Archive for the ‘YA Fiction’ Category

You know that old cliche “Never in my wildest dreams”?

Well, I never say that.

Because as we all know, good writers avoid cliches like the plague…and in my wildest dreams, I’m usually fighting a one-woman guerrilla war against Columbian drug lords, or facing down a serial killer threatening a library full of school children or -

OK, so I  like my dreams to have exciting plot lines. But I like to keep them real too….

So never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would ever write the following words….

I just made a list with David Malouf!


No, honestly, I did. Truly. I’m not even lying.

You can click here if you don’t believe me. And here.

And here.

See, I told you!

Thanks to the good folks from Book Links (QLD) and their brilliant Big Read idea, everyone will get a chance over the next few months to vote on their favourite Queensland book for young people.

I’m still giddy with excitement. Who would have thunk Henry Hoey Hobson and Dust would both get a guernsey?

The only problem with making a list with David Malouf, Nick Earls, Michael Gerard Bauer, and all those other incredibly talented writers, is that you can bet your bottom dollar that just about everyone will be voting for one of them.

So Mum, if you’re reading this, there’s one little thing I need you to do for me….

Just click on this link here … and let your conscience be your guide.

No pressure.

lots of love from your only daughter ever

Chrissy xx

When I wrote my first novel I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

I had a head full of dreams and a driving need to capture evocative moments on paper.

I wrote scene after scene, but had no idea how to string them together into a meaningful work of fiction.

When I finally finished my first draft, it was 80,000 words long, and the kindest thing I could say was that it …. meandered.

Oh, it had its moments – enough for the dear folk in at Varuna to short-list it for a manuscript development award - but not enough to win, or to be seriously considered for publication.

After a brutal, but necessary, independent manuscript assessment (that made me cry at the time, and still makes me cringe), I did what I should have done in the first place.

I enrolled in Year of the Novel at the Queensland Writers Centre, and learned everything that I should have known, but didn’t, about writing a novel.

The following year, in 2008, I enrolled in QWC’s Year of the Edit … and halfway through the course had my entirely rewritten first novel Dust accepted for publication.

Three publishing contracts later, I remain a huge fan of QWC’s Year of the Writer courses.

And now young grasshopper, the student is to become the teacher.

This year, I’ll be the one out front teaching Year of the YA Novel at the Qld Writers Centre.

Across five Sunday workshops between April and December, I’ll be sharing everything you’ve always wanted to know about writing that YA novel.

So, if you have a burning ambition to get a novel for young people written this year, click here to learn more.

I’d love to see you there. :)

QWC | Year of the YA Novel | Queensland Writers Centre.

If, like me, you plan to end the year skidding in sideways with a book in each hand, then read on for this year’s hot Xmas pressie ideas for family and friends…

For the Teen Miss, it would be hard to go past Shift by Em BaileyA genre-busting, riveting gallop of a read that examines toxic friendship through a more sinister lens. For me, this is the Young Adult psychological thriller of the year, with a doozy of a cover that booksellers tell me is walking off the shelves.

For tastes that run more to funny and poignant, first job, first love, then get Bill Condon’s A Straight Line to My Heart. All Aussie humour and heart, with cracker dialogue and characters you can’t bear to say goodbye to when the last page is turned.

For the young fella in the house, you can’t go wrong with The Coming of the Whirlpool: Ship Kings 1This new series has all the hallmarks of a swash-buckling classic from Miles Franklin award-winning author Andrew McGahan.  Brimming with adventure, heroism and secrets. A must-buy for boys 12+ this Christmas.

Michael Gerard Bauer’s Ishmael and the Hoops of Steel is a corker of a read for anyone aged 12 and over. In this hilarious third and final novel in the Ishmael series, our cast of lovable larrikins finishes Year 12 at St Daniels. The colourful rejacketed full set will make a terrific addition to any kid’s library.

For the knee-highs, Katherine Battersby’s adorable picture book Squish Rabbit is a winner with a squishy cover as sweet as the gelati palette used in its collaged pages. I have a very special three year old in mind for this one…

Lovers of fantasy are spoilt for choice with wonderful offerings from award-winning authors Melina Marchetta, Karen Brooks, Alison Goodman and James Moloney.

