Recently in Australian LitBlog Snapshot Category

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #20 - John Retallick

John Retallick's The Comic Spot weblog is based on his 3CR radio program of the same name.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

My blog is the place I can share information about events, books, items of interest that I think are worth sharing and that are related to Australian Comics and Graphic Novels. It started as an adjunct to my monthly radio show on 3CR but I've reimagined it in the last little while so that hopefully it will bring listeners to the show and the podcast. I write about what's coming up on the show and I'm also turning my hand at some written reviews of books I come across in between the programs. I would like it to be a rolling, living document of my interactions with comics and comics culture in Melbourne and to try to join up the many disparate arms of the form as practised here.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Initially I had no idea what I was doing - now whilst that mightn't have changed a great deal - I have put some more thought into it. I want at least weekly updates - which I've managed to stick to since delting the entire blog and starting again a couple of months ago. I feel much happier with it now. I think it helps if you have some sort of structure in mind when blogging. If I can put 4-5 entries a month up then I'll be happy with it. A great feature of blogging is that it constantly grows. It's present and past existing simultaneously. In two years' time a new reader may come along and they will be able to go back and discover new books or listen to older podcasts and it will be fresh for them even though I may have moved on.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

I lived in Papua New Guinea for a couple of years and it really impacted on the amount of stuff I allow myself to own. We are so wasteful in developed countries. One of the things that changed was my relationship to books. I have a one shelf policy for prose fiction, one shelf for non-fiction. Books should be shared, passed around and moved on. Libraries are great repositories and so is lending things from friends. I've become a lot less precious about 'owning' books rather than experiencing them. My comic/graphic novel collection on the other hand is a little different. The long term plan is to establish a kind of comics culture centre and lending library. They already get lent out to friends and creators regularly but I'd like to set up something a little more formal in the long run. In the case of the comics I see myself as a custodian of a future communal community resource. Graphic novels can be expensive so sharing them is something that is encouraged in an area of literature such as comic creation that is often marginal and part time for the cartoonists involved.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

I would be interested in creating some blog specific audio or video. It can be difficult describing the art of a book. Responses to visual art are incredibly subjective so some video could come in handy. I may describe someones art as 'surreal and illuminating' yet it may be totally banal for another reader. It's a tough one and something that is always a challenge in comics where the weight of the writing can be taken by the words or the pictures or anywhere in between. But to be honest the time needed really puts me off at this point. It may also have something to do with the dinosaur of a computer I own and the fact that handling video would push it past the point of extinction!

5. How would you eat an elephant?

It would have to be at gun point as I am a vegetarian! I would eat WITH an Elephant. Some shared bamboo shoots could be lovely with candlelight under the canopy of the rain forest.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #19 - Judith Ridge

Judith Ridge runs the Misrule weblog, which is Australia's best resource for all literary things relating to children's and
young adult fiction.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

I guess I'd start the way I initially explained my blog to my parents, who are latecomers to the internet. It's a kind of online journal or diary, but rather than being a personal journal, it's dedicated to documenting children's book news and events and to publishing my thoughts and opinions on what's going on in the world of children's and youth literature.* Misrule is my platform to express my views, to have my say, on those issues, and it's valuable to me precisely because it is my domain. Having said that, I can't just say any damn thing I like about individual books, or the industry, or whatever. I used to use it quite a lot to talk about books I've been reading, but I do less of that since I've been appointed as the Western Sydney Young People's Literature Officer. I know, even though I don't quite get how or why, the things I say in my blog were considered to be influential even before I was appointed to the Western Sydney position, so I have always been a somewhat cautious about what I write. Now I am in this job, it's even trickier to publish, for example, negative comments about books when I may have the opportunity to work with the author some time down the track. Or even if that weren't the case, having an official position brings with it a more formal degree of influence and authority, and so I am even more circumspect about what I say about individual books on the blog these days. And I regret that. I mean, I was always a bit circumspect, because it's a small industry and I know so many of the players, but it's even more incumbent on me now to watch what I say. Which means I blog less, alas, and save my more inflammatory opinions for cryptic comments on my Facebook status (see, I can't even be frank there!). I've toyed with the idea of starting an anonymous blog to circumvent this, but then I think, how would I promote it, and anyway I'm not very big on anonymity, and I am on the record as saying that I don't believe a critic should publish anything if they are not prepared to put their name to it, so as far as that's concerned, I have to put my blogging where my mouth is, so to speak.

I think that's the beauty and danger of blogging -- of all online publishing, actually -- that it's actually incredibly easy to forget that you have a readership. That can be very freeing, but I think for me I am also very conscious of the responsibility (see comments above).

I'd also explain, as I did to Mum and Dad, that a blog is a public journal, so it's meant for others to read and comment on -- but having said that, it took me a long time to really get my head around the fact that people read Misrule, and to realise how many people were reading it. I used to freak out a bit when people I knew -- or worse, didn't know -- would approach me and tell me they read my blog. I'm used to it now -- and in fact, mostly now people approach me to complain that I haven't been keeping the blog up regularly enough (guilty as charged). It's nice to know they miss it when I'm being slack or uninspired.

*(I do also, from time to time, include personal entries, about my family or my very aged cat, or about politics or TV -- not too often, as it is primarily meant to be a children's book blog, but I think the personal posts help readers get a feel for the person behind the blog. And I'm not interesting or vain enough to think that anyone would want to follow a purely personal blog of mine, so Misrule readers just have to put up with the odd parental wedding anniversary or vet's report. They don't seem to mind!)

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

No. The blog began as a place to write about my field of expertise and passion -- children's and youth literature -- and it's stayed true to that. The content has changed a bit, as I indicated in my answer above (less book "reviews"), but the direction, theme and subject has more or less stayed steady.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Absolutely. Always have, always will. I still have books I bought when I was in high school and can't bear to throw out because I might still get around to reading them one day...

Many years ago, when my now long-time ex-husband and I were moving into our new home, he said, rather ruefully, as he lugged yet another box of books into the house, "I should have married Elle Macpherson" (this was after her infamous Good Weekend interview, in which she said she didn't think one should read a book one hadn't written). I replied, "If you'd married Elle Macpherson, we could afford a house big enough to hold all my books." Well, the marriage is long gone, but the books remain!

