Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Queensland Premier's Literary Awards

I blogged a few weeks back with the five books that were short-listed for the YA category of the 2010 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards:

  • Phillip Gwyne -- Swerve (Penguin)
  • Justine Larbalestier -- Liar (Allen & Unwin)
  • Scott Westerfeld -- Leviathan (Simon Pulse)
  • Melina Marchetta -- The Piper's Son (Penguin)
  • Richard Yaxley -- Drink the Air (self-published)
I mentioned that I've read the top four and my favourite was The Piper's Son by Melina Marchetta, although all four titles were strong contenders and worthy. 


Da dum...

The winner was announced today:

Drink the Air by Richard Yaxley (self published)

I know (!) I was pretty amazed to see a self-pubbed title up there and to see it beat such outstanding YA titles is pretty huge. CONGRATS!  - surely it may now be picked up by a publisher? I searched the net and cant find an image or synopsis of his book, but I did find the first chapter on his blog (which only has one post on it from 2009, haha.). 

And it's a verse novel.

I adore verse novels! 

My fave verse authors are Steven Herrick, Margaret Wild, Catherine Bateson and Sonya Sones. I havent yet read Patricia McCormick or Lisa Schroeder but I've heard they're brilliant.

Anyone else read verse novels? 

Also, congrats to Melina Marchetta, Scott Westerfeld & Justine Larbalestier (husband and wife) and Phillip Gwyne for making the short-list. As a consolation, Justine Larbalestier won the YA section of the Davitt Awards with her novel Liar - winners were announced today :)

Feeling a little out of the loop hanging out in Coffs while the Melbourne Writers Festival is on. Steph @ My Girl Friday took notes on Melina Marchetta's session that she attended today. Some great stuff in there about The Piper's Son and jellicoe Road and just Marchetta awesomeness in general.

From Steph:Melina has a middle-grade book out shortly. It's called The Gorgon in the Gully and it centres around Danny Griggs (the little brother of Jonah from On The Jellicoe Road) and Melina assured us there be an appearance from Jonah himself. She also commented that it was a bit difficult writing such an innocent character, having been used to very sarcastic voices in her work.

Also, Jaclyn Moriarty and Lili Wilkinson and over 400 international authors are there and I so wish I was too...


The Devil's Staircase - Helen Fitzgerald

Bronny, a young Australian, finds herself down and out in London. She's a sweet girl who has spent her teenage years in a fearful, cautious bubble.

She's never taken drugs, had sex or killed anyone.

Within six weeks she's done all three.

A group of backpackers (and Bronny) break into an abandoned London townhouse seeking a rent-free life of partying. They don't realise someone's already there: a terrified woman bound and gagged in the basement. (back cover blurb)

Anyone hooked on the blurb?

Chapter one opens with these two lines:

It was fifty-fifty. Mum had it and died in a pool of her own mad froth. <3

As the story opens, Bronny's in Melbourne, after her 18th birthday, being tested (and will find out if she has a death sentence disease) in hospital. By page ten, she's run away from her dad and sister, impulsively flown to London, met two guys, she's in a hostel, no money, no job... 

The pacing is insane - really, it's like being caught up in a tornado. It wowed me and sucked me in big time.

Don't you just love the feeling you get when you pick up a random book and it turns out to be truly awesome? I was only one chapter in when I started thinking, 'this is goooood.' and it just kept getting better.

Bronny is the most likeable of characters, although she starts out as naive and sheltered, she pretty much lets loose and her experiences are wild but also kinda cute.

Then, half way through, when Bronny's romance with a fellow squatter (squatee? haha) - of whom I very much approved - has just kicked up a notch... they make a gruesome discovery. One of Bronny's squatter friends just may be a serial killer...

And guys, it's set in London (who doesn't love books set in the UK?) 

Bronny on exploring London: "I suppose I'd formed an image of London in my eighteen years, mostly from An American Werewolf in London. I'd imagined scary underground tunnels, fog, grey skies, unhappy people and werewolves." (page 18) Isn't she the best of narrators?

I love the sentences, which were so readable and cracked me up - I often paused to re-read sentences a few times over. And I wrote a whole bunch of lines in my book of fave quotes.

I love how it's a wild but kinda sweet contemporary read, but then it turns thriller and it sounds crazy, but it works. 

What I love most is how I honestly had no idea what was going to happen next. 

