Player Profile: Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project

Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project


Tell us about your latest creation…

The Rosie Project: A socially-challenged genetics professor sets out to find a wife scientifically. A laugh-out-loud romantic comedy that both men and women will enjoy. Winner of the Vic Premier’s Award for an unpublished manuscript and rights sold in 32 countries.

Where are you from / where do you call home?

Born in Auckland, NZ, live in Melbourne, Australia.


When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?

As a young kid, an astronaut. Later (from about 10) a theoretical physicist.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?

The Rosie Project (novel – there’s a screenplay too). It took a lot of small steps to realise a lifetime ambition of writing a novel. Previously I’d written non-fiction and made several short films.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?

It’s a notebook computer. That’s it. And I use it anywhere except in my office – which is for business.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?

I’m a guy. Non-fiction. I have to force myself to read fiction – but I’m fine once I get into it. I like Nick Hornby, John Irving, John Fowles, Joanne Harris and (sorry) Philip Roth.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Solzenitsyn. It taught me something important about the nature of happiness – which may or may not have been the author’s intention. And I read ALL of Asimov, Hemingway and Henry Miller.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?

Daniel Martin – in Fowles’s Daniel Martin. A screenwriter trying to make sense of life  – and eventually finding some. Which is what I turned out to be. (It’s 30 years since I’ve read it – I may be very wrong).

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?

Walk. My partner and I walked 2000km from Cluny in France to Santiago in Spain (pilgrims’ route) in 2010. And make short films.

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?

Crab or tuna. Hard to beat fresh pepper crab eaten outside in Singapore. And I’m a wine nut so a great pinot noir from France or Oregon.

Who is your hero? Why?

Bob Dylan. For many reasons, including his determination to maintain his creative energy in later life.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?

Short attention spans.

Follow Graeme:

Buy the physical book here…

Buy the eBook here…

The American Pianist immortalised by Australian Lipstick Salesman

This is a remarkable true story about how America’s best pianist was immortalised by an Australian lipstick salesman.

lasting-recordA Lasting Record is a haunting story about two men who never met but whose paths crossed in a surprising way. With a mix of detective work and imagination, Stephen Downes tells the spellbinding tale of the greatest pianist who almost never was, and his eccentric and passionate fan.

William Kapell was returning from a series of concerts in Australia in 1953 on a BCPA plane that ploughed into a mountain south of San Francisco. He was just 31 years old, a husband and father. The airline was subsequently taken over by Qantas and litigation for damages went on for years.

This is the first biography of the American but it also tells the story of Roy Preston, a humble Melburnian whose home-made recordings of Kapell’s playing, miraculously released by Sony BMG in 2008, confirm the pianist’s genius.

Preston had used a Melbourne-made ‘Royce’ recorder to capture the pianist’s last performance – Chopin’s ‘Funeral March’ sonata – from a live radio broadcast a week before Kapell was killed.

A Lasting Record is filled with bizarre coincidences – the men looked similar; two other great pianists whom Kapell knew also died at 31, and the Kapell family in New York heard about the discovery of Roy’s recordings 50 years to the day after Willy’s death. A black cat walked across the stage at his last recital, and days later he told reporters on the tarmac at Mascot that he would never return to Australia. He had held out his hand to show Melbourne friends his short ‘life’ line and told them he wouldn’t be around for long.

Stephen Downes brings his love of music, keen journalist’s eye and detailed research to this epic tale spanning several decades. It is a diamond of a book, with many glittering facets.

Buy the book here…


stephen-downesStephen Downes is the author of ADAGIO FOR A SIMPLE CLARINET, a narrative that involved musicology, biography, memoir, Nazi history and an interview with Mozart. A writer and journalist who wanted to be a concert pianist, he has ‘collected’ for decades live performances by some of the world’s greatest pianists, including Sviatoslav Richter, Daniel Barenboim and Julius Katchen. He has a significant collection of piano recordings. Stephen is the author of several books, including BLACKIE, the story of a pet cat’s treatment for a brain tumour and his unfortunate demise; the book was met with considerable sales and is now translated into three languages.


What’s Your Dog Teaching You?

What’s Your Dog Teaching You? by Martin McKenna

The follow-up to the bestselling What’s Your Dog Telling You?

dogmanMartin McKenna, aka the Dog Man, has learned plenty from the dogs he grew up with and from the dogs he now owns. He firmly believes that dogs hold the key to human happiness and wellbeing and that they can help us to be better people — if we only learned how to learn from them.

Over the years he has counselled countless people in doggy lore, in how to be more relaxed, more confident, less aggressive, more loyal, how to make the most out of life, how to use routine to clear your head — and numerous other useful modes of behaviour. In this book he runs through the many lessons dogs can teach us, via colourful anecdotes about hounds and their owners.

Be warned! Not everyone is up to the task of learning from their dog.

Martin McKenna is the author of the bestselling book, What’s Your Dog Telling You? As a boy growing up in Limerick, Ireland, he escaped from family violence by running away from home and living in an abandoned barn with a pack of stray dogs. Martin learned the unique psychology and language shared by dogs all over the world and now he is passionate about helping dogs and humans to communicate more successfully with each other. He lives on the far north coast of New South Wales with his wife, children and an assortment of dogs.

Buy the book here…

Praise for What’s Your Dog Telling You?

‘The book exudes his passion for reshaping our perceptions of the dog world. Martin is an entertaining, thoughtful writer, who even the most conservative disciplinarians will come to like.’ –

‘It’s entertaining and thought-provoking and well worth a read.’ – Sunday Telegraph

‘The book is easy to navigate and is a dog owner’s go-to book for all their questions.’ – Toowoomba Chronicle

‘Upon reaching the last page, the readers will be astounded by all the new things you have learned to say fluently in dog language, not just to your own dog, but to every dog you meet.’ – Margaret River Times

New Release: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

rosie-projectThe feel-good novel of 2013, The Rosie Project is a classic screwball romance.

Rights sold into more than thirty countries.

Don Tillman is getting married. He just doesn’t know who to yet.

But he has designed the Wife Project, using a sixteen-page questionnaire to help him find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker, or a late-arriver.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is also fiery and intelligent and beautiful. And on a quest of her own to find her biological father—a search that Don, a professor of genetics, might just be able to help her with.

The Wife Project teaches Don some unexpected things. Why earlobe length is an inadequate predictor of sexual attraction. Why quick-dry clothes aren’t appropriate attire in New York. Why he’s never been on a second date. And why, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love: love finds you.

Follow @ProfDonTillman on Twitter

Like The Rosie Project on Facebook

Buy the book here…

Praise for The Rosie Project:

‘Funny and heartwarming, a gem of a book.’ — Marian Keyes

‘Although there are many laughs to be found in this marvellous novel, The Rosie Project is a serious reflection on our need for companionship and identity. Don Tillman is as awkward and confusing a narrator as he is lovable and charming.’ — John Boyne, author of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

‘Graeme Simsion has created an unforgettable and charming character unique in fiction. Don Tillman is on a quirky, often hilarious, always sincere quest to logically discover what is ultimately illogical—love. Written in a superbly pitch-perfect voice, The Rosie Project had me cheering for Don on every page. I’m madly in love with this book! Trust me, you will be, too.’ — Lisa Genova, bestselling author of Still Alice and Left Neglected

About Graeme Simsion

Graeme Simsion worked as a computer operator, programmer and database specialist before founding a consulting business in 1982. By the time he sold Simsion Bowles & Associates in 1999, it had grown to some seventy staff in three cities. Graeme had built an international reputation in data management and written the standard text on data modelling. Until the success of The Rosie Project enabled him to concentrate on his writing, he continued to deliver seminars around the world.

Graeme is a founder of Pinot Now, a wine importer and distributor and Roy’s Antiques in Melbourne. He recently resigned from his position as a Senior Research Fellow at Melbourne University. He is married to Anne, a professor of psychiatry who writes erotic fiction. They have two children.

In 2007, Graeme completed his PhD in information systems and enrolled in the professional screenwriting course at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. He has made a number of short films and his screenplay, The Rosie Project, won the Australian Writers Guild / Inception Award for Best Romantic Comedy Script in 2010. While waiting for The Rosie Project to be produced, he turned it into a novel which in June 2012 won the Victorian Premier’s award for an unpublished fiction manuscript.

Readers of The Rosie Project will know that Graeme Simsion has a first-class sense of humour. At professional conferences he has given addresses from on top of a ladder, dressed as a duck, and he once engaged a group of spellbound chartered accountants in community singing.

Review: The City of Devi by Manil Suri

city-of-deviThe first third of this book is about sex: love and sex; sex and love. In the first five chapters, Sarita remembers how she fell in love with Karun and the details of  her increasingly adventurous attempts to get him to consummate their marriage. The next five chapters deal with Jaz’s homosexual seduction of Karun, his gradual falling in love with him and their subsequent parting. The sex is imaginative but leaves little to the imagination. Now, however, Karun has disappeared and Sarita and Jaz are trying to find him.

All this is set in a dystopian world in which Pakistan is at war with India and has set a date for a nuclear attack on Mumbai (where the novel is set); dirty bombs have exploded in Zurich, New York, London and other world cities; all communication networks have broken down; Hindu and Muslim extremist groups have taken over parts of the city and are undertaking murderous religious persecution; and SuperDevi, a Bollywood/Hollywood epic has captured popular imagination and fostered a cult which is being used by the power-hungry Bhim, leader of the extremist, right-wing, Hindu Rashtriya Manch, to further his own interests. Oh, and Sarita is taking Karun a pomegranate!

