Saturday, April 21, 2012

Twelve for '12:

The lovely Sarah tagged me to participate in a little meme. The rules ask for eleven random things about me, but it's 2012, so I went for twelve. There are also questions from Sarah for me to answer but I'll save them for next time as this post already has enough words in it. If you're reading this, you can consider yourself tagged. I'd love to read your list!

twelve random things about Danielle:
one My favourite number is four (I don't even know why) yet I'd rather have an odd number of something. I love symmetry but when it comes to decor or groupings of items, I value the odd and the mismatched over the balanced and even. That's probably why my house resembles the den of a mad professor. Like a magpie, I just surround myself with things that I think are shiny.

two Hamish and Andy's podcasts never fail to make me feel ridiculously happy.

three One of my innate default settings is to instinctively look for patterns in everything. I think this is partly being human (I read somewhere that because the brain can only hold on to a tiny percentage of the sensory information we process every day, the things that reappear or remind us of something similar are the ones we tend to notice -- like looking at a new Subaru and suddenly realising that everyone on the road seems to be driving a Subaru), and partly my tendency to just be a teeny bit obsessive.

four Slowly but surely, I'm turning into my Mum. My siblings and I used to laugh at her ability to connect with a story or characters immediately, with real emotion. One day -- this is no exaggeration -- she switched on the television in the very final minutes of a Little House on the Prairie episode. Pa and Albert were standing over a fresh grave. Pa put his arm on Albert's shoulder and said, "Let's go home, son," and Albert said, "Let's go home, Pa", and that was the end. Sure enough, instant tears from Mum. Anyway, the joke is on me because I'm now becoming that way myself. Never mind. If I have to be a clone of someone, at least it's an excellent person.

five It's easy for me to be nervous -- about anything. I live fairly constantly in the nervous zone. Meeting someone new, heading alone into an unfamiliar environment, making an awkward phone call, approaching a stranger, talking to a technician, driving without having studied a map, submitting an assignment, crossing a pedestrian crossing when there's no other person in sight but there's a long line of cars (I FORGET HOW TO WALK). Unless you know me really really well, though, I think I could convince you of my (fake) confidence.

six I love my personal library, but it grows an awful lot and sometimes I have this fear that my books will rise up in the night and swallow me.

seven Years ago, my grandmother, whom we call Ma, started sticking bandaids underneath various of her treasured objects, bandaids with different family members' names on them. I suspect my sisters started it, because my grandmother has a few truly gorgeous porcelain dolls which we all kind of coveted when we were little. "Can I have that doll when you die?" was where it began -- I swear we were not morbid or mercenary little kids, honestly -- and soon my sisters had each claimed one of those dolls for their own. Being older, I was above all that stuff, and disdainfully refused to claim a post-death prize for my own. Until last Christmas, that is. We were sitting around the kitchen at my grandparents' place, and I was looking at all the old, familiar details. I noticed Ma and Pa's clock -- really noticed it -- and how it looked like a beautifully kitsch timepiece from a 1970s Swiss chalet. This was it -- this was the thing I wanted. So then and there, Ma pulled the clock off the wall, found a permanent marker, and in amongst her battery change record-keeping details (who knew?) inscribed this message: this clock belongs to Danielle on my demise. Shirl. x I love it. (You can see it here).

eight Among all the people I have met and been influenced by, there are still many I haven't met who played a huge role in shaping my worldview and growing my spiritual beliefs. If I made a list, I think either CS Lewis or Elisabeth Elliot would be fighting for top place.

nine Awkward, character-driven humour is my favourite kind. That's why I love shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation. Ridiculous as they are, there's that sense that there really are people like this, and this actually could happen -- and how much less painful it is to watch such experiences than it is to actually live them. In life, we require some passing of time before we can totally embrace the humour of our most awkward moments.

ten Lately I have been really, really missing my little New South Wales niece and nephews. I've never lived close to them, so obviously I'm used to the distance. Just sometimes it feels more.

eleven I believe Atticus Finch is probably the greatest fictional dad ever.

twelve Studying history could basically be a never-ending journey. There's always more to learn, and it's always possible to dig deeper. But if there's one great overarching sense that my limited study of history has given me, it's the idea that we're all so much more connected than I ever imagined. History is so broad and so vast, yet studying it all, seeing, for example, how things in ancient Rome are still finding repurcussions in our world today, makes me think how young we all are, and how much we all have in common. Solomon knew it all those years ago: there's nothing new under the sun.

