Robyn Stacey, Room 710 Tower Mill Motel, 2015. Courtesy the artist

Robyn Stacey, Room 710 Tower Mill Motel, Cloudland Exhibtion, Museum of Brisbane until 3 April 2016

My standard reply is always ‘real life.’

It’s a handy catchall. Because inspiration is literally everywhere – in the lives we live, the paths we choose, the mistakes we make, and the people we encounter along the way …

Stir in all the experiences and art that we expose ourselves to and a healthy dose of imagination, and you have a rich base for the alchemy of ideas.

Right now I’m feeling inspired after seeing Robyn Stacey’s spectacular Cloud Land photographic exhibition at the Museum of Brisbane.

MoB-Robyn-Stacey-Magistrates-Chamber-Childrens-Court-Tyrone-presiding

Robyn Pacey’s Magistrate’s chamber, Children’s Court, Tyron Presiding

I wandered in for a quick heads up before tomorrow’s writing camp for Corinda State High students and found myself in a stunning topsy turvy world.

Stacey brings the outside in, projecting stunning city views into darkened rooms, using the ancient camera obscura technique.

She captures fleeting glimpses of lives, producing moments that resonate in a lush and surreal setting that literally turns Brisbane on its head.

Any one of her photographs could balloon into any number of stories given the prod of a healthy imagination.

Which is what I’ll be doing tomorrow with Year 7, 8 and 9 from Corinda State High: giving their imaginations a prod and seeing what stories they come up with inspired by Cloudland. 🙂

Nun's Cell, All Hallows Convent, Story Bridge - Robyn Stacey Cloudland Exhbition, MoB

Nun’s Cell, All Hallows Convent, Story Bridge – Robyn Pacey, Cloudland Exhibiton at Museum of Brisbane until 3 April.

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So tell me, whaddaya think of the new look Henry Hoey Hobson?

Penguin Random House has shouted my adored middle child a brand new jacket and I couldn’t be happier.

‘Henry is an in-house favourite,’ says my lovely publisher Zoe Walton. ‘We wanted to give him a fresh new look that’s fun and grabs young readers’ attention.’

So brace yourself young readers, the rejacketed Henry Hoey Hobson is heading your way soon. Look for him in bookstores from 1 March. 🙂

(Cover design by Christa Moffitt of Christabella Designs, who also designed covers for fellow Random House award winners Two Wolves and Are You Seeing Me?)

 

1955 FILM : "SEVEN YEAR ITCH"MARILYN MONROE AND TOM EWELL

1955 FILM : “SEVEN YEAR ITCH” MARILYN MONROE AND TOM EWELL

‘The seven year itch, a time of potential crisis when you traditionally take stock of your relationship and decide whether it’s what you really want or not.’ Daily Mail Online

Dear Blog,

It’s exactly seven years since you first came into my life.

Back then, you were a bit shy, hesitant, and let’s be honest (we’ve known each other long enough to be candid), a trifle underwhelming.

I was an internet virgin. Nervously attending the kind of workshop that those in the know recommended to those without a clue (before their first publisher had their way with them).

I remember blushing when the workshop convener at the Qld Writers Centre suggested I  google myself (I’d never done that before – and certainly not in a room full of strangers).

oh-my-blog-I found only two online references to myself (an article on dispute resolution dating back to the nineties, and a more current tuckshop roster for my kids’ primary school).

Clearly there was work to be done on developing this author’s platform. And apparently you were the blog that would do it for me.

The lovely convener that set us up, explained your needs and what I should do with your widgets, and somehow we survived our first awkward encounters.

Ironically, one of my first posts protested parallel importation of books – and seven years later, Aussie writers are fighting that battle again. (Thanks for providing the handy link to click if anyone wants to sign the Petition to save Australian literature).

Our blogging efforts went to the next level when I worked out that a bit of visual stimulation (and even some Elvis the Pelvis) could add a bit of fun. And suddenly there was no stopping us.

We went at it like rabbits. But after seven years, more than 200 posts, and 71,000 views from more than 10,000 visitors, I began to wonder if it might be time for a change.

I found myself making discrete inquiries to friends about their website designers. Late at night, I previewed other blog themes, colours and fonts. I fantasized about a more exciting website that could show me off, take me to new places, introduce me to new friends.

