Perth Writers’ Festival Pt. 2

And just like that, it’s over.

Lowlights: Awful traffic, being late to things, rude audience members (seriously, who puts their hand up during question time and then accuses the author of not staying on track?).

Highlights: (deep breath) Kate Forsyth, Juliet Marillier, Joe Abercrombie, Diana Sweeney, AJ Betts, time to work on my dissertation, endless cups of tea, really good grilled corn, time hanging out with my cousin, two sewing commissions, the SCBWI breakfast, the Text dinner (with wine and some of the best food ever), meeting more writers, editors, booksellers, librarians, publicists and publishers than I can keep track of, beautiful weather, and my best friend’s birthday. The PWF2015 was a lot of fun, and I’m really looking forward to next year.

One thing aside, and I find this very troubling – the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards have been moved from an annual to a biennial format. This is very distressing for WA writers – awards are such an important part of promoting reading and writing. Please be vocal about this, and show your friendly neighbourhood writers that you care.

 

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Perth Writers’ Festival Pt. 1

I’mmmm so excited.

Perth Writers’ Festival is one of my favourite times of the year. For three or four excellent days, the University of Western Australia teems with writers of all genres and backgrounds. Last year I attended an excellent world-building workshop run by the witty and wonderful Lee Battersby, and went to a poetry reading by my multi-talented Honour supervisor, Danijela Kambaskovic. I went to a SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) breakfast and caught up with a lot of wonderful people. It was also the first time I met people from Text, who are publishing my book later this year.

The weekend is always exhausting and jam-packed, and this year will be no exception. I’m looking forward to panels featuring Kate Forsyth, Joe Abercrombie, Juliet Marillier, and Graeme Simsion.

There will be another SCBWI breakfast! There will be lots of writers, editors, publishers, book-sellers, librarians, and readers! A lot of the sessions are free!

In short, everyone should get their butts online and book tickets, or show up on the day and enjoy a weekend dedicated to the wonderful writing community in Perth. Do it.

 

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A Week Of Noms

I’ve done a lot of cooking this week. Call it stress-relief, call it procrastination, call it boredom, call it being-hungover-after-Australia-Day-and-seriously-needing-something-spicy-to-get-through-the-day; whatever you call it, I donned my apron and went nuts.

The day after Australia Day, bright and sunny, brought a rather impressive headache and a lot of lethargy. From (only a little) experience, I knew this could all be rectified by a dish of spicy food. I went for low-cost and low-effort, and turned to Jamie Oliver’s Hungover Noodles. They were so spicy they almost blew my ears off, and they were magnificent. Whenever I start a Jamie Oliver recipe, I think it’s not going to work. I get halfway through and despair, but they always end up great. He explains things in terms I understand, and his steps are easy and clear.

The next day was another Jamie Oliver dish – a white risotto. I’ve only recently learned this recipe, because I’ve always been warned away from risotto. Turns out, however, it’s much easier than I thought. Ends up creamy and tangy and very filling. It definitely needs a salad and some crunchy bread to go with it, though, just to break up the texture.

On the Thursday, I asked Mum what we should do for dinner, and we decided on baked beans and mashed potato. Halfway to the shops for potatoes, however, I had a bit of a brainwave. I still had puff pastry in the freezer from a week before, I had an assortment of spices, I had baked beans, and I had cheese. In the end I cooked the baked beans in onion and spices, topped it with creamy mashed potato and cheese, covered it with puff pastry, and made it into a pie. This was a big success with the family, and lasted two days.

Finally, today I went to my friend’s house and taught him how to make focaccia. Turns out he’s much better at kneading dough than I am, too, because it rose better than any focaccia I’ve ever made, and it tasted delicious.

 

I also worked on my dissertation and my writing. I swear.

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Guest Blogging!

I have been blog-hopping! The lovely Lee Battersby and Emily Paull have been kind enough to feature me on their excellent and entertaining blogs this month. I would encourage everyone to check out their blogs – full of wit and words, and great for any book-lover.

http://battersblog.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/fetish-friday-meg-caddy.htm

http://www.emilypaull.com/2015/01/welcome-to-my-bookshelves-meg-caddy.html

 

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Everyone Needs a Dragon

I have two pet dragons. Unfortunately, they don’t yet breathe fire or fly, but neither have they eaten me and started to horde gold in my room, so I’m okay with the trade-off. Anyhow, it’s a constant debate amongst some of my friends as to whether cats or dogs are better, so I thought I’d (belatedly) stick my oar in (because that’s what I do) and campaign for Dragon Recognition.

