The beauty of Italy in summer took me a little while to see. Everything was dingier and more ordinary than photography books had led me to expect. Yes there are incredible cobble-stoned, tiny alleyways but they are lined with garbage bags. Yes there are hundreds of white houses in the cities but they don’t have grass like nice houses in Australia: just dust and tiles. Yes there are lots of old buildings but they are dirty and falling apart.
It didn’t help that I was exhausted from 17 hours of flying. It didn’t help that I’m not really a fan of crowds. It didn’t help that it’s just plain hot. Once I got a good sleep and really looked around I realised that this place is incredible after all.
The beaches are warm, maths is going well, the food is beyond exceptional and most days I wander around barefoot. (This house has grass because it’s out of the city.)
How many colours does it take to colour a map? The title probably gives you a hint.
When I was a kid (no, I don’t know how old exactly… around 10), my dad set me and my brothers a challenge. Could we create a map which required more than four colours to colour it in? Here are the rules:
– no two adjacent “countries” can have the same colour,
– if two “countries” meet only in a point then they are not adjacent, and
– each “country” must be completely connected (Alaska, for instance, couldn’t count as part of the USA)
At the time I had no idea that this was a world famous mathematical concept, I just thought it was a frustrating problem. We didn’t find a map requiring 5 colours and, indeed, we couldn’t have. It was proved in 1976 that 4 is the maximum number of colours needed and, importantly, it was proved by using a computer.
In 1976 this was revolutionary, groundbreaking and contentious. Lots of mathematicians refused to accept the proof because it couldn’t be checked by hand. It has since been proven by a computer program we know to be reliable but it was a point of argument among mathematicians for many years.
It’s hard to say that my story is done but I think it is. At the very least I think I am done with it. I’m about to go overseas and if, when I return, my full manuscript has not been requested by Hot Key Books then I’m going to send it to Australian publishing companies. I’ve set up my lovely list of who I think would most like it, how to submit to each place, and personal deadlines by which each activity should be done.
And I’ve started writing my new book. I’ve been mulling over the idea of it for ages – almost the whole time I spent editing the last book. It’s going to be really different, it’s going to be fun and I am psyched. I’m not sure how much I’ll write while I’m overseas but I’m sure the ideas/inspiration part of my brain will be working in overload.
While I am away I’m not sure what you should be expecting of this blog… There will definitely be photos, possibly poorly explained maths, and hopefully some words here and there.
Everything I have ever written and will ever write comes out of my own mind. I cannot write anything beyond my own thoughts. My memories and experiences, then, are the most important things I own. Along with language. But that’s not the point right now.
In order to write stories we delve past the names and events and dates to see what it was really all about, to see what it meant then and what it means now. And once we’ve worked it out, or while we’re working it out, we wrap it all up in a separate package. We tell the story with different names and events and dates. Perhaps one lot of events happened over six weeks in an Australian highschool but the other will happen in Paris over a few years. Or vice versa. But at the centre of it all will always be the truth; the essence of what it was all about. At the centre of it all we’re reaching out and asking if others will join us.
Will you be brave with me? Will you learn with me? Will you suffer with me? Will you dream with me? Will you understand me?
1. When I was 13 I wrote a story that horrified my teacher. In fact, she was horrified by the whole class, a big fuss was made and we were all told to write about more appropriate things from then on.
2. I hate picking up library book after library book to discover that what was pretending to be fantasy is really just erotica in disguise. When I was 14 I accidentally read a book with a graphic rape scene and I found it quite disturbing. I also would have liked some warning that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was way more violent than the back cover indicated.
I agree with the vast majority of people involved in chidren’s fiction when they say that age-banding is ridiculous. You don’t want to lock kids into a set “reading bracket”. But it would be nice if everyone could choose the level of gore they want when they want. At the very least it would be nice to get a warning so you can prepare your mind.
In Sylvia’s perfect world we would put a little sticker on the back of every book with the checkboxes:
That way everyone would have a greater level of autonomy regarding their reading choices.
Now I know this wouldn’t work in real life. Many children would be stopped from reading a book just because it had violence in it. Many parents would kick up a ruckus if a book with subtle sexual innuendo wasn’t tagged with sex. But I can dream, okay?