I went back through seven years of archives, trying to see how to do things better and a funny thing happened.

As I retraced my steps, through all the ups and downs of this writing life, and the funny, sadinspiring and beautiful moments that we’ve shared, I fell in love with you, dear blog, all over again.

So you can scratch that seven year itch. The comfort of the tried and true is strong enough to keep us together.

Rest easy, dear blog, looks like you’re stuck with me for a good few years yet. Cxx

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This Thursday, I’ll be scooping up all the gold coins from Hubba Hubby’s desktop, grabbing an armful of books my kids have grown out of, and heading into the State Library of Queensland to help raise funds for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

For the price of a gold coin, you can join me (and please do – I’d love to see you there!)

Festivities kick off at SLQ from 10.30am, Thursday 17 December, with a welcome to country by songwoman Maroochy Barambah.

sidenav_promo-19112015152932-321-width-great-book-swap-fbThe Honourable  Leeanne Enoch, will read No Way Yirrikipayi!, a story of a hungry crocodile which was written and illustrated by the children of Milikapiti School on Melville Island in the Northern Territory with author Alison Lester, an ILF Ambassador.  Sam Wagan Watson will read some of his poetry for children.

Bring as many books as you’d like to swap. Dedicate it to the next reader if you like. Or even buy new books donated by the Queensland Literary Awards, Queensland Writers Centre and the Children’s Book Council of Australia.

The funds raised will be used by the Indigenous Literacy Foundation to buy books for children in remote Indigenous communities.

The Foundation, a not-for-profit initiative of the Australian Book Industry, has raised nearly $3 million since its inception in 2004 and in the past three years has gifted over 85,000 books to more than 200 communities across Australia.

It’s a wonderful initiative that deserves our support. Hope to see you there on Thursday. 🙂

 

xmas booksSomething to eat + something to read + something you want + something you need = BOOKS!

Please feel free to add or subtract, but here’s my list of must-buys for the season.barbarian-days.jpg.pagespeed.ic.JjsV0N-gyk

For the surfing fanatic in your life, you can’t go past William Finnegan’s Barbarian Days.

Hubba Hubby says it’s the best in its genre and (big call here) so well-written I’m gonna love it when he’s finished.

Life or DeathNana’s insatiable lust for crime will be well-serviced this Xmas with Michael Robotham’s latest Life or Death.

It has already won the Crime Writers of America Gold Dagger Award and is regarded by many as his finest work yet.

A compelling thriller about a criminal’s escape from jail the day before his release and the remarkable hunt that ensues (read fast, Nana, ‘cos I have dibs on this one).

ZeroesGot a hard-to-buy-for teen boy who’s read all the Cherubs and Percy Jacksons and isn’t sure where to go next?

Try him on Zeroes by YA super stars Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti.

Six kids, born in the Year 2000 with uncontrolled superpowers that make them more Zeroes than Heroes.

(Bonus here, if he likes it, there are more coming in the series.)

Our Miss Teen Queen is a girl who just wants to have fun and she knows what she wants this Xmas.

Every MoveAfter steaming through Books One and Two in Ellie Marney’s Sherlockesque Every series, she already has the final book Every Move (Every, #3) on her wish list.

Just for fun, I also need to get her/someone/ anyone who grew up with Harry Potter, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

It’s a wickedly funny take on magic school (except with a gay central love/hate affair, vampires, and the worst Chosen One ever). Ridiculously good fun.

Pig the fibberAuntie B needs Reckoning: A Memoir by Magda Szubanski and her kids, the adorable Pig the Fibber by Aaron Blabey.

Uncle J can have Flesh Wounds by Richard Glover, because it’s funny, poignant and full of rollicking growing-up-in-the-seventies adventures.

(For those who think their family is weird, think again….)

Princess Bride
And finally, for me, a book I’ve searched for fruitlessly over the years, and finally found….

A beautiful cloth-bound edition by Folio Books with full-colour plates and 328 pages of fencing, fighting, torture, poison, true love, revenge, giants, pain, death, passion and miracles.

