Posts Tagged ‘Young Adult Fiction’

serial monogamyIt’s not like I went looking for it. But after breaking my vows twice in less than twelve months, it ‘s time to have a good hard look at myself.

In my own defence, I wasn’t used to the freedom. Dust and I had been together a long time. First love and all that. But as soon as what we had became public, I had to move on.

I stumbled into something I wasn’t prepared for, an irresistible character in a difficult situation (The Lonely Dead, for those in the know).  I was a bit out of my depth in the criminal milieu, inexperienced, but smitten. TLD was challenging, complex, and unusually for me, surprisingly age-appropriate. Forsaking all others, I made the commitment.

The relationship was getting serious when Henry Hoey Hobson appeared on the scene, a kid in need if I ever saw one. I couldn’t get HHH out of my head; couldn’t give TLD what he needed, so decided to take a break. Swore I’d be back, soon as I got the kid settled.

I was as good as my word. By new year, HHH was off my hands. TLD and me, hell, we just picked up where we’d left off, and if anything it was even better than before. Like the break had done us both good.

I vowed that 2010 would be TLD’s year, but within weeks Intruder had stalked into my life. Bold, vaguely threatening, and young, with too much potential to ignore. What could I do?

TLD didn’t even need to be told: stepped aside, just like the last time, to make way for another young one. Which is just as well; Intruder is difficult, demanding and taking up all of my time.

Part of me feels guilty, leaving TLD on hold, while I tend to the kids. I console myself with the knowledge that he’s a keeper; he’ll be waiting with open arms when I put Intruder to bed.

I’ll make it up to him then. I promise.

When I took my first baby steps as a writer of fiction, it was the good folk at the Qld Writers Centre who held my hand and picked me up when I stumbled and fell.

They encouraged me to walk unassisted, and then to run. They clapped when I did cartwheels over my first book contract, and my second.

So what do you say to an organisation that has been with you every step of your writing journey?

You say, thanks. Publicly. You urge anyone with an interest in writing to do themselves a favour and join the QWC. And when that organisation asks if you’d like to be part of their blog tour, you say Hell, yeah.

QWC: Where do your words come from?

I’m tempted to say out of my fingertips, because no matter how much I plan my writing, what sprouts from the ends of my fingers when I settle at the keyboard always manages to surprise me.

For me, writing is a numinous blend of art (evoking the subconscious) and craft (using conscious intent derived from a lifetime in skills training).  As a kid, I would have read brown paper if there was nothing else to read. I could have read for Australia if they ever made it an Olympic sport.  I wrote for a living for twenty years before I turned to writing fiction.

For me, American poet Hart Crane nails it: “One must be drenched in words, literally soaked in them, to have the right ones form themselves into the proper pattern at the right moment.”

QWC: Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up on an farm outside a railway siding called Jambin, just up the road from Biloela, Central Queensland. I left there to go to Uni and have lived in Brisbane pretty much ever since.

But that’s just geography. I really grew up in a marriage that brought with it two pre-schoolers as part of an excellent package deal. Seven years later, I still had two preschoolers underfoot – my life was ground hog day – and it taught me everything I needed to know to start writing fiction.

QWC: What’s the first sentence/line of your latest work?

I’ve just finished writing a children’s novel about a kid called Henry Hoey Hobson who is the only boy in Year Seven.  It starts like this:

‘She was waiting with a gaggle of mates, blocking the steps leading back down from our classroom. Golden in the sunlight, with that curious blend of stealth and grace that marked out the queens of the jungle. I lumbered towards the all-female pride, a wildebeest, hellbent on his own destruction.

QWC: What piece of writing do you wish you had written?

I actually said ‘I wish I’d written that’ when I read Karen Foxlee’s The Anatomy of Wings. A wonderful novel, beautifully written, that resonated with my own experience of growing up on the fringes of a mining town.

But the one passage that gives me goose bumps every time I read it is Shakespeare’s St Crispin’s Day speech from Henry V. It is everything I aspire to in my writing.

QWC: What are you currently working towards?

My dream is to publish a novel a year, and so far, with exactly one published novel under my belt (Dust 2009), I am right on target.

