July 2011 1. Salon events at Avid 2. Original fiction by Kate Cantrell 3. Are creative writing courses worth it? 4. Why join a bookclub? 5. Cradle to grave reading 193 BOUNDARY STREET, WEST END, QUEENSLAND 4101 | (07) 3846 3422 | BOOKS @ AVIDREADER.COM.AU | AVIDREADER.COM.AU
At Avid Reader we choose a book of the month and you get to purchase that book at a 10% discount for that month. This is a book that we have loved and think you will enjoy too. Our next three books are very exciting.
DVDs and CDs
Bon Iver by Bon Iver CD $24.95
The Psychopath Test
State of Wonder
On Canaan’s Side
John Ronson PB $32.95 $29.70 for the month of June
Ann Patchet PB $30.00 $27.00 for the month of July
Sebastian Barry PB $30.00 $27.00 for the month of August
Journalist Jon Ronson is contacted by a leading neurologist. She and several colleagues have recently received a cryptically puzzling book in the mail, and Jon is challenged to solve the mystery. As he searches for the answer, Jon soon finds himself, unexpectedly, on an utterly compelling and often unbelievable adventure into the world of madness. Jon meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he’s sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He meets the influential psychologist who developed the industry standard Psychopath Test and who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are in fact psychopaths.
There were people on the banks of the river. Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women forever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns. Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’ wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.
As they used to say in Ireland, the devil only comes into good things. Narrated by Lilly Bere, On Canaan’s Side opens as she mourns the loss of her grandson, Bill. The story then goes back to the moment she was forced to flee Dublin, at the end of the First World War, and follows her life through into the new world of America, a world filled with both hope and danger. At once epic and intimate, Lilly’s narrative unfurls as she tries to make sense of the sorrows and troubles of her life and of the people whose lives she has touched. Spanning nearly seven decades, it is a novel of memory, war, family-ties and love, which once again displays Sebastian Barry’s exquisite prose and gift for storytelling.
It’s no secret that Bon Iver’s debut album For Emma, Forever Ago was an Avid favourite. Whenever we’re bickering about what to put over the stereo, it’s the one album we can all agree on. So, needless to say, we’re incredibly excited about the release of Bon Iver’s new album, which continues on the delicate, heartfelt path worn by its predecessor. The band’s sound has developed, however, where it was once just voice and guitar, Justin Vernon’s peerless songwriting is now backed by a fuller, yet still gorgeous, instrumentation. All music fans should own a copy.
The Brain That Changes Itself DVD $29.95 From the best-selling book of the same name comes Dr. Norman Doidge’s excellent documentary (which screened to great acclaim on SBS last year). For the past 400 years we have thought of the human brain as a machine: a hard-wired instrument incapable of fundamental change. Well, we’ve been wrong. The brain can change its own structure and function through thought and activity. Dr Doidge introduces us to both the brilliant scientists championing this frontier science and the astonishing progress of people whose lives have been saved and transformed because of it. Essential viewing. Also included in this set is the documentary’s sequel, Changing Your Mind.
193 BOUNDARY STREET, WEST END, QUEENSLAND 4101 | (07) 3846 3422 | BOOKS @ AVIDREADER.COM.AU | AVIDREADER.COM.AU
The Amateur Science of Love: a novel.
The Psychopath Test
Craig Sherborne PB $32.95
Jon Ronson PB $33.00
This is a novel which should have a warning sticker “CONTAINS ADULT THEMES.” It’s an unflinching look at lust, love, illness and the very many ways we can betray each other.
This terrific, addictive book is a testament to the journalistic skills of Jon Ronson, author of the excellent The Men Who Stare at Goats. After being contacted by a research scientist who has received a mysterious and anonymous book in the mail, Ronson is thrown unstoppably and inexorably into the world of psychopaths (no mean feat for an author who suffers from severe anxiety attacks). The title of the book comes from Canadian psychologist Robert Hare’s groundbreaking research into the psychopathic mind and its behaviours, and Ronson uses this checklist to assess a fascinating series of case studies that take him all over the world and back again.
We begin with Colin dreaming of escaping his parents’ New Zealand farm for a grand stage career. He makes it to London and a disastrous audition before meeting Tilda—beautiful Tilda, older, an artist—who brings his future with her. A heady romance leads to a new home in a decaying former bank in a small town hours from Melbourne. They are building a life together—but there are cracks in the foundation. These cracks are to do with cancer, lost ambitions, resentments, babies and other domestic power plays. “There should be a town called Comeuppance. There probably is, where others like me go. My Comeuppance town ended up being Scintilla.” Colin is selfish, cruel and dishonest but Sherborne’s great skill is in making the reader feel a large amount of empathy for him. Colin is writing what he calls an ‘honesty box’, a chance to both reveal and hide his inner most thoughts. “If I had my life over again I would not have my life over again. Not from this point on in the story, anyway.”
Ronson meets a Broadmoor inmate who swears he faked a mental disorder to get a lighter sentence but is now stuck there, with nobody believing he’s sane. He meets some of the people who catalogue mental illness, and those who vehemently oppose them. He learns how to ferret out high-flying psychopaths and, armed with his new psychopathspotting abilities, heads into the corridors of power. After reading this book, you will find it much easier to spot a psychopath ... and it might not be who you expect. -reviewed by Christopher Currie
This is a life story more than a love story, told from passionate beginning to emotionally devastating end. It’s very unsettling.
The Promise of Iceland
-reviewed by Fiona Stager
Kari Gislason PB $24.95
The Water Children Anne Berry PB $33.00 Water is an epic force of nature. It can move mountains, it can destroy cities and it is not to be trusted. Four children, all living very different lives, know this more than most. At pivotal moments in their young lives they found themselves in or near the sea and forevermore have an emotional connection to it, be it born through fear or love. As they grow, their lives intertwine and we see how people also can be moved, or destroyed, by water. Anne Berry came onto our radar back in 2009 with her debut novel The Hungry Ghosts, which is still one of my favourite books from the last few years. I am happy to say that this novel, despite my high expectations, did not fail to impress. Her writing is simple yet insightful as you easily fall into the characters’ lives despite the novel jumping from one to another at different points in time. Read it if you enjoy the novels of Ann Patchett and Patrick Gale. -reviewed by Anna Hood
Kari was born in Iceland. His father is Icelandic, but for many years he could not claim Iceland as his own. He was the product of a long term but secret relationship between his English mother and an Icelandic man who was married and had a family with someone else. Kari’s mother is a restless soul who spent her life searching for a place to call home. He shares his mother’s restlessness but for Kari it is about finally acknowledging and claiming a heritage that has been denied to him. His mother promised that she would never reveal the identity of his father and Kari himself repeated this promise to his father when reconnecting with him many years after leaving Iceland. As a result of these fundamental promises, Kari can never feel settled in any one place. He bounces between Iceland, England and Australia but his heart longs for the land of his birth, the land depicted in his beloved Icelandic Sagas, and the idea of home. Gislason deftly weaves ideas of commitment, kinship, love and longing through his own story. A gentle soul who loves his mother dearly, Gislason admits to many mistakes in this revealing memoir. Landscape plays a large role in this gorgeously told tale, the extremes of the Australian Landscape and the Icelandic one frame a tale of fathers, sons, mothers, betrayals, forgiveness and love. This is a quietly moving and effecting memoir by a first time Brisbane novelist. Highly recommended. -reviewed by Krissy Kneen
193 BOUNDARY STREET, WEST END, QUEENSLAND 4101 | (07) 3846 3422 | BOOKS @ AVIDREADER.COM.AU | AVIDREADER.COM.AU
To Die For
China Mieville PB $33.00
Lucy Siegle PB $33.00
The last two years have seen two wonderful and award-winning novels by China Mieville, but the latest is his best yet. Embassytown is simply one of the finest science fiction novels I have read in a very long time. It’s a challenging read, but a rewarding one, with a richly detailed world, and a marvellous race of aliens, but at it’s heart it is about language and colonisation and how both those things define the world in which we live.
