Reaching Out - Messages of Hope

Fifteen-year-old Mariah Kennedy is passionate about fighting for social justice. As the UNICEF Australia Young Ambassador, Mariah created REACHING OUTas a fundraising project and all author royalties will be donated to UNICEF. Heartfelt and inspiring, this book contains stories, poems and illustrations that have been donated by some of the most world?s renowned and respected authors and illustrators, including Graeme Base, Jackie French, Michael Leunig, Bruce Whatley, Michael Morpurgo, Andy Griffiths, Anna Perera, Libby Gleeson, Melina Marchetta, Alison Lester, Morris Gleitzman and many more.

I'm one of the "many more"! My story "The Leaving" is in this wonderful anthology. Hurrah! Thanks, Mariah, for letting me be a part of such a wonderful project. You're an inspiration.

More info here.

Four years Pink

Here are two things that have changed since the publication of Pink in 2009: 1. I used to be a bit nervous about saying that, at the beginning of the book, Ava has a girlfriend. I got some disapproving looks from teachers, especially at religious schools. Students would giggle and whisper. One girl loudly informed me that it was "gross". Not anymore. Four years later, and nobody blinks. It's just part of the story. Nothing unusual. This is a really, really good thing.

2. Four years ago, when I held up Pink, boys would wince. And girls would say "I like that cover". Now, instead of mentioning the cover, boys and girls alike (but mostly girls) squeal IS THAT A QUOTE FROM JOHN GREEN ON THE COVER!???

And one thing that hasn't changed:

I get more fan mail about Pink than all my other books put together. I've received so many emails from people (young and old) who say that Ava's experiences spoke to them, and made them feel braver, or less alone, or prouder about being a nerd. And I'm so grateful for those emails, and so very glad that the book is reaching new readers, and that people are still enjoying it.

Buy Pink in Australia

Buy Pink in the US

Buy Pink in the UK

 

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Georgia Peach

I'm so delighted to learn that Pink has been nominated for the Georgia Peach Award!

The purpose of the Georgia Peach Award is to highlight and promote the best current young adult literature for Georgia high school age students, to encourage young adults to read and to promote the development of cooperative school and public library services for young adults. Teens vote for their favorite books out of the year's top 20 nominees at their high schools and local public libraries.

It sounds a bit like the Inky Awards here in Australia, so it must be awesome.

Pink

 

Blog! Stuff! Books!

Things are super busy here in my world. Working on my new book, which has transformed itself into also being part of my PhD. Also working on my thesis, which I'm enjoying so much more than I thought I would. I love literary criticism! Who knew? I'm also super busy at various schools, festivals and other events. I'm really enjoying being a host for The Wheeler Centre's Texts In The City program - I'm reading lots of things I've always meant to read, and rereading some old favourites. I do a lot of talking about my own books, so it's very refreshing to be able to talk about someone else's! And I get to do more of that on Monday night when I'm Q&Aing with the wonderful Patrick Ness at the Athenaeum.

And next Saturday I get to talk with Penni Russon at the Emerging Writers Festival, which will be excellent.

Other things that are going on include: I have an awesome new friend through the Big Brothers Big Sisters Young Achievers program, which I'm totally loving, except tomorrow we are playing laser tag and I'm a bit scared.

There's also lots of house and garden stuff going on around here, and to avoid boring you all with endless photos of plans and plants, I've started a garden blog. But there are some literary connections, because there is some sneaky gardening in my next book.

SPEAKING OF BOOKS. Remember how I wrote that book called The Zigzag Effect which came out two months ago? Well people seem to really like it, which is great. I'm enjoying performing magic tricks (okay, trick. I only know one) at schools and reading out scenes that contain buckets full of wee.

The Zigzag Effect launch!

The Zigzag Effect comes out in less than a month! And there'll be a celebratory event at Readings Carlton, where I'll be in conversation with Emily Gale! You should totally come along.

The Next Big Thing

Simmone Howell has tagged me to do this, and it's SUPER late because I got distracted by Christmas. But here we go!  

1) What is the working title of your next book? The Zigzag Effect. That's the final title. For a while it was Never Miss A Trick, then The Sucker Effect, then about a million other things, but now it is definitely, finally The Zigzag Effect.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book? A documentary about magician's assistants. There is a bunch of ladies whose job it is to dress up in a spangly little leotard, look beautiful, get tied up, cut in half and made to disappear. Creepy, amirite?