It would be easy to parody the events which make up the rest of this book. The miraculous escapes, the Bollywood style Devi celebrations, Jaz’s camp cousin ‘Aunty’ Rahim who helps them escape the Muslim Limbus thugs, the final sexual consummation which almost qualifies for nomination for the Bad Sex Award, and the predictable ending, all these are the stuff of Bond movies. And Sarita’s ability to be relatively unaffected by the horrors she witnesses and the personal dramas she experiences, keeps her character shallow and undeveloped.

However, Manil Suri writes well and he knows how create interesting characters, how to structure and tell a good story, how to describe the horrors of war, and how to capture the variety, flavour, excesses and beauty of Indian life.

An advertising puff on the back cover of the book quotes the Independent as saying that “Manil Suri has been likened to Narayan, Coetzee, Naipaul, Chekhov and Flaubert”. One wonders who made that comparison. It is nonsense. Perhaps if publishers exaggerated less, I would be less judgmental. Suri has certainly “developed a voice of his own” but a little less sex, a bit more realism in the plot, and some development of the serious issues touched on in the book, might make this book less of a romantic thriller and more like the “huge novel” that the advertising claims.

Copyright © Ann Skea 2013
Website and Ted Hughes pages:

Review – The Emu That Laid the Golden Egg

lamingtonsAs I smack down some lamingtons over the Straya Day long weekend, I am reminded of how my first encounter with half of the Aussie Coat of Arms filled me with unaccountable terror. A bristling periscopic neck thrust its way deep into our car’s interior in search of edible morsels as I shrank deep into the rear seat. Being young and unacquainted with the ways our largest flightless bird, I convinced myself their diet must include the tender noses of young innocents. Thankfully I was wrong. And thankfully, the talented team who brought us Town Possum, Outback Possum, Yvonne Morrison and Heath McKenzie, have created a version of Aesop’s well-known fable, The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs, entertaining enough to salve my terrifying first impression of – the emu.Emu Gold 4

But are all emus as undiscerning and bold enough to lunge for any old scrap? Apparently not, for Emma’s taste requires greater stimulation than the mere leftovers the rest of her flock dines on. Her insatiable appetite leads her far from home until exhausted and starving; she gorges on what she mistakes for kernels of corn. You’d think laying a golden egg would stem your starvation somewhat but it does little to abate her hunger and she soon abandons the glimmering egg.

Enter stage right, the baddies; two rotten scoundrels, keen on stealing whatever they can get their grubby little, pink paws on. Before long, Emma is trapped by their devious plot to become the richest possums this side of the goldfields. Their crafty plan soon unravels thanks to Emma’s gluttony and a certain black beetle. Jammy Emma escapes to reunite with her flock and the realisation that greed gains nothing, and leftovers taste far better than, ‘brass, glass and gold!’ (Which I hasten to point out; is why it is paramount to keep your windows up when driving through wild life reserves featuring roving emus. Tourists confined in cars are nearly always a better option for them than running down bugs.)

This charismatic picture book portraits our oft times misunderstood emu as a hugely likeable misfit who is just after a good feed. I adore Morrison’s trade-mark lilting verse, and really relish a picture book which dares to include vibrant snappy vocabulary; vital for enabling young children to strengthen their literacy muscle. Unforced, clever and chock-full of interesting and evocative words and images, the swaying rhyme is a delight to read out loud.

McKenzie’s bold illustrations bounce off the page with as much zeal and fervour as a hungry emu bounding towards a car full of tourists with an open bag of CCs. Brilliant and fun.Emus

I still harbour one or two reservations about emus. Hard not to when they stalk up close and stare you down with those Delphic, ember-coloured eyes. But I have absolutely no reservations in recommending The Emu That Laid the Golden Egg to anyone who loves a true-blue Aussie yarn, iconic Aussie characters and the odd blowfly or two.

Oi! Oi! Oi!

Published by Little Hare Books 2012


Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (and other highly anticipated 2013 publications)

Squirrel Seeks ChipmunkAs if it wasn’t enough that my shelves were already teeming with awesome books I’ve still yet to read, 2013 is set to release some further stellar titles.

There a three due to be released in the first quarter that I’m particularly looking forward to (and that I will likely clear my schedule for—if you’re a client and you need something from me, I suggest you request it and set the deadline for it now).

The first is Melbourne-based author Anna Krien’s second non-fiction book, Night Games, which continues in her investigative journalism tradition of examining fraught, multifaceted issues. Her first (and award-winning) book, Into The Woods, explored the Tasmanian logging debate to stellar effect. Frankly, Krien’s ability to pour insight and poetic brilliance onto a page left me a little writer’s blocked and a lot in awe.

Night Games will turn the spotlight onto the shadows of football: ‘the world of Sam Newman, Ricky Nixon, Matty Johns, the Cronulla Sharks, and more’. Even non-football fans would be aware of and captivated by the tales of the exploits of these men, most recently, of course, of the train-wreck tale of Ricky Nixon and an incredibly young and seemingly unstable girl.

If Night Games is anything like Into The Woods, it’s going to be widely read and widely awarded; with it Krien will (if she hasn’t already) cement her status as one of Australia’s best writers.

Into The WoodsThe second book I’m desperately waiting to be released is one by the perennially popular, genre-hopping storytelling trendsetter Dave Eggers. Returning to his non-fiction roots (which I consider his best and sharpest), Visitants is Eggers’ first foray into travel writing (kind of surprising, I know—for some reason without any articulate-able reason for its basis, I would have thought he’d have gotten there sooner).

Visitants spans Eggers’ decades-long career’s entirety (has it really been more than five or so years since he lobbed onto the literary scene with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius?), and apparently features writing on such disparate but characteristically complex places as Saudi Arabia, Sudan, China, Cuba, and Thailand. ‘Globetrotters and Eggers fans alike,’ the blurb tells us, ‘will find a faithful companion in his unique combination of humour, humanism, and empathy.’

The third book I can’t wait for is David SedarisLet’s Explore Diabetes With Owls. I mean, really, if you aren’t intrigued enough to pick up the book based on that title, you unquestionably don’t have a pulse.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering GeniusAlso a travel book of sorts, Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls (I can’t help but want to type that again, and to be impressed that he topped his previously outstandingly titled book, Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk) reportedly features a rant against litterers, a fascination with a disembodied arm found in a taxidermist’s shop, and the eating habits of Australia’s own kookaburras. I’m especially tempted to get the audiobook version of this one, as Sedaris’ voice makes anything and everything surprise snort-inducing funny.

If these three titles live up to their highly anticipated hype, 2013 is off to a crackingly good release-schedule start.

New Video: Graeme Simsion’s ‘The Rosie Project’ book trailer (high def)

Out 30 January 2013.

The book trailer for the feel-good novel of the year, The Rosie Project, in high definition.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. Then a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched document—to find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is strangely beguiling, fiery and intelligent. And she is also on a quest of her own. She’s looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might just be able to help her with—even if he does wear quick-dry clothes and eat lobster every single Tuesday night.

Vampires in Melbourne

9780987271761It’s been a long time coming, but it’s finally here. Well, actually, it was here in June last year. I’ve just been a little slow in getting around to writing about it. 🙂 Walking Shadows, the sequel to Narrelle M Harris’s 2007 vampire novel, The Opposite of Life, was released in June last year. It has certainly been worth the wait.

The Opposite of Life was a vampire novel with a difference (see my review). It introduced readers to Lissa the librarian, who has a knack for finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, and Gary, the podgy, Hawaiian-shirt wearing, daggy vampire. After solving the mystery behind a killing spree in that novel, there was a promise of their return. And so we waited.

They did return briefly in January 2012 with a short story, “Showtime”, published in a collection of the same name (see “Showtime”). But now finally, we have a new novel. This time around Lissa and Gary have to deal with vampire hunters.

Walking Shadows has everything that made The Opposite of Life such a great read. The Melbourne setting is vivid and vibrant (particularly if you happen to know the city), but this time we also venture out to Sovereign Hill, which is a real treat. The main characters are as interesting and flawed and real as ever, even those who are not human anymore.

As with the first novel, this one is never quite what you expect it to be — which is wonderful and makes for exciting reading. Even those few plot elements that seem predictable, end up going in unexpected directions.

As is often the case with Harris’s writing, there is an emphasis on family — its importance; its inescapable nature; and often, the pain that comes with it. These elements are evident even in the characters who have no family — the absence of family being as important to a character’s makeup as the presence of a dysfunctional family.

Vampires, of course, are the main focus of the story — the dangerous, blood-sucking, neck-biting variety rather than the sparkly, angst-ridden sort. But Harris has given us her own unique take on the mythical creatures. I particularly love the fact that they lose the ability to learn after they are turned and that blood is not a necessity to them — rather it is something akin to a drug that makes then feel almost human for a short time.

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Harris’s writing (and, by the way, I would highly recommend you checking out her early crime novellas Fly By Night and Sacrifice, which are available as e-books). I think this is a great book. If you like vampires, chances are you will love this book. If you’re not really into vampires, give this book a try anyway as an example of a non-clichéd approach to the genre.

I hope I don’t have to wait too long for the next instalment in the adventures of Lissa and Gary.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter


Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review  — Episodes: Series 2 




The Two Escobars

Killing PabloTwo men, one surname, albeit no blood relation. That’s the now-iconic link between Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and national football team captain Andres Escobar, whose paths crossed under fateful circumstances. The latter was a poor, morally minded boy who dreamed of playing football professionally. The former was a self-made Robin-Hood-figure man adored by the poor (and the footballers he funded), but loathed by the authorities he made a mockery of and who proved hell bent on shutting his drug trade down.

