Friday, December 9, 2011

Rick Stein at Bannister's

Recently, my partner and I were in Mollymook on the South Coast of New South Wales and decided to have a meal at Rick Stein at Bannister's. Rick Stein is an English chef who has had some success with television series. He appears to specialise in seafood.
We arrived at the restaurant on time and we were shown to our table. My seat was faced away from the view and my partner's seat was on a banquette running along the back of the room. The table was set out as one would expect of a restaurant claiming to offer top of the range service and food.
The service was attentive. We had menus and water -- just tap water; we refrained from the Rick Stein carbonated water -- within moments, along with a small bowl of olives. I ordered a sauvignon blanc ($42).
The first intimation that all was not well was when the wine waiter brought a bottle of riesling. It was not even from the same vineyard as the sauvignon blanc I had ordered. It was quickly replaced however.
We'd both ordered oysters as entrees -- my partner half a dozen natural, while I ordered a speciality that cost extra but came with chili sausages. A big fuss was made of placing pillowed plates before the both of us, this being necessary, we were told, as the oysters were served on a platter of ice.
Indeed, that is the way my partner's entree was served. Mine was not, requiring the removal of the pillowed plate. Also, I questioned the fact that I had only five oysters. I was told my dish comes with only five, despite having a higher price than half a dozen.
Anyway, the oysters were fine, as they should have been for the price ($24 and $27).
I'd ordered the fish pie and my partner barramundi (both around $40). The fish pie was disappointing. It consisted of two prawns, two scallops and bits of fish placed in a soup bowl, covered with a sauce (pleasant enough but lacking wow factor) and bread crumbs, then grilled. My partner found the barra ordinary, even the mash mixed with broad beans and peas. The dishes were edible, but expensive, we felt. We also had a green leaf salad, which was unremarkable
This happens at restaurants from time to time. Dishes don't live up to their potential.
We decided to end with a cheese platter, a port (for me), a Baileys (for my partner) and coffee.
Here is where the restaurant went from disappointing to annoying. The coffee and drinks, along with petits fours, came out and were placed on the table within moments of being ordered. We protested we had cheese to come. The waiter, to his credit, made inquiries, but the cheese failed to emerge for another seventeen minutes, just as we were about to cancel it. We were served the cheese with apologies and the advice that, if we wanted it before our coffee, we should have specified that.
Hmmm. I have never been served coffee before cheese anywhere else in the world.
Our conclusions? Very ordinary service and food.

The Creativity Market

The Creativity Market, edited by Dominique Hecq, will be published in March 2012. My chapter in the book is titled "The publishing paradigm: Commercialism versus creativity".

Antipodes: "In a Vietnamese cafe on Rosa Luxemburg Strasse"

My creative non-fiction work "In a Vietnamese cafe on Rosa Luxemburg Strasse" will be appear in the December issue of Antipodes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Where do you think you are? Writing Australia

Arts New England: Centre for Research and Innovation in the Arts will be presenting a symposium on 15 November, 2011, to consider the development of an Australian identity in and through Writing (defined as a process of creativity unlimited by form, linearity or mode). The symposium will explore a range of ways in which Australian writing has evolved and is evolving.
Guest speakers include:
Angelo Loukakis, Executive Director of the Australian Society of Authors, has worked as a teacher, scriptwriter, editor and publisher. He is the author of the fiction titles For the Patriarch, Vernacular Dreams, Messenger, and The Memory of Tides. He has also written a number of non-fiction works, including most recently a book of the SBS television series Who Do You Think You Are? His collection of short stories, For the Patriarch, was winner of a New South Wales Premier’s Literary Award. Angelo Loukakis is a past member of the Literature Board of the Australia Council and chair of the New South Wales Writers’ Centre. He has taught writing, publishing and editing subjects at UTS and the Australian Catholic University. His latest novel, Houdini’s Flight, was released in 2010.
Lisa Heidke, author of Lucy Springer gets even (2009), What Kate did next (2010), and Claudia’s big break (2011). Lisa will speak on the challenges of writing chick-lit.
Sophie Masson, Chair of the Australian Society of Authors and former member of the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the Arts and author of more than fifty novels for young people. A graduate of UNE, Sophie is published in many countries. In 2011 her historical novel, The Hunt for Ned Kelly, won the Patricia Wrightson Prize for Children's Literature in the NSW Premier's Literary Awards, while her alternative history novel, The Hand of Glory, won the Young Adult category of the 2002 Aurealis Awards for Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has also had many books shotrtlisted for various awards, written several novels for adults, and four thrillers for teenagers under the pen-name of Isabelle Merlin. Her short stories and essays have also been extensively published, in print journals in Australia, the UK, USA, and online in many different publications and blogs. Sophie will speak on French-Australian identity
Papers for the symposium are sought on the following themes:
Context and environment
· Indigenous matters
· Censorship, legal, moral and ethical problems
· Expatriate writing
· Outside looking in, or inside looking out: other tongues and accents
· Syllabus studies
· Historiography
Industries, products and production
· Publishing and its products
· Writing and new media
· Popular culture – newspapers, magazines, pulp fiction, TV/film, music, theatre
· Careers
· Individual/collaborative/community
· Technology
· Shapes/forms/structures
· Biography/Romance/Horror/Crime etc.
· Narratives without words
· Professional writing
· Advertising/Public relations
In the first instance, submit a 300 word abstract of your proposed paper by 17 October to Dr Jeremy Fisher

