I am writing Pigeon letters

It’s been a while since I wrote a let­ter that wasn’t an attempt to get out of a park­ing fine. It’s been even longer since I wrote cor­re­spon­dence by hand that wasn’t a post­card. And for the remain­der of 2010 I’ll be writ­ing and receiv­ing let­ters that have noth­ing to do with 15-minute park­ing zones nor exotic travel spots.

I say this as I’m very excited to be involved in the Pigeon Let­ters project this year. Pigeon Let­ters is a pro­gram that matches up authors (and illus­tra­tors) with pri­mary school stu­dents, get­ting each author-student combo to write let­ters back and forth and col­lab­o­rate to write a short story. Pretty cool, huh!

Some of the authors involved in the project last year include Tony Wil­son, Sally Rip­pin and Michael Wag­ner. And some of the kids involved last year include Leif, Jas­mine and Alex (all from North Mel­bourne Pri­mary School).

This year I’ve been matched up with a grade five stu­dent called Toni from Footscray City Pri­mary School. I received Toni’s first let­ter last week (pic­tured above) and I can already tell that Toni and I are going to write a mad story together.

In her let­ter she told me ‘I am inter­ested in writ­ing an action-packed story with you if that is OK with you’. It sure is Toni! I love action-packed sto­ries almost as much as I like authors who know exactly what they want to write. Con­vic­tion FTW!

Here’s me with Toni’s letter.

I have spent this week­end writ­ing a let­ter back to Toni. I would tell you what I have writ­ten back to her, but let­ters are pri­vate, don’t you know? I’ve already said too much by quot­ing from Toni’s let­ter and show­ing you what it looks like. But the good news is that at the end of the project, all author-student sto­ries will be pub­lished as a spe­cial Pigeons book. Here’s what last year’s Pigeons book looked like. Pretty pigeons!

Jenna and Lach­lann (the excel­lent peeps behind Pigeons) have almost dou­bled the num­ber of cre­ative types involved in the project since last year and this time around have 20 authors/illustrators work­ing with 20 lucky Footscray City stu­dents. Toni and I are just one of 20 col­lab­o­ra­tive teams. Col­lab­o­ra­tion FTW!

For more info visit the Pigeons web­site and while you’re there check out what my pen pal Toni had to say about The Great­est Blog­ger in the World.

Uncool Words

Some words are inher­ently cool. Like gor­gonzola. But some words are not so lucky. Be it through time or an unfor­tu­nate cir­cum­stance there are some words that exist today that are quite sim­ply uncool. Here, by my reck­on­ing, are a few of them. Feel free to dis­agree with me or add your own uncool words below.


The block­buster is not what it used to be. And even if it is, it cer­tainly isn’t itself any­more. What I mean to say, is that with Block­buster (the one time mam­moth video chain) head­ing for bank­ruptcy in the United States, the word block­buster has become syn­ony­mous with finan­cial ruin, Amer­i­can crap­pi­ness and things that your Dad remem­bers fondly. Put sim­ply, block­buster = old and uncool.

As such movies, books, TV shows, movies, comics and movies have slowed the use of the word block­buster as a buzz word to cre­ate hype and embed ridicu­lously high expec­ta­tions in audiences.

As a result when peo­ple describe a movie as being a block­buster these days, it’s prob­a­bly just your Dad talk­ing. About Star Wars.


I was using gmail chat the other day when I needed to reply to my sis­ter with some vari­ety of an affir­ma­tive inter­jec­tion. I went for kewl since I’m aware of using cool on IM too much. My lovely sis­ter was quick to dress me down for my choice. Appar­ently kewl became grossly unkewl around the time Kool Mints stopped being sold in tins.

Any­way, I apol­o­gised to my sis­ter and typed lots of paren­the­ses and semi-colons to her and she was happy.


Sud­denly is as uncool now as it was twenty years ago. It indi­cates that some­thing of inter­est is upon us, with­out being inter­est­ing at all. This is why my fourth grade teacher banned me from using it in my story writ­ing. It may have been the pas­sage “Sud­denly they kids stood up. Sud­denly they were amazed to see a bear com­ing their way. Sud­denly there was the bear. Sud­denly they were scared of being eaten by the bear. Sud­denly they slowly crept away” that pushed her over the edge.

Like they say in writ­ing school, ‘Show don’t tell’. Which is long­hand for ‘Never use suddenly’.


Because Kevin Rudd says it.


This one is kind of unfair because this time next year 2010 will be the uncool word. But for now it’s the word 2009 that is asso­ci­ated with things of yes­ter­year and thus the things of uncool.

