Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

I’m still alive!

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Has it really been a year since I had my first hard copy of When Gods Colllide in my hot little hand? But … but … I’m still using the fact that my book ‘just came out’ to justify not having started another. It’s been nice just being able to do some day-job work and earn some money, and even nicer having weekends to bum around with the dogs and go to the Trash and Treasure. But I do have new-book ideas, and I’ll be starting some research and writing in the new year.
I guess I should post some reviews of When Gods Collide. But you know how to google, don’t you? Last time I did a vanity google I discovered the identity of the little girl on the cover of my book – people keep asking if it’s me but I was never very cute.

That was quick!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

When Gods Collide: An unbeliever’s pilgrimage along India’s Coramanel Coast

And we’re off

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

‘When Gods Collide’ went to the printer today. No doubt I will wake up in the middle of the night and remember someone I should’ve thanked on the Acknowledgments page. Time for a drink, I think.

Finished. Kind of.

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

The final pre-edited draft of my book has gone to the editor at Hardie Grant. And the book has a working title: When Gods Collide. The name came from my friend Paul Perry. At first I just laughed at the name, and eventually I thought ‘You know, that’s not bad’. And I told my editor, and she just laughed, and the next day she emailed me and said ‘You know? That’s not bad.’
Now, of course, they’re talking about cover images. I like this one, which I often saw at the front of buses in India: pray to the god of your choice that you survive the ride.

But I think the publisher’s looking for something a bit more personal, so I’m digging out old slides of little Katy in India.

We seem to be looking at early next year for publication. You’d think I’d be exhausted, but I’m actually thinking about the next book already…

An incident in Kolkata

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

I’m still writing about Kolkata. Here’s another excerpt.

On the way home I stopped at an internet cafe. I never knew how many security procedures I would have to go through to get online – sometimes I was waved straight to a computer, others asked for a photocopy of my passport, and one joint had even demanded I place my thumb on an electronic pad so my print could be kept in their system. ‘Terrorists, madam,’ they had told me. The young man behind the desk at this place just asked for my name and phone number, and suggested I buy a coke from his fridge.

‘Sure, why not,’ I said.

He asked my country, and I told him. “Ah,’ he said, handing me my drink. ‘Why do you keep beating us?’ he asked.

I smiled. It was the cricket again; India loves Ricky Ponting. I laughed and said ‘Oh, because we’re so good.’

The young man didn’t say anything. We looked at each other and I tried to read his expression. It was something like disgust, a look I hadn’t seen very often in India.

I realised, with horror, that he was not talking about the cricket. He was talking about the attacks on Indian students that had been happening in Australia, and particularly Melbourne, over the past few years.

‘Oh no, I thought you were talking about the cricket,’ I said quickly, stumbling over my words to explain as quickly as I could. ‘Everyone talks to me about the cricket, I thought you were asking why we beat you at cricket, I’m so sorry.’

He understood what I was saying, but he only unstiffened a little. ‘So why is this happening?’ he asked.

I didn’t have any good explanations. I said it was horrible, and it brought shame to us, and I meant it. I said most Australians weren’t racist, that these were just a few hooligans, though I didn’t know how true this was. I suspected that the India media had … well, beaten up the story beyond the admittedly awful facts, but I didn’t think that was an appropriate thing to say.

And I realised that I was here because I was writing about a lone Australian being attacked in India, while Indians were being back attacked in my home town. I felt a bit sick.

‘I was going to apply to work in Australia, but now I think it’s no good for Indians there,’ the young man said. ‘I think I’ll try for United States instead.’

I clutched my coke and nodded. ‘Now go, go, number six computer is ready,’ he said.

Book excerpt

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Slowly but surely, I’m still working on my book about Graham Staines. And news keeps coming; last week the man accused of killing him, Dara Singh, had his life sentence upheld. The judges involved in the review took the chance to make some snarky comments about conversions that has prompted some good defences of freedom of religion in India.

This morning on Twitter, writer/producer Jane Espenson (Buffy, Battlestar Galactica and much more) said she’d been procrastinating and challenged all her followers to join her in 30 minutes of totally uninterupted writing (or whatever their creative challenge might be). Here’s what I wrote: the (first draft of the) introduction to my Kolkata chapter.

I planned to catch a local bus from Baripada to Kolkata. I’m not saying I thought it would be a fun few hours, but I knew there were no direct trains and I assumed regular buses would run north from Baripada to the big city. Subhankar talked me out of it. He was sending the Malayali family in a jeep to a nearby town that had direct train links to the north, so I should buy a ticket online and go with them, he said. When I could only find a wait-listed ticket online Subhankar told me not to worry. He said I should just get on board and show the print-out of the ticket to the conductor and he would find me a seat.