Sunday, September 25, 2011

After Homosexual: The legacies of gay liberation

I will be presenting a paper that further explores my research into the emergence of overt homosexual narrative in Australia at the After Homosexual: The legacies of gay liberation conference at La Trobe University in February 2012. The conference celebrates the work of Professor Dennis Altman and recognises the 40th anniversary of the publication of his landmark work Homosexual: Oppression and liberation. I'm looking forward to contributing to this important event.

Australasian Association of Writing Programs Conference, 23-25 November 2011

I'll be attending and presenting a paper at the Australasian Association of Writing Programs conference at Byron Bay in November 2011. This is a wonderful conference for writing educators, and I'm looking forward to catching up with colleagues and having stimulating conversations about writing. My paper traces the emergence of overt male homosexual narrative in Australiam literature from the emergence of the sexual liberations movement and legalisation of homosexuality in the late 1960s and early 1970s (at least in some Australian states) to the present.

5th National Editors Conference, Sydney

I spoke on a panel on copyright at the 5th National Editors Conference in Sydney on 8 September 2011. I mentioned that digital and e-books have the potential to give authors an increased share of royalties. Allen & Unwin, for instance, is offering 50% royalties for backlist, out-of-print titles whose rights are held by authors' estates. Royalty rates for e-books are slowly climbing from the initial low figures offered by traditional publishers as it is clear that new competitors such as Amazon, Google and Apple can work with models that offer authors a greater proportion of returns from e-books. It's even more important then that authors retain control of their digital rights.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lisa Heidke Claudia's big break

In Lisa Heidke's Claudia's big break (ISBN9781742374918) Claudia, just about to turn 39, is sent off to Greece by her boss, Marcus. She's supposed to deliver a jump drive and some papers to his partner, Con, in Athens, then she can have two weeks holiday, paid for by Marcus. She decides to take along two old friends, Tara and Sophie. Sophie has a young son, Levi, who accompanies them.

When the girls set off from Brisbane, she encounters a hunky young man, Jack from Yackandandah, at the airport and it turns out he's going to Greece as well.

Well, that's how it starts. But Claudia's been bonking the married (but separated) Marcus on the side, Con is a con, and Marcus's business is going down the tube. Not that any of that's apparent as our girls whirl into Athens and party like they were eighteen again.

Claudia sets out to find Con and deliver her goods, but she winds up in a dodgy place and a little messed around.

No matter, Santorini is next on the agenda, and who should be there but Jack. He ends up placing Claudia in handcuffs and marching her off to a Greek police station, because he's really a private eye hired by Marcus's wife to find out the truth.

Meanwhile, Marcus has deposited $20,000 into Claudia's bank account and as she is so in debt to her credit cards, it looks like she's (almost) free of debt at last (some of it inherited from a former boyfriend George who left her in the lurch -- Claudia's life ain't lucky).

Then Tara is on with the English lawyer Angie and Sophie's husband Alex arrives ...

Phew! Yes, this is breathless Heidke territory again. Fun, and funny. She sends up thirtysomethings something terrible, but not cruelly. Claudia is her own worst enemy, and she knows it.

By the end of the book, it is not clear that she and Jack are going to get it on (they do get it on once in the book, but Jack kind of wrecks that with his handcuff trick -- not that it wouldn't have worked at the right time), but at least they are friends.

Friendship is the strength of this book. Claudia, Tara and Sophie are old school and university friends. They know each other well and love and support each other. In less refined hands, they could have remained bimbos, but Heidke loves her characters, too, though she know their foibles and pretensions well.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ethics and life writing

Life writing requires some ethical considerations. Many of these will be covered in the course ENCO309/509 Writing non-fiction: Interpreting the truth that I will teach in second semester 2012.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Author! Author!

Author! Author! from Australian Society of Authors on Vimeo.

The business of being a writer

The business of being a successful author–what you don’t see but need to know.

