Monday, September 12, 2011

City in Pages - LA (Hollywood Ending edition)

Welcome to my first international post in my City in Pages series! I have loved taking you around Melbourne and Sydney through some of my favourite books and am now thrilled to bring you to LA with me and one of my all-time favourite reads, Kathy Charles' Hollywood Ending.

One of the things I love most about this is the fact that alongside Hilda, Benji, Jake and Hank, the city of Los Angeles is really another character in the book. The novel is full of Hollywood landmarks and ventures into the dark history of the city, as Benji and Hilda seek out locations which fuel their obsession with celebrity deaths. What makes this post more special is the fact that by the time you're reading this, I will actually be in LA (for the first time!), so I hope you enjoy it:

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Hollywood Ending
Published by Text Publishing, 2009
264 pages

Ambassador Hotel
Before being demolished in 2005, the Ambassador Hotel was a Los Angeles landmark. It was the site of the 2nd and 12th Academy Awards, and also (most notably) where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. It also housed the renowned Cocoanut Grove nightclub, where stars such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole performed. The hotel closed it’s doors to guests in 1989 and was demolished in 2005 after extensive legal battles. The site now houses the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools.

Barney’s Beanery
A West Hollywood restaurant and bar, known as watering hole for icons such as Errol Flynn, Judy Garland, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin (who even had her final drinks at Barney’s, before becoming a member of the Forever 27 Club).

Mann’s Chinese Theatre
Opened in 1927, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre has hosted numerous movie premieres, Hollywood parties and three Academy Award ceremonies. It was declared a cultural and historical landmark in 1968, and since then, extensive restoration and maintenance has taken placed (despite the ownership of the theatre changing hands many times), in order to keep the theatre as it was in the golden age of Hollywood. It’s most distinctive feature is the 200 celebrity hand and footprints in the concrete forecourt, including Marilyn Monroe, Groucho Marx, Betty Grable and Steve McQueen.

Chateau Marmont
A famed hotel on Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood and noted for its celebrity clientele. It has been a temporary home for the likes of Greta Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Morrison and Lindsay Lohan (to name just a few). John Belushi died of a drug overdose in one of the hotel’s garden bungalows (which Benji and Hilda revisit during a wild party in the novel). To learn more about the Chateau Marmont, read Raymond R. Sarlot’s Life at the Marmont.

Leimert Park
An LA neighbourhood, now often considered home to the African-American arts scene. However, it was originally known for being where the body of Elizabeth Smart (the Black Dahlia) was found, after she had been brutally murdered. Her mutilated corpse was dumped in a vacant lot (the location has now been cemented over and is part of a well-populated, middle class neighbourhood). The murder has never been solved.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Previously known as Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, this location was saved from financial ruin in 1998 and was christened the Hollywood Forever cemetery. You can take a guided tour through the cemetery and if you do visit, make sure you look out for the Lady in Black (the mysterious woman clad in black who leaves roses on Valentino’s grave). Douglas Fairbanks, Jayne Mansfield, Vampira, Victor Fleming. You can also go see bands play and watch outdoors there during the summer. If you want to know who else is buried here, check out the interactive map on the website (creepy but fascinating!)

9860 Easton Drive
The address of a house with a sad history in Benedict Canyon. In 1932 MGM producer Paul Bern was found dead in the house, from a gunshot wound to the head. At the time, he was a newlywed (having been married to starlet Jean Harlow for only two months). His death was ruled a suicide, though this has been somewhat disputed in the press numerous times. Thirty years later, Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring purchased the house, and his life was also cut short - a victim of the Manson murders at Cielo Drive.

Cielo Drive
The name of this street is most often remembered in relation to the horrific Manson murders – when actress Sharon Tate, Jay Sebring, Abigail Folger and Wojciech Frykowski were brutally murdered by members of the Manson family on August 9, 1969. Prior to this, the house at 10050 Cielo Drive was home to Lillian Gish, Cary Grant, Henry Fonda and finally Trent Reznor. In 1994, the house was demolished by its new owner and no part of the original property remains except for a telephone pole.

LA County Coroner
Responsible for investigating and determining the cause of death in violent and unusual cases in the LA County. It also has a gift shop, Skeletons in the Closet (Benji and Hilda go shopping in Hollywood Ending), where you can buy everything from toe-tag keyrings, to welcome mats, to crime scene party tape.

Mel’s Drive In
A homage to the 50s style American drive-in. The original Mel’s was located in San Francisco and is now a franchise, with restaurants in Sherman Oaks and West Hollywood (where Hilda goes with her aunt Lynette). From a quick look at the menu, the burgers sound delicious and they boast the “thickest shakes in town” mmmmm.

