Saturday, 15 September 2012

We Have A Winner AND More Giveaway Madness On The Way!

A big congratulations to Bocomomma O, winner of the Zeb and the Great Ruckus giveaway. 

For those of you not lucky enough to grab a copy through Milk Eyes, Zeb and the Great Ruckus is available from Odyssey books or from Amazon. Or you could stay tuned to because...

To celebrate my fast approaching 50,000th visitor I have a super rad giveaway in the works. I am very excited, but can't say anything just yet... watch this space!!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Giveaway! Childrens Book: Zeb And The Great Ruckus By Brisbane Author Josh Donellan

Have you ever had to interview prospective tenants for a share-house situation? I have. It was eye-opening to say the least. I have share housed with about fourteen different people in at least as many houses and as I am still friends with all but one of them I consider myself to be somewhat of a connoisseur. Perhaps one of my favourite housemates was a chatty and vivacious young man by the name of Josh Donellan.

What makes a housemate ‘favourite’? Well, being able to borrow clothes and make up for one, but while Josh has a certain panache and style, we were not the same shoe size or complexion (Actually, I doubt he has any makeup at all unless its face paint) and so that was not a factor in my decision to bestow upon him the glorious ‘f’  word. Sharing books- now that is something special. Josh answered our housemate wanted add and showed up on time with a polite smile and a burning curiosity to learn as much about us as we wanted to learn about him. 

I grilled him for home-life details “Do you recycle? Can you wash up? Do you use all the hot water and then leave wet towels on the floor? Do you do lots of drugs and then go wandering off for weeks leaving behind a pile of unpaid bills and a suspicious stain on the carpet? Do you turn on the TV as soon as you get home and then leave it on even as you sit in another room doing something else which also uses up electricity and fills our house with static? Do you have friends? Do you insist on always inviting your friends to our house even though they are total downers and eat all the snacks?”, but I never had the opportunity to be grilled back. There was no need. 

Having answered all the above questions satisfactorily, he was granted a tour of our home. He saw my book shelf and hurried over, and as daylight turned to dusk we found ourselves carried away, speaking about stories and sharing stories until finally, soft summer darkness slipping in all around, we realised we had begun a shared story, and naming our first shared chapter ‘the tale of Ellena Street’ declared ourselves the best housemates ever. And we were. Together the three of us (yes, there was another housemate, but that is a story for another time) were the textbook definition of awesome share house. We went on many adventures together and became the heroes in a tale of youth and endless summers. We had music, and art and style and no one stole all the snacks and the towels were hung up to dry and the water was always hot and the stories... The stories have outlasted the seasons and to this day we are good friends.

 The thing about Josh that I have failed to mention thus far is that he is great with kids. Like, crazy good. He works with young children for a living, and is motivated everyday to inspire and encourage the development of their young minds. Josh has this knack for taking the big concepts and unfolding them in such a way that the bigger picture is easily grasped, but better than that he can capture these grand ideas and lay them out upon a page for all to enjoy. No child left behind, Josh is probably the best, most engaging and inspiring teacher these kids will ever have the pleasure of being taught by. The other amazing thing is that he can translate this talent into writing- a format which enables many more to benefit from his skill.

Quirky, vibrant and joyful, his books draw praise and attention from all who read them. Invigorated by the success of his first book “A Beginners Guide To Dying In India” (CHECK IT OUT! It’s brilliant!) and inspired by his work with children, Josh went on to write a tale for younger readers. From his website:

Hello! You are reading this in order to determine whether or not this book will be of interest to you! Well, congratulations, you obviously have fabulous taste! Zeb and the Great Ruckus is a story about magic, music, fireworks, bewilderbeasts, clockwork birds and weaponised toffee. It has some funny bits, some scary bits, some sad bits, and a rather large bit about a cave-dwelling ruttersnarl which we would tell you about but we don’t want to give away the ending. If you like the sounds of any or all of the above, then this is the book for you! If you would rather read a complete history of European haberdashery, please consult your local book emporium.
I sent Josh an interview sheet, and he went well beyond the call of duty in his response. 

He also had this to say:

When my first book came out, I had emails from people all over the world telling me that it had made them laugh, made them want to travel, helped them deal with the passing of a loved one. Touching the life of someone who lives on the other side of the world that you’ve never even met, you can’t put a price on that. With this book, I want to encourage a generation of children to pick up pens and paintbrushes and plectrums and start an artistic insurrection. That said, it’s a book for grown ups too. My other job is I work as a music journalist, so I’ve filled with heaps of obscure jazz and blues references that music nerds will love and lots of humour inspired by Roald Dahl and Calvin and Hobbes.

As both a teacher and writer, I don’t see my job as information transmission so much as soliciting a love of curiosity, investigation and imagination. I think we need to teach kids to have a love of exploration of the world through both logical and creative means. As Einstein famously said, ‘imagination is more important that knowledge’. I want a world where art and science high five each other on a regular basis instead of glowering at each other across the playground.

My first experience with Josh was a literary one, and for one lucky reader, your first experience of Josh will be literary too, for I have one signed first edition copy of Zeb and the Great Ruckus to giveaway. To enter, all you have to do is ‘like’ Milk Eyes on facebook and let me know about it by following the Rafflecopter link below:

For those of you not lucky enough to grab a copy through Milk Eyes, Zeb and the Great Ruckus is available for pre-order now (official release September 15) from Odyssey books:

or from Amazon for people outside Australia:

You can meet the author at the book launch, which will be held at Black Cat Books on September 21st at 5pm.

