November 27, 2012

Freia Lockhart's Summer of Awful

At last, I have book news to share! Freia Lockhart's Summer of Awful picks up four months after Finding Freia Lockhart left off...

Freia Lockhart has the essentials for an awesome summer:
  • great new friends
  • a supremely kissable boyfriend
  • plans for New Year’s Eve (which don’t include her parents)
  • no school.
When her mum reveals some devastating news, Freia’s plans for the summer of her dreams are crushed in an instant. Now she’s trying to keep things together at home and salvage her holidays, but it’s not easy when you’ve got secrets to keep, a little brother who’s going off the rails and a gran who won’t keep her nose out of your business.

Freia Lockhart's Summer of Awful will be in stores in February 2013.

September 7, 2012

May Gibbs fellowship redux

I had such good intentions about blogging regularly during my May Gibbs Children's Literature Trust creative time fellowship, but the four weeks passed so quickly that suddenly I'm back in Melbourne with nary a post in sight since Day 1 :\

So, here's the condensed version of what I did for a month:
  • plotted, wrote a little, plotted some more (repeat daily x 28, with varying degrees of success)
  • presented story and character development workshops to the fabulous Year 11s at Seymour College, who reminded me (if any reminder was needed) why I love writing for teenagers
  • attended the CBCA book of the year announcement, where I got to see fellow Westie Kate Constable pick up a gong and meet fellow Walkerites Bob Graham and Susan Green
  • walked and walked and walked around my neighbourhood, as plotting meditation (and also to see the spring bulbs in bloom).
I really can't think of a better way to start a new novel than with an intense period like this. I've returned home with about 10,000 decent-ish words (not bad for a slowpoke writer like me) and most of a plot, but most importantly with a beginning.

August 8, 2012

Hello Radelaide!

I'm in Adelaide for the next four weeks on a Creative Time Fellowship from the May Gibbs Literature Trust. After counting down to this month since I received the news waay back in November 2011, it's amazing to finally be here!

I'm here to start work on my next novel (a darkish, gothicish, slightly mysterious (I hope) book about the hidden history of a girls' boarding school), which I've been holding in my head and in my heart since last May and forced myself not to begin work on until Book3 was delivered to my publisher.

Starting a new novel is both incredibly liberating (the page is blank, I can do anything!) and incredibly daunting (the page is blank, can I do anything?), but I can think of no better way to begin than with a month of solid immersion.

Let the adventure begin!

The inspiration board's ready; now the hard work begins!

June 8, 2012

Star picks

A random assortment of posts that caught my eye this week:

May 30, 2012

Star picks (aka the Rookie edition)

Choice picks from my Google Reader stream this week:
* I attempted many of these in my youth. Unsuccessfully.

May 20, 2012

Hear me roar

I've been practising my very cranky bear impersonation for National Simultaneous Storytime at Footscray Library. Right now, he still sounds more mildly annoyed than really cranky, but by Wednesday I promise I'll have my ROAR down pat!

May 16, 2012

[Insert excuse for not blogging here]

I’m not even going to bother making excuses for how long it’s been between blog posts. Suffice to say that since delivering the manuscript for Book3 (aka Freia2) I’ve been on a break from writing and doing a few of these things. But now I’m back (for now)

Here are a few choice gems from my Google Reader reading lately:
  • Rookie's guide to puberty, courtesy of Cora Murphy's 4th Grade assignment for Mrs Kaplan
  • the  Guardian's analysis of the Famous Five's diet (apparently lashings of ginger beer and jam tarts are nutritionally sound after all)
  • of all the moving tributes to Maurice Sendak last week (and there were many), my favourite was this video, via Alien Onion.

April 4, 2012

Star picks: the late, late edition

Oh dear, somehow it's been almost a month between blog posts :\ I have many excuses for not posting,* but mainly it's because I'm working on the final draft of book3 and there's really not much room for anything else in my (slightly addled) head at the moment. As a consequence, I've been skim-reading my blog feeds most days, mostly starring items to come back to When Life Resumes (i.e. after my deadline), but there have been a few recent gems that I really want to share:

* perfecting a new brownie recipe (book3-related, so it counts), napping recharing my creative batteries, knitting for the first time in many months

February 20, 2012

Star picks

Highlights from my Google Reader feeds recently:
I leave you with some inspiration from Ilona Royce Smithkin - a woman so stylish that she makes her own false eyelashes.

* Their earlier Glass family album is also stunning.

February 15, 2012

A belated valentine

Last year I was lucky enough to be invited to contribute to Dear Teen Me. After mining my seemingly endless memories of things that sucked about being a teenager, I settled on the Worst Thing That Ever Happened to Me. And then I realised that they probably wouldn't want to run a Valentine's Day story in July and wrote this instead.

In the interests of sustainable blogging (which is better than no blogging at all, right?), here it is.

