Feature Week 12: ABC Radio
Across Australia, ABC Radio is providing wonderful exposure and publicity for the National Year of Reading. In the twelfth week of our celebrations, we feature three ABC Radio hosts, Nadine Maloney from Alice Springs, Louise Maher from Canberra and Lisa Pellegrino from Darwin.
Louise is a journalist and radio broadcaster who presents the weekday Drive show on 666 ABC Canberra and who writes online for the ABC's The Drum. She grew up on the south coast of New South Wales and has worked as a radio journalist in Sydney, Alice Springs, Bega and Canberra, including stints as a political correspondent in both the NSW and Federal Parliaments. She started as a cadet journalist on commercial radio at the age of 18. Louise became a journalist because she loves to write, and she loves to write because she loves to read. Books have always been a part of her life.
Louise's thoughts on reading and the National Year of Reading
What a brilliant idea! A whole year focused on literacy and aimed at encouraging the enjoyment of reading. I feel so honoured to be one the ambassadors chosen to “spread the word”! I love celebrating books and reading.
Take a look at what Louise wrote on the ABC’s The Drum about why reading and writing is so important to our lives. It generated significant debate about literacy standards in Australia.
Louise's reading habits
- When do you read? I read constantly – starting with the local newspaper in bed in the morning, as well as Tweets and news websites on my smart phone before I get up. At work it's emails, online news, features and opinion pieces to help find stories for my radio program. But the best time for reading is at night. I always have at least one novel on the go and usually read for at least an hour (often more) before I go to sleep.
Which book is by your bedside right now?
I just checked and there's actually a pile of more than 20! They include Anna Funder's ‘All that I am’, Jennifer Horsfield's ‘The Edgeworth David women’, ‘Am I black enough for you?’ by Anita Heiss, ‘The master’ by Colm Toibin and the latest ‘Inspector Singh’ crime novel by Shamini Flint. There's also a stack of magazines and journals including The Monthly, Granta, Meanjin, The Big Issue and The Griffith Review. Some of this reading is related to my work, other is purely for pleasure. Some books I've just finished, some part way through, others are in line to be read. I never reach the bottom of the pile – books are always being added.
What was the last book you received as a gift?
Friends and family don't tend to give me books anymore because they worry I've already read what they think I'd like. But as a recent Christmas present my partner Ian promised to buy me five books from five different bookshops over the course of the coming year, and to take me out for coffee each time so I could explain why I had chosen that particular book. Such a great gift! The books I chose were ‘Jasper Jones’ by Craig Silvey, ‘Lovesong’ by Alex Miller, ‘The death of King Arthur’ by Peter Ackroyd, ‘Room’ by Emma Donaghue and the biography of ‘Katherine Mansfield’ by Kathleen Jones.
- Do you keep lists of books you've read and books you'd like to read? For the past 10 years I've kept a list of all the books I've read, and wish I'd started when I was a child. My list of books I'd like to read is based on people's recommendations and reviews, and what I see when I browse bookshops. I'm trying to keep it under control but at the moment there are nearly 30 books on that list and there would be even more if I listed books I'd love to re-read.
- What's the first chapter book you can remember reading? For my 8th birthday my parents gave me an omnibus of the ‘What Katy did’ books by Susan Coolidge. It was the thickest book I'd ever seen and I loved the stories. But it took me a while to work out that you were supposed to start at the first chapter then read through in order.
- Do you ever cheat and read the end of the book first? I can't believe you would even ask that question! It would spoil the story and stories are too precious for that.
- Has a book ever got you through a difficult time? Often! If life is tough, a good book is a great escape. Books can also provide if not answers, ideas and strategies for dealing with life's difficulties. When I was at boarding school studying for the HSC my treat after hours with the schoolbooks each night was reading a few chapters of Tolstoy's ‘Anna Karenina’ before I went to sleep.
- What author has most influenced you? This is a hard one. Like many people who grew up in the days when there were fewer books for kids I was a big fan of Enid Blyton. Not only did I enjoy her books (particularly The Strange Umbrella and Other Stories and the Famous Five adventures) they spurred me to write my own stories. Katherine Mansfield is a writer I adore for her brilliant, spare prose and her ability to squeeze so much truth and insight into just a few pages.
- Print books, ereader or both? I love the sensory aspects of books – from the design of the cover to the smell and feel of the pages. I've always had books in my home; I love seeing them on shelves and in bookcases and in tottering piles around the house. I don't yet have an ereader but am not adverse to the idea, especially for travelling.
Louise's favourite reads
This is where you can find words! I've had many shapes and sizes over the years but the one I use most often now is the complete ‘Macquarie Australian dictionary’ downloaded as an app on my phone. I love having access to all these words wherever I go and whenever I need it. When I was a teenager I would trawl through dictionaries looking for new words (slightly nerdy I know). I'm a stickler for spelling so I still check words I'm not sure about, even if it's for a radio script, and how could you get through a game of Scrabble without a dictionary?
‘The golden treasury of poetry; selected and with a commentary’ by Louis Untermeyer and illustrated by Joan Walsh Anglund, 1969
This was a present from my parents when I was a child and it introduced me to the world of poetry from John Keats to Edward Lear, Shakespeare to Emily Dickinson, Chaucer to T.S Eliot – not to mention “Anonymous”. No matter how many times I opened its 324 pages, I would always find something new and delightful to read, as well as what became over the years, my old favourites. I still love this book. My only gripe – there are no Australian poems in this anthology. I discovered them later.
‘The collected stories of Katherine Mansfield’
I discovered these stories in my late teens or early twenties.
At the end of 2011, Louise put together a list of her top 11 reads for 2011. You can find them on her blog.
Out and about with Louise
Louise is keen to promote reading and in particular the National Year of Reading. Here are just a few of the things she is involved in:
On her 666 Drive show radio program, Louise features regular reviews of crime fiction with Sue Turnbull and children’s books with Deborah Abela, and often interviews authors, both Australian and those visiting from overseas.
Listen to Sue Turnbull’s recent review of 'The mistake' by Australian author Wendy James.
- Louise’s blog features a recent review of three children’s books by National Year of Reading ambassador Deborah Abela.
- During Book Week in 2011 Louise visited a Canberra school to read to the children. She was delighted to discover that children still like being read to despite the plethora of newer forms of entertainment. She was even more excited to learn that they're still enjoying reading books themselves - from classic tales that have been around for centuries to the fiction that's specifically aimed at 21st century kids. Take a look at Louise’s insightful comments about her Book Week experience.
- Each Tuesday during 2012, Louise will feature a special interview or story to highlight the National Year of Reading.
So far she’s found out about the infamous Censor’s Library:
- You can listen to Louise’s drive time program Monday – Friday, 3-6pm on 666 ABC Canberra, and afterwards find details of some of her programs on Louise’s ABC Radio blog.
Are We There Yet?
The ‘Are We There Yet?’ exhibition, based on Alison Lester’s original art work from her popular children’s book is gradually making its way around the country. It is on display at the Butter Factory Arts Centre in Cooroy on the Sunshine Coast until 12th May.
Louise attended the launch of the exhibition in Canberra. She has included details about the event on her blog and recorded an interview with some of the children and teachers who attended.
For more information about the ‘Are We There Yet?’ touring exhibition and competition, take a look at the ‘Are We There Yet?’ information page.
Want to know more?
- To learn more about Louise and her work, visit the ABC website.
- Find out about our other featured ambassadors for week 12:
- If you want to see the other National Year of Reading ambassadors, go to our ambassadors page.
- Other featured ambassadors can be found on the ambassador feature week listing.