Saturday, October 31, 2009

Fifteen Minutes

I think one of the reasons I write is so I can be in control of my story - of my words, my opinions, my viewpoint, of how I am portrayed altogether. Now that my book is out in the world I am busy being interviewed. It's a disconcerting experience.

I slave over my writing - polishing and rephrasing, eliminating repetition and anything that sounds vaguely like a cliche. In speech, however, I umm and ahh and go over the same ground several times, losing my thread and wandering off at tangents.

When I read an article about me, even if it's absolutely lovely, I see myself distorted, like a reflection in a warped mirror. I did say that but it's not exactly how I meant it, or they got one crucial word wrong (in one case transposing a he for a she). I spend too much time wondering how I look from the outside. It's not good for my health.

This won't last, and I know I should enjoy my brief celebrity. It's the result of hard work by Scribe's amazing publicist and resident astronaut, Emma, and journalists who need to fill column inches or air time. And I hope it encourages people to buy the book that I spent so long labouring over, which of course is the point of it all.

My daughter Meg has been whipping these interviews onto the website that she built for me as quickly as they appear. I think I'll be ready to read them properly and relish the moment when it's passed and the anxiety has drained away. When I'm home on the farm I'll be able to look back from a more relaxed position.

Maybe I'll even miss it.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday in the City

I've seen people doing a lot of things in the lanes around where I live in the centre of the Melbourne CBD: chroming, smoking, shooting up, spray painting, stenciling, postering, arguing, peeing, vomiting, eating. There are regularly rubbish trucks collecting, delivery vans delivering, street sweepers cleaning. One night I saw two guys beating someone up; that was scary but we managed to frighten them away.

There are always kitchen hands and waiters from nearby restaurants taking smokoes.

And shoppers taking shortcuts.

This afternoon I looked over my balcony and saw someone doing something intriguing. I am a huge sticky beak so I even took out my binoculars, but I still couldn't work it out. He wasn't hiding, but he was tucked away down the end of a lane off a lane.

When I went down to check it turned out it to be Andy who lives in the building and who is doing an MA in Architecture. He hasn't lived here long and I'd never seen him around before.

He was working on an architectural model of the new Melbourne University School of Architecture.

His work looked pretty good to me, but then I didn't actually know what I was looking at anyway.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

In The Shops

What does an author do in the afternoon when she should be working on her novel? Well, if it's the day her book first hits the shelves, she hits the shops in pursuit of it. These photos aren't wonderful, but she was over excited and the only camera she had was the one on her phone.

This photo was taken in Hill of Content bookshop in Bourke Street, Melbourne.

And so was this one

Unfortunately, when she got to Reader's Feast, at the corner of Bourke and Swanston Streets, there was a man trying to look at Bob Ellis's new book. She tried to be subtle - really she did - but he was engrossed and he was in her way. So, it was either push him or ask him nicely to move.

He was very nice in the end, and no readers had to be harmed in the making of this blog. Lucky for him, is all I can say.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

In the Library

Publishing a first book is full of milestones. Discovering that your book is available for loan in Australian libraries is one of them. (Shame they put the sticker over some of Raimond Gaita's lovely words though.)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Patches Leaping

This is a photo I have been trying to take for ages. These are two of our neighbour Sharon's dogs in their run. That's Timmy with all four feet on the ground and that's Patches leaping with excitement and natural exuberance.

Whenever the dogs see us approaching, they encourage along us with a frenzy of barks, and Patches hurls herself into the air against the side of the shed. The trick to getting the photo this time was to press the button before the dog became airborne.

On our way to feed the dogs Farmdoc and I came across this new member of our farm family. Welcome to Onemilebridge, little feller.

Then, on our way home through the sycamore forest that I blogged about yesterday, our path was blocked by several trees that must have fallen overnight.

That's Farmdoc surveying the damage. It'll take him an hour with the chainsaw, he thinks, to clear the track. The good news is that none of them fell across a fence, which is the natural path of any falling tree.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hallelujah Spring

Farmdoc and I have sharefarmed with our next door neighbour, Sharon, since we moved to Onemilebridge. A few years ago a tree fell onto one of the fences between our properties so we took the opportunity to put in a new gate.

