December 16, 2011

Star picks: the late, late edition

I'm not even going to try to make excuses for why I haven't posted in a month, but here's what's been keeping me amused lately:
  • The Ramones, only much smaller (via Hello Giggles) - I'm not sure these kindy kids from South Korea's parents would approve of their teacher leading them in a rousing version of 'Judy is a Punk', but in addition to their English vocab they're learning some valuable pogo-ing techniques...
  • Lisa Hanawalt's guide to what dogs really want (The Hairpin)
  • Geeky family portraits (Mental Floss) - makes me a) grateful that my parents had no obsessions that could be expressed in pictorial form, b) slightly wistful, because on the whole these families look like they're having an ace time together, and c) wonder what life was like in the Ghostbusters' house...
  • Keith Hopkin's beautiful video portrait of dogs in cars (The snoots sniffing the breeze! The ears flapping! The doggy smiles!!)
  • Forgotten Bookmarks

And now I'm off to follow Neil Gaiman's advice.

November 13, 2011

Farewell big orange cat

*** Warning: cat-related rant follows ***

It’s been a sad week chez Fantapants. On Wednesday we had to say goodbye to our beloved big orange cat, aka Morris (aka Maurice when he was naughty), who had reached the end stages of chronic renal failure* and was officially Not Enjoying Himself At All. His lovely vet came to our house and put Morris to sleep on the dining room table, after which Mr Fantapants dug a hole in his favourite sun-snoozing spot under the rose bush and we buried him wrapped in his favourite cardigan.**

Morris (full name: Morris Watersports, on account of his love of paddling) was 12, which is fairly young by moggie standards. I thought we’d have him for at least a few more years, but CRF is pretty much untreatable and when we got the diagnosis we decided we’d rather show him a good time (i.e. feed him prawns and steak and fancy little tins of cat food every day) than try to prolong his life (with absolutely no guarantee of success) with a blander-than-bland diet and subcutaneous fluids.

So now there is no one wedged between me and Mr F on the sofa at night. No one batting things off my bedside table to wake me up at dawn. No one brushing their whiskers against my cheek while I sleep to get me to lift the blankets so that they can snuggle up to my belly. No one demanding to be fed at all hours. There is a ginger-sized hole in my heart, and nothing can fill it.

* translation: his kidneys had gone bung
** which my mum had given me the week Morris arrived, and which he promptly claimed as his own kneading-and-nuzzling security blanket

November 10, 2011

Star picks: Nanowrimo-free edition

So, Nanowrimo started last Tuesday and after my previous failure I have once again chickened out chosen not to participate. But a LOT of peeps in my blogosphere are Nano-ing like crazy, so my google reader has been reduced to a daily trickle in comparison to the deluge that usually awaits me. I wish I could say that this has resulted in a spike in my own productivity...

My fave non-Nano posts last week included:

November 6, 2011

Surprises in the mail

On Friday the postie left a big box on the porch. Big boxes on the porch are always cause for excitement, but even more so when they're full of these:

One Cheeky Monkey and Turtle's Tall Tale - illustrated by Lisa Kerr, stories by me.

October 30, 2011

Star picks: Halloween edition

As someone who doesn't enjoy ghost stories, horror movies, paranormal romance, zombie apocalypses or anything else that goes bump in the night* Halloween's never been my thing, but there has been some starred (low level) spookiness in my blog reader feed lately:

* mainly because I am a) very easily scared and b) highly suggestible - a woeful combination

October 27, 2011

Big West Fest

I'm doing a session at the 2011 Big West Festival, which is very exciting in itself but even more so because the session is with fellow westies and ubertalented authors, Cath Crowley and Amra Pajalic. If I manage to stop fangirling over the two of them for long enough, I might be able to join the conversation...

The session's at my beloved Sun Theatre at 10am on 17 November. Best bit? It's free for schools! (And only $10 for non-schoolies.) Full details on the BigWest site.

October 20, 2011

Star picks

Two themes emerged strongly from the starred items in my Google reader list this week:
  1. knitting
  2. things I wish someone had told me when I was 14.
1. The knitting
Maybe it's because of all the sock knitting while I was dying sick, but I'm back in my knitting groove this week and suddenly it seems like everyone else is too:

Seriously cute penguin stays snug in his koozie

2. The things I wish I'd known about the agonies of growing up

  • Rookie let me in on the secret that everybody farts. And that periods are not the most humiliating thing in life (no, that would be PE). And that when it comes to boobs everything is normal. Ditto gender identity. Even as an (almost middle-aged) adult, I found this article reassuring!
  • Hank Green made a very lovely, very honest video about his own confusion about his sexual orientation as a teenager for Coming out Day.

* made even cooler by the fact that some of these boys attend Dog Kennel Hill primary - surely the coolest primary school name EVER

October 14, 2011

5 things to do on your sickbed

Just as I thought I'd beaten last week's cold I was struck down by another (worser) lurgy and have spent the past three days in bed. Thus I present my Top 5 things to do on (or should that be in?) your sickbed:

1. Watch Doris Day movies (thank you, Maribyrnong Library, for your extensive collection!).

2. Knit socks (these are for my mum)

 3. Read books you've had on your wishlist for aaaages

4. Drink hot toddys (if you're over 18, obv.)

5. Follow your cat's example: snuggle under the covers and sleep it off (esp. following 4)

October 5, 2011

Star picks from my sick bed

One of the bonuses of spending most of winter holed up in my living room writing was avoiding the germs and viruses that abound in the cold months. I was feeling rather proud of myself for having made it to Spring (to the start of daylight savings, even) without so much as a swollen gland, which is probably why - six weeks into my new job - I am sicksicksick.
The good thing about being so far behind on posts in my google reader is that I've had plenty to entertain me while I recuperate. The blog posts that have been making me feel better between salt-water gargles include:

September 29, 2011

Last Saturday, a small but dedicated crowd of YA readers and writers* convened at Northcote Town Hall (which, BTW, has the fanciest loos I’ve ever seen in a council building) for the second day of A Thousand Words. My session with Tim Pegler and Bec Kavanagh was about making writing work – with work, with life, with family, with distracting pets and various, somewhat related tangents about publishing vs self-publishing, the rise of the ebook and whether writers have to have a social media presence. I love doing sessions like this because it's so interesting to hear other people's approaches to their writing and to being An Author.

