so bad."

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
  With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
  And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
  "It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
  "Before the year is out."

The above is an excerpt from ‘Said Hanrahan’, by Australian poet John O’Brien.  You can find the whole thing (and the rest of the book it came from, Around the Boree Log and other Verses) here.

So why am I quoting poetry, you ask?  Well, you see last weekend, I was flipping through the paper and I came across a piece in which the writer was bemoaning the agony of leaving books in bookstores.  Just like puppies at the pet store, he wanted to take them all home and he worried that the rejected ones would feel sad and abandoned once he left.

So far so good.  I’m sure we’ve all felt like that.

But then he went on to talk about the vast quantities of books, both e-books and paper, flooding the market now and how it was impossible to keep up with them and to choose from so many and  people were self-publishing and you couldn’t tell whether they were any good and… stuff like that.  My eyes started to glaze over and I lost the will to keep reading.  I may have even made a rude noise.

Because I’m tired of hearing it.

Not just this particular piece of doom and gloom about publishing, but all of it.  It seems, no matter where I look these days, blogs, papers, online columns, wherever, if the subject is books or publishing, someone wants to tell me the sky is falling.  Bookshops are closing, publishing is dead, quality is history, the gatekeepers are lost, physical books will soon be no more, art is pandering to the lowest common denominator, literature is going to hell in a handbasket, yada, yada, yada.

You know what?

I DON’T BELIEVE IT.

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First Friday WordFest

A little while ago, I read a blog post (and when I track it down, I will come back and update with link to it, promise!) saying that we need to use the words we love, or we will lose them: they will become lost to everyday understanding.

I thought this was an excellent point and in honour of the great words, I thought I would dedicate the first Friday of every month to my favourite words.

To get the ball rolling, I offer today:

Lackadaisical
According to my Collins English Dictionary (yes, an actual book, with pages and ink and all) this is an adjective and means
1. lacking vitality and purpose or
2. lazy or idle, especially in a dreamy way

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Books for little kids: Catch ’em early and hook ’em for life!

Recently, Chuck Wendig*, writer and blogger about writing, asked for suggestions for books for his little one, who has recently had his first birthday.

I responded over at his blog, but since then, my brain has teemed with further suggestions and I thought it might make a good topic for a post.

(Especially since I have already told him that I have had a dream about reading books to his baby and if I keep going back and adding comments he may start thinking about the logistics of international restraining orders. ;))

I imagine that the readers of this blog are already fully aware of the benefits of reading to young children, but in case there are any who aren’t, let me just say that they are almost impossible to overstate.

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened

Imagine, if you will, a young girl, growing up poor.

Imagine that she has a chronic, undiagnosed anxiety disorder, a taxidermist father with a yen for roadkill and some very curious ideas about what makes a good puppet (and the time of night at which is appropriate to share said puppet).

Imagine she has a series of pets which… well, let’s just say that the pet experience is not entirely usual.

And all she wants is to fit in.

In the hands of Steven King, it would be a towering, terrifying horror story.  (At least, I imagine it would.  Growing up has not made me any more able to read Steven King’s novels than I was when I first encountered them as a squealy 11-year-old.  Loved ‘On Writing‘ though.)

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A book written in fear is a book half-written


So, in my tooling around the ‘net recently, I read this post from Valerie Parv.

For those who don’t want to click and read, she is talking about writing a series and how, even if you have great series ideas, you need to write the first one well and make it a true stand-alone; or, as Lawrence Block would say, concentrate on the book at hand.

This led me to thinking about story ideas and ‘saving’ ideas for later stories.  I used to do this.  I used to think that I shouldn’t get carried away with ideas, that I should hold some things back for future stories. I didn’t want to spend all my ideas in one blaze of glory and have none left.

I now know that, the more you write and exercise that idea ‘muscle’, the more they come, until the problem is more how to write them all than how to come up with new ones.

