I can't do a scrap more work until I get this out of my system. I am mad for this film. MAD. Love, love, love. This is Jim Jarmusch at his 'Dead Man' best. I'll have to reshuffle my All Time Top Five. That's how good this film is...
Yesterday I received advance copies of the fourth book in my Truly Tan series. Advance copies pop up without warning, dear reader. Like so much of the publishing process it's all a bit unpredictable and, well, random. After a few years as a published author and with a bit of experience behind you, you have a vague idea of when these first eagerly awaited copies might arrive but you never know exactly when it will be. The same goes for pub dates — not the date you're going to the pub with your editor, 'pub date' is of course industry speak for 'publication date'. Unless you're something of a superstar and there's actually an embargo on your masterpiece, books come out 'around' the time of the pub date. Actually, they have been known to simply appear haphazardly. VOILA! I suppose this is because there are lots of trucks and truck drivers and warehouse people hefting your books to and fro, beep, beep, beep, and they can't possibly all turn up at the same bookshop on exactly the same day. Also, bookshop people have loads of work to do and sometimes your books might have arrived but not yet been unpacked. On occasion I've been informed by friends (usually on social media) that my book is out because they've just spotted it in the window of such and such a shop. Once, many years ago, I went to an industry drinks night only to find that my new book was on display and I hadn't even GLIMPSED it yet. Not even an advance copy. (It was an advance copy that was on display). It was an exercise in Extreme Willpower for me not to shove everyone and their fancy canapes out of the way as I made a flying leap for my darling new book... Even when it finally found its way around the room to me, I wanted to snatch it up and bolt out of there. I longed to take it to some secluded corner where I could pore over it in private. But I didn't. I just sipped my champers and smiled graciously. 'Oh that old thing' was the look I was chasing that night...
Until tomorrow, dear reader, I remain Yours in Constant Surprise. xx
Advice to Aspiring Authors, 101: Read, read, read! Over and over that's what I hear published authors hollering. In addition they say read voraciously, read widely, especially in your chosen field. Well, um, quite frankly this advice always makes me feel...uncomfortable. It just doesn't wash with me nor does it reflect my experience. If you are an aspiring writer I would say, please, please, please, don't read too much. Don't read everything you can get your hands on. And don't read too widely or obsessively in your favoured genre, the genre you want to write in. Here's why: Reading takes time. Have you got that much time? Writing is infinitely harder, infinitely more time-consuming so that's where you should be — at your desk writing, not lying on the couch reading another book. Reading too much clutters your mind. You end up with a head full of other people's characters and plots and stylistic foibles and your own voice (which early on is tentative and shy) gets buried. Reading too much will intimidate you. Your inner artist doesn't need to be intimidated, she needs to be supported. She also needs to practise her art, she needs to forget about what others are doing or achieving and GET CRACKING. Reading too much will confuse you. What should I do, how should I do it? maybe I should do it this way, that way, start here, start there, try to be more like so-and-so... Yadda yadda, yadda. Give your brain some air. Give your imagination some SPACE. You risk getting really DERIVATIVE if you read too much. This need not be intentional, in fact it can be quite unconscious. I'm not just referring to voice here either. Just about everyone has had the experience of mimicking the voice of the novel they're currently reading. When I read Harry Potter I kept calling everyone in my WIP 'dear boy'. I'm surprised my characters didn't all end up with their mothers' eyes. No, it's not just voice, it's plot devices and narrative structures that you risk regurgitating too. You could end up stifling unique creative impulses if you read too much. By losing yourself in the work of others and, let's face it, comparing yourself to them, you could easily end up second-guessing yourself, undermining your own talent, disregarding or dismissing what could be fresh, original, uniquely YOU.
