Thursday, October 2, 2014

Next appearances to spruik the book ...

Sunday 5th October, 2014, I will be reading from the book at Rosetta Books in Maleny, on the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland ... Join me for an edifying afternoon of, among other things, free drinks and nibbles.

It begins at 4 pm. (Books will be available for sale.)

30 Maple St, Maleny QLD 4552(07) 5435 2134

Wednesday 15th October, I'll be doing something similar - this time with live music, courtesy of peerless songbird Sarah Buchanan - at the Brunswick Heads Public Library...
... Fingal St, Brunswick Heads, NSW 2483
It begins at 6 pm. (Books will be available for sale.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brisbane Writers Festival

I will be discussing The Boy in the Yellow Dress during a panel on MASCULINITIES during the Brisbane Writers' Festival, Sunday 7th September.  1pm.  State Library of Queensland, Kuril Dhagun Room.
The State Library is located on the riverfront in Peel Street, South Brisbane.

What does it mean to be a man these days? Tony BirchOmar Musa and Victor Marsh discuss modern expectations of boys.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Marvellous gathering in Singapore

At a marvellous gathering in Singapore I had the chance to speak about The Boy in the Yellow Dress to a diverse group of writers from across the region.

The event was staged by the Asia Pacific Writers and Translators Association, which meets each year in a different Asian capital.  Hence, the participants came from many of the countries I used to visit when teaching meditation on behalf of my beloved guru, three decades ago.

This was quite fitting, as The Boy in the Yellow Dress is so largely concerned with the encounter of the naive boy from Perth (namely, moi!) with people from different cultures, virtually 'carrying coals to Newcastle' as the old saying goes, by presuming to 'teach' meditation to people in Asia !

Many of the events were housed in the former Parliament House of Singapore, now re-purposed as 'Arts House' and run by a dynamic team who, along with the Book Development Council of Singapore, did so much to make our gathering so welcome (and so well-fed!)

The chamber in which we sat used to house the first generation of Singapore government members, one of whom, Lee Kwan Yew, steered the new city/state through its early years as a powerful, almost autocratic, Prime Minister.  He is still an MP (at around 90 years of age), and his son is the current Prime Minister.

A city/state of wonderful cultural diversity, somehow Singapore has melded its different component parts into a dynamic and prosperous
international hub, but its reputation as a nation hospitable to international visitors was put to the test just as our conference was about to begin when the National Library Board, with the approval of the Minister for Communication and Culture, withdrew a number of books written for children from its shelves

Censorship is virtual death for an author, and the books in question, which apparently represented the tip of the iceberg, revealed this quiet practice of removing books as unsuitable when lobbied by small interest groups (in this case some members of a tiny Christian group).  The children's books in question included a story about two male penguins in the New York Zoo who raised a chick!  This and another two books depicting diverse family arrangements were deemed unrepresentative of the normative model favoured by the powers-that-be in Singapore, who threatened to 'pulp' the books in question.

As the author of a book about a boy who liked to wear a dress (!) I was a trifle nervous at the prospect of arrest, so I declined to bring copies of my book through Customs, as I was unsure of the political situation.  As the days passed and the controversy continued, other instances of the covert censorship practices came to light, incluidng a missing copy of an 'Archie' comment with a gay character which had been blocked from importation.

Hence, I was delighted to discover that a consortium of local writers rose in protest over the quiet exercise of censorship and stood up to this covert operation, to great effect.  The Starits Times newspaper carried daily coverage of the controversy:

Even before our gathering came to a close, the books were restored to the stacks (although moved to the 'adults only' section), and the director of the Library declared at a news conference that their deliberations would be more transparent in future.

Here's the marvellous spokeswoman for writers, the novelist Suchen Lim, giving a rousing keynote address on the issue.

"In removing and pulping those books on various family structures, the National Library Board is telling these children that they and their families don't count. In removing these books, NLB is reducing such children and their families into invisibility," she said.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Getting your hands on a copy ...

Although proper protocol requires that a book may only be 'launched' once, further launch-type events are scheduled in Brisbane, Queensland, Fri. 13th June (at The Avid Reader Bookshop in West End) and in Sydney, at Gleebooks in Glebe, on Sun. 6th July.
And (God willin' and the creek don't rise) there will an extra appearance on the boy in the frock in Singapore, mid July, during the Asia Pacific Writers and Translation Association's annual gathering.
Smaller 'meet the author' type of events will be staged during August.

The book is now trickling into Australian East Coast bookshops and is also available online through The Book Depository, Barnes & Noble, (all the usual suspects), including as an e-book for those who prefer to fondle a kindle-type device rather than a physical book ...

Stay posted as news of this spread continues across the continent and the known world (something like the swarm of the dreaded cane toad, bufo marinus !

The boy in the yellow dress is officially launched!

The first public launch event for the book was staged Sat. 24th May at the unique Hares & Hyenas Bookshop in Melbourne's alternative Fitzroy, where the energetic Stefanie Petrik arranged this striking window display.
We were fortunate to host the arrival of a traveller from another galaxy, apparently my 'home' star system, who had come to investigate what had happened to my yellow dress!

Next, we travelled north to Byron Bay in New South Wales, where the bookseller sold out of copies of the book!  We were graciously hosted by the Northern Rivers Writers' Centre, which stages the annual Byron Bay Writers' Festival where the boy in the frock will be making an appearance in early August ...
The joint was jam-packed with book lovers!
Obviously, I was please with the attention of the resident throng!
But I was thankfully kept from floating off in clouds of self-admiration by the wise counsel of the Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening, the incomparable Lilith Rocha!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Late February, I had the opportunity to discuss my book, The Boy in the Yellow Dress, ahead of its publication, at a marvellous conference in California, in the Dept. of Religious Studies at Chapman University, in Orange.

The conference was staged in the Wallace All Faiths Chapel on campus, which is a brilliantly designed setting, studded with marvellous craft and artworks all about that contributed a beautiful aesthetic pleasure to add to the high-level sharing during proceedings:

The title of the conference was: "Religious Genderings: The Socio-Spiritual [Dis-]Empowerment of Women and Men" and I took the opportunity to discuss the multiple possibilities for people seeking meaning that exist outside of the strict confines of the Abrahamic traditions, which tend to be hostile to people who do not fit comfortably within the heteronormative model promulgated there.

My paper, "Who's that, telling my story?" was a discussion of the strategies provided by various forms of life-writing (memoir, autobiography, etc.,) that enable you to take charge of the narrative of your own life, and re-position your identity in a more life-enhancing frame than that provided by toxic, conventional religious stories.

I was also able to incorporate themes raised by my previous book on Christopher Isherwood, Mr Isherwood Changes Trains: Christopher Isherwood and the search for the 'home-self', which came out in 2010.
Isherwood lived more than half his life in Southern California.

His life partner, the brilliant portraitist Don Bachardy, provided this portrait for the cover of the book, and the publisher liked it so much he refused to cover it with any print text.

Unfortunately, people ordering through, which issues the book as a Print on Demand, don't get that 'cleanskin' version, as amazon refused to allow a cover without text!

A rather poor shot of the interior unfortunately, taken on my allegedly 'smart' phone:

Beautiful artworks within the Chapel include these beautiful lacquerware chairs, with imagery inspired by the Hubble Space Telescope!

We're nearing the starting gate...

With the final copy edits nearly done, I've been having a tussle with the publisher over the cover design.

This was my favourite:

And this was his:

Guess who won?