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Beautiful book bag

August 3, 2011 2 comments

I love my latest book-ish thing…

Book bag

It protects my precious books in transit.

A pouch for a writing pad, a slot for pencils and a snug spot for my beloved book...

Order yours from http://www.olvarwood.com.au/gifts.html

And, because caring is sharing, here’s a quote from the book I’m reading (The Story of a Novel). These words of Thomas Wolfe were originally published in 1936, but the feeling still holds true for those afflicted with the need to write. At pp.36-7:

It seemed that I had inside me, swelling and gathering all the time, a huge black cloud, and that this cloud was loaded with electricity, pregnant, crested, with a kind of hurricane violence that could not be held in check much longer; that the moment was approaching fast when it must break.

Categories: Australia, Books, Craft, Review, Writing

Goodbye Borders (Brisbane City)

May 27, 2011 4 comments

Today, Borders Brisbane City closes its doors for the last time.

While some might say “hooray, another giant bites the dust”, it didn’t feel like a party shopping there yesterday. It was like picking over the garage sale of the newly dead.

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During the day, the shop was packed with people, shoulder to shoulder, looking for something more to buy at 90% off.

By last night, three floors of books was reduced to one floor of random leftovers and fixtures and fittings with SOLD stickers. People were in until 9:30pm unscrewing speakers from the ceilings and carting out whatever they could. I acquired some bookshelves. Lovely, lovely bookshelves.

Today, everything must go. If you’re in the city, pay your last respects and pick up a bargain.

My thoughts go out to the staff.

Categories: Australia, Books, Business

Jacqueline Howett’s response to a “discusting” book review

April 3, 2011 4 comments

In case you hadn’t heard, Jacqueline Howett self-published the unfortunately named book “The Greek Seaman” and more unfortunately still, over-reacted to a reviewer, in what might be the longest tantrum online.

Here’s the original review by Big AL:

If you read The Greek Seaman from the start until you click next page for the last time I think you’ll find the story compelling and interesting. The culture shock felt by the newlywed bride, Katy, who finds herself far from her native England, living on a cargo ship with her seaman husband Don is a good story in itself. Katy adapting to this all male environment with a crew of mixed nationality, most non-English speaking, is compelling. Whether Katy and Don will survive the criminal conspiracies the ship owner and captain have planned is yet another conflict that should keep a reader in suspense to the end.

However, odds of making that final click are slim. One reason is the spelling and grammar errors, which come so quickly that, especially in the first several chapters, it’s difficult to get into the book without being jarred back to reality as you attempt unraveling what the author meant…

Her response:

This is not only discusting and unprofessional on your part, but you really don’t fool me AL.

Who are you any way? Really who are you?

What do we know about you?

You never downloaded another copy you liar!

You never ever returned to me an e-mail

Besides if you want to throw crap at authors you should first ask their permission if they want it stuck up on the internet via e-mail. That debate is high among authors.

Your the target not me!

A little taste of the novel in question:

She carried her stocky build carefully back down the stairs.

Don and Katy watched hypnotically Gino place more coffees out at another table with supreme balance.

I’m not sure I have enough time to read more about this stocky ballerina who marries a seaman. I’m not even sure how one goes about watching someone hypnotically – when I look at my cross-eyed cat for too long, my eyes get watery – does that come close?

Her angry, error-laden responses (see comments), including two F offs in full glory, make one wonder about:

* how a self-proclaimed writer could have such a limited command of language

* why people treat online communication so flippantly (and disregard manners)

* the danger of bias and self-delusion (the deep end of too much positivity, perhaps?).

Sadly for other self-published writers, Jacqueline makes a good case for traditional publishing, where very few writers make it through the hoops of fire.

Google her for more details on how to get her book. Or, you could find a big nest of green ants and roll in it.

Brisbane floods: Another day in paradise

January 17, 2011 2 comments

Just a quick update. Must be day 4 of relocating the bookshop from the flood zone and everything hurts.

Maybe this is why.

Moved 3 rooms like this one, with bookshelves on all 4 walls...