As with all bookish festivals, the highlight for me was meeting other writers and readers before and after the session. I caught up with lovely Megan-Literary Life, met my YA book-to-movie doppelganger (we both gave the screen versions of Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging the thumbs up and Nick and Norah the thumbs down), chatted with the next James Patterson (he’s only 14 but he’s already planned his first trilogy, a couple of standalone novels and the eight-book series that will rocket him to fame – I am in absolute awe of him!), and talked about the long and thorny path to publication with a fellow web-contenter.

Bec and the ATW crew are already brewing up big plans for next year’s festival. I know where I’ll be on 4 and 5 August 2012!

* mainly people who identify as both, if the ones I chatted with were any indication

September 20, 2011

A Thousand Words

 I'm very excited about A Thousand Words in Melbourne this Saturday, not least because I'm on a panel with the ridonkulously talented Tim Pegler and ATW director (and writer) Bec Kavanagh about how to make writing work as a career.

I don't know if I've figured out the answer to that conundrum yet, but as someone who has in the last 18 months worked full-time, freelance and - my latest incarnation - part-time while writing Book 3, I have plenty to share. (Including the fact that writing fiction full-time was probably the hardest job I've ever attempted.) It's a fact for most writers that their books don't pay the bills, so most of us have to take on some other kind of work, but something I only realised recently is that having other work - whether it's writing-related or not - actually makes you (well, me, anyway) more productive and more focused when you do sit down to write.

Saturday's program is aimed at writers and aspiring writers and includes sessions on creating great characters and getting over the dreaded rejectionitis. Check out the festival program for full details. You can buy tickets online (a bargain at $20 for a full day!).

September 15, 2011

Star picks: foxes and (police call) boxes

Fave finds in my blog feeds last week:
  • You give, we give is an inspiring initiative from three Aussie YA book bloggers - Jess, Brodie and Rachel are collecting un-used books (a great way to clear your Goodreads will-never-read and duplicate-copy shelves)and donations to be used to buy books to put under KMart Giving Trees in Tassie, NSW and Victoria this December (via In The Good Books)
  • illustrator Owen Davey shared the secret to drawing you very own fox (hint: start with a banana)
  • or, if foxes aren't your style, you could knit a cat (including this luvverly ginger)
  • Rookie asked some quitewellknown people how they survived their first year of high school
  • My Girl Friday shared great tips for beating book blogger's block (just in time for this blogger, thanks Steph!)
  • Craftzine shared a project to make a kitty Tardis (the inside's even more deluxe!)

September 9, 2011

Star picks

My new job is great (not least because it is in a library) but it's taking me a while to get back into the swing of working part-time and keeping up with what's going on in the rest of the (albeit, online) world.* It's been so long since I've logged into Twitter that I feel like my tweeting boat has sailed Facebook is a distant memory, I managed to miss both Indigenous Literacy Day and International Literacy Day, and I've fallen woefully behind on my blog reading. I have, however, fallen in lurve with two vaguely new things:
  • Wordplay, a weekly writing podcast from authors Nathan Bransford, James Dashner and J Scott Savage
  • Rookie Mag, a new site from Tavi of Style Rookie and a bunch of other talented young writers/artists/creators that I wishwishwish had been around during my tortured adolescence teenage years.
And, of course, I cannot survive without my regular dose of Maru...

* yes, full-time workers and students/workers who also study/students who also work, I do realise how ridiculously pathetic that makes me. I am in awe of all of you!

September 2, 2011

When the writing gets tough...

It's been a tough couple of months at my wee laptop desk. After a flying start, my work in progress stopped progressing and refuses to budge. There is obviously a problem, but is it with:
a) the plot?
b) the pacing?
c) the structure?
d) all of the above? (aka the triumvirate of first draft suck)

Hopefully I'll figure it out soon, but after yet another day of fruitless re-storyboarding there was only one thing left to do this afternoon: bake Freia's brownies.

I'm not much of a sweet tooth (I'll take a cheese board over a cheesecake any day), but the smell of hot, fudgy chocolatey goodness coming from the kitchen right now is pretty good. At least one thing worked out well today...

August 26, 2011

A Thousand Words Festival

The program for September's A Thousand Words Festival has been released and I am chuffed to report that I'm in it! I'll be discussing making writing work as a career with author Tim Pegler and festival director Bec Kavanagh - most apt since I started a new job this week.

A Thousand Words is on 23-24 September, at Northcote Town Hall. Tickets are only $20 (bargain!) for each full day and will be on sale on the ATWF website soon can be purchased online.

August 16, 2011

Tales from the Fantapants archive: 16 August 1982

An occasional foray into Mr Fantapants' childhood adventures, as recorded in his class diary...

What I love about this entry is the seamless segue way between what Mr F had been told to write about (what he did on the weekend) and what he wanted to draw (falling out of a canoe). I might try to use the same technique to spark up my WIP this week...

August 8, 2011

Star picks: sentimental edition

Some of the standouts in my Google Reader feed last week were posts that reminded me of some of my favourite things from my younger days, all of which I still enjoy, even if I don't languish in them quite so often anymore.*

 In other news, it's Aussie August in the YA blogosphere, huzzah!