Westwood Cemetery
The final resting place of Marilyn Monroe and a wealth of other stars (Fanny Brice, Truman Capote, Gene Kelly, Janet Leigh, Bettie Page. It’s less ‘showy’ than Hollywood Forever, it's considered more private and doesn’t actively promote itself as a celebrity cemetery (apparently cemetery employees are reluctant to point out famous burial sites).

A note for my American friends, Hollywood Ending was published in the US as John Belushi is Dead by MTV Books in 2010.

Like the sound of this book? I've also written:

Friday, September 9, 2011

On Holiday

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Hi friends,
By the time you're reading this, I'll be almost off on a holiday I've been dreaming about for about three years! I'll ]be in the US (for the first time!) until the start of October. I ha I may check in a little bit on twitter, but otherwise I look forward originally planned to schedule a series of posts, but then ran out of time (sorry!) I look forward to filling you in on my adventures and catching up on my reading when I get back. I'm also planning some changes around here, which I'll share next month.

Steph xo 

Monday, September 5, 2011

How to Cure (Book) Blogger's Block

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I often notice tweets in my friends stream from fellow bloggers who are struggling from 'blogger's block' - a syndrome I also am inflicted with at least once a month. So I've decided to share some of my ideas for posts designed to help combat this. Some of these are prompts which will hopefully get your blogging juices flowing, some are more creative ideas which could be useful if you want to try something out of your blogging comfort zone. In compiling this list, I thought carefully about a) what kind of content my favourite bloggers post and b) what I (as a reader) would like to see more of in the blogosphere. Whilst most of these ideas were created with book-bloggers in mind, many will translate to other kind of personal blogging and writing.

♥ Play casting director and pick out your fantasy cast for one of your favourite novels or series. Be sure to include pictures and tell us why you’ve chosen them. For film buffs, go one step further and pick which director you’d like to see guide the screen adaptation and why.

♥ Create a playlist inspired by a recent read or one of your favourite books.

♥ Bake or cook something that’s eaten by the characters in a recent read or favourite book and share the results with your readers! (if I was a better cook, I’d love to create a Mexican feast based on the dishes mentioned in Simone Elkeles Perfect Chemistry series).

♥ Use Polyvore to put together an outfit for a character, or create a mood-board for a book.

♥ Read a book set in your city (or that mentions a nearby landmark or tourist attraction), go take photos and share them with us!

♥ Write a list! I absolutely love list posts and they can be great to put your thoughts and opinions into a quick, readable format. Write lists of your favourite books (by genre, by author, by date, by nostalgia, by series), lists of your favourite characters (heroes, villains, awesome best friends who don’t get the love and appreciate they deserve, teachers, parents, pets, characters you wish were real so you could be BBFs with them), and lists of things you love (why you love that genre, that author, that character, that book, that series). There is pretty much an endless possibility of lists you could write – and encourage your readers to share their own lists!

♥ Write an opinion piece on an issue you feel passionate about. Do you have an issue with how books are priced? Talk about it! How do you feel about supporting local authors? Tell us! Do you wish there was more or less of something in a particular genre? Share your thoughts and encourage your readers to share their opinions in the comments (and please remember to be respectful of others opinions).

♥ Write an essay. It was sound a bit school-ish, but I love reading personal essays from bloggers – like when they developed their love of reading, or how a particular book changed their life, or a book that just made things click for them.

♥ Blog to a theme – review a whole series, or collection of books with a common thread (for example, an author’s backlist, books all set in one city, books all about a particular sport, issue or topic).

♥ Tell us about another aspect of your life. If you’re a book blogger, why not tell us about your favourite TV shows (is there a correlation between what you read and what you watch?) or try reviewing movies for a week.

♥ Hold an interview with someone and ask interesting questions. Try interviewing a lesser-known author, or request an interview with someone in the publishing industry (I always love reading these). It’s always interesting to hear about how other people are involved in the production of a book on its road to publication (agents, editors, publicists and marketing team).

♥ Have a call-out for guest-posts on your blog or swap guest-blogging duties with another blogger. You could give your guest-blogger a theme, or let them pick their own and see what the reader response is. Sometimes it’s just fun just to hear a fresh voice and perspective.

♥ Share some of your favourite YouTube videos – they can be directly related to your blog, to a theme (like your favourite book trailers or author interviews) or just things you find amusing or interesting.

♥ Do you have an ereader? Tell me about it! Show me how it works! What’s good/not-so-good about it? What kind of books do you read on it? Especially in book-blogging, fellow readers are often debating if reading devices are worth their time and hard earned money – contribute your experiences to help someone else make a decision.