3) What genre does your book fall under? YA. More specifically, YA romcrime, which is a mystery with kissing. A kisstery.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Jennifer Lawrence as Sage, the main character. Andrew Garfield as Herb, the love interest. And Taylor Swift as Bianca, the magician's assistant. Ooh, and Alan Rickman as The Great Armand. Except then they'd all have to pretend to be Australian. I really should know more Australian actors.

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? Backstage kissing, vanishing magicians and ghost-photography - Sage Kealley's new job is more than she'd bargained for! 6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? Published Australia in April 2013 by Allen & Unwin. Represented in the US by KT Literary.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? The first draft probably took five months. The whole thing in around eighteen months.

8)What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? It has a similar feel to my previous books Pocketful of Eyes and Love-Shy.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book? Partly wanting to explore some of the bizarreness that comes with being a magician's assistant. Partly wanting to learn more about stage magic.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader's interest? There is a bunny called Warren. There is a kissing scene which takes place in the dark, near a bucket full of wee. There may or may not be a ghost.

2013!

Well. I was pretty rubbish at blogging in 2012. But in my defense, I did:

  • get engaged
  • release a new book
  • buy a house
  • move house
  • get married
  • go on a honeymoon
  • go through PhD confirmation
  • write a novel (more on that tomorrow)
  • do over a hundred talks/workshops in schools
  • attended four literary festivals
  • and like a million other things that I can't remember.

It's been a pretty damn awesome year. I'm hoping 2013 will be just as wonderful as 2012 was. I have lots of super exciting projects coming up. Plus in three weeks we are getting a PUPPY. YAY!

The Zigzag Effect cover reveal!

Introducing my next book - The Zigzag Effect! It's about Sage Kealley, who gets a job working for a stage magician. Naturally, not everything is as it seems...

I LOVE this cover. Look at the bunny! (his name is Warren, and he is VERY important to the story)

 

Upcoming stuff and items

I'm currently the writer in residence at ibrary, Brisbane City Council Libraries' website. On Thursday 18th October, I'll be chatting with Isobelle Carmody about her awesome career and books at Fitzroy Library More info here.

And in answer to the many teenagers who have asked if I have a tumblr - yes. Yes I do.

My next book finally has a title! More on this soon.

And yes, thank you for asking. Our honeymoon was amazing.

Australian Women Writers

2012 is the National Year of Reading, which seems like a pretty good reason (not that we need one) to celebrate Australian writers. The Australian Women Writers Challenge was created by Elizabeth Lhuede in response to the gender bias debates of 2011, to participate in the National Year of Reading and to raise awareness for the totally awesome Stella Prize. The goal of the challenge is to read and review books written by Australian women writers throughout 2012, and I've been meaning to participate all year. My list of book by Grouse Aussie Ladies is growing steadily, so I thought I'd do a bit of a summary, now we're halfway through the year. So here's what I've been reading:

Queen of the Night by Leanne Hall I was a very big fan of Leanne's This is Shyness, so I had high hopes for this sequel. And they weren't disappointed. Sinking back into the dark, elusive suburb of Shyness was a little like sinking back into a dream. Except this time, six months later, Shyness is different. Or maybe it isn't, maybe it's Wolfboy and Wildgirl that are different. Shyness pulls you in and wraps you up in a darkness that is both dangerous and utterly compelling.

Team Human by Justine Larbalestier and Sarah Rees Brennan Okay, so this one's only half Australian, as SRB is Irish. Team Human tells the now-familiar girl-meets-vampire-falls-in-love story, except this time it's from the POV of the girl's best friend. Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, but she doesn't associate with them. Vampires are weird. Then her best friend Cathy falls in love with one of them, and everything is all soulful declarations and longing gazes. Mel is disgusted, and vows to rescue Cathy from an eternity of pretentious speeches and bad poetry. Funny and refreshing, Team Human manages to poke fun at the bit-lit establishment at the same time as delivering a solid, genuine story with a powerful emotional punch.

Sea Hearts by Margo Lanagan We all know how much I love Margo Lanagan. This latest novel is not quite as harrowing as Tender Morsels, but no less beautiful. It's about the inhabitants of Rollrock Island, a remote fishing community that becomes strange, when the young witch Misskaella learns how to draw a human from the body of a seal. For a price, she will lure a beautiful woman from the ocean. The men of Rollrock are bewitched, and abandon their true wives for these strange, lithe creatures. Generations pass on Rollrock, and the links between land and sea tangle together like seaweed on the beach.