Lucy Siegle combines her two passions, fashion and the environment, to provide an insightful look at sustainable fashion and consumerism. To Die For exposes many of the secrets of the fashion industry and examines the inhumane stories behind the clothes we wear. Siegle looks at both high street fashion like H&M and Zara as well as expensive big-name labels. This book sets the agenda for urgent reform to the fashion industry and for consumers. Whilst the facts of the industry are frightening Siegle stays positive that we can become ‘ethical fashionistas’. By simply becoming aware of how and where are clothes are manufactured we can make a difference. We also should be informed about the materials and the conditions of the workers that make our clothes. Siegle writes passionately and this book would appeal to anyone interested in fashion or global issues. There are visits to factories in Bangladesh, conversations with Cambodian workers and tales of misery from young seamstresses. To Die For has made me seriously consider my fashion habits and I think most people who read this book will be convinced that we need to become ethical consumers.
It’s clever, dense with ideas, and once you adjust to the world that China throws you into, you will find yourself rewarded with a tale that is as thrilling as it is imaginative. This is science fiction as it should be alien and wonderful, and, ultimately all about us. Embassytown will draw you in slowly then drag you, eyes-wide to its powerful conclusion. If you’re a fan of China Mieville you won’t be disappointed. Expect this book to be shortlisted for just about every award going next year. -reviewed by Trent Jamieson
The Steampunk Bible
-reviewed by Verdi Guy
Jeff Vandermeer & S.J Chambers HB $45.00 So what is Steampunk? Well the term was coined in the mid-Eighties to describe a sort of science fiction that was obsessed with gears, airships, steam engines, and the accoutrement of Victorian and Edwardian England. But these days Steampunk isn’t just a genre, it’s a lifestyle, a kind of Industrial Age craft movement with its own loyal adherents and festivals: think medieval fairs but with more gears and brass. The Steampunk Bible is a gorgeous introduction to that world, and the people that inhabit it. You’ll take a tour of Steampunk’s antecedents including the works of Edgar Allan Poe, HG Wells, and Jules Verne to current practitioners Scott Westerfeld and Gail Carringer among them. Beyond the literary form there’s plenty of interest with Steampunk costumes, architecture and even bands explored. The book’s at once lovely to look at and lovingly put together. There’s much to admire here, and all of it written in an accessible and knowledgeable style. So slip on your aviator goggles, jump into your dirigible (or stow away on a steamship) and pop in and check it out.
The Shadow Girl John Larkin PB $18.95 The Shadow Girl tells the story of an unnamed narrator who escapes the dangerous world of her gangster family. Life on the streets is tough she sleeps in rail yards and abandoned houses. The narrator is a loner and voracious reader, she is determined to finish high school so she can study medicine at university. At school she meets the author she will call on years later. Together they piece together the story of how she survived, who helped her, and the friend she wishes she could have saved. Using a mixture of genres from literary thriller to comedy John Larkin has delivered an important novel with an intriguing twist. The Shadow Girl is sure to leave the reader breathless as the final confrontation with her uncle comes to its inevitable conclusion. August release, ages 14+. -reviewed by Helen Bernhagen
Gentle folk, start your steam engines! -reviewed by Trent Jamieson
193 BOUNDARY STREET, WEST END, QUEENSLAND 4101 | (07) 3846 3422 | BOOKS @ AVIDREADER.COM.AU | AVIDREADER.COM.AU
The Path of Minor Planets
John Boyne PB $32.95
Andrew Sean Greer PB $30.00
This book literally took my breath away. From the author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, comes John Boyne’s latest novel, The Absolutist, a poignant and highly original story of love set in the battle-fields of war torn France during the First World War. I read the second half of this book in one sitting on a long train ride, and once finished, after sitting shell shocked for at least five minutes my first thought was who was the first person I could call to rave about this book. The climatic finishing of the novel is the best I have ever read, and haunted me for days after. It is centred on a young protagonist Tristan, and alternates between the present and the past as he recounts his story of his time as a soldier to Marian Bancroft, the sister of Will, who was Tristan’s great friend at war before declaring himself a feather man. It is not until the end that we learn of the terrible ravaging guilt that consumes Tristan, as a result of a horrific act that he committed while in the fields of France.
There’s something about the way that San Francisco writer, Andrew Sean Greer laces together prose that I find completely intoxicating. I fell in love with his novel The Story of A Marriage in 2008, easily my favourite release of that year. My literary crush on this author was soon confirmed when I read his previous and very successful work The Confessions of Max Tivoli. Then when I discovered that another of his earlier works had recently been published in Australia I leapt right back into his pages of exquisite words to read The Path of Minor Planets. And yes, I’m still head over heels.
The imagery of the battle-fields that Boyne crafts in your mind are incredible and the flawed character of Tristan is one that resonates deeply. It’s a story about love, and the tragedy of war but above all it’s about human nature, the good and the bad, and how one can often overturn the other. -reviewed by Nellie Godwin-Welch
The Path of Minor Planets once again delves into themes that this author has the rare ability to explore with tenderness and intelligence – love, longing and chance. It follows a group of astronomers and graduate students that come together to witness a comet and meteor shower in 1965 which results in irreparable consequences for their lives. The story is rendered through the portraits of three fascinating and brilliant women who are faced with difficult decisions that will change the course of their lives. This is a beautiful investigation of what pulls our lives onto the paths we take.
-reviewed by Kasia Janczewski
Banana Yoshimoto PB $29.95
Past the Shallows
Yoshimoto’s The Lake is a delicate, if unconventional, love story; two broken people who manage to find each other and try to live a normal life, all the while defining what normal actually is, and what love actually is. There is no roaring passion, no infidelity, no break-ups and make-ups of your usual Hollywood romance. Instead, it is a quiet, gentle read about uncovering mysteries of the past of the person you love. It’s a story about what happens after the trauma, the sequel to a story that happened years ago when the characters are trying to move past it.
Favel Parrett PB $27.00
Throughout reading The Lake, as an outsider I was well aware of the nihonjinron – the peculiar Japaneseness of the characters and the world they grew up in, particularly when describing family life. I am not sure if this partially contributes, but I couldn’t help picture an anime rolling in my head – not a children’s cartoon with funny yellow animals, but an introspective adult anime along the vein of Studio Ghibli’s Only Yesterday, with lingering shots of the antagonist lost in thought, with wind flickering through their hair. It is extremely detailed, but with few words it is at the same time incredibly vague.