I finally watched standout documentary The Two Escobars after years of vaguely hearing the two Colombians’ names intrinsically tied, but being only hazy on the details. And I wish I’d watched the doco sooner. It was stellar (and far better than brother storytelling team Jeff and Michael Zimbalist’s other documentary I’d watched about favelas in Rio de Janeiro, which I thought never quite reached its potential).

Pablo was the drug lord of all drug lords, but one who hadn’t forgotten his poor roots and who gave back. A lover of the beautiful game, he sponsored football teams, which is where his and Andres’ paths crossed and entwined. Andres, a shy, sensitive, religious boy ruled by his conscience rose to be much loved by Colombians, captaining his team to a meteoric rise in skill level and World Cup qualification. Thanks to Pablo’s cash injections (which also helped him legalise and launder money), Colombian football had the money to pay and keep its top footballers, of which Andres was one.*

The truth-is-stranger-than-fiction stories surrounding that time defy explanation. Pablo was so powerful he could pick a dream team of players and fly them to his ranch for a match, where he’d bet with fellow millionaires on which team would win. But the complexities of the situation, the unease Andres and his teammates felt, the violence, corruption, ever-tightening net, and the ethical dilemmas they found themselves in didn’t sit well.

EscobarOf course, Pablo’s football benevolence raised his profile dangerously and the world soon dubbed Colombian football ‘narco soccer’. Colombia was, at that time, the murder capital of the world, exacerbated (if not led) by drug wars. One interviewee said, ‘The drug trade is an octopus; it touches everything.’ Another labelled Colombia a ‘country with enormous social problems that cannot be divorced from football’. Yet another dubbed the US’s insatiable desire for Colombian cocaine, which further complicated the issue and ensured ongoing demand, ‘white powder foreign aid’.

What followed were massive efforts to find and kill ‘patron saint’ Pablo and horrors that culminated and soured at the 1994 World Cup in the US. The team, which was tipped to win the World Cup, received death threats. One of the player’s brothers was killed back in Colombia after the team lost. Then Andres, the golden boy and widely respected ‘gentleman of the field’, muffed a do-or-die defensive clearance, which wrong-footed the keeper and saw Andres score an own goal. The team went from tournament favourites to being unforgivably bundled out in the first stage. Andres, upon returning to Colombia, was murdered.

The Two Escobars is The Memory of Pablo Escobaran incredible retelling of an incredibly tragic tale, which has elements so strange you couldn’t make them up. It documents the rise—a talent-packed juggernaut of a team riding high on confidence and that inspired a nation—and fall of Colombian football—Pablo’s death saw cash dry up, Andres’ death rattled his team mates into retirement, and Colombia hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since.

The storytelling mastery and the compelling football tale have made me want to find out more about the Escobars. I’m looking at reading the following books. Has anyone read them? Would you recommend one over another? Or would you recommend them all?

Killing Pablo


The Memory of Pablo Escobar

*As a side note, I have to say that even by impressive South American football standards, these guys were crazy good. The goals, whipped and bent in in physics-defying means, were indescribable. And the reverse bicycle kick-like save one of the goalkeepers performed is worth googling all on its own.

Review – Not a Nibble!

Not a NibbleFamily holidays are the stuff many childhood memories are forged from. With just a couple more weeks of summer holidays left, I revisited an old favourite and evoked some happy would-be memories (if mine had been the type of family to embark on seaside camping trips).

The excitement is palpable as Susie’s family head to the beach, car packed to the roof racks. They soon set up camp and immediately immerse themselves into all things seaside: hunting in rock pools, feeding seagulls, swimming the surf, and of course, fishing.

Led by over enthusiastic Dad, Susie, her brothers and cousins begin each day with great expectations, but for Susie, catching fish proves as elusive as keeping waves upon the sand. Her determination however never wanes, not even when her brother Alex taunts and teases her with fake-fish-hope. It’s not until the last day of their holiday that Susie glumly concedes defeat. Not everyone is lucky with fishing. She appears to be that luckless somebody.

Incredibly, Susie’s luck changes. She catches a glimpse of two Southern Right whales off the jetty much to the disbelief and delight of the surrounding crowd. She, her Dad and a dozen fascinated on-lookers, unite as they share a few special moments together watching mother and calf frolic in the waters before them. It’s a holiday memory bigger than any fish her family have caught before and one Susie won’t easily let get away.

Elizabeth HoneyElizabeth Honey’s entrancing sojourn to the beach captures precious familiarity and the exuberance of youth with playful grace. It is a story we can cherish for years to come much like a treasured cowrie shell. Honey’s spirited prose makes me want to kick off my sandals and grab a rod and bucket of bait. Susie’s Dad’s regular morning wake-up calls, addressing his kids as various species of marine-life, caused me to smile often. And who doesn’t delight in a big frothy milk shake from the local beach town café?

Each page drips with Honey’s sparkling watercolour illustrations, capturing the very essence and light of the seaside. Vintage Honey and deserved CBCA Picture Book of the Year.

Ideal to share with primary-aged readers.

Published by Allen and Unwin 1997

Dandelion Bullying Book to be published by Random House

9780857981028Random House Australia has acquired the rights to an ebook and print book version of Dandelion, a popular anti-bullying app for children that was created by Sydney writer and creative director Galvin Scott Davis.

Random House will publish the Dandelion ebook on 15 March, followed by a hardcover picture book on 1 April.

Davis created the Dandelion app in 2012 in response to his son being bullied at school. He initially raised money for the project through crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, and self-published a small run of print books.

The book blurb:

In the spirit of Where the Wild Things Are and Grimm’s Fairytales, Dandelion is a moving book for children about bullying and the power of imagination. Based on a number 1 bestselling children’s- book app on iTunes.

Benjamin Brewster is a very particular little boy. He attends the School for the Misguided, a place for never-do-wells and bullies. A place where happy thoughts are quick to run and hide. A place where dreams and thoughts are squished. Until one day dandelions appear by Benjamin’s side and he finds the courage and imagination to force the bullies to take flight. Bullying, after all, is for people with no imagination.

This magical interactive book for children is based on a bestselling children’s iTunes app and came about when Galvin Scott Davis’s son experienced bullying. The story encourages parents and children to discuss bullying and discover whether some problems can be solved with a little imagination.

The story for Dandelion came about when Galvin Scott Davis’s son experienced bullying.


Is your life lacking some Random Romance?

Random Romance is the new Random House Australia digital-first romance list and is launching next month – just in time for Valentine’s Day – with five indulgent titles, including two romcoms, two erotic novellas and a scintillating outback romance. Another five titles will be published throughout the year.

 onelie One Little White Lie by Loretta HillThis is a hilarious romantic novella from Loretta Hill (author of the bestselling The Girl in Steel-Capped Boots). It’s the story of Kate Dreson and the little untruth she tells to get her match-making friend off her back. Except, to Kate’s surprise, the little white lie suddenly becomes a red-blooded reality! (Loretta lives in Perth.)


 justbreathe Just Breathe by Janette PaulJanette Paul is actually bestselling crime writer Jaye Ford. This is a deliciously funny full-length novel in which opposites most definitely attract – on one side is hippie, yoga teacher Dee, and on the other millionaire businessman Ethan, who turns her calm world upside down… (Jaye lives near Newcastle, NSW.)


 beneathskies Beneath Outback Skies by Alissa CallenA captivating full-length rural romance featuring an indomitable young woman battling to save her drought-stricken family farm. Into the mix comes Tait Cavanaugh, a surprise farm-stay guest who is not all he seems… (Alissa is based on a farm near Dubbo, NSW.)


 breakingrulesbloom Breaking the Rules and Bloom by Kate BelleThese are Kate Belle’s first publications, and books one and two in a series of erotic novellas, each featuring Ramon Mendez, a handsome, charismatic lover who enters women’s lives and changes them for ever… (Kate lives in Melbourne.)

Australia’s Top Gun says The Sky is Not the Limit


The action-packed true story of Australia’s own top gun pilot Matt Hall

sky-limitGrowing up in Newcastle, NSW, Matt Hall didn’t give much thought to his future. All he knew was when his Dad would take him flying, the world suddenly made sense to him. The stories he loved best were those of pilots, the games he played involved planes and airflight. Then one day he realised it could be the key to his future.

In The Sky is Not The Limit Matt tells the story of how he went from dreamer to flying ace – how he cracked a place in the highly disciplined and demanding RAAF training program, a gruelling mental and physical school where being an excellent pilot is just the starting point to success – and how he learned about risk, danger and loyalty. He tells how he graduated to great acclaim – on the eve of September 11. And how his world changed when he found his first assignment out of school was to fight in the Battle of Baghdad. Here, he experienced death and loss for the first time and emerged from the war safe but a wiser, more mature top gun.

Almost on a whim Matt entered the Red Bull Air Race, the most competitive air race in the world.

Despite a spectacular crash on the water, he finished in third place, becoming the first rookie to ever stand on the podium. And it was the start of a new career which has seen him break records and thrill crowds with his antics.

Now flying for himself, Matt Hall has become one of the best known pilots in the world of aviation. He has over 1500 Hornet hours, 500 hours in the F-15E Strike Eagle (including combat), over 700 hours in light aircraft and over 500 hours doing aerobatics. His story is a rare glimpse into a normally closed off world, where skill, quick thinking and a cool head can mean the difference between life and death.

Buy the book here…

Reading our leading women

awwbadge_2013Are you up for a reading challenge this year? I’ve already started mine, with a Miles Franklin-related project called Reading Stella, which you can learn about on a new dedicated blog, but it ties in with the broader national Australian Women Writers Challenge (see previous post), and I’ll be broadening my reading list accordingly.

