Poem of the Day

My Nan speaks Nanish

My Nan speaks Nanish, not Hippo or Hag.
It’s a slippery language I’d love to snag,
a scrumptious secret wild horses can’t drag
but Nan won’t let the cat out of the bag!

My Nan speaks Nanish, not Thai or Turkey.
Spying on the neighbours what does she see?
Pishposh! Codswollop! Fiddle-de-dee!
Wagging tongues are barking up the wrong tree.

My Nan speaks Nanish, not Belgium or Bear.
She’d teach me if she had the time to spare
but it’s half past a freckle, quarter past a hair,
the proof’s in the pudding and hen’s teeth are rare.

My Nan speaks Nanish, not Dog or Derry
wetting her whistle watching the telly,
chewing the fat with great aunty Nelly,
bulging eyes growing bigger than bellies

My Nan speaks Nanish, not Mooney or Manx.
When old photos lull her into a trance
she’s caught and lead in a merry old dance
by teasing bees knees and fancy ants pants.

My Nan speaks Nanish, not Cree or Kipper.
Hob-knobbing in her best bib and tucker.
When she married Pop it was a ripper,
he was the monkey, she the dog’s dinner.

My Nan speaks Nanish not Gothic or Goop
sucking on eggs or jumping through hoops.
She calls me little chicken noodle soup.
Possum. Pumpkin. I’m her favourite fruit loop.

My Nan speaks Nanish, not Persian or Pie.
It’s tricky talk that leaves me tongue-tied
But if wishes are fishes, pigs can fly,
my Nan can speak Nanish and so can I!

© Jane Williams

Cultural Donations as Tax Deductions

This week I attended the Smilies’ monthly meeting at a Paddington pub. The Smilies is a group of mostly children’s authors who network to share their writing successes, worries and publishing  information. One of the pieces of information I shared was how to get a tax deduction as a writer under the Cultural Grants Program (previously known as the Tax Incentive for the Arts Scheme). It works like this: one collects relevant papers, which might include letters from publishers and other authors, illustrators, etc., working drafts of a book, critiqued drafts, handwritten notes — anything to do with the creation of a book. (An illustrator, for example, might collect roughs in progress, notes from editor or art director and so on). My next donation includes captioned photos of authors, illustrators, editors and others in the children’s book industry, old book contracts and some essays written when I was a teenager. When you have a pile of material ready, you contact the organisation to which you want to donate. My author husband Bill Condon and I donate to the State Library of NSW (but it could be to the National Library of Australia, the Lu Rees Archives, etc). A field officer comes to our home and collects our material which is then valued by two independent valuers. When this is done, an average is taken and a certificate then posted to the donor. The certificate states how much you can claim as a tax deduction in that financial year. Bill and I donate every 3 to 4 years; this last year my deduction was $2,000 and Bill’s was $3,500. This tax bonus is something that not many people know about.

At the Smilies’ meeting one of the writers complained about the fact that she had paid $50 to enter a writing competition (with a $50,000 first prize), but was shocked and angered to discover that some writers had been ‘invited’ to enter. The results of the competition are not out yet, but this writer was so upset by the condition of entry that she wanted to ‘do something.’ My contention — and that of others at the meeting — was that there is nothing she can do. The rules set out the information about ‘invitees’ and so it was up to her whether or not to accept this condition; obviously she did, though it would be safe to say she hadn’t really studied the conditions before submitting her entry. The only recourse she has is to let other people know of this stipulation, and not to enter competitions with similar conditions.

Another author at the meeting told how she was now writing for digital down-loading — book apps and longstories (whatever they are). She is saddened that the Australian writing community, including the Australian Society of Authors, is not au fait with what is happening with regards to e-books. Even when the ASA organises seminars on digital publishing, she claims their presenters are out of date. What I found startling is that the writer doesn’t know if she will be getting any income from her hard ebook writing. For myself, I want to wait to see where there is money to be made e-publishing before I succumb to putting my out of print manuscripts into e-book publishing. What do others think?


This week I received notification from the Copyright Agency Cultural Fund that my application for funding was unsuccessful. I had applied for a mere $25,000 to establish a website to be called Australian Children’s Poetry. Of the 75 applications from CAL under its Cultural Fun, 34 were successful and a total of $678,000 allocated.
My idea of having a unique website that focussed on Australian children’s poets and their poetry was to redress the lack of interest in children’s poetry in our country. As a children’s poetry anthology compiler (Our Home is Dirt by Sea, Walker Books, 2013, and Every Day is a Birthday, currently with a publisher), I have worked with the Walker Books rights’ manager trying to locate poets for permissions. Most poets do not have social media or website presence and it was really difficult locating poets or, in the case of deceased poets, the managers of their estates. A dedicated website would have done much to redress this problem — and would do so for future anthology compilers. Such a website would also showcase Australian children’s poetry, providing a central location for anthologists, teachers, children, academics and others to look for poems and relevant information.
As I wrote in my CAL application, one major outcome of having a children’s poetry website would be to have a coordinating source for competitions, poetry workshops, conferences festivals and schools’ visits that featured children’s poetry (such as they have in the UK, where they also have a Children’s Poet Laureate).
It’s sad that in Australia at the moment there is only one ongoing market for children’s poetry: the NSW Department of Education School Magazine. It’s even sadder that CAL did not see the amazing possibilities of a website devoted to Australian children’s poetry.