* Okay, I've been languishing in The Smiths quite a bit lately, but I promise I'll stop soon.

August 2, 2011

My desert island discs

I recently discovered the BBC Radio podcast of Desert Island Discs thanks to Pip of Meet Me At Mike's. Since then, I've spent many hours listening to some of my favourite UK peeps chat about the eight songs they'd want to have with them if they happened to be stranded on a desert island. The podcast archive, which goes all the way back to mid-1998, is a treasure trove of forgotten treasures, oddities and sentimental faves - hours and hours of fun for the writer avoiding writing avid listener..

Of course, a few episodes in, after listening to selections by Morrissey and JK Rowling and Betty Jackson, I found myself making a list of my own...

1. Ask - The Smiths
Almost impossible to choose just one Smiths song since they were pretty much the soundtrack of my miserable adolescence, but this one always cheered me up a little bit.

2. A New England - Kirsty MacColl
Kirsty MacColl's voice + Billy Bragg's lyrics = a match made in heaven.

3. Crying - Roy Orbison with k.d. lang
This song was on the jukebox of a cafe I spent pretty much every weekday morning and afternoon at for the last two years of school. The day Roy Orbison died we played it over and over and wept. I still find it good for inducing the occasional cathartic cry!

4. The Lovecats - The Cure
An obvious choice for a cat nerd, I guess.

5. God Only Knows - The Beach Boys
The song I always wanted someone to dedicate to me.

6. The Saturday Boy - Billy Bragg
And 'lalalalalalalalala' means 'I love you'. Sigh.

7. Take My Heart - Soko
I first heard this on a soppy day and it stuck.

8. Remember You're a Womble - The Wombles
I have very fond memories of toddling along next to my dad, singing this together.

Now comes the really hard bit, as well as your eight songs you also get to choose one book and one 'luxury item' to take to the island. The book's an easy choice. I'd take My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell, because every time I re-read it, it makes me laugh as much as it did the first time (and the natural history bits may come in handy). The luxury item is harder. Perhaps a hammock? At least then I could listen to my songs and read my book in comfort...

July 26, 2011

Star picks

Last week's top picks from my Google reader feeds included:
Aaaand I want to go here (via The Centred Librarian)
Entrance to Children’s Section, Cerritos Millenium Library, Cerritos, California

* I have experienced moments of zhaghzhagh in the past few days, as well as indulging in a bit of boketto. Thankfully, I do not suffer from slampadato! My personal fave (missing from Mental Floss's list) is musu, a Samoan expression for when someone suddenly becomes moody and sullen, for no apparent reason.

July 21, 2011

Star picks: abbreviated edition

In an attempt to carve back a little more time for knitting (which I'm able to do again after long six months, with minimal shoulder pain - huzzah!) and background reading for the WIP and hanging out with Mr Fantapants and the big (and increasingly arthritic) orange cat, I've been skimming posts in my Google Reader for the past couple of weeks, largely based on whether their headline appeals to me at that precise moment. I fear I'm missing a lot of good stuff, but then I fear I'm missing a lot of good stuff by being online so much, too...

Anyway, from my limited reading, I present these three gems:
* Mr F nominated Fozzy Bear who is sadly missing from this indepth and informative guide. He remains an enigma!

July 12, 2011

Heaven knows, I was miserable then

I'm chuffed to have a guest on Dear Teen Me today.

 I'd thought that writing a letter to my 15-year-old self would be a doddle, but it was a lot harder than I imagined. It made me revisit all those hours spent holed up in my bedroom with the blinds closed, listening to The Smiths and wishing I could go to sleep and wake up when I was twenty, and brought back a lot of angsty feelings that I thought I'd gotten over a long time ago.

It also forced me to admit that I could do with taking a bit more of my own advice on a daily basis: after I sent my submission in I went to our local off-leash dog park and watched a couple of Staffies chase balls. It made me feel much, much better.

And then I came home and listened to some Smiths, because 80s-era Morrissey* still understands my pain...

* i.e. before he moved to the States and took up golf

July 5, 2011

Star picks

Posts that caught my beady eye via Google reader last week:
 Colette, taking crazy cat lady to extremes.

July 1, 2011

Flattery will get you everywhere

It probably says more about my character than I’d like to admit that I didn’t become a blood donor until I started working at an organisation that encouraged staff to donate during work time.* You see, even though I’d met some very enthusiastic donors along the way, there was something about the idea of a) giving away a part of myself – literally, and b) volunteering to be stuck with a largish needle that made me hold back on doing this good deed. But it turned out that being paid to not attend another boring meeting was all the motivation I needed. (Well, that and the promise of a free milkshake afterwards.)

I’ve been making regular (you can donate whole blood quarterly) donations for four years now, so obv. the process is not as harrowing as I’d feared, but there is still one bit that makes me think ‘this is the last time I put myself through this’ every time, and that is when they put the needle in. It’s not that the needle itself is particularly painful; the problem is that I have what the blood bank nurses call ‘small veins’,** which apparently require a great deal of skill and accuracy to tap into. This means that every time I visit the blood bank, I have a conversation that goes something like yesterday’s:

Nurse 1: Which arm will we be using today, love?***
Aimee: The right arm, thanks. The left one’s no good at all.
Nurse 1: [looking at vein in right elbow-area] Hmmm…it’s a wee one, isn’t it? Perhaps— [moves towards left arm]
Aimee: No! Really, that’s the good arm. The left one’s impossible to even find. This one doesn’t look like much, but it always gets there in the end.
Nurse 1: [doubtfully] I’ll have to get Nurse 2.
Nurse 2: Ooh, that is tiny, isn’t it, darl? [cranks up pressure on arm-cuff thingo] And you say you’ve used this vein before? You’re sure it wasn’t the other one?
Aimee: Oh no, the other one’s bung. There’s always just a lot of digging around in there with the needle and then they give up and use the right one. [trying to muster encouraging cheerfulness] It always gets there in the end.
Nurse 2: [taps more at vein] Well, I’ll do my best, sweetie.
Aimee: [thinks: This is the last time I do this.]
Nurse 2: There we go.
Aimee: [thinks: Ow.]
Nurse 1: You got it then?
Nurse 2: Yes, it’s flowing nicely.
Aimee: [triumphantly] It always gets there in the end.