With My Brilliant Career out of the way already this month, I have several days free to read non-Miles Franklin works before moving onto My Career Goes Bung in February.

I’ll be starting with The Secret River, because the Neil Armfield directed Andrew Bovell theatre adaptation is coming to Canberra next month. It’s top of a long list of must-reads by Australian women (many of which have coincidentally been shortlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award, or are contenders for the inaugural Stella Prize, also named for Franklin):

  • The Secret River by Kate Grenville
  • The Harp in the South by Ruth Park (for its ranking in the First Tuesday Book Club top 10 Aussie books to read before you die list)
  • Two Steps Forward by Irma Gold (because it was a finalist in the Small Press Network’s most underrated book award last year, and Irma is a fellow Canberran)
  • The Point by Marion Halligan (a novel set in Canberra by another local author to mark the Centenary of my home city)
  • Am I Black Enough For You by Anita Heiss (because Anita is one of my favourite writers and Andrew Bolt one of my least)
  • Love and Hunger by Charlotte Wood (because it has received such rave reviews and is about her passion for food, which we love to cook, eat and share)
  • Us and Them by Anna Krien (because animal welfare matters to me as a committed vegetarian)
  • All That I Am by Anna Funder (the Miles Franklin Literary Award winner in 2013)
  • Miss Peabody’s Inheritance by Elizabeth Jolley (I found it on GoodReads while reading up on Jolley and liked the sound of it!)
  • Madeleine by Helen Trinca (a biography to be published by Text in March, and a must because aside from Helen Garner, Madeleine St John is perhaps my favourite Australian woman author)
  • Destroying the Joint edited by Jane Caro (due out through UQP in May, on a topic close to my heart and compiled by a favourite commentator)
  • People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (a multiple award winner which only pips her earlier bestseller, Year of Wonders, due to its subject matter, an illuminated manuscript)
  • Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett (another multiple award winner last year)
  • Foal’s Bread by Gillian Mears (and yet another a multiple award winner last year)
  • Nine Days by Toni Jordan (I attended Toni’s writing course at the Sydney Writers Festival last year and loved it. Also this has received glowing reviews)
  • The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper (because it is such an acclaimed work of narrative non-fiction)
  • Of a Boy by Sonya Hartnett (because it’s been on my shelf for years waiting to be read)
  • Drylands by Thea Astley (it’s been sitting on my bookselves for years too)
  • Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (for its ranking in the First Tuesday Book Club list)

It’s highly likely that many of these books will lead me to others by the same author – for starters, Grenville’s book is the first in a trilogy, and is complemented by a non-fiction work about the experience of writing it. It was extremely difficult to choose only one each of the works of Charlotte Wood, Toni Jordan and Geraldine Brooks too.

What a series of treats these reads will be! I hope you’ll join me in taking up the challenge.

Alison Goodman and Eon

EonAlison Goodman. It’s a name you hear often, usually in conjunction with phrases like “award winning” and “best selling”. She is, of course, the author of Eon, Eona and the newly released A New Kind of Death. A few months ago, I read her novel Eon, and I can certainly understand what all the fuss is about.

I first met Alison at Continuum 8 in June 2012. [see “The upcoming Nat Con”] She was one of the guests of honour. I went along to her guest of honour speech and I was also on a couple of panels with her. At that stage, I had never read any of her work. I was so impressed by her, that after the convention was over I immediately hopped online and bought a Alison Goodmancouple of her books. Eon is the first of them that I’ve read. I’ve got the sequel, Eona, as well as Singing the Dogstar Blues and A New Kind of Death on my must-read-soon pile. In fact, I ended up going along to the launch of A New Kind of Death in December last year.

I’ve got to say that I was completely blown away by Eon. The breadth and scope of the world is breathtaking, and the characters are compelling. Even several months after having read the novel, the characters still live and breathe in my mind. That is the mark of a truly outstanding book.

Perhaps what I enjoyed most about this book is that it was nothing like what I expected. Judging by the cover, I thought I would get a typical fantasy epic in which warriors fought dragons. I was wrong. Dragons are an integral part of the story — but they are not ‘ordinary’ physical dragons (and I won’t say more than that on the subject, for fear of spoilers). Eon is also a story of political intrigues, relationships and power struggles. It is a story of one girl’s fight against the odds in a society heavily weighted against her. And all this is set in a world that strikes me as an alternative universe ancient China.

I also want to mention the ‘girl disguised as a boy’ plot device (that’s not much of a spoiler as it is revealed early on). This is a stock standard device often used by authors of YA fiction (would you believe that I’m even considering it for a future project), and one that is in danger of being a little predictable and passé. But it is used to excellent effect in Eon and is woven through the plot with many subtleties.

Final word: Brilliant! Go read it — NOW!

Blatant self-promotional bit at the end
(WARNING! WARNING! Stop reading now if self-promotion offends you. 🙂 )

Alison Goodman was kind enough to launch my latest book, Life, Death and Detention, last year. I’ve blogged about it before, but in case you missed it, here’s the vid…

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter


Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review  — Episodes: Series 2 




Dan Brown Thriller Inferno to be published globally in May


Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown has penned a new thriller, Inferno, which will publish globally on May 14.

In his eagerly awaited follow-up to The Lost Symbol renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon returns. Set in the heart of Europe Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centred on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces.

From the Random House Australia website:

The announcement was made today in London by Bill Scott-Kerr, Dan Brown’s long-term publisher at Transworld who said:

“I’ve been working with Dan Brown for over a decade now and every time he delivers a new novel, he never fails to surprise. As a storyteller, he has the great gift of being able to take you on a breathtaking rollercoaster ride at the same time as offering a fresh perspective on what he’s showing us along the way. This brilliant new Robert Langdon thriller is no exception – in Inferno he returns to the heart of old Europe and to the territory so compellingly occupied by The Da Vinci Code. It’s another star turn from start to finish.”

Dan Brown said, “Although I studied Dante’s Inferno as a student, it wasn’t until recently, while researching in Florence, that I came to appreciate the enduring influence of Dante’s work on the modern world. With this new novel, I am excited to take readers on a journey deep into this mysterious realm…a landscape of codes, symbols, and more than a few secret passageways.”

Brett Osmond, Marketing and Publicity Director at Random House Australia said, “There’s no better guarantee of reading enjoyment than a new Dan Brown novel and the breaking news of Inferno is going to be sweet music to the ears of his legion of Australian fans. On 14 May we all get to re-ignite our passion for his thrillers as we join Robert Langdon, once again, on another unforgettable and relentless journey of intrigue and mystery. “

Inferno will be published on May 14th 2013 in hardcover at $45.00 and is also available as an ebook.

The Da Vinci Code is one of the bestselling novels in paperback in Australia since records began (Nielsen BookScan).  The book spent more than a year on the bestseller lists and sold 1.7 million copies.

The Lost Symbol is one of Australia’s bestselling adult hardcover novels since records began (Nielsen BookScan), with current sales in excess of 650,000 copies (in both hardcover and paperback). There are 190m copies of Dan Brown’s books in print worldwide. Dan Brown’s novels have been translated into 51 languages.

Following the publication of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown’s earlier novels, Digital FortressDeception Point andAngels and Demons have all gone on to become multi-million copy international bestsellers. All are published in Australia by Random House.

To find out even more you can follow Dan Brown at or @authordanbrown on twitter.

Pink Popular Penguins

97807343069069780734306210Penguin Books has announced that it will publish a limited edition set of 12 of its ‘Popular Penguins’ books with pink covers in March to help raise money for the McGrath Foundation.

$1 from the sale of each of the ‘Pink Popular Penguins’ will be donated to the McGrath Foundation, which aims to increase breast health awareness among young women.

The 12 titles included in the ‘Pink Popular Penguins’ range are:

  • Alphabet Sisters by Monica McInerney
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • A Spy in the House of Love by Anais Nin.

The books will be in store from 20 March.

More information can be found on the Pink Popular Penguins page on the Penguin website…

Non-fiction picks for the new year

2013 has started and I’ve decided to make a resolution I can actually keep for a change, instead of committing to learn Arabic by audiobook over my headphones as I run an ultra-marathon in record time. This year I’ve made it easy on myself and resolved to do a lot more learning in my spare time, rather than sprawling on the sofa watching re-runs of Father Ted.

Luckily for me this looks like being (another) great year for non-fiction and real-life reading with plenty of exciting new offerings in the publishing works. I’ve hunted down the non-fiction releases I am most excited about this month and, in no particular order, here they are.

High Sobriety – My Year Without Booze by Jill Stark (to be released Jan 31)

High Sobriety“During the week, I write about Australia’s booze-soaked culture. At the weekends, I write myself off.”

Jill Stark is an award-winning health reporter who has won awards for her coverage of binge-drinking. You’d expect her to be a moderate drinker if a drinker at all but it turned out she wasn’t just an expert on paper and at the age of 35, she decided to take a year off the grog. High Sobriety is both the story of her dry year and a discussion of the complex relationship that Australian culture has with booze, and I’m dying to get my mitts on it.

On Looking – Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz (just published)

“You are missing at least eighty percent of what is happening around you right now. You are missing what is happening in your body, in the distance, and right in front of you. In marshaling your attention to these words, you are ignoring an unthinkably large amount of information that continues to bombard all of your senses.”

If you’ve ever wondered if people see the world the way you do, cognitive scientist Alexandra Horowitz’s new book is bound to fascinate. Structured around a series of eleven walks the author takes with experts (including an urban sociologist, an artist, a physician, a child and a dog) to see the world as they perceive it.