But I digress... Why do I have so many books? Lots of reasons.
a. I am bad at throwing things out.
b. I have long been in the fortunate position of getting lots of review copies from publishers, and they tend to accumulate faster than I can read them. We couldn't afford many books in my family (and were therefore great library users), so owning a book is still a very precious thing, and I can't easily just ditch them. And anyway, you never know when I might want to write an article about/teach/add to a reading list/etc that author, that series, that topic, and I might just need those books to refer to!
c. I buy more books than I can read. I love second hand bookshops and have lots of gorgeous old books I bought just because they look good, or have a funky title that I like the look of on my bookshelves (eg. Condemned as a Nihilist; I: In Which a Woman Tells the Truth About Herself; The Minister's Family [my dad is a retired Uniting Church minister]; My Wife's Secret Life and Justice for Judy are among my favourite titles of never-read books that grace the bookshelf in my bedroom).
d. I keep accumulating non-fiction books (primarily historical and literary biographies) that I'll never read, but hang on to, because I might just, one day... I am fascinated by the subjects, but the commitment to reading the whole book is beyond me. I am first and foremost a fiction reader, and have so little time to read all the fiction I want to, so the non-fiction sits on the shelves, looking impressive and suspiciously new...
e. You can never have too many books. You simply have too few bookshelves. Having said all that, I am getting better at culling, and donate the books I can't use to public schools and libraries and charities that can use them -- but books are like coat hangers -- turn your back and they've reproduced seemingly spontaneously, and there's yet another pile gathering dust bunnies as they wait for shelf space.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Money is not so much the issue -- although, wouldn't it be nice to be paid for blogging? (Is it just call girls who get paid for their blogs? Seems like it...) Time is the critical issue, and physical and intellectual energy. Regardless of these factors, what I wish I could include more of in the Misrule blog is:
a. Total freedom of expression. I'd like to be braver and franker in my Misrule posts. But I accept that I have had to sacrifice a degree of freedom of online expression to the bigger picture of my role in the "real" world. This is a bit of a dilemma, because I think it's essential to keep a weather eye on standards and so on, and I have all sorts of opinions and ideas about writing and publishing for younger readers that I'd like to express, but I just can't, always. It's a very small town, Children's Book World!
b. More content -- I'd update it more often, and my posts would be more about specific books. I started out as a critic/reviewer of books for children and young adults, and I miss that public intellectual engagement with literature. Writing about books is what I personally find most challenging and most satisfying, but is increasingly what I can't do. So I have to find a way of being a more regular blogger now that I have accepted those limitations on what I can and can't say.
c. I'd love to blog about my teaching. (I teach two courses at the Sydney Writers' Centre: Writing Children's Books and Creative Writing Stage 2.) Unfortunately, I think that blogging about my teaching, which would inevitably mean blogging about my students, is too fraught with ethical issues, so I just don't go there at all. I'm sorry about that, because I do think that blogging about it would afford me the opportunity for reflection on my teaching practices. But I feel a great duty of care towards my students (who place a huge amount of trust in me), so this is an out-of-bounds area. At least, so far. If anyone has any suggestions about how to do this ethically, let me know.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

I'd begin by consulting James Roy's latest novel Hunting Elephants. Once I realised that the book is not a how-to manual (and the title is a metaphor), I'd abandon my Sarah Palinesque culinary ambitions, and settle for takeaway instead. (That's the long answer. The short answer is -- reluctantly and only under extreme duress.)

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #18 - Caren Florance

Caren runs the Ampersand Duck weblog - a fascinating amalgam of all sorts of stuff. She has subtitled it "life, the
universe and letterpress", so designing books is just part of it all.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this
blogging business is about?

Heh, this is something I do on almost a weekly basis, because people seem to be divided into those who Know or those who Don't Know about blogging. There's no in-between, apparently. As with anything I explain to people, my answer depends on what I think they'll relate to. Aunties who read magazines go 'ahhh' when you say blogging is like writing episodes of 'The Middletons' for Woman's Day. Other people understand the concept of diaries/soap operas/group emails, whatever. Often they'll get it, but the next question is almost always 'why?'. My blog seems to be more soap opera than anything else; it seems to be the best way to keep myself interested and satisfied with life, otherwise I'll get bored and cause mischief.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

No, it had to be a blog that talked about everything, because that's me anytime of the day. I think I've just become more confident. The first few months were fairly tentative, and then I hit my straps and had fun. There's a weird bit at about the 18-month mark when the NLA Pandora project started archiving me and I got the willies about what I'd already said, since for the first 2 years I was pretty much anonymous and that gives a tremendous sense of freedom. Then my father discovered the blog and I had another confidence crisis, but we both survived the experience and I think it improved our relationship immeasurably... at that point I made I made a conscious decision not to go back and edit or censor, but in truth I think the loss of anonymity has made me more circumspect. I write the blog as much for myself as anyone else, but the inclusion of a live audience adds a thrill that keeps me writing. I don't keep a hard copy diary anymore, but I do make handwritten notes about things, unfortunately in fairly random places.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

I have more books in my house than I can possibly shelve, even though we've made nearly every available place into shelving, but I've read most of them. Actually, I'm wrong. About a third of the books belong to my partner, and they're mostly about religion, bizarre cults, political conspiracy theories and cooking, books I don't want to read. I've read most of the books that belong to me. I'd like to say that as they come in I throw others out, but it just doesn't seem to happen.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Ah, they'd be the serious posts, the ones that take days to brew and further days to polish. I just don't have that sort of time and energy usually. Time is the limiter, not money. When has blogging ever been about money?

5. How would you eat an elephant?

[You've been hanging out at the Blogger profile page, haven't you?] Stuff it all in my mouth at once and chew. They're made of marshmallow, aren't they?

Australian LitBlog #17 - Marg

Marg's weblog, Reading Adventures, covers all aspects of her reading tastes - which are wide - as well as other topics she's interested in.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

I have described my blog as an online reading journal whenever I am asked by my friends and colleagues what all this blogging business is about! Of course, that is usually when I am waxing lyrically about blogging, and trying to convince them that they need to start their own movie review blog/craft blog/whatever they are interested in blog! Before too long I am convinced that they are going to start listening to me! I also talk about blogging being a way to make online friends all around the world, who share similar interests with you. There are not many people around me who share my love of books, who love to talk about books, let alone blog about books! Reading across a variety of genres (historical fiction, romance, mysteries, and then a smattering other genres) means that I do get to meet a pretty wide cross section of bloggers which is a great bonus for me!

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

When I first started blogging three years ago, I was very much focused on just blogging about the books I read. Every now and again I posted about something that happened in real life, but not very much. My blog has definitely changed over the years though. I think the quality of my posts has definitely improved (I cringe at some of those early posts). My focus is still on reading and books, but I also talk about things that are going on in my life, and just recently I have started talking about my craft a little bit as well. Another thing that has changed since I first started is that I also am part of a group blog which focuses on my first love in terms of genres, and that is Historical Fiction
(, which is both enjoyable and rewarding.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Somewhat surprisingly, I think the answer to this question is No. I do have a lot of books in my house that I have been meaning to read at some point in time, but I think that there are probably only(!) a couple of hundred or so here that I haven't yet read. If I actually sat down and read these books I could probably get through them in a couple of years. My problem is twofold. The first is that there are always more really great sounding books that I keep on adding to my TBR list and the second is that I LOVE my local library. At any one point in time I have somewhere between 40 and 50 books out from the library, and I have a spreadsheet that I use specifically to keep track of what is due next! I can't imagine not visiting the library at least once a week, usually to take books back, but generally to borrow more! It's definitely an addiction for me!

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

What I would really like is for some lovely review writing fairy to come and get me completely caught up on the outstanding reviews that I have. There are some great books that I have read on my list still to review, much to my consternation. Then, I would love to get my hands on a affordable e-book reader that is compatible to Australian conditions! I don't think that will happen any time soon though. It would never replace the enjoyment of having a book in the hands, but given that I do most of the reading on the commute to and from work, it would make it easier than carrying loads of books around the place as well. I also really want to spend more time reading Aussie authors, and helping to support the industry here as well. Reading more Aussie authors was one of my goals for this year, and I think I have met the target I set myself, so next year I will be challenging myself to read even more if I can!

5. How would you eat an elephant?

A little bit at a time? I asked this question to some friends, and we did entertain ourselves for a long time with various scenarios! I think we managed to decided that it would have to be a hangi type arrangement that would involve digging a very large hole and then cooking for a very long time!

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #16 - Catherine Bateson

Catherine Bateson is a writer - "mainly poetry, children's book and young adult fiction" - and her weblog is called ten percent inspiration.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

An online journal inviting comments and personality revealing writing from innocent bystanders.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

I'm trying to keep a more focussed blog which offers readers weekly writing exercises.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Yes. Fear of seige. It's some kind of inherited reflex. At one stage my mother owned twenty pairs of white Bonds full briefs still in their packets. Of course, you can't even make pasta sauce from the contents of our pantries, but you can sit out the seige in clean knickers reading a good book.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Competitions, reviews and good stuff for charities. Actually, just keeping it up to date would be fantastic!