‘It’s not a busy train,’ he said. I tried not to think about the large warnings on the print-out of the ticket that said travelling on a wait-listed ticket was illegal and would subject the holder to fines and possible imprisonment.

I found my platform and squeezed onto a very crowded carriage and stood around the doorway with some friendly young men. I told them I had a wait-listed ticket, but I had been promised I could work something out with the conductor. The men raised eyebrows at each other and one of them said ‘Maybe it will be OK because you’re a foreigner, but there’s no spare seats today.’ The train rolled out of the station.

The conductor turned out to be furious, or at least he was acting that way. ‘No, this is illegal madam!’ he said.

‘But uncle was telling me this is what I should do,’ I said, trying to shift blame, like I always do. The conductor got out his pen and underlined the warnings on my ticket so hard that it ripped the paper. He told me to stay where I was, and he marched away. The young men didn’t say anything, and they didn’t look while I tried not to blub. I imagined I would be forced off the train at the next station, which would no doubt be a random, tiny north Orissa town from which I might never be able to escape.

It was an hour later before the conductor returned, in which I had plenty of time to reflect on the bad thing I had done. He gestured for me to follow him down the carriage and into what looked like a baggage storage area, and he told me to sit down on a random sack of something hard. He looked at me and I looked down at the floor. It was exactly like being at the principal’s office.

The conductor told me again that what I had done was illegal and unacceptable. I would have to pay a big fine, he said, and I would be put off the train. I said I understood, and I was sorry. He let his words sink in for a few moments, and then he explained what was actually going to happen. I would pay him for my ticket – the exact amount it was worth – and then he would take me to the air-conditioned carriage where I would sit in the one free seat – his own seat. He would stay on his feet. When we reached Kolkata he would come and find me, and I would walk all the way through the station with him so that if anyone asked to see my ticket he could explain the situation.

I didn’t dare smile.’Thankyou sir, thankyou,’ I said.

The conductor didn’t smile either. ‘Come, come,’ he said, and he lead me to his seat. I thought I might vomit with relief. I sat down and looked out the window at dusk falling over West Bengal, and breathed deeply.

Quick Update

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

Tonight I’m flying to India again. After deciding I wouldn’t do the Lonely Planet authoring again, I’m, well, doing it again. Long story. I’ll be covering Tamil Nadu, the state where I grew up, which is great. I have only a few words of Tamil, but it’s enough to bluff with. I’ve been googling to find rants about the previous LP coverage, and it seems like Chennai bloggers were a tad unhappy about the somewhat negative intro to their city. Personally I’ve never had a great time in Chennai as I’m always either jetlagged or about to fly home, but I get a few weeks this time, so hopefully Chennai can reveal her more interesting side to me.

Second piece of news: I just signed a book contract with Hardie Grant, for the book about my trip to India last year in the footsteps of murdered missionary Graham Staines. I might be kidding myself, but I hope I’ll be able to get some writing done in the evenings while I’m on the road over the next seven weeks.

What I won’t be kidding myself about is my ability to blog while I’m on the road. But I’ll be tweeting! I don’t have time to install one of those nifty ‘follow me on Twitter’ buttons, but my user name is katejames – I know, creative naming eh.

I’ll miss my dogs and my man. Apparently Chris is going to build a huge barbecue while I’m away, and roast a goat on a spit when I get back. Can’t wait.

Fatties in love

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

I just realised I haven’t linked to this anywhere yet: Chris and me appearing in the Museum of Fat Love.

Lesley of Fatshionista fame was sick of hearing the girls on More to Love moaning about how they’d never find love or happiness because they were FAT. So she created the Museum of Fat Love to show how wrong they were. Note that our adopted baby, Luffy, who eats all the same food as us, is not fat. Which I like to think goes to show it’s genetics, not environment, that causes these things.

Kate & Chris & luffy

Back on the horse

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Obviously, I blame Facebook. And Twitter. If there’s a choice between composing a well-thought-out blog entry on a fascinating topic or posting a status line (Kate James is looking for something sequinned at the op shop to complete her Dolly Parton outfit for tomorrow’s party), the one-liner is going to win. Plus I don’t yet have a new book to flog. But here I am, at last, procrastinating so hard from working on the new book that I’m getting back on the bloggy horse. Hi y’all.