* * * * *

Laura Elizabeth -- yes! I saw the picture the other day and was like, "Aaaah why couldn't I eat it all? I want my leftovers!" PS. Thank you for hanging out. I love how much we have in common to chat and fangirl about.

thelittlebluefishy -- it was seriously good.

Lauren -- uh huh, they definitely were good. We'll have to go there for lunch sometime, hey?

Katie -- you're so right. Good friends and good food = happy days.

Mothercare -- I believe in your green thumb, even if you don't.

Andrea -- "its works!" You have a face! And a name!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Project 52: forty-three

Lunch date with my favourite Laura.
(Let's pretend I posted this at the start of the week, okay?)

* * * * *


Amanda -- I find myself looking for that little "like" button everywhere these days! :)

Joy -- thank you so much for that beautiful comment! You're exactly right. Waiting, working, and worshipping is the way to find satisfaction in our calling.

Katie -- I love moments when the external world -- even the world of blogs -- collides with exctly what we've been thinking about internally. Cheers to you and your writing dream; may it be just as fulfilling now in the "during" process as it will be when it is realised in that concrete sense.

Sarah -- YES! In fact, your comment reminded me of the verse which says something along the lines of, 'do not despise the day of small beginnings...'

Rebecca -- thank you, my friend :).

Amanda (2) -- me, too. xx

Bethany -- "Dream big dreams but then hand them to God and tell Him it's His to do with as He likes." That is brilliant. Thank you for sharing it. xx

Jessica -- that's a really good point. Because dreams are often a process rather than a result, it can feel less fulfilling when we "get there" than it did while we were working towards it. A good reminder to (and permit a hackneyed cliche to work its way in here) enjoy the journey.

Rebecca Simon -- exactly! So, so true. And doing what we're meant to do is about so much more than the finish line or a grand gesture, isn't it?

Hannah -- you're a sweetheart. Thank YOU for your encouragement.

Samantha R -- your comment reminded me of that old catchphrase: it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game. Works in life as well as in sports :).

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The trouble with dreams:

As I near the end of my undergrad degree, I’m getting more questions about what I’m going to do ‘afterwards’. Aside from the basic and straightforward response – pursue an MA – it’s a hard question to answer because it suggests that it’s only now I’ve (almost) completed a degree that I’m actually able to pursue my goal of writing. Really, though, I’ve been working towards this in one way or another since I was seven years old.

But the degree adds a kind of subtle pressure. In a sense, it legitimises a long-held dream, but in another way, it reduces the dream to a mere to-do list. I suppose that’s the problem with dreams. They are intangible fantasies which only come true when they reach a tangible conclusion.

The way I’m using the word ‘dream’ and making it interchangeable with ‘fantasy’ probably sounds like I’m not a fan. Perish the thought! I’m a big fan of dreams. I think imagination is important. And I strongly suspect that many of our dreams are God-made ones, originating in the Creator’s heart and transplanted into our own.

But lately I’m realising that the tangible conclusions we dream about and work towards are always strictly measurable ones. We dream of adopting a child, or building a house, or being married, or rescuing women out of slavery, or painting a prize-winning portrait, or travelling in space, or writing a novel. We think that when we achieve those things, our dreams will have come true. We’ll be successful!

We don’t dream about the little things along that pathway, though. We never dream about filling out psychiatric evaluations, or taking an architecture class, or building ourselves into the sort of person who would make a good partner. We don’t dream of squirreling away a little bit of money here and there to send to a mercy mission, or cleaning our paintbrushes, or reading dense physics texts, or putting 500 words down on paper every day, good or bad. To us, those things aren’t success. They are the things we do while we’re waiting to be successful.

The other day, I had a nasty thought: if I die and I’ve never had a book published, will I count myself a failure? To give you an even greater insight into the lame depths of my own heart, my next thought was: will people think I’m a joke because I never achieved my dream?

