Monday, November 29, 2010


I didn't even try to do NaNoWriMo this year. It was a wise decision. I have far too much else happening in my life right now to add that pressure - but there's no doubt in my mind that it can be a worthwhile exercise. There have been some fairly derogatory comments going around this year - people saying that it is a waste of time, that you end up with a pile of unpublishable words, that 'real' writers don't do things like this.

Of course you don't end up with a novel that is complete and ready to send out. No-one thinking about it sensibly would expect that. What you do end up with is a first draft. It will need fixing. No-one will read it and fall at your feet and offer you the treasures of the universe for it in its present state but you will have done the basic starting work and you will have done it in a specified time and to a deadline. I don't know about you but that all sounds a pretty useful way for a writer to spend his or her time.

The claim that 'real' writers don't do this is even more ridiculous. They certainly do - and some of them even become bestsellers once they've worked them over.

Will I do Nanowrimo next year? I can't say yet but I certainly hope so.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More on Arts Funding Cuts

This is a scientist's view on the effect that cutting arts programs can have. Gregory A. Pesko's words resonate with me and should be required reading for all those who advocate cutting the humanities because they don't bring in income. Go here to read his comments. For some reason the link doesn't take you directly to the comment piece but if you use the link and go to Homepage you will find it under A Faustian Bargain.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What is the Price of Civilisation?

I read some interesting articles and posts this week relating to the way governments, particularly those of the right, when deciding we need a bout of austerity for whatever reason, tend to cut back on funding to the arts, research and tertiary education. This is one and this and this are others.

While I don't agree with everything said by these writers they do raise valid questions. Who decided that universities should become institutions for churning out graduates to supply the needs of business? Why are the Humanities becoming regarded as unnecessary and sometimes even as a waste of time? Why is scientific research only considered useful if it pays for itself? Why are the Arts - and I use the capital deliberately - seen more and more as self indulgent? When did we decide that higher education was only of value to the graduate and lose sight of the value to the community and the nation?

It appalls me that we don't see the value to the community of educating everyone to the highest level they can attain. When I was a girl there was a general perception that educating a woman to a high level was a waste of time and money. She would only be getting married and staying at home with her children after all. We have moved past that, thank goodness, but we still have not advanced in other areas. Scientists are often seen as just wasting time and money in laboratories where most of them indulge themselves in esoteric studies. They need to get a real job, we hear, as if living on a pittance of a scholarship, acquiring a crippling student loan debt and advancing our knowledge is just a way to get out of working in the real world. And artists - well, who needs them.

In fact we all need all these people - and we should support them as a nation. Fiona Woods and her team would never have created life saving artificial skin without research and even apparently pointless research can lead to future important discoveries that build on that beginning. While research has obvious physical value, the humanities role tends not to be so tangible. It may not be visible but it should not be ignored because they give us insights into ourselves - our past, our nature and our place in the world.

University education should be much more than the regurgitation of memorised facts. The most important thing learned there is how to think critically. The benefits that flow from this affect every part of life. Certainly some graduates go on to make a lot of money but is this a reason to punish the majority who don't? Maybe that's the problem. We resent the success of the few forgetting the years of study that goes into the making of, for example, a medical specialist.

Let's not forget the artists. Why should we fund people who want to mess about creating music, painting, books? Because their creations feed the spirit. A society where the spirit is starved of beauty and is not stimulated by questions of about the nature of humanity is not civilised.

There is a story attributed to Winston Churchill, himself an artist, that during World War II he was approached by the Finance Minister, who wanted to cut spending to the arts to raise money for the war effort. Churchill's reply was, 'Then what are we fighting for?' He was right. Without the arts, research and a well educated population we are not civilised, anymore than if we fail to care for the disadvantaged among us. Commerce is important. It provides jobs and income but it is only one part of the equation and we would do well not to forget that.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Remembrance Day

On November 11 at 11 AM, 1918 the armistice marking the end of World War 1 was signed. The survivors of what was then known as the Great War (and hoped by its participants to be the war that ended all war) were slowly demobilised and made their way home carrying their scars (mental and physical) with them. Their hope that no-one would ever have to go to war again was not realised and sadly probably never will be. For their comrades who lost their lives there was no home coming.

I have visited some of the graves of those slain in World War 1 in France and it would break your heart. I can think of little more saddening than to wander a war graveyard and see row after row of white crosses marking the graves of young men, many not much more than boys. In a normal cemetery the graves are mostly of the old. While it is still sad you can imagine that they have lived full lives and seen their families grow up but these young men knew none of that and their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and all those who cared for them carried the loss to their own graves. They gave their lives so others could be free.

May we always be able to say 'We will remember them.'

Saturday, November 06, 2010

In Lieu of...

Real Life is a bit torrid at the moment so I bring you this. These life size wood carvings are just a few of those to be found in Geeveston Tasmania. Lovely and amazingly detailed, they include local identities along with those representing anonymous others, like the timber workers, who contributed to the history of the town. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Hand Dancers

Some things are too good not to share. Have a look at this.

Monday, November 01, 2010

More Congratulations

This time it's the World Fantasy Awards (for works published in 2009) announced at the World Fantasy Convention on October 31. Among the winners are Margo Lanagan (one of the awesome tutors at Clarion South 2007) who was awarded Best Novella for Sea-Hearts and Western Australian editor, Jonathan Strahan, winner of the Special Awards - Professional category for his work in editing anthologies. The full results can be found here.