Froi of the Exiles is the riveting sequel to Finnikin of the Rock  and once again proves that Melina Marchetta is gifted with the grace of writing characters who steal your heart. Powerful story telling coupled with a nuanced understanding of human nature creates a richly imagined tale peopled with unforgettable characters. Froi of the Exiles is compulsive reading that will leave you clamouring for the final book in the series.

In Karen Brooks’ Votive, the second in her Curse of the Bond Riders trilogy, the gentle candlemaker Tallow has been suborned by the corrupt Maleovellis and transformed into courtesan and assassin Tarlo. The machiavellian intrigues of this beautifully realised world will have you on tenderhooks for the final installment. Bring on Illumination!

Alison Goodman’s Eona is a stunning conclusion to the Dragoneye fantasy duology that started with Eon (also published as The Two Pearls of Wisdom).

And finally, James Moloney’s new fantasy Silvermay is guaranteed to please his myriad fans with Wyrdborn and common folk fighting over a child destined to destroy the world.

PS I’ve just realised this list is top-heavy with speculative fiction and kids, so next time I’ll post some recommendations for Nana and other significant adults in your lives. ;)

So tell me, what books are on your must-buy list this Christmas?

The third Friday in August is a red-letter day for every Aussie kids’ writer.

It is the day the Children’s Book Council of Australia announces its Book of the Year Awards across five categories covering toddlers to teens.

The CBCA awards are arguably the most prestigious children’s literature awards in this country. School libraries snap up its shortlisted titles. International networks promoting and celebrating literature for children and young adults bring the books to international attention.  Authors, like me, are honoured to even make the shortlist.

I’m happy to see some of my favourite books and authors honoured this year, so with no further ado, the winners are…

Book of the Year for Older Readers – The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett. Honour books are Cath Crowley’s Graffit Moon and The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher by Doug MacLeod.

Book of the Year for Younger Readers is The Red Wind by Isobelle Carmody. Honour books are Michael Gerard Bauer’s Just a Dog and Violet Mackerel’s Brilliant Plot by Anna Branford.

For a full list of all the 2011 CBCA Book of the Year Awards, click here. And congratulations to all winners, honour books and others who made the shortlist. The world of books is richer for your presence. :)

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I take my hat off to the real judges of the CBCA Book of the Year Awards.

Not just because they short-listed my Henry Hoey Hobson For Book of the Year for Younger Readers (though, let’s be honest, I LOVE them for that), but because they do such a difficult job, for little pay or thanks.

As a Qld Clayton’s judge, I managed to read less than half of the 95 books entered in the Older Readers category of this year’s Children’s Book Council Awards.

(Though in my own defence, I was given less than a month to do the job – thank the high heavens I’d already read ten before they asked me!)

The real judges read more than 400 books across four categories and then had to nut out Notables and Shortlists in each.

I enjoyed picking my Clayton’s Notable Books for Older Readers (the twenty-plus books that I thought were just terrific last year), but really struggled to decide the final six.

In the end it was a teenager’s plea that swayed me: “Pick some books that we might love, instead of the ones that oldies like you love.”

He had a point; I’m not 15 anymore. So in trying to be true to both myself and the intended audience, I went with the following six books because I loved them AND I couldn’t wait to press them into the hands of teenage readers.

Cath Crowley – Graffiti Moon

A lyrical, beautifully-crafted novel told seamlessly through three voices: Ed, a functionally illiterate high-school drop-out who moonlights as the mysterious graffiti artist Shadow; Lucy Dervish, the smitten teenager who is determined to track Shadow down; and Poet, the edgy wordsmith who is Shadow’s partner-in-crime.

The action unfolds over a single night at the end of Year Twelve, bringing to life the street art of Melbourne and illuminating the lives of its teenage protagonists.  An invigorating read that proves art and poetry are definitely not too cool for school.

Anthony Eaton – Daywards.

This final instalment in Eaton’s Darklands Trilogy completes a landmark undertaking in Australian speculative fiction writing.