In short, this book is fantastic. I picked it up for some holiday reading over the Easter long weekend and was totally consumed. Favel paints a vivid and accurate picture of the south of Tasmania, an environment which is integral to the story. Three brothers struggle with their bitter, widowed father, as all they all come to terms with their jaded past, grim present and indeterminable futures. Much of the praise I give Past the Shallows is for its writing. Favel’s prose is lyrical, powerful and at it’s best, breathtaking. Be prepared to cry. This has been one of my favourite books of the year, and expect to see it listed for awards in 2012. -reviewed by James Butler
While The Lake is quite a light read, it does deal with the deeper issues, but written with a simple naivety that renders them almost emotionless - almost a blasé rendering of the facts as they happen. Somehow I feel this is as much the translation as the author’s original Japanese, the dialogue especially seems to feel a bit too unnatural. People after a fast-paced, gripping story won’t find it here, but fans of Yoshimoto and those wanting to lose a couple of afternoons in a sleepy hammock will enjoy this tender tale. -reviewed by Sarah Deasy 193 BOUNDARY STREET, WEST END, QUEENSLAND 4101 | (07) 3846 3422 | BOOKS @ AVIDREADER.COM.AU | AVIDREADER.COM.AU
Why do we do salons? Avid Reader just loves fiction. We do like serious works of non-fiction too, but we have a not-so secret passion for the art and craft of fiction. This should come as no surprise, the place is filled with writers of fiction after all. We have also noticed a worrying trend in writers events and literary festivals. Writers of fiction seem to be getting less and less air play at these events. It seems that non-fiction is stealing away the limelight. Even at our in-store events it is much harder to generate an interested crowd for a work of fiction than it is to get people interested in non-fiction events. Unless the author is a Booker Prize winner, our staff have to work extra hard to get people to turn out to see a great fiction writer. At Avid we believe that fiction is at the heart of the book trade. We just love reading a good novel or a collection of short stories and our staff seem to have a nose for it. We became extra-specially excited about the potential of Nam Le doing an event at Avid before he had won anything at all, now he is a multi-award winner and we like to think we sniffed him out first. To get behind our passion for fiction we decided to develop a series of events called the Salon Series. These events bring you the best of fiction writing and allow us to showcase new talent as we choose three readers, each attached to one of our partner university creative writing courses. With the help of QUT, UQ and Griffith University creative writing courses we have heard from some amazing young and emerging writers alongside some major writers of fiction. These events
are a chance for readers to discuss the art and craft of fiction writing with people who know how to do it. They are great for students of writing who can talk about the path to publication and perfect for readers of fiction who get to see the nuts and bolts of how a book is created from scratch. In 2011 I have gone back to university myself. A huge change for me as I finished my undergraduate degree over 20 years ago. I have taken a deep breath and plunged into a PhD in creative writing and so questions about the value of these programmes are at the forefront of my mind this year as I struggle with literature reviews and mind-pummelling French theorists and try to negotiate a balance between academia and the industry that I am already engaging with in my daily practice as a writer of fiction. This edition of our magazine celebrates our Salon Series with interviews from our recent Salon authors and a special feature on writers from the creative writing degrees. Are universities really a place to breed a new generation of writers? What are the pitfalls of this? Why do some nonuniversity trained writers find these courses so disturbing? What are the success stories? These are just some of the questions we asked in our exploration of this theme. So if you are a lover of fiction and interested in the future of fiction, we are sure you will love our special Salon edition of the magazine.
An interview with Dr Stuart Glover about creative writing courses.
Do you think creative writing courses have had an impact on writing and publishing? If so, how?
Dr Stuart Glover is a senior lecturer in writing at the University of Queensland. Avid caught up with Stuart to talk about creative writing programmes. His responses are illuminating.
How can a writer benefit from a university degree in creative writing? Can you teach them to write, or is it something more than this?
There is no doubt of the complex impact of Creative Writing Programs. On the negative side, the programs are often criticised, particularly in the US, for producing homogenous styles and forms of writing: too many Carveresque short stories; too many formulaic memoirs. I am not sure this is true, but it is certainly a regular criticism. On the positive, they provide a pathway to publication; they provide a structured process of mentorship and writer development; they shift some of the editorial load from publishing houses; and they identify promising writers at a younger age.
There are many different kinds of university writing awards: undergraduate majors; dedicated BFAs; graduate coursework; and very demanding higher degrees. The benefits are multiple and complex, but not always self evident. In some ways, a writing program is a new type of
generalist degree. In some ways, it is a literary studies degree involving a particular set of reading positions and skills. But it is also a process of learning and improving someone’s writing skills. No one can be turned into Jonathan Franzen, except Jonathan Franzen, but everyone can be turned into a better writer. This possibility for improvement extends from practising the basic tasks of being clear and concise to learning the techniques and modes of particular genres to encouraging writers to take controlled risks and explore their limits. Are the supportive environments of a university helpful to writers? Do you find groups of writers who support each other through to success? Writers’ groups can help, but they tend to come in two sizes with discrete functions. A workshopping group is best kept small: two to five people who are seriously interested in writing—and who didn’t just come along for coffee. Writing is highly technical. As well as providing overall impressions of a work—say its narrative shape—the best feedback is often at a sentence level. When looking at someone’s work so intensively, a single writer and a single reader or editor is probably best. But there is also the question of the writers’ milieu. Here, the larger the better. There are many writers who still do it entirely alone, but there seems to be positive effects from writers supporting each others work. Avid Reader is a good example of that. The harvest of young Brisbane writing graduates who have moved to Melbourne —including Ronnie Scott, Lorelei Vashti, and Romy Ash—are an example of that. There are many writers who are critical of university writing courses, suggesting that it teaches writers to all write in the same voice. Have you found this to be true? How do you work towards countering this? Mark McGurl’s book, The Program, provides a convincing case for the impact of graduate writing programs on the voice of post-war American writing. I think the case is less clear in Australian creative writing programs. It may just be too early to tell. Often though, even at a post graduate level, the task of developing a work to a publishable standard is so considerable, that concerns about homogeneity are secondary. There is no doubt there are formulaic approaches to taken and learned for most genres—even strictly literary genres — but mastering these is highly demanding. From one vantage point, all writing fails to be as good, as adventurous, as compelling as each individual writer and reader might hope. What is the most important function of creative writing degrees? Ideally, writing courses do many things: they re-introduce writers to the rules of language; they help writers become critical and informed readers; they develop a cohort; they provide a structure for the writing life; they introduce writers to the workings of the industry and their profession, they teach editing skills, they provide a safe place to practice; and they
provide structured mentorship. I can’t pick between the value of these things. They can all be found outside the university, but university programs provide them in one concentrated place. Do you know of any success stories? Writers who have come through the creative writing degree path to success in their chosen field? There have been many success stories. The outcomes of undergraduate programs are less clear because it can still be a decade or more before writers really get writing, but QUT’s undergraduate program helped nurture or at least pinpoint Christopher Currie, Benjamin Law, Lorelei Vashti, Shane Thamm, Michaela McGuire, and many others who will be writers. Graduate programs identify writers more quickly, because the students tend to be older and they are producing work for submission to publishing houses or production companies rather than just for assessment. Accordingly, I have worked with writers who are already published or produced who use writing programs to develop new work, such as Gerard Lee, Venero Armanno, Jay Verney, Ross Humphreys, and Alan Close. Others are on the cusp of publication, production or professionalisation: Shayne Armstrong, Shane Krause, Stephen Lang, Ian Irvine, Benjamin Law, and Felicity Carpenter. Others still, use the program to develop a work for publication or production: Annette Henderson, Zoe Boccabella, Bruce Redman and so on. If success is publication or production, creative writing programs, particularly those at a higher degree level, have uncommonly high hit rates. Having said that, many writers don’t achieve what they might hope and many stall. Ambition and effort remain two of the best indicators of likely success somewhere down the track.