Even though Nurse 2 seemed to have no trouble at all, I was still thinking I might make this my last donation because perhaps we small-veined folk are not the best candidates for this sort of thing after all. Until Nurse 2 announced to Nurse 1 that my little vein was pumping out blood at a rate of knots. The bag was filling faster than she’d seen one do in months! Even big, athletic men with big, athletic veins couldn’t do better! Nurse 1 looked suitably impressed.

Less than seven minutes later it was all over. I was thanked profusely for taking the time to donate, complimented once again on my small-but-mighty vein and sent to the recovery area for a chocolate milkshake. I – positively bursting with pride – made a mental note of the date I’ll be eligible to donate again.

* In defense of my otherwise not-too-reprehensible character, I feel compelled to mention here that I have also done my share of volunteering and helping the elderly cross the road and other good deeds.
** which is surprising because the rest of me is at the larger end of average (except for my slightly-too-small feet, which I blame for much of my clumsiness)
*** ‘love’ is one of many endearments used by the blood bank nurses. I suspect it’s largely because they can’t remember everyone’s name, but it does give me a dose of the warm fuzzies to be called ‘love’, ‘dear’, sweetie’ and ‘darl’ all within the space of a forty-minute visit.

June 27, 2011

Star picks: libraries are awesome edition

In a week when Read Write Web asked whether the results of the latest ALA survey point to a tipping point for ebook and libraries, many of the starred posts in my Google reader were also library related:*
  • first and foremost is Patrick Ness's passionate and eloquent Carnegie Medal acceptance speech, via The Guardian. I particularly loved his points about the incredible role librarians play in developing and nurturing readers, and as knowledge filters (methinks the latter will only become more valuable as digital publishing proliferates and we need more expert guidance to find the gems among the rhinestones)
  • the Centred Librarian made me realise what's missing from my trips to the beach (or perhaps that what's missing form trips to my local library is the beach!)
  • the Atlantic highlighted the New York Public Library's innovative online projects (and if you need further proof, I challenge you to spend less than half an hour on What's on the menu - best use of crowdsourcing I've seen in yonks!)
  • Cerebral Boinkfest featured mobile libraries from around the world. My favorite is Alpha and Beta, the donkey library team from Colombia:

* not sure whether this is because there's a lot of talk about libraries going on at the moment, what with all the proposed closures in the UK and US, or if it's just because I've had libraries on the brain a bit since meeting so may awesome librarians at Reading Matters...

June 23, 2011

Tales from the Fantapants archive - 23 June 1983

This picture from the Fantapants archive reminds me how incredibly condescending some teachers were when they commented on your work. I mean, given that the size of that fish is about the same as Mr F's 9-year-old head, I'd say that's already pretty BIG. Harumph.

June 22, 2011

Star picks: Maru edition

Aack, the week's already half over and I'm running behind on EVERYTHING and a bit stressed and overwhelmed and I know it would all be fine if I just sat down and did what needs to be done but I'm frozen rabbit-like in the headlights of my ever-lengthening to-do list.

When I feel like this, there's only one sure way of bringing my blood pressure down: Maru the cat. Luckily for me, he and his blogging owner are prolific, so there was almost-daily comfort to be had.

Last week, Maru... a new box

...loved both his old and new scratching boards
...played hard to get

...wedged himself into a tiny drawer the rain-crazies

...and had a catchy song written about him.

At least someone had a productive week!

June 14, 2011

Star picks

Is it a coincidence that in a week where my blog feed continued to be dominated #YAsaves, the starred items in my google reader feed tended towards the less-taxing end of the spectrum? If you are also in need of some light relief, might I suggest:

June 7, 2011

Star picks: #YAsaves and items of interest

Like a lot of the YA community, I've been fairly immersed in the #YAsaves campaign that followed an article in the Wall Street Journal proclaiming 'contemporary fiction for teens is rife with explicit abuse, violence and depravity'.

As someone who is all too aware of her inclination to spew forth virulent opinions on things that make me angry, I (very sensibly, ifIdosaysomyself) decided to think it over before making any comment on it. Well, a few days later, my thoughts on how Wrong the article is have not changed, but in the meantime many, many people have written thoughtful and considered articles that pretty much sum up my feelings on the matter. Handily, Read Alert has linked to most of them.

One other #YAsaves perspective that I found very interesting (particularly in light of last week's Rip'n'Roll ridiculousness) was Gayle Forman's. Gayle's post on 'crappy journalism, and the dangers of bullying loudmouths setting the agenda' was a timely reminder that a) just because it's in the news doesn't mean it is news, and b) media beat-ups like this don't reflect the beliefs of the majority of people.

Non-#YAsaves posts starred in my google reader last week included:
Also, as reported in last week's star picks, I gave Kate Constable's 250 word trick a whirl and the end result was 10,000 words by the end of the week. To celebrate, here is a bookish tune...