Then Farmdoc made a track from the gate to our driveway. The track meanders through a sycamore forest and is wide enough for walking or riding a four-wheel bike. This morning Farmdoc and I strolled it when we went across to feed Sharon's dogs.

This time of the year the forest floor is a sea of seedlings and all the trees are sprouting new leaves.

The track skirts rocks.

And ferns.

When we bought the property we planned to eradicate the sycamore, which is a weed, but we soon learned that we couldn't, so now we try to control it on some parts of our land and enjoy it on others. We've even made a picnic spot where we come in summer for the shade and in autumn to enjoy the colour of the leaves as they turn yellow.

This new track was such a success that Farmdoc made another one leading from our driveway up to the top water tank. We call it the pink track for the colour of the baling twine he marked it out with.

This track also has its fair share of beautiful rock formations

and ferns of various types

Every time we walk these tracks we tell each other that whatever the season is at that moment, the forest is at its most beautiful right then. We said it last autumn when the leaves were gold; we said it in winter when the trees were stark and bare and made us feel we were deep in some European country; and we'll say it again when the forest is cool and shady in the middle of summer. We said it this morning with everything bursting into tender new leaf.

Hallelujah, spring!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The First Review

Is it vain to blog about a good review? If I do then am I going to be honest enough to blog about bad reviews if and when they come my way?

Mm. I'm not sure, but surely there's an exemption for the first review! I've just had mine. It's in Bookseller and Publisher and describes Alzheimer's: a love story as 'powerful and rewarding'. The full review is on my website

The reviewer goes on to say, amongst other lovely things, 'The author’s journalistic skills prevent the book from being bogged down by trivia or bathos.' I'm particularly proud of that. Deciding what to leave out, especially of my parents' fascinating history, was one of the hardest things I had to do. I often discussed it with my dad when I was interviewing him, and he understood completely. In future I might blog some of the stories that didn't make the final cut.

I recently read an interview with Lorrie Moore (pictured) where she discusses reviews: 'Book reviews have to be ignored, if possible, even if they are lovely,' she says. 'Book reviews are a conversation others are having. If as a writer you read them you will overhear that conversation.'

That seems like wise advice: eavesdroppers never hear good of themselves. But I do have to admit, reading the first review of my book did make me feel like a proper author, and I always adore listening in to other people's private conversations. That's bad, I know, but I find them hard to resist - that keyhole insight into someone else's private life.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Steering By Noah's Compass

I've always been a huge Anne Tyler fan. In fact I own most of her eighteen novels. My mother loved Anne Tyler books too, so when I saw there was a new one - Noah's Compass - I had to buy it. I have to admit it made me sad too, to know I'd be reading it alone.

But this time the magic didn't work for me, and I can't decide if it's Tyler who's lost the excitement of invention and is coasting along on auto pilot, or I who've lost my taste for her work because my mother's gone and I can no longer share it with her. Or because I'm getting old and grumpy.

Tyler's prose is just as faultless as ever, so it's not that. The story's interesting enough too, I suppose. Liam Pennywell, aged 60, has just lost his teaching job, and downsized into a small characterless apartment. On his first night in the apartment he's attacked by an intruder and, though he recovers completely, Liam can't remember the attack. In his quest to recall what happened to him that night Liam befriends an eccentric young woman and along the way realises that he can barely remember much of any of his life - that he's barely been present in it.

I don't think I really believed in Liam - or maybe I didn't care about him. Somehow, aged 60, he's managed to acquire (and lose) two wives, three daughters (one of whom is still a teenager) and two teaching jobs (or is it three?) without any of it leaving much of a mark on him at all. And I didn't believe in Liam's sexless 'love affair' with Eunice either.

He has a grandson too with whom he feels no connection. The title of the book comes from a story in the grandson's bible story colouring book. Noah, it seems, didn't need a compass because he wasn't going anywhere. He was - like our Liam - simply trying to stay afloat.

It might just be me, but although I could appreciate Tyler's mastery of craft, mostly what I felt while I was reading Noah's Compass was disappointment. The novel felt too cute to me, too self conscious. 'Oh no, don't go there,' I'd tell myself while I was reading it. But each time she did.