Don't get me wrong — I'm not saying don't read. I'm simply saying that if you are an aspiring author put some boundaries around your reading and most of all BE SELECTIVE. Read quality. Read beyond your genre too, outside your field. And in terms of the genre you want to work in, only read, say, the top five. The best. Forget the rest. Reading everything that comes out, keeping up with latest trends, studying the market. Urgh. That's just time-wasting. That's just procrastination. Honestly, you don't have to kiss ALL the frogs.
Of course, I have been inspired by Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl etc. But most of the books that have influenced me are not directly linked to or anything like what I actually write. I might be a children's author but I haven't read a lot of children's books. Not really. I have however read the classics (repeatedly) and torn apart metaphysical poetry and tried to figure out how it works and I have studied a large chunk of the Western canon... and pondered over just about everything PIXAR has created. I love, love, love words and I love analysing the art of story-telling. But these days I don't read all that much. I'm too busy writing. Are you at that point, do you think? Are you ready to drop your training wheels and pedal along on your own for a while? I bet you are. Give it a try. Trust yourself. Trust that you know enough, that just for now you have read enough, gleaned, absorbed, integrated the basics. Just for a while, write, write, write, rather than read. Sharpen your focus. See how you go... xx
What have you done this week that has brought you closer to your dreams, dear reader? Did you take a fairy step towards your goals or did you march forward confidently? Perhaps you donned your fashionable Swedish clogs and tottered along with a defiant smile. Perhaps you dilly-dallied or, god forbid, back-peddled. No matter. There is still tomorrow. Isn't that fab?
Clogs,dear reader, clogs. I do so love them...
Personally, I have been struggling with a great deal of anger. I've been FUMING and RANTING and BLUSTERING about all sorts of things personal and political. But I have had a breakthrough. I've decided to welcome and embrace the anger. Moreover, I've decided to GET CLEAR about a few things. Namely, my boundaries. And I've decided not be afraid of my anger or apologise for it (this is huge for me). I've allowed it to heave me up out of my muddy little flowerpot, push me into the sunshine and, hopefully, into a new, bright productive phase. Honestly, anger can be so empowering, so exciting. Have you noticed lots of changes around you this month, dear reader, lots of shuffling and wriggling and bumping up against the norm or is it just me? I'd love to hear what you think... Until tomorrow, let's move forward with a spring in our step and say, 'That sir, is bullshit' whenever we damn well please. Onwards! xx
Things went a bit Vicar of Dibley this weekend, dear reader, when I was invited to speak at the annual SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) regional meeting.
It was held in Flinders, the sweetest little seaside town, in a church hall. We had real china and chocolate cakes and vanilla cream sponge with passionfruit icing and the weather was...heaven sent. It was such a fun gathering with a terrific sense of cameraderie among all who attended.
Other guest speakers included author Wendy Orr, and illustrator Serena Geddes. Wendy had us fascinated as she spoke about the challenges of settling back into writing her third Nim's Island book. As most of you would know, Wendy's fabulous character Nim and her idyllic island life, have been lassoed (for want of a better word) by the film world. How does a writer get reacquainted with her protagonist when she is now a film star? Nim has been played beautifully by Abigail Breslin and Bindi Irwin but she is of course, first and foremost, Wendy's creation. Likewise, the books have been sold worldwide and Nim has been interpreted by numerous illustrators. It was so reassuring to hear Wendy speak candidly about her struggles and a comfort to know that like many of us she works 'slowly and organically'. And we were cheered to hear that in the end Wendy is staying true to her original vision as she writes the next instalment in Nim's awesome adventures.
Next up was Serena Geddes. Serena had us laughing and sighing as she spoke of her adventures so far in the world of kid's book illustration. Serena spoke with enormous charm as she recounted her days as an illustrator with Walt Disney productions and her struggles to convince certain family members of the legitimacy of Art as a Career; there were lots of knowing nods, I can tell you. Serena's latest project has been the hugely successful Lulu Bell books written by Belinda Murrell.These books are a total delight and Serena and Belinda are clearly a powerhouse of creativity.