Writer and riches: these words seem to be an oxymoron, don’t they? Recently I wrote to the Minister for the Arts, Simon Crean, asking his government to increase the Educational Lending Rights’ pool which has been stagnant since it was introduced in 2000. In the 12 years since, I have published 20 more books, but my ELR payment has dropped $9,000. I’m not the only prolific author to be so disadvantaged. I pointed out the high government funding to the Australian Institute of Sport and (rightly) said that athletes don’t generate income for Australia as authors do. A survey published this week in the Australian Society of Authors’ bulletin proves my point. Read it, and let others in the industry know just how valuable a commodity authors are in our society:

A report by the Australian Copyright Council has found that copyright industries contributed $93.2 billion dollars to the Australian economy in 2011, or 6.6% of gross domestic product. Employment in copyright industries constituted 8% of the Australian workforce.

Within the Australian economy, this contribution represents more value than retail trade but slightly less than manufacturing.

In a survey of Western, European and Asian economies employing a World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) framework, this contribution of copyright to gross domestic product was exceeded only by the US, Korea and Hungary. This survey did not include the UK. Yet Australian copyright industries have experienced a decline over the past five years compared with other primary industries.

The press and literature sector, which enjoyed a growth of 4% between 1997-2007, experienced negative growth of -3.3% between 2007-2011. This is a reflection of the industry’s weak recovery from the GFC, along with the challenges of digitisation, the enhanced ability of users to compare prices online, the increased risk of unauthorised copying, and the increased competitiveness of overseas products due to the high Australian Dollar.

A Day at the Keyboard

So many people tell me they ‘want to be a writer’. But not so many people put in the time and effort. I have been making a living as a children’s author and freelance writer for about 20 years now. And so does my husband, children’s author, Bill Condon. We live well. But we also put in the hard slog, sitting for many hours most weeks at our keyboards. Today I started writing about 6 am, and except for some breaks — coffee, lunch, emails — I’ve been writing until now 4 pm when I have exhausted my writing brain. Now I will read a while and go for a walk, start again tomorrow morning.

I always say that life is about prioritities. I know would-be writers who are more committed to their families than to writing. Fair enough. But then I know authors with young children who still manage to write and to promote their books. If any writer were to commit to a 40-hour week, like others do — butchers, secretaries, plumbers, etc — they ought to be able to make a decent income. Mind you, Bill and I are very lucky, with over 250 books between us, produced over the past 30 years, to receive quite generous Lending Rights’ payments. Once a year the Federal Government deposits monies into our bank account to compensate us for our books that are held in public and educational libraries for which we’ve only been paid one royalty per book. A marvellous scheme! (Though next year there will be changes… more later.) Sometimes, too, we get CAL (Copyright Agency Limited) payments when people or organisations have photocopied our writings. Another wonderful scheme!

Today I wrote about 3,000 words of my junior novel, A Game of Keeps. This is the second book I’ve written this year — and the fourth I’ve produced. Accepted recently for publication is A Beginner’s Guide to Better English, while my compilation of silly verse titled Erky Perky Silly Stuff is still awaiting a publisher’s decision. Meanwhile I have a children’s poetry anthology, Every Day is A Birthday, with yet another publisher. What will I write next? Not sure. But I’ll certainly be back in my typing seat being productive…

A blog virgin

A blank page: the story of my writing life. And yet words invariably flow and before long there are thousands and then, voila! a finished manuscript. Often the time taken waiting for a publisher to respond to the submission is far longer than the time taken to actually write the 45,000 word manuscript. More often than not. What is it with publishers? Do they have no regard for the travails of writers? So often I read of publishers judging writing competitions, speaking at conferences or festivals or attending awards of their successful authors. And I wonder why aren’t they at their publishing home reading my manuscript? Doing the work they ought to be doing? It is so easy to become cynical about publishers and the publishing world. And yet, I’m afraid this is how it is for me after 30+ years working as a children’s author. Mind you, I’ve had 120+ books published in that time, and countless short stories, poems, plays and articles. So you might say I’ve been around. Today I ‘own’ writing time so I will be once again at my computer working this time on a junior novel, A Game of Keeps. It’s coming along well, though I have written it piecemeal, a scene here, a chapter there. And now I need to put all the pieces together in chronological order, and too I need to work out how to show the passing of a four month period in the book where not much happens — before I reach the end chapter (already written). A boy asked yesterday if I ever experience writers’ block. No, I said, but I do experience writer’s problems. So enough of blogging, and back to A Game of Keeps!