The Truth About Love by Stephanie Laurens I met Stephanie at the Wheeler Centre a couple of years ago, and have terribly only just got round to reading one of her books. A name unknown to most readers outside of the romance genre, Stephanie holds the grand title of being Australia's highest-selling author. The Truth About Love is part of her Cynster series, set in the Regency era. When eligible bachelor Gerrard Debbington lands the opportunity to paint the fantastic but seldom-seen gardens at Hellebore Hall, he jumps at the opportunity. He just doesn't expect to fall in love while he's there. I'm a big fan of the lightness and humour of other Regency writers like Julia Quinn and Lisa Kleypas, so I found this one a little too gothic for my tastes, but it was nonetheless an enjoyable read.

Only Ever Always by Penni Russon

Claire's world is broken when her uncle Charlie is in a car accident. Clara's world has always been broken - a filthy, corrupt world of gutter kings and wild dogs. These two girls are linked, by music boxes, keys and dreams. Their two worlds start to collide and intermingle, and nothing will ever be the same. Grief, melancholy, survival and identity elevate Only Ever Always to something strange and extraordinary. Like Margo Lanagan and Ursula Dubosarsky, Penni Russon's writing requires a level of focus and commitment from the reader, a commitment that brings ample reward.

Pan's Whisper by Sue Lawson

Shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award. This is the story of Pan, a damaged, broken teen running away from her memories. Pan is taken away from her mother and sister by a social worker, and dumped into a foster home smack bang in the middle of wholesome, middle-class Legoland. As Pan struggles to settle in to her new life, she's haunted by frightening little glimpses of the past. Packed with angst, tragedy and "issues", Pan's Whisper is told with a lightness of touch that rescues it from being a gratuitous "problem novel".

Blood Brothers by Carole Wilkinson

Obviously I'm a little biased on this one, what with it being written by my mum and all. But I love the Dragonkeeper series, and am totally excited that it's back. Set 400 years after the conclusion of Dragon Moon, Ping is long gone, but Kai is just an adolescent dragon. His wings still haven't grown yet, and he's full of bouncy energy, stubbornness and occasional sulky tantrums. Tao is a young Buddhist monk, living an ascetic life high up in the mountains. When their paths cross, both Kai and Tao must confront some uncomfortable truths about their families, their pasts, and their future paths.

What books by Australian women have you been reading?

All the things

We moved into our house! It's very exciting and as soon as it is a bit tidier, I'll post some photos. But I've also been busy doing lots of other things. I had another academic article published, on John Green's Paper Towns, Nerdfighters and heterotopia (you can read it here).

I presented a paper on Meg Cabot at the ACLAR conference in Canberra, organised by the very clever Anthony Eaton.

I'm championing a book for the Kill Your Darlings YA Championship (but you'll have to wait to find out which one).

I remotely gave a speech at ALA to accept my Stonewall Honor Prize (you can read the speech here).

I finished the first draft of the Next Book (of which more soon), and am about to start the first round of edits.

And now it's nearly August, where I shall be very busy visiting many schools, and doing events at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Speaking of which, the program has just been released, and it's awesome. The full program can be found here, and my sessions are here.

On getting confused

I'm currently

  • editing my new book (about a magician's assistant)
  • drafting my PhD novel (about an apocalyptic road trip)
  • writing my PhD thesis
  • occasionally scribbling down some words on a Sekrit Writing Project.

People often ask me if I get confused, working on multiple projects at once. Do I mix up the characters? I don't think so. It's like how, at the moment, Michael and I are watching:

  • Mad Men
  • Game of Thrones
  • Dexter
  • Being Human
  • Up All Night

And I don't ever stop and say "hey, wait - I thought Stannis Baratheon worked at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, Will Arnett was the serial killer and Jimmy Smits was the vampire living in a sharehouse on Barry Island!". I keep all those stories separate, even though we often dip into more than one of them in a night. I'm also reading two novels at the moment, and listening to a third in audiobook format. I think we can all keep stories separate in our heads. Our heads are good at that kind of thing.

Plus I'd get bored if I was only working on one thing at a time. What would I do then when I got stuck?

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Don't forget to vote for me!

 

 

Fun Fearless Female!

I've been nominated for Cosmopolitan's Fun Fearless Female 2012 Awards, in the Author category! This is very exciting!

And I would very much appreciate your vote. You can win a pretty ring!

I'll be posting over the next few weeks about the ways in which I am Fun, Fearless and Female.

Frugal

Because we just bought a house, Mj and I have to save a chunk of extra money over the next couple of months, so we are being super frugal. We're already pretty frugal (we don't smoke or drink coffee or soft drink, which according to my calculations has saved us around $100,000 over the past ten years), but we're stepping it up. Here are my top ten frugal tips.

