Tag Archives: Ben Folds

A new calendar cometh (Part 2)

2011 has been a tough year but not without highlights. Some of these include:

– Dawn over the wetlands at Kakadu
– Visiting Pascoe Vale Girls’ College for the Premiers’ Reading Challenge. Best crowd ever and I can proudly say all the library copies of my books had been stolen.
– Building friendships with other authors; I’m blessed to get to hang out with some truly fantastic people with wonderful, magical minds.
– Getting a short story published in The New Paper Trails
– Cadel Evans winning the Tour de France
– Lunchtime in the library at MacKillop College in Werribee, hanging out with the Book Clubbers and signing copies of Five Parts Dead for many more students than the teachers expected.
– A new bike
– Good friends and family
– Doing a masterclass in writing graphic novels and comics. (How cool is it that classes like this exist?)
– Clare Bowditch’s Eva Cassidy tribute show (made me cry)

Next year I’ll strive to avoid fulltime work and submerge myself in writing again.

Other favourites experienced during 2011:

TV: Deadwood; Friday Night Lights; season 5 of Skins; Bored to Death; 30 Rock reruns
Movies: Murundak: Songs of Freedom; Red Dog; Harry Potter finale; The Ides of March
Reading: Jeph Loeb’s Batman: Hush series; Glenda Millard’s beautiful The Naming of Tishkin Silk; Craig Thompson’s Habibi (Wow!); Derek Landy’s The Death Bringer; Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know
Music: Wilco’s The Whole Love; Bon Iver’s trippy self titled album; vintage Springsteen; the Jezabels generally.

To everyone who has visited and engaged with this irregular blog, read my books, followed me on Twitter or supported me in other ways, you have my profuse thanks. May the new year bring you adventure, love and laughter.

Leaking lists

Newspaper editors around Australia must be besides themselves with joy that the WikiLeaks story has broken during the silly season when news can be hard to come by. We do have the Poms belting us black and blue at cricket but that can only fill so many pages. Other perennial summer yarns include the road toll (tick) and wild weather (tick, tick, tick). In the bygone era of aggro industrial relations you could usually count on a beer and/or postal strike to liven up the pre-Christmas period, too.

Without such staples, newspapers, magazines and current affairs shows fill up with Top 10s and Best Ofs. Many blogs do, too.

Before I conducted my 2010 autopsy, I delved a little to see what influences have lingered. Here are the 2009 and 2008 entries. Hey, at least I can show I listened to Angus & Julia Stone before they became mainstream cool.

Ms Adele at Persnickety Snark suggested 11 Top 5s to countdown to 2011 but I’m going to have to settle for this mutated selection from her list, because I clearly haven’t read as quickly or widely:

5 Great Covers: Kirsty Murray’s India Dark, Leanne Hall’s This is Shyness, Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, Karen Tayleur’s Six and, dare I say, my Five Parts Dead (thanks to Chong at Text Publishing).

5 Great Series: Based on reading these with my son, Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant Series, Sandy Fussell’s Samurai Kids series, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. Based on my own reading of the first book in the series – Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and Joseph Delaney’s The Spook’s Apprentice.

5 Great Re-Reads (books you’ve LOVED so much you went back for more): These aren’t YA fiction but this year I found myself re-reading Peter Temple’s The Broken Shore, Neil Gaiman’s Instructions, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, Dav Pilkey’s The Dumb Bunnies and lots of Dr Seuss with my daughter. I am planning to re-read Markus Zusak’s The Messenger real soon, though.

Most Anticipated (2011 titles): Sheesh, I’m still working my way through a backlog of titles. Books I can’t wait to consume come from 2010 and even further back and include Rachel Cohn and David Levithan’s Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares, Scot Gardner’s Happy As Larry, Kirsty Murray’s India Dark, Cory Doctorow’s Makers, Lian Hearn’s Heaven’s Net is Wide, Justin Cronin’s The Passage, Kate Constable & Penni Russon’s Dear Swoozie, Fiona Wood’s Six Impossible Things, Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy and Kevin Keefe’s Paddy’s Road: Life Stories of Patrick Dodson. Sally Rippin’s Angel Creek is a genuine 2011 title I’m keen to read.

But that’s just the tip of the bedside table stack. One of the apps on the iPad that makes me feel 11 all over again is the ComiXology store where I have already downloaded enough graphic novels to keep me going until next summer.

5 Great YA Bloggers
Authors – Cath Crowley, Kate Constable, Kirsty Murray, Penni Russon, Simmone Howell. Passionate book people – Book Gryffin, InkCrush, Miffy, Persnickety Snark, ReadPlus. There are countless others – but these snare me most frequently.

5 Books I Thoroughly Enjoyed in 2010 (but could have been published any time): Cath Crowley’s Graffiti Moon, Chloe Hooper’s The Tall Man, Craig Thompson’s Blankets, Joel Deane’s The Norseman’s Song and Simmone Howell’s Everything Beautiful.

The funniest thing I’ve read all year was a chapter in Rene Goscinny’s Nicholas about a teacher doing yard duty at a boys’ school after several days of wet-day timetable. Absolute gold.

Favourite Films from 2010: Up In The Air, The Social Network, Animal Kingdom, Toy Story 3, The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. (Runners up: Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, The Hurt Locker, HP7, Inception.)

