Kate gets hacked

November 18th, 2007

Anyone who’s tried to email me at the address on my About page – kate@katejames.net – in the last few months probably thinks I’m a rude cow who doesn’t respond to her emails. Which may sometimes be true, but in this case I wouldn’t have got your message(s). It took me a fair bit longer than it should have to realise I was missing some emails (this isn’t my primary address), and when I finally looked at my admin page it turned out I’d been hacked by what looked like a soccer-tshirt salesman from somewhere in the Balkans who I won’t link to for fear of giving him even more free publicity.

So please, if you wrote to tell me about how much you liked my book (or offer me a fabulous contract to write another one), give it another go!

I’ve been busy with LP work, as usual. A few website posts have been planned but not written. One was about how my favourite Lebanese pastry shop was inexplicably full of hip thirtysomething Anglos one morning – turns out the damned Age had mentioned the place in its Epicure section. The other unposted posts were all connected to my dog in one way or other.

In Women of the Gobi news, it’s now a year since the launch and I’ve received two royalty cheques. Yes, I’m officially profitable. I’m still dithering over the proposal for the potential next book, as well as sucking up to a commissioning editor in order to get myself a writing job on the next Lonely Planet India guide. More interesting news than this soon, I promise.

The pros and cons of working from home

August 24th, 2007

Luffy sitting on my work

Overheard on the tram

August 15th, 2007

18-year-old girl #1: “What did you do on the weekend?”

18-year-old girl #2: “I went down to a pub where one of my friends was performing.”

#1 (excited): “Ooh, is your friend a DJ?”

#2: “No, man I wish I had a DJ friend. No, he was just singing.”

I know it’s a bit boring to talk about things that make you feel old, but jeez, did I feel old. Since when was it more impressive to be able to operate a turntable and dress over-fashionably than to actually be able to sing or play an instrument? I’m serious, can someone give me a date?

Oh dear, locked in the lavatory

August 10th, 2007

Last weekend I was interviewed on Radio National. I had to go to the ABC’s Southbank studio here in Melbourne and sit in the Tardis and answer some easy questions about Women of the Gobi. But it nearly didn’t happen.

I arrived compulsively early, as is my wont (7.40am when I was told 8.15, if you must know), and asked the tech guy to point me towards the toilet. I had to pass through a glass door with a warning sign that said the door was locked between 7pm and 7am, which obviously wasn’t going to be a problem. I went through and found the loos and, well, you know. Then I tried to go back out through the door. It was locked. There was no-one around on either side. I banged on the door. Nothing. I was locked in the dunny at the ABC.

Eventually I turned on my phone (ignoring notices about how it would interfere with radio equipment) and called Directory Assistance, who put me through to the ABC’s Sydney office, who in turn patched me through to the security guard who was sitting just metres away from me.

He thought it was a great joke.

Whereas I was nervous enough about the interview anyway, so I was hyperventilating by now.

I don’t think any of my friends listen to Radio National, or get up before midday on Saturday for that matter, but a few of their mums heard the interview. Ah the oldies, they’re my biggest fans.

Tonight I’m talking about author/editor relationships at the Victorian Writers Centre – which is why instead of preparing a talk I’m procrastinating by mucking around on Facebook and updating here…


June 27th, 2007

I know the names of most of the dogs at my local park, but I’ve got no idea about most of the owners. Sometimes you see a dog with a different handler to usual, and you just greet the dog – ‘Yo Murphy, walking with dad today are you?’.

The other day I was walking Luffy, and a young couple walked towards us with a tiny, aggressive terrier-type mutt on a lead. Luffy usually bounds all over new dogs, but he approached this one carefully, keeping his body low and letting her smell him. She snarled and nipped at Luffy, but he kept acting submissive and before too long they were sniffing like crazy and even playing a little.

The girl was really grateful that I even let my dog near her little spitfire. “People usually drag their dogs away, they think she’s going to attack them,” she said.

The dog’s name was Vicky, because the couple had found her at the Queen Victoria market a couple of weeks earlier; she seemed to have been abandoned, and she was shivering and being harassed by some stupid teenagers. The young woman insisted on taking her home.

‘The vet says she’s been mistreated, that’s why she’s so aggressive,’ she said.

‘She’s hard work, but I understand where she’s coming from. I was a foster child, and I gave my foster mum a hard time, but she loved me and never gave up on me. And I’m not going to give up on Vicky.’

That’s a lucky dog for you.


June 27th, 2007

In the six months since Women of the Gobi was published, I’ve spoken at my book launch and at a couple of writers festivals, and had one radio interview (Julie McCrossin for Qantas in-flight radio – she was lovely), and recently I addressed the senior assembly at Strathcona, the girl’s school I attended for the last two years of high school.

Guess which was the scariest experience, by far?

Teenage girls are terrifying. And none of them were even born when I was last there.

Before I did the talk, I asked a few friends if they remembered being addressed by ‘old girls’ any time when they were at school, and my friend Bec told me a story that turned my blood cold. A former student talked to her Year 12 class about her life as a fashion model, and how she’d chucked it in to set up some worthy project in the third world, feeding orphans and suchlike.

Afterwards the only thing anyone said was ‘She was a model? She’s not that pretty.’

So there I was with a bunch of teenagers at 8.30 in the morning on a cold winter’s day, what an ideal audience. I thought I’d try to win them over with a few laughs, but I had absolutely no idea what teenage girls would find funny. I was up on the stage with a few teachers sitting behind me, and I could hear them laugh at my jokes, but I could hardly raise a titter from the girls, even when I cracked a killer line about Celine Dion. I don’t think the girls knew who she was.

Lucky them.