How the Dog Became the Dog – From Wolves to Our Best Friends by Mark Derr (available now)

I won’t lie to you. I’d like to tell you this came to my attention as I am fascinated by canines, evolution and human/animal socialisation and this book on how wolves became dogs is sure to fascinate on all fronts. I could point out that dog expert Mark Derr has a good pedigree (sorry, couldn’t resist) in writing accessible and entertaining books about dogs. But the main reason I want it is the cover, because who can resist a dog in a faux-Viking helmet?

So, they’re my pick for this month. Still broke after the silly season and unable to buy every fun read that crosses your path? If you’d like something to put you off the idea of buying books – possibly forever – I give you the Lousy Book Covers Tumblr. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. In this case, I’m not sure if they have a good point or whether  (Thanks to Joel at Momentum Books for highlighting this one. Joel, you’ll be getting the bill from my Ophthalmologist any day now.)

NYR12 and beyond

NYR12Those of you who read my last post about the year that was 2012, may have notice something missing. I made no mention about the National Year of Reading (NYR12). That’s because I figured it deserved its very own post. So here goes…

2012 was the National Year of Reading in Australia. It was a national campaign to promote reading and to get people enthused about it. It was a HUGE success, with over 4,000 events and activities held across the country. There were over 50 ambassadors (including authors, politicians, sports people and other celebrities), lead by patron William McInnes, who helped spread the word. In addition to the ambassadors there was also a large group of official “friends”, of which I was lucky to be one.

For me, the NYR12 highlight was getting to be the Patron Reading Ambassador for Mentone Grammar’s NYR12 celebrations. Mentone Grammar is my old school, and I was delighted when they asked me to be involved with their year-long programme of reading events. I got to launch things in February with a ribbon cutting ceremony. Yes, I got to actually cut a ribbon with the Principal, Mal Cater. I had never cut an official ribbon before. It was rather exciting! 🙂


And then things finished up in December with a closing event to celebrate the 48 National Year of Reading activities and events that were held at the school that year. 48! At just one school! BRILLIANT! These included author visits, writing workshops, book launches, competitions and swap meets. No ribbon cutting this time (although I did wear my old school uniform), but a promise to not let the end of 2012 mean the end of reading events. The library staff were all very keen to keep things going into 2013.


And I think that this is NYR12’s greatest achievement. As people have enjoyed the events and promotions throughout the year of 2012, they have come to realise that we don’t actually need an official campaign in order to do this sort of stuff. Books and reading are worth promoting and enjoying and being enthused over, no matter what year it is. And I think that 2013 will continue to see a stream of bookish events all across the country.

Congratulations to everyone who took part in the National Year of Reading activities in 2012. Roll on 2013!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter


Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review  — Episodes: Series 2 




Aussie Gourmand award finalists

originThe Gourmand World Cookbook Awards finalists have been announced.

The finalists from Australia and New Zealand are as follows:

Authors category

  • Chef: Origin: The Food of Ben Shewry by Ben Shewry (Murdoch Books).

Cuisines category

  • ForeignCooking from the Heart: A Jewish Journey Through Food by Gaye Weeden & Hayley Smorgon (Hardie Grant)
  • ItalianLimoncello and Linen Water by Tessa Kiros (Murdoch Books)
  • Asian: Bali: The Food of My Island Home by Janet De Neefe (Plum)
  • ChineseKylie Kwong’s Simple Chinese Cooking Class by Kylie Kwong (Lantern)
  • Street FoodThe World’s Best Street Food (Lonely Planet).

Lifestyle category

  • HealthGoodness me, It’s Gluten Free by Vanessa & Mary Hudson (Goodness Me NZ)
  • ChildrenThe Junior Gourmet by Elizabeth Long (Five Mile Press).

Charity & Fund Raising category, Australia / Pacific:

  • Lentil as Anything by Shanaka Fernando & Greg Hill (Ilura Press)
  • Cooking from the Heart (Hayleybury School)
  • Devil of a Cookbook by Fiona Hoskin (Thermomix)
  • The Sustainable Table by Cassie Duncan & Hayley Giachan (Sustainable Press)
  • Nic’s Cookbook by Nicholas Brockelbank (Scholastic NZ)
  • Volcanic Kitchens by Gerhard Egger (Lastingimages NZ)
  • NZ Rugby Kitchen ed by NZ Rugby Foundation staff (Random House NZ).

Wine & Drinks category:

  • BeerBeer Nation: The Art and Heart of Kiwi Beer by Michael Donaldson (Penguin NZ)
  • Drink HistoryThe Winemaker: George Fistonich and the Villa Maria Storyby Kerry Tyack (Random House NZ).

The winners of the Gourmand Awards will be announced at a ceremony in Paris on 23 February.

Review – Peggy

PeggyIt is little secret I love chooks and pigeons. So when I noticed this lovely new picture book featuring a little black hen and her feathered friends, there was instant grab appeal.

Peggy, a beguiling little black hen, lives a contented albeit somewhat isolated life in the burbs until one day she is unceremoniously whipped up by a fateful gust of wind and dumped in the middle of a strange new world, the city.

Peggy embarks on all the things an out-of-towner in the big smoke might be expected to do; she shops, dines on new cuisine, feasts her senses on curiosities of all shapes and sizes; thoroughly enjoying her big adventure until homesickness suddenly strikes.

When she spies a familiar sight, a sunflower like the one from her yard, she pursues it tenaciously; her only tentative link with all that she knows and misses. But the sunflower soon disappears. Alone and forlorn, Peggy waits in an empty train station until salvation appears; the pigeons, the very same ones she used to observe from a distance. They show her the way home.

Peggy passes her days now as before only now she shares her existence with the pigeons, even taking the occasional outing with them – via train to the city.Peggy and pigeons

Anna Walker has deftly created a simple little tale of a brave chook on a big adventure with the use of ink and photo collage. Her economic of words ensures we keep turning the pages, keen to keep up with Peggy’s exciting explorations.

The use of photo imagery adds marvellous depth, and warm authenticity to the lusciously thick pages in spite of the chilly damp of autumn the illustrations suggest. Muted background colours ensure details are highlighted with sensitive playfulness: the bunch of bright, yellow sunflowers, brown, wind-blown autumn leaves, and cherry-red umbrellas.

I especially loved Peggy; plucky, stoic, simply black, with that inquisitive look that only a chook can wear. A look that wonders; Can I eat this before it eats me? Peggy gently suggests that it’s worth expanding your horizons from time to time, and that this is not as scary as you might think it is because there are always friends around to help you, if you keep an eye out for them.

Recommended for pre-schoolers and appreciators of avian.

Peggy is published by Scholastic Australia 2012


Doodles and Drafts – An interview with Michelle Worthington

Welcome 2013! No bangs and whistles to launch the New Year this time. No arm-long lists of resolutions (fitted most of them on the back of my hand). Time to just buckle in, knuckle down and devote more hours to all those things we should actually be devoting more time to. One of them being more posts!

And so I embark on what I affectionately term Doodles and Drafts: snap-shot peeks at some of our most notable and most inspiring authors and illustrators. Some you will know intimately already, some are not so well-known but are creating impressive upward spirals; because all great writing starts with that first scrawled idea and all wonderful art begins as a mystic scribble… We kick off with a Drafter.

My first encounters with children’s author Michelle Worthington were at the usual haunts; children’s writing festivals and conferences. I was struck by her vivacious zeal and enthusiasm when asked anything about the craft of creating children’s stories. I’m delighted to feature this young, vibrant writer in my first author interview. Enjoy.Promo Photos 001

Who is Michelle Worthington? Describe your writerly-self for us.

My name is Michelle Worthington and I am a published Australian author. The stories I write are like the stories I used to read when I was little and they have what may now be seen as an old fashioned feel, but they have a timeless message. My goal is to be a successful Australian author known for uniquely Australian, classically elegant and compassionate stories for young children.

You’re a published author of several titles. What are they?

Picture book, The Bedtime Band, illustrated by QLD wildlife artist Sandra Temple was released by Wombat Books in November 2011.

Adult nonfiction book Practically Single was released by Mostly for Mothers Publishers in June 2012.

Picture Book, The Pink Pirate, published by Little Steps Publishing in July 2012, illustrated by New Zealand artist Karen Mounsey-Smith.

Yellow Dress DayPicture Book, Yellow Dress Day published by New Frontier Publishing in September 2012 which is illustrated by emerging NSW artist Sophie Norsa.

Why do you enjoy creating picture books? What other genres in children’s writing interest you?

As a mother of two rapidly growing boys, I am often asked why I write picture books for young children, especially young girls. The answer is simple; believe it or not, mothers were once little girls. More than that, I am a mother who wants my sons to grow up and marry strong, independent women. I write stories that empower little girls to believe they can be anything they want to be, as long as they believe in themselves. We live in a world where children are often asked at quite a young age to decide who they want to be. I want the children who read my books to decide to just be themselves. I would like to write a chapter book for boys one day.

 We know you love high heels but what’s your favourite colour, why and how has it influenced your writing?

My favourite colour is pink, of course. I love pink shoes.

Your recent release of the picture book “The Pink Pirate” was written for you niece. What message did you want to convey to her and your readers with this book?

The Pink Pirate was written for my niece, Georgia. I wanted her to know that she could be anything she wanted to be, regardless of her gender or the opinions of others. Books teach us so much about ourselves, the world we live in and the world that exists in our imagination. Every time you read a good book, you should get just a little bit smarter. It is very important not to underestimate the intelligence of the next generation, but at the same time, it is even more important that we pass on the right messages and lessons to them, in a way they will accept and pirate

What does the term, ‘Power of Pink’ mean to you and why is it important for you to relay this belief to young readers?