On Regular Rotation in 2010: Clare Bowditch, The Jezabels, Angus & Julia Stone, Arcade Fire, Whitley, Ben Folds and (still) Bon Iver.

On The Idiot Box: This year I bought a box set of The Wire and became a wirehead whenever free-to-air failed to grab me. Great stuff.

One show that entertained, upset, challenged and inspired me was The United States of Tara. The most recent series of Skins faltered somewhat but I’m still stunned it’s getting re-made in the US. Cue wail of anguish. Nooooooooo! Australian Story is consistently good. Channel 9 desecrated Top Gear.

Thanks list: In a year when I’ve had a new book released, I am acutely aware of the support I need from booksellers, reviewers, Text Publishing, speakers’ agency Booked Out, teachers, librarians, fellow authors, friends and family. Thank you all for being in my corner. I appreciate it.

Have a safe, jolly Christmas and may 2011 see your dreams come to fruition.

UPDATE: Whoops, I’ve added some titles that slipped my foggy mind first time around. And FYI, here’s the New York Times list of Notable Children’s Books of 2010.

Words and music

Maybe it’s the stickybeak in me. Or the reporter. Actually, let’s go with ‘compulsive storyteller’. That’s more palatable.

As I’ve said elsewhere on this site, I spend a lot of time seeing or hearing things and making up stories to go with them.

Example. I was in a doctors’ waiting room this morning and found myself matching all manner of ailments and injuries to the patients shuffling by. The bloke with both arms in plaster was probably a motorcyclist or bruised cyclist like me but I initially had him falling off a factory roof during a break and enter… Sorry, mate.

I do this with songs, too – listen to the lyrics and try to guess what the composer had in mind when they wrote the song. (Over the years I’ve matured slightly and reluctantly accepted that artists might not actually be singing auto-biographical material about their own achy-breaky hearts.)

So I’m really excited to have Paul Kelly’s How To Make Gravy on order. This is an Answer Book, as far as I’m concerned. Questions I’ve mused over, songs I’ve listened to for years are going to be explained by the man himself. I can’t wait.

Another project that has piqued my interest is the collaboration between US singer-songwriter Ben Folds and UK author Nick Hornby. The latter took short stories and other ideas and turned them into lyrics. The former wrote melodies and created songs. The end result was the album, Lonely Avenue. Here’s a link to my favourite track, so far. It’s a universal story that many, many people will identify with.

And here’s a trailer explaining how the Lonely Avenue project came to be:

Still fighting it

Just before dusk on a sultry Melbourne night. Twilight sports night at my son’s school. He is in grade one and has two races, a solo sprint and a three-legged race partnered with an assigned “buddy” from a senior class.

He’s anxious. I can see and feel it. At the start line he chews his lip. Frowns. Looks at the ground. Scuffs his feet in the dust. Other boys his age are jostling each other or staring down the track like future Olympians. Then the starter’s gun sounds and he misses it, taking off well behind the bunch. He finishes a distant last.

One of his mates is holding a blue ribbon aloft when I walk around the oval to hug my son. The little dragon and I sidle away from the finish line bustle, pausing only as he is handed a ribbon marked “competitor”. He’s in tears and doesn’t want his peers to see. Obscured from view, I crouch and he perches on my knee, pressing his face to my chest.

I know what he’s feeling. I’ve been there. I know intimately the devastation that festers in the gulf between sporting ambitions and abilities. I ache for him.

In the next race the boy who comes last couldn’t care less. He’s not even slightly interested in sport and is just going through the motions. The little dragon doesn’t have that liberty. He’s not genetically blessed with athleticism but has the heart of a fierce competitor. It’s an agonising combination whereby any pleasure from participating is frequently eclipsed by failing to meet one’s own exacting standards.

I hold him tight. Tell him how proud I am. Suggest that, if he wants to, we can practise together so he’ll be better prepared for racing next time.

The three-legged race arrives. The winner of the solo sprint triumphs again, somewhat slowed by his older companion. The little dragon is basically dragged across the line by his “buddy” and finishes second last. I meet him at the results table where his mate now waves two blue ribbons.

It’s all too raw to expect the little dragon to congratulate his friend. I escort him away, remembering.

I remember hiding in a toilet cubicle during my event at a swimming carnival because I knew I couldn’t compete at the expected level. I let the house team down. Got abused afterwards.

I remember the humiliation of waiting to be last picked for team sports.

I remember completing an endurance running event in a far better than expected position. Then vomiting, poisoned by performance-anxiety and unable to enjoy even that modicum of success.

In part, these experiences are a symptom of a society that places so much emphasis on winning and success that the “fun of taking part” evaporates. Children very quickly perceive that life is a contest and everyone other than the winner is a loser.

Now the little dragon is suffering the same agonies that I did. It’s taken me decades to make peace with my own limited athleticism and unlimited competitiveness. I hope the little dragon gets there quicker than me.

No matter how hard we try, not all of us are genetically predisposed to run faster, jump higher, be stronger or smarter than our peers. One of life’s struggle is learning this. Accepting that we’re each uniquely equipped to make our mark on the world some other way.

Knowing this doesn’t make it any easier watching the little dragon wrestling with it. As Ben Folds says in his superb father-son song, Still Fighting It, “You’re so much like me I’m sorry”.

Sorry, little dragon.