5. How would you eat an elephant?

Slowly, with lots of sauce.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #15 - Andrew Kelly

Andrew Kelly is the managing director at Black Dog Books. His weblog, Andrew Kelly, is described thus: "his is not a black dog books blog, but black dog will be a big part of it. The idea is that it's an opportunity to put down what I'm thinking about children's books, literature and the business of publishing."

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this
blogging business is about?

It's like an online diary that I share with others to read.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

I haven't managed to blog as often as I would have like when I started.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

My eyes are bigger than my brain, And I can't resist buying books so I pretend to myself that I'll be able to read them.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Photos, graphics and video.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

I'd rather not. They're just too interesting. We're planning an elephant book so I've been looking at lots of pictures of elephants and the babies in particular are really sweet. But then when I think about it (which I don't) the concept of veal is really gross.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #14 - Kirsty Brooks

Kirsty Brooks is an Adelaide-based writer of crime novels and runs a weblog titled,
reasonably enough, Kirsty Brooks. As best I can figure, she is the only interviewee in this snapshot who also appeared in the earlier Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot - and you can read that interview here.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

Mine is a little unusual as it's - well unstructured. The best blogs I've read have been like Thought Diaries, but a little like Essays too - good essays that include great pictures (which are so beautifully and easily downloaded from phones and cameras used to explain things in the text or simply to make a slab of text look more spangly) and are personal but interesting and a little like a column in your favourite newspaper, written by someone you like, on a topic you like. And you usually get them every day.

This is ideal. And how some writers have become celebrities or found fantastic jobs, through writing well and insightfully, day by day. I do mine about once a week, or once a month, which is pitiful.

Like any writer I have several aspects to my professional writing life and my personal life, and most of them are at least touched on in my blog, except for the very personal details of my very personal life (which is written about in detail all my books).

So I have written blogs about writing my novels, about running Driftwood Manuscript Services- my manuscript assessment agency - and the things that I've learned from that which I want to pass onto other writers - such as things that seem to crop up over and over again in manuscripts, bad writing habits (mostly reflecting my own) and so forth, and I also post articles I've written for other magazines, journals and newsletters. I also write personal pieces and also diaries and articles about caring for birds.

I look after rescue birds, at present not in any official capacity, but I looked after a baby honeyeater for several years and he would sit on my glasses most days and be my little pal, so I explained in my blog how I helped him and what worked and failed in keeping him alive, where I got information to help him, and how he lived with me for many years - and eventually died in my hands.

I enjoyed it and thought it might be useful because at the time there wasn't much on-line that was specifically helpful. Now there are some terrific blogs, articles and Q&As, so, as in all other aspects of my writing, I looked at what I wanted to read about, at a certain time, and tried to write that.

Many readers have emailed me about this, especially people who have also found abandoned birds as well and are not sure what to do. I love birds and am in the process of building an aviary in my back yard but it's slow going, despite the obvious joys of banging things with a hammer and using a staple gun. It is just about my only non-writing related hobby so I'm trying to nourish it so that I have some other interest outside writing and reading. I have done both these things all my life and it is not the way to being cool or popular...

Also I write about my life - which is the crappier bit of my blog. However, it seemed that fans of my books were interested in me, and I got a bit freaked out about it until I realised I too, am interested in my favourite authors, except they are stylish clever people like Anne Tyler and Joyce Carol Oates and Sue Grafton, and so I try not to let my readers down by being too much of a dickhead (both in life and in my blog)

Sometimes a blog can be far too much like a diary and you have to be honest in a diary because otherwise what's the point? And I am far too honest, I hate the stupid saying 'Too much information!' (in fact I hate lots of stupid sayings, like 'Talk to the hand!' etc), I guess I hate them also more because mostly people say them to me...

With the former, I never think I'm getting too much information, mostly because I think I'm getting far too little information. I hate small talk so I am always asking people 'big talk' questions. I would qualify this by adding I'm not referring to intelligent enquiry but rather personal things like what they love most about their (usually freakishly boring) house and why they have so much purple in their bathroom and why they have a fringe that is clearly irritating them. Stuff like that.

So my books get written mostly because I am nosy (and thus mostly friendless) and my blogs get written mostly because I can't stop wondering about people and why they do things. To write down my thoughts and questions and - more rarely - conclusions - loosens my internal struggle to understand the world. I'm banned from asking any questions in my family.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Yes, I typically started with lofty notions and have slowly dribbled down to becoming fascinated by the difference in the two suburbs I've recently lived in. How much I prefer my current area - Highbury - where the local deli has milk crates for chairs and a broken Sebel table/umbrella ensemble for outdoor seating and yet it's the (hip hop) hub for young and old.

However, in my old neighbourhood - Norwood - there were expensive chrome chairs and vines and lots of red painted feature walls and yet everything was just as uncomfortable as sitting on a milk crate and a good deal less fun (for so many reasons I won't go into here).

In short my blog has gone from being excellent to a bit crap.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Indeed yes. I find books comforting. I would build my house out of books if I knew how to remove one book and replace it with another without allowing the entire structural design to collapse around me. When I first moved house the people making my bookcases took an age to finish, and so all my books where in storage and I was in a bit of a state. So I had to buy a bunch of new books which acted like a balm for my nerves.

As other people go to floatation tanks or have facials or do yoga, I buy books. Lots and lots of them. I am not very good to them though. I get them wet in the bath and bend back the pages and write things in them and so forth. No one lends me books.

I love going into people's houses and looking at their lives, their private spaces, but mostly also their books. I love to see what they've read and what they have there for show. What books they've re-read (I reread a lot of books) and what they read out of obligation/curiosity etc.

Books are a huge comfort and joy to me, and they are so different, and yet the ones that mean the most are the ones that create a strong recognition in me, a sense of connecting to the author through the stories. I think that's why people want to learn more about writers of their favourite books, and why they are often so disappointed. Writers conceal and reveal through their writing, but they are also , in the best possible sense, honest in this. The more honest they are, the stronger the link between reader and writer.

I should take care to explain that I don't mean they are being honest in such aspects as truth in day-today practical life, about what really happened, about even being plausible, but I refer to truth in a greater sense, in the whole of things, in the essence of themselves and in what makes a life worth living.

Good writers, the very best writers, seem to me to be true to themselves, and therefore earn the intrinsic respect of the reader. They earn the right to tell the story and to take the reader on an adventure of some kind. They earn the right to take the reader from their lives for a certain time, to distract and entertain and destroy and rebuild them within a story. It's a rare gift to do this, (and to be a willing recipient of this as well - not everyone is a good reader).

They say everyone has a story in them, and this might be true, but very few can tell it well and even fewer can draw on a reader's imagination and essence to allow them to give back some of themselves to make that story become real. That is a rare thing indeed.

I have always wanted to write the books I love to read, and often, the books I wanted to read but could not find, so looking at a writers' bookshelf is very informative, and wonderful fun. I wonder what books they think are missing, what books they want to write next. What books they wish they'd written themselves, what books they can 'see through' and what books sweep them away.

For any keen reader, a new author, who has written many books, is a joy to discover and to share. If I like something, I will always buy it if I can afford it or find it, because I love to have such books around me around to read again or just remember, or check something against.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?
I would love to write daily, but it seems to often I don't have the time but of course I must do, I just don't use it well enough. I prefer to do other things I guess, I choose to care for a bird, or go looking for his favourite plant in my local river bed, or read up about something, or write a letter, or some of the many things that seem to take me away from work too often. Right now I'm writing another novel that's years overdue (due mostly to my mother's illness), so I only write in my blog when something is busting to get out and distracting me from my own writing.