Why You Need a Dragon:

  1. You are unlikely to be allergic to them.
  2. They love cuddles (especially in the winter) but they live in a vivarium, so you can cuddle on your terms.
  3. They are hardy. One of mine has had her spate of illnesses, but hers is a rare case. For the most part, these little fellows are built to last. If you get them from a good breeder, set up the viv properly and feed/water them like a good pet-owner, you’ll mostly be fine.
  4. They will eat pesky insects you find in your house.
  5. They are incredibly goofy and fun to watch.
  6. If you have and handle them from an early age, they’re unlikely to ever bite humans on purpose – the only time my male dragon has ever bitten me, is when he was aiming for a piece of apple and missed by accident. My female only bites the vet.
  7. They can puff out their eyes. It’s weird and wondrous.
  8. They do not bark, mew, scratch things, break things, or wake you up.
  9. They know how to strike a pose.
  10. They come to recognise your voice, and if they’re not little brats by temperament (like mine are) they may even come when they’re called.
  11. Sometimes they’re scared of tomatoes.
  12. They have some seriously wicked dance moves.
  13. It’s amazing when they jump for a branch or perch and then miss. Splat.
  14. Their waste is minimal and easy to dispose of.
  15. They’re dragons, surely you don’t need any more reasons.*

 

*Disclaimer: Pygmy bearded dragons. It’s still cool.

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Davy Jones’ Dissertation

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve talked about my dissertation, at least on this blog; I’ve dedicated an awful lot of time to whining about it on Facebook and Twitter.

My English dissertation is an examination of changing social responses to piracy in pre-modern England – chronologically mapping the way people wrote about piracy between 1550 and 1750. It has most of my favourite things in it: pirates, ships, ballads, novels, history, and stuffy, snarky historians. I get to write about maritime technology, the Golden Age of Piracy, and Grace O’Malley (the most kickass pirate of all time).

As of today, I officially have a first draft written for each chapter. My structure needs a lot of work, and I need to work on my tone, but in general I’m pretty pleased. The last chapter has gone particularly well – although it’s very rough, it has some of my favourite texts in it, and lots of historians taking pot-shots at one another (which is even more entertaining than watching baby goats knock each other over, which is one of the most entertaining things I can think of).

Here are the things I have learned so far from my dissertation:

1. It was a really good idea to start it during the holidays.

2. Seriously, I can’t imagine doing all this and coursework at the same time.

3. Pretty much any anonymous text/text written under a pen-name, from the early eighteenth century, regarding pirates, is attributed to Daniel Defoe. For no good reason. Regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary.

4. Seeing my favourite book on the wrong shelf made me angry for a whole day, and added a good few hundred words to my dissertation.

5. Only bowl-sized cups are sufficient for the amount of tea I need to drink.

6. 3.30 am is my limit.

7. Lord of the Rings is the best thing to accompany dissertation work.

8. The uni library is an amazing place to be when no one else is there.

9. The other mid-year Lit dissertationers (dissertationists? dissertationees?) are magical and magnificent people.

10. I am a difficult person to live with/be friends with. Sorry, friends and family, I promise I’ll be a better person after May!

Taking a few days away from the dissertation to let it rest, and to enjoy a bit of holiday – I have relatives over from the UK at the moment, and I want to make the most out of the family time! Also, many of my favourite people are moving out of Perth, so I intend to cling to them until they step onto the plane.

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SPOILERS. MANY SPOILERS.

So, my younger brothers and I went to see ‘The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies’ the other day. Having watched the other two Hobbit films, I wasn’t hoping for the LOTR-quality filmic experience, but I came out of the cinema very disappointed. I’ve been meaning to blog about it for a while, but my dear friend Kristin sent me a long category of her issues with the film and it’s dead-on. So, with Kristin’s permission, I’m posting that.