Bleh. My, it’s great to be reminded how pathetically human I am. And I mean that sincerely. It was eye-opening to discover what a place of honour my self-made idea of success had been given in my heart. And not merely success for my own satisfaction – after all, small things make me pretty content. But there’s this idea that I need to be successful to prove I haven’t wasted my life, to ensure that I meet with others’ approval, and to be absolutely certain I don’t mess up what might be one of the main things I was meant to do with this four score years and ten (plus a few, I hope).

How backwards all of that is. How backwards my dreams can be! Wherever did we get the idea that One Great Dream defines who we are – defines our success?

God says that it’s the one who is faithful in little things who’ll be given opportunity to be faithful in big ones. When we pray over adoption websites, rescale blueprints, learn to cook healthy food, attend a seminar, make preliminary sketches, watch a documentary on space exploration, take a red pen to a first draft – then, we are living our dreams. The dream isn’t made real when we hold the baby in our arms, hammer the last nail, open the safe house, stand at the altar, accept the blue ribbon, get outside earth’s atmosphere for the first time, or finally see that paperback with your name on the spine. In fact, those things might never come to pass. But we can be parents, builders, advocates, faithful friends, artists, astronauts, or writers as we faithfully pursue the work that we care about, looking ahead to the final goal but never letting it be the one definition of who we are.

We can work at our dreams and work well – today. Being faithful in the little things is our worship and our success. Which, I guess, is actually the dream come true.

* * * * *


Laura Elizabeth -- thank you for giving me permission to obtain a little teeny piglet. BRB, pig shopping!

Lauren -- What did Arnowld Schwarzenegger say? "Owl be back!" Yes, I did just make that joke up. How can you tell?

Un -- aw, your March thing fizzled out? Start again in May with me!

A Child of Promise -- aw, glad you like them! Haha, trust you to appreciate the "teef" -- and a good reading spot. We are literary-loving kindred spirits :).

Brenda Wilkerson -- isn't it just? I kind of wish it were possible for me to adopt a baby piglet immediately.

Sarah -- the relaxing spot is indeed a great place for studying! Do you have a favourite place to sit down with books and papers for some heavy duty reading?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Marching swiftly to the end:

15. Car.

16. Sunglasses.

17. Green.

18. A corner of my home.
21. Delicious.
27. My name.
28. Trash -- as in, my kitchen is trashed.
29. Feet -- or teef backwards.
30. Toy.
31. Where I relax.

You can see that I missed a whole bunch of days in March when things got too busy or I was travelling. I'm afraid April started off the same way so I think I'll pass on April photo-a-day and resume again in May. I'm missing the challenge of taking a little thematic snap each day. It's so much fun!

Project 52: forty-two

This is not a great photo, but it sure is a great piglet.
Please can I have one? Pleasepleaseplease?

* * * * *


Meaghan -- it totally was fun times! I'm so glad I got to see that with youuuu.

Jessica -- totally Dumaresq St Cinema! You nailed it. Good memories, hey?

Katie -- would life be worth living if we actually made it to the bottom of the books-I-want-to-read pile? I guess the answer is yes, but books definitely add a lot of flavour to living.

Rebecca Simon -- close! I took the picture and that's Abby and her mama :)

Hannah -- for anyone with a connection to Queensland, it's a pretty incredible thing to look back on. I hope you find a copy of Flood for your own.

Tarissa -- thank you for dropping by and leaving your lovely comment. Enjoy your Dickens -- he's one of my favourites!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The 2012 shortlist:

Today the Children's Book Council of Australia released their 2012 Book of the Year Shortlist and their 2012 Notables List. It's awesome to see some less familiar names among the better-known ones, because it means I have some serious reading to catch up on.

