Tag Archives: Bob Graham

Winding up, winding down

How do you capture the flavour of 366 days in a few words? Issued the challenge, I’d have to go with: Work intense. Writing irregular. Friendships strong. Cycling legs good. A curveball (or wake-up call) to end the year…

But that doesn’t really cut the mustard, does it? If it means anything, it’s probably only to yours truly. The rest of you deserve better.

So, at the risk of boring any regular readers, let’s recap a tad. The tiny company I’ve worked with for over a decade, the same mob that’s given me the flexibility to be an author when the Muse sings and a public speaker when schools, libraries and festivals come calling, was taken over twice in 18 months. From my POV that involved adapting to approximately three successive sets of managers and a morass of policies, procedures and paperwork easily the equivalent of this. Or this.

There are definite upsides to working for a juggernaut entity but survival in a large organisation means striving harder to be seen. In the past two years I’ve taken on two massive and rewarding projects – but have had to wind back on being an author and speaker. I’m hoping to adjust the balance soon.

Work aside, this year has served up some considerable challenges. There was the phone call that let me know my parents had been hit head-on by a recidivist careless(!) driver, health scares for friends, the text message in the middle of the night that suggested other friends may be splitting up and the test result that delivered a personal wake-up call.

Daunting in far more positive ways have been the commitment to raise over $2500 and ride 200km plus for cancer research (mission accomplished – thank you all), finding the right secondary school for the Little Dragon (fingers crossed) and working on proposals for two new novels (in progress). I loved touring regional Victoria for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival. Working with students studying Five Parts Dead was good fun, too. On the bike I’ve clocked up 4825 km in 2012 so far, which has to be a PB.

A particular 2012 highlight was the night I spent acting as a prompt for Impro Melbourne creativity. Over the course of the night I read three passages from my work and left the impro experts to run with whatever ideas occurred to them, based on my readings. The third passage I chose was from a speculative fiction manuscript I’m working on and, not only did the actors enjoy it, I had audience members approach me and ask where they could buy the book. That’s what you want to hear about an unfinished work. Confidence can be a fleeting thing and any boost is a bonus.

And so to my traditional end of year lists. Because work has dominated the year, I haven’t read, watched or listened as much as usual. I’ve probably forgotten favourites but here are those that sprang to mind as I prepared this post:

TV: It’s been a big year for Glee at my place, courtesy of the Little Dragon singing lead in his school rockband. Once the kids slide into sleep, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed ABC productions such as Rake and back seasons of Deadwood and Friday Night Lights.

Movies: Apart from Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, which was great fun if a tad long, I haven’t had many magical cinema moments this year. The Dark Knight Rises was solid but didn’t quite deliver to the expectations of this Frank Miller fan. Take This Waltz lodged in my head for quite a while but my favourite films for 2012 were Paul Kelly: Stories of Me and the utterly wonderful Hugo (based on the prize-winning book).

Reading: I’m immersed in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire series (aka Game of Thrones) to the detriment of all other titles. Other reading highlights include: David Almond’s Skellig; the marvellously consistent Bob Graham’s A Bus Called Heaven; Craig Silvey’s Jasper Jones; The Rider by Tim Krabbe; and Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer. There’s a few tears in that list.

Music: Apart from the aforementioned Glee, there’s been limited time for music this year, sadly. Albums that did strike a chord include: Metals by Feist; All the Little Lights by Passenger; Spring & Fall by Paul Kelly; and Wrecking Ball by Bruce Springsteen. (Late arrivals I’m currently enjoying are Of Monsters & Men’s My Head is an Animal (very Arcade Fire) and Chet Faker’s Thinking in Textures).

Thank you to everyone who has visited this blog, read my books and supported me in 2012. Your faith and friendship is appreciated.

New Year’s Eve update: Having managed some downtime in the past few weeks and in the wake of a visit by the jolly bearded gent I am belatedly entering the universe of Chris Ware. This is storytelling on a whole new level, best tackled by emotionally resilient and visually adventurous readers. It’s jaw-droppingly good.

