Monday, February 23, 2009

Making books

There's an excellent short piece on the importance of children's books that links to tutorials for making your own children's books here.


The German edition, Das Graveyard Buch. Complete in the shiny tin of a graveyard stone.

I am curious though... 'graveyard' is not a German word.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Warning! Children's books can kill!

Your copy of Beatrix Potter may be lethal if ingested.

This is something that swept through and horrified the Etsy and handmade community just a couple of months ago, but I honestly didn't even think it might effect second hand books. Because print before 1985 may contain small quantities of lead, sales of second hand children's books face the possibility of banning in the US. Apparently, the fear is that children may eat the books...

And as Daniel Kalder notes in The Guardian, children may not restrict themselves to children's books: "And on top of all that, the law is incoherent: what's to stop a child from being exposed to books for adults published prior to 1985? Why not ban them all?"

Fortunately, there is some sanity and most of the fears of the Etsy community were assauged. Let's hope it's the same for the second hand and library book community.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Just my cup of tea

During the morning, I'm usually drinking too much coffee while writing up articles and other papers etc. During the afternoon, I'm usually drinking too much tea, so I think I could actually use this. If you click the link, it's a photo of a Little Red Riding Hood tea cosy. I particularly like the red trees the wolf is winding his way through. Nicely sinister.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

More writing advice

We can never have enough writing advice, right? Whether it simply be a reminder to sit down at the laptop or with pen and paper and actually write or whether it be the chance to share the writing experience of another author.

Cory Doctorow provides a link to a discussion about writing between two great science fiction authors here. Now, science fiction isn't really my area. Which may sound odd, since I work in fantasy and the two always seem to go together in the bookstore, right? I've read a little science fiction, but not nearly enough to really qualify as knowledgeable. I tend to watch science fiction instead.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What happens when you win a literary award?

There's a wonderful video here where you can listen to sleepy authors being phoned up about their wins. Authors on the video (or, at least their voices) include Terry Pratchett, Beth Krommes and Neil Gaiman.

Remember how I mentioned writer's rooms in another post? Here's a video tour of Roald Dahl's hut.

Because I was reading Boing Boing this morning and I also noted this post from Cory Doctorow. One of the more exciting aspects of literary studies is having the chance to work with original manuscripts - to pour over annotations and pencil marks the author made. Some authors still have these manuscripts. Neil Gaiman famously writes in fountain pen in books. You can see some of his draft manuscript of American Gods online, in fact (at least, I think you can - I haven't checked yet). But with more authors working on notebooks, laptops, Macs and PCs, these working manuscripts in progress seem to be lost forever to future literary students. Not so. Software is now giving us chances to discover ever more interesting information about how manuscripts are authored. Even what the weather was like at the time of writing.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Speaking of re-using text

These shoes are kind of cute. I'd love to see a pair papered over with pages of 'Cinderella'. I can picture them now. Unfortunately, I'm not about to sacrifice any of my editions of 'Cinderella' or any of my shoes. Although... I could think about a pair of cheap second hand shoes and a cheap second hand 'Cinderella' I guess...

Back in the real world

If you are looking for me, you'll find I'm not where I used to be. I've just changed offices. I'm not unpacked yet and my desk is still en route, but the above gives you a clue as to my current location.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Knitting from the film of the book

Coraline's gloves, here. Bella's mittens, here. Pippin's scarf, here.

And that's not even the tip of the iceberg concerning what is out there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Okay, in Australia, Valentine's Day is not quite such a big deal. But this is a cute idea for Valentine's Day cards from The Guardian and the re-use of text (she suggests cutting out newspaper or magazine headlines and pasting them onto a blank card) tickles my scholarly fancy, so to speak. So I discovered that my glue stick is nearly dried out and that I have rather corny tastes in terms of headline selection...

Incidentally, students should note that Monash has lots of support channels open to those affected by the fires. Don't hesitate to get in touch if you need to.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Odds and ends

I always find the most useful advice on how to get published comes from those who have been there (i.e. trying to get published), succeeded, but are open enough to be honest about the process. You want to find an agent? Check Meg Cabot's blog today. I thought this was a particularly good example of the process:

"So when I’d exhausted every agent in Jeff Herman’s guide who seemed decent (meaning, when they all eventually either said no or just never got back to me) on one manuscript, I went right back to the front of the guide (sometimes the next year’s edition), and started over sending out a new manuscript."

Also, a happy birthday to Neil Gaiman's blog! Yes, I know that those of you reading this blog regularly will be well aware I keep up with that blog. The eighth birthday blog post not only has a Milne-inspired name (kudos), but is a brilliantly insightful essay into the issues of locating a cup of chamomile tea.

Which reminds me that I want to locate a cup of coffee... and not the mound of paperwork that I still have to get through.

Speaking of judging a book by its cover

There's a fantastic challenge over at Weekly Geeks. Basically, to quote, "Pick a book - any book, really - and search out multiple book cover images for that book." There are a list of links to people who have taken up the challenge. Some chose classics, some chose contemporary literature, some chose vampire romances (which amused me). If it weren't for the fact that I'd like to sleep tonight and I still have a pile of paperwork and an article draft to complete, I'd be participating myself.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Writer's Space

I always enjoy little snapshots of where writers and illustrators work. Literal snapshots. Photos of desks, tables, bookcases, scattered pens, mugs of half drunk tea...

The Guardian has a special series of such snapshots and today I spotted Lauren Child's workspace. She is one of my favourite picture book authors. Her version of The Princess and the Pea is gorgeous, right down to the tiny peas.

Jonathan Stroud has a particularly good snapshot of his workspace on his website, too. I love that he has the packet of unhealthy biscuits half hidden by the computer, but still labels them. He outs himself.

And just to say, it's been a bad couple of days in Victoria. Our thoughts are with those who have lost so much and with those who have risked everything to save as much as possible.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Speaking of books which know how to dress well...

Visiting Neil Gaiman's blog today, Michael wrote in to him to tell him about this amazing German edition.

I am currently working out how to get a copy.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Posting letters in Middle-earth

I almost want to visit Scotland just to see this postbox. It really does look like it belongs in Middle-earth, just as suggested by the poster of the photos, Roman Sock. Of course, the postal service in Middle-earth is a bit of an anachronism, as Shippey points out. Along with tobacco, tomatoes and so forth. But who really minds? The hobbits, after all, are one of Middle-earth's wonderful quirks.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How To Look Good Naked

Don't judge a book by its cover? Who said? Often the whole 'magic' of a book is in its cover. Often that in itself lends to the narrative. This is the tactile, material essence of storytelling.

Look at the special, limited edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard. The book is clearly wearing haute couture. All the excitement is in how it looks and feels. The velvet pouch, the leather exterior, the bling...

I don't believe I just used 'bling.'

Look at Spells. Divested of its dust jacket, this book still looks good. Ever peaked beneath the jacket? Well, in the university library, the poor books are mostly naked, so you don't actually get a chance to admire their jackets. But check out your books at home. Sometimes beneath that dust jacket, there's something lovely.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Rowling at Harvard

J.K. Rowling's speech at Harvard is available here, both as video and transcript. Her thoughts on failure are well worth consideration, as are her reflections on choice of study programme at university.