♥ Go local! I love hearing about bookish events in other cities. Tell me about your bookshops, libraries, reading centres and local authors.
Share photos that tell us something about your life (you could do a 'A Day in My Life' feature or even just show us pictures of your bookshelves, what’s in your handbag, what’s on your bedside table, your pet, your favourite outfit, your favourite place to read, your favourite place to drink coffee) - I personally love reading snippets about bloggers real lives and helps me feel more of a connection to their writing.

♥ Ask your readers what kind of posts they would like to read and take their opinion into account!

Happy Writing!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Mixed Bag #41

Good morning friends! Can you believe it's September already? Seriously, it freaks me out and you know that when it gets to the months ending in 'er', the year will just fly! Anyway, here are some things that have interested or amused me recently:

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♥ The Inkys Shortlist has been announced - and what an amazing list! Unfortunately I'm too old to vote, so I encourage anyone under 20 to go here and vote for the winner. The Gold Inky list is particularly awesome (two of my favourites books are on there).

♥ Who's going to the Castlemaine Children's Festival in October? The program sounds fantastic!

♥ I am loving Melina Marchetta's blog, especially this post where she shares 15 facts that her readers may not know about her books.

♥ Have you seen the greatest Hunger Games parody ever? No - go watch it!!!

♥ Not at all book-related, but oh my goodness, Arrested Development in Lego.

Also, I am pleased to announce that the winner of my Clara in Washington giveaway is Alice! Thanks to everyone for entering and check back soon for more giveaways.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

MWF 2011: Clara in Washington

From the MWF Program: In Penny Tangey's new book, Year 12 student Clara goes to America and finds the world of politics opening up for her in a way she never thought possible. Suddenly she might have a lot more impact on the future than she thought.

Penny Tangey and the back of Adele Walsh

Ok, so I probably don't need to tell you again how much I love Penny Tangey's writing, so I was very excited to attend this session. I was in the front row and got to have a quick chat to Adele before the session - and I must say a huge thank you to Adele for introducing me to Penny (seriously guys, I was trying so hard to keep my cool when on the inside I was massively fan-girling!). And now onto the session:
  • Did you know that Penny is also a stand-up comedian, and won the Triple J Raw Comedy Competition in 2006? She warned the audience that she wasn't going to be funny (but of course, she was hilarious!)
  • Clara in Washington is partially based on Penny's own time living in Washington DC - while her partner was there to work, Penny volunteered and had the time to visit most of the city's tourist attractions. Penny showed us some slides from some of her favourite attractions including Ford's Theatre (where Lincoln was shot), the National Museum of National History, Scottish Rite Masonic Temple (where she got a private tour, just like Clara), the National Archives and the National Postal Museum.
  • Penny talked about her time in Washington - where she wrote her first novel, Loving Richard Feynman and read us an excerpt from her DC journal. She also spoke about meeting politically minded people in DC, and her experiences with meeting anarchists as she volunteered with DC Books to Prisons: "the anarchists I met were a bit standoffish and they didn't want to be friends with me".
  • Penny then discussed perceptions of anarchism, what it actually is and some of the varieties of anarchists (aided by a handy slideshow presentation). Penny also shared an exchange from a DC Anarchists email list (which I also saw in the session yesterday). What was then really fun, was Penny started a game of 'Spot the Modern Anarchist' - this was the first session I went to that encouraged audience engagement (other than question time), which was fun. Adele also mentioned one of my favourite tumblrs, Amish or Hipster (seriously, check it out).
  • Did you know that Noam Chomsky, Germaine Greer & Alicia Keys identify themselves as anarchists (and the Queen and the Pope are not due to their authorative head gear).
  • Adele and Penny discussed the lack of politics in Australian young adult fiction, and Penny mentioned that when studying in the US, she found that American history is presented in a 'fun' and engaging way. She also spoke about the way that in DC, she was interacting with people who were very "politically aware".
  • What I thought was interesting is that Penny didn't keep a log/record of all the places she went in Washington!
  • It took Penny nine months to write Loving Richard Feynman (as she had a lot of free time), whilst Clara in Washington took about a year. Penny spoke about her experiences of trying to get published (she sent her manuscript to four publishers and was rejected by all four within a year. She then found an agent, who sent it out to publishers and she received an offer within six weeks).
  • The session finished with some fantastic advice from Penny for aspiring writers: being bored is a good thing - some great things can come from it!
And that was my last session at MWF 2011 - and what an awesome one to finish with. As I was leaving (surrounded by hordes of teenagers), it was great to hear them talking so positively about the festival and how much fun they were having (and they were saying it in a genuine, not-sarcastic way).

Fellow attendees, what sessions have you enjoyed this year at MWF?