The landscape is evocatively Australian, a thousand years into a dystopian future, where the only hope for a dying world lies in the bloodlines of the few surviving descendants of its oldest inhabitants.

Dara, her brother Jaran, and cousin Eyna are ‘viable” members of their hunter-gatherer clan. With clan elder Ma Saria,  the children flee the invading Nightpeople, by walking Daywards, into the deadly sunlight.

In their fight for survival, the children’s spiritual connection to the land is their only defence and greatest weapon against the technologically-driven survivors of the doomed Sky Cities.

This is political writing in the best tradition of science fiction, pitting a spiritual affinity with the land against the transgressions of technology and the contamination of nature.

While Daywards can be read as a stand-alone novel, this trilogy has been ten years in the making and cries out to be introduced to a new generation of readers.

AJ Betts – Wavelength

Oliver’s world has shrunk to the point where he can’t see past the 80 percent he needs to get into Uni with his mates.

But the study break he takes away from the noise and distraction of his Mum’s crunchy muffin business turns sour 300 kilometres from home.

He lands at the Sunny Haven Old People’s home without text books, clothes, phone, or money. The only person anywhere near his age hates him, nobody is on his wavelength, and his chances of achieving the all-important 80 percent seem to have disappeared with his luggage.

But somehow, between the incorrigible elderly and the girl he can’t impress, he learns what no text book can teach: life is long, choices are infinite, and there is always time to change your mind….

A must-read for teens stressing out over OPs and HSCs.

Cassandra Golds – The Three Loves of Persimmon

The shy and solitary Persimmon Polidori is an unlikely rebel.

Cast out by her family for favouring the frivolity of flowers over a more respectable career in vegetables, she labours alone, dreaming of love, in her heart-shaped florist shop on the top level of a vast underground railway station.

Five levels below, under the railway line to Platform One, a tiny mouse called Epiphany dreams of a world free of the rattle and screech of trains arriving and departing at six minute intervals.

They embark on their separate quests,  not knowing that they are destined to meet in a life-changing encounter that will win them their hearts’ desires.

An exquisitely layered tale that will appeal to girls who appreciate the magical in life and reading.

Fiona Wood – Six Impossible Things

Fourteen-year-old nerd-boy Dan Cereill (pronounced surreal) has lost everything.

His family is bankrupt, his dad gay, his Mum is sabotaging her own wedding cake business by talking potential customers out of getting married, the new house is freezing, the new school a living hell, and then there’s the impossible crush on Estelle, the girl next door.

Dan sorts the whole unspeakable mess into something quantifiable; to make his life better he needs to achieve just six impossible things.

Fortunately, Dan Cereill is an anagram for Cinderella…And yes, there is a climactic dance scene, a midnight curfew, and unexpected helpers who come out of the woodwork to save Dan’s adorable dorky hide.

This fresh and funny reversal-of-fortune story about love and loneliness in Year 10 is perfect for early-to-mid secondary schoolers with undeniable appeal for older readers as well.

Melina Marchetta – The Piper’s Son

This stunning stand-alone book picks up the lives of a group of friends from Saving Francesca. It’s five years down the track, and this time it’s Tom Mackee who needs saving.

Tom has lost his way, seeking oblivion through drink and drugs. Trying to forget the London bombing that claimed his uncle’s life, trying to survive without the friends he has pushed away and a family torn apart by grief, alcoholism and loss.

His journey back from the edge is a heart-wrenching read, leavened with a warm humour and lovingly crafted by an author who understands the flaws and strengths of family and friendship, and how they weave a safety net capable of saving us all.  Powerful and unforgettable, for mature readers.

And that’s my six. No doubt they will differ from your six in various important ways – and so they should. As Kate Grenville once wrote “Each of us brings our own experiences, memories and prejudices to a work of art and looks at it through that unique lens. We all read the same words…but we all see different things.’

[This is an abridged version of the talk I gave to celebrate the Qld CBCA Shortlist announcement at St Aiden's College on April 12. Please click here for a full list of CBCA Notable and Short Listed Books in the 2011 Book of the Year Awards.]