OMG that is so 2009’ a mod­ern teenager might say. Actu­ally a truly mod­ern teenager would prob­a­bly say ‘It is so 2009 to say “OMG”’. None the less, to describe some­thing as being very 2009 is to make a very dis­parag­ing com­ment indeed.

The other thing worth keep­ing in mind is that even when 2011 ticks around, 2009 won’t become instantly cool again. It takes time for these things to regain their cool. Appar­ently 1983 has been wait­ing for more than twenty years.

The Blogging, the Book Launch and the Cool Stuff Happening Soon

I hate doing ‘update’ blogs and yet some­times they are a nec­es­sary part of every blogger’s blog feed. I will attempt to demu­n­dane the expe­ri­ence by using head­ings. Let’s see how I go at the whole demu­n­daneifi­ca­tion. (Ooh, I should go patent that word).


It’s a while since I’ve been on this blog. Some­times writ­ers must take time off writ­ing so they can con­cen­trate on their writ­ing. Y’know? As well as work­ing on Book Num­ber Two I was also blog­ging over at the Inside A Dog web­site last month. Among other things I did dur­ing my month-long blog­ging res­i­dency over there, were inter­views with all the authors who have been short­listed for the CBCA Book of the Year for Older Read­ers award. Here are all of the blog posts I did:

The Blog Post with the Bor­ing Intro­duc­tions
The Blog Post with the Cereal Boxes as Book Cov­ers
The Blog Post about how CBCA Short­listed Authors are the Rock Stars of YA
The Blog Post with Penny Tangey, author of Lov­ing Richard Feyn­man
The Blog Post about Bad Book Ideas
The Blog Post inter­view­ing Jus­tine Lar­balestier, author of Liar
The Blog Post about the Girl With The Dragon Book Tat­toos
The Vlog Post where Lucy Christo­pher talks about her books Stolen & Flyaway

The Blog Post with My Guide to the ‘Other’ Graphic Nov­els By Well-Known Graphic Nov­el­ists
The Blog Post inter­view­ing Glenda Mil­lard, author of A Small Free Kiss In The Dark
The Blog Post about That One Book You Did at School and Actu­ally Loved
The Blog Post ‘doing cof­fee’ with David Met­zen­then, author of Jarvis 24
The Blog Post inter­view­ing Judith Clarke, author of The Winds of Heaven
The Blog Post about Mid­dle Grade Fic­tion and its Place in the World (Which Seems Obvi­ous, But Isn’t)


In other news I attended the launch of fel­low writer Kim Kane’s pic­ture book Fam­ily For­est last week. Fam­ily For­est is a real charmer — a pic­ture book about a mod­ern fam­ily that is more like a fam­ily for­est than a fam­ily tree.

You might have heard of Kim before because she wrote the excel­lent YA novel Pip: The Story of Olive a cou­ple of years ago. Fam­ily For­est is her first and only pic­ture book, although that won’t be the case for long as her sec­ond — The Veg­etable Ark: A Tale of Two Brothers — comes out in August. She’s a pic­ture book machine right now.

That’s Kim and the illus­tra­tor of Fam­ily For­est Lucia Mas­ci­ullo above at the book launch at Read­ings Port Mel­bourne. Lucia was raised in Tus­cany, now lives in Bris­bane and is also the illus­tra­tor of (name drop alert) Sonya Hartnett’s new pic­ture book The Boy and the Toy.


And I’m appear­ing at the Dog’s Bar in St Kilda, Mel­bourne next Thurs­day night as part of the Dog’s Bar’s ongoing Sto­ry­telling nights, which have been get­ting a bit of press lately. I’ll be ‘spin­ning yarns’ as the warm-up act for another great YA author — Kathy Charles — from 8pm. Kathy’s cool book Hol­ly­wood Ending was pub­lished here last year (which has since been short­listed for two NSW Premier’s Lit­er­ary Awards) and is being pub­lished in the US in August as John Belushi is Dead.

Oh and the Emerg­ing Writ­ers’ Fes­ti­val is on later in May in Mel­bourne too. The full pro­gram can be seen here and as part of one the festival’s From Here to There ses­sions I’ll be chat­ting to Mel­bourne artist Stephanie Brotchie about a project she ran last year called A Nov­elty, which was a lit­er­ary trea­sure hunt/interactive novel that took place in and around Melbourne.

And that’s all I have. Hope I man­aged to demu­n­danel­ize the com­mon ‘update’ blog post. And now I’m off to patent every demu­n­dane suf­fix I can think of.

Blogging at Inside A Dog throughout April

Hi all. Just a quick post to let you know that for the month of April I am the Res­i­dent Blog­ger over at www.insideadog.com.

