Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

Daily checklist:
Dacks of track on and slightly soiled? Check.
Face devoid of makeup? Check.
Hair lank and unloved? Check.
Clearly it’s a writing day.

And just as I happily tap in the 44,999th word of the w-i-p, the call comes in.

Could you do a 15-minute interview on bookish matters on 612 ABC Drive with Tim Cox?

Why, soitenly, I reply without a moment’s hesitation. When?

Ah… today. Is that OK?

Sure, why not?

After all, it’s radio, no-one cares about bad hair days.

So in I drive to the ABC’s salubrious new quarters next to the Wheel of Brisbane at Southbank, and chat happily for fifteen minutes on Drive with Tim Cox (a man who never has a bad hair day).

We talk about YA literature in general, and a number of books I’ve loved from classics like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë through to Favel Parrett’s stunning debut Past the Shallows on to one of my all-time favourite authors, Melina Marchetta.

Then, just as I’m about to take my bad hair day home, Tom the friendly Drive producer, takes a photo to mark the occasion.

Oh dear, radio is no longer the safe haven it used to be…

Click here, if you’d like to hear an excerpt from the interview I Rate the Book – ABC Queensland.

And please, try not to focus on the hair.

 
Pinetrees Lodge
Lord Howe Island

Dear Dani and Luke

Sorry for not returning the guest feedback form I so diligently filled in while the kids played with a giant lobster that washed up on Ned’s Beach.

I must have packed it away with my snorkel and the wetsuit that made me look like a “tank” (in a good way, the kids assured me.)

Giant Nana step-ins aside, the snorkeling was a highlight.  (I’m sure that was one of your questions, as I seem to recall everyone spontaneously yelling “The food!” before giving it proper consideration).

Thanks to you, our kids’ culinary vocabulary has expanded. Words like Bavarois, roulade, navarin, osso bucco, and caponata now slide off their tongues like beurre blanc sauce. Though since arriving home, I’ve had to re-educate them in basic terminology like sausage, mashed potato and just cut off the burnt bits.

Any suggestions for improvement?

That’s a tough one….Perhaps you could rein in your chef’s enthusiasm for portion size and train the staff to just say NO when overfed mainlanders beg for more duck broth or just one more fluffy bread roll…?

Perhaps you could also ask yourself if assorted fresh pastries are really necessary for breakfasts that already include the full gamut of hot and cold options?

And as for that succulent melt-in-your-mouth beer-battered kingfish and the handmade sushi … perhaps they should have stayed your little secret rather than torturing your guests with the knowledge that such pleasures are now a 1 hour 35 minute flight away from both Sydney and Brisbane.

On the plus side, my netball-induced cankle has improved enormously under the Lord Howe walking and cycling regime. Getting down (and back up) all those steps to Middle Beach was an achievement (which I would have relished more if I hadn’t been beaten there by a nanna with a walking stick).

Hubba hubby was of course in his element, thanks to that nice man at Wilson’s lending him a leg-rope for his sufboard and to Tim for handing over the keys to his windsurfing shed on the lagoon.

The only wrinkle in an otherwise flawless week was our kids’ most unfortunate experience jumping off the jetty.

On the first day, they almost landed on a two-metre stingray – an experience so scary they were forced to jump off the jetty repeatedly every day thereafter.

They must have frightened the life out of poor old Stumpy the Stingray because they never did see him again.

As I said, most unfortunate.

Trusting this feedback proves useful (though after a century in business, I suspect Pinetrees Lodge might have already perfected the formula for heavenly holidays).

love and kisses

Chris Bongers and the fam bam.

It’s been all hands on deck for the hard-working crew of the Queensland Writers Centre.

While extreme flooding in Brisbane’s Southbank area has closed the office, staff continue to man the writing pumps at home.

Writing Queensland Magazine, QWC’s flagship publication and compulsory reading for those interested in the craft of writing, has gone to the printers, according to WQ’s newly appointed editor, Jason Nahrung.

The February Craft issue of WQ will feature an article on Shaping the Story Arc, where I interview Bill Condon, winner of the Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Fiction, Anthony Eaton and Kate Forsyth.

You can subscribe to WQ here or click on the next link if you’d like to read an article I wrote for WQ last year on Creating your own distinctive writing voice.

I’m thrilled to see Jason at the helm of WQ. Not only is he a talented writer with twenty years journalistic experience behind him, he was also one of the creative inspirations behind Henry Hoey Hobson. (Check out his website Vampires in the Sunburnt Country and see if you can guess which character he inspired.)