Brimming with quotes, I’ll leave you with this one for Christmas:

“We’ll never survive!”
“Nonsense. You’re only saying that because no one ever has.”
William Goldman, The Princess Bride

Wishing you the happiest of Christmases and may you all find someone kind to share it with. Cx

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Ted 1954

Ted 1954

The date hit like a fist to the heart. I’d forgotten his anniversary. And it took me two weeks to even remember that I’d missed it.

Thirteen years since my Dad died. And I didn’t ring my Mum. Or speak to my brothers. Or even register the date until two weeks after it had passed.

What kind of daughter does that?

Then I imagine him, looking up from his newspaper (the Catholic Leader or Queensland Graingrower, for sure), eyes huge through the lens of his reading glasses.

The half snort, half laugh. That’d be right. Then the sly look. You still miss me?

Yes, you old stirrer, I do. You’d be thrilled to know how much… And you’ll also be pleased to know that I took your advice –097_97

You became a nun? Good. I told you: it’s never too late; Mary Magdalene became a saint-

Uh, no, but-

You got married? Before you  lost your looks completely?

Well, yes – but you already knew that. You were there, remember?

2015-11-23 16.09.48I imagine him then, losing interest in the conversation. Going back to his newspaper. I was safely married, he could relax. And maybe one day, I might still become a nun and make him proud…

I wonder then if he remembers the other piece of advice. The one I can’t forget because it was delivered from a hospital bed just before he died:

…be what you were meant to be, do what you were meant to do

Thanks Dad, I took your advice – and became a writer instead.

Someone with only one foot on the ground, and a head in the clouds.

Someone who feels her father’s presence more deeply since he died. But forgets to ring her Mum on the anniversary of his death.

Someone who goes back through her diary to see what kind of daughter does that, and finds this entry: ‘How to Destroy Earth (Part One) 13,419 words – it’s getting there!’

Someone who takes time out today, when the word count stands at 20,064, to spend an hour just thinking of her dad.

And so we beat on, words against the page, a middle-aged woman, unsuited to the cloistered life, still trying to make her dad proud.

 

 

If you are going through hell, keep going‘Leave nothing in the tank,’ my gym instructor pants as we enter Dante’s ninth circle of suffering at the end of a hellish fifty-minute ride class.

She’s killing me. My heart broke free of my chest two tracks ago, my lips are peeled back in a rictus of agony, my leg muscles are screaming. Yet I know from experience that this is the moment to push harder, dig deeper, and find that last lick of energy at the bottom of the barrel.

We finish hard and fast. Because endorphins don’t come cheap (and because I know there will be chocolate tonight).

This is the cycle – go hard, empty the tank, then refuel, to go further next time.

In writing and in life, I’ve learned to go hard even when I don’t feel like it – especially when I don’t feel like it – because that’s where the rewards are found.

When I look back on some of my toughest times writing – a scathing manuscript appraisal before I was published and two grueling structural edits on Intruder – I am grateful that I didn’t give up. That I pushed through.

It has taken six  years and four books to learn that persistence pays. In the past twelve months, I’ve been invited to four Writers Festivals, two educational conferences, three Writer-in-Residencies and I’ve spoken to more than five thousand students from more than fifty schools.

I’m grateful for every opportunity, but after this year’s eight-week long Book Week, the tank was officially empty. So I cut myself some slack. Ubud, Bali

While hubba hubby was off surfing in the Maldives, I took myself and the three youngest on a family holiday.

We read books. Chased waterfalls. Mountain biked down a volcano. Rode elephants. Walked down and back up a thousand steps to go rafting. Cooked and ate Balinese food. Laughed and had fun.

The tank is officially refilled. And now I’m ready to go hard again.

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Gitgit Falls

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Me and Sophie Hannah

Me and Sophie Hannah

I can die happy after a cracker of a night in Melbourne where Intruder won the 2015 Davitt Award for Best Debut Crime Book!

Do not underestimate my excitement. The last prize I won was a netball raffle ten years ago – a mountain bike designed by the military to be dropped out of helicopters into war zones.

A Davitt is infinitely more useful. And it fits on my desk!

A huge thank you to the awesome Sisters in Crime Australia for welcoming me into the fold at their 15th Annual Davitt Awards for best crime books by Australian women.

