Tag Archives: libraries

Coming up

Blink a couple of times and we’re approaching half-way through the year already. I’m not on track with my writing goals and failing to achieve the creative work-life balance I’d intended. Must try harder.

That said, there’s lots to look forward to in the coming months. I thoroughly enjoyed the Emerging Writers’ Festival last year and this year I’m chuffed to be back, telling spooky stories at Fright Night. Sounds like great fun.

And stay tuned for details of the Melbourne Writers’ Festival Schools Program, where there is rumoured to be more Tim frivolity in the wind.

I also have various school and library visits on the cards and, hopefully, some flexing of the creative muscles on an exciting project inspired by the Australian Society of Authors interactive books workshop.

Which all means I should be brewing a pot of tea and getting back to work…

Chipping in

The bushfires this week have affected me in a big way. Like many Victorians, I am tearful and grieving, even though I personally haven’t lost loved ones or property.

My Mum knew some of the people that perished. I know people who have lost homes, property, livestock or all of the above. I have friends who are still living with hourly fire danger warnings and are poised, ready to evacuate.

Today Melbourne lies under an ochre pall and my eyes sting with the smoke in the air. It reminds me of the dedication of the volunteers who have been battling extreme conditions for more than a week now.

I used to think city people have little empathy or understanding for rural bushfire victims. It doesn’t usually affect urban dwellers and so they scurry on, disconnected and disinterested. Not this week.

I have never seen so many people so galvanised, so ready to give or serve to help those directly affected by the horrific firestorms. My son’s school is having a fundraising barbecue tonight. Other friends have been taking carloads of food to welfare agencies and homeless families – or even blankets for injured and homeless animals.

Watching footballers, cricketers and actors go to entertain children left homeless from the fires, it occurred to me that authors and illustrators are entertainers and could be helping too. I have contacted people better connected than me, suggesting that authors and illustrators get out and spend time with bored, homeless kids. I’ll certainly help in any way I can.

Alternatively, we could hold some sort of fundraiser – perhaps a trade fair or a reading night where librarians and students in non-affected schools pay to hear / mingle with authors and illustrators so we can raise cash for schools and libraries that have been destroyed. We could also approach publishers to see if they are in a position to donate any books to help restock libraries.

I saw victims of the current floods in Queensland interviewed on television earlier this week. Several of them pledged their emergency flood relief money to bushfire victims. Now that is generosity.

These fires are part of the story of our lives. Stories give us understanding and empathy and join us together. By working together, we can write the most positive ending possible to this tragic chapter.

See this page for information on donating to the Country Fire Authority.

See this page for info on donating to the Red Cross bushfire appeal.

Turning to books

Someone told me this week that as the global depression-downturn-recession takes effect, book sales are rising. I’ve no idea as to the veracity of this statement but I guess it makes sense. Reading is cheaper than going to the movies, ten-pin bowling, getting the latest games console, attending sports stadiums … and most other ‘discretionary’* activities. (If book sales are up, library patronage must be going nuts.)

But perhaps there’s something extra going on. Something more profound. Maybe in tough times we turn to stories to make sense of our lives and show us the common threads that link all human beings. Maybe books offer comfort, meaning AND entertainment. Without the need to plug anything in first.

More on this topic tomorrow.

*Stuff we don’t need to do to survive.

Going for gold

After burning the midnight oil to watch the Tour de France way too many nights (Go Cadel, Simon, Stuart, et. al.), I have made an easy switch to being an Olympic spectator. Sporting competition generates a wealth of comedies, tragedies and other stories and I regularly find myself wondering things such as, “How many times has that gymnast had to fall to learn to do that?” and, “How does it feel to be an Olympian who never makes it beyond the heats”? Or, “What happens to an athlete whose post-Olympic life never lives up to the thrill of winning gold?”

There aren’t many sporting trophies in my cabinet so I can only admire those with the drive to keep on competing. However, I was reminded recently of my results in writing competitions in years gone by. As a student, I entered the Moonee Valley Regional Libraries open short story competition and was judged to have come second. Almost 20 years later, I entered the same competition older and wiser – and came second again.

My advice to any writer is not to judge yourself by the results you may or may not receive in these types of competitions. Plaudits and encouragement are fantastic and can really recharge your creative energy to keep on writing. On the other hand, if you take the results to heart and fail to meet your own expectations you can scupper your efforts to succeed. The best bet is to do what you do because you enjoy it and avoid comparisons with other artists’ achievements. As the marvellous Michael Leunig says, “Paint as you like and die happy”.