If I could, I'd like to write every day and secondly be able to better source and include scans or photos or pictures of what I refer to, whether it's a bird, or a book or a person so ideally I would pepper my text with images more often, and thirdly, I would have someone doing all the typing for me.

I'm about to get some voice-recognition software so I can talk to my computer and get away from it more often, but in the meantime , I would much prefer a fellow with a side part and thick Clark Kent glasses sitting in a chair uncomfortably close to me, listening to me with solemn respect (and a secret love) while typing it all up for me. Yes, that would suit me well.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

By 'eat' I assume you mean the early Spanish word 'et -a' which means 'to dine with' and in its pure meaning, at a hotel, brasserie, club, or motel. If the meal was my treat, I'd tend towards the luncheonette or greasy spoon.

I've always admired the work of the short-order cook, and not being someone who enjoys much more than what can be provided by a spaghetti jaffle or fried egg sandwich, I'd take him somewhere where he'd be comfortable too, where we could dine outside and knock back a mixed grill and some Chelsea buns on the sidewalk. In my mind's eye this would involve a good pass-out diner built into an 1962 AirStream.

After that we might enjoy an affogato, as few things compare with good coffee, ice-cream and liquor. I'd probably have to assist him with the delicacy involved in this bit of the meal, possibly in exchange for a lift home.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #13 - Kerryn Goldsworthy

Kerryn Goldsworthy currently runs the "Still Life with Cat" weblog, which as she explains below, is a updated version of her previous weblog, "Pavlov's Cat", which... No, it all gets a little complicated. She explains it best.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

I have indeed had to do that on numerous occasions. Many of the interlocutors are
hostile/scornful/condescending from the outset, and they are invariably the electronically challenged technophobes -- subtext: 'If I don't understand it then it can't possibly be important' -- or because they can't get past the paradigm of the reader as consumer and writing as product, so are scornful of what they see on blogs because they are misreading it as something they should be judging for its virtues as writing. Many regard it as a narcissistic pursuit (I think it's the opposite: most bloggers want readers, not a mirror. It's an act of communication, not of self-worship). If I see or sense initial hostility, I simply back away from the technophobe and/or amateur critic. There is no point in engaging. What they really want is to tell you what a fool you are and how
silly it all is. Over and over and over.

For the genuinely interested, I would explain to them what 'blog' is short for -- that is, it's an online diary -- and describe a few very different ones to give an example of how this all works. I talk about how photos and other graphics can be used -- one of my posts from last year is a photo-essay taken in the Adelaide CBD on the morning the last Harry Potter book went on sale. I explain the difference between a team blog and a one-person blog, explain about comments threads, etc. Or just give them half a dozen selected URLs and tell them to go and have a look.

There is no short answer to this question.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Oh yes. I've started up a total of four blogs, only one of which is officially defunct. I began blogging in October 2005 at my original all-purpose blog Pavlov's Cat. It quickly became clear to me that there was a major difference between special-interest blogs and general blogs with everything in them that the blogger feels like writing about from day to day, so although Pavlov's Cat was heavily weighted towards discussion of books, writing, reading and language from the outset, I set up the blog that's now called Australian Literature Diary but used to be called A Fugitive Phenomenon, a phrase of Nick Jose's referring to Australian Lit.

Australian lit is the thing I know most about, yet that blog has always been problematic for me, because the most interesting things I have to say about Aust Lit are the things I know as an insider (reviewing, prize judging, have been mates for decades with a lot of the writers and editors, etc etc), and they are by definition the things I need or want to keep my mouth shut about. I found that talking about one's area of expertise is conducive to sounding like some kind of instructor and that is incredibly dull and highly counter-productive. Both positioning oneself as an expert and mentioning that one personally knows the famous (writers or whoever) are deeply frowned upon in online ethos as I understand it, with its central plank of 'All bloggers are equal', so that left me no effective way to do it. I can never find a good voice for it, and all the most interesting topics are off the table.

Then in May 2007 I set up Ask The Bronte Sisters, which was a sort of literary agony aunt blog about 'creative' and other writing, inviting questions from readers that would be answered personally by Emily, Anne and Charlotte, as channelled by me (which beautifully solved the problem of the dull instructing voice described above, and allowed me to be funny at the same time). That went brilliantly well for a while, with lots of visitors and links and genuine readers' questions, but it was just too much work to keep up. I started that blog in a fit of rage about the way the Howard Government was turning education into a buyable commodity, which they obviously thought it was, and the point was to set up a free education service in protest. I've taught Creative Writing at universities in various forms on and off since 1982, and felt I had something substantial to offer.

The design and content of Pavlov's Cat were starting to feel a bit stale to me and the platform I was using didn't allow for much re-design without hours of work, so in September of this year I set up a new blog, Still Life With Cat, which is really just Pavlov's Cat 2.0 and has entries about all sorts of things -- politics, the garden, the news, food, and of course still language and literature and reading and writing. I still don't moderate the comments, but the comments policy there is much more ruthless.

I blog a lot about books and writing a lot at Still Life With Cat, as I did at Pavlov's Cat, because books and writing are of a piece with the rest of my life. I live a very integrated life, working at home and doing what I love best for a living -- reading and writing and thinking about literature -- and the blog reflects that continuity.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Yes. Partly because I get seduced into buying them; partly because I taught literature at Melbourne University for 17 years, which is the kind of work that means you end up with six copies of Wuthering Height and all that that implies. For those 17 years I had a large bookshelf-lined office at work as well as several big bookshelves at home, too, so I seldom bothered to cull them. My books fall into three main categories: the ones I bought because I wanted them, the ones I bought for teaching, and the ones I was sent because of the amount of prize-judging and reviewing I've done over the years: bags and boxes of books are constantly being delivered to my house by puzzled Australia Post employees. At the moment I get sent huge numbers of books to review for the Sydney Morning Herald, for which I write short reviews of four novels every
week, so there's a path worn between my house and the nearest Red Cross charity

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

I'm not super interested in the fancy technological side of it; I'm happy to use a simple, free platform because it wouldn't be worth paying for bells and whistles I'd never use. My interest is, as it has always been, in content over appearance. So money doesn't really
come into it. If I had more time I would blog more, is all. I would probably spend more time sourcing visuals and taking photos, and actively looking for things, particularly literary things, to write about.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

I would only eat an elephant if it were drawn in icing on a birthday cake or cut out of cookie dough.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #12 - Jonathan Strahan

Jonathan Strahan is an sf reviewer and editor based in Perth. His weblog is titled href="">"Notes from Coote Street", and generally deals with his life, his reading and his work. Jonathan is probably the only major sf anthologist in the country and he is able to provide a unique perspective on the sf publishing industry.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

It's a personal journal that covers everything from what's happening to my family to whatever work I might be doing as an editor. I use it as a place to catch stray thoughts, and more than once it's provided the core of a book introduction for me. It's something I'd like to be more dedicated and disciplined about, but I've never been quite able to make myself focus on it that much, so it remains very much a casual thing.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Definitely. It started as a pure SF news journal, focusing on Australian SF news. As time passed I focussed on what I was doing in the SF field, and as that became part of my day-to-day life it became more of a personal journal.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Absolutely! I have more books in my house than any five people could read. My wife and I are both avid readers, so when we merged households we had enormous stacks of boxes of books. I also have been reviewing books for more than ten years, so lovely book companies send me free ones. They build up fast over time, and I'm lousy at getting rid of them. I keep meaning to have an event at my house where I'll simply give away all the extra books I don't need or want, but not yet.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

To be serious, well-considered thoughtfully developed posts that had more substance. I keep meaning to do something substantial and interesting there, but I don't. I guess, also, if I had money to burn I'd like to turn it into an online journal and publish fiction. I don't know that'll ever happen, though.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

Slowly, probably with a nice plum sauce.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #11 - Kim Forrester

Kim Forrester is our Australian in London. As she explains below, she runs two
weblogs: kimbofo for her everyday stuff - cooking, photos, films etc; and Reading Matters which is her literature related venture. There is always a lot of good stuff in both.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

My weblog is basically a whole bunch of book reviews (334 at last count) available to view online, with a smattering of posts that concentrate on bookish subjects. Readers are free to comment on anything I write, and, as a result, quite a lot of stimulating conversations occur about particular books between people from across the world. (None of my friends or colleagues read, so having an avenue in which to discuss books is the bit I enjoy most.)