Dear 15-year-old Aimee

It’s 14 February 1989. Even though you go to an all-girls school (or perhaps because of it), Valentine’s Day is a big deal. At school, the Loved wear their gifts like medals – a rose received from a boy at the train station this morning is dragged from class to class to be admired; a teddy bear declaring ‘I wuv you’ sits proudly on its new owner’s desk. In other years you’ve done a good job of pretending that you don’t care for this annual display of crass commercialism, but this year is different. This year you have a boyfriend.

When you woke up this morning, your hopes were high. Not that you expected some grand romantic gesture (after all, you and Rowan have only been together for four weeks and three days, and he’s always broke) but you figured there’d be something – a card, a poem, one perfect flower. I suppose you did get poetry, in a way. Only it was delivered over the phone, and written by someone other than your boyfriend.

‘It’s hard to describe how I feel about you,’ Rowan had started the conversation, having avoided you all afternoon. ‘It’s like that REM song: “This One Goes Out to the One I Love”.’

‘Uhuh,’ you said, barely able to speak because your brain was screaming he’sgoingtotellyouhelovesyou!

‘Yeah. You know how he sings, “This one goes out to the one I love/This one goes out to the one I've left behind/A simple prop to occupy my time”? I guess that pretty much sums it up.’ And then he said he hoped you’d still be friends and that he’d see you around.

So here you are, Aimee, sitting at home alone on Valentine’s Day. As usual. Curled up on the couch, empty from crying and waiting for your parents to return from their annual romantic dinner. Believe me, I know exactly how you feel, and also that you’re going to feel that way for a while yet. (For longer, in fact, than the entire relationship lasted.) I can’t keep you from being hurt, but I would like to offer a few observations made with the benefit of hindsight that may help you put things in perspective:
  1. A mutual attraction to Morrissey from The Smiths is not enough to base a relationship on.
  2. Asking if you’d like to share a pot of tea and only revealing he has no money when it’s time to pay isn’t ‘part of being a couple’ (the only time you’ll ever hear him use the c-word), it’s using you.
  3. Borrowing your books/clothes/jewellery without asking does not mean that he wants to keep part of you with him day and night. (See 2) 
  4. Dumping you by quoting Michael Stipe is not sensitive and deep, no matter what he claims when he tells his friends the next day. 
  5. This would still have happened if you were thinner/prettier/less opinionated. Seriously.
The bad news is that this is not the first time you’ll be dumped, and it won’t be any easier the next time it happens. But, like Saturday mornings spent in detention, Mum going ballistic when she found out where you hide your cigarettes and your penchant for mismatched fluorescent socks, this too shall pass.

You will be loved one day, I promise. For today, just try to love yourself.
xxx aimee

January 29, 2012

Another reason to love Amanda Palmer

Not only does Amanda Palmer have a fine appreciation of Duran Duran, but she also wrote this fantabulous tribute to Judy Blume. I may have shed a tear in the chorus...

January 24, 2012

How I talked my way out of writer's block

Writer's block is not new to me, but Little Sister brought with it the worst case I've ever had. For almost two months I was pretty much paralysed. Every morning I'd turn on my laptop, read the pitiful amount I'd managed to write the day before, delete it and stare once again into the void.

I knew that I'd come to a standstill because there was something wrong with the direction the story was going in, but no matter how many times I re-read what I'd already written, I couldn't see what it was. I read every blog post I could find about plotting and story structure and ways to break through writer's block but - aside from legitimising my procrastination - they didn't help. Not that they weren't full of useful information, they just couldn't tell me where I'd gone wrong.

Today I guest blogged on Dee White's blog about the frank conversation that finally broke my block.

January 17, 2012

Ah, so that's what it's about

I finally found out what the author-reviewer brouhaha that's got the Goodreads/YA community in a tizz was about, thanks to an article in the Guardian by Julie Bertagna. As Bertagna concludes, "Whose book is it anyway? The hardest thing a writer has to learn is that once you publish a book, it's no longer truly yours – even though it's got your name on the front and it lives inside you. It belongs to the readers now. All you can do is steel yourself as you push it out into the world, stay gracious, and get busy with the next one."

Wise words.

January 10, 2012

How to respond to a negative review: just don't

This is a post that’s been on my mind for a year or so but for one reason (laziness) or another (laziness) I haven’t gotten around to writing until now. Although the actual incident/s have passed without my noticing, rumblings in the Twitterverse suggest that in the last couple of weeks there have been more reader-reviewer/author run-ins online, and I can only assume it’s because an author has taken offense at a negative review and responded by leaving a (probably vitriolic) comment of their own. Whatever happened, it’s had the effect of making a number of people whose blogs or Goodreads reviews I follow say that they are considering giving up reviewing, which makes me Very Sad Indeed.