Great news, is that everything’s out and safely in another location. So now, it’s just re-shelving. Re-cataloguing is something entirely else and isn’t a priority.

Some books weren’t so lucky.

Just a few of the books that didn't make it...

There was no time for fussing. With rain threatening and mud waiting to be cleaned out…

Packing on the run ...




Just another load

This part of New Farm is looking great now. Lord Mayor, Campbell Newman was even on the beat collecting kerbside rubbish yesterday (Sunday) – hats off to him, he’s working hard. There are muddy reminders on the roads, but with the rubbish gone, you could be forgiven for not noticing there was a disaster here. But that’s only in some streets, in this particular suburb, which has pulled up remarkably well.

Volunteers who packed onto council busses recently, however, have sometimes been frustrated by the lack of co-ordination, resulting in the wasting of hundreds of man hours (person hours, if you must). One bus, for example, had volunteers lining up from 7am, but didn’t take off until after 10am. It drove around for half an hour, then deposited volunteers in an area of New Farm where people were coping well and turning away help (no-one accepts help unless they really need it & assume that someone needs it more). So, that whole bus load of people, who’d given a whole day, were told to wait by the bus to be taken back to the depot – where the next bus load of keen volunteers was being loaded up, again, to an unknown destination.

Overall, the recovery operation has been great, but the volunteers need to be co-ordinated better. Also, someone needs to better think through how to manage donations of goods instead of turning them away and demanding cash. Not everyone has cash to donate. The argument that the cash can then be spent in the region itself is a bit of a furphy also, because those shops are under water, unable to resume normal supplies etc.

It’s taken me the better part of a week just to help one household in one street in one suburb. Happily, the house is now liveable, and subject to wrangling with insurance, life goes on. However, there are so many others who are still pushing mud out of their front doors, and volunteers are being mismanaged. It’s maddening.

E-books & the death of book stores

November 9, 2010 5 comments


With the arrival of e-books, people in publishing are deeply worried about:
A. the survival of brick ‘n mortar book stores; and
B. the future of traditional paper publishing.
What the conversation is missing, is the consumer.

What do consumers want?
Do they want paper books to continue as they are?
Do they want physical book stores?
Do they prefer e-books and e-stores?
Can they continue to have both?
Will they mind waiting longer to get Print On Demand books, instead of just taking something off a shelf?
What about the cost of books and e-devices?

In this post, I’ll focus on the effect of pricing and invite your thoughts.

The price of books & the death of book stores

The price of books in Australia is always a contentious issue. They seem expensive and yet, very few authors can live off their writing and book sellers are bleeding. People in all aspects of publishing live modestly. There’s lots of love, but not a lot of money. Why?

Book shops are diversifying more into gift lines and coffee, since book selling is becoming uneconomic due to:
* on-line selling;
* predatory discounting practices of department stores; and
* e-book retailers because (in Australia) brick ‘n mortar stores aren’t able to sell e-books (why?!).

I’ll briefly touch upon the main players in the price wars.

Parallel importation?
Over a year ago, book sellers, led by Dymocks, thought that parallel importation would save them. The New Zealand uptake of that policy proved disastrous. You can’t have eggs without chickens. Killing local publishing to save local book selling is at best, wonky thinking.

Predatory pricing
Big department stores sell books cheaper because they demand around 70 per cent off from the publishers, and they use cheap books to lure more people into the store to spend money on other things (to offset the discount). This dynamic works for consumers until the competition is killed off, then prices go up and choice goes out the door. It’s not competition; it’s a killing field.

GST
In Australia, GST is applied to all stages of a book’s production. No government has been open to dropping it. Economists tell me it’s because book sellers will apply the GST savings to their own bottom line and not pass it on to consumers.

So the choice is: GST revenue to the government to churn and burn, or leave it in the industry so that more businesses can keep their doors open (and possibly, pass on price reductions to consumers in the line of normal competition?). Frankly, I would’ve thought that an “Education Revolution” (to use a Labor Party slogan) might’ve included books.

