Tuesday, August 29, 2006

At the Writer's Festival with the girls

There was some doubt expressed when I told the other staff I was hoping to take my small ESL group to the Melbourne Writers' Festival. Would their English be up to it? I wasn't sure, myself, how it would turn out. But I wanted to take them to hear Melina Marchetta, whose novel, LOOKING FOR ALIBRANDI, they were slowly making their way through - and it would be a day out and something they normally didn't do.

In the end, the boys didn't go. Ibrahim had a medical appointment. Majang just doesn't like excursions, no matter what, and had turned down a much more important one, to Collingwood TAFE.

"Who needs you?" the girls teased, and we went, Amani, Ranya, Achol, Noura and me, along with another class which was going to the Rialto in Melbourne, to see the view and do some measurements (it was Maths Extension class). We had to stand up in the train nearly all the way, packed in like herrings. We reached town early, though later than I had expected, and went for lunch at one of several fast food joints along the way, as the food at the Festival is expensive. They all upsized their meals; only Ranya realised she'd never get through it and offered me some chips, but I was full already. And then we took a stroll along the street and I suddenly remembered I was with sixteen-year-old girls. They fell with cries of delight on the first clothes shop, though they didn't overdo it. Noura, who is the most "girly" of them, kept stopping to drool over shoes in windows - the others dragged her out of a clothes shop, because we really needed to get to the festival on time. We climbed on the No.1 tram to South Melbourne and found ourselves there early.

I sent the girls out into the sun for a while, because the staff couldn't find our tickets. Finally, they simply printed us out some more, and I joined my students at a table outside. I bought them all some drinks - fruit juice in interesting-looking bottles - and then we strolled into the theatre. As we were the first there we were asked to go to the front row, where we sat, waiting for the session to start.

The usual interview which is done by a student on the students days at the festival had been replaced by a full-length talk by the author. She wanted to promote her new novel, which has just come out, but realised that the audience wanted to hear about her other two books, so went through them all and read from the new book. Then she answered questions, which were fairly predictable ones, such as "What's your favourite of the books?" and "How do you feel about the different ending of book and movie?".

I glanced over at the girls, who also glanced at me. Two of them had shut eyes, but when we left, they were talking enthusiastically about the presentation and discussing what she had said - and they teased me that I had fallen asleep! (Not this time - I have been known to do it, but this time I was listening carefully in case they had questions or wanted clarification).

As we stood on the tram, they even noticed someone had bought a copy of the new book. The train to Sunshine was less packed than the one to the city and we found seats together.

Today they were telling everyone what a good time they had. Nice! One successful experiment.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Handcrafting and ESL

My ESL students weren't doing exams today. Their English just isn't good enough, yet, to expect them to do it. I was asked to run a handcraft session, before they were taken on an excursion - this week has been full of interesting (we hope!) and useful excursions. The official craft was supposed to be cardmaking and I took along the stuff needed, but I had a sneaking suspicion there wouldn't be much interest in it, so I also took along some of my old beads and earring hooks and necklace clasps and needles and thread and soon, the girls were happily making necklaces and bracelets. The boys just made paper planes. No one made cards, until near the end, when someone decided to have a go.

Amani showed Ibrahim how to make a paper crane, but I think they're craned out for now.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sue And The - Er, Several Paper Cranes

Try teaching ESL to a bunch of kids fresh out of the language centre, making it up as you go! Oh, I'd found all those suggestions, which usually began with, "Divide them into groups of six and get them to brainstorm..." Well, I barely have six in each group, some of whom are absent a lot, and trying to explain brainstorming is not easy. I thought they might be a bit fed up, too, with stories about refugees, because as far as I know, only one of them actually IS a refugee and he, understandably, doesn't like to talk about it.

So I got out some copies of SADAKO AND THE THOUSAND PAPER CRANES and we read it together - short, not hard reading, but not an insult to their intelligence. And then I got the idea of actually making paper cranes, which would give them the chance to follow instructions in English.

It worked beyong my wildest dreams - too well, actually,they would keep making paper cranes, even when I was trying to do something else with them! One of them looked up Japan on the Encarta. Another one got so good at it, she did a microscopic crane, no more than a few millimetres, perfect, with its tiny wings outspread. And it is addictive, I've been "craning" every spare bit of paper I got hold of - newspapers, advertising brochures, everything. Wonder if I'll get to 1000?

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Fannish Funeral - vale Diane Marchant!

I remember my early days in fandom, when I had just started to make friends. I was a member of Austrek, which at the time was the only Trek club in Melbourne (and maybe it is again, now that the others have died off!). I was invited to come along to one of the Friday evenings at Diane Marchant's home in Mordialloc. At the time, she was living therewith her mother, Jessie, but Jessie was always in bed when we arrived, so I rarely saw her. Diane was delighted to have visitors and always made us welcome. We would sit in her living room talking Star Trek, then we were invited into her special room, where she kept her collection of Star Trek memorabilia - signed photos, books, jewellery, toys, cards - and that massive collection of fanzines. Diane was only too willing to lend them out to us and that gave me the chance to read fannish Trek fiction. Afterwards, we would retire to her kitchen for supper. My favourites were the cheese and pickled onion sandwiches (I still make them, and think of her when I do). I remember, later, when she and Helene Shaw, my friend who passed away almost exactly thirteen years before Diane (about two days difference), used to play a game called ENCHANTED FOREST and argue good-naturedly abvout who was winning. Eventually, the Friday nights no longer happened. For personal reasons, Diane withdrew, even from the Star Trek Welcommittee, which she had helped found, and although she never quite lost touch - I used to get a Christmas card each year - she made most of her friendships in her local church.

