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BOOK LOVE: Am I Black Enough for You? by Anita Heiss

In Am I Black Enough for You, Anita Heiss directly tackles the belittling idea that there is only one identity to be found within a specific cultural or ethnic background. With her trademark humour and razor-sharp insight, Anita gracefully explores her identity as an Aboriginal woman, and the intersecting lines of sameness and difference to the people around her. Through her own story, Anita raises numerous questions great and small as to how we all respond to this idea of ‘otherness’, and makes a succession of hard-hitting, challenging points about the narrow-minded assumptions still embedded in western society, which affect everything from the way that history is taught in schools to assuming Anita has a natural affinity for camping (and I think it’s safe to say she doesn’t!).

Anita also talks about the well-known court case where she and eight other applicants took on Andrew Bolt, who had written an article in the Herald Sun suggesting these women had used their Aboriginality to gain professional advantage. The case was won, but that was not the end of it for Anita. When Am I Black Enough for You? came out in April, I was on lockdown trying to finish my novel, but I didn’t miss what happened next. Anita was attacked on various online sites, with racist and derogatory comments, some of which I had the misfortune to read. What struck me most was the suggestion that with this victory, Anita had somehow denied the notion of free speech, when nothing could be further from the truth. In the promotion of free speech as a universal ideal, there is now, ironically, a platform for slander and misrepresentation on a staggering scale. I’m so glad that Anita and her fellow applicants didn’t allow these assertions to go unchallenged, and that they stood up for who they are and everything they have achieved. The Australian book industry wouldn’t be the same without Anita doing all she can to close gaps of communication and understanding, and telling stories to make us think and make us smile.

Anita writes across a number of genres. To find out more visit http://www.anitaheiss.com/. You can also watch Anita on YouTube talking about Am I Black Enough for you.

 

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An interview with Kerri Sackville, author of When My Husband Does the Dishes…

In the world of blogging, few are as engaging or endearing as Kerri Sackville. Over the past few years, she has built up a huge following thanks to her comic, candid style, and her devotion to Simon Baker and Nutella. Today sees the release of Kerri’s first book, When My Husband Does the Dishes….a memoir of marriage and motherhood, and if you’ve read her blog you’ll already know that we’re in for a treat. I’m delighted that she agreed to answer a few of my hard-hitting questions… 

Kerri Sackville

1.  Why did you decide to write When My Husband Does the Dishes?

I really believed that there was a gap in the market place for a tell-all memoir of marriage and motherhood. Nearly everything that’s been written on these subjects to date has been didactic, or really grim, or really flip, and I felt that I could write about it with honesty and humour. And I had masses of material. My life is really, really funny, in a tragic kind of way.

2. What do you find essential to sustain or encourage your writing brain? (e.g. food, drink, music, etc.). Do you have any other writing habits?

Mess and chaos. Truly. The more I have to do, the more creative I am. Sit me down at a neat desk with all the housework done and the evening meal prepared and I am likely to go blank. (Of course, this is purely hypothetical, it has never happened.) Sit me down at a desk piled with bills to pay and papers to file, surrounded by laundry to sort and groceries to unpack, and I can write for hours.

 3.  If you could live the life of any fictional character (book or film), who would you be and why?

 Julia Robert’s character at the end of Notting Hill. A Hollywood superstar with a gorgeous, down-to-earth devoted husband and a baby on the way??? It doesn’t get better than that.

4.  If you weren’t a writer, what else would you like to be?

 A Young Talent Time team member, but sadly the time for that has long since passed. Seriously, though, I’ve tried a dozen different careers and none of them stuck. The only thing I’ve ever loved doing is writing.

5.  Who inspires you in life?

I’m inspired by brilliant writers, particularly novelists as I have NO idea how they do it. How do you make up a world inside your own head? I’m also constantly inspired by people with a broad general knowledge – writers, journos, my husband… It makes me want to go out and learn things, which I try to do until I get distracted by the laundry.