Finally, thank you to everyone who supported the National Year of Reading. From where I’m sitting it’s been such a success we should do it all again. Starting tomorrow.

Favourite children’s books

My daughter, the Little Monkey, has just started school. So far, so good. Her feedback consists of “great” and “all you do is play in Prep”. On the down side, she thinks attending school necessitates accelerated maturation. On a recent visit to the library she announced that she was too big for picture books and only interested in chapter books now. Then she armed herself with bundles of pink stuff about fairies and ballet dancers.

Much as I admire her ambition and determination (she doesn’t read yet), I was sad to hear this. I love picture books and I read to one or both of my children every night. As a result, I’m fairly familiar with the children’s bookshelves at the local libraries. We also have an extensive collection at home. Personally, I plan never to grow out of picture books.

Here are 25 books for little people that this big person never gets sick of reading and the kids don’t tire of hearing:

    1. The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson, illustrated Axel Scheffler (Small conquers big with smarts. A deserved award winner)
    2. Dogzilla – Dav Pilkey (Punster heaven)
    3. I am Not Sleepy & I Will Not Go To Bed – Lauren Child (Delicious use of language with house-faves Charlie & Lola)
    4. The Kiss That Missed – David Melling (Fantastic illos and a fun story focused on a lost goodnight kiss)
    5. Applesauce & the Christmas Miracle – Glenda Millard, illustrated Stephen Michael King (Beautiful. Hard to read without getting teary, esp. since the Victorian bushfires)
    6. Vegetable Glue – Susan Chandler, illustrated Elena Odriozola (Healthy message made fun)
    7. Jethro Byrde, Fairy Child – Bob Graham (Be kind)
    8. Rose Meets Mr Wintergarten – Bob Graham (Light overpowers darkness)
    9. Bim Bam Boom – Margaret Wild, illustrated Wayne Harris (Counting fun with great sound effects for the kids to do)
    10. Ruby Makes A Friend – Tina Burke (Imaginary friends are cool)
    11. Wombat Divine – Mem Fox, illustrated Kerry Argent (Finding your place at Christmas)
    12. Amy & Louis – Libby Gleeson, illustrated Freya Blackwood (Friendship defies distance)
    13. Rosie Sips Spiders – Alison Lester (Fave foods, games, jobs, beds, lists, gorgeous pix)
    14. Splat: Explosive Adventures of a Fish Left Home Alone (series) – Terry Denton (Anarchic tales full of twists)
    15. The Giant Jam Sandwich – John Vernon Lord (Co-operation saves a town. Zany pix)
    16. Blue Hat, Green Hat – Sandra Boynton (Colours & humour. The kids used to laugh themselves silly.)
    17. Dumb Bunnies Collection – Dav Pilkey (Every boy I know loves these.)
    18. Yuk – Kes Gray, illustrated Nick Sharratt (Tomboy Daisy dresses herself for a wedding)
    19. Where is the Green Sheep? – Mem Fox, illustrated Judy Horacek (Opposites and simple rhymes for toddlers)
    20. The Waterhole – Graeme Base (Lush, mysterious illustrations and an environmental warning)
    21. Millie – John Marsden, illustrated Sally Rippin (Love knows no limits)
    22. Mannie & The Long Brave Day – Martine Murray, illustrated Sally Rippin (Courage and creativity)
    23. We’re Going on A Bear Hunt – Michael Rosen (Fun to chant aloud)
    24. Miss Lily’s Fabulous Pink Feather Boa – Margaret Wild, illustrated Kerry Argent (Friendship, loneliness and the horrors of a guilty conscience)
    25. Where the Wild Things Are – Maurice Sendak (Classic adventure starring a boy with a temper and a wild imagination)

That’s just a taste. Get into a good children’s bookstore or library and you’ll find there’s hours of fun to be had.

Newsflash: The Little Monkey has decided she still likes picture books. Most excellent news!