May 31, 2011

Reading Matters 2011

Last Friday and Saturday I went to my first-ever writing conference: Reading Matters, the SLV Centre for Youth Literature's biennial youth literature conference. Heading in on Friday felt a bit like the first day of school: would I know anyone?, would I have to eat lunch alone? I needn't have worried. Not only did I know a few faces in the crowd, but everyone I met over the two days was extraordinarily lovely and welcoming and generous.

My notes from the sessions are scant, and many are also unintelligible*, so if you want a proper wrap-up I suggest you head to My Girl Friday, where Steph has written an amazing four-part summary of day 1, and Literary Life, where Megan has summed up day 2.

My personal highlights:
  • meeting people I'd previously only known via their blogs and Twitter (like Steph and Megan and Adele), and authors I have admired from afar, and some really interesting librarians
  • catching up with the lovely folks from Walker Books
  • sneak-preview readings from upcoming books by Markus Zusak, Cassandra Clare and Karen Healey
  • hearing about other people's writing and research processes - Cassie Clare almost got Holly Black arrested while she was scoping out a disused smallpox hospital in NY; Ursula Dubosarsky studied Charles Blackman's paintings of schoolgirls; JC Burke gutted a pig...
  • Brenton McKenna describing his distress when he realised as a kid that comics were not diaries written by superheroes, and his tales of his superhero-in-her-own-right gran
  • Oliver Phommavanh, who warned us that his session with Richard Newsome would be LOUD, and delivered on his promise
  • the Love and Other Bruises panel - some of my fave Aussie contemporary YA authors discussing writing believable love stories (and moderated with aplomb by Kate)**
Most of all, Reading Matters was an incredible opportunity to immerse myself in (other people's) books and writing for a couple of days, from which I emerged invigorated and inspired. Roll on RM13!

* I'm sure whatever prompted me to jot down 'hot feet on a cool patch' made perfect sense at the time, but three days later, notsomuch.
** My only complaint was that this session was way too short - more swoon next time, please!

May 30, 2011

Star picks

I don't know if it was the convergent timing of Reading Matters, the Emerging Writers' Festival and BEA, but I seem to have starred more posts in my google reader feed over the past seven days than I have in the last month! I'll save the RM ones for a separate post, but here's a selection of other stuff that I read when I should have been writing particularly enjoyed:
  • Kate Constable very kindly shared how she's taken her 250 word trick to a new, advanced level. I'm going to give it a go!
  • The New York Times report that ebooks were the buzz of BEA made me think, yet again, that it's something Australian publishers and authors really need to get our heads around.*
  • Jennifer Hubbard performed manuscript surgery.
  • I learned how to spot a psychopath, courtesy of an extract from Jon Ronson's new book.** Like Malcolm Gladwell, Ronson has a tremendous talent for narrative non-fiction; I read this article with the same kind of fascination-slash-revulsion that I felt when Jane Burke showed her pig-gutting Pig Boy research photos at Reading Matters.
  • Write4Kids's YA blogger reflected on the overabundance of 'perfect' characters in YA, and why they don't make for interesting reading.
  • Mental Floss told me way more than I ever wanted to know about Hello Kitty (except I kind of  did want to know it all). (And if I ever get sick in Korea I am going to demand to be treated in the Hello Kitty hospital!)
  • And I leave you otter who knows how to appeal to its audience:
* After chatting with a number of people - particularly librarians - about ebooks at Reading Matters, I've realised that I have some pretty strong opinions on this topic!
** And I challenge you to read the checklist of psychopathic 'symptoms' and not find yourself thinking of at least one person you know!

May 24, 2011

What's orange and sits in a box?

In reality, I suspect he just wanted to get out of a draught, but I like to think the Ginger Menace was paying tribute to our favourite box-loving cat, who turns four today. Happy birthday, Maru!

Tales from the Fantapants archive: 24 May 1982

In which we look back at the start of one of Mr Fantapants's enduring hobbies: coin collecting.
 Now, as someone whose own hobbies include sewing, knitting and various misadventures with Modge Podge in the name of 'craft', I'm not really in a position to comment on how nerdy coin collecting is. Suffice to say, Mr F's coin album is referred to as The Precious...

May 23, 2011

Star picks

Last week Google reader delivered me a selection of thought-provoking blog posts, including:
  • author Sarah Ockler's reaction to a New York Times review of two YA books that claimed that the 'purpose' of YA is often to 'to send a message, usually in the form of a much-needed lesson'. Yep, because young people don't have enough people in their lives telling them what to do/think/be. Sarah's post was timely for me: since Little Sister was released I've been asked by a couple of journalists whether I wrote the book out of a feeling of 'responsibility' to address bullying and homophobia, to which my reply is always the same: as a writer of fiction, my only responsibility is to write a book that people want to read.
  • The Rumpus's gorgeous San Francisco Public Library in its own words reminded me once again how much more our libraries do than just loan books, and why they're so important to communities. (via The Centred Librarian)
  • Meg Rosoff commenting on 'factory books' and their toll on publishing (and readers).
  • V. Rossi sharing her conference commandments, timed for the US writing conference season, but equally applicable to Reading Matters in Melbourne this week, I think.
  • John Green's stirring vlog about the value of studying both maths and literature. (I agree with him in theory, but, as someone who struggles with the most simple maths problems, I can't help thinking that you can only be as enthusiastic about this as John is if you actually understand both mathematical and literary theory.)

May 20, 2011

Writing what you don't know

We’ve all heard the old saying ‘write what you know’, but sometimes as a writer you need to step outside your areas of expertise. I know quite a bit about some subjects (British pop music of the mid-1980s, for example), a little bit about quite a few subjects (well, enough to get by in Trivial Pursuit, long as I don't land on sport or geography), and not much about a whole lot of things. I think that's a pretty normal range of knowledge to have but, somehow, each of my novels has required research on a topic that is key to one or more subplots, about which I know very little (stage lighting for Finding Freia Lockhart, genetics, lactose intolerance and soccer, among other things, for Little Sister).