  1. Coins. I collected all the loose change in the house and took it to the bank. We had over $500!
  2. Take your lunch. We are lunching on instant ramen and toasted sandwiches instead of store-bought sushi.
  3. Shop at the market, an hour before closing. Everything is extra cheap. We bought 5kg of potatoes for $1.50!
  4. Cook in bulk. Soups, bolognese and chili are our staples. One big lot can last for six or seven meals.
  5. Spring onions - this is basically magic. In the past, I've always ended up throwing half the bunch away when they go dry and bendy. Instead, snip off the end of each onion as you use it, about an inch above the root, and put it into a jar of water. The onions will keep growing, and you can snip off the top when you need. Ours are still going strong after six weeks. Also keep herbs from wilting by keeping them in a glass of water. And bendy veggies like broccoli can be revived by cutting off the end and sticking it in water for an hour or so.
  6. Cleaning products like Spray & Wipe are way too strong anyway. I always split one bottle between two and top up with water.
  7. Don't go to the pub, or the movies.
  8. Cut down on booze. We are enjoying a few weekend gin and tonics, as we have duty-free gin in the cupboard from our trip last year. My home-made tonic syrup and our SodaStream makes this a very low-cost beverage!
  9. Cancel gym membership. We never went anyway, and walking is free.
  10. Pay off credit cards immediately. We do this anyway, but it's good to remember. Interest fees are a bitch.

oh, and as a bonus

11. Have wonderful friends and family that supply you with food and drink. Thank you, guys. We'll pay you back with many lovely meals at our lovely house in the future!

What are your best frugal tips?

In which all the things are happening

Sorry about the lack of blogging, world. I've been a little busy. (do every one of my blogs start with that?)

Here's an update for the last month or so:

1. A Pocketful of Eyes made the CBCA Notable list! Hurrah!

2. And the WAYRBA Older Readers list! Double Hurrah!

3. Love-Shy is getting lots of love out there in the world, which is wonderful.

4. I had an awesome week as the writer-in-residence St Margaret Mary's Catholic College in Townsville.

5. I am NEARLY FINISHED the first draft of the Next Book, of which more soon.

6. Wedding planning is full-steam ahead. My Pinterest overfloweth.

7. WE BOUGHT A HOUSE! This is absolutely terrifying and also utterly wonderful. Now we can have our Saturdays back instead of traipsing from house open to house open. But we will be very poor for a few months while we settle into our mortgage. I'm enjoying finding new ways to be frugal - yesterday I gathered up all the loose change lying around our house and took it to the bank. There was $525 worth of coins! Our new house is a beautiful little 1925 weatherboard in Thornbury, and we'll be moving in July. Lots to do before then. I'm still not really sure what a conveyancer does, but we have one.

8. Here's Pink with its Stonewall Honor sticker! Look at how it matches!

 

On weddings

When I was little, I used to wear this bride's dress my Grandma gave me. A lot. But not because I wanted to be a bride. I just liked it because it was frilly and pretty. I played endless imaginary games in it - but I was always a Princess. Never a bride.

As a teenager and a young adult, I never fantasised about my wedding. The big frouffy strapless white dress just wasn't really me. But in my late twenties, two things happened:

1. I became aware (via the many craft blogs I subscribe to, and also the weddings of awesome friends) of a Different Kind of Wedding. One with colourful bunting and wildflowers and adorable crafted details. A wedding that looked like a really awesome party, with really awesome craft.

2. I met Michael.

And I started to think... well, maybe. Because if there are three things I love, they're Michael, Craft and Organising Things. Oh, and sharing an awesome day with all the people I love.

I used to be a professional event coordinator. It was my job, and I was pretty good at it. Organising an Event is my idea of fun. So it will come to no surprise to those of you who know me that I'm TOTALLY loving working with Mj to plan our wedding, and that a lot of the organisation has already been done. We're keeping some of our favourite wedding traditions (my dad will walk me down the aisle. Mj and I will exchange rings and vows.), and ditching lots of other ones (no bridesmaids or groomsmen. No fancy cars. No assigned seating). There is no wedding coordinator. There is no standard reception centre venue. There will be no tulle-covered chairs.

We are doing as much of it ourselves as we can - all the planning, the craft, the invitations, the favours. Our amazing friends are helping us with cake, photography, makeup and music. My Hen's will be a Crafternoon, and anyone with a novelty penis-shaped drinking straw will be immediately ejected.