 6.  How would your ideal day go?

I would wake up in a gorgeous hotel and call my kids who are having a lovely weekend at their Nana’s. My hubby and I would go for breakfast in a nice café, then I’d go shopping in several gorgeous boutiques with the hundreds of dollars that magically appeared in my pocket. We’d have a light lunch then go back to the hotel where I’d sleep all afternoon as my husband reads the papers. Then I’d spend an hour or two on Twitter and Facebook, and then we’d head out for drinks and a nice dinner, followed by an ice cream on the way back to the hotel. We’d get into bed, watch The Big Chill again, have some quick but multiple-orgasmic sex, then sleep for another 12 hours. Bliss.

 7.  You’re about to get parachuted on to a desert island for a month, Survivor style – and you’re allowed to take three books. What would you take and why?

1. Dale Carnegie’s How To Stop Worrying And Start Living, as I would be absolutely panic stricken and would need help calming my anxiety.
2. Garp by John Irving, which is my all-time favourite book; I’ve only read it about 100 times so I could easily read it 100 more.
3.  My friend Kylie Ladd’s new novel Last Summer. It’s not being released till July, but I’m sure if she knew I was being dropped on a desert island, she’d get me an advance copy.

8.  What have you learned during the course of writing and publishing When My Husband Does the Dishes?

EVERYTHING. I knew nothing about editing or publishing. Nothing! I didn’t know how a book was pitched or sold. I didn’t understand how the editing process worked. I had no idea how a cover was designed, what a normal print run was, what was involved in publicity and marketing, what an author talk is about, what one signs on a book! NOTHING. It’s been an amazing learning curve.

9.  What do you hope people take away from reading your book?

 I want people to read my book and say ‘YES! That’s exactly what it’s like!’ To know they are not alone in their challenges. To know that they are normal. To know that their partners and kids are normal. And to have a big laugh at me and at themselves. Because we’re all going through the same thing.

10.  What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’m going to keep blogging, and I’ve started writing my next book, which is not about marriage or motherhood! And I am very open to other offers. Johnny Young – I’m talking to YOU!

 Thanks, Kerri, it’s been a pleasure talking to you. Wishing you every success with your book, your blog, and your future writing.

To visit Kerri’s blog, Life and Other Crises, click here.  To find her on facebook, click here. Or follow her on Twitter – @KerriSackville.

 

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Welcome to the blog, ANITA HEISS!

Dr Anita Heiss

It’s great to be involved in Aussie Author month, and what better way to begin than by having a brilliant Aussie author visiting my blog. Anita Heiss is an inspiration  – her books are fabulous, her work rate incredible, and  her gratefulness blog perfectly reflects her positive take on life. Her energy is at whirlwind level, as I discovered first of all at Perth Writers Festival, where I was lucky enough to be on a panel with her. I’ll always remember how supportive she was to this first-time author.

Anita’s latest book, Paris Dreaming, has just been released. Here’s a teaser:

Libby is on a man-fast: no more romance, no more cheating men, no more heartbreak. After all, she has her three best girlfriends and two cats to keep her company at night and her high-powered job at the National Aboriginal Gallery in Canberra to occupy her day – isn’t that enough? But when fate takes Libby to work in Paris at the Musée du Quai Branly, she’s suddenly thrown out of her comfort zone and into a city full of culture, fashion and love. Surrounded by thousands of attentive men, nude poets, flirtatious baristas and smooth-tongued lotharios, romance has suddenly become a lot more tempting. On top of it all, there’s a chauvinist colleague at the Musée who challenges Libby’s professional ability and diplomatic skills. Then there’s Libby’s new friend Sorina, a young Roma gypsy, desperate to escape deportation. Libby must protect her work record and her friend, but can she protect herself from a broken heart?

I asked Anita what Libby was most grateful for in life, and here’s what she said:

1. CIRCLE OF FRIENDS: Libby is grateful for her circle of friends she calls her ‘tiddas’. In Canberra her bestie is Lauren, a visual arts curator who believes in romantic love. Her ex flat-mate Denise is a primary school teacher, who’s witnessed both Libby and Lauren’s relationship sagas over the years, and yet she still believes in ‘the One’. And the latest addition to the posse, Caro, is a lawyer with a dry sense of humour who likes to wet-her-whistle often. Together they unpack the serious issues of life: relationships, careers and good food! When Libby moves to Paris, her new tidda is Canelle, a sleek-bobbed black woman from Guadeloupe with a passion for bling, who ups the fashion-and-fella-anti!