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

I have had an online presence since the year 2000. I built my own (very basic) website called "kimbofo" using HTML where I kept a diary, published photographs and posted the odd book review or two. Everything was hand-coded and I had to upload new posts via FTP software. It was pretty damn time-consuming and fiddly, I have to say, but I
found it a good way to let friends and family back home in Australia know what I was getting up to on this side of the world.

I didn't discover blogs until 2003 and then decided to "upgrade" my website to a Typepad account in early 2004 because I really wanted a facility that would enable people to comment on my posts. I began with two blogs -- "kimbofo" for normal every-day posts, and "Reading Matters" for book reviews. Initially "Reading Matters" was nothing more than a place to keep track of the books I had read, because I used to hate drawing a blank whenever anyone asked me "read any good books lately?" Some of the "reviews", if you could call them such, were pretty pitiful and not particularly well thought out. I cringe when I go back and look at some of the earlier ones written in 2001-2004. But over time, as my audience grew and I got more and more comments, my reviews became more polished and more professional because I understood I was writing for an audience. It helped that I occasionally reviewed (non-fiction) books in my day job, so I kind of knew what I was doing.

In 2005 I decided to up the ante a bit and wrote bookish posts as well as reviews. I even started my own online reading group (discussions are available to view which boasted about 40 members at one stage. By 2006 I was in over-drive posting reviews and commentary pretty much each and every day.

But in May 2007 I took on the editorship of a specialist weekly newspaper so I no longer had as much time and energy to devote to my blog as I once enjoyed. I limped along, but ended up cancelling the book group in December, and this year I've scaled things right back to the bare minimum. These days I pretty much stick to book reviews -- roughly one a week -- and try not to fret too much about site stats and the number of comments that have (or haven't) been left.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

I live in a very tiny one-bedroom apartment with my Other Half. Both of us work in magazine publishing and love to read (me fiction, him non-fiction), so the place is always cluttered with printed matter of all types: books, magazines, newspapers, brochures and the like. A few years ago we put all our books in storage to free up some room, but all that really did was create more space for more printed matter to accumulate.

Bearing in mind that I do not hold onto books once I have read them -- they go to charity, I post them to my sister or I list them on bookmooch ( -- I always seem to have more books in my house that I haven't read than I have read. The current count is roughly 100, but there's another 150 or so in storage...

I will be the first to admit that having so many (unread) books is an addiction. I have been known to throw away clothes in order to create more space for books! They are piled on my bedside table, on the dresser and on the top self of my wardrobe. I keep an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of them all. Truly. But I hasten to add that I haven't spent a fortune on this collection: half the fun of acquiring books is scoring cheap ones from charity shops or "free" ones from online swap sites. I'm also in the rather fortunate position of being on quite a few publishers' distribution lists, so I regularly get sent copies for review purposes. There's nothing I love more than coming home to find the postman's delivered me a whole stack of new books to add to the ever-growing collection!

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

1. A better search facility; 2. My own domain name; and 3. A comprehensive guide to literary sites -- including bookshops -- around London.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

I wouldn't: I don't eat red meat!

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #10 - Jonathan Shaw

Jonathan Shaw's weblog Family Life, started out, as he puts it, as "a patchy journal about family life", but has moved on from that. Or maybe just expanded to include Jonathan's other interests.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

Contrary to the best advice my blog doesn't have a central organising subject or theme. Nor is it the "mindless production" that some say has replaced mindless consumption in the new business model of the Internet. It's a little as if under my outer clothing I should be wearing a T-shirt that says, 'I'M BLOGGING THIS', to be revealed like a superhero costume whenever the spirit moves me. I've always enjoyed columns in magazines like The Listener or The Spectator where a different public person every week writes a kind of diary, and in some ways my blog started out as a version of that: notes on things I stumble across that interest me, amuse me, intrigue me, move me, and that I think other people may respond to. Since I'm a relatively bookish person, by trade (I've been an editor for nearly 40 years) and by inclination (for at least 50 years, I've felt uneasy whenever there wasn't a book I was currently reading), a lot of the things I write about are books and book related news. I don't write anything as considered as reviews; it's more like an informal account of my reading.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Yes. When I first started blogging in May 2003, I was editor of a children's literary magazine, and I thought of my personal blog as a matter of experimentation to get the hang of the medium so as to evaluate whether it might be a good way to increase the magazine's web presence and interactivity. At the same time, my mother-in-law, who was living with us, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and it seemed that a blog keeping track of what was happening to our family would be of interest to other people in similar situations, as well as imposing a much needed discipline on my own responses. My children were in their late teenage years, and I thought a blog might be a relatively unproblematic way for them to get to know me from a different perspective (ha! of course, neither of them would dream of reading it!). I had other possibilities in mind, and the first entries are, embarrassingly, little more than diary entries that assume a readership of zero. But after I'd played around for a couple of months, the blog became its own thing. Writing one in conjunction with the magazine raised far too many

When I'd been blogging for five or six months, I had a narrative thrust upon me: my partner of twenty-something years developed severe abdominal pain, which medical test after medical test failed to diagnose. It looked more and more likely that the cause of her pain was pancreatic cancer. After major surgery found nothing, the cause turned out to be relatively minor, the kind of thing that a visit to a good osteopath would have cleared up and saved months of anguish. As always with such crises, there were many people who wanted to keep track of developments, and the blog became a way to fill that need.

Once things were back to normal, especially as my mother-in-law had now moved into care, the blog subsided into cheerful directionlessness. When I read Nick Hornby's The Polysyllabic Spree at the start of 2006, I began a reasonably systematic account of my reading -- a monthly blog entry at first, but now less schematic than that. I recently received my first complimentary copy of a publication with a request that I review it.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Yes. Why not?

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

A. Occasional interviews -- with children's writers and illustrators who aren't well known. B. An exploration of people I've known when young whose lives have taken interesting turns, or people like the old boy of one of my schools who wrote the theme tune of a cult TV show, but about whom I know nothing else.
C. It would require more than time and money -- more like a change to the laws of libel and sedition -- but I'd love to write up the bits of inside stories I hear from various people who work for the Government in various capacities.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

With extreme reluctance and distaste.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #9 - Genevieve Tucker

As Genevieve Tucker explains in this interview, her current literary weblog is
titled Reeling and Writhing, and subtitled "A weblog on books, media and writing." Which is pretty much all you need to know.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

I have done that a few times on the blog, courtesy of a small slideshow (which is a bit
ancient now) which I link to from the top of the homepage. It's usually not quite enough to tell people that it's an interest-based website where entries are posted backwards; it helps if they can get online and have a look for themselves. If I waffle on convincingly enough about who reads it and the opportunities it's afforded me in other writing, they're generally motivated enough to have a peep.