My parents didn't have a big wedding - just a simple registry office ceremony. They'd organised Dad's best friend to take some photos on his fancy expensive Pentax, but they all ended up totally out of focus. This photo was snapped on a cheap Kodak by Mum's schoolfriend Lorraine. It's a gorgeous photo - they're so young (20!) and beautiful and happy. Also, how rad is Mum's tweed culotte suit?

Love-Shy giveaway winner

So the Random Number Generator has spoken, and the winner of the Love-Shy giveaway is... Bonnee! Who wrote: I cannot tell you how much I just laughed. That was epic. :D

Thanks for all your comments, everyone, and hopefully the rest of you will fin Love-Shy at a bookshop or library near you.

Labyrinth

I turned 31 on the weekend, and to celebrate I went to the Astor with some friends to see my Favourite Movie of All Time - Labyrinth. I first saw it at the cinema when I was five, and have seen it approximately a bazillion times since then, but not on the big screen. It was an awesome night - lots of people came in costume - and I realised how much the film influenced me as a kid - and continues to influence me as an adult.

When I was about eleven, I got my grandma to make me a waistcoat that looked like Sarah's, so I could dress like her. I just thought she was the most awesome person in the world.

It's also the nexus of everything that is awesome. Obviously it has links to the Muppets, and also to Star Wars and Little Shop of Horrors via Frank Oz. It's choreographed by Cheryl McFadden, aka Gates McFadden aka Beverly Crusher from Star Trek TNG. One of the Fierys is Danny John Jules who is the Cat in Red Dwarf. The screenplay is by Monty Python's Terry Jones. Ron Mueck, one of my very favourite visual artists, performs and voices Ludo. The design is all by the wonderful Brian Froud (and his son plays baby Toby). Sir Didymus is voiced by David Shaughnessy, who is the heir presumptive to a Barony that is currently held by his brother Charles Shaughnessy, who we all know as Maxwell Sheffield on The Nanny (and whatsisname on Mad Men). It has MC Escher and Maurice Sendak and logic puzzles and a zillion other things that are awesome.

Oh, and David Bowie*.

I love the story - the way it talks about the dangers of hiding in childhood, but that it's alright to bring childhood with you into maturity. It's okay to be an adult with an imagination and a teddy bear - indeed it's better.

Also, I was pretty sure that Michael was going to be The One when I learnt that his nickname is Ludo - because he's a gentle rock monster.

Here is Ludo and Jim Henson meeting Charles and Diana.

________

*Apparently they were originally considering Michael Jackson and Sting as well as Bowie. Can you imagine how creepy it would have been with Michael Jackson? Also, Helena Bonham Carter, Jane Krakowski, Sarah Jessica Parker, Marisa Tomei, Laura Dern and Ally Sheedy all auditioned for the part of Sarah, before it was given to 14 year old Jennifer Connelly.

 

Love-Shy excerpt #3

This is the last excerpt from Love-Shy. As I mentioned last week, the protagonist Penny discovers that there is a boy at her school who is suffering from love-shyness. But she doesn't know which boy! So she sets out to interview them all.  

LOGAN ESPOSITO

Eye contact: Yes, but in a creepy, starey way.

Overt signs of shyness: Extreme agitation.

ME: So, Logan. Do you have a girlfriend?

LOGAN: (STARES AT INTERVIEWER.)

ME: Logan? Are you okay?

LOGAN: (SHAKES HEAD.)

ME: Do girls make you uncomfortable, Logan? Do you find talking to me difficult?

LOGAN: (SHAKES HEAD.)

ME: In your own time, Logan. Just breathe.

LOGAN: She... She...

ME: She? Who? Are you wearing eyeliner?

LOGAN: (DARK LOOK.) She was my everything. She said she loved me. She made everything different. She held my hand and took me to places I’d only dreamed about. The scent of her skin, her hair, aroused me like—

ME: Is this going somewhere?

LOGAN: She said we’d be together forever. She said I was her One and Only. She said she’d never leave me. She whispered it into my ear when we lay naked together under the stars. And then...

ME: And then?

LOGAN: And then I found her making out with Jamal Zayd around the side of the canteen.

ME: I’m very sorry for your loss.

LOGAN: Everything is turned to ashes.

ME: You seem to be enjoying that Kit-Kat.

LOGAN: My soul’s fire is extinguished. I will never love again.

ME: I’m sure you’ll perk up in a day or two.

LOGAN: Do you think... Would you...

ME: What is it?

LOGAN: Would you mind if I smelled your hair?

ME: Yes. I would mind.

(INTERVIEW TERMINATED.)

Verdict: Not love-shy.

 

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