There are not enough picture books that allow girls to be the hero of their own fairytale. Our children are growing up in a different world and they need to learn how to save themselves, instead of waiting to be saved. Writing my adult non-fiction fiction book about my divorce taught me that.

What inspires you to write? People, places, occasions…

I love writing stories for my family and friends, because I get my ideas from them. Words are like music to me. The right combination can sing in your brain as you read aloud. I write my books with that in mind. Books are best shared and if the reader enjoys telling it, it gives so much more pleasure to the listener. It is very important for me to feel like I am fostering a love of words and appreciation of good writing in my readers.

Where is your favourite place to create stories?

Practically SingleI write stories in my head all the time. They tumble around in my head until they are ready, then I write them down on anything I can find; bus tickets, napkins, back of my hand. Being a busy mum, it is hard to find an exact time to spend writing, so I let the ideas flow when and where they will.

Is illustrating your own picture book stories something you’d ever contemplate?

I can’t even draw stick people, so no. But I love working on books with talented illustrators, it makes the experience doubly delicious.

What is the one thing that motivates you to keep on writing (for children)?

I believe in the power of words, the power of sharing and the power of hope. Picture books encompass all these things and they are the perfect medium for teaching children about different people, places and challenges that they wouldn’t normally experience in their day to day life. I am not a doctor, scientist or any other professional that could help make a difference in the lives of children with disabilities. I am a writer. I can only use the gifts I have been given to help others to the best of my ability. If we all focus on what we are good at, we can all help each other in our own special way.

What is on the horizon for Michelle?

I am working on my first book app called Captain Cody, another picture book about the ocean, a fairy book with magic sparkles and a book about blended families, all to be released in the next 18 months. Watch this space; you never know what I will get up to next.

About Michelle

Best described as an Australian author with a penchant for high heels, Michelle is passionate about her kids and what she writes for them and kids like them. She’s won several poetry awards and is a regular presenter at schools and early learning centres.

Mini review of The Pink Pirate– Miss 6

Did you like the book? “Yes!”

What was the best bit?  “The girl saved the ship.”

What message do you think there was? “That girls can’t be pirates, but they can! When they grow up they can be whatever they want.”

Would you change anything in the book? “That the girl didn’t have to fight Blackboots, because she could have been hurt.”

Anything else you want to say about the book? “The two mice and the cat were doing swords as well.” (so clearly mice and cats can be anything they want to be too)



New Video: The Rosie Project Trailer

Out 30 January 2013.

The feel-good novel of the year, The Rosie Project is a classic screwball romance.

Don Tillman, professor of genetics, has never been on a second date. Then a chance encounter gives him an idea. He will design a questionnaire—a sixteen-page, scientifically researched document—to find the perfect partner. She will most definitely not be a barmaid, a smoker, a drinker or a late-arriver.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She is strangely beguiling, fiery and intelligent. And she is also on a quest of her own. She’s looking for her biological father, a search that a certain DNA expert might just be able to help her with—even if he does wear quick-dry clothes and eat lobster every single Tuesday night.

Vegan Challenge

9781741962451I’ve been vegetarian for more years than I’ve not, but despite my best intentions I’ve never quite made it across the vegan line. That’s largely because I’m an infamously fussy eater and an equally terrible cook—veganism requires a bit more cooking creativity and prowess than I’m currently capable of.

Recently, though, I’ve been heartened to see that there’s been a groundswell of support for veganism—no longer considered the extreme end of the eating stick, veganism is (dare I and my friend and fellow writer and editor Carody, with whom I had this conversation the other night, say it) suddenly cool.

One movement that’s been leading (or perhaps symptomatic of) the shifting attitudes is the 30-day vegan challenge. It is how it sounds: You spend a month sans animal products. They offer a social media- and website-load of encouragement and support. Everybody is happy.

9781921382703Carody and I have gone to take up the challenge a few times now, with the idea that the combination of the challenge and the fact that we’re doing it together would halve the workload and double the motivation, but work and travel have defeated us each time. Until now. It’s looking like February is the month going vegan, and that our friend Tom is going to join us (and before someone argues the semantics, yes, I recognise that February only has 28 days—whatever).

The question, of course, is what to cook? And from which cookbooks? I already own and love cooking from Homestyle Vegetarian, which has a bunch of vegan recipes or ones that can easily be adapted to be so. I also own and love looking at Simon Bryant’s Vegies, although I will admit that I bought it in a fit of it’s-so-pretty pique and got it home to find that, while it’s great gastroporn, it’s much, much too Masterchef for me (as a side note, see book title rant below).

I almost bought Vegan Eats World (also see rant below) in the pre-Christmas I-should-be-buying-presents-for-other-people-but-I’m-really-buying-them-for-myself frenzy. What stopped me is that it doesn’t have pictures for each and every recipe, which is a must in my limited-ability, limited-patience cooking world. But I’m also up for any excuse to buy new books (especially beautifully produced cookbooks). Any recommendations?

9780738214863Rant: While I’m on a rant rampage, a note to chefs and food writers thinking of putting together cookbooks (and to the editors seeing them through to full production): You’re going to want to call it something a little more original and distinct than ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegetables’ or ‘vegetarian cookbook’.

If you can’t make it something memorable like ‘Vegan Eats World’, at least make it searchable. Nothing is worse than not being able to narrow the search because there’s no extra useful words in the title and you don’t know the author’s name and you can’t search by ‘I think it has an orange cover’. This is especially awful when you’re the hapless bookseller searching for a customer who is simultaneously giving you no information with which to work and getting passive aggressive because you can’t find the cookbook they vaguely remember seeing once, years ago.

The year that was 2012

Life, Death and Detention

It’s nine days into the new year and about time for me to look back at the year that was 2012. It was a good year for me — lots of great books read and lots of stuff written. Let me tell you about it all. Well, as much as will fit into this post!

In terms of publishing, I had three school readers with Macmillan Education. But the big thing for me in 2012 was the release of Life, Death and Detention [you can read my posts about it here and here]. Originally published in 1999, it was so nice to have the book back in circulation with a new cover, a new publisher (Morris Publishing Australia) and updated stories. It was also a real buzz having Alison Goodman (author of Eon and Eona) launch the book for me at my old school, Mentone Grammar.

I also had an essay published in the Doctor Who book, Outside In. But more on that in a future post.

I did quite a bit of writing in the past year. As well as numerous school readers, articles and short stories, I wrote the third Gamers novel, Gamers’ Rebellion. I handed it in on 28 December. I’m now nervously awaiting editorial feedback!

I had more speaking gigs during 2012 than I have ever had before. Lots of individual schools and libraries, but I also did a few festivals and a four-day tour of country schools [see: “My rock star moment”]. I really enjoyed this and I hope to do lots more school visits during 2013.

And then, of course, there was all the reading. I did manage to keep my 2011/2012 New Years resolution of reading more [see: “I will…”]. Here are my reading highlights of 2012, in no particular order…

Quite a lot of highlights in my 2012 reading. I did read more than in the previous year, but I was also a little more picky about what I read. Feel free to share your favourite 2012 reads in the comments section below.

I am now looking forward to a whole new year of reading and writing. Roll on 2013!

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter


Check out my DVD blog, Viewing Clutter.

Latest Post: DVD Review  — Episodes: Series 2 




UK Costa Book Award winners announced

9780701186999The winners of the 2012 UK Costa Book Awards have been announced. The Costa Book Awards are presented annually for titles published in the previous year by writers based in the UK and Ireland.

The winners are:

  • Novel – Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
  • First novel – The Innocents by Francesca Segal
  • Biography – Dotter of her Father’s Eyes by Mary & Bryan Talbot
  • Poetry – The Overhaul by Kathleen Jamie
  • Children’s book – Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner

Each of the category winners receive a cash prize of £5000 and each is eligible to win the  overall £30,000 Costa Book of the Year Award, which will be announced on 29 January 2013.

Reading Resolutions

Book stackToday I realised I can no longer see my alarm clock over the stacks of books on my bedside table; from any angle, from any height.

It never used to be this way. I was always a monogamous, one book at a time reader from the age of six. Novel series might have come out in less lavish quantities than they do today but when they did flaunt themselves at me, I was firm, steadfastly wading through each new world one chapter, one cast of characters, and one story at a time. When the book ended, it was held and admired for a while, then placed reverently back on the bookshelf, before another was selected after sweet deliberation.

Not so anymore. I am a feckless and fickle reader nowadays. I acquire an unrelated selection of titles, pile them indiscriminately on top of one another, ignoring fine cover art and first release styling. I’m ashamed to say, some nights I hop from plot to plot, sometimes switching loyalties and resuming different relationships up to three times a night. Some titles stay pinned mercilessly under genres alien and repulsive to them for months on end, never seeing the light of the bed lamp or making it back onto the book shelf. For as capricious a reader as I am now, I am sadly not a fast one.

It’s not my fault I’m this way, not really. When reading anything and everything from school newsletters, body corporate minutes, seminar notes, bloggers’ posts, manuscripts (my own included), shopping lists (hardest to do because my hand writing is illegible), emails, and let’s face it, a few hours of essential Face Book updating consumes most of my working reading time, then I must be equally varied and adaptable when it comes to my leisure reading time; especially when leisure reading time often ends with a slap on the face by the offended title after I’ve nodded off.

Alas I wish it were not so. George Ivanoff’s recent pre-Christmas post on one’s holiday reading list, prompted me to examine that indignant stack of books. It made me realise that although I may have fine-tuned the art of reading more than one book at a time, miraculously not losing the plot, (so to speak), perhaps what I am reading deserves a little more respect.  Respect in the form of dedicated time to enjoy its individuality. Improbable but not impossible.