I was last to speak, dear reader, and I spoke about Creating Quirky Characters. This was a version of a talk I gave earlier this year at the Asian Festival of Children's Content in Singapore. Huge thanks to SCBWI Victoria for hosting this event. In particular, I would like to thank to Caz Goodwin who is an incredibly supportive and inspiring friend and the lovely Chris Bell who also helped pull it all together.
Here are some Flinders pics, dear reader, as Himself and I made a weekend of it. So sorry I didn't catch any cakes though, they were all demolished before I could whip out my camera... Until tomorrow, stay creative, stay beachy and bless you for dropping by. xx
Baxter Street is getting all hip and groovy, dear reader, and good heavens look! We are hosting a Blog Blast. Please welcome Tania McCartney and Tina Snerling as they chat about their deliriously pretty picture book, Tottie and Dot. For the full Blog Blast schedule go to the poster at the bottom of this post.
Welcome, Tottie and Dot, and congratulations on your very first book — you must be so excited!
Tottie: It’s just beyond. Beyond. You can’t even imagine what it’s like to have your own amazing book about your own amazing life. Dot: It’s beyond amazing! And really overwhelming—we’re getting recognised in the street, you know. It’s kind of freaky. And amazing.
And I hear some more congratulations are in order, too … your first Ted talk! It must have been humbling to be asked into the Ted family. What were you asked to speak about?
Dot: Competition. Competitiveness. That good old Keeping Up With the Joneses syndrome. They say it’s a central theme to our book, but frankly, I don’t know what the fuss was all about. There I was, minding my own business, painting my house pistachio … Tottie: Yeah, directly after I painted mine mauve … Dot: See? Here we go again. Now this is something we’re never going to agree on. But that’s okay. We can agree to disagree. Tottie: That’s right. And this is what our Ted talk ended up focusing on—how being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ … Dot: Or ‘first’ or ‘second’ … Tottie: … is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. Dot: That’s right. It’s all about friendship in the end.
Speaking of friendship, your creators, Tania and Tina, are good friends. What was it like working with them? Do you think friends working closely together have any ‘issues’?
Dot: Well, we’re not ones to gossip, but I hear there was a little ‘thing’ over Tottie’s dress colour. Tottie: Yes, that’s true. Tina made mine bright blue but Tania wanted aqua.
So, was there a blow up?
Tottie: No. Actually, I don’t believe so. Dot: I think Tina liked the aqua, too. In fact, they seemed to very much like whatever the other liked.
That’s got to be a great working relationship.
Dot: I think a lot of it is about respect—respecting your partner and their ideas and concepts and talents. I know when Tottie and I end up resolving our moment of chaos at the end of the book, it was so much easier to reach a compromise because we genuinely like each other and respect each other’s taste levels. Tottie: Simply ADORED your flamingos, Dot. Dot: Oh, and your butterfly strings—too gorj!
I know Tania wrote the words to your book, and Tina did the illos, but how much say did you get in the production of the story?
Tottie: Darling! We don’t do the hard yards—we just sit back and enjoy the stardom! Dot: The book is based on a real event so T + T just told it like it is. They were there, they saw the whole thing. The only issue with production was getting the story factually correct … Tottie: [cough cough] Dot: … but we worked it out in the end. Because friendship means more than being right. Tottie: Right.
Did you all get together to work on the book?
Dot: It was all done by email and Google doc. We’re all in different states so getting together in person was tough. Tottie: Google docs is sort of like being in the one place, though. We all interacted on a spreadsheet, making illustration notes and comments, and carrying on conversations we could all access at the same time. Dot: It was really cool, actually.
And what about images? Were they storyboarded or done in draft?
Tottie: Tina created the entire book digitally, so there were no drafts. Dot: She just emailed near finals to Tania, to Tottie and me, and to publisher Anouska.
Were there ever any issues with images?