The CBCA 2011 Notable Books have been released (click here for the full list), so it’s now safe for me to publish my own Clayton’s Notables for Older Readers.

AJ Betts – Wavelength A must-read for stressed out Year Twelve students

Laura Buzo – Good Oil Ahhh, first love, don’t we all remember that?

Cath Crowley – Graffiti Moon A lyrical adventure proving that Art and Poetry are not too cool for school

Cassandra Golds – The Three Loves of Persimmon An exquisite fable for those who believe in love, magic and talking cabbages

Kirsty Eagar – Saltwater Vampires Aussie vampire fiction with bite – a clever re-imagining of the story behind the wreck of the Batavia

Anthony Eaton – Daywards The highly-anticipated final instalment in a landmark Australian speculative fiction trilogy

Jackie French – A Waltz for Matilda Absorbing drama set against the backdrop of the shearer’s strike, federation, suffragette movement and war

Steven Herrick – SLICE Sixteen year old Darcy suffers from premature enunciation; his mouth runs ahead of his brain. Just delicious.

Leanne Hall – This is Shyness A weird and wonderful night on the prowl with Wolfboy and Wildgirl

Sonya Hartnett – The Midnight Zoo Talking animals and gypsy children create a moving fable about war and freedom

Nette Hilton – The Innocents Deadly secrets in 1950s Australia. A rewarding read for mature readers.

Joanne Horniman – About a Girl A beautiful, wistful story about love between two teenage girls.

Belinda Jeffrey – Big River, Little Fish All the makings of an Australian classic, set against the 1956 flooding of the Murray.

Kathryn Lomer – What Now, Tilda B? A heartening story of finding a purpose washing up on the shores of your life.

Melina Marchetta – The Piper’s Son Heart-wrenchingly real; a lovingly crafted story of grief and redemption from an outstanding Australian writer

Foz Meadows – Solace and Grief Supernatural fantasy set in Sydney’s underworld introducing a vampire saviour and other members of the Rare.

Kirsty Murray – India Dark Based on a true story of exploitation and mutiny in a troupe of child stars touring India in 1909.

Tim Pegler -Five Parts Dead Dan has dodged death five times, but his mates haven’t been so lucky. Supernatural thriller with dual time-line making for addictive reading for teens.

Nicole Pluss – Scout Fascinating historical fiction based on a young English girl’s experiences setting sail to the colonies.

Michael Pryor – Laws of Magic 5: Moment of Truth The latest enthralling episode in a phenomenal steam-punk adventure series.

James Roy – Anonymity Jones When life falls apart for this sixteen year old, should she hang on, get out or get even? Tough choices for our resourceful, headstrong heroine.

Karen Tayleur – Six Guaranteed to keep you reading. Six teenagers. Five seatbelts. One after-party. And a twist in the tale.

Fiona Wood – Six Impossible Things Fresh and funny tale of love and loneliness in Year Ten.

Richard Yaxley – Drink the Air A beautiful and moving verse novel set in Hervey Bay about love and loss in high school.

[PS: I was given less than a month to come up with a CBCA Clayton's shortlist for 2011 (which stays strictly Secret Squirrel until tonight's Qld CBCA function at St Aidens), so I didn't get to read all 95 novels entered in the Older Readers category. So please feel free to add any other Notables published in 2010 that you have discovered for yourself.] :)

I’ve just spent the best part of a week unable to walk up or down stairs.

Quadriceps that once functioned perfectly adequately for a woman of my years, have failed me.

Despite the general consensus of family and friends, I refuse to blame it on last week’s indoor netball game.

I may be the oldest member of the team (the oldest member in the comp, some have unkindly suggested), and I may have played only the one season since 1973, but by golly, I’m still up for it.

The sweet young things we played were barely half our age, but I only fell over the once; the scrape on my elbow hardly bled at all and my left knee didn’t turn green for days.

But old and cunning still has some advantages over young and beautiful.

Unlike the SYTs on the other team, we didn’t have any makeup to sweat off, we weren’t there to hook up, and we didn’t have the rest of our lives to win a game of netball; every mature netballer knows that every game could be her last.