E-books will be the final blow to Aussie book stores, unless…
E-books are currently retailing around $9.99 on Amazon and according to Michael Hyatt, there’s no likelihood that prices will sustainably drop below that point. E-publishing and e-distribution, perhaps surprisingly, doesn’t deliver big cost savings.

I think that once publishers work out all the other funky things they can do in the e-world, prices will eventually go up because they’ll be producing more on-line content to sell their books. Publishers will rise from the ashes of burned out book stores insofar as they’ll be selling directly to online consumers.

In America, e-books are rapidly gaining popularity. The Aussie uptake has been slow and the publishing industry has been reluctant to respond to the new paradigm. Australia doesn’t have the population to shoulder massive market changes as readily. That being said, we can’t put it off any longer.

Conclusion
So, what will e-books do to the price of books in Australia? Not much, it seems, unless the government removes the GST from the equation and revises competition law. With the GST in place, more people will shop on-line to avoid it and brick ‘n mortar book stores in Australia will continue their rapid decline in the face of anti-competitive practices by bigger players.

People will go to book shops to have coffee, browse inside books and then purchase them (either in paper or electronic format) elsewhere, online. That’s not a sustainable business model. Book sellers had better come up with something new, quickly, to value-add to the experience of loving books.

While $9.99 for an e-book is up to half the price of a traditional book, you have to buy the e-reader as well. And even though they are coming down in price, will you be buying one for your kids this Christmas? They aren’t so forgiving when dropped. And how many e-books do you have to buy to make up the savings as against the cost of the device?

I’m not against e-books. I’m not advocating for them, either. I love what’s inside books and where those books take me. People should have a choice. I just hope that the Australian government and industry get the balance right, before our favourite book shops bleed out.

QUESTION:
What do you wish you could tell the government or publishing industry in Australia? Do you think book shops will survive?

N.B. I encourage all respectful views. Feel free to disagree, without being disagreeable. No-one has all of the answers. Sharing is caring.

Review: Scrambled Egg

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Rarely does one use the word “delightful” these days without sounding twee, however, this book is delightful – and that’s a good thing. Children deserve stories that are uplifting. We’re getting a bit bored with eco-anxiety and parents-are-envirovandals type stories. Story-telling should be about story-telling; heavy moralising belongs elsewhere. Why depress kids? We should be inspiring love and awe and letting kids be kids.

Scrambled Egg is a beautiful Australian book. It’s simply gorgeous to look at and a good read. It’s about stepping up to a challenge (finding the mother of the lost egg) and problem-solving with the help of good friends. As a bonus, children learn about Australian native animals and the amazing outback.

Thumbs up. (Recommended for ages 2-10).

PS. Check out Wendy’s artwork – her emus and camels will make you smile!

Catch your own TinkerBell – DIY fairy house

August 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Catch your own TinkerBell - DIY fairy house

Being Book Week in Australia and all, some of us have been obsessing about how to dress our kids for the school fancy dress parade. Some people, like The Auntie Who Thinks of Everything, go so far as to make props.

As I’m severely allergic to craft, and could only bring myself to make a swag (comprising stick with tea towel tied to the end of it) for one of my children’s props today (Miss Nine went as pretty-boy, Huckleberry Finn), I thought I’d share Auntie’s more inspired creation.

The lid flips open and the interior has been tastefully decorated in fully fledged fairy style. Awesome work,
Auntie!

If anyone has photos from Book Week or special crafty ideas they’d like featured on the blog, contact me through the comments box and I’ll see what I can do.

Happy fairy hunting, and good reading!

Categories: Art, Australia, Books, Movies, Parenthood

Unequal Partners? Women in the legal profession.

August 5, 2010 9 comments

People ask me why I left the legal profession. Depending on how much time they have, one response is that the hours weren’t compatible with life, let alone a family life. I’d worked in the very smallest of law firms, to the very largest (and even tried the Public Service) and uniformly found, that commitment to the legal life was an all-or-nothing proposition. What’s more, there were grinding inequalities which came with the territory, but which we dared not speak of.

