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.

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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

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

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

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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 floods

My brother’s home isolated by flood waters

The 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.

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.

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Me during my Suzi Q phase

Back 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!

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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.

rock climbing1You know that feeling when you’re about to step backwards off the edge of a cliff?

The terrifying thrill of adrenalin? The not-knowing what’s going to happen next?

That’s how I feel whenever I walk into the spotlight, when I start writing a new scene, or send off a story that hasn’t been seen by any eyes but my own.

And it’s how I feel right now, packing for Melbourne and the Victorian Association for the Teaching of English State Conference.

I’m giving my final workshop of the year – Making Reading and Writing Dangerous for Kids – and I’m equal parts excited (because I love talking to teachers) and nervous (because hey, they’re teachers, what if they give me a bad grade?)

And as soon as that thought popped into my head, I heard the ghost of Mr Rainie, my Grade Eight English teacher repeating the words he said to me when I was twelve: ‘Why don’t you just try being the best that you can be, Christine, and see where that takes you?’

Well Mr Rainie, I am trying, but you didn’t warn me how dangerous that journey would be. Or how brave I’d need to be. Reporting from plane crashes, reading the ABC TV News in a borrowed shirt and half-slip, and walking naked (with all my talents and limits clearly on display), every time I publish a new book.

But I want you to know that I am still trying, Mr Rainie. And I’ll keep a special place for you at tomorrow’s workshop, just in case you’d like to come along and check on my progress. 🙂

 

 

 

My house hates me

Posted: November 17, 2014 in Musings
Tags:

housewife cleaningFifteen years we’ve been together and finally my house has turned on me.

I blame myself. I’m a disinterested cleaner (no Nana, not everyone shifts the furniture to vacuum) and denial works for a surprisingly long time where home maintenance is concerned.

It worked for me. Right up to the morning I parked my feet under my desk and paddled in something wet.

I immediately accused the dog – which offended him greatly – and then realised that the sodden pool of carpet was too large and fresh-smelling to be blamed on my fastidiously continent beagle.

Intrigued, I tracked the puddle to the wall, under it, and on to the real culprit – my en suite shower next door.

‘Your waterproofing’s failed,’ said Mick the plumber, hitching up his duds. ‘Big job fixing that.’

I thanked him, filed his advice in my too-hard basket, and informed Hubba Hubby that we could no longer use our shower.

But that’s okay, I assured him, because we could always use the decrepit bathroom on the back verandah. beforeWhich is what we did – right through the coldest months of the year.

Now, Brisbane isn’t Winterfell, but showering on the back verandah of an old Queenslander is exactly like standing outside naked in the middle of winter. But we figured we could tough it out, because we’re Brisvegans, and hey, summer is coming!

But long before the mercury hit anywhere near yesterday’s 40 degrees, the decrepit bathroom on the back verandah gave out under the unexpected and unrelenting pressure of daily use.

So for the last two months, we’ve been deep in the throes of not one, but two bathroom renovations.

All manner of tradesmen have trapsed through our house while the scream of tile-cutters filled the dust-clogged air, causing what I can only assume was an inexplicable neural spasm because, in the midst of reigning chaos, I decided to order new curtains. After all, they’d been in the house since we bought it, fifteen years seemed a fair innings, and how much extra chaos could new curtains cause anyway?

A fair bit apparently. Because yes, Nana, I did shift the bedroom furniture to vacuum (so that the curtain man wouldn’t think I was a grub). And that’s how I discovered the plague of carpet moth munching its way through the woollen carpets in my bedroom.

So now the beagle and I are holed up in my office (which thank the high heavens has lovely acrylic carpet, albeit slightly water-marked in that large stained area under my desk) while Wayne, the nicest pest man in the world mass-murders carpet moths in the main bedroom.

afterSwear to God, I should have left well enough alone.

Once you start paying these old girls a bit of attention, they get so dang demanding…

But to be fair, they also scrub up pretty well, don’t you think?

Books for Xmas

I’m good (or at least not on the naughty list yet), how are you? Snowed under, I bet. So I thought you’d appreciate my wish list before this year buries us all under an avalanche of to-dos, not-dones, and oh-well-maybe-next-years.

Normally I like to keep it simple: something I want, something I need, something to eat and something to read. This year, I just want and need to eat up some great reads. Specifically these…

Big Little Lies by Liane MoriartyBig Little LiesSuburban noir meets brilliantly wicked take on ex-husbands and second wives – sounds like me. Also gotta love a Sydney girl making the New York Times bestseller list (and if you’re handing out any of those treats this Christmas, Santa, count me in!)

We were liarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart: What the… a big break-out YA-novel-of -the-year and I haven’t read it yet – how could this have happened?? (And Santa, if you happen to be passing before December 25, my stocking is ready and waiting for you on the floor of the hall cupboard next to the flippers).

favel parrett when the night comesWhen the Night Comes by Favel Parrett: I just loved her powerful and moving debut novel Past the Shallows and am dying to read this next one.

Which is also pretty much how I feel about The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil.

The incredible adventures of Cinnamon Girl

Her last offering, Life in Outer Space, was one of my favourite YA reads last year, and I am expecting incredible things from her new heroine, the comic-loving Cinnamon Girl (which ticks all my boxes given my comic obsessed past).

And seriously Santa, wouldn’t everyone be wanting one of these on their shelves for the cover art alone?

So tell me, what’s on everyone else’s wish list this Christmas?