Dot: Hardly ever. Tania and Tina have worked together before so they have this really cool thing going on—what’s it called again? Tottie: Symbo … Dot: Symbiosis, that’s it! It’s where two people sort of just ‘get’ each other. Tottie: Harmonise. A bit like you and me. Dot: They just ‘get it’ and hardly ever need to clarify or change up anything. Tottie: This suited us just fine because posing and re-posing for Tina could get awfully trying.
How did you pose for Tina if you were in different states?
What’s next for Tottie and Dot?
Dot: Well, we have our book launch in Canberra today … Tottie: So exciting! Dot: Then we’re flying home to start work on a brand new housing development. It’s going to be called the BFF Style and Recreation Village.
Will there be a book in that?
Tottie and Dot: You’ll have to wait and see!
Tottie and Dot live side by side. They drink marshmallow tea in the morning. Side-by-side. They water blooms in the afternoon garden. Side-by-side. They make speckled eggs for tea. Side-by-side. All is calm and peaceful until, one day, things change between Tottie and Dot. Who can create the prettiest house? And at what cost? A fresh, fun and strikingly-illustrated book that will delight both adults and children. After their bestselling An Aussie Year, this is the second title from this dynamic new picture book duo.
Hello dear reader, For those of you who are not on Facebook (!), I wanted to share this exciting news. On Saturday night in the Velvet Room at Thornbury Theatre (that fabulous, crumbling old tart of a joint on High Street) Sisters in Crime Australia held their 14th Davitt Awards. It was such a fun night made all the more thrilling for me as Truly Tan; Spooked! won Best Children's Novel (the very first time a children's book has won a Davitt Award). The following is my acceptance speech (delivered very shakily and with a big lump in my throat, I might add). This has been a career highlight for me and for the time being my award sits on the mantlepiece in our bedroom where I can keep an eye on it...
This is such an honour and I’m incredibly grateful. But this is not only
a thrill for me personally it’s also a win for my peers in the children’s book
industry. Writing for children is commonly regarded as a lesser art and routinely
marginalised. And yet our love of reading often begins when we are young and
people become the most passionate, the most animated, when asked to recall
their favourite books from childhood. To be included in prestigious awards such
as the Davitts helps to raise the profile of children’s literature and to
validate the contribution, commitment and talent of Australian children’s authors.
Thank you to the Sisters in Crime for this recognition, and to the judges for
their hard work and dedication. Huge thanks to Team Tan at HarperCollins
Australia who put so much energy and passion into these books — Lisa Berryman
is every author’s dream publisher. Thank you to Claire Robertson whose sassy
illustrations invigorate the stories and make Tan Callahan such an iconic
figure. Thanks also to my lovely agent Clare Forster from Curtis Brown, chief
juggler and diplomat. Thank you to my incredible partner David who keeps
everything at home (including me) afloat. And most of all thank you to Enid
Blyton who ignited my imagination all those years ago and made me believe that
maybe one day I too could write exciting stories; that I too could invent a world
as seductive, as deliciously thrilling, as the world of the Famous Five. Thank you!
And from Tan: ‘Sisters in Crime is the best name for a club and I am truly
excited to be an Official Member. I have said many times that I have the mind
of Great Detective and now I have a trophy to prove it...’
With the lovely Karen Foxlee who's book, The Midnight Dress, won the YA category. I wish I had more pics to share, dear reader, but everything seemed to happen so quickly.
The complete results are (thank you, Angela Savage, I purloined this from your blog!):
Best Adult Novel: Honey Brown, Dark Horse (Penguin Books Australia)
Best Young Adult Novel: Karen Foxlee, The Midnight Dress (UQP)Highly commended in this category were: Ellie Marney, Every Breath (Allen & Unwin) Felicity Pulman, A Ring Through Time (Harper Collins)
Best Children’s Novel: Jen Storer, Truly Tan: Spooked! (Harper Collins)
Best True Crime Book: Anna Krien, Night Games: Sex, Power and Sport (Black Inc)
Best Debut Book (Any category): Hannah Kent, Burial Rites (Picador Books)