As a reader who suffers constantly from too-many-books-not-enough-time and has a book-buying budget of one book per month,* following reviews from people whose taste is close to mine has helped me to find books and authors I absolutely adore that I probably wouldn’t have come across on my own. I also search Goodreads for books I’ve heard mixed reviews for, to help me make up my mind whether to track down a copy and decide for myself. If someone has given the book a rave or a panning I’ll often look at the rest of their blog/Goodreads shelves to see what they’ve enjoyed in the past and decide from that whether our taste is likely to be similar. It’s not a failsafe technique but so far I’ve had more hits than misses. (This is also an excellent procrastination technique – I can attest that the hours positively fly by when you’re stickybeaking comparing bookshelves.)

All books have their share of fans and detractors, this is a universal truth. For every person who loves Pride and Prejudice there is someone whose loathing for it cannot be expressed vehemently enough (i.e. me). Likewise, I have had to accept that not everyone loves My Family and Other Animals as passionately as I do (but they should, dammit!). The beauty of a community like Goodreads is that these views can sit side by side; we can all have our say and everyone’s opinion is equal. The beauty of having a book blog is that it’s your own space to express yourself. But some authors seem to think that this is precisely the downside to online reviews and are unable to resist arguing with less-than-glowing reader responses, a reaction that, frankly, befuddles me.

As a writer one of the things you have to get used to is accepting criticism (constructive or otherwise) and choosing whether to take it on board or let it go. For most of us it’s obvious whose opinions we should pay attention to (our critique groups/beta readers/agents/editors/others with the goal of helping us to produce the highest quality book we are capable of writing) and whose to accept as their right to an opinion but not take to heart. If you can’t differentiate between the two, you shouldn’t even make your writing available for public consumption, let alone hang around Goodreads (or Amazon or any other consumer review site) or Google your reviews.

(And if you choose to take things personally, for pity’s sake don’t vent your hurt feelings online! Seriously, have we learnt nothing??)

Got hurt feelings? Tell a friend, not the interwebs.

ETA: Just as I was about to hit the Publish button I read Veronica Roth's post on the author/reviewer relationship on YA Highway - a very balanced and sensible discussion of the issues, with some insightful comments from bloggers.

January 9, 2012

Resolution, singular

After thinking on it some more I decided to only make one resolution for 2012: I signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, pledging to read at least 12 books and review at least four of them.
The reading will be the easy part, especially since some of my favourite authors have new releases coming out this year (including CathCrowley, Fiona Wood, Gerry Bobsien and Leanne Hall – it’s a bumper year for Aussie YA!). Reviewing is not my strong point, as I learned in Nanoremo 2010, but I shall do my best.

The best part of this resolution is not its (almost) guaranteed success, or even supporting and promoting other Australian women authors, it’s the fact that I’m actually looking forward to it. (Something I can’t say about flossing.) Roll on 2012!

January 4, 2012

Hello 2012

It's the start of another shiny new year and I'm such a procrastinator that I still haven't decided whether to even make any resolutions in 2012, let alone what they might be. Part of what's holding me back is that I failed most of last year's rather modest resolutions spectacularly.

In 2011, I didn't learn how to draft my own sewing patterns; there were months when I couldn't do my back exercises because of the pain in my right arm that made it virtually unusable for 10 months; I did floss more, but not every day. My most embarrassing fail was my reading resolution: read more non-YA. Even with some great reading recommendations from people whose book taste I trust, my YA to adult fiction reading ratio was about 80:20.*

Looking back over my list of resolutions makes me feel like 2011 was one big timesuck of failure, but then I remembered some stuff that I did do during the year that could be seen as small achievements:
  • I had a novel and two picture books published (okay, that's a moderately big achievement, but all the hard work on them was done in 2010)
  • I went to my first YA conference - the most excellent Reading Matters - and met some ace librarians and bloggers and a few of my fave authors
  • I had a most excellent time teaching writing workshops and doing the occasional school visit
  • I discovered that, for me, having the time to write all day every day will not make the words come any faster,** and
  • on a related note, got a part-time job that uses my web content skills while indulging my interest in/adoration for libraries (and as a bonus I get to work with a superace team)
  • I found out that my application for a May Gibbs Creative Time Fellowship in 2012 was successful
  • I learned how to meditate (sort of, I'm still learning how to make my brain shut up, but meditation is a journey and all that).***
 So the question is, do I bother making resolutions and then deal with the shame of probably not keeping them, or do I puddle along all year without any concrete goals and hope that I'll manage to inadvertently achieve a few things along the way? Decisions, decisions...

* To be fair, this is not entirely my fault: if my local library didn't insist on putting the YA section at the front of the building I might occasionally make greater inroads into the adult section. As it is, by the time I get to the grown up books at the back my book bag is full.
** A painful lesson but better to learn it after a few months than a few years, I suppose.
 ** If you're at all interested in learning to meditate I can heartily recommend the free guided meditation podcasts from Meditation Oasis - not too much woo woo new ageism and the host regularly offers the reassurance that "if your mind has wandered, it doesn't matter".