Brown skin

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 13, 2009 by belindajeffrey

great nannaFor those of you who’ve read Brown Skin Blue you’ll know that my main character, Barry, has dark skin. His mother is white and, not knowing the identity of his father, wonders where he comes from.

Barry and I share this mystery of our cultural origins. I have dark skin, my son’s skin is even darker, and I have only stories passed down from my father and aunties about where our dark blood comes from. But today I received this photograph from my grandmother on my mother’s side. She is the baby in the picture, sitting on her mother’s knee. Is it just me or does this woman look dark, too! My grandmother said she had always suspected, but growing up under the White Australia policy makes you tune out to those suspicions.

I’ve always had a nagging, burning question deep inside me. I’ve been the one in my family to wonder and ask and scratch at the surface about where we’ve come from. I’m beginning to think I should dig a little deeper, push a little harder.



Swallow The Air

Posted in Authors and books with tags , , , on August 12, 2009 by belindajeffrey


I’ve just finished reading Tara June Winch’s, Swallow The Air. What a beautiful piece of lyrical writing. Here’s a snippet from the Sydney Morning Herald about it. Follow the link for the full review. I also love the cover!

First-time writing can be so flat and drab it scarcely draws breath, or so purple and greasy it makes a reader’s jaw grind. But the prose style of author Tara June Winch is so unapologetically poetic and vivid that at times it makes the reader draw breath, without the cringe factor.


Five Stars

Posted in Authors and books with tags , , on August 12, 2009 by belindajeffrey

Delighted to find a 5 star review for Brown Skin Blue in this month’s Goodreading Magazine. Happy little writer.



Authors Gain Support

Posted in soapbox with tags , , on August 12, 2009 by belindajeffrey
July 31, 2009

AUTHORS and book publishers have secured significant backing from the ALP in their campaign against a Productivity Commission plan to reduce prices by removing restrictions on imports of books printed overseas.

View the complete article in The Age


Postcard from Indro

Posted in Postcards with tags , , on August 11, 2009 by belindajeffrey



Riding The Writer’s Train

Posted in Q150 steam train with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2009 by belindajeffrey

I wrote this article after returning from the Q150 Train and it appeared in last month’s Avid Reader Newsletter.


I’m seated inbetween two award-winning authors on a flight from Brisbane to Townsville. We don’t know eath other yet, but by the end of the week, I will feel as if I’ve known Matt Condon and Greg Rogers forever. Spending anywhere from five to ten hours on a steam train across central Queensland country can do that. There’s a lot of time to talk, share stories, and sleep – if you can find a spare seat long enough in the conductor’s carriage.

My first experience of the historical steam train was on the second morning of the trip – we were ‘diesleled’ from Townsville to Charters Towers because the stea engine was broken. Matt leaned out the window and remarked how beautiful the steam was, pluming back across the carriage. I’d just applied lip gloss but, eager for the same sense of wonder, I stuck my head out the window and my lips were instantly covered with coal soot. Like dipping wet lips in biscuit crumbs. You don’t see those kinds of visceral details in nostalgic movies. Or that by the end of a day’s travel there’s soot all over the floor and through your hair.

Another reality of riding the steam train is lack of coffee. Yes, I’m talking real coffee. Avid Reader quality espresso coffee. It was a long two days without it before a brief stop at Julia Creek outside Cloncurry. There, across the road from the train tracks, was a huge hotel with a sign saying CAPPUCINO. I looked left and right – no conductors to stop my heist – and I ran across the tracks, across the road and into the pub. “Jeez,” says the man. “I haven’t been asked for a cappucino in fourteen months. I just can’t be bothered taking the sign down.” There were no meat pies, either. Though Greg managed to return with beer. We arrive back on the train – no one saw us leave, surely – and there was the conductor standing in the asile saying, “Hello, heard you couldn’t get a cappucino.” Hello, how the hell did he know that?

Cloncurry turned out to welcome the train in true country style. A school band played a competent, if not slightly unconventional, selection of music. Cloncurry may be the only place I ever hear ‘Shut-up-a-your-face played by a full brass band. But oh, the glory, oh, the delight when outside the train station were two men and a quality espresso machine.

The mayor came to Hughenden to welcome the train when we arrived. Hughenden differed from the other towns for us, in that they had managed to sell one of our rooms to someone else. “Well,” said the accomodation manager, “you know we have a steam train coming through.” But we needn’t have worried because the Mayor – on hearing our predicament – offered us his house. No, he insisted. “Watch out for the twenty green tree frogs in the outside toilet and here’s the key.” Campbell Newman, you have big Hughenden shoes to fill.