My generation of women–those who graduated during Keating’s “recession we had to have” of the early 1990s, were just so happy to have a job. Yes, we graduated with those purple and green stickers that declared “Women can do anything”, but to us, it seemed a silly statement of the obvious. Of course, we were only in that fortunate frame of mind because of the work of generations of women before us, who’d made equality an expectation, not an aspiration. However, the expectation was not only to be allowed into the profession (that happened well over 100 years ago, in Australia), but extended to equality of participation, including progress on merit. Management theories for years supposed that having increasing numbers of women in the profession would iron out any inequalities and change the profession. However, what would seem to be the case, is that women have taken on and adapted to the environment, rather than changed it. The end result is that lots of women go into the profession, and are churned back out, with broken hearts and ambitions unfulfilled.

This is not at all about man-bashing. I’m rather fond of men. I could do a Tony Abbott speech and say I even married one, and have several other men in my family. But on a serious note, there is a very specific and ingrained culture in the legal profession, that still treats women as second-best, and pays accordingly.

Some things which women lawyers have indicated to me over the years, in confidence, include, for example:
* In the 1990s, if a woman wore trousers instead of a skirt to court, a male judge might say “I cannot see you.” I made this mistake once, because as a (then) construction lawyer, who could be called out for site inspections, trouser suits seemed sensible.
* In the 1990s, if a woman wrote down “Ms” instead of “Miss” or “Mrs” on the appearance slip in court, a male judge might say, “I cannot hear you.” I made this mistake once, also.
* Blokes get to walk in front and not carry a thing. Women walk three steps behind, carrying the folders or pushing the trolleys to court. This is not just a seniority thing. A woman lawyer could do all the work on the file, but then when a corporate representative of the client was due to come to court to watch the progress of the matter, the woman would be told not to speak with the client, not to take any credit for work done, and to walk three steps behind all the men. The women doing all the work on the matter could also be overlooked for the celebrations afterward, so that the bloke who was being groomed for promotion, could step in and take all credit.
* Blokes in charge of junior female lawyers have been known to cross off time from their underling’s timesheets and transfer it to their own, to make budget and get that next promotion. Women couldn’t do much about it, for fear of being branded troublesome and losing their jobs. Where the pressure to make billable hours is so great, there are sometimes bad eggs to be found.
* There were so many female graduates in my time and subsequently, that we were seen as easily replaceable. (Too many new law schools opened up after I graduated, creating a glut). We were routinely told that we were less valuable than the secretaries, and that if we upset the secretaries for any reason, we’d be fired. Apparently, some secretaries had a devilishly good time with this.
* Women were mostly called upon to do the unbillable work in the firm, while blokes got the plum files.
* Part-time work after children was a no-go zone, even in some parts of the Public Service: “In or Out” was the mantra.

Dr Geraldine Neal has produced an exceptional and brave thesis about the state of gender equality in the Queensland legal profession. She graduated with a PhD in Law from Griffith University, last week–a big congratulations to her. Take a look:

Unequal Partners? Women in the legal profession thesis.

Graduate Careers Australia (GCA), has recently published research indicating that in 2009, the average entry level salary for male law graduates was A$53,000 whereas the female equivalent was A$48,600: an 8% difference. But why, for graduates with equal inexperience?

Across the board, female grads under 25 were paid 3% less than male, but the disparity was 8% for lawyers. Oddly, the situation seems to be worsening recently – in 2008, the gap for young lawyers was only 2%. The statistics include people who are not working in law firms, but remain in the legal industry, so it’s not just big, bad law firms: the industry itself is inequitable. (GCA material was sourced, with thanks, from RollOnFriday.)

This weekend (starting Friday), the Third Annual Australian Women Lawyers conference is on in Brisbane, with a fabulous line-up of speakers. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend it, as I’ll be out on the Australian ski fields, however, I do wish all participants well, and hope that gentle and deliberate progress is made … in the name of genuine equity.

