How many authors can you fit in a photo booth?

Whitsunday Voices has just rocketed to the top of my list of favourite Youth Literature Festivals EVER.

Enthusiastic hordes of kids (nearly 6,000 over two days), an unruly mob of wacky funsters (er, I mean authors and illustrators), and a sold-out bookstore that more than eased the graphospasm pain from six frenetic signing sessions.

20150717_142019

Two of my awesome minions!

Whitsunday Voices made it look effortless with a top lineup of literary and musical talent and gifted minions catering to every whim of its fourteen resident authors, illustrators and musicians over the two days and nights of the festival.

And what a demanding mob we were. Especially Tony Flowers who insisted on fresh jelly beans in the green room each morning AND his sandwiches cut into circles, NOT rectangles, triangles or squares.

Tony Flowers and his signature Tim Tams

Tony Flowers and his signature Tim Tams

When he demanded chocolate biscuits decorated in his own inimitable cartooning style, we almost choked laughing – until Mandy Lawless and her nonpareil catering corp managed to come up with exactly that.

Now I know that Literature Festivals aren’t all about the food. But when you’re talking to up to 300 kids per session, a writer has NEEDS (some of which only occured to me when they wheeled in the freshly baked scones, and please, don’t get me started on that apple and date cake with caramelised coconut topping).

[Pauses and wipes dribble from keyboard]

Now, where where we? Oh, yes, literature. Um, have I mentioned this year’s awesome lineup?

The Green Room

RA Spratt, Emma Quay, AJ Betts, Dave Lowe, Nick Falk, Danny Katz, Will Kostakis, Tristan Bancks, Tony Flowers

20150717_182146

Tara Moss, Emma Quay, Nick Falk, RA Spratt, Tony Flowers, Tristan Bancks, AJ Betts, Danny Katz, Jenni from WAS, Will Kostakis and me

20150717_145306

At last, the elusive Mark Greenwood (second from right) finally captured on camera (along with the usual suspects)

10419038_991215407576276_3657619858156743738_n

Singing the praises of short stories

A huge thank you to Whitsunday Anglican School for hosting such a marvellous event, to the Winchester Foundation for bringing rural and remote students to the Festival, to my fellow scribes, artists and performers for making it so much fun, and to the kids – you’re the best. Write on!

On making unsatisfactory realities into deeply satisfying stories

On making unsatisfactory realities into deeply satisfying stories

Shaun Kirk, blues musician extraordinaire

Lucas Proudfoot keeping the littlies entralled with traditional Aboriginal dance and music

Head chef Mandy and the team!

Head chef Mandy and the team!

Awesome organiser Sonya Anderson and Anne De Luca

Awesome organiser Sonia Andersen and Anna De Luca

CBCA 2014 Short list Older Readers

Well, I did warn hubba hubby last night: ‘I’m having a cry tomorrow. Just so you know.’

He didn’t know why, of course, until I told him. About the CBCA Book of the Year – Notable Books and Short List announcement.

About how all we writers for young people wait with roiling guts for the announcement at midday. Distracting ourselves with keep-busy work, while all our hopes and fears dash up against the ever-present thought:  So many great books … such a strong year 

So yes, I did burst into tears when I saw Intruder short-listed for the 2015 CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers.

Because until I saw it there in such fine company, I didn’t believe that it would be, that it could be …  Because there were so many great books. It was such a strong year

So, I’d just like to say thank you to the CBCA and offer my congratulations – not only to the 2015 Notable and Shortlisted authors, but to all the writers and illustrators of the 400-odd titles that the CBCA judges deliberated over this past year – here’s to the rich diversity of Aussie books for kids and teens, long may it rule! *clinks glass*

256x256_fit_one_bestfit (10)Oh you can book me in anytime, Somerset – fifteen thousand school kids, 120 parent volunteers, thirty-three authors and thirty-plus temperatures over a jam-packed four days at the Gold Coast – another sizzlingly superlative Celebration of Literature!