Creative writing is a basic skill. One of them ‘easy to learn, lifetime to master’ numbers. Creative writing degrees are instrumental in developing the skill set, moving through the levels of mastery; expanding and refining the skill set and broadening the scope of the writers learning process. All the good brains in one place is going to be good for something. It’s not just about the writing, it’s about becoming part of a community I think. I know that sounds like a line from someone whose listened to too many John Lennon records. I had no idea there were people struggling with the same problems, issues, shit I was. I know, sheltered. I felt a bit more normal when I found out. I said a bit. Universities improve writers. Lee McGowan has a PhD in Creative Writing and teaches at QUT
Avid Reader recently had the pleasure of hosting a salon event with Favel Parrett, whose debut novel Past the Shallows was released in May. Favel was kind enough to answer James Butler’s questions about her experiences as a writer, a reader and a newly published author. How long did it take you to write Past the Shallows? A long time. I think it began in 2007 but there may have been a few sketches before that. It takes me a long time but I think it is worth the time. Writing takes the time it takes. And how did this book come about? Hmmmmm – good question. SLOWLY! And out of order. I had the place first – a place that gave me all the mood and soul I could ever ask for. Then I had Harry and Miles. They told me their story as it came – in scenes that seemed all over the place. But slowly bits came together and made sense. Slowly the picture became clearer. Was it a struggle to not get too emotionally involved with your protagonists when their story ends in heartbreak? I think if you trying to write something with meaning and feeling, then you have to get emotionally involved. You can’t fake it – the reader will know and really what is the point of doing that. When I read books that move me, I know that the author has cared so much – has felt it all. There is the magic that happens with writing. Words alone do not hold feeling – it is the space around them – the weight of them – the rhythm. This is where the feeling is. I felt very sad writing some of the book. Some parts still make me cry but this is a good thing. I love Harry and Miles. Their story is something that I cared deeply about and still do. It will never leave me. Where did your passion for writing come from? Reading! I know that some books have changed my life – I am very grateful for them. Which authors do you admire and take inspiration from? There are so many, so I will just give you two that I can see on my desk. Maya Angelou — she taught me about the power of words, the power of writing with truth. “Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning.”Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson is one of the best books I have ever read. I read it often. He is a master. I have learnt so much from his writing. I love Per Petterson’s writing style. He often begins with setting – setting is a character in the writing. It gives mood. I like that. The story could be set nowhere else.
The fraternal relationship between Harry and Miles felt very authentic. Do you yourself have siblings? I have one younger brother and we are very close. I know that I found it easier to be and write Harry because of the way I relate to my younger brother. Life would have been pretty lonely without him. My brother is a sculptor and we talk a lot about the creative process. He has been a real help to me – especially when I am feeling down about my writing. Well, water and the ocean especially in Past the Shallows are, to me, a great example of setting as a character in writing. I’ve read that you are a keen surfer, do you think your relationship with the ocean comes into play when writing? Absolutely. I know that if I didn’t surf, I wouldn’t have been able to write this book. Surfing gave me a new language, one that comes from time in the water. The subtle changes that happen every minute of everyday – with tides and wind and swell. These are things I never really noticed when I was just looking at the water from the shore. Now I wake up in the morning and listen to see if I can hear the swell. When I can hear it from my house – I know that there will be a wave somewhere to be found and it’s time to get out of bed. What’s your writing process like? Do you have a certain time or place in which you work best? Mornings are best for energy. After 5 or 6 hours things can go pear shaped for me and I can get really negative about my writing. So when I am heading off to my writing studio in the city, I try and start at 8ish and finish up by 3pm. If I am down the coast, I surf early and then read or take notes – or do editing. But most of the good writing happens in the studio. Probably because when I go there, the intention is set to work. It is my office! Are you working on your next project already? There is always something that I am working on - but not always on things that come to anything. Short stories are usually there in the background trying to get my attention. Lately, I have been writing quite a few short pieces set in Zambia and I am pretty sure there is a novel in there somewhere too. BUT it will have to wait, as my next novel, which is slowly coming together, is set in Hobart. Antarctica is in there too and Macquarie Island, a place that I have never been but am a little bit obsessed with.
Peter Carnavas is the author/illustrator of five children’s books including the award winning Jessica’s Box and his most recent The Great Expedition, a retelling of the story of Burke and Wills in a delightful down-to-earth way. Avid has been delighted to launch all of his books. Nick Earls is the award-winning author of fourteen books, including bestselling novels Zigzag Street, Bachelor Kisses and Nick Earls Perfect Skin. His work has been published internationally in English and in translation. How important do you think reading is for children? He has written for both adults and young Is there a starting age? adults and has recently become a proud father. Reading in childhood is so important it should be seen simply as normal. Not much other than food, safety and affection rank ahead of it. It gives stories and glimpses of a wider world, it provokes Peter Carnavas imagination, it’s about sharing and then it’s about starting to exert How important do you think reading is for children? control – making choices of books and flicking through them Is there a starting age? independently even when you’re years away from reading words. Reading to children is one of the first steps towards creating From my experience, reading is incredibly important and the sooner questioners and learners and thinkers. It’s also a great way to bond. the better. I don’t know too much about this but I’m sure there has been research done about babies recognising voices while inside There are lots of fads in fiction for kids. Do you think kids the womb but I noticed my daughters responding to books almost should be allowed to follow these fads or encouraged immediately after they were born. The rhythm of well-written words away from them? spoken in a familiar voice is the best gift you can give a child. Fads pass but hopefully something about reading sticks. I was crazy Do you believe it is important to read aloud to children for Dr Seuss and then Biggles. I’ve moved on, but they were the or for them to have their own books? Is it a combination start of learning just how good reading can feel. of both? I think there needs to be a combination of both, though it concerns Do you consider online reading (websites, reviews, me that there seems to be a belief that reading aloud is something blogs) to be just as relevant for a child as whole novels? that only younger children benefit from. Listening to a story is Online reading is really relevant, but it feels to me like a different something we can all enjoy throughout our entire lives. kind of literacy – or different part of it – and the two don’t need to There are lots of fads in fiction for kids. Do you think kids be in competition. It’s about moving and navigating, and finding and should be allowed to follow these fads, or encouraged picking up pieces. There’s some great writing out there, a wealth of away from them? findable information and quite a bit of misinformation. A novel works That’s a tough one. On one hand, whatever gets kids reading...on the differently and has the capacity to absorb you. Your brain interfaces other hand, does it benefit the fad creators more than the kids. I think with it in a different way, and gets something different out of it. kids work out soon enough which books will help to make their soul grow, whether or not they can articulate it. Is it still true that boys don’t read and girls do? Still? Was it ever? Someone probably has figures to support that notion to some extent, but every time I hear it as a broad generalisation – and that’s often enough – it’s a slap in the face to the many boys who do read, and who tell me the statement makes them angry. A footy-and-cricket-loving eight-year-old boy I know came up to me last year and started talking about Eric Bloodaxe. I said the only Eric Bloodaxe I knew of was a Viking king killed in the Battle of Stainmore in 954 and he said, ‘Yes, that’s the one.’ He showed me the Battle Boy book he’d been reading, and there it was. In a couple of weeks he had read the whole series. Please no one tell him boys don’t read. I want him to keep doing it. Battle Boy found a way of giving him something he craved, and reading happened to be the only way to get it. He’s read plenty of other books since. I’m pretty sure he thinks the best books are about as good as Wii.
How do you tempt a reluctant reader? Bribes? Sweets? The usual thing is to find something that interests them. This isn’t always as easy as it should be. I think the best thing to do, though it takes time, is to model a love of reading, demonstrate how much joy can be found in books. Do you consider online reading (websites, reviews, blogs) to be just as relevant for a child as whole novels? I think they are relevant and definitely another way in which children understand the world but I still believe the novel will remain the closest relationship anybody can have with the written word. What are a few of your favourite books for children and young adults? Anything by Roald Dahl, of course. For some reason, I tend to like children’s books that deal very simply with some heavy themes: Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen, Home and Away by John Marsden and Matt Ottley. On a lighter note, anything illustrated by Freya Blackwood tends to be beautiful. Emily Gravett’s work, too.
