I’m feeling guilty. The sequel to Tiger Stone has taken longer than expected. I’m working on it though, I promise. In the meantime, I thought I’d try to answer a question I get asked a lot: who is Kitchen Boy really? The short answer is that I don’t really know. He just appeared one day and wormed his way into my story. Of course, there is a longer answer… When I was researching Tiger Stone, I found a folk tale from Kerinci, a part of Sumatra where people have always…Continue Reading “The truth about Kitchen Boy”

Today, I spent a bit of time in a pondok. Not literally. Literally, I spent my time at the kitchen table staring at a computer screen. But in my imagination, I was walking through a forest and rice fields towards a pondok where I was looking forward to having a bit of a lie down. Oh, and it’s the end of the sixteenth century. You’re probably wondering what a pondok is. You might be wondering what I’m doing in the sixteenth century too, but that’s a conversation for another day. A pondok is a small shelter…Continue Reading “Pondok procrastination”

After reading Tiger Stone, my friend Helen gave me a biography of Nyi Njatatjarita, a female dalang (puppeteer) who was born in Java in 1909. Helen saw something of Kancil’s spirit in the dalang, who had a difficult childhood but through determination and charm became a highly sought after performer. As a child, the future dalang Nyi Njatatjarita was known as Sudiyem. She suffered from a debilitating skin condition and couldn’t walk. A sickly child did not fit into the busy performance schedule of her parents (her father was a…Continue Reading “Farming, puppeteers and treating children like plants”

“What’s the worst thing about being a writer?” “What’s the best thing about being a writer?” “Are we going to find out what happened to Kancil’s brother in the next book?” “What’s the deal with Kitchen Boy and the tiger?” “Have you started writing the next book yet?” These are just some of the questions I’ve been asked in the past week on visits to Ringwood North Primary School and Serpell Primary School. Both schools have Grade 6 reading groups that have read Tiger Stone so it…Continue Reading “Book Talks”

Students at Pinrang workshop

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve visited Indonesia, but this is my first time in Sulawesi. It’s the jigsaw-piece-shaped island that always seemed somehow remote, even though it’s only a two-hour flight from Jakarta. My visit here this time is the result of kebetulan. When I put in a grant application to the Australia-Indonesia Institute I gamely stated that I would visit a school in Makassar to do a writing workshop with the students. I had a vague plan to get the BRIDGE team…Continue Reading “Sulawesi Selatan”

Melbourne Writers Festival Schools Program

Last week I got to see the Melbourne Writers Festival from the inside. I was invited to speak on a panel with Dragonkeeper Carole Wilkinson as part of the MWF15 Schools program. Our brief was to discuss how Asia inspired our writing. That’s us in the photo on the right, being inspired by the chocolates in the green room before the event. Preparing for the Melbourne Writers Festival event was a good opportunity to reflect on what did inspire me to write Tiger Stone. Coincidentally,…Continue Reading “Melbourne Writers Festival”

It has been almost three weeks since Tiger Stone was launched at Castlemaine Library and questions have been asked in certain circles about the absence of a post launch post. My excuse(es)? Life got busy, my eyes hurt, the VLine commute is killing me and the dog ate my homework. Hmmm. Last week I visited a high school – primarily to convince anyone who would listen that 14th century Java is really really fascinating, but also to help the Year 12s prepare for their upcoming Indonesian oral exam. Unlike me,…Continue Reading “The dog ate my homework”

Dictionaries

The last exam I sat was my NAATI exam. NAATI stands for the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters. There were hundreds of us all crammed into Wilson Hall at the University of Melbourne, all different ages and different ethnic backgrounds scribbling away in I don’t know how many different languages. I’ve still got my official NAATI translator rubber stamp in a box somewhere but as I passed the exam a good 15 years ago and haven’t done any official translating for at least…Continue Reading “Translation”

I’ve been asked to visit a school in a couple of weeks to help them celebrate Indonesia’s national day. They want me to talk about how learning Indonesian at school influenced my career and how it led to me writing Tiger Stone. I was digging out stuff to show the students when I stumbled across my English notebook from high school. Inside are the outlines and first drafts of stories and poems I wrote in Year 8 and Year 9. I can still remember writing the first story in the book – a…Continue Reading “The new notebook effect”