On Monday, I finally started writing Book3* and already, less than 10,000 words in, I've got a heap of research queries. That's not unusual but I noticed that my methodology has been significantly streamlined since I randomly typed "what is a fader" into Google all those years ago. So, in the interests of sharing, here's what I’ve learned about doing research for books:
  1. Start at your local library. It might seem strange to begin offline when Google can bring so much info about every conceivable topic to you without leaving the house, but narrowing your choices can be a good thing. If you Google ‘genetics’ you will be faced with a choice of ‘About 42,500,000’ results; at my library I had a choice of five books, including Genetics for Dummies and the book that was more useful than the 100+ genetics websites I eventually visited: 50 Genetics Ideas You Really Need to Know by Mark Henderson.
  2. When you have an idea of the specifics of a topic that you want to investigate further, hit Google (or whichever search engine you prefer) and be as precise as possible. Searching for ‘soccer fouls’ rather than ‘soccer rules’ brought me the info I needed for the book (what does a player have to do to get sent off the field?) without having to wade through reams of irrelevant info about starting positions and equipment regulations.
  3. 3. Don’t use research as an excuse to procrastinate. It’s very easy to convince yourself that you need to know and understand every aspect of a topic before you can write about it. When that week of research translates into three paragraphs in your novel you will realise that you don’t.
  4. When in doubt, keep it vague. I spent two days ‘researching’ and attempting to write a scene in which a soccer player is given a penalty for an offside foul before admitting to myself that I – along with millions of others – was never going to understand the offside rule, and just stating that the player got a foul. I don’t think the book loses anything for it. (That said, if soccer was a focus of the book, I couldn’t have gotten off so easily.) (That said, if I attempted to write a book with soccer as its focus I think my publisher would laugh me out of the building.)
  5. If you really can’t get your head around something, make it a topic your character doesn’t understand either. It’s no coincidence that Al, the main character in Little Sister, struggles with genotypes and phenotypes and alleles!
* It turned out that all the motivation I needed to get started was to publicly admit I'd procrastinated over it for a year. Must try that at the three-month point next time!

May 17, 2011

Friends who Love2Read

I'm very chuffed to have become an official 'friend' the 2012 National Year of Reading, aka Love2Read. It's going to be a year devoted to 'discovering and rediscovering the joy of reading' - supercool idea, eh?

You can keep up with all the Love2Read news on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for their newsletter.

It's going to be a great year!

May 16, 2011

Star picks

Starred posts in my google reader last week included:

* Started today! Using Scrivener for Windows writing software and understanding why all those Mac-toting writers have been raving about it for so long!
** I'll take giant cats over giant bugs any day.

May 15, 2011

All launched out

It's been a very exciting couple of weeks since Little Sister was released. I've been interviewed by two local papers and the Star Observer, I had an 'official' book launch at Surry Hills Library in Sydney, and yesterday marked the final event in the Little Sister calendar: a not-a-launch celebration hosted by the lovely Younger Sun Bookshop.

We had bubbly and lemon squash (which was also bubbly) and cake, and it was superfun! Big thanks to everyone who braved the cold, wet weather to come along; I was especially chuffed to meet a couple of members of the Younger Sun book club.

Me and Kate from the Younger Sun
(you can see more photos on Facebook)

Now that the celebrating is done, it's time to get writing again!

May 10, 2011

Guest post: Twenty10's Rebecca Reynolds on Little Sister

WARNING: Rebecca's post contains spoilers. If you want Little Sister's action to be a total surprise STOP reading now.

Still here? Excellent! Twenty10 is an organisation I first came across many years ago, when I was working on a government website for young people. I was struck then by how valuable their work is, and was pleased to be able to tell Rebecca, Twenty10's managing director, this in person when I met her last year.

When I was invited to launch Little Sister in Sydney, I immediately asked Rebecca if she would speak at the event. Unfortunately she wasn't able to attend on the night but she very kindly sent a message of support, which is so lovely that I asked if I could put it on my blog as a guest post.

It has been a pleasure reading Little Sister. I work and live in a community where I see homophobia and bullying at its very worst, and Aimee has treated the issues that this brings up with a respect that indicates her understanding. This book also brings a lightness, however, and is true to life in that when life often feels like it is at its worst, then you meet and find some of the most amazing people, friendships and things of beauty. Congratulations Aimee. Your words have found a way to tell the stories of so many people, and to hopefully let many more truly see that they are not alone in their worlds.

Rebecca Reynolds, Managing Director - The Twenty Ten Association

Twenty10 We all need a place to feel safe. A place to be welcomed and supported. A place to be ourselves. Twenty10 aims to create and nurture such places for young people, their families and communities. Twenty 10 is a community-based, non-profit statewide organisation. We work with and support young people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities, their families and friends. We aim to be a beacon of strength and acceptance - supporting young people to build resilience and achieve their potential.

Nice, huh?!

May 9, 2011

Star picks: Little Sister edition

Last week my Google reader app delivered me a swag of lovely Little Sister-related links! Even though I knew most of the posts were coming because they were part of my blog tour, it was still a thrill to open my blog list and see the name of my book. There were also some very kind reviews, which I wasn’t necessarily expecting.*

Here's a recap:

Mr Fantapants and I spent the weekend in Sydney (where we grew up) for the 'official' launch of Little Sister. It was fantastic to share the occasion with my family and old friends (as well as a few lovely readers who braved the crowd to say hello and have a chat about books and writing), and to be able to thank in person all the amazing people at Walker Books Australia. You can check out the pics on Facebook, if you feel so inclined.