I have made no formal resolutions this year, apart from: write more, relax more, finish writing more, eat less, and cook more…you know how it goes. However my reading resolutions have now far exceeded any list I’d ever be allowed to take to a deserted island. I want to read more with my child, explore another foreign language, consume even more pictures books which for me is like walking through an art gallery, review more titles, and read at least half of the shelf of ‘keepers’ I’ve acquired and am saving for that ‘rainy day’. I’ve resolutely set a higher personal reading goal this year to accommodate book club must reads; I’m dreaming big. Plus I have made the odd commitment to myself to read at least one title of every author in the kids’ section of the library from A to Z; before I move onto to YA.

Deserted islandAs with a deserted island and being surrounded by water with nothing to drink, having too many want-to-reads and not enough time to read them is not the best equation for good health and well-being.  My lifestyle and career choice imply that I can no longer be an exclusive reader, committed to just one title at a time. Those languid, lazy days under a palm tree with book in hand (yes that was me once upon a time, ironically on an island) are long past.  But George, you’ll be pleased to know, I’m almost through the holiday-list!

What are your 2013 reading resolutions? Whatever they are, resolve to make time to enjoy them. The most shocking and silly FB post in the world simply cannot rival the escapism and beauty to be found in a good read.


Meet Longform and Professor Blastoff

My thirst for podcasts is insatiable, with those auditory suckers the very things that most often propel my legs into exercising when they (and I) would rather be plopped on a couch. Which is why I get grumpy when I run out of fresh podcasts, as I have over this recent break. I totes know people need holidays, but uploading repeats to iTunes isn’t even remotely ofay. It’s worse than not uploading any podcasts at all.

This week I found two awesome new podcasts to add to my subscription stable of This American Life, Conversations with Richard Fidler, The Nerdist, and The Nerdist Writers’ Panel: Longform and Professor Blastoff.

The Longform podcast stems from the Longform website, which collates and celebrates brilliant longform journalism. I’m still wading through the dangerously deep collection of content (if I owe you a deadline and I’m AWOL, it’s fair to say I’m lost somewhere down the Longform rabbit hole), but some early gems of articles include Cocaine Incorporated (its author, Patrick Radden Keefe is interviewed in Episode 20) and The Bravest Woman in Seattle, an article for which author Eli Sanders won a Pulitzer (Sanders is interviewed in Episode 21).

In Episode 17, Wired writer Joshua Davis talks about his truth-is-stranger-than-fiction encounters with John McAfee, AKA he of the anti-virus fame who’s currently on the run after some cocaine industry-related craziness in Belize. I’ll keep you posted on this podcast as I investigate it and its website further.

Professor Blastoff is a podcast co-hosted by Tig Notaro, a comedian I’ve loved a long time, but who I had no idea had a podcast. Notaro shot to fame recently courtesy of her This American Life-told story of repeatedly running into Taylor Dayne. Then there was her horror fourth-month run, which she turned into what is reportedly one of the tragi-comedy sets of all time (if anyone can point me in the direction of a recording of it, I’ll be forever grateful). ‘In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo,’ was how Comedic legend Louis CK described it.

The set reportedly covers how, in just a few short months, Notaro contracted pneumonia, then contracted an intestine-eating bacteria called C.diff. It covers how her mother died suddenly, how Notaro went through a break-up, and how she was then diagnosed with cancer in not one but two breasts. ‘Thank you. Thank you. I have cancer. Thank you,’ is likely to go down in the annals of history.

All of that is anathema to the fact that Notaro is funny. Completely, utterly, gut-grippingly funny. One would hope there were better ways than she’s experienced to be recognised for her talents, but either way, she’s making it work for her. And I’m not complaining—that grist for the mill enabled me to uncover Professor Blastoff. As with Longform, I’m playing catch-up on this oeuvre, so I’ll have to come back to you with highlights. And, hopefully, with a buffer body—I’ve no excuse now not to get out and exercise.

High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze

9781922070227As someone who doesn’t drink for very simple but seemingly-very-confusing-to-drinkers reasons—I don’t need alcohol to have a good time, I loathe and despise waiting in taxi queues and paying exorbitant amounts of money to have someone drive me home, and I hate feeling rubbish the next day—I came at The Age health reporter Jill Stark’s soon-to-be-released* High Sobriety: My Year Without Booze from a slightly different angle from most. I wasn’t marvelling at the fact that she had (clearly) gone a year without alcohol; I was hoping this book wouldn’t be a token, hyperbolic effort.

Having won awards for her reporting on the damaging effects of drugs and alcohol while writing herself off with regularity, Stark was acutely aware of her hypocrisy. One lethal hangover too many—coincidentally, on New Year’s Day—and she turned the spotlight on her habits.

A year and a book deal later, we have High Sobriety, a brutally honest, nothing-off-limits assessment of Stark’s drinking exploits, Australia’s and Scotland’s entrenched drinking myths and cultures, the health risks we run as a result of drinking, and the complicated relationship we have with alcohol (not to mention with people who don’t drink).

We also have hope. As a Scottish-born journalist who now calls both Scotland and Australia home, and who boasts an accent she terms ‘Scotralian’, Stark had all the odds stacked against her succeeding for 365 days as a non-drinker. By her own admission, her decision to not drink is ‘something akin to Hugh Hefner announcing plans to join the priesthood’. When she quipped that she might write a book called ‘My Year Without Booze’, her mate without hesitation replied: ‘My Year With No Mates’. Yet she made it through and even managed to put it in terms that might just appeal to the masses.

The year was clearly difficult, her peers unsurprisingly tactless. One colleague tells her: ‘You’re like a fat comedian who loses lots of weight. You’re just not as interesting.’ One cracker of a guy she’s stuck sitting with at a wedding tells her a book about not drinking for a year would be rubbish:

‘That would be a really short book,’ he says. ‘Fucking boring. The end.’ I laugh politely, but secretly I want to stab him in the eye with my entrée fork […] He tells me how he stopped drinking for three months a few years ago, and every day of it was so boring that he’d never do it again. He doesn’t appear to see the irony in the fact that with a beer in his hand, he’s the most boring man alive.

I’ve lived through more than a few of those moments too. Like Stark, I’ve sometimes wished I could just say I was pregnant (or something similarly irrefutable) just to stop the questions and pointed remarks; they get old fast.

In addition to charting Stark’s year, month by month, High Sobriety gathers up a bunch of frightening stats, myths, habits, sayings, and so on. Australia is, it seems, a country that:

  • created ‘drinkwear’ such shirts with built-in can openers
  • celebrates beer relays, which see people put teams of their best drinkers forward to scull beers, with the next team mate starting as soon as their predecessor has sculled theirs
  • has seen a ‘Bunningsisation’ of alcohol, where it’s sold in bulk from warehouses and mega stores at cut-down prices
  • has university orientation games of ‘fun, frivolity’ fornication, and extremely high levels of intoxication’ with such taglines as ‘If you can remember last year, you weren’t really there’
  • has seen political journalists ‘ottering’ it down staircases, i.e. sliding on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs—‘if you had your head up, you wouldn’t get too much carpet rash’.

One stat I didn’t really know, or hadn’t truly comprehended, is that alcohol is likely linked to increases in cancer. But I’m not alone in missing some of the big facts. ‘As galactically stupid as it sounds, particularly for a health reporter,’ Stark writes, ‘I’ve never really though of alcohol as a drug.’

Like many of us, Stark’s relationship with alcohol was forged in her teenage years. Her 15th birthday party involved ‘teenagers hanging out of every window, and piles of vomit forming a Hansel and Gretel-style trail from our front door’. She spent her 25th birthday, at which she was reacquainting herself with alcohol after a detox of sorts, so smashed some friends had to prop her up ‘Weekend at Bernie’s-style’. She acknowledges too that there’s no small irony in her finally achieving her first book contract as a result of her drinking exploits: ‘Who would have thought that getting pissed every weekend for most of my adult life might be the way that dream comes true?’

Knockout singer of unfortunate circumstances and surname Amy Winehouse dies during Stark’s booze-less year. It’s a sobering experience and a weird one:

The divinely talented 27-year-old singer, who battled addiction and penned a defiant hit about resisting rehab, literally drank herself to an early grave—vodka bottles were found next to her body. Within hours, wailing fans were getting pissed outside her home, sobbing and belting out her songs. They create a shrine using, along with flowers and cards, beer cans, wine glasses, and bottles of vodka and gin. It seems that even if it kills you, alcohol’s cool.

Seems that way. Hearteningly, High Sobriety goes some way to showing that you don’t have to be drunk to have a good time. It provides an insider-outsider perspective on drinkers’ and non-drinkers’ complex relationship with alcohol, and the social and societal ripple effects of those too. Stark’s approach was fresh, objective, and hyperbole-free while also being humblingly human. High Sobriety made me re-examine my own reasons for not drinking and my own fraught relationship with alcohol—I highly recommend it.

Side note: A shout out to the book’s graphic designer, whose adept handiwork sees the book’s title and subtitle, Stark’s name, and John Birmingham’s testimonial forming the alcohol bottle and label. A shout out, too, to awesome book acknowledgements such as this:

And kudos to you, Timmy, the pillar that props up our inner-north crew, for not questioning why a journalist/would-be-author didn’t have her own printer when I asked to print a 300-page manuscript on yours, 12 hours before deadline.

*High Sobriety will be released in February. Thanks to Scribe for the advance copy.