The kids were all inspired and inspiring, but a special shout-out to the Macintyre Young Writers for their enthusiasm despite the seven-hour bus trip via Goondawindi  to be part of the festival; and to the Somerset College kids for their brilliant hosting of the event.Macintyre Young Writers

After 22 years, Somerset has a fair idea just how disoriented authors can get when taken out of their native habitat. That’s why they allocate two hardworking elves to each of us, to guide and assist, fetch coffee, steer us into our sessions, and make sure we don’t get lost in between times.

I had the finest elves any author could ask for – Rosalie and Nick, Year 10 members of the Wordsmiths club, seen here behaving themselves beautifully while I ham it up with Clare Atkins, author of the brilliant debut novel, Nona and Me. With my brilliant Wordsmith elves and debut author sensation Clare Atkins

Clearly, literature festivals are hard work. Hanging out with old friends Michael Gerard Bauer,and James Moloney. Dining out with our wonderful Scholastic publisher Dyan Blacklock. Breakfasting with my brilliant Random House publicist Zoe Bechara and fellow Authors Belinda Murrell, Keith AustinR.A. Spratt and George Ivanoff.RHA authors

And don’t get me started on my fan girl moments, sharing the Green Room with so many talented authors including Ellie Marney (Author of Every Breath), and Melissa Keil (The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl).

What can I say? It’s a tough gig . . . but I did miss my dog, my kids, and my husband (possibly in that order). It’s good to be home. :)

 

luggage full and ready to travelPacking. Ack. I’m hopeless at it. I throw in too much of everything, can’t cope for four days with less than three pairs of Birkis plus something sparkly to wear out at night, and then I forget essentials – like the address of where I am staying . . .

And no wonder, I mean, look at me – I’m supposed to be packing, I’m leaving at 8.30 in the am and here I am jabbering away at my keyboard, having the loveliest of times instead of googling weather on the Gold Coast for the next four days or whatever it is that organised people do when they pack . . .

Dang, I really wish I were a list person, then I could tick off the following:

Washing (check – everything is clean, so that’s a start)

Dog (check – he has food and has been walked this morning – sorry Huggy, that’s the best I can do. If they forget to feed you, just hoover the kitchen floor, that should be enough to survive on till Saturday)

Children (check – the pantry is stocked, school forms have been filled in and signed, promises to look after the youngest have been extracted from the eldest . . . but Lordy, best not to dwell on this topic, so moving on…)

Laptop (check – loaded with tomorrow’s talk to a packed auditorium at Helensvale Cultural Centre AND the latest draft of my work-in-progress – an optimistic thought, but perhaps after each thrill-packed day at Somerset Celebration of Literature all we authors will be inspired to work poolside at the Royal Pines Resort – Surfers Paradise

Wait – I’ll need togs! And a cover-up. Sandals. And clothes – day-wear, and for going out at night and to bed. Oh dear, you better excuse me, I need to get cracking with that packing . . .

Do you think three pairs of Birkis are enough?

Jambin floodsThe older I get, the more I suspect happiness is linked to low expectations.

I expected nothing from yesterday’s birthday, had planned nothing in the aftermath of floods and other dramas, and yet 24 hours later I’m still aglow from the unexpected pleasures it brought.

A romantic dinner with hubby the night before… Great Italian with the kids last night. A call from an old pal – celebrating a 43 year friendship that’s still going strong. Another from my brother – hearing his voice on the phone after a tracheotomy tube had prevented him from speaking for a week was the most joyful of birthday presents.

All six of my brothers remembered, even the one on night shift in cyclone-torn Central Queensland. Such great blokes, and lord knows, they all had more important things on their minds.

The 42 people evacuated by helicopter from flood-devastated Jambin included one brother, his wife, their daughter and granddaughter, and another nephew and niece.