The celebrating isn't over yet! My not-a-launch part-ay for Melbourne reader friends is this Saturday, hosted by the lovelylovely Younger Sun bookstore. I'd love to see you there!

* Because all of my blog hosts have very clear review policies that state that they will give their honest opinion of books sent for review.

Little Sister blog tour, day 5

** Why is this post three days late? Because I thought I was being a cleverclogs scheduling it to publish while I was away in Sydney but it didn’t work. That'll teach me :\ **

It's the last day of the Little Sister blog tour. Today I'm visiting The Younger Sun to reveal what Al, the book's main character, and I have in common.

Not only is The Younger Sun my fave local independent bookstore, they're also hosting the Melbourne celebration for Little Sister next Saturday, 14 May. (Are you coming? Don't forget to RSVP if you are!)

In case you missed a stop, here's the full itinerary for the tour:
My Girl Friday
Literary Life
In The Good Books
The Younger Sun

I'd like to thank all the bloggers who've hosted me this week. It's been a real honour to appear on some of my favourite blogs!

May 5, 2011

Little Sister blog tour, day 4

The fourth stop on my blog tour is a visit to In The Good Books, where you can read my guest post on bullying and Skye's review of the Little Sister.

Even though she's doing her final year of high school, Skye still manages to read and review prolifically - I really need to get some productivity/anti-procrastination tips from her... (And possibly some tutoring if more science creeps into my next book.)

Previous blog tour stops:
My Girl Friday
Literary Life

Last stop, tomorrow:
The Younger Sun

May 4, 2011

Little Sister blog tour, day 3

Head over to Literary Life today to read Megan's review of Little Sister. Megan also kindly let me guest post last week about 10 things I learnt while I was writing the book.

Megan is a prolific writer, reader and reading-related-event attender - I'm in awe of her energy and enthusiasm!

Previous blog tour stops:
My Girl Friday

Coming up:
In The Good Books
The Younger Sun

May 3, 2011

Little Sister blog tour, day 2

Today I'm hanging out with My Girl Friday, talking about the challenges of writing about social media in fiction.

It's a special honour for me to be a guest on Steph's blog because not only was Finding Freia Lockhart the very first book she reviewed on her blog, but she was the very first person to comment on mine! As well as being a very fine reviewer (you can read her review of Little Sister here), Steph is a movie buff and Polyvore maven.

Yesterday's blog stop: Inkcrush.

May 2, 2011

Little Sister blog tour, day 1

It's the first day of the Little Sister blog tour! Today I'm visiting Inkcrush* to answer some probing questions about the book. (While you're there, make sure you enter the Inkcrush blogoversary giveaway - open till 10 May.) Thanks for having me on your blog, Naomi!

* where I get a lot of my best reading recommendations from - Naomi's reviews are spot-on.

May 1, 2011

Little Sister blog tour

Today is the official publication date of Little Sister! To celebrate, some of my favourite YA bloggers have kindly agreed to let me visit them for a mini blog tour, starting tomorrow. Here's the schedule:
It's a busy week chez Fantapants. As well as the blog tour, we're going to see Meg Rosoff at the Wheeler Centre* on Wednesday, and then it's off to Sydney for the Little Sister launch on Friday.** All too exciting! I feel a bit like these guys:

* Hopefully if I get a chance to meet her I won't turn into a blathering fangirl - she's one of my absolute fave writers and bloggers.
** Are you coming to the official launch in Sydney or to the Melbourne not-a-launch par-tay on Saturday 14 May? If you are, don't forget to RSVP so we know how many people to cater for - I'd hate to run out of cake!

April 30, 2011

The final countdown

Eeek! It's suddenly publication eve - Little Sister hits bookstore shelves tomorrow!

In anticipation of next week's blog tour (full details tomorrow), I've done a wee guest post on Literary Life about Ten lessons I learnt while writing Little Sister. Thanks for having me, Megan!

April 26, 2011

Star picks

I can't believe it's already Tuesday! This long-long weekend business is all very well and good, but my to-do list didn't get the relax-it's-a-holiday memo and is chiding me with its many unticked boxes. A few of the blog posts that distracted me from what should have been the business at hand last week were:
  •  The Tales Compendium's review of Little Sister - the first review (as far as I'm aware) of my new book. My heart skipped a beat when I saw the title in my Google reader list!
  • news that Morrissey's autobiography is almost ready to go (although I can't help feeling a tiny bit sorry for his editor-to-be - I imagine Moz has some pretty firm ideas about retaining editorial control of his 600-odd page tome)
  • Josh Berk's explanation of gefilte fish, that unloved Passover staple
  • Pip's not cross buns, which Mr Fantapants and I attempted to make (I did the measuring and he did the kneading because of my bung shoulder) - ours didn't turn out quite so photogenically and were a bit tough heavy dense, but making them together was fun
  • discovering Cute Roulette (warning: may lead to extreme procrastination in animal lovers).

April 20, 2011

Win a copy of Little Sister!

There are two ways you can win a free copy of Little Sister:
  • YA Reads is giving away fantastic Walker Books packs, including my book, the latest Mortal Instruments installment and the new Alex Rider adventure
  • I'm giving away a couple of copies on Goodreads.
Go! Enter!

What she made: matzoh balls

Passover officially began on Monday but since Mr Fantapants and I spent the whole day at the taping of a TV game show on which Mr F may or may not have been a contestant, all we could manage afterwards was home-delivered pizza (obv. we are not very observant about the no-leavened-bread rule chez Fantapants). I did, however, make some matzo balls (aka kneidls) for dinner last night. And they were delicious!