Intruder was shortlisted twice – in the Young Adult category (won by Ellie Marney’s wonderful Sherlockesque thriller Every Word), and for best Debut Crime Book which is judged across all categories (Non-fiction, Adult, YA and Children’s fiction).

With Pam Rushby and hubba hubby

With Pam Rushby and hubba hubby

Hubba hubby was there to take out the good husband award and to share in a fabulous night that celebrated Australia’s best women crime writers and which starred international best-selling author Sophie Hannah.

Huge congrats to all longlisted and short-listed authors, especially:

Liane Moriarty, Winner of the Best Adult Fiction Award for Big Little Lies and Sulari Gentill, Highly Commended for A Murder Unmentioned

Ellie Marney, Winner of Best YA Fiction for Every Word, and Pamela Rushby, Highly Commended for The Ratcatcher’s Daughter

Judith Rossell, Winner of Best Children’s Fiction for Withering-by-Sea, and Lollie Barr, Highly Commended for The Adventures of Stunt Boy and His Amazing Wonder Dog Blindfold 

Carolyn Overington, Winner, Best Non-fiction Book for Last Woman Hanged, and Julie Szego, Highly Commended for The Tainted Trial of Farah Jama.

And finally to  Candice Fox, who was Highly Commended in the Best Debut Crime Book category for Hades.20150829_223918

2015 Davitt Award for Best Debut Crime Book for Intruder

You are all winners in my book and I look forward to adding all your books to my tottering bedside reading pile!

small BW promo logoIt’s coming at me … Faster than a Matthew Reilly plot! More powerful than an idea whose time has come! Able to leap from primary to high schools in a single bound!

Look, up in my calendar – It’s an event, it’s a tradition, it’s …. Book Week!

Yes, it’s Book Week (which this year is super-sized for me – eight weeks long, with back-to-back school visits and festivals from mid-July to mid-September).

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With Will Kostakis jump-starting our Book Week at St Aidans Literature Festival

It’s a gorgeous time when everyone who loves books comes together to celebrate: teachers, librarians, booksellers, writers, illustrators, and of course, our wonderful readers.

Festivities officially kicked off last Friday with the CBCA’s Book of the Year Announcements.

I was so proud and grateful to have Intruder shortlisted this year and offer my warmest congratulations to all Winners and Honour Books for 2015. especially author Claire Zorn for her beautiful Book of the Year for Older Readers, The Protected, and illustrator Freya Blackwood for her extraordinary achievement in taking out three Book of the Year Awards for Picture Book, Early Childhood and Younger Readers.

Have a super Book Week. I know I will. 🙂

Cathedral Writers Camp
McLellands Lookout

For someone who doesn’t camp, I couldn’t have picked a better way to kick off the month of Book Week than Townsville’s Cathedral School Writers Camp in North Queensland.

Although I had hoped it would be relatively civilised (ie with somewhere to plug in my laptop), I didn’t expect the experience to be more glamping than camping.

Writers Camp 2015While the forty-five kids and four dedicated staff had to rough it in dorms, their precious writer-in-residence had her own queen-sized bed in Paluma’s Rainforest Inn, all her meals cooked for her by the lovely Jeanette and Jodie at Gumburu Environmental Education Centre, and was even chauffeur-driven the two hundred metres back home each evening.

Mind you, with the food police 1600 kilometres away back in Brisbane, there was nothing to stand between said writer and the sticky date pudding, so they could just as easily have rolled me down that unlit road each night after dinner…

fire pic

Our days and nights were filled with writing, games, singing and story telling. We hiked to a waterfall, drank from its crystal stream and survived to tell the tale (Carmo’s mountain goat escapades have probably reached legend status back home in Townsville by now.)

I’ve been home a day and miss it already – all the laughs with our inspirational leader Judy; the blind-folded walk through the rainforest with Loretta; threading sinkers through trousers with Carmo; and scary stories round the campfire with Floyd.

And the kids, well, they’d take some beating. Thanks for making me part of your writing crew.

Writers Camp Paluma

When I got home I opened the folder Judy gave me and haven’t stopped grinning. Thanks for the warm and fuzzies, Cathedral. You writers rock! Writers Camp Cathedral School Townsville

Cathedral School Writers Camp