Warning: Some mild strong language and an awful lot of spoilers follow (though I have censored the stronger swear-words in case any of my students are reading this!).

“So I’ll start with what I remember off the top of my head. The whole fight with Smaug, whatever. No real complaints but I haven’t finished rereading the book yet and it’s been several years before since I read it last.

The White Council battle started out effing amazing with Galadriel being as much of a badass as you would ever think her…and then what the hell happened? Suddenly she “used up too much energy” and had to be rescued by the others and was your awfully typical damsel in distress. That was gross. Then out of the blue she has the vial and goes all Samara from The Ring. That is the part where I slid down in my chair. That was a travesty. I mean a TRAVESTY, and then they add that relationship [censored] on top of it between her and Gandalf which is even more ridiculous than the Kili/Tauriel crap (which I will get to).

Thorin was really in your face about his gold-lust thing, but I loved what they did with the elves. Armour looked good. Kristin approved. I thoroughly enjoyed all the added bits of humour, especially during the fight with Smaug when the Master and Alfred were trying to escape. I also liked Alfred’s humour relief in general, especially the coin boobs and the corset line. I still wish someone would have hit him like Gandalf finally did with Denethor.

Another [censored] stupid thing included were whatever the hell the stupid earth eaters were. It’s like someone was watching Tremors while they were designing the movie. Graboids don’t belong in Middle Earth. During the line “They don’t remember what lives under these mountains. They don’t remember the Earth Eaters” my friend leaned over and said “That’s funny, neither do I.”

Oh! Also, the nine rising up in front of Sauron was not only awful cinematic and artistic composition but it was cheesy and probably done with the worst CGI in the whole movie. Right next to Thorin swallowed into the golden floor. Whoever’s really horrible idea it was to cast Billy Connelly as Dain should have been reprimanded, fired, then reprimanded again. I had an issue with their use of Massive. The armies were far too uniform. The ones who of any of them should have moved the most together are the elves but even so you still have to have different reaction times, different ways of moving, and various ways of settling. None of that was there. It’s like they just copied and pasted one dude’s animation for the whole army any time they had to do long bird-eye shots or they were meant to be acting one right after the other. So that was bad.

Thranduil was love, but I want to beat in the head with a pool noodle whoever decided to kill the moose. How could they kill the moose?

Um.

They totally uprooted a major plot point from the Silmarillion and gave Thranduil the watered-down version of it. What? WHAT? WHY!? Still not at ALL happy about the elf/dwarf love relationship. Not only is it just wrong to Tolkien’s work but it also serves to undermine the relationship Gimli and Legolas form. At least they didn’t say “I love you.” I probably would have been on the floor if they did that.

Um.

Whose horribly STUPID IDEA WAS IT TO CROSS OVER THE QUEST FOR CAMELOT WITH A TROLL? This is why I never wanted Del Toro part of the movies. What [censored] kind of a troll has maces for arms and legs? It’s absurd!

Last thing that I remember off the top of my head bothering me was that Tauriel gets to be beastly and fight, and also gets the crap beat out of her, which is fine, but the dude straight up like breaks her arm and topples her over the side of some ruins and she’s clearly hurt, then five minutes later she’s up and kneeling over Kili with just some blood on her. That’s bull. Sure she’s an elf but she shouldn’t be able to even get up for several days. Then. THEN! Enter the freaking Moose king who for two movies told her she was a fool and that ten minutes ago she didn’t know what love is and what does he say? “It hurts because it was true.” That’s so much [censored]. You can’t change your mind that quickly just because the dwarf died, especially since it’s Thranduil we’re talking about. Why in all freaking Mordor would you bring up Legolas’s mother and not expand any further on it, especially when it has no consequence and I’m not sure she even exists in Tolkien’s writings, at least not that I have encountered. I’m not sure how I feel about Legolas being given the job to find Aragorn when it was Gandalf who did it, but at least it was in there.

The ending, though. That beautiful, pure, solid gold Peter Jackson ending. That is what all three of these films should have been like.

Ok, can’t remember much else.”

 

Another great review (with many spoilers!) can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yRs_d3VUjEg . Eomira is another dear friend, and whenever I need LOTR or Hobbit know-how, I go straight to these two lovely people.