Water surrounded my family’s homes in Biloela and Jambin, but didn’t make it inside, thank the high heavens. Chooks and dogs survived, but not the four black snakes my brother killed while clearing debris from around his front steps.Mum's house in Bilo

A neighbour across from my Mum admitted panicking as the rising waters turned the surrounding streets into canals. ‘Oh, I wasn’t worried,’ said my 84 year old mother. ‘I’ve been through this before.’ And she has. More times than most. Despite power failures and unreliable telephone coverage, she somehow managed to send me a beautiful bunch of flowers, bless her.

The floods of the 1970s made an enormous impression on me as a teenager and decades later featured in my first novel Dust‘Silently, like a thief, the flood had crept up on us, stealing our land, our paddocks, the path to our back door, our bottom step.’ This year, the flood waters made it two steps higher.

poolBack in the 70s, I was a Suzi Quatro-obsessed teen.

And in a strange twist of fate, as the flood waters recede yet again in Central Queensland and the indomitable folk begin yet another clean up, I’ll be reliving that teenaged obsession.

A good friend has surprised me with tickets to Suzi Quatro for my birthday – and try as I might to keep my expectations low, they keep bubbling up.

Can the Can, baby, we’ll be Devil Gate Driving tonight!Quatro, Suzi

funny-pictures-cyoot-kittehs-of-teh-day-geronimooooooThis is the blog post I had to have before the year launches itself onto my unsuspecting back and goes crazy.

Not bad-crazy, or Spock-when-you-insult-his-mother-crazy, but GOOD-CRAZY

It’s chockablock with writing workshops, mentorships, school visits and Festivals – and even my first-ever trip to the Big Apple, yay! (Please feel free to let your NYC agent and publisher know that I’ll be in town; I’m sure Intruder would go down a treat with a bagel and lox.) :)

For those who love to know such things, click here for a complete run-down of what 2015 has in store for me.  For the rest of you, here are the highlights to date:

somersetsomerset-celebration-of-literature-800x60017-20 March  Somerset Celebration of Literature | Gold Coast

15-30 May: Washington and New York, New York (so excited, I had to say it twice!)

15-18 July: Whitsunday Voices Literature Festival

29 July-2 August: Townsville Writer-in-Residency

22-28 August: Book Week

2-6 September: Brisbane Writers Festival

14 September: StoryArts Festival Ipswich

I’m also pleased to be taking on the role of Mentor for the Qld Literary Awards Emerging Author Manuscript Awards in 2015. In recent years, I’ve provided short mentoring sessions as part of QWC’s Writer’s Surgery so it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to work with a single author over the course of the year on the development of her manuscript.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to my work-in-progress before the madness begins!

short-stories_wide-73921f5063a3379ef3d99ecbae0cf06da5af3adc-s6-c30 (1)

One of my nine sisters-in-law once rang on a Sunday night, to share a snippet she’d found in the Weekend Shopper classifieds. It read:

‘For Sale: Size 22 wedding dress. Never worn.’

Just eight little words and an entire story ballooned out . . . But what that story meant depended on the reader.

For her, the main character was overweight, jilted before her big day, perhaps consoling herself with great slabs of wedding cake, while an over-sized gown hung unworn on the cupboard door behind her.

For me, there was an alternative, more optimistic, reading. In my version of the story, the protagonist had lost 36 kilos before her big day – the dress no longer fitted!

My point is that readers complete stories that writers begin – whether our stories are novel-length, with months if not years, separating writer and reader, or short, like the one I finished today (which hopefully makes the cut for an anthology coming out later in the year).

Stories are needy things – they demand to be written and they demand to be read. Only then are they truly finished.

So, wish me luck finishing today’s short story. It has been written. It has been flensed. Now it needs first readers, and all going well, a publisher, editor and proof reader. When it finally makes it into the hands of its readers, it will be ready. When they finish reading it and decide what it means to them, my story will be complete.