2. A COMPLETE LIFE: Libby has her core group of friends and an active Canberra social life. She has a healthy long-distance relationship with her mum and five brothers in Moree. She’s got a tertiary degree and has excelled in her job as Manager of Educational Programs at the National Aboriginal Gallery in Canberra. Libby isn’t that interested in children just yet, but loves her two cats – Bonnie and Clyde. She’s fit from running and riding her bike around the streets of Braddon, on a total man-fast and is grateful for her complete life, until…

3. PITCH FOR PARIS: Libby is grateful her Pitch For Paris – to work at the stunning Musée du Quai Branly – is successful. She gets to do what she loves best: promoting Indigenous arts, this time on the international stage. But once arriving in the city of love with its cravats, culture and classy men, the ‘man-fast’ isn’t that easy to stick to. But she’s grateful that at least she’s a long way from home… and so no-one will ever know what she gets up to, or will they?

4. NUDE POETS: Libby is grateful to a new friend, Ames from Burgundy, because he introduces her to the revolutionary Maximilien de Robespierre. But the most revolutionary thing about their English and French poetry readings is that they are all done in the nude. Libby says: ‘I liked the feeling of freedom in being without clothes just for the sake of it.’

5. MOULIN ROUGE: Libby goes to the Moulin Rouge with staff from a job she ends up doing through the Australian Embassy. While she gets a tad jealous of the barely covered dancing girls, she’s grateful she won’t have to do any can-can moves to impress her fella. She simply says she can’t can’t and won’t won’t.

To find out more about Anita, visit www.anitaheiss.com and http://anitaheissblog.blogspot.com/ I’d highly recommend going to one of her events – you’re guaranteed a fun evening.

Thanks for dropping by, Anita, and wishing you every success. xx

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Perth Writers Festival #1: Going… going…

I’ve attended the Perth Writers Festival every year since I arrived in WA back in 2004, and I always seem to forget just how damn inspiring it is – that is, until I’m back in the auditoriums, listening to beautiful, radical, compelling and disturbing ideas, whereupon it all comes rushing back to me. Last year I was caught up with the fact that I had events of my own to participate in – a particularly daunting affair as they were my first public speaking engagements as a ‘published novelist’. Therefore, this weekend it was lovely to sit among the audience and try to take in as much as possible by osmosis – as well as scribbling quotes and thoughts in my notebook too.

I was particularly interested in sessions concerning the natural world. I have found myself becoming increasingly drawn to and protective of untouched landscapes, and I’m fascinated and terrified by the commentary of some front-line thinkers and researchers on the state of the planet. In a session on landscape, Annie Proulx talked about how her surroundings inspire her, saying, ‘there’s something about striding out and looking at far distances that sets the mind on fire’, while Tim Flannery gave the best description of climate change I have ever heard, and I think most others agreed, as he got a major round of applause in the packed Octagon Theatre. In essence he explained that the earth goes through a predictable 100,000-year warming/cooling cycle, but what is happening now is a warming spike caused by man rather than the normal pattern of nature. As a result, the seas are predicted to rise one metre in the next ninety years. If they rise just half of that, then we can expect to see major events such as flooding, which have so far occurred approximately every hundred years, happening every month or up to ten times a month. I repeat: ten times a month. If that isn’t an impetus to look carefully at what we are doing at all levels from superstructure to personal, I don’t know what is.

Later in the day I listened to Tim again, this time with Dorothy Rowe, someone I’ve always admired for her ability to examine and explain the more difficult and disturbing sides of human nature. Her latest book, Why We Lie, looks at why we hide from unpalatable truths, such as the scale of climate change we could be facing. She was marvellous to listen to, and I was very moved by her comment on mourning and grief being the great themes of human literature. ‘If you love other people you will suffer loss. And if you want to avoid loss you will be lonely. To be a human being is to choose between these two.’ It could have been demoralising, but these speakers all talked with open minds, passion, and a brilliant sense of humour, and what came across most in the sessions is that while we can be ambushed by our fears and our feelings of helplessness in the magnitude of the problems we’re faced with, the irrepressible spirit of Hope keeps on finding a way through.

I’ll be writing more about the diverse range of PWF events later in the week, but tomorrow I am delighted to welcome Nicole Alexander, who visits my blog to talk about her new book, A Changing Land.