Out of the literary ghetto

Posted: August 2, 2010 in Media, Writing

Australian author Garry Disher once observed that the Australian literary community tends to ghetto-ise children’s writers, herding them into separate programs at writers’ festivals, and giving them little coverage in the mass media.

He’s published more than forty books, across a range of genres, including crime thrillers, literary novels, short-story collections, novels for adolescents and children, and writers’ handbooks.

I can’t help but think how pleased he’d be with The Australian Literature Review which makes a point of featuring children’s authors cheek by jowl with novelists and other writers of fiction.

The site has recently featured interviews with Australian children’s authors Sandy Fussell, Meg McKinlay, George Ivanoff and Joel Hart, and today it features one with me.

Click here if you’d like to read my interview with The Australian Literature Review, Australia’s leading independent site dedicated to literary free thinking.

The nervous pit has gone from my stomach; first reviews of Henry Hoey Hobson have hit the streets:

‘Henry Hoey Hobson’ by Christine Bongers is a funny, fast-paced story, built around a likeable protagonist. Henry is an engaging narrator, who learns the importance of having people on your side, no matter what they look like. The book tackles themes of judgement, acceptance and family, both biological and chosen. This is a recommended read for upper-primary readers.’ Australian Bookseller and Publisher

‘An amusing entertainment for the sub-teens, a warm depiction of neighbourhood and community.’ Magpies Magazine

‘The narrative is well-paced – humour and heartache, trauma and triumph….This is truly a heart-warming story abut growing up and getting on with what life throws your way.’ The Reading Stack

And my personal favourite, courtesy of one of Henry’s creative inspirations:

‘In the Twilight age, it might be easy to think the Fright Night-style cover indicates yet another slipstreaming YA love-in-the-dark affair, but thankfully, it ain’t so. Chris grew up in the central west of Queensland and that dry, larrikin humour is tickling under the surface of this book, an affecting tale of a young fellah and his mum trying to cut it in the big smoke. It’s a yarn about family and fitting in and acceptance, the voice is spot-on, and the Addams Family elements made my day.’Vampires in the Sunburnt Country

And all of the above has made mine … G’night all, tonight I’ll sleep like the dead. ;)

‘Astonishing and fascinating . . . Christine Bongers has created a gripping and intriguing story which is difficult to put down and even more difficult to forget.’ 5-star review, TOWNSVILLE BULLETIN

‘This is a fierce, snarling, lively little tale, like being squashed into the backseat of an old Holden with a bunch of sticky kids. The raw authenticity of Christine Bongers’ first novel will appeal to readers in their mid-teens: there’s no danger of adult interference as Sis tells her story.’ Viewpoint on books for young adults, Vol 17, no 3 Spring 2009

‘Powerful, evocative and warm, Dust is about the impact of fundamental moments that shape our identities.’ Notebook Magazine, September 2009.

‘Bongers’ main character, Cecilia, is a smart, gutsy and lovable girl with a delightful rebellious streak. But this is much more than an Australian Anne of Green Gables. It is amusing and light-hearted, yet it steadily builds to a profoundly sad and disturbing crescendo. I loved it.’ 4 ½ STARS, Highly Recommended, Good Reading Magazine, July 2009.

“Christine is a novice writer and I believe her first book will create a minor sensation. She has captured the outback of the 70′s with an evocative and earthy flavour. Her story is complex, multi-faceted and sensitive-tough. This is as good as it gets, please show your English Department to allow for multiples.” Australian Standing orders, (Secondary Standing Order No. 6 2009)

“Dust is a novel of transition: from drought to flood, from childhood to adolescence, from innocence to maturity, and from ignorance to hard-won wisdom. Told in beautifully lyrical yet surprisingly tough language, the novel perfectly evokes an Australia also in transition, socially and politically. It provides with remarkable clarity a glimpse into another era and into the hearts and minds of its beautifully drawn characters. Although set some 35 years ago, the novel rings with truths about the human condition that young readers today will easily recognise and value.” Judith Ridge, Teaching Support Kit, Dust

‘Bongers has written a book about a just-distant past which is likely to appeal to today’s teenagers. The issues of wanting to fit in, of not being understood, the fear of alienation, are constants for young people. Bongers’ characters know and feel these issues keenly. Dust will reward its readers.’ Courier Mail, 1 August 2009.

I had a moment at about 12.35 today. I was strapped into a headset in the ABC Radio Studio at Toowong, about to be interviewed live on Queensland Country Hour.