I was feeling pretty good afterward, despite my fall. So good in fact, that the very next day I offered to stand in for a fellow indoor netballer at her group Pilates class.

Clearly she knew something I didn’t.

The instructor had biceps like ham hocks and little understanding of the special needs of the more mature indoor netballer.

An hour later I wobbled out on trembling legs, in such a state that a friend who has survived cancer asked if I needed a hand.

I’ve been keeping a low profile since. Walking the dog slowly, hoping to regain full use of my legs.

But today, I rose without groaning, felt an unaccustomed spring in my step, ran up the stairs, just to prove that I could, and turned on the computer to hear via the lovely Jim Roy that HENRY HOEY HOBSON had made the Victorian CBCA Clayton’s Shortlist for Younger Readers.

So chuffed was I that I did a little dance (just because I could). Happy too, that Jim’s latest novel ANONYMITY JONES made the list for Older Readers, along with fellow Woolshed Press author Nette Hilton for THE INNOCENTS.

If you’d like to see the Victorian Clayton’s judges’ hot tips on which books could be contenders for the REAL Children’s Book Council Shortlist to be announced on April 12, click here.

Meantime, I can die happy.

I’ve won an indoor netball game (I did mention we won, didn’t I? 29-20. Against those spritely young things) AND I’ve shared a (Clayton’s) shortlist with the likes of  Michael Gerard Bauer and Glenda Millard.)

Oh yes, my week has definitely got better. :)

For the next nine days don’t expect too much from me.

I’ll be feeding my kids Weet Bix for dinner, letting the unopened mail topple from my desk, pushing all other deadlines back as far they’ll go (and praying they don’t snap back in my face).

I’ll be busy – on the couch, on the bus, at the airport – reading books. Lots and lots and lots of books.

All part of the fun of being a Queensland Clayton’s Judge for the CBCA Book Awards this year. Ninety-five books have been entered in the Older Readers Category and I have to choose just six by March 11….

It’s a bit like lining up 95 fabulous people that you like and/or love for different and complex reasons, then taking the hands of just six and pulling them forward for special acknowledgement. With so many fabulous books to choose from, I think I’ll just have to post my own Claytons Notables List as well the Shortlist…

The REAL CBCA Shortlist and Notable Books for 2011 will be announced nation-wide at noon on April 12.

I’m planning to put my fingers in my ears, squeeze my eyes shut, and avoid facebook, so that I can stand up in all innocence and ignorance at CBCA’s Qld Shortlist function that night and wax lyrical about the six books published last year that I loved best.

They’ll be the books that I clasped to my chest, then pressed onto friends and family. The books that made me laugh, made me cry, made me think, and made me happy to be a reader and proud to be a writer in a country that produces books and writers like these.

So if you need me in the next nine days, you know where to find me. ;)

A huge thank you to all the hard-working librarians who have chosen Henry Hoey Hobson for this year’s Readers Cup.

Five regions so far – Brisbane South, Brisbane Bayside, Gold Coast, Capricornia and Somerset/Lockyer – have put HHH on the list of books to be read in their regional competitions in June. Other regions will be declaring their lists in the coming weeks, so fingers crossed!

I’m really looking forward to presenting the cups and medallions to regional finalists in June  and being part of the State Finals to be held in conjunction with the Ipswich Literature Festival in September.

The Readers Cup promotes the love of literature to students in Years 6/7 and 8/9, so if your school hasn’t yet signed up, click here to register. You have until the end of March to join the cool kids. :)

I’m dying here, people. Torn. Torn. Torn.

Half of me wants to let the cat out of the bag, the other half wants to warn off anyone who hasn’t yet read Henry Hoey Hobson.

Teachers Notes for HHH are now available. They’re awesome, but be warned, they do contain, ahem, spoilers (like a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of plot and character, and pages of ready-to-use classroom activities for over-worked teachers of Grades 6-8).

Click here if you are a teacher, know a teacher, or want to make a teacher’s life just that little bit easier.

The rest of you, click here for a taste that won’t spoil your appetite for more. ;)