Cause a RUCKUS!
Sandi D

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Fathers Day: Kurilpa Derby West End Brisbane

How was your Father’s Day? Hunter and I took Lee and Lee’s father Ian (AKA Pa) to the 5th Annual Kurilpa Derby.
Just like West End is not your standard Brisbane suburb, the Kurilpa Derby is not your standard Derby. Sure, there are races, competitions and dance-offs, but it’s more like the caucus race in Alice in Wonderland than the Olympics. Organised by the West End Community Association (WECA), the Derby celebrates West End in all its quirky urban-hippie glory. As well as celebrating the West End community, the derby also celebrates Boundary Street as a place for people- and pedal-power, rather than cars.

On paper the Derby is a series of organised races between wheeled participants, with bicycle polo, roller derby, Brazilian dancers and local marching bands marching between each race, and a relay match at the end. In reality it’s a carnival of joyful exuberance and barely contained chaos - anything with wheels is able to be raced (penny farthings, unicycles, tuktuks, ensemble mattresses and bathtubs on wheels to name a few); the crowd wander onto the track during the races to high five the participants and cheer them on; and the relay is a squid relay (use your mouth instead of hands, fresh squid instead of baton). 

The main street is blocked off, the drab business of workday replaced with a jolly jumble of costumed kids on scooters, burlesque dancers in their knickers being carted about by men in zebra costumes, teens on skateboards, bongo players playing a tattoo to which Brazillian dancers in heels and feathered headdresses shimmy, lions in cages on bicycles, winged ladies on unicycles, ladybugs on penny farthings, glitter clad men on stilts and smiling faces as far as the eye can see. The restaurants and cafes overflow, the smell of incense is in the air and if you look up you’ll see locals on the rooftops, serenading the crowd with trumpets and saxophones.

Ostensibly there are a variety of races for different categories of racers- kids on scooters, downhill racers, ‘themed things on wheels’ etc. The start of the races appear to be whenever the first participant makes a break for it, the ‘end’ of the ‘race’ is arbitrarily called (this year by a lady dressed as Wonder Woman) and everyone is declared a winner and given free chocolate milks for their efforts. Best in show awards are given out too- I was most pleased when a friend racing the SS Wildthing (on a go cart frame) won a prize!
(This scene is from Hallmark's Alice In Wonderland- IMO the BEST version made. Skip to 8:00 to see the caucus race, and if you like it, follow the link to the poster, and see the entire film through her channel)
We had lunch at Char Chars at 12:30, finishing the meal and beers in time to watch the police close the street and the people take over. There were hundreds of kids there; and seeing all their smiling faces as they ran amok, free to play and frolic as they pleased, happy to meet new friends and help each other up made me happier than I can explain. It’s been a long time since I last saw such public freedom for littlies. Last time I went to the Ekka, the local school fete, or to the Cleveland Strawberry Carnival, the kids were kept on tight reigns, parents terrified of every stranger, grim faces strangled with suspicion. In comparison the spirit that infuses the Kurilpa Derby was like that spirit of community and trust I recall from my own childhood- mum would give me $2 in exchange for a promise to meet back in a few hours and not get into any trouble and off I would trot, delighting in my freedom. 

To be honest I started the day in a really down mood. Father’s day sucks ass for those of us who don’t have a father. Father’s Day reminds me of the years when he was alive and I would begrudgingly abandon my own personal social life to spend a day with him. I resented Father’s Day right up until my mid twenties when it started to sink in that my dad was actually a really great guy, funny and fun to hang out with. It helped a lot that my husband and he got along like a house on fire. Before then my dad would ask me slightly offensive questions, like why I had 'ruined my pretty face with facial piercings', why I 'dressed like I was going to a funeral', why I had green hair, why I liked shit music. He didn’t ‘get’ me, and I responded by not giving him much opportunity to. In about 2005 or so Lee and I broke up and after a few months it occurred to me that maybe I could talk to my dad about it. For a man who was given barely any access to my personal life, he sure had some insight. He told me that he had really liked Lee and thought perhaps we could work out our differences. When Lee and I got back together a year or so later, Dad didn’t skip a beat, he just welcomed Lee back and got on with cracking jokes and making us feel good to be alive and together. I know that as I grew up I made good for all the years I wasn’t, but I still regret the selfish folly of my youth. So yeah, I was pretty teary.

Lunch came and my order was stuffed up and I felt a sulk coming on. Across the table Lee sat next to Pa, Hunter on Pa’s lap. Laughing, playing games with the menu holder, Hunter’s sweet little face as he ate Haloumi for the first time. The three of them happily chatting brought me to my senses. 
As I said, after lunch we weaved our way through the gathering throng to the derby finish line, all the kids smiling and squealing lifting my spirits. By the time the marching band started up and the Brazilian dancers started their show I had completely let go of my sorrow, as I lifted my head I saw my son on his Pa’s shoulders, smiling and jabbering away, taking it all in and pointing at everything joyously. Lee and I held hands and danced a little, we met up with our friend (Dave Cuthbert AKA Captain SS. Wildthing!) and Lee went in a race on a borrowed go kart. Four o’clock came around and Hunter was getting very sleepy so we made our goodbyes and our way home, declaring the day a brilliant success. 
“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”
– Langston Hughes
Thank you for a brilliant day WECA, and Viva la West End!
Sandi D

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Parenting Quotes: Frank Zappa On his Kid's Names - Dweezil and Moon Unit.

People make a lot of fuss about my kids having such supposedly 'strange names', but the fact is that no matter what first names I might have given them, it is the last name that is going to get them in trouble.
-Frank Zappa
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