The gracious and discerning Robin McConchie, Queensland’s Executive Producer, ABC Rural, had invited me in to talk about my novel Dust.  She had read it, loved it and thought the setting in 1970s Central Queensland would interest her listeners.

She was in the pilot’s chair, twiddling nobs, when it became apparent to even a technoklutz like myself that our radio-controlled plane might be about to go belly up.

She smiled reassuringly then snapped out a mayday call to tech support.  My mike wasn’t working. And we were about to go live in – oh, a couple of minutes.

“Would you like me to try the other mike?” I offered. There was another one just beside me.  I moved chairs.  But it didn’t work either.

Robin must have nerves of steel. Nothing worse than a silent guest in a live interview. Dead air, the radio journalist’s nemesis. She sent off another mayday call into the ether then turned her attention to the weather. What a trooper.

A tech slithered in quietly with a microphone stand, cables, and a third mike, which he rapidly assembled and pointed in my general direction while the live weather report between Robin and a thoughtfully long-winded weather man ground to a close.

She segued seamlessly into her interview with me with such confidence that I could only assume my mike was now working.

I hope it was. You can check here just to make sure.

Everyone thinks I’ve been on holidays, but really, I’ve been on writer’s boot camp, training for a guest spot on Writing Races, the Australian Writer’s Marketplace online forum.

I thought it was an inspired bit of fun aimed at getting the procrastinators up and writing, if only for an hour, between 8.00 and 9.00 pm on a Tuesday. I thought the idea was to set aside the hour, get writing, and hopefully make some progress on the work-in-progress.

Then I find out that other racers have been known to clock over a thousand words in the hour.  A thousand words! Jesus, Mary and Joseph, talk about performance anxiety.

It was enough to make me suck in my writer’s gut and hit the keyboard for a gruelling week of finger agility exercises, keyboard readiness training, writer’s block attack strategies and a pre-race fitness program in scene mapping and character development.

I’d like to say that after just one week of training, I am now a lean, mean, writing machine. I would also like to say that I look fantastic in a g-string, but that doesn’t make it true, does it?

This writing machine was built for comfort, not for speed. I am a literary tortoise, taking a long, scenic amble through the landscape, smelling the roses, tapping out a few words, wandering off for a nibble, adding a semi-colon, jogging downhill for a couple of paragraphs, before circling back to replace the semi-colon with a comma.

Who am I trying to kid? Christy Brown wrote faster than me with his left foot. Dead poets write faster than I do.

You don’t believe me? OK, then, I dare you. Come along tonight (Tuesday 21 April) to Writing Races, the online forum at Australian Writer’s Marketplace.

We’ll be lining up at 7.30 pm sharp for an online chat with the punters, then we’ll be racing off-line from 8.00 pm. An hour later, we’ll check in to compare personal bests and word tallies.

Who will be the biggest loser in the history of Writing Races? Tune in to find out (but here’s a tip for free, the smart money is on me).  ;-)

If you’re quick, there’s still time to grab a copy of today’s Courier Mail (28 March 2009) and check out the etc lift-out’s cover story and two-page spread on the current infestation of debut novelists coming out of the Sunshine State.

Yes, I am one of them, and yes I do rate a quick mention. The on-line version  Queensland writers break out with debut novels doesn’t include the rather fetching photograph of yours truly, but you all get enough of that right here, don’t you? ;)

I just had to steal that caption from Gary Kemble’s article in the March edition of Writing Queensland, because (she says, trying to keep the excited quiver out of her voice) he is talking about me. Well, my books. Or, to be more precise, my soon-to-published novel Dust and the WIP.

Avoiding ‘Second-Novel Syndrome’ looks at how authors cope with the pressure of writing numero duo after their first novel has hit the shelves.

I must have snuck in on a technicality because my first novel doesn’t hit the bookshelves till July, but who cares? Not me. I am delighted to be gracing the pages of QWC’s flagship publication, Writing Queensland, and in such fine company too.

There I am on page six, sandwiched in between the charming Nick Earls, best-selling author of is-it-fourteen-novels-now, Nick?, Will Elliott, winner of the inaugural ABC Fiction Prize, Clarion South graduate Deborah Kalin, and my very favourite vampire writer, Jason Nahrung.

To read the full article, grab your latest copy of WQ, or if you don’t have one, click on the Qld Writers Centre link on the right and subscribe. QWC is da bomb, and you get a monthly WQ free as part of your membership. To read the full text of my interview with Gary Kemble, simply scroll down…

Q. Can you tell me a bit about the process of writing Dust and now The Lonely Dead? Was there any overlap between the two — or did you start writing The Lonely Dead after finishing Dust?