Amelia Lush is the Children’s Specialist at Pages and Pages Bookshop. Kristina Schultz is the Young Adult and Children’s book editor at UQP (University of Queensland Press)
How do you choose age appropriate books? I believe kids are not given enough credit for their ability to self censor, I make sure to read the older books that may have “edgy” content and give the kids and teens a heads up, they know what they can handle. I am definitely not a fan of age recommendations on books. I can’t think of anything worse than a 12 year old kid who’s a weak reader having to read something with an age recommendation of 7. I judge books’ “appropriateness” based on what the readers say they have read previously, the content of these books tends to set the bar for what content is ok and what isn’t. There are lots of fads in fiction for kids. Do you think kids should be allowed to follow these fads or encouraged away from them? I’m of the mind that reading anything is a win. Fads often pick up a huge number of kids and teens who wouldn’t normally be reading so how on earth can that be a bad thing? For all those kids who picked up Twilight, ripped through the 4 titles and then came into the shop begging for something else to read was astonishing and brilliant. The only major drawback to fads is the publishers tend to respond to them with such force that they strangle the genre with more and more mediocre books that have no place being published. Some fads exist for a reason, the Diary of Wimpy Kid series is one prime example of this, while they are not great literature there are a bunch of kids reading regularly who weren’t until they started Jeff Kinney’s books. I truly believe it only takes one book to get a kids hooked on reading for life and if that book happens to get read because “everyone else is” then fads are alright by me! Is there any truth to the old adage that girls will read about girl or boy characters but boys will only read about boys? To an extent, I find boys are happy to read about girls who are funny, have great adventures and are a little tougher than your average kid. They really don’t seem too keen on the doe-eyed, weak heroines who spend most of their time mooning over some sullen, brooding hunk. To be honest I’m not sure what anyone sees in these characters. I find my biggest hurdle with the boy/girl characters are the covers of the books, when there is a picture of a girl plastered over the front cover getting the boys to read them is tricky. I found the US cover of Hunger Games (which we imported before the Aus release) was easier to sell than the Scholastic cover for just this reason. What are a few of your favourite books for children and young adults? Richard Newsome’s Billionaire trilogy, Jacqueline Harvey’s Alice Miranda series, I’ve recently become a huge fan of Anna Kemp whose Dog’s Don’t Do Ballet picture book is one of my absolute favourites this year. I’ve gone nuts for S.D. Gentil’s Chasing Odysseus and anything by Lili Wilkinson is sure to be delightful. I can’t wait for The Bridge by Jane Harris to come out in August as it literally made me gasp out loud and for a book to elicit an external response like that is pretty cool!
Kristina Schulz How do you choose age appropriate books? Look at the covers for clues. Are there illustrations inside if so this generally means it’s for younger readers. Check the back cover, sometimes there is an age guide. Or if your child likes an author and has started with one book, check the author’s website for more work and other books to find. Or ask your bookseller. How do you tempt a reluctant reader? By encouraging them to read what they love. If they love Harry Potter, let them read the series! If they love magazines, it is still reading. If you are unsure, ask a bookseller or librarian to guide you to a book that might have worked with other reluctant readers in the past. Generally a good guide is to see what they are interacting with – i.e. if they love playing football, try a book about football. Is there any truth to the old adage that girls will read about girl or boy characters but boys will only read about boys? I think so, although not in every case. Certainly it has been a comment that I have heard from teachers, librarians and parents. I think sometimes it has a lot to do with the packaging of a book i.e. whether it is a cover that kids like and relate to! What is the age where kids stop reading YA and start reading adult books? I don’t think there is a set age and it really depends on the individual reader. A lot of boys for example start reading Matthew Reilly books quite young while others cling to familiar reading until they are ready to jump into something more challenging. What do you feel about adults reading YA books? I love it! I know I’ve always enjoyed reading YA books and in a way having to label books ‘YA’ or ‘adult’ just narrows down the market. For instance, I’ve never thought of a book like Catcher in the Rye as being YA but it probably is considered YA/adult. Or The Diary of Anne Frank – how many people have read that book, no matter what age they are! I think the more people that read – doesn’t matter what – the better. What are a few your favourite books for children and young adults? I just read My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece and thought it was beautiful. Traditional favourites are the Hairy Maclary books, Roald Dahl books, Anne of Green Gables, Harry Potter, James Moloney’s novels and recently I’ve loved reading Just a Girl by Jane Caro (one of ours but I am biased!), Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver and Pip: The Story of Olive by Kim Kane.
In May, Avid Reader enjoyed one of our very successful Salon Events featuring Favel Parrett, debut author of the wonderful Past the Shallows and three emerging writers, Belinda Hilton (Griffith University) Nicole Crowe (UQ) and Kate Cantrell (QUT). The emerging writers read from their work at the Salon event. These Salons provide a perfect opportunity for young and emerging writers to present their work but also to practice reading in front of an audience which is an important part of a writer’s life. All three of these writers have participated in a university creative writing programme. I asked them a few questions about the courses and our Salon events. Avid: Can creative writing degrees at university teach you to write?
Kate Cantrell: The difference between writing at university and writing in an attic is this idea of isolation. At university, you are not writing into a void. There is a process through which your writing must pass. There is opportunity to receive feedback on your work. The only commonality that binds writers is that we all have a writing process. For some of us, it is shrouded in mystery. For others, it is more tangible. A good creative writing course provides you with a space to pull apart your process; to find the parts that are scratched, broken or not working as smoothly as possible. Writing is a practice, like ballet or golf. You need to practise the same stroke or the same technique over and over again until you get it right. A good creative writing class allows that. Belinda Hilton: Anyone can write, a creative writing degree will train you to be a better writer. In a degree you learn how to manage your writing, you learn editing skills, how to write to a genre piece and what to avoid when writing. Even if you’re not a creative writing student you learn a lot about writing at university, be that academic essays, reports or applications. Every degree requires you to submit written work and like any skill, practise makes perfect.
Nicole Crowe: I don’t think they can teach you to write, exactly, but the guidance you receive from your supervisor is invaluable. When you’re working on a novel of tens of thousands of words, you can easily find yourself in a ‘blind to the forest for the trees’ situation. An objective pair of eyes to identify holes in plot and character makes a huge difference to your end product. Avid: What has been the most positive thing about university in terms of your writing?
Kate Cantrell: Exposure. University introduced me to other ways
writing to directions it may otherwise not have gone in. Sometimes it even forces you to look backwards. All this comes down to a question of engagement. It’s about understanding where your writing has come from, so that you can work out where it has to go.
Belinda Hilton: I did not initially study writing at university, I was a theatre and visual arts major. During my first year of university I did one compulsory writing subject but was focused on performance and art. It was through the student cultural clubs that I developed a real interest in writing and began reading poetry at open mic nights on campus. I eventually completed my degree focussing on writing subjects. If it wasn’t for those student groups I may never have pursued writing. Hearing other students work and realising how talented they are is very motivating, it pushes you to write more.
Nicole Crowe: It has forced me to structure and plan my time to achieve an outcome within the candidature period. Avid: You guys have read at an Avid Reader Salon. How does that impact on you as a writer? Is reading in public an important part of your work?
Kate Cantrell: For me, writing is a process that is always unfinished and unable to be closed. So my stories are often crystallised, not in the moment they are recorded, but in the moment they are read. I think reading is important for writers because it’s important for a writer to know the shape and sound of their voice. Reading allows writers to keep in touch with their words, their readers and the context in which they are publishing. Reading can also be a useful editing tool. If something sounds forced or contrived or unconvincing out loud, then it probably sounds like that on paper. We need to understand how writing is received in order to understand how it is created.
