Archive for September, 2006

Oh boo hoo

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

Lyn Gardner, theatre critic at the Guardian, has published a piece about being a first-time author, describing how releasing her book into the world was something of an anticlimax.

It feels a bit like having been pregnant for a monstrously long time only to discover that nobody takes a blind bit of notice when the baby finally arrives. It’s when you announce the pregnancy or, rather, sell your book that the congratulations and the champagne flow. Eighteen months on, all interest has evaporated.

Fair enough, I’m understanding that feeling myself. But her statement that “I know that I am not young enough, pretty enough or well enough connected to attract media attention” is a bit disingenuous, coming from a regular writer at a major newspaper, who has been given space in said paper to write about her first-time-authoring experience. Like most writers, I’d kill for a media connection like that (not to deingrate my own media connection, ie my friends and former colleagues at Leader Newspapers – big ups to my Leader peeps!).

Trio of Xinjiang cooks

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

I have already been criticised, and no doubt will be again by reviewers, for writing a lot about food in Women of the Gobi. But the women whose route I followed across northwest China also wrote about their diet, probably because it was so monotonous. In the 1920s, when Mildred, Eva and Fransesca were travelling the Silk Road on a donkey cart, they lived off fresh noodles mixed with dried chilli, the same oil they used to grease the cart wheels, and any green desert herbs the carter might pick up along the road.

Last year, in the markets of Xinjiang oasis towns, I discovered that oily, chilli-flavoured noodles with a few miscellaneous vegetables were still standard fare. Of course there were masses of juicy kebabs to go alongside the noodles. These three men ran a stall in the Hami market that served up classic Xinjiang food; tasty and filling, but not a lot of emphasis on presentation.

The first guy pulls and slices the noodles…

Xinjiang chef (2 of3)

The second guy fries up the veggies…

Xinjiang chef (1 of 3)

And the third bakes flatbread inside a dirty old oil drum.

Xinjiang chef (3 of 3)

Yum yum.

Women of the Gobi news

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

I actually have a hard copy of the book in my hands! Before it arrived I thought I wouldn’t even want to look at it – I’d be so scared of finding typos. But now I can’t stop flipping back and forth through it and lovingly stroking the cover… and I’ve only found one typo.

The Reader’s Feast website has info up about the October 19 launch, and Pluto Press already has advance copies for sale. No list yet of shops that will stock it, but any bookshop in Australia should be able to order it in after October 1 – Pan McMillan is doing the distribution.

My excitement is tempered only by the fact that my life currently revolves around (a) making sure Prague hotel names are capitalised correctly in the index of the new LP guide, and (b) picking up puppy poop.

Chingrish: funny for about five minutes

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

When I first arrived in China, I laughed at, and wrote down, every instance of strange English spelling and usage that I saw. I prowled the streets searching for wacky signage to photograph.



But after a while, I realised that I didn’t have enough notebooks, or space on my camera’s memory card, to contain all the misshapen English around me. And my Chinese is pretty terrible (the way I said “One ticket to Jiuquan”, for example, sounded exactly like “Please point me toward the left-luggage office”; the bus-station staff were very amused), so it seemed kind of patronising of me to be chortling at Chingrish. And then, after a while, I stopped noticing it.

Although I perked up when I saw this, mainly because that’s what you’d have to suffer from to fit into the clothes sold in this shop.


This one also had me intrigued, mainly because of the agonised look on the woman’s face. I’m assuming it’s advertising some kind of Vlagra-type tonic. Perhaps.

Impetuous man

Update: How could I have forgotten this?

I take it all back

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

Following my whinge about linkage a few posts back, not only have many lovely people linked to me, but the Museum of Dust has even featured me, using Jack’s great photo of a lizard we found in the sand dunes outside Dunhuang. Thanks Incognita!

Women of the Gobi news! Date of release now October 1, launch at Reader’s Feast on October 19 – stay tuned for more details.

Festival time 2: Dog Days

Friday, September 1st, 2006

I had heard that the Melbourne Writers Festival was supposed to be all trendy and new! new! new! and trying to attract the yoof this year, but yesterday the crowd looked exactly the same as it always has – elderly and well off. Slightly fewer hats and scarves than usual, but only because it was such a beautiful warm day.

We didn’t actually go to any sessions except Jane Clifton’s late-night panel in the tent (a bunch of authors drinking and yakking – all I can say is I’m glad it was free), but we hung around during the day because Chris was helping Tony Moore hire and set up a projector to show a film about his Barry McKenzie book. So my main job was to look after our new puppy, Loofy (see here for name explanation). Loofy got kissed and cuddled by many, many besotted elderly women (and Adam Ford) who were drinking wine in the sunshine between sessions. The up-side was that I ended up talking about Women of the Gobi with quite a few dog-lovers, all of whom promised to buy it. So I got to spruik at the festival without even being a guest.

Update: Chris insists I have to make it clear that the dog’s name is spelled Luffy (with an umlaut, I suppose, for the long u…). Everyone take note if you’re sending the dog a birthday card. Sigh.