I started writing Dust when I still had a pre-schooler at home, chucking balls at the back of my head to get my attention. It was written in fits and bursts, sometimes months apart, over two or three years, and it showed. The first draft was short-listed for the Varuna Manuscript Development Awards, but it really could have done without those early back-of-skull distractions.

A harsh but fair manuscript appraisal from Driftwood slapped some sense into me and I decided to rewrite it from scratch as part of a Master of Arts in Youth Writing at QUT. I simultaneously did Year of the Novel with Veny Armanno and the combination taught me everything I should have known, but didn’t, about writing that first novel.

It took me six months of solid work to rewrite Dust. Finishing it was hard – I’m like Tank the penguin in Surf’s Up, happy to hole up in my room, endlessly polishing my ladies. But I’d given myself a 12-month deadline to finish my Masters, so I forced myself to down tools and submit. Then I had six weeks off and wrote nothing more complex than a grocery list.

I officially started writing The Lonely Dead on 19 May 2008, but I had already written a couple of character sketches a year or so earlier, to fill in one of those ghastly hiatuses where you are waiting to hear something, from someone, about your first novel. So the first 10,000 words almost wrote themselves.

The Lonely Dead is like a smart younger sister – watching and listening and taking in all the mistakes of the first-born. It thinks it knows the pitfalls to avoid, but being the willful child of a distracted mother, it will, no doubt, find new and exciting mistakes to make and call its own.

Q. Was there any pressure from any quarters to write something more similar to Dust, to ‘establish your name’ with readers?

No. Leonie Tyle’s Woolshed Press, an Imprint of Random House Australia, is publishing Dust. Leonie did ask if I had plans for any other YA novels, and I do, but I want to finish The Lonely Dead first. She’s happy with that and told me to put as much heart into it as I did with Dust. She also says RHA is excited that my next novel is adult and crime, so everyone seems happy with where I’m heading.

Q. At what point did you find a publisher for Dust? Had you already started work on The Lonely Dead?

I had specifically asked for Leonie to examine my Masters because she is one of the country’s most respected publishers of young adult fiction and I wanted her to read every word of my manuscript and tell me what she thought of it. Luckily, she loved it.

I enrolled in Year of the Edit with Kim Wilkins to help polish the final draft that went to RHA in September last year. By the time Dust made it through their Acquisitions process in October, I was almost 20,000 words into The Lonely Dead.

Q. How did finding a home for Dust affect your writing, if at all? Did you gain confidence from the sale, or did you feel like the pressure was on?

I was so excited about Dust, I couldn’t concentrate on The Lonely Dead at all. It was weeks before I got back to writing my second novel, and even now, there are ongoing distractions – revisions, line edits, blurbs, bios, marketing requirements, interviews with Writing Queensland, lol. But hey, I’m not complaining, this is the dream, the goal, what I’ve been working towards for the last few years. It’s all good.

Getting a publisher was important for me. I was too vain for vanity publishing and wanted the affirmation of a commercial publisher believing in my work enough to invest in it. So yes, the sale gave me confidence in my writing. Also, the fact that I was 20,000 words into The Lonely Dead, meant I was spared the anxiety of deciding what to do next.

Q. The Lonely Dead sounds like a very different book to Dust — different target audience and presumably very different content. Was this a conscious decision — to get away from Dust and so avoid the risk of repeating yourself?

I’m not sure that what I write is a conscious decision. I started Dust without a clear vision of where I was going, but with a firm conviction that I had to set my story in that time and place. Adults will enjoy it for the humour and authenticity of the 1970s setting, but Dust is a young adult novel because it is so clearly in the voice of an adolescent – a cracker of a kid, with a great take on the world.

The Lonely Dead on the other hand is adult, crime and contemporary. The main characters and situation came to me out of nowhere: one dead, one guarding a secret, one determined to discover the truth. But there can be no secrets in a murder investigation, so the conflict was there from the beginning.

This time round I get to play with multiple viewpoints, which is wonderfully challenging after writing a first-person narrative. I also get to play with ideas, words and language that appeal to grown-ups and that’s fun too.

I can’t see a problem with tackling something so very different in my second novel. The British writer Kate Atkinson is an inspiration in that sense. Her debut novel Behind the Scenes at the Museum won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. She then went on to write a string of Jackson Brodie crime bestsellers. And wouldn’t we all love to do that!