Her funeral, on Monday April 10th, was in that church. We did get the fannish tree going, and most of her friends and acquaintances found out. Only about a dozen fans actually made it to the funeral, though I'm sure everyone who could get there did, but the church had quite a lot of people there, because she also had plenty of friends in the congregation.

There were some of her most cherished items on the coffin, including her signed photo of a very young Leonard Nimoy, who was one of her friends in the old days, and probably knows by now.

The actual service took about an hour, then there was a morning tea and Geoff Allshorn did a very good eulogy - the official one was during the service, but this was the fannish one. Helena Binns, our indefatigable photographer, was there taking group shots of everyone. She had taken a picture of Diane in bed, looking very much herself and waving cheerily, made copies and kindly distributed them to all of us.

We went on to the Springvale cemetery, which is surprisingly beautiful, looking more like a park than an old-fashioned cemetery, where Diane was laid to rest in her family plot, and we threw rose petals on the coffin. After that, we all went off to the cemetery cafeteria, would you believe, and had a belated lunch. It was nice having company to cheer each other up. Fandom just won't be the same without her.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The SCBWI Conference

A few weeks back, I went to a conference in Sydney, where I got to meet a whole lot of other children's writers. Some I already knew, some I knew by name, but hadn't met, others I didn't know at all. I managed to talk Edwina Harvey into coming for at least the second day and very pleased she was she'd done it too. Two days of hearing publishers tell you what they were - and weren't - after, of writers who were actually making a living out of this telling you how you, too, might sell more, a fascinating talk by the GoH, Susan Sherman, an art director from a US publisher, on how a picture book is put together and finally published. Mind you, when the lady showed us two potential covers and asked for opinions, she seemed shocked when I suggested that perhaps she might like to ask some kids. My own book cover was chosen by kids only recently - in fact, it turned out to be the one the publishers had in mind, though they added a bit of the other cover to make sure boys liked it too (it worked). So everyone was happy. Oh, well. :-)

It was supposed to be an international conference, but, like the Worldcons we've had in the past, doesn't seem to have drawn too many overseas attendees (I suspect the GoH was the only one). Comes of being on the wrong side of the world.

I'd intended to stay at the YHA, either in the CBD or Bondi, but when I was offered half price for a small room at the con hotel, I thought what-the-heck, why not? and I don't regret my decision, which saved me some taxis. Breakfast was included, after all, and the con membership included lunch, morning and afternoon tea and dinner. I took a cab to the hotel on the Friday night, and it was not too far. It was a graceful-looking "boutique" hotel in the expensive area of Woollahra.

Now, I was expecting my room to be small, but I hadn't quite expected the bed to be a bunk or the view from the window to be the hotel laundry, which was literally about two metres away! Still, I was only going to sleep there and the bathroom was across the hall. I chose the bottom bunk, although you had to be very careful sitting up! They had supplied me with the usual hotel tea, coffee, etc., even some after-dinner mints (melted in the heat, alas - I put those in the fridge). There was a cerling fan, but no air conditioning and the room was very warm, even with the fan going.

Still, I thought, I'd have a nice shower and sit up in bed with a cuppa, biscuits and watch Star Wars on the TV, then switch off the bed lamp and sleep... Um, no. There was no kettle. The kindly manager got me one on request, but I had to boil it on the floor because there was no extension cord (he gave me one next day) and no free power points. And there was a bed lamp, but you couldn't plug it in because the pin was bent. The TV remote control didn't have an on/off switch, so I got up to switch off TV and light at the same time. Still - I got my cuppa, biscuits and movie and that night, at least, it was quiet.

Saturday night, however, I think it was forgotten I was there, because after midnight there was a rumble of washing machines from the laundry. I got up, dressed and went into the kitchens next door to ask if the machines could please be turned off. They did.

All that said, I had a good time, the food was fine and the staff were nice. I just think perhaps they might consider turning that room into a storeroom or some such. Everyone else was writing in Pass It On about what great rooms they'd had. Well, they paid full price, but you have to wonder if that particular room is normally the very expensive regular price they paid...?

It was nice to see Edwina, who accompanied me to the airport and kept her patience even when I suddenly reaslised I'd left my bag at the hotel and we had to get offthe bus and go back!

I took some photos, which I'll post as soon as they're developed and scanned. It was a fun weekend, even the room!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Aris, Paul and me at the Formal

Aris, Paul and me
Originally uploaded by Zeldaleh.
Aris and Paul are twins, but different as oranges and apples, personality-wise. Just as well I like both oranges and apples! I will miss these two characters.

Cheeky Zeineh

Cheeky Zeineh
Originally uploaded by Zeldaleh.
Zeineh, who looked fabulous on the night, had a great time and couldn't resist doing a little belly-dance shimmying.

John and Maree at the Formal

John and Maree
Originally uploaded by Zeldaleh.
They danced together most of the evening. Both of them look great and had a wonderful time.

Nikolina, Ivana and me at the Formal

Nikolina, Ivana and me
Originally uploaded by Zeldaleh.
The Year 12 formal is the last chance to say goodbye to the students. This is me with Nikolina (in red, who won the best female clothing award) andIvana, our MC for many school events, who looks like a model from Vogue in her white pants suit. These two were terrific to know during their two years at Sunshine College Senior campus.

Sue with Richard Harland

Sue with Richard Harland
Originally uploaded by Zeldaleh.
This is a photo of me at Swancon with Richard Harland, who was launching his new novel, THE BLACK CRUSADE, at the time. Richard is a very funny man and his fiction is over-the-top zany. Since the above was taken I have read and reviewed his children's novel, Sassycat, which is a great piece of entertainment. (See my review in the children's section at www.januarymagazine.com)