My brother was quite funny when he first saw it - I think he said, "who's written all this?"

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

I don't think it's ever really had much of a direction - I started it while slowly dagging my
way through a Grad Dip in library studies and it has chewed through most of the interests I developed during those studies, as well as a few others (see my bloglists for details.) At one stage I had two blogs, but at present Library Sputnik ( is kinda lost in space. I changed the name of the litblog to Reeling and Writhing not long after the Google fairy tapped me on the head and I was invited to write reviews for The Australian's (then) new literary review in 2006. I did this mainly because the original name of my Blogger blog, You Cried For Night, with its direct reference to Beckett's Endgame, was a purely spontaneous choice arising out of an impulsive, unguarded, quite furious moment in my life which had very little to do with reading and writing at all. (The full quote is "You
cried for night - it falls. Now cry in darkness." You join the dots.)

Also I was a little nervous that the exposure I received from the excursion into MSM might lead to awkward questions about exactly how much Beckett I have read. (For the record - the plays, the early novels, the Knowlson bio. The Big Three await me in my life after blogging and Pynchon, I think.) Otherwise any other changes arise pretty much from playing with the tools, or from the influence of blog friends who have pretty toys I can steal.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

No, I don't think so. I use public libraries, the Victorian Writers' Centre library and the Baillieu at Melbourne to augment a small collection which has grown a bit in the last two
years. The home collection won't be growing much bigger because my home is pretty small and has quite a few people in it, and I don't believe in keeping books in plastic garbage bags in the roof like Gerald Murnane does. Also I get awfully upset when I haven't dusted them all and the pages start yellowing - do I blame old age, poor collection management, crappy paper or what? it's dispiriting. Small collections can also be beautiful.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be? I can't manage a proper answer to this, so I'm going to digress.

I only really have one thing, you see. And really, not even that. What
I'm doing just now suits me just fine. I'd possibly write more book reviews if I had more time. I might also start a garden, though we have just had a water tank installed here. If only there were more times that could be spent listening to the water splashing into it...

I'd read more poetry, and explore more connections with the world of poetry, though whether anything arising from that would appear on the blog is another matter altogether.

The news service part of what I do has been fun, but that is not completely dependent on time - I would read those news services anyway, so a potted selection from them is what I do over a cup of coffee a couple of times a week, for a post or two. Hardly something you need a lot of time for, once you've got the skill-set. There are
some great resources to report from: MobyLives has just kicked back into the spin, and the Three Percent blog from the University of Rochester's translation program is a terrific site. These things are fun to read, and it doesn't take much time to share them. And I am getting appreciative comments regarding that service, which is lovely and keeps me motivated. Don't need dollars to do that.

What I do like to do, and will continue to do each summer, is to take January off to catch up with my delicious To:Read list of web-garnered articles. It usually hovers around the 230 mark. Maybe in future I will recruit some guests to assist with that gap, I'm going to think about that. If I had more money I doubt I'd be spending it on a weblog!! I did make a plug a while back on href="">Sarsaparilla for a few extra husbands to work in the garden. A few of those would be great...shouldn't have to buy them though, should I. My blog is currently hosted on Typepad for which I pay a small sum - however I will probably put it over on Wordpress when I can be bothered to go into the whole domain-demesne.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

Never. I love and admire elephants too much to consider such a thing. C'est horrible.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #8 - Blue Tyson

The blogger who signs his posts as "Blue Tyson" runs the Australian SF Reader weblog, on which he reviews everything he reads within the sf, fanatsy and horror genres, and links to all the free online sf he can find.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

An attempt to remember all the books and stories of interest I have read and rate them, with whatever notes/info came to mind while I was doing that. However, Super Reader is an attempt to put together a comprehensive list of superhero prose fiction. There is no chance I will ever see all this, particularly all the old rare obscure pulp characters.

This then led to doing Free SF Reader as more and more stuff was online, and Not Free SF Reader, to try and list everything I could remember, and from that point, everything I was reading. Then some others that were subsets, Year's Best SF Reader, Space Opera Reader - reprints, if you like.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Not really. Some minor format tweaks or redesigns, changing the categorisations
slightly (e.g. serials, excerpts just recently). Adding non-fiction pieces that were related, online, and caught my interest.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Yes, e.g. Project Gutenberg and Blackmask DVDs. Even though I can read a few hundred books a year if I want to, it isn't possible to read everything I would like.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more
time/money, what would they be?

All the missing Year's Best series that I have never seen, or do not have.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

I'd have to be starving, to eat an elephant, so whichever way was possible at the time. Might even be tempted to go long pig first.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #7 - Angela Meyer

Angela Meyer has been producing the weblog LiteraryMinded since May 2007, firstly on her own and lately under the umbrella of the Crikey group. She writes on just about everything: books, film, poetry, writers' festivals. She's also prolific.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

I would tell them that the LiteraryMinded weblog is like a website that features
articles of interest for people who enjoy literature, and culture in general. The nature of a weblog is that it gets updated regularly and there is something new at the top each time you visit. As a younger generation web user and literary lover, I'm trying to incorporate the 'freshness' of this medium into the way I approach the subject or format of my posts. Most weblogs also display some of the personality of their author, and thus regular readers become acquainted with the weblog and enjoy it the way they would when engaging with a character or personality in other mediums.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

The theme was always literary, and also to act as a showcase of an emerging writer's
journey - publications, experiences (such as going to Varuna) and general interaction with the world (social/cultural etc.) Since I moved to Melbourne from Coffs Harbour I have been able to attend a lot more literary events, and interact with people in the literary world (like through my work at Bookseller+Publisher) so this has had an effect on the content. Also, when I was picked up by Crikey in September I was given a new platform, but still have complete control over the content. I am, however, required by contract to blog more often than I was. As it was impossible for me to read more
books than I was I have come up with new 'segments', such as 'Other people's favourite books', and soon I will start having some guest posts. This enables me to still take time on the reviews and interviews and ensure their quality.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Most definitely. Not only do I get them free from work but I can't walk past a bookstore. As friends read my blog they also lend and recommend me things they know I'll like. And now, publicists are sending things out of the blue! I feel guilty if I don't add them to the pile. Oh how it sways!

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Absolutely, definitely video blogging. I have had ideas for this for ages and just can't afford the equipment. It's not just a camera but a new computer. I would love to interview authors in person when they're in town, or film readings and the occassional review. I have actually started the LiteraryMinded YouTube channel but I am just using my photo camera at the moment. The quality isn't so great but quite a few people have viewed the videos, after I embedded them in a blog post. If I had more money I would also attend every writers' festival in Australia and blog about them. I just love them. I'll get my first chance at doing panels at the Emerging Writers' Festival in Melbourne in May. This is something I'm really looking forward to.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

I'm supposed to say 'one bite at a time' but it seems unethical to even think about eating an elephant... If we apply this to growing an audience on the web I am happy for it to be one bite at a time. It seems quite apt for a weblog too - as each post is a bite-sized piece of writing/information/entertainment. So in a way, it's not really eating an elephant, but constructing one. A big, enthusiastic, sometimes clumsy, genuine, intertextual, rhizomatic, literary elephant!

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #6 - SallyR

I know of Sally from her weblog Books and Musing from Downunder, on which she reviews, seemingly, everything she reads - and she reads across a range of genres. But, as this interview shows, she has yet
another weblog.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

It is really just a record of the books I have read and my thoughts on each book. It was started for my own personal use and I created it when my home computer crashed and I lost years and years worth of reading records. I use the blog to look back and see what I have read and to see if I enjoyed the author enough to read another one by them. Then
I discovered that other people actually came and commented on my thoughts so I would go off and look at their blogs and soon a whole new source of on-line friendships arose out of blogging. I don't go out of my way to attract people to my blog - and my heart is not broken if no-one visits. As I said, I set it up for my own personal use not to win popularity contests. I also write mystery book reviews for a couple of publishers - and the blog gives another medium for the review to be seen.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

No - It is cross genre and I read anything and most everything. I have started to get involved in reading challenges through blogging and now have a separate blog to keep track of the challenges - with links from that back to the reviews I write.