Here's the collection of shortlisted books:

Book of the Year: Older Readers
  • Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel, Michael Gerard Bauer
  • A Straight Line to my Heart, Bill Condon
  • The Golden Day, Ursula Dubosarsky
  • The Dead I Know, Scot Gardner
  • Ship Kings: The Coming of the Whirlpool, Andrew McGahan
  • When We Were Two, Robert Newton
Book of the Year: Younger Readers
  • Crow Country, Kate Constable
  • Brotherband: The Outcasts, John Flanagan
  • Nanberry: Black Brother White, Jackie French
  • The Truth About Verity Sparks, Susan Green
  • The Golden Door, Emily Rodda
  • Bungawitta, Emily Rodda
Book of the Year: Early Childhood
  • The Runaway Hug, Nick Bland and illustrated by Freya Blackwood
  • Come Down, Cat!, Sonya Hartnett and illustrated by Lucia Masciullo
  • That's Not a Daffodil!, Elizabeth Honey 
  • The Last Viking, Norman Jorgensen and illustrated by James Foley
  • No Bears, Meg McKinlay and illustrated by Leila Rudge
  • Rudie Nudie, Emma Quay
Picture Book of the Year (not necessarily for young readers)
  • Look, a Book!, Freya Blackwood and Libby Gleeson
  • The Dream of the Thylacine, Ron Brooks and Margaret Wild
  • For All Creatures, Rebecca Cool and Glenda Millard
  • A Bus Called Heaven, Bob Graham
  • No Bears, Leila Rudge and Meg McKinlay 
  • Flood, Bruce Whatley and Jackie French

Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
  • The Little Refugee, Anh and Suzanne Do, illustrated by Bruce Whatley
  • One Small Island: The Story of Macquarie Island, Alison Lester and Coral Tulloch
  • Surrealism for Kids, Queensland Art Gallery
  • Bilby Secrets, Edel Wignell and illustrated Mark Jackson 
  • Fromelles: Australia's Bloodiest Day at War, Carole Wilkinson
  • Playground, Nadia Wheatley (Ed) and illustrated by Ken Searle

I feel certain it's in my best interest as a growing writer to just work my way through the entire list, right? Right. How about you? Have you read any of the books on the shortlist? Or are there any you're particularly excited to get your hands on?

Though I haven't read any of the Ishmael books yet, I'm currently reading another by Michael Gerard Bauer, and his writing is certainly award-worthy. In amongst the hordes of trilogies and series and the ubiquitous paranormal fantasies, it's refreshing to find what I -- quite wrongly, certainly -- think of as "real" fiction. I'm eating up dystopia with the best of them, and I love a bit of time travel or fantasy, but beautiful stories about realistic people set in a world we immediately recognise as our own is something quite special. Michael Gerard Bauer is doing that kind of writing, and it's very cool.

I've never read anything by Ursula Dubosarsky, and I should totally remedy that. But Jackie French, Emily Rodda, Bruce Whatley, Bob Graham, Nadia Wheatley, Alison Lester, and Elizabeth Honey were staples during childhood and the teen years for my siblings and I; they're bound to be good. I have a huge respect and affection for Anh Do, so I'm very keen to read the book he wrote with his sister (both of whom star in the gorgeous Australian film, Footy Legends). And I'm pretty proud that Queensland Art Gallery made it to the shortlist with their book, Surrealism for Kids. I'm merely irrationally proud, of course, since it's a weird form of local patriotism that makes me feel almost as if I played some part in the publication of "my" museum's book -- like football fans who shout "we won!" when actually it was their team that did all the work.

What else is tantalising? Well I've picked up A Straight Line to My Heart several times during trips to my favourite independent bookstore. Always it got put back on the shelf because my wishlist is infinitely larger than my budget. Obviously, though, I really must read it!

And my mother recently bought Flood for my little brother. It's a beautiful reflection on the devastation after the Brisbane floods and the rebuilding that had to follow. It gives me shivers for reasons that are hard to describe. I think it's something to do with recognising that here is a work of art created in response to a city-changing, life-altering event that was a part of my lifetime -- that I, even in a small way, witnessed. I think we are often apt to brush away our life experiences as trivial -- to downplay dramas once the dust has settled. This book reminds us not to forget too soon, and I'm glad it made the shortlist.

Project 52: forty-one

-- the little cinema where I saw The Hunger Games with my mum, 
one of my dearest friends, and her mum.

* * * * *


Jess Axelby -- what are you talking about, woman? Your pictures are far superior!
Bethany -- you know the Max Brenner menu crazily well!

Un -- it was :)

Hannah -- :D

Joy -- I agree, gorgeous smiles from both Lauren and Abby :).

Sarah -- I'm honoured you tagged me! I love those fun surveys. xx
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