So. Last year I went to India with Australia Council money for the potential book described in the last post, travelling from Ooty up the east coast to Kolkata, with a fabulous unscheduled break up in Darjeeling. Since I got back there’s been a lot of editing work available, which of course I’ve taken (the life of a freelancer…) and so the writing has been coming along very slowly. I’m nearly finished the fourth chapter, so what’s that, about a third of the way through?

But I can’t just blame work (or Facebook, or new puppies). The first three chapters, which have taken me months to put together, are about spending time around Christians, and it’s still emotional work dealing with some of the issues that necessarily come up. When I reached chapter four – In Which Our Heroine Lives Among The Atheists – everything started flowing. I’ve actually enjoyed writing about it. Of course that makes me a bit nervous for the next chapter, when I reach the leprosy mission in Orissa…

In other book-related news, I still don’t have a publisher. I’m working on it. Stay tuned.

Seeing as I’m writing about the atheists at the moment, here’s a pic from the wall at their hospital; it shows that you can reproduce the effect of Ganesh miraculously ‘drinking’ milk with a bottle of yummy Slice mango drink.

atheist centre

India 08, India 09

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

It’s been a while.

In mid-September I flew to India for the first time in five years, using a rag-tag collection of budget airlines that led to lots of checking myself in and out of airports and hanging around waiting for connections. I spent a long time in Darwin airport (thanks, Jetstar!), which is pretty tiny. It does have a Red Rooster. But it wasn’t open.

I travelled around updating the Orissa and West Bengal chapters of Lonely Planet’s India guide; it was my first LP authoring job, and it turned out to be pretty exhausting work. I don’t know if I’ll do it again, but if nothing else the whole experience will help me to be a better editor for LP, knowing how things work from the author’s point of view.

People keep asking me what the highlights were, and I’ll pretty much say ‘Darjeeling‘.

Anyway, the whole trip made me think about my ongoing relationship with India, the country where I lived in from 1980 to 1987. This seems to be the way it works:

When I’ve been away from India for a while, I start to miss it. I go into an Indian grocery store and breath in the smell of methi and agarbathi and Lux soap and I nudge Chris and say We have to go to India. Every time I eat a dosa I get teary. I start making holiday plans (or, more recently, get myself an India-related job) and get more and more excited and by the time I’m on the plane I’m almost shaking. When I land in India I get a taxi to my hotel and I wind down the window and feel hot gritty wind in my hair and I’m high, I see goats eating posters off the walls and open drains and huge billboards with Mithun Chakraborty advertising steel rods. It’s all so familiar, and I think I’m really home, at last.

The feeling of familiarity stays with me, but the high disippates. I rediscover all the reasons that travel in India can be hard, especially if you’re on your own and you look different: the staring, the petty bureaucracy, the humidity, the touts, the fact that nothing is ever straightforward. Then I feel all this white liberal guilt for feeling frustrated, which winds me up even further.

Eventually I throw a little hissy fit, somewhere along the line. This time it was at Kolkata’s central train station, late in the evening, after my train to Bhubaneswar was mysteriously cancelled. My bag was heavy, the station was heavingly chaotic, and I was sent from queue to office to queue to unhelpful ticket officer in search of an alternative train or ticket. At one point, when I was sent to the end of another long queue, I started to blub, and saw the words I’M NEVER COMING BACK in capital letters in my head. When I eventually reached the front of the queue and was told I was in the wrong queue, I lost it and shouted I’ve been sent to seven different offices and everyone tells me something different! The man behind me in the queue said very calmly and earnestly, Oh but madam, that is India.

Eventually the trip comes to an end, and I’m happy to go home, and I think Well I got it out my system this time, and by the time I get on the plane I’m almost shaking with excitement. I get back to Melbourne and get high on shopping in supermarkets and drinking out of the tap. (Also, this time I had a loved partner and dog to return too: extra happiness.)

Given the usual pattern, in about six months we would be walking past an Indian video shop in Sydney Road and some familiar Hindi hit would blare out and I would say Oh Chris we have to go to India. But this time, for the first time, I’m going back while I till have bad memories as well as good ones.

The Australia Council in its wisdom has given me some funding that will let me research in India and take some time off work to write (or at least start writing) another book. This time I’ll be starting in Ooty and then travelling up the east coast from Chennai to Kolkata.

Loosely, the subject matter is the life and death of Australian missionary Graham Staines, but it’s not a straight biography – it will be more a travelogue in the style of Women of the Gobi. I’m off in late February, and have a loose itinerary already, but I’m open to suggestion about places to visit. Anyone with any ideas about religious sites/figures on the east coast (especially where different religions are working/worshipping together) please drop me a line!