For those not in the know, Inside A Dog is a web­site for young peo­ple that is all about books and read­ing. It is run by the Cen­tre for Youth Lit­er­a­ture — out of the State Library of Vic­to­ria — which is the most promi­nent organ­i­sa­tion in Aus­tralia to focus soley on young adult books, read­ing and writ­ing with lots of cool pro­grams and YA events every year.

Inside A Dog fea­tures a new res­i­dent author blog­ging every month. Some of the more recent authors to have done the res­i­dency include Garth Nix, Lia Hills and Richard Har­land. And now me. I’ll be back on my ‘home blog’ in May, but for now fol­low me at Inside A Dog or sub­scribe to their RSS feed. Oh and I’ll be blog­ging a lot more than usual over there too. They made me sign a con­tract wherein I promised not to be a ‘lazy-good-for-nothing-blogger’.

On Flying: Why Getting High Wouldn’t Be So Dope After All

Begin­ning of discussion.

It is only nat­ural for humans to want to fly. The human desire to move beyond the laws of grav­ity and take to the skies is the busi­ness of all pilots, astro­nauts and moti­va­tional speak­ers who talk in metaphors. And there are many more of us who would like to make it our busi­ness. Most of us have, at point or another, wished for the abil­ity to fly with­out the use of planes, rock­ets or super-strength spider-webbing. As chil­dren you may have actu­ally tried to fly, run­ning around the back­yard and attempt­ing to ‘take off’. And, unless you were Peter Parker, you would have frus­trat­ingly remained grounded. Nev­er­the­less, many of us con­tinue to dream about fly­ing and still wish for the power to zoom about in the air.

But I don’t believe that fly­ing would be such a fan­tas­tic thing. Sure, you would get that instant feel­ing of free­dom as your feet left the ground and you watched the world shrink under your shoes; but things would get bad pretty quickly after that.

For one, it would be cold. Really cold. The first layer of the Earth’s atmos­phere is called the Tro­pos­phere and it stretches from the ground up to around ten kilo­me­tres above sea level. So assum­ing you did sud­denly one day acquire the abil­ity to fly, you would find your­self soar­ing around in the Tro­pos­phere – which might sound like a mid-air amuse­ment park, but is actu­ally a place that gets 6.5° Cel­sius colder for every kilo­me­tre higher you go. Plus the faster you flew the more the wind chill fac­tor would increase and you’d prob­a­bly have to put a wind­cheater on. And you would soon encounter clouds, which are the bitu­men of heaven in car­toons but in real­ity would prob­a­bly be more like walk­ing into a meat locker wear­ing noth­ing but eat­able ice-cream undies. You would very soon be miss­ing your warm bed blan­kets. And pos­si­bly your toes, should frost­bite set in.

Then there would be the issue of fly­ing posi­tions. Fly­ing in itself is a glam­orous thing and you could expect to gain extra ‘cool’ once air­borne (unless you are wear­ing that wind­cheater, of course). The fly­ing process would involve you shoot­ing up into the air ‘ele­va­tor style’ (i.e. head first) and then mov­ing your­self into the ‘super­man posi­tion’ (i.e. par­al­lel to the ground with fists out in front). Except that it prob­a­bly wouldn’t work out that way. You would still be bound by the laws of grav­ity in the Tro­pos­phere and get­ting into the ‘super­man posi­tion’ – let alone main­tain­ing it – would be almost impos­si­ble. Most likely you’d end up fly­ing in a posi­tion that resem­bled a child hang­ing over a fence on its stom­ach, except with­out the fence.

As I demon­strate here…

…this would not be a glam­orous way to fly.

How­ever, the most com­pelling rea­son not to go fly­ing is that it is – in fact – ille­gal for a per­son to go fly­ing.  All things that fly – planes, bal­loons, blimps, even hang glid­ers – need licences to do so. The Civil Avi­a­tion Safety Author­ity (CASA) rules the skies in Aus­tralia and they basi­cally ensure that no one goes up into the sky with­out the CASA know­ing about it. Since radars are already capa­ble of show­ing birds in flight, detect­ing a human in the sky would be sim­ple enough. Espe­cially if said human was fly­ing in the shape of a child hang­ing over a fence.

And so you see the dan­gers, dis­com­forts and fash­ion per­ils of human-only flight. It is not my inten­tion to ruin child­hood dreams, but we must let go of that desire to fly. Move on.There are other things that need now to be con­sid­ered. Like how can we make our­selves invis­i­ble? Or how can we imbue our­selves with X-Ray vision? And do peo­ple who sell trench coats on the black mar­ket keep their ille­gal trench coats on the insides of their trench coats?

End of dis­cus­sion (unless you would like to leave your own thoughts On Fly­ing below).

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