To me, matzo balls are the ultimate comfort food. They are stodgy and a little bit bland, and they float (or if you're stingy with the soup like I am, sit) in a pool of chicken stock (in my case vegetarian 'chicken' stock). My dad makes them using his Aunty Lily's recipe, but I use this much easier vegetarian version. I substitute cinnamon for cayenne, which makes them taste almost as good as Dad's.

Although neither of my parents is religiously inclined*, my sister and I grew up celebrating Easter, Christmas, Passover and Roshashonah (Jewish new year). It was the best of both worlds, particularly since for my family each of these holidays revolved around food. The added bonus of the Jewish holidays was that they often fell on a school night, which usually meant a day off the next day to nurse our overly full tummies.

These days, Passover is probably the only holiday any of us observe with any ceremony. My dad, who has been the main cook in the family since I was about six, makes a huge meal of both traditional (chopped liver, chopped herring, brisket, etc.) and non-traditional ('egg thing' - invented for me as a vego alternative to chopped liver) foods. Mum sets the table with the best tablecloth and silverware, and the crystal wine glasses that are only used at Passover and Christmas because they can't go in the dishwasher.

The traditional Passover sedar (ceremony) is** rather long and involved. There are blessings, prayers and songs. It can be a long wait for dinner. Since few of our family friends are Jewish (and those that are are usually celebrating with their own families), my dad invented his own. It's a short service that each person at the table takes turns in reading (although Dad always has to do the blessings, because they're in Hebrew). It includes the bible story of the first Passover, blessings over the food and wine, the noisy reciting of the plagues***, the youngest chlild at the table asking the four questions, and, finally, some highlights from the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, which reminds us that there are still people in our world who are enslaved by their circumstances. The we eat. And eat. And eat.

I missed being with my parents and family friends for Passover this year, but making and eating my matzo balls brought me just a tiny bit closer to them.

*and Mum isn't Jewish, so Dad is the only official Jew in the family
** from my recollection of going to more observant friends' houses when I was a tiddler
*** where you dot a drop of 'blood' (red wine) on your plate for each of the plagues of Egypt
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April 19, 2011

Star picks

Star picks is tardy because a) my web browser is on the fritz and b) my shoulder is still on the fritz. Typing is both slow and hurty, so here are the abridged highlights from my blog feeds last week:
And now I must go and put frozen peas on my shoulder...

April 11, 2011

Star picks

Sparkling gems from my blog feeds last week:

  • As if being included on the 2010 White Ravens list announced at the Bologna Children's Book Fair wasn't exciting enough, I spotted a copy of Finding Freia in Alien Onion's report of the fair! Not sure whether to be chuffed or slightly depressed that my book is on its way to being better travelled than I am...
  • Bibliophile Brouhaha joined the growing call for 'older' YA. It'll be interesting to see where this goes - I can see it taking off in the US in a big way.
  • Persnickety Snark reminded me how much I loved Press Gang (although I must admit I watched it more for Spike than for Lynda).
  • Amanda Palmer's post on going to an under-appreciated Duran Duran gig is 100% pure AP, with a dose of meeting Simon le Bon (and touching!) thrown in for good measure - long but hilarious, esp. for old school DD fans like me.* (Language warning if you're sensitive/surrounded by nosy parkers whose eyes are magnetically drawn to every four-letter word on your screen.)
  • Tahereh's post comparing getting published with being naked in the middle of KMart struck a chord, esp. since it's only three weeks till Little Sister comes out. I'm getting more excited by the day, but also nervous that people will think my new baby is hideous.
  • Forever Young Adult got shat upon for alluding to what turned out not to be the script of the Hunger Games movie. All I can think is that if the movie studio had been smarter they would have recognised the huge potential of using FYA to reach their audience.
  • Meet Me at Mike's drew my attention to Knittas - cosying things up for a more positive future.
* Also, did you know that Neil Gaiman wrote a DD biography? I'm on a quest to find a copy!

April 4, 2011

Star picks

Starred posts in my Google blog feed last week included:
  • many posts celebrating Shaun Tan's Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award win, but none sweeter than Shaun's own
  • Khyrinthia of Frenetic Reader wrote about whether book bloggers sell books and why it doesn't (and shouldn't) matter to bloggers
  • Steph Su reflected on tru luv teen romance in YA
  • Ryan Novelline made a ballgown out of Little Golden Book covers (scroll down for photos of the construction process - incredible!) (via the Hairpin)
  • Forever Young Adult preached the gospel of YA (like Sister Erin, I was saved by Meg Cabot)

And...I'm not quite sure what this is all about, but spending a night writing in the beautiful New York Public Library sounds pretty-freaking-amazing:

An invitation to Melbourne friends

So, the 'official' Little Sister launch is in Sydney on 6 May. Being greedy, I really wanted to have some kind of celebration with my Melbourne friends, too. Luckily for me, the Sun Bookshop* has generously offered to host a do** on Saturday 14 May. I hope you can make it!

* My local independent bookshop, home of The Younger Sun and launcher of Finding Freia Lockhart
** not a 'launch' because apparently you're only allowed one of those but it'll be kind of like a launch, without the launching...

April 1, 2011

Tales from the Fantapants archives - 1 April 1982

According to Mr Fantapants's class diary, he got up to April Fool's Day japes at Mama Fantapants's expense.
Sadly, he can't remember what it was...

March 28, 2011

Finding Freia Lockhart makes White Ravens list for 2011

I was a) chuffedtobits and b) gobsmacked to get a call telling me Finding Freia had been selected by the International Youth Library in Munich for this year's White Ravens list, which will be announced at the Bologna Children's Book Fair this week.

The list is comprised of 250 'especially noteworthy' books in 40 languages chosen from the books sent to the library in 2010. I'm very happy to see that Australia is well-represented on the list by 11 books, five of which are YA.


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