*****************
N.B.
1. The examples cited above are generic and do not relate to any specific instances, firms or judges. Practices which were common and accepted in the past are not necessarily so common or accepted now, but some of the underlying issues linger.
2. I remain passionate and positive about the law, equality and justice, even though I choose not to practice as a solicitor. I have no regrets about my experiences, no axe to grind and no David Jones-type claim to make. I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had and I’m proud of the achievements of all women. They all have the potential to make the world a better place for the next generation, including my own daughters (who show great aptitude for heated debate, at the tender ages of 6 and 9. I fear they may become litigators).
3. I have a PhD in Philosophy, undergoing examination. Wish me well.
4. My novel, about gutsy women lawyers, no less, is being lovingly (with loving, comes loathing) edited for a big publishing house. I wish it would edit itself. The publisher thinks the original working title of “Six Minutes” (in honour of the terrible timesheet) sounds too thriller-ish. I’m open to comments from the floor – should I change it to “Law Life”, “Every Six Minutes” or keep “Six Minutes” because it’s enough to make any lawyer’s blood flow backwards (for enough time to pick up the book and check out its contents…)? Wish me luck. It’s about time the Brisbane legal scene was written about.

Sex, Drugs and Golf?

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never understood the pull-power of golf. Now, thanks to Mark Gimenez’s latest legal thriller, I’ll be checking out at least 60 seconds of the next major tournament on the telly. Any more than 60 seconds will put me into a catatonic state, but curiosity has got the better of me, so I’m willing to risk it.

I’d always wondered how women like Tiger’s ex (which one?? I know, I know) could feign interest in watching blokes hit a ball across a paddock day in, day out, and now I know … money and lots of it. And where there’s money, there’s sex and lots of it. And then there’s the drugs – which I assume help with all kinds of faking interest, so to speak.

Apparently, according to this nifty little read, tv cameramen have to be careful to avoid crotch shots at all the tournaments because the golf groupies forget to wear undies, and specifically sit in ways that invite closer examination.

I’d thought that golf had strict dress standards (but maybe that’s just for the players). Imagine security asking the ladies on entry, “‘scuse me Mam, proof of knickers required …” But that’s why they’re called the 2-piece brigade – they only wear 2 pieces of clothing – a tiny top and a shorty-short, short skirt.

Enjoy Gimenez’s latest offering. Meanwhile, I’m off to find the sports channel.

Categories: Books, Life, Sex, Social Commentary

How to Survive Twilight: Eclipse

Here are my best tips for getting through the latest movie in the Twilight vampire saga.

1. Before booking tickets, bone up on the previous two films. The best way to do that is to watch these reviews.

2. Book Gold Class. Not only will this help the third movie catch up to the gross of the first two, but if you are of age, alcohol helps. Failing that, any kind of digestible distraction helps.
3. Go with the girls. This is a girls-only fantasy film. If a male accompanies you, he’ll be expecting a reward … and it won’t just be tickets to The Karate Kid or The A-team next time.
4. Take someone who has read the books. Not even they know what’s going on, but together, you’ll have fun trying to work it out.
5. Wear sneakers, runners, joggers or sandshoes. There is so much blurry vision of people sprinting, the only thing missing is the Nike or Adidas logo, so bring your own. In fact, all that running might motivate you to run home. Fast.
6. Decide whether you’re on Team Edward or Team Jacob before you go. Everyone else does, even if sappy emo-girl Bella takes 2 hours to make up her mind.
7. Beware: the scariest thing about the film is the cinema full of middle-aged women trying to decide if they’re on Team Edward or Team Jacob (remembering this is a teen movie).
8. Spoiler alert: all the ladies end up rooting for Edward, because let’s face it, what woman longs to be changed into (instead of from) a hairy werewolf (instead of an ageless, powerful, irresistible version of herself)?

Males who have been to the film universally comment as follows:
1. Where’s our eye-candy?
2. What sort of a jerk would be lead on by a girl like that?
3. As if.

Just remember, it’s a love story …

Categories: Books, Love, Movies
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