The whole time there's mystery surrounding Bronny and what exactly happened to her mum, mystery surrounding her new backpacker buddies and then the mystery of the serial killer, which I didn't pick, but on the re-read I loved seeing all the clues and foreshadowing.

It's brilliantly original. I can't think of another YA to compare it too. It's been reviewed as black comedy. Confession: I didn't know I was into black comedy - if this is black comedy, bring it on! I thought it was clever and hilarious.

Some other professional reviews that sum the Devil's Staircase up better than me :) :

'Lovely, sparse, elegant writing, highly original plot and ever- building tension make this book irresistible.There's sex and drugs and rock-and-roll, a whiff of true evil and a scream-out loud finale. Wow!' AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S WEEKLY

'Brilliant, shocking and unputdownable' SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

"deftly written, fast-paced, scary and well-plotted - and would seem ideally suited to becoming a film script." SUN HERALD

As A Writer:
  • So, it's in first person past. Occasionally switches to third person past (still from Bronnies POV). And in different parts of the book, it's third person from the POV of the serial killer and the kidnapped victim, ah, kidnappee? Anyway, Helen basically wrote it however she wanted and I am awe.
  • Pacing was wild - no need to skip a paragraph anywhere (not that I'm big on skipping paragraphs, heheheh ;) Each sentence was succinct and conveyed a page worth of meaning.
The Devil's Staircase is marketed as YA in Australia, but other countries may shelve it as Adult fic. Bronny has just turned 18, and the Love Interest is older, 23. And hot. Just saying :) So, a crossover book.

Anyway, I really found it refreshingly awesome and I raced through it and have read it twice. I don't see much suspense/thriller in the YA genre, and this was even cooler as it has the whole coming-of-age, adventure in a foreign country thing going on. And Jack the Ripper gets mentioned. Yeah, I know... very cool.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I seriously loved this book (enough to go out and read all her other books after). But only if you're into this type of book (by now you've probably gathered it's a bit wild and has a veeeery creepy serial killer. Plus, if you're a fan of dark humour. 

The Devil's staircase was also short-listed for the 2010 Davitt Awards - which award the best crime writing by Australian women.

And... she's got a YA title coming out in November 2010 (as I mentioned, ah, last week?):

Everything's going swimmingly at school for Rachel, until she finds a newborn baby in the cupboard....(from authors site) 
With an utterly original, hilarious, and honest voice, Helen Fitzgerald delivers a sexy new boarding school tale with true heart-and a surprise ending you won't forget. (teaser review)

AND NEWSFLASH:  Speaking of The Davitt Awards... Justine Larbalestier won the 2010 best crime fiction for YA with her novel Liar - winners were announced today. The Davitt Awards celebrate Australian women who write crime :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My art and writing and dreams and stuff

Once upon a time, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up (or an actress or an author).

I'm actually a primary school teacher and busy with my family (three kids: Sam, Reuben and Carissa).

I spent some time tinkering around drawing illustrations for a children's book I wrote but just really struggled with what I envisaged in my head and my ability (or lack of) to produce the same thing on paper. I ended up having a break from the kidlit scene and moving onto writing YA.

Now,  I'm struggling with with the same thing in my WIP - knowing what I want my story to be and the gap between my vision and the actual words. I am such a harsh critic of my own work that I wonder if I actually hinder myself ever getting anywhere because I often focus on my shortcomings and not on my progress or strengths. Does anyone else ever feel like this?

Also, I keep reading some of the best writing out there and comparing myself to the most gifted of illustrators and just deflating at my own floundering progress. And feeling like the reality of me getting published is not really a reality at all.

Other times though - brilliant writing and artwork inspires me to stop being so lazy and stretch my creativity muscles and really throw all I can into accomplishing things.

What are you like? Does brilliance inspire you or sometimes get you down? or both, depending?

So last night I was feeling a bit flat about everything and I pulled out some of my own work and instead of looking for flaws I just felt kinda proud that I can start with a blank piece of paper and change it in to something. The same with my first MS - to take a story out of nothing an breathe life into those characters is something that only I did. And no matter how lame and cringe-y some parts are - I think it's worth celebrating  that I gave it a go.

I'm so up and down with how I feel about writing and I don't even know what this post is about. Maybe about dreams and getting older and still feeling so far away from things I felt I'd do as an adult when I was a kid. And about me learning not to be so hard on myself but also learning how to push myself.