 

 

 

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Bringing in the Year

We went from a perfect Christmas to a perfect New Years’ Eve. Yesterday afternoon was spent chilling in the sunshine reading Dickens’ ‘Bleak House’, accompanied by home-made bread (courtesy of me) and home-made guacamole (courtesy of my dear Jenn). The plan was for a quiet afternoon and evening watching films with friends.

Somehow, we ended up with a full house of delightful people. Drinks, delicious food, good music, and chats.

There was also fire-juggling.

In the end, though, it was whittled down to four of us after midnight, playing a game of cards. This single game of cards lasted us through to dawn. We went for a walk in the new light of the new year, then came home and crashed for a few hours. When we woke, two of our lovely friends made a giant fried breakfast for nine people. I can’t think of a better way to bring in the new year, or better people to spend it with.

So – resolutions?

1. A blog post every week.

2. Finish my Honours (God willing with an HD).

3. Improve my short-story writing.

4. Read 12 Dickens books (one for each month).

5. Cook more adventurously.

6. Finish another draft of the pirate book.

7. Cut down on the soft drinks.

8. Say ‘yes’ to more adventures.

9. More book talks.

10. Participate in as many writing events as possible.

Last year was full of ups and downs. We had some health scares and some tragedies, and an awful lot of stress. I hope that in the coming year everyone stays healthy, safe, and happy.

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(Photo by the wonderful Luckyman Sam.)

 

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Holiday Madness

Our family Christmas celebration is divided into two distinct chapters.

The first: Christmas Eve. 

We spend the day wrapping presents and cooking for the Extended Family Christmas Gathering. Every year, Mum makes a dahl (which is delicious) and worries that it isn’t good enough (even though she makes the best dahl we’ve ever tasted) and I make whatever pastry monstrosity I’ve discovered during the year (this year it was cheddar tarts).

We then bundle into the car and go to the house of whichever (lucky?) family members have been selected to host. This may sound like the typical Christmas gathering, but here I want to stop and mention how large our extended family actually is. On the one side, we have just shy of thirty cousins. Some of those cousins have children of their own now. Second cousins also come along. As do aunts, uncles, girlfriends, boyfriends, and numerous other relatives and friends. The Caddy Christmas is big.

We sit and chat, and we eat dinner together as we catch up with the 100 or so people who might show up to the gathering. Then Santa makes an appearance (usually after one of our adult cousins has mysteriously disappeared) and gifts are handed out from our grandparents and to our grandparents and other family members. All labelled Christmas gifts to specific people are kept in this pile.

The second pile belongs to the ‘Secret Santa’ event, which is a typically-Caddy almost-anti-Christmas tradition. It’s a game based on stealing presents from one another. This year the most coveted present was a giant Batman glove. Other gifts included alcohol, chocolates, cooking bits and bobs, and a giant print of a pink cockatoo.

(I ended up with the giant print of a pink cockatoo.)

The event can stretch out until as late as midnight. When it’s done, our branch of the family gets home and packs for the next day – Part Two.

The Second: Operation Total Chill.

The day starts with a giant cooked breakfast. This year Danny and I cooked bacon (which Danny wouldn’t touch because he’s a proper vegetarian whereas I am a weak not-really-vegetarian), hash browns, tomatoes in balsamic reduction, scrambled eggs, and other breakfasty bits and bobs.

We share gifts and hugs around our Christmas tree, which was set up outside this year.  We can set it up outside because a) the weather is so nice, it’s not going to get blown away and b) the tree doesn’t really stand up straight and isn’t very good, so no one is going to steal it.

This year we listened to the songs Joe wrote specially for Mum and Dad, delighted over our gifts, and enjoyed each others’ company.

Once we are done with breakfast and gifts, we pack up and drive to Seabird, after which we spend two or three days on the beach. Sunshine. Ocean. Deserted location where no one bothers us. Long walks along the shore with the dog. Pure bliss.

 

Christmas in Australia seems weird to our English and American relatives and friends – it’s blisteringly hot, we don’t stick cinnamon into oranges, and we only see snow on the television.

But. It. Rocks.

 

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Photos! Credit John Bova Photography

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