In Charters Towers, I won the State of Origin prize pack on Origin night at the Royal Hotel. We were an interesting threesome, us writers, that night. Matt the Origin fan (understatement), Greg the Origin virgin, and myslef, somewhere in the middle. Sure, I’m interested. I understand the passion, if not the rules, exactly. So when I pull out the winning ticket, the Hughenden locals – not to mention the woman who ran the train – were categorically unimpressed that a girly writer from Brisbane should be wearing the coveted jersey when she couldn’t even remember the final score.

The paradox of intimacy: you can live next to someone for years, share a fence, a wall, and never know their name. And you can live in areas of Queensland, where your nearest neighbor is a good half hour drive away, and know everything about them. Sometimes the further we travel, the closer we get.



Posted in soapbox with tags , , , , on August 5, 2009 by belindajeffrey

As a debut author, the thought that the Australian Government might scrap parallel Importation protection fills me with dread. There’s been quite a bit of response to this issue from prominent authors like Tim Winton, and they’ve quite rightly many issues, but I want to raise another few points. These are things that I feel will directly affect authors like myself, or writers who are still trying to get their manuscripts published.

To get a book published at all is no easy task. Ask any writer trying to crack the market place. It’s likened to winning the lottery. Sure there are the manuscripts that really might never see the light of day and just don’t meet publishing standards, but there are many, many manuscripts that are excellent and just have to find the right place, the right publisher, the right editor, the right time. Getting published can be a fine alchemy. If parallel importation is scrapped, then australian publishers will find it very difficult to compete in the market. The books they publish will have fight for space in bookshops against books that will be cheaper to buy. They will take on fewer books and getting published will be harder. How is this good for the cultural industry? It isn’t.

Ok, so let’s suppose you’ve broken into the publishing industry. You’ve got a book published here in Australia. It now has to be sold into international markets  – and this is no guarantee. Australian books have to compete with a large international market. So those authors who already have an international name will still have a market – even if their profit margins have reduced – but for an author like me who does not yet (fingers still very crossed here) have international publishing rights, my chances of competing in my own home market are going to be considerably smaller. Publishing houses have to work hard to get their books into bookstores. They have to spend money, invest time and personnel to promote and distribute books. Not all bookstores take on new Australian books. And the smaller the publishing house, the harder it is to see books in the bigger chains like Angus and Robertson Target, Big W, etc. You probably won’t find Brown Skin Blue in those places.

Now I am both a writer and a reader and I understand the desire to purchase cheeper books – and sometimes I do. But at the moment at least there is a choice. What consumers may not fully appreciate is that if the laws are changed, this will effect the breadth of books they have access to. It won’t be something noticeable. It will change over time.

Brown Skin Blue is very Australian. It does not just have references – like vegemite (which it actually doesn’t) that an American author might change, it is about Australia. The idioms, the landscape, the characters. I have been reviewed by nearly every major paper in the country and, with the exception of a line here and there, they’ve all been favorable (yes I’m thanking the reviewing Gods). My point is that a book like mine, that’s been well received in Australia, still has to find a market overseas. It is not a popular fiction title, it is not a thriller, it is not romance, it is not Mills and Boon – all of which are more marketable and likely to be found in bigger book selling chains. Yet that doesn’t mean there isn’t a market for a book like mine, it’s just that the markets for books like mine are threatened by the proposed changes to parallel importation laws. The Australian Booksellers Association does not support lifting of parallel importation restrictions.

The hidden effects of these laws changing, in my opinion, are about what will happen to publishing choices over time. Publishers may not be so ready to take risks on edgier, experimental books. Or, indeed, books they think are sensational but have niche markets. This is not good for anyone. Even Mrs Jones who only reads Mills And Boon does not benefit from a shrinking culture.

I was selling my book at my children’s school fete on the weekend and an elderly lady came over to have a look. She looked at the cover, read the blurb. Smiled. And tottled over to the second hand Mills and Boon section to grab a handful for $1. Now I think that’s fine. But imagine if it were a different section of the market that was under threat. Imagine if it were category romance books that were threatened by this legislation and a different genre and style of books was going to dominate the market. Then she would not have access and choice to the books she would like.

This is an insidious attack on cultural expression. It may not be a public burning of books, but the effect over time might be the gradual erosion of something important, something valuable, something that should not be lost. We should be spending our time and resources looking at ways to protect and expand the book industry from all angles. Everyone benefits from great literature – even Big Bookselling chains. I am so disappointed that in this day an age – when we think we are such an enlightened people – we would even contemplate such an action. The only people thinking this is a good decision are those set to make an immediate profit in the short-term. It would be interesting to ask them what books they read and if they’ve looked at a broader future through the lense of their proposal. The money they may find in their pockets might buy them a shinier new car, or more stores. But it won’t, in the long term, be able to buy back what may be lost along the way.