Review: The Robber of Memories by Michael Jacobs

9781847084071The Columbian folk-tale figure of the Robber of Memories haunts this book in many different ways. Michael Jacobs’ journey to the source of the Magdalena River in Columbia is a record of his travels but it is also about memory and loss – about history, conflict, disappeared people, and about personal experiences of loss.  Jacobs’ father died of Alzheimer’s’ and his Italian-born mother is suffering from severe memory loss and dementia. “I needed to believe”, Jacobs writes, “that certain thoughts and memories would always remain, strong enough to counteract any sense of emptiness ahead…as you continue travelling upriver, towards an enigmatic source”.

Jacobs’ journey through Columbia from the mouth of the river to its source is full of memorable moments, full of excitement, ennui, pleasure, fear, and full, too, of the people he meets and sometimes travels with. Inspired by a chance meeting with Gabriel Garcia Márquez at a literary festival in the Columbian coastal town of Cartagena, Jacobs began a journey which had long been his dream. Fluent in Spanish, and with many literary connections, he managed to travel from the mouth of the River – The Mouth of Ashes – to its source in the “moorland landscape of bogs, boulders and bare peaks” of  the Páramo de Las Papas (the Moorland of the Potatoes) – a name which Jacobs deems “wholly inappropriate to the otherworldly scenery”.

He travels by various means: on a tug captained by the exuberant, pessimistic and possibly unstable Diomidio; by launch and a tiny tug to the turbulent river mouth; by car to various towns which have particular memories for him – historical and literary; and by passenger-service chalupa (“like a covered metal coffin”). Ultimately, half-falling from a horse along treacherous, slippery paths, and then on foot, he reaches his goal, but the events which occur on this final stage of his journey are frightening and worrying.

In spite of the ever present danger of being a British traveller in a country where kidnapping of foreigners is still a very real threat, Jacobs’ persistent worry was his mother. Intermittently in touch with her carers by Columbian cellphone, he expected at any time to be called back to Britain. The pull of family prompts memories of his mother’s younger days, and he remembers extracts from the diaries he inherited after his father’s death, which fill out the story of his parents’ wartime meeting and marriage. Memories, too, of the novels of Gabriel Garcia Márquez and of the symptoms of memory-loss which he recognized in him when they met, intrude on his travels. But for a thoughtful writer who once studied at London’s Warburg Institute, over the entrance to which is inscribed the word Mnemosyne (the Goddess of Memory) this involvement with memories is perhaps to be expected.

Altogether, this is an unusual travel book in which the river, the country and its delights and horrors, history and adventure are interwoven with Jacobs’ personal worries and his discoveries, delights and pleasures in a moving and thought-provoking way.

Buy the book here…

Copyright © Ann Skea 2012
Website and Ted Hughes pages:

The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-Up Artists

The GameI bought a book a few years back based purely on the fact that lots of boys were furtively buying it. A lot of boys who weren’t what you’d call avid readers, that is. The phenomenon piqued my interest. What was it about this book that made word spread of it among secret boy channels? Could it deliver what they hoped? More importantly, would its anticipated benefits be enough to get them to read it, a reasonably hefty book, from start to finish?

Given that I was buying it for product knowledge reasons and that it wasn’t the most relevant or appealing book for me, I subsequently shelved it with a plan to get around to reading it just as soon as I’d tackled my Pisa-like tower of to-be-read tomes.

I finally read the book over Christmas not because I’d make it through the other books, but because yet another guy did a you have this?/you know about this?/what the?! double take when he saw it on my bookshelf. Huh, I thought, there’s clearly something in this book they don’t want me to know.

The book is Neil Strauss’ bestselling The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pick-Up Artists. It seems to be a finely scoured bible for guys on cracking the code to meeting girls*. I can see why the guys were a little nervous I had the book, but I was more than a little dubious this book would contain the bulletproof answers they were looking for.

The Game is surprisingly good, but not at all what I’d expected. It’s more memoir than instruction manual. It’s more cautionary tale than do this and you will win (although some of the guys I’ve put this to have been genuinely mystified—they didn’t see that side to it at all). With a graphic novel feel, it’s also incredibly cleverly designed and clearly catering to boys’ tastes. Images of dice denote the chapter numbers. Crosshair-like targets and strong, solid black lines frame the page and page numbers. Quotes writ large in white text on full pages of black ink break up the chapters (and yes, I’m wondering about the printing costs). These quotes are weighty too, including some profundity from such greats as Fyodor Dostoevsky.

How To Make Love Like A PornstarThe tale unfolds this way: Strauss becomes a pupil of pick-up artists (PUA). There’s a bunch of different methods or schools of thought and he samples lots before finding and honing the ones that work for him, at which point he becomes a master pick-up artist (MPUA). He charts his progress as well as of those he meets, and at one stage lives in a house full of pick-up artists in LA.

There’s an entire PUA language (in case you hadn’t already noticed). The Game helpfully provides a glossary (and it’s likely you’ll need to refer to it, with all the acronyms and initialisms the book contains making it hard to keep up).

An ‘AFC’ stands for an ‘average frustrated chump’, i.e. a stereotypical nice guy who struggles for pick-up skills. An ‘AMOG’ is the ‘alpha male of the group’. To ‘sarge’ is to pick up women (or to try to). To ‘FMAC’ is to ‘find, meet, attract, close’. To ‘peacock’ is to dress outrageously to draw attention from women, e.g. wearing a cowboy hat or a loud shirt. To ‘neg’ a woman, is to deliver an ambiguous statement or seemingly accidental insult to a beautiful woman to demonstrate a lack of interest in her and to, arguably, bring her down a peg or two. ‘Chick crack’ is that which appeals to most women but few men, e.g. tarot cards.

Contrary to perhaps most girls, I was down with most of The Game. My one sticking point was the negging, which is not cool. Girls’ confidence is in the red at the best of times without guys further undercutting it with such statements as ‘Is she always like that? How do you live with her?’ I put this to a friend of mine who said I was misunderstanding it, then conceded he mightn’t think negging was so great if girls negged him. Done well, he said, negging should never wound.

Everyone Loves You When You're DeadThe Game was plenty amusing, though. When Mystery, one of the main guys, decides to move out of the house he also decides to sell his bed. His selling point, which includes listing the girls in chronological order: ‘I’ve only slept with ten girls on it so it’s very clean.’

One ‘opener’ made me laugh, mostly because I have an ongoing My Little Pony joke with some friends. Do you remember the show? the guy asks. I was trying to remember if they had special powers. Cue girls chatting to him about the much-loved cartoon. Another opener I like involves a guy saying that their friend just bought new puppies and wants to name them after an ‘80s pop duo. Do they [the girl they’re targeting] have any suggestions?

There were also a few moments that appeal to me as a writer. One of the other PUAs, who’s a little strange and is a lot like a rival, pretends to be Strauss as an in. It doesn’t always work. ‘Let me tell you something,’ Strauss tells him. ‘I’ve been writing for over a decade, and it hasn’t gotten me laid once. Writers aren’t cool or sexy. There’s no real social proof to be gained by hanging out with a writer.’ Amen to that.

I have to say, though, that as writers go, Strauss is very cool. He has a talent for finding and writing about the fascinating quirks of life and in publishing subsequently bestselling books (not to mention writing for the New York Times and Rolling Stone. I mean, kudos). He’s most famous for The Game, but I’m currently ordering up his other titles here on Boomerang Books; in addition to his story-sniffing skills, I enjoy his style of writing. These books include Jenna Jameson’s How to Make Love Like a Porn Star, Motley Crue’s The Dirt, and Marilyn Manson’s The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, Dave Navarro’s Don’t Try This at Home, as well as Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead: Journeys Into Fame and Madness and Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life.

DirtThere also seems to be a second book (or a book that comes in a boxset with The Game) called Rules of the Game. I’m not sure I’m that enamoured with the PUA lifestyle to want to read it, but when it comes to book reading, I never say never. I think I’d be more interested in the boardgames, though, apparently called Who’s Got Game? The Game with Benefits.

One guy friend told me I should now watch pick-up videos on YouTube. I tried, but only watched moments because I found them cringeworthy, not to mention a little creepy that the guys were filming themselves picking up girls. It’s this need to catalogue, to prove, to share these pick-up successes that people smarter than me have already noted. In the New York Times (AKA the publication Strauss himself writes for), Alexandra Jacobs, for example, wrote that The Game is the mens’ version or antithesis of The Rules and that Strauss ‘does come to perceive one curious thing about the PUAs: They seem far more interested in spending time with fellow PUAs, amassing, refining and discussing the game, than actually getting to know women. Call them SLBs (scared little boys)’.

I find it interesting that many (if not all) of the PUAs self-destruct in some way in Strauss’ book and that, despite one PUA arrogantly saying that he’s ‘starting to feel like I’m hunting rabbits with a howitzer’, the PUAs seem to struggle to find and maintain a real connection with a girl.

‘The problem with being a pick-up artist is,’ Strauss writes in the book, ‘that there are concepts like sincerity, genuineness, trust, and connection that are important to women. And all the techniques that are so effective in beginning a relationship violate every principle necessary to maintaining one.’

EmergencyTellingly, none of Strauss’ PUA techniques are what help him attract the girl of his dreams and he writes that while those techniques helped him meet plenty of girls, they never prepared him for how to keep one.

But that point didn’t wash with some of the guy friends I put it to. Cautionary tale? they puzzled. No. Pick-up manual. Maybe that’s my girl perspective at work. And my hope that no guy has ever or will ever run the game on me as Strauss’ book dedication hints:

[This book is] dedicated to the thousands of people I talked to in bars, clubs, malls, airports, grocery stores, subways, and elevators over the last two years. If you are reading this, I want you to know that I wasn’t running game on you. I was being sincere. Really. You were different.

*It should be noted that this book that assumes heterosexuality and involves guys chasing girls. I’m hazarding a guess that the techniques may work under other circumstances.