Belinda Hilton: I came to writing from a performance background and love reading my work. People have commented that my work reads like it should be spoken out loud. Reading my work in public allows me to complete the process, I can portray the words as I intended them, I can flesh out my characters and give voice to the emotions on the page. It is also great exposure, there are no guarantees of being about to share the work in the traditional published form, reading in public allows the work to reach those whom may not have found it otherwise.
of thinking, reading and researching; all of which press on my writing. I think this is a good thing. Being part of a culture that takes creativity seriously is something I find encouraging. Studying writing has opened many opportunities, from writing campaign material for the United Nations to reciting love poems for Anna Bligh. University exposes your 193 BOUNDARY STREET, WEST END, QUEENSLAND 4101 | (07) 3846 3422 | BOOKS @ AVIDREADER.COM.AU | AVIDREADER.COM.AU
w ow ll Ye of ty n ai rt Ce e h T The Certainty of Yellow By Kate Cantrell
That afternoon, my parents stripped back the walls in the spare room and tried to agree on a colour. My mother, who had a mysterious attitude towards children, did not believe in finding out the sex of a child. My father thought this was strange since my mother hated surprises. Once, before they married, my parents got into a fight about what chicken nuggets are made of. My mother said it was white meat deep fried in hot fat with a little bit of corn flour. My father said it was cat. Later that night, my mother stood at the kitchen sink and stacked the cups and dishes. After a while she sighed and said, ‘Those poor little kittens.’ My father, who had started to feel bad about the whole thing, snuck off to the bedroom. There he took off all his clothes, except his socks, and hid in the wardrobe. Inside he saw the red knit gloves my mother won at a cent auction. He pulled one over his head. When my mother opened the doors, he jumped out and shouted ‘Sorry!’ My mother, who had excellent reflexes, punched him in the belly. ‘I’m a chicken!’ my father cried, falling to the floor. ‘No,’ my mother replied. ‘You’re an idiot.’ After they married, my mother’s involuntary movements made competitive sports, like mixed netball, exciting endeavours. But they also made little things, like romantic gestures, difficult to stomach. ‘Well it’s definitely a boy,’ my father said now. ‘So what about the jungle? We could paint some parrots on the wall and put a lion beside the bed. Jimmy did it for his boys. They got nightmares at first but then they liked it. They were scared of the monkeys, I think.’ My mother frowned. ‘What if it’s a girl?’
My father, who split all his days into debts and credits, did not play games of chance. He went to the casino once a year and that was to balance their books. Sometimes, when he spoke, he shaped his sentences as numeric expressions with precise limits and values. But in the spare room with open windows, he miscalculated the probability of a daughter. It wasn’t that he didn’t want one. It was more that he had just finished reading a book called Predicting and Influencing Gender. Statistically, my father discovered, based on time of conception and the life span of sperm, a boy was far more likely. A boy was far more likely to climb a broken drain pipe and rake leaves out of the gutter. At breakfast, a boy would eat sausages—cold or heated. A boy would grow to be tall. A tall boy could change a light bulb or pick a kite from a tree. In summer, when the fan blades broke, a boy would squeeze the pimples on his father’s back; the ones in the curve above his pants. ‘You know the ones,’ my father said, waving his tweezers. My mother was not so certain. ‘No one’s ever going to do that.’ That afternoon, my mother went by herself to the paint store. ‘I’m having a baby,’ she said. A woman nearby suggested yellow. My mother said, ‘Yellow is safe.’ When she returned home, my father opened the tin with a knife. ‘What do you think? My father stood up.
‘No, it’s definitely a boy,’ my father repeated. ‘And I think we should call him Don. I looked up Don on the internet. It means noble warrior.’
‘It’s great,’ he said.
My mother nodded.
But when my mother wasn’t watching, he painted a baby monkey, no bigger than a fist, on the back of the bedroom door.
‘Why don’t we call him Tarzan?’ 193 BOUNDARY STREET, WEST END, QUEENSLAND 4101 | (07) 3846 3422 | BOOKS @ AVIDREADER.COM.AU | AVIDREADER.COM.AU
Why Join a Bookclub? Some of our long term bookclub members explore this phenomenon.
Informal bookclubs have probably existed since the invention of the printing press, in fact when there were fewer books to choose from, then books, like the latest television programme were probably the water-cooler conversation of the times. Now the world is flooded with books about many different topics and sometimes the only way to be able to discuss a particular book with friends or acquaintances is to set the book for bookclub. I remember finishing We Need To Talk about Kevin by Lionel Shriver and being desperate to discuss it with someone. The horrible torture of not being able to give away the ending to my co-workers. A bookclub takes away this stress. It is a great way for people to come together to talk about a task they have completed in common, it forces you to read books that you may not otherwise choose to read and it can also be a great challenge to your own pre-conceptions about a book or your world view on a particular subject. Avid is the home of eight dedicated in-store bookclubs and the meeting place for many more. Our regular in-store bookclubs include The First Tuesday Bookclub which discusses Australian fiction, Fiona’s Open Bookclub, Fiona’s Daylight Bookclub, It’s a Bloody Crime Bookclub, Sci-Fi Sundays,The Young and the Restless bookclub and Adaptation. Our newest bookclub is for high-school aged youth and is run by the very competent Nellie, one of the youngest members of the Avid team. Jason Reed, film reviewer and co-organiser of the Adaptation Bookclub says that he and Avid’s Kasia Janczewski formed this club because “we really like to look at storytelling on the page and on the screen and discuss how they can never be the same, yet somehow complement each other. We also love baking” says Jason, “and always bring a homemade cake or slice for our bookclub, so maybe that’s the real reason they keep coming back.” Cake or wine aside, bookclub members do indeed enjoy discussing literature. Steve Capelin, who was one of the first members of the First Tuesday Bookclub likes the discipline required to read a book every month. “I also like the social element” says Steve, “meeting a small group of people over a glass of wine where the personalities emerge over time – and we laugh!” Sonya Vargas says she joined Fiona’s Open Bookclub because as she says she had no life. “Work, work and no play makes Sonya a dull girl. I love to read but was finding myself in a reading rut (crime at the time) which was not expanding my brain. How many gross ways can you come up with killing someone? Not food for the soul. I needed to be taken outside my comfort zone, to read good books. I didn’t have the time to spend hours browsing bookshelves in a shop to choose an invigorating title that would not be a waste of money. Bookclub does this for you. I like each book to be an investment in the development of me – what I know, who I am and to have my ideas and beliefs challenged. I get all this as well as friendship of a great group of ladies (mostly it is ladies) from bookclub.
That’s one reason why I stay.” Sonya fondly remembers a particularly transformational bookclub discussion. “When we read Song For Night by Chris Abani I didn’t realise the boy soldier was dead right from the start and I must confess much of the religious imagery escaped me. But when one of the ladies started to point out the cross and other imagery that was within the story, it all made sense. It was so beautifully written for such an ugly subject. It was the hardest book I think I’ve ever read in terms of confronting the real evil that exists (as it is based on true accounts, though fictionalised). I went home and hugged my boys extra hard that night. I looked the issues up online and listened to Chris Abani on YouTube. It expanded my knowledge and my world and that is what I want, and what I get from bookclub.” Most bookclub members enjoy vigorous debates that challenge their view of the world. “The most interesting discussions,” says Steve Capelin, “have been where members of the group have widely different responses to the book being discussed. In that case each of us has to pause and try and understand what others saw in the book and be challenged to articulate our point of view. Much more interesting than all agreeing with each other.” Janette Mcleod who attends the Crime Bookclub say that the “best discussions are on books with interesting or unusual characters or settings.” Fiona’s Daylight Bookclub recently discussed Cory Taylor’s Me and Mr Booker. Marion Howes, long-time bookclub member said this particular book generated a very lively discussion. “The issue was whether a 16 year-old girl having consensual sex with an older man was paedophilia. I was amazed that some people thought it was. I really enjoyed a lively argument”. Love the chosen book or hate it, bookclubs are a great opportunity to experience a book through other people’s eyes. It is a way to meet new people and make friends and our long term bookclub members now consider themselves friends of the shop, the staff and the other members of their clubs. We have had romances brokered by bookclub and some heated arguments that caused members to find themselves on opposite sides of the political divide. Above all our bookclubs have featured some wonderful books, prize-winners, best-sellers and some obscure but wonderful cult classics. There is never a dull moment at bookclub and our doors are never closed to new members. Fresh blood, as we like to call it, new eyes on our best loved books, new voices added to the collective conversation about the thing we love most at Avid Reader, great literature. If you want more information about any of our bookclubs just email email@example.com
Our Favourite Bookclub Titles Bereft Chris Womersley
The Poisonwood Bible Barbara Kingsolver
Let the Great World Spin Colum McCann
Me and Mr Booker Cory Taylor
The China Garden Kristina Olsson
Jasper Jones Craig Silvey
The Mary Smokes Boys Patrick Holland
Past the Shallows Favel Parrett
Cutting for Stone Abraham Verghese
The Book of Rachael Leslie Cannold
The Housekeeper and the Professor Yoko Ogawa
The Book Theif Marcus Zusak
Caleb’s Crossing Geraldine Brooks
A Visit from the Goon Squad Jennifer Egan
The Life of Pi Yann Martel
By Nightfall Michael Cunningham
The Ottoman Motel Christopher Currie If you want more information about any of our bookclubs just email firstname.lastname@example.org
Kate’s Theatre Column
T he Crucible Southbank Tafe
If you haven’t already been to see any of the Southbank Tafe performances then you should. Not being pushy or anything but these young lads and lasses kick the butts of any actor I’ve seen on the main stages. And the performances are always inspirational, challenging and exciting. I have raved about the performance course and the Norman Price/ Lisa O’Neill partnership before so I’m not going to go on about it again. What I will say is that Price and Neill’s co-direction of Arthur Miller’s classic The Crucible had my guts in my throat the entire time. So much so that I went home and argued with my partner just to get the anxiety out of my system.