At the end of assembly the school captain presented me with a Strathcona mug. I was more excited about this than you might imagine, because it was the very first free thing I’d got as a result of being a published author. Swag!


I went in to Lonely Planet to do some work later in the day, and I took my new mug up to the cafe and boasted about it to Pete the barrista while he poured a perfect long black into it. He looked at the gold rim. ‘Nice of them to give you a mug you can’t put in the dishwasher or microwave,’ he observed.

Listen to me!

May 6th, 2007

I got a cool package in the mail the other day: Women of the Gobi on seven CDs, produced by Louis Braille Audio and read by an actress called Melissa Chambers. So if you can’t read or you’ve got a nine-hour drive coming up, you can listen to the whole book. Go on, I challenge you.

Melissa has done a great job, from what I’ve listened to (I haven’t had a spare nine hours yet). Her pronunciation of Chinese names is way better than mine, and she even does all the accents – American, Chinese, a kind of modified posh English for all the quotes from the Trio’s books. She does my brother Jack in a drawling, Aussie-bloke voice which is very funny, even if it’s nothing like his real accent.

Copyright issues notwithstanding, I might try to make MP3s of a few choice excerpts and put them up here (I particularly want to share the way Melissa elegantly reads the line ‘The speakers at the front of the bus blasted the most popular song in China ever, Celine Dion’s fucking ‘My Heart Will Go On’.”). By which, of course, I mean I’ll pester Chris to do it. Stay tuned.

(Added later: I think that was the only swear-word in the whole book. Someone recently emailed my publisher to say that it needed to be removed from the next edition, as if it was a printing accident or something – he had liked me up until then, but that line destroyed his sympathy for me. Obviously he’s never had to listen to endless muzak versions of Celine Dion.)

Mortifying Lists, Part 1

April 22nd, 2007

The things that spilled all over the kitchen floor this morning when I was attempting to tip the rubbish-bin bag from the rubbish bin into a big garbage bag, without having tied up the bin bag first, include:

  • paper napkin coated with leftover dog food scraped out of dog bowl because it was starting to smell bad (as in rotting bad, not just usual dog-food bad);
  • beetroot dip;
  • envelopes with plastic windows (hence not in recycling bin) addressed to former tenants whose mail we have sent back too many times already, splattered with beetroot dip;
  • sock with hole in heel, soaked in dog saliva, stained with beetroot dip;
  • hair-dye applicator bottle (dark auburn), leaking; and
  • slimy old beans.

Soccer Dog

March 20th, 2007

Our puppy, Luffy, found a soccer ball in the garden when we moved house. He chased it round and barked at it and did accidental somersaults over it. Last week, he killed it. He might kill the cat next if he doesn’t get a new ball.

Soccer dog



I killed John Inman

March 20th, 2007

OK, I probably need to backtrack a bit from there…

Things have been a bit quiet in the freelance editing world, and I knew there would be no Lonely Planet work through February and March. In January, instead of confidently approaching new publishers for proofing work, I took a backwards step and contacted Leader Community Newspapers, where I worked as a reporter years ago, with the hope of finding some casual work.

For anyone who doesn’t live in Melbourne, Leader papers are free, have lots of real-estate advertising, and cover doings in the local council area. As the lowest rung in Rupert Murdoch’s empire (mixed metaphor, sorry), Leader is also the training ground for News Limited reporters. My dad has a good Leader story: A few years ago he was listening to the radio in his car and tuned in to 3RPH, and someone was reading a deadly dull story from a Leader newspaper about a girl getting her foot caught in a drain in a Doncaster park. He laughed to himself and thought ‘Wow, that must have been a slow news week, even for Leader’. At the end of the report the announcer said ‘And that was “Girl Gets Foot Caught in Drain” by Kate James’.

Anyway, that kind of brilliant reportage must have been remembered by someone at Leader, because they took me on for four weeks of reporting, at the Dandenong Leader and then the Progress Leader (again, if you don’t know Melbourne, that’s pretty much the whole socio-economic spectrum covered, with stories about drugs and refugee gang warfare at one end and jet-setting surgeons and indignant soccer moms at the other).

Let’s be honest – I didn’t much enjoy the last four weeks. I like editing, and I really enjoy working from home and setting my own hours. I had forgotten how hellish it is to be confined to an office cubicle full time, doing a job you don’t like, listening to sales reps on the other side of the partition making loud pitches for ad packages or discussing their advancing pregnancies. (None of which was the fault of the very nice reporters and editors I worked alongside, let alone the chief of staff who kindly gave me as much work as I’d asked for at exactly the time I needed it.)

One of the more interesting stories I wrote was about a film writer and reviewer turned filmmaker, Tim Hunter. His first film, a documentary about Speedos, did pretty well on the gay film-festival circuit, and he’s just put together a short film called Working it Out, which is screening at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival tomorrow.

I liked Tim, and I wrote up what I thought was a reasonably interesting piece, including his observations about the way people wrongly stereotype gay men. When the paper came out (so to speak) the story had been clumsily hacked by the sub-editor. Even worse was the sub’s headline: Gay times for director.

I was seriously embarassed, and I openly ranted at the editor, questioning whether the sub’s sexual politics came from watching Are You Being Served? ‘The caption under the photo might as well have read “I’m free!”‘ I said.

The editor, Natalie, is in her 20s and had no idea what I was talking about. She had never heard of Mr Humphries, bless her. So I gave her the run-down on one of the most stereotypical gay characters in TV history, played by John Inman.

The next day, John Inman died.

Natalie saw the news on her computer, and turned to me. ‘You put the moz on him,’ she said.

If I believed in the moz, I’d be very worried right now. Luckily, there’s only one Moz for me.