A one-day workshop with Jeremy Fisher on everything to do with getting published. These are things you need to know well in advance of even trying to get published! The workshop will look at the business side of writing. Some of the issues to be covered will include:

  • Understanding the market and opportunities for survival as a professional writer
  • Some suggested work methods to establish consistent writing practices
  • Record-keeping and basic business practices
  • Writing as a business - extending your options
  • Legal and ethical issues related to earning income as a writer (copyright, defamation, contracts, rights, use of third party material)
  • Practices in publishing houses and how to interpret and understand them
  • What are legitimate expenses involved in earning income from writing and how they can be claimed
  • Marketing yourself as a professional writer
  • Embracing the digital universe
  • Getting up when you get knocked down again: Surviving rejection
  • Persisting

DATE: Saturday 25 June, 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.
COST: $55 members / $65 non-members

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Music from another Country reviewed

Music from another Country has been reviewed on Good Reads by Hazel Edwards. Read the review here.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Robert Barnard: Death of an old goat

Colleagues recommended I read Robert Barnard’s Death of an old goat (ISBN 0-00-231198-4, Collins Crime Club, 1974). The book features a thinly disguised University of New England – Drummondale University in the book – and perhaps some of the staff of the English department are also ciphers. Barnard apparently spent some time teaching at UNE’s Armidale campus in the early 1970s. The references to the menace of Whitlam from some members of the squattocracy support this. The book itself was published in 1974.

It’s a pretty poor whodunit, more of an excuse for the author to lampoon almost all his characters. The only one who escapes with some dignity – but not much of it – is the temporary English lecturer Alice O’Brien. The rest of them, including the police, seem to dissolve into a nauseating mixture of beer, rough red wine and sherry.

Did Barnard not enjoy his sojourn in Armidale? This poorly constructed, nasty book suggests not.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Elisabeth Holdsworth Those who come after

A map of the Dutch province of Zeeland, in the south on the Belgian border, at the beginning of Elisabeth Holdsworth’s Those who come after (Picador, ISBN 978-1-4050-4050-1) alerts readers that this is a book with a rich history. Zeeland may be a backwater these days, but once it was the place from which the Royal Dutch East India Company sailed. These ships were the first from Europe to sight New Zealand and Van Dieman’s land, or Tasmania, these names all relics of that Dutch entrepreneurship.

Elisabeth Holdsworth is well aware of the history of Zeeland. She spent her early life there before migrating with her parents to Australia in 1959. I came to Australia with my parents from New Zealand in 1964. My family settled for a time sufficient for me to complete my secondary education in Goulburn, the inland city where Elisabeth now lives. Goulburn is another setting for her book, so even before I read it I had some connections with it.

Those who come after is a well crafted novel. The central character Juliana Stollburg is descended from the Dutch aristocracy of Middelburg, the chief city of Walcheren in Zeeland. She came to Australia as a child with her parents. Her father, a member of the Dutch resistance during World war II, runs a Dutch trading company, but, like many men who survived that conflict, he has problems. He drinks too much and eventually dies of a heart attack leaving an independent Juliana to fend fer herself and her mother. The mother is highly strung and never at home in Australia. Adolescent Juliana has to take care of her. She finds some help from Philly, the young psychiatric registrar who lives a few doors away. She has a close relationship with him, though well aware he is gay.

When Juliana finishes school, though she’s won two university places, she sits a public service exam and finds herself working for some clandestine part of the army. Her boss is the ultra-masculine Brigadier Michael Munro, who takes a shine for Philly. Their relationship must, of course, be hidden from all eyes except Juliana’s. The relationship is a torment for Philly, who wants to settle down with a good man, but years for Michael. Philly eventually kills himself. Juliana crashes a car and as a result her mother dies. Michael is shot in Vietnam; Juliana kills him with her father’s gun.

Later, much later, now married to Oscar, Juliana discovers her husband is having an affair with Frederick Munro, Michael’s younger brother. All these events fold in on her, but she stands steadfast. To the end she remains a stubborn Dutch aristocrat.

Told like this, the story seems trite, and I did find the gay connections at times a little far-fetched. But Juliana reacts to her husband’s faithlessness not with anger but with resignation. Her character grows with each misfortune. Stoic, certainly, but very much Dutch as well, and ultimately very Australian.

Holdsworth tells a rich, rewarding story. If only this were true of more debut novels.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival

I'll be at the Bellingen Readers and Writers Festival on 9 and 10 April, 2011. I'm chairing a session relating to professional writing. My book will be avail;able from Dymocks Coffs Harbour, the official bookseller for the Festival.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Shaun Tan

Congratulations to Shaun Tan for his Academy Award for the animated version of The Lost Thing. What a wonderful endorsement not only of Shaun but of the quality of book illustration in Australia. And Shaun came across as his own endearing humble self in all the media coverage I have seen of the Oscars.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Using G.M. Glaskin's works in teaching creative writing.

My refereed paper on using G.M. Glaskin's works in teaching creative writing has been published in the Proceedings of the 10th Conference of the Australian Association of Writing Programs. Gerry Glaskin was a remarkable Australian writer, more read outside Australia than in. His output was significant, but these days largely forgotten. Writing students, though, would learn much in studying his works. 'The eaves of night', a so-called novella from 1975, shows an almost post-modern approach to story-telling. These days we'd probably term it creative non-fiction.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

e-books and the Australian Publishing industry

My views on this matter, and they are already out of date, were published in the prestigious Meanjin journal in 2010. Meanjin republished the article on the Meanland website, here.