Other than that I recently put a counter on my blog to see if anyone actually visits my page - and they do - wow!!!! The only drawback is that each time I go to it to update or add new posts it counts me as a visit. So is not 100% accurate.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Yes I do - I have over 200 fiction books - and over 500 non-fiction (the non-fiction are between me and my husband though). Why? The non-fiction are all research and various areas of interest we have - cooking, wine, history, archaeology, science, dogs and odds and sods. The fiction - well I have a problem - I can't help it - I see a book I have to have it - now - some call this affliction bookaholism, there is no known cure. I've tried to be strong but books whisper my name as I pass bookshops and cry if I walk away. Other times friends threaten me if I don't buy a book or two when I am with them
because it shows up their out of control habits - I cave in and buy, sobbing to my husband "The girls made me do it - they said I can't belong to the book coven anymore." The final argument I use to justify my stash is that while I am working full time it is not so much a problem - I am storing books like a squirrel stores nuts. One day retirement will arrive (sooner than I think) and I will have my huge stash to last me comfortably for years.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Time is my biggest enemy so I would either like the time to learn how to do more stuff to my existing blog - I understand you can add your own headings and do more columns if you are html literate. If I had the money the I would like my own web address so I could set up the page as I want rather than use templates. Maybe link up to a publisher and have competitions to give away books to lucky people. But really I am happy with what I have got at the moment - it is plain, simple and mine.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

One mouthful at a time - preferably stir fried with garlic, ginger and chillies - with some sweet soy sauce. I would use the bones to make a soup out of and the offal would get donated to the local RSPCA.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #5 - Deborah Biancotti

Deborah Biancotti is an Australian science fiction writer whose short story, "A Scar for Leida", won the Aurealis Award for Excellence in Australian Speculative Fiction, Young Adult Division. Her weblog, simply titled, has been running since the start of 2005. It's not all about her work.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

It's like a conversation you might have at a party -- only it's online, of course. Some of those conversations are light-hearted and fun, and some of them are more of the 'deep & meaningful' type. Either way, hopefully it's a good party!

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject
since you started?

Well, I have a lot less time for blogging now than when I started. I used the blog as writing exercise for the first couple years. Nowdays when I get some spare time to write, I just knuckle down and do the writing. Hang the exercise! So for that reason my blog's less frequent, & less hoooked into the blogosphere than it used to be.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Yes. Because it's faster to buy books than to read them! And I know some really good book stores. And, superstitiously, I figure I might be able to extend my lifespan by surrounding myself with books I want to read...

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Three things, eh? I'd integrate the blog into my website, I'd do up my own visual design, and I'd have book giveaways for my novels (particularly awkward currently, because I'm only halfway through my first novel as we speak!).

5. How would you eat an elephant?

With an antelope chaser.

Australian Litblog Snapshot #4 - Margo Lanagan

Margo Lanagan is the prize winning author of a number of YA novels, fantasy collections and the new fantasy novel, Tender Morsels. She writes the weblog Among Amid While, which she started in July 2005. She posts a lot about her work, her writing, and where she goes and who she sees as she publicises her books and stories. But she also gives us a glimpse behind the scenes at what makes a writer tick, and falter, trip and get up again. She's not unique in Australia in being a published author who runs a literary weblog, but she is one of a very small group.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

As slightly one-sided water-cooler conversation for a person who doesn't work in an office. As a placemarker for a decent website, when I get around to setting one up. As me-me-me-related jottings, mainly to do with my writing and books, but dipping into the personal-newsy every now and again.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

No, it's stayed pretty much the same. Me-me-me. And my books. And isn't THIS review silly? And look, here is me with Colin Farrell at a book launch - aren't I famous!

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

I could read them all if this pesky full-time job would just go away. And I've read quite a lot of them - but I may re-read that one, so don't throw it away, for goodness' sake. And there are so many more that I want. The books that I really want - together with the time to sit on the chaise-longue and enjoy them - are big, weird coffee-table books, the kind they sell in Ariel in The Rocks, or the AGNSW bookshop. When my boat comes in, those are the sort I'll acquire. Of course, it's not all about the books IN MY HOUSE. There's also Leichhardt Library, which has rich pickings - and I can bring those home and sit on them for three weeks and more, and now I can renew them online and not get fined. And then there's the State Library of NSW, where not only can you find the obscure book your missionary great-great-uncle wrote back in 1870, but you can also get hold of all those books that otherwise you'd have to buy online and clutter up your house with. Like Anne Lamott's BIRD BY BIRD. And Alan Garner's THE VOICE THAT THUNDERS.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Those readings from TENDER MORSELS I was going to put up. More photographs and illustrations generally. Something created specially for the blog, like John and Hank Green's Brother project.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

I think I'd organise to have it liquidised and tubed directly into my stomach. It would take a long time to get through the whole beast, and I'd spend that time sitting up in bed reading.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #3 - Matt

Matt writes the Happy Antipodean weblog out of Sydney, and has been known to post comments on this weblog from time to time. He doesn't restrict himself to one genre or another; recent posts have covered Chinese pornography, readings from Paradise Lost, and works by Freud and Orwell. He's idiosyscratic and opinionated - the way all good bloggers should be. You don't have to agree with all of it, and Matt probably wouldn't like it if you did.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

Not all bloggers are the same. Which is a blessing because otherwise the web would be a boring place.

Not all bloggers are different. God knows there are enough geniuses in the world. But there are definitely too many careful bloggers.

Good luck to them, I say.

My blog started at a time of calm. It started at the same time as postgraduate study and continued past the award of my masters.

I love to criticise. I love to praise.

At the time I thought it would be fun to participate in a world of ideas. It seemed that the paradigm of the editorial god and the adoring addicts could be broken like a sappy twig.

But sometimes it just bends. Full participation in the public sphere demands active participants.

I mostly blog about books. After reading one I sit down at the keyboard and tap
out a post.

It's part of the reading process now. I certainly express an opinion but I take pride in always retailing in each book's merits.

People are lazy and companies exploit the stickiness of predictability. The most interesting blogs are not necessarily the most popular.

Publishers quickly understood this and most bloggers can relish the opportunity to do nothing else. Greed is an uneasy housemate in the mind's mansion, though - to be sure - not all can afford a residence as ample as Strawberry Field.

Blogging is mainly about writing. Don't blog if you're not into writing. Most important - what I go for - is being happy with your own results.

The apt phrase, the concision of afterthought, the dynamics generated by dissimilar posts on consecutive days - these are my pleasures.

A torment is the lack of a spell checker in the Blogger interface. I often repost a dozen times in order to complete a single day's post. Two hundred words can easily take an hour to get up.

I stick to opinion - a baseline requirement. Since everyone has one, you'd say anyone can blog.

Writing is another thing entirely, however. Some have no aptitude, others less interest. Those in the latter category usually give up.

Those with interest but little aptitude can improve over time. But put simply: if you don't enjoy writing, don't blog. Build a vegie patch on the nature strip. Buy some chickens and throw up a coop on the veranda.

Esse quam videri.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

My first post was some rubbish but I soon moved into book reviews and I've stayed there since. I avoid a system and follow my reading, which is eclectic.