I also know now that layering in the trouble is good writing practice.  Donald Maass says in The Fire in Fiction, that he never rejected a book for having too much story.  Conflict is the essence of story, so we should pile up the problems for our protagonists.  Load ’em down, make ’em suffer!  Pile up those problems till they have to use crampons to climb over them.  Nothing will tell you faster how much they want to get to the other side.

I am fully on board this conflict train, now, but here is my question:

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Sunday Salon Honours its Origins

This is a reblog from the Storytelling Australia (Victoria) blog, because

1. Stories are awesome
2. Storytellers are even more awesome
3. It is advertising a SALON about FAIRY TALES and that is so awesome that I think my head might explode.

Apparently, the whole concept of a Salon started with 17th Century women in France who gathered in their ‘salons’ to write, read, perform and discuss, Fairy Tales.  We never hear about these women, but we apparently owe them the term ‘Fairy Tale’ and they played a hugely important role in the spread and popularisation of folk tales among the upper classes.  They also wrote new tales. (For a fascinating article about the period, see this site – and if you are in Melbourne, go to the Salon!)

I can’t believe I didn’t know this already, but now that I do, it seems like fate.  This blog is all about fabulous, active, subversive women, writers, stories and storytellers and the sharing of all of those things (not least in Sunday Salon).  When I found out about this, so soon after starting this blog, well, let me tell you, it felt like a SIGN.

The repost from the Storytelling Australia (Victoria) site is after the cut.  Please have a look!

ALSO, please note that the Salon itself is in June, in Melbourne, but they are calling for papers and they want the submissions by 26 APRIL 2012.

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Monday on Writing Talks Poetry

I will out myself now: I am a lousy poet.  In all the years of my life, I have written about four works that I think qualify as actual poetry (I have written them carefully in a notebook that I hope to have half-full before I die).  But I love to read it.  So I was excited to discover that April is (in America, anyway) National Poetry Month.

And in the grand, go-getting tradition of the US of A, home of NaNoWriMo, this has inspired the creation of NaPoWriMo.  For those who haven’t heard, NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, held in November each year, which is a challenge to writers to write 50 thousand words of their novel in a month.  NaPoWriMo is the poetry equivalent, where challengees set themselves to write 30 poems in 30 days.

At my current output rate, I would need to live to approximately 330 to produce 30 poems, but in keeping with the spirit of the thing, I have dusted off The Notebook and found this.  It’s untitled.

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Wednesday Review is Dead, Actually

Dead, Actually, the new young adult novel by the lovely Kaz Delaney, is the subject of today’s review, and since Kaz is a mate of mine, I thought I should invite someone else to do the review.

So today’s review is courtesy of my Sekrit Squirrels Helper (or SSH, for short) guest YA reviewer, who is not only impartial, but also in the novel’s target demographic.  If you like her review, please say so in the comments, so I can inveigle her into doing more!

Dead, Actually
Willow Cartwright: D-Lister by choice.
She’s about to find out what lies beneath the
tans and tinsel of the A-list, in a wickedly funny story
of blackmail, scams – and swoonworthy crushes.

In  Dead Actually, Kaz Delaney follows Willow Cartwright, a teen from the Gold Coast whose life has recently fallen into a shambles. Her family is completely dysfunctional, her adopted brother is a creepy liar out to steal her parents’ money, she has a huge crush on her best friend’s (Macey Pentecost) older brother, (Seth) and to top it all off, the dead Queen Bee of Ruth Throsby High, who happened to see Willow last before dying, is haunting her bedroom.

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Australian Women Writers Rock: Read Any Good Books Lately?

Wednesday Review is springing gleefully onto the Australian Women Writers Challenge bandwagon, trombone in hand!*

For those not familiar with the Challenge, the point of it, from the organiser’s point of view, is as follows (taken from the challenge website):

This challenge hopes to help counteract the gender bias in reviewing and social media newsfeeds that occurred throughout 2011 by actively promoting the reading and reviewing of a wide range of contemporary Australian women’s writing.

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