I guess I just wonder if anyone else gets hung up on the same things.

And I just want to say, hey, me too.

And I love the thought of all you guys out there giving it a go and even though some of you are on the other side of the globe, your blogs and emails and own accomplishments inspire me to push through and hold onto that little kid seed inside of me that believes that one day I might be an author or illustrator when I grow up :)

And, here's a pic I drew for a book (ahh, that I've since abandoned...but am thinking maybe it's worth giving it another go?) and yay for the end of winter here! Spring in two days!

A cropped shot of my winter pic in progress

Cropped Sections

The left side

The right side


Sorry for my slightly ramble-y post. Love you guys :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Amelia O'Donohue is So Not a Virgin - Trailer

I have an insane crush on the literary genius that is Helen Fitzgerald. Her novel The Devil's Staircase kept me up all night and I've re-read it (twice!) and studied her writerly brilliance and just love everything about it (my review for The Devil's Staircase coming soon).

So very super-pumped for her first YA novel - I've pre-ordered it (release date Nov 1).  Here's a tagline from her site:

Everything's going swimmingly at school for Rachel, until she finds a newborn baby in the cupboard.
With an utterly original, hilarious, and honest voice, Helen Fitzgerald delivers a sexy new boarding school tale with true heart-and a surprise ending you won't forget. (teaser review)

And the brand new trailer! (and it's Helen's daughter Anna and Anna's best friend doing the whispering in the trailer :)

Amelia O'Donohue Is SO Not A Virgin from Blether Video on Vimeo.

Helen Fitzgerald has four books out already (I've read them all this year).

Has anyone else read her? Because how amazing, brilliant, astounding, wickedly funny and whoah-wild-crazy is she?

I predict she's going to make a serious impression on the YA scene this November.

And, as the trailer said - she is the Queen of climaxes, twists and surprise endings that you don't see coming.

Oh - and kinda wiped out after finishing Mockingjay. Insanely powerful and darker than the first two and I'm still processing it all. And, I never posted my preference between Peeta and Gale before. So, just letting y'all know - I was and am Gale.Just, you know, FYI (and it's not cryptic or alluding to anything, just putting it out there). For a SPOILERY discussion: those of you who have read Mockingjay should absolutely check out this post. Love it! So funny even if you don't agree, haha :)

Anyways, havent visited many blogs (will get to it!) - just jumped on here after Helen posted her trailer b/c I'm kinda pumped.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

50 Books You Can't Put Down

Get Reading! is Australia's largest annual celebration of books and reading. (Previously called Books Alive)
In 2010 Get Reading! runs from 25 August to 30 September, and encourages all Australians to GET LOSTGET FRESHGET HOOKEDGET REAL and GET COMFY with a book. (taken from site)
A Guide of 50 Books You Can't Put Down offers a range of books across all genres to suit all tastes with the one criteria: you will not be disappointed. Bring it on I say!
In their FAQS they explain who chooses the 50 books that get put in the guide:
An independent panel of highly regarded booksellers, publishers, authors, literary agents, library representatives and critics, all book lovers, select the 50 titles from a long list of around 250 books. 
The best thing about it is - most libraries participate (adding all 50 titles to their catalogue) and bigger department stores carry a lot of the titles (meaning 40% off RRP - yay I'm scoring my own sacred copy of Beatle Meets Destiny!)
While books are by international authors - Australian titles dominate the guide. The Govt invests $2 million each year in the campaign.
So - this years guide was finally launched today - and here's the YA titles that made it in (I've added links to goodreads if you're interested in the synopsis) - and highlighted my favourites. Oh - and added some adult picks from the guide :)


  • Japser Jones Craig Silvey
  • Loathing Lola William Kostakis (a fun read)
  • Marked Pc & Kristin cast
  • Halo Alexandra Adornetto (by teen Aussie author. Anyone read it? What;s the verdict? Angels scare me, haha).
  • Alone James Phelan
  • Beatle Meets Destiny - Gabrielle Williams. My review. My verdict: Read. This. Book. Asap. Brilliance.
  • Everything Beautiful - Simmone Howell. Scarily awesome. You wont forget Riley after meeting her. She's one rocking girl in one wild story :)

Adult Picks:
Truth - Peter Temple (winner of the Miles Franklin)
Under the Dome - Steven King