steely horses on heat. And they do. There’s a wildness that this performing arts course generates in its actors and it’s rare and refreshing to see such ferocity on stage. On a nearly bare set, a bare table and chairs at the side, the lighting design by Geoff Squires was dark and ominously sexy. Sharp lines and deep shadows on faces pulled me back, forward and into time. It didn’t shy away from showing how ugly faces, cast in shadows, can be. Harsh and obscure electronic sounds perverted the theme of religious piety and personal honour. And visual design by O’Neill, showing stalactites falling
Typical of their direction, the performers worked in an ensemble, on stage the entire time, and doubled up on the roles of Abigail Williams, Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren. Doubling these roles created a chorus that rose and ebbed within a larger ensemble of naughty girls. Their physical choreography of sharp, sexy, aggressive and bold movements created a pack mentality that matched the rising hysteria in the narrative - a force of young women to be reckoned with. Dressed in plain industrial uniforms and bare feet the chorus created a stylistic contrast to the naturalistic delivery from the main characters of the story. The main characters, the Proctor’s, Putnam’s, Reverend’s, the Judge and others drove the narrative forward with accelerating pace. Price and O’Neill ask nothing less of their actors than to sweat like
from a fence, was an interesting choice of symbolism especially as the narrative is full of heat in its hysterical and passionate characters. The play was presented unedited, allowing Miller’s words to tumble forward with the intensity that is meant for them. All these elements combined to transport the story through the ages: from the witch hunts in Salem 1692, to McCarthyism in 1953, to the war on terror in 2011. If you want to seeing daring theatre from the likes of the highly intelligent and professional leadership of Price and O’Neill than I’d recommend getting down to see what’s going on at Southbank Tafe. They have two seasons a year, midyear and late year.
DIGITAL STORYTELLING. BY ANTHONY MULLINS, CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT HOODLUM, AN ENTERTAINMENT COMPANY SPECIALISING IN NEW MEDIA. Writers and Technology. Technology. It’s usually the last thing writers want to think about. We would all prefer it if our ideas could just be projected directly from our head to a screen without any of this damn technology getting in the way.
So each new technology, with all its intoxicating potential and infuriating limitations, will shape our ideas and produce new forms of expression. And offer new opportunities.
But, for better or worse, technology and our ideas are inextricably linked. Each innovation puts a new type of paintbrush in our hand to paint the abstract musings swirling around inside our head. And that technology, the tool in our hand, inevitably, profoundly, shapes those ideas.
Facebook is six years old, YouTube five years, Hulu four years, iPhone three years. The iPad is in its second year. In the time it takes to produce a feature film in this country these innovations have been conceived, created, launched, adopted and changed the way the world thinks about media and what you can do with it.
When the phonogram was invented, songwriters had to learn to write songs that were three minutes long because that was all you could fit on a 78rpm record (which is where three-minute pop songs come from). Similarly, the length of early film reels influenced the structure of movies, breaking them up into acts of approximately 20 minutes. Novels are rarely more than 1000 pages because it’s just too hard to hold the sucker! Even when technological limits are overcome (i.e. the length of a record) the shape of the media has often been so absorbed by the culture that it continues to endure (i.e. the three-minute pop song).
Each of these new technologies offers new ways for artists to communicate ideas and connect with audiences. But to make the most of this, however, you have to get your hands dirty and figure out how the technology works and what it’s good at. And for writers? Well, that usually means asking yourself one important question: “How can I tell a story with it?”
y by Kev
We live in a modest West End worker’s cottage that has had several additions over the years. We recently renovated. Our builders, Tony and Geoff installed a floor to ceiling bookcase. It covers a whole wall. I have applied three coats of paint to the 27 bays and filled them with books. At the moment they are in no order. At the end of the day I sit back and admire the bookcase. Looking at the wall I am consumed with mixed feelings as it occurs to me that this beautiful bookcase is a thing of the past. My mind drifts and I imagine this is a similar feeling 15th Century manuscript scribblers had at the beginning of Gutenberg’s printing revolution. “Damn that moveable type press! Damn Gutenberg! People won’t read books.” they said. While our bookcase contains many wonderful memories and shared learnings I can now, if I want, condense this wall of writing onto an electronic device the size of my palm. As booksellers we have learnt from the scribblers’ experience and will embrace ebooks as we now know you have. We recently asked people to complete an online survey about ebooks. The survey was developed by us at Avid Reader. We realise it could have been more scientific in nature if we commissioned a market research company; but we didn’t. We also realise the results could have a bias due to it being completed online. We had over 200 responses with many informative comments about ebooks and Avid Reader. Here is the general breakdown of results:
• • • • • • •
40% of respondents currently read ebooks; Of the 60% who don’t 56% intend to read ebooks in the future; Apple is the leading reading device followed by Kindle; In the next five years 33% of respondents intend to buy more ebooks than printed books; 75% of respondents currently buy their ebooks from Amazon; 65% of respondents were women; and 45% of respondents are in the 36-50 age group.
While a considerable number of respondents reaffirmed their commitment to paper books and independent booksellers many are encouraging of Avid Reader to provide an online ebook service. We are currently assessing several ebook service provider options and will be moving on this in the near future. This will dovetail into the redevelopment of our website to ensure that all the current services we provide instore; printed books, events, reviews, staff recommendations and café specials are replicated online for you as well. We appreciate the time and effort people took to respond to our survey and we are glad to be guided by your thoughts and experience. Like our house, bookselling has adapted and changed over time. And like our current renovation the book trade is grappling with combining the old and new ways of living into a happy coexistence. One consistent aspect to the future of bookselling is Avid Reader’s commitment to continue providing great books; in store and online.
‘shift + Film Jason’s command Column + click’ to insert title
Big Screen or The Box?
When a new film comes out, are you eagerly lining up at the box office to be one of the first through the door? Or perhaps you prefer to wait until the DVD is released later in the year and watch it at home?