I have more Australian books as a percentage of the total than I did a year ago.

This choice is a sign of a contrary nature and not a penance or even a hobbyhorse. Admittedly some comments I made about being non partisan helped in questioning a lack of Oz lit knowledge.

I now have more Australian books - by my LibraryThing account ("Antipodean") - than American ones. I still have more British ones but this is an index of maturity.

Of course, you could say that ours - also - began in the late Renaissance. A book by Joseph Furphy is as thickly studded with quotes from Cowper and Scott as a book by George Eliot.

Australian literature is somewhat less than adequately lauded. A great many of 'our' writers are ignored by the countrymen and -women.

This is a shame. Miles Franklin is as great a writer as Somerset Maugham or Henry James. Native conservatism made her modify her talent and write fairly conventional stories.

She may be less flamboyant, but this is a stamp of the nation rather than an indication of a soft mind or a limp will.

She is as great a writer but not as great a stylist, an innovator. But peer into the water, past the pond's calm surface, and you see a welter of life.

Xenophobia is an issue with dead Australian writers. The stain of native anti-Semitism - just one, relatively visible, aspect of a still inhering xenophobia - cannot be removed until its extent is realised.

Exposure to the blogging world has changed my reading habits.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Yes. I love books and always have. Well, not always. I started reading for pleasure quite late - at about 12 years of age.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

Better writing. It takes time to write small and, unfortunately, I've only got so many hours in the day. I work full time and I need time just to fuck around a bit, even before blogging.

A certain slackness around the edges of a blog post is a virtue.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

I'd first shoot it like my grandfather's brothers did. He left Africa in his twenties and settled in Melbourne. A year later - in 1925 - he married Phyllis Elsie Pearl Caldecott.

My maternal grandmother loved elephants. She filled a display case made for our Sydney house, into which she had moved after abandoning her husband to his twin pleasures: the Carlton Football Club and a number of other - no doubt younger - women.

When granny died I was overseas but I returned briefly for the funeral. I wept because it was granny's bed we resorted to when, as children, we had nightmares.

Australian Litblog Snapshot #2 - Karen Chisholm

Karen Chisholm runs the AustCrime Fiction weblog, which covers a staggering amount of crime fiction - both local and overseas. I doubt there is a local crime fiction release that she doesn't read and review, or at least mention. If you're at all interested in Australian crime writing then you should be reading this weblog.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

It's a light amusement. I guess some people would think of a blog as a conceit, publicising your opinions on books constantly. AustCrime started out with the grand aim of providing a database of books, then it expanded to include reviews, chats, all sorts of things in one place. It really started out as a place to accumulate the ramblings and notes from post-it notes, emails, notebooks and whatever else I had spread around the place. It's interesting for me to look back and see what I have been reading, how I've reacted to a book or a series and whether that initial reaction holds in the event that I reread a book (and I do reread - not as often as I once did, but I do). Of course, there is always the sneaking suspicion that the site justifies my obsession with books of course, but I really don't want a justification. I've always been a book accumulator - since my first Agatha Christie books when I was a child.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

Not really - a long time ago I gave up pretending that I want to read much "literary fiction". I prefer crime fiction stylings - interesting, engaging books with plots and characters. Whilst I've always read an enormous number of books (I was one of those kids with the torch under the blankets of a night), I've been called more and more to crime fiction over the years. The blog does cover the occasional True Crime book (local only), as I sometimes like to balance fiction with reality, but mostly its crime and thriller fiction.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

Of course - doesn't everybody? I have a profound fear that publishers will stop producing books if I stop accumulating them. There's also the "saving for my retirement" argument. But really - pick any reason you like - being surrounded by the years of accumulated books - read and to be read - makes me happy.

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

I'd like to be publishing writers' work - directly on the website - subscription or free or any combination, published or unpublished authors - local only, as a showcase of the absolutely terrific work that's going on out there.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

With a steak knife, a fork, and a serviette. Table manners are very important.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot #1 - Kerrie Smith

Kerrie Smith runs the Mysteries in Paradise weblog, and mysteries are what she reads. But you'll also find her posting about her parents' wedding anniversary dinner, and anything else that seems to fit. She lives in Adelaide and started her weblog in January 2008.

1. How would you describe your weblog to someone who wasn't at all sure what this blogging business is about?

I began my blog as the result of a New Year's resolution. I had been writing a blog for my work place for over eighteen months and had been thinking of creating one where I could post my book reviews. So that's what MYSTERIES IN PARADISE basically aims to do. It talks about crime fiction, books that I've read, and snippets of information I come across. I see my blog as a chance to share with others my opinions about what I read, but also as the beginning of a conversation with the wider world about crime fiction. Blogging also gives me a chance to clarify my ideas about what I've read.

2. Have there been any major changes in your weblog's direction, theme or subject since you started?

I've stuck pretty well to the original purpose of my blog. I've played around a lot with various gadgets, tried to make sure it loads pretty quickly, and that people find lots to interest them. I have joined one or two "challenges" such as Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books and the Sunday Salon. I'm never really at a loss for things to write, and would even go as far as to say that writing every day has become almost an addiction.

3. Do you have more books in your house than you can possibly read? If so, why?

I can't be trusted in a bookshop or a library. Homeless books simply leap off the shelves and beg to be taken away. And then there are book sales, where perfectly good titles can be bought for 50 cents each. How can I resist? I also review books for Random House Australia, and then there are the authors and agents who also send me books to review. And I think I'm slowing down as a reader. I manage about 2 books a week, but there must be another hundred vying for my attention. I think the only solution is a desert island for a year!

4. If there were three things you'd like to include in your weblog if you had more time/money, what would they be?

It is probably good that I don't have more time at my disposal. I'd just write more posts. I can't think of anything I'd spend my money on. All the things I use on my blog are free-to-use. I would like to be able give more books away, but at present postal rates are a prohibitive, so that's probably something I'd be happy to spend money on. Sorry, I just realised you said 3 things. I've read somewhere that you should get your own domain name. Perhaps that would be something I could spend money on. But I'm not convinced.

5. How would you eat an elephant?

Perhaps the only way to eat an elephant is as a birthday cake. The real thing would really be as tough as old boots, and rather too large for those of us who watch our weight.

Australian LitBlog Snapshot: Introduction

Back in March this year, Damien Gay, Karen Chisholm and I published a number of short interviews with Australian crime writers. [See this post for the full list.] This followed on from a couple of similar exercises involving Australian sf and fantasy writers undertaken by Ben Peek, and others, over the previous few years. This "Snapshot", as it was called, aimed to introduce crime writers to our readers that they may not have been aware of. It seemed to work okay, if our feedback was anything to go on.

Not being one to let a good idea lie for too long I thought it might be time to do something along the same lines again, but this time with Australian bloggers; especially those who ran weblogs dealing with literature in a major way. I wasn't worried what field of literature these litbloggers covered, just so long as they showed a liking for books, authors, and things to do with the publishing world. So over the past month or so I've been getting in contact with these webloggers, sending off the same set of questions to each of them and generally cajoling them into taking part. Some have been extremely busy and have taken a little while to get back to me, and others have turned around their answers in about the time it took me to open a bottle and pour myself a decent glass of red. I've been impressed by, and grateful to, all of them, and as I now have the bulk of the answers back I intend to start publishing them as of tomorrow. One a day, with Sundays off, should see us most of the way through December before I'm finished.

I hope you find some interesting responses here, and that those responses prompt you to check out the relevant weblogs. There really is a lot of talent out there.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of recent entries in the Australian LitBlog Snapshot category.

Australian Crime Fiction Snapshot is the previous category.

Australian Literary Caricatures is the next category.

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