Here's the YA picks from some previous years:


  • The Host - Stephenie Meyer
  • Finnikin of the Rock - Melina Marchetta
  • Brisingr - Christopher Paolini
  • Eagle day - Robert Muchamore (I loved his Cherubs series - anyone else read them?)
  • Somebody's crying - Maureen McCarthy (I'm a fan of Maureen -but didnt make it past 50 pages. FAIL: I put it down! haha)

My Fave Adult Picks: 

  • The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O'Farrell (One of my fave reads of last year. have since read all her other books. Recommend!)
  • The Road - Cormac McCarthy


  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • Obernewtyn - Isobelle Carmody
  • The Keys to the Kingdom Book Six - Garth Nix
  • Twilight - Stephenie Meyer

Fave Adult Picks: 

  • The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton (haunting epic)
  • Addition by Toni Jordan (sexy and off-beat) and the cover of spooning toothbrushes? <3

Fave MG: Nim's Island - Wendy Orr
Also: Graeme base


  • Will - Maria Boyd (This book is awesome. male POV and very very funny and cool. <3 )
  • While I Live (The Ellie Chronicles) John Marsden
  • Rose By Any Other Name - Maureen MacCarthy
  • Wildwood Dancing - Juliet Marillier (Anyone read this? I've heard it's very good. I often pick it up @ my library and consider it :)

Adult Picks: 

  • The Thirteenth Tale - Dianne Setterfeld
  • Marley and Me - John Grogan

MG: Zac Power - Poison Island - H I Larry (my boys collect these books & love them to death)

I love National campaigns like this - and this week is Book Week so off to the library on the weekend with the kids to do some epic Lego challenges (based around books) Plus, I'll be bringing home the CBCA winning title and honour books - whoo hoo!

Oh - and finally have Mockingjay *insert SQUEE!*. My husband sniffed the pages when I brought it home (?) he's kinda pumped :) I'm 100 pages in and pausing to work on my WIP (and savour the experience) and I know you guys are all proud of my discipline right now, yeah?

And, I didnt think much of the cover when I saw it online but it the flesh it's really rocking - LOVE - it's actually really shiny and bold and daring and captivating. Hmm, I can tell some of you don't believe me :) (the old me didnt believe that either)


Monday, August 23, 2010

Winners & How Aussie Are You? & Links

Congrats to
 #27 Grace 
and #17 Jan von Harz 

who were selected from Random.org
Your choice of one book from this selection OR
 you can also choose from the Jaclyn Moriarty Ashbury/Brookfield series.
I hope there's a book somewhere in there that you're hanging out for :) 

And thanks so much everyone for entering! You guys rock :)

Two important links

One: CHECK THIS OUT - Over @ The Book Smugglers, Jaclyn Moriarty's The Ghosts of Ashbury High (Dreaming of Amelia) gets 10/10! One of the best books they have ever read! It's also the best review I've read of the book. Here's some quotes from the review - (which instantly made me nostalgic and feel like reading the book all over again):

  • All is flawlessly linked and you only realise that in the EXTRAORDINARY ending when every.Single.Plot.Line comes together and my head exploded (gothically speaking) with the sheer brilliance of this book.
  • I can’t think of a single thing that does not work in this book and I loved it with every bit of my being (brain and heart!) and I re-read it before writing this review and still it managed to evoke this feeling of greatness and warmth and it is awesome and I URGE you to go and read it. Your life may depend on it!!!!! You know, gothically speaking.

Two: Angie @ Addicted to Books has completed her ??? round of revisions on NIkki's Wish and is holding a contest to celebrate. Up for grabs: a 50 page LBL critique (and she's very good - if you have a WIP, you want this). Plus two winners choose a book from The Book Depository. Check it out

Now for this dooby I stumbled across @ Goodgollymissholly
How Australian Are You?

So, the one's in blue are a YES from me. I'm pretty sure some of them are kinda international but things that apparently characterise Australians. Like Lemon, Lime and Bitters? Surely that's not just an Australian thing? My score's @ the end. Any that you've done that are Australian? 