Working full time and studying has made it tricky to get out to the cinema and consequently I’ve been watching films at home a lot more. Movies have been a huge part of my life for as long as I can remember and I find there is a definite difference in the experience of watching films at home to watching them at the cinema. I may be biased after working for over a decade in the cinema industry, studying film and writing reviews, but I almost always prefer to watch a movie on the big screen. Where else can you get that unique smell of crushed popcorn, fabric seats and air conditioning? Then there is the screen, which is bigger than most of us could fit in our homes. There is also the social aspect to going to the movies with friends, often coupled with a meal or drinks to create an enjoyable day or evening out. Sitting in the dark with total strangers enjoying a film together can be wonderful as you experience the highs and lows of the movie both individually and as a group. I find comedies in particular can benefit from a busy cinema viewing. When people laugh it is infectious and can heighten your enjoyment of the film. Or you might wonder what all of these crazy people are laughing at. There will always be exceptions though. Some films will play better on the small screen in a
lounge room full of friends who can all comment on the film while you watch. Or there may be films that you need the privacy of your own home in order to watch them unashamedly or to feel free to cry whilst watching e.g. The Lion King. But some films just seem to be made for the big screen. Action films, westerns and science fiction films are just some of the genres that almost always benefit from the cinema treatment. Explosions, exploring deep space or the expansive desert of the Frontier all play best on a big screen. Of course there will be factors that influence your decision about staying home or going out. There is parking to consider, the increasing cost of tickets, busy weekend and holiday crowds and even the myriad of advertising included before the film. However, if you can see your way past all of that, the box office is well worth visiting. Don’t forget that films are a huge part of the cultural landscape and can carry potent messages of political import, make us scared, twist our brain in knots or even make us laugh. So whether you like Chick Flicks or Horror, Musicals or Film Noir, I encourage you to watch more films and maybe visit your local cinema a little more often.
Kasia’s Art Column
The Art of Teaching
For the past few weeks I’ve been on a little sojourn away from the bookshop and have been back at high school as a student and a teacher. It has been a really interesting, slightly confusing and overwhelming experience acting in both roles as I learn how to teach teenagers about history and art. My new found position as an artist who is now attempting to also become an educator has lead me to consider a very important question, can you actually teach someone to be an artist? If not, what can an art teacher impart on a young student? My experience has revealed to me a few difficult and beautiful things about being
an art teacher. The 14-year-olds I have been teaching three days a week have welcomed me into their class and revealed their strengths and weaknesses as young people in terms of their technical skills and literacy. I had forgotten how vulnerable teenagers are in the classroom when they are asked to perform new things in the presence of others and an authority figure (me!). Sure, at university this happens too but we’re adults who already have a repertoire of skills and hopefully a sense of self. For many of my students drawing as a focused activity is very new and as they tell me all the time – Miss, this is hard! They all draw next to each other with their eyes sliding across the
desks to the work of their friends and there seem to be two distinct reactions – resignation from the task or mad erasing. Of course, there’s also a small group who persist with focus and they are generally the students who have previous experience. I must add that drawing for the first time in front of 20 teenagers was a little nerve wracking for me too. Although, part of my role is to foster their technical skills, it seems to me that the most important thing I can do as an art teacher is to reassure my students when they find things tricky so that they don’t give up. New things are almost never easy! I think so many people retreat from art because they don’t get it ‘right’ - and then never discover that medium or approach that matches their imagination. And what is so lovely, is that I’m just reflecting what they do with each other – they cheer and congratulate each other especially when someone has overcome a task they found hard. Teenagers can be a lot more sensitive than their reputation often dictates. I guess what I’m discovering is that you can’t teach someone to be an artist but that they can be, at 5, 15, 24, 30, 45…whenever they decide that they have something to say that reflects who they are and the world they see.
July & August Events Stephen Stockwell and Ben Isakhan The Secret History of Democracy
Noel Mengel RPM
Avid Reader Bookshop, Thursday 30 June 6.00 for a 6.30pm start, Free Event
Avid Reader Bookshop, Thursday 4th August 6.00pm for a 6.30pm start, Free Event
The Secret History of Democracy explores the intriguing thesis that there is a lot more democracy in human history than historians generally admit, and presents some surprising evidence for this case.
This fictional portrait of smalltown life and its challenges, of young people on the edge of adulthood and of leaving home is a vividly drawn story with a big heart.
Matthew Evans Winter on the Farm
Martin Knox The Grass Is Always Browner
In collaboration with Food Connect
Avid Reader Bookshop, Friday August 5th 6.00pm for a 6.30pm start, Free Event
Avid Reader Bookshop, Wednesday 13 July 6.00 for a 6.30pm start, Tickets $5.00 Join chef, food critic and author of the hugely successful food bible, The Real Food Companion, Matthew Evans, as he embraces winter with more than 85 warming recipes in Winter on the Farm.
Nat Karmichael John Dixon: Airhawk and the Flying Doctor Avid Reader Bookshop, Friday 15th July 6.00 for a 6.30pm start Free Event This volume contains five complete beautifully illustrated adventure strips by John Dixon; an interview with the creator, other biographical articles and more! All new cover by Eddie Campbell, with assistance from Michal Dutkiewicz.
Nick Earls The Fix Avid Reader Bookshop, Thursday 28th July 6.00pm for a 6.30pm start, Tickets $5.00 At university Josh had dreamed of investigative journalism, exposing corruption and changing the world for the better, but will this dream play out in his life? A new novel from one of Avid’s favourite authors.
Caroline Brothers Hinterland Avid Reader Bookshop, Monday August 1st 6.00pm for a 6.30pm start, Tickets $5.00 It is a common occurrence across the globe, children fleeing their homes – running from violence, poverty or war – and looking for a better life. There are countless young people the world over who find themselves underage, homeless and invisible in a foreign land
The author stretches forward the raw elements of Australian civilisation: territory, climate and resources, to 250 years in the future, relating them to its populous neighbour Bhakaria. The political situation is tense as the Messianic Aboriginal Prime Minister strives to renew a moribund political party from within. His ban on immigration is opposed by his lover in a tempestuous romance. His ban is also opposed by his political adversary, who gains government, outlaws his party and plans for free immigration. He leads a growing rebel following in an epic struggle to achieve a new lifestyle, with a dramatic climax.
Kari Gislason The Promise of Iceland Avid Reader Bookshop, Thursday 11th August 6.00pm for a 6.30pm start, Free Event A beautiful memoir exploring the idea of fathers, sons, mothers, betrayals, forgiveness and familial love in a story that spans the harsh landscapes of both Australia and Iceland.
Paul Daley and Mike Bowers Armageddon Avid Reader Bookshop, Tuesday 16th August 6.00pm for a 6.30pm start, Tickets $5 Paul Daley and Mike Bowers from Talking Pictures on The Insiders, follow in the footsteps of the Australian Light Horse divisions, bringing us closer to the realities of those times. As they pick up shrapnel, bullet casings and even the odd human bone, the musings and black humour of these two mates recall the laconic spirit of the diggers
Philippa Kelly The King and I Avid Reader Bookshop, Friday September 2nd 6pm for a 6.30pm start, Tickets $5 Philippa Kelly is a Shakespeare scholar who serves as resident dramaturg for the California Shakespeare Theater. Her book, The King and I, is a contemporary meditation on Australia through the lens of King Lear.
Opening Hours Monday 8:30 am – 8:30 pm Tuesday 8:30 am – 8:30 pm Wednesday 8:30 am – 8:30 pm Thursday 8:30 am – 8:30 pm Friday 8:30 am – 8:30 pm Saturday 8:30 am – 6:00 pm Sunday 8:30 am – 5:00 pm Open most public holidays
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Overlords Fiona Stager & Kevin Guy Bookish Underlings Krissy, Anna, Christopher, Kasia, Verdi, Trent, Emily, Nellie-Mae, Helen, Sarah, James, Darcy and Jack. Café Stuart, Verdi, Kate, Janna Tara and Cindy.