I also wrote a few comments, b/c, you know, I just couldn't help myself... :)

  • Heard a kookaburra in person
  • Slept under the stars
  • Seen a koala
  • Visited Melbourne
  • Watched a summer thunderstorm
  • Worn a pair of thongs
  • Been to Uluru (Ayer’s Rock)
  • Visited Cape York
  • Held a snake
  • Sang along with Khe San
  • Drank VB
  • Visited Sydney
  • Have seen a shark
  • Have used Aussie slang naturally in a conversation
  • Had a conversation with an indigenous Australian (Aboriginal) (really? who hasn't?)
  • Eaten hot chips from the bag at the beach
  • Walked/climbed over the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
  • Used an outside dunny (we had one for three years...)
  • Seen Chloe in Young & Jackson’s
  • Slept on an overnight train or bus
  • Been to Sydney’s Mardi Gras
  • Have gone bush-bashing (fave childhood pastime - grew up in the Blue Mountains)
  • Taken a sickie (surely this is a world-wide phenomenon?)
  • Been to see a game of Aussie Rules football
  • Have seen wild camels
  • Gone skinny dipping
  • Done a Tim Tam Slam
  • Ridden in a tram in Melbourne
  • Been at an ANZAC day Dawn Service
  • Watched a sunrise or sunset
  • Held a wombat
  • You have a favourite Wiggle (Anthony - Blue :)
  • Been on a roadtrip of 800km or more
  • Seen the Great Australian Bight in person
  • Had a really bad sunburn (it's a tradition for me - I'm the palest of white...)
  • Visited an Aboriginal community
  • Seen a redback spider (kept some as pets when i was a teen. they didnt thrive... :)
  • Have watched Paul Hogan
  • Seen Blue Poles in person (?)
  • Eaten Vegemite (not even interested. eww)
  • Thrown a boomerang
  • Seen the Kimberleys
  • Given a hitch-hiker a lift
  • Been to Perth
  • Have tried Lemon, Lime and Bitters (who hasn't?)
  • Tried playing a didgeridoo (yes and FAIL. It was hard)
  • Seen dinosaur footprints
  • Eaten Tim Tams
  • Been to Darwin
  • Touched a kangaroo 
  • Visted the Great Barrier Reef
  • Listened to Kevin Bloody Wilson
  • Killed a Cane Toad
  • Gone to a drive-in theatre (loads. Is this particularly Aussie?)
  • Have read and own books by Australian authors 
  • Visited Adelaide
  • Know the story behind “Eternity”
  • Been camping
  • Visited Brisbane
  • Been in an outback pub
  • Know what the term “Waltzing Matilda” actually means
  • Gone whale watching
  • Listened to Slim Dusty (unfortunately ;)
  • Own five or more Australian movies or TV series (I dont buy them, but I love Aussie films)
  • Sang along to Down Under
  • Have stopped specifically to look at an historic marker by the side of the road
  • Eaten a Four N Twenty pie
  • Surfed at Bondi (swam there, but can't surf...)
  • Watched the cricket on Boxing Day (not my idea of fun, but every summer cricket was pretty much on all day long at my place)
  • Visited Hobart
  • Eaten kangaroo (for the first time a few weeks ago @ a friend's BBQ)
  • Seen a quokka
  • Visited Canberra
  • Visited rainforests
  • Used a Victa lawnmower
  • Travelled on a tram in Adelaide
  • Used a Hills hoist
  • Visited Kata Tjuta
  • Used native Australian plants in cooking
  • Visited the snow
  • Chosen a side in Holden VS Ford (HOLDEN. choosing sides was big out in the country where I spent my teen years as was watching the Bathurst 1000)
  • Visited the desert (nah, but I've read Stolen which was sensory enough to make me feel like I was in the desert :)
  • Been water skiing (another FAIL. I'm unco)
  • Read The Phantom
  • Visited Parliament House
  • Gone spotlighting or pig-shooting (i didnt shoot anything though - along for the ride)
  • Crossed the Nullarbor
  • Avoided swimming in areas because of crocodiles
  • Listened to AC/DC
  • Called someone a dag
  • Voted in a Federal Election
  • Have been swimming and stayed between the flags
  • Had a possum in your roof
  • Visited the outback
  • Travelled over corrugated roads
  • Hit a kangaroo while driving
  • Been well outside any mobile phone coverage (not hard to do...)
  • Seen an emu
  • Have woken to the smell of bushfires
  • Subscribed to RRR
  • Patted a pure-bred dingo
  • Seen the Oils live

73/102 :) Not bad...

If you give it a go - let me know and I'll come and compare our Aussieness :)