However I am keeping the dream alive with Henry Hoey Hobson due out in July 2010, and a work-in-progress, The Lonely Dead (an adult crime novel), my big hope for 2011 .

QWC: Complete this sentence: The future of the book is…

…in good stories, well told. The packaging is not my central concern. E-books will have their way with the willing. There will always be people, like me, who are seduced by the crack of a virgin spine, the scent wafting up from the riffle of pages, the shiver of anticipation on reading the dedication and turning to Chapter 1…

This post is part of the Queensland Writers Centre blog tour, happening October to December 2009. To follow the tour, visit Queensland Writers Centre’s blog The Empty Page.


As a newbie in the world of publishing, I enjoy hanging on the words of the wise, and spending time with older hands who are happy to roll back their sleeves and show me their scars.

I have learned much at the knee of Veny Armanno (QWC’s Year of the Novel), Kim Wilkins (Year of the Edit) and Nick Earls, whose generosity in inducting Brisbane’s debut authors into the world of publishing was stretched to capacity this year.

My education continues, online, following writer’s websites (a few of my  favourites are on the lower right of the screen), and in real life, at festivals, writer’s get-togethers, and through reading till my eyes bleed.

But almost everything I have learned as a writer, I have learned by writing and putting it out there.

I now have a discerning first reader who is capable of pinpointing what hasn’t made it onto the page (but needs to be there), and what clunks in the otherwise smooth action of my story.

Feedback may not be the hallelujah chorus of my dreams, but neither is it a direct thrust to the heart. It is certainly an opportunity to see my work through trusted, more objective, eyes.

When I scanned the initial response to my latest work, I had to admire my first reader’s ability to season praise with constructive criticism. She hit on a couple of niggling issues that I had pushed away during the writing process (things I probably hoped to get away with and didn’t.)

It reminded me of James Roy on the adverse comment in an otherwise favourable review: ‘That’s like saying you’ve got a beautiful baby, but it’s got big ears. Big deal. You’ve still got a beautiful baby.’

I’ll hang on to that thought while I’m doing my revisions.

I’ve got a beautiful baby … (but that’s not going to stop me pinning back those ears.) 😉

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Douglas Adams

I love deadlines too.  Knowing what I must do, and by when, focuses and calms me. Meeting the deadline becomes a point of honour.

I become more productive. I tell my kids, friends and family how many words I have to write – each day, each week, each month. I commit. Publicly.

A deadline keeps me honest. Without one, writing can too easily be squeezed out by work and personal commitments. A big intimidating deadline muscles writing to the head of the queue and keeps competing pressures at bay for long enough to get the work out.

Nearly seven months ago, a story idea sank its teeth into me and wouldn’t let go.

I wrote about it in One-dog Woman back in March, saying “I’ll be keeping the door closed on this one for a while…The new work-in-progress. One for the kids.”

Two months later I had written about twelve thousand words of Henry Hoey Hobson. No deadline pressure, so I shelved it for a couple of months while I launched and promoted my first novel, Dust.

I came back to the manuscript in August when I sold the story to my publisher on the basis of the first four chapters and a synopsis.

She wanted to publish Henry Hoey Hobson in August 2010; could I deliver the complete manuscript by 5 October?

Hell, yeah. In just over eight weeks, I wrote another forty thousand words, edited the manuscript and met my deadline.

Would I have finished Henry Hoey Hobson on the last day of the September school holidays without the pressure of a deadline?

Hell, no. I would have read that pile of books next to my bed at the beach.

But that’s OK, because I’m going to read them now. Soon as I get this publishing contract out of the way. 😉

Queensland’s Governor, Penelope Wensley, had travelled thousands of kilometres to be there, only to be upstaged by barking seals and audience members in pith helmets.

It was all part of the script for the launch of Book Week 2009’s Book Safari theme at the Children’s Book Council’s Book of the Year Awards at Seaworld on the Gold Coast.  (If you think there were a lot of books in that last sentence, you should have seen how many were represented at Seaworld today.)

Winners are grinners and Linsay Knight, Children’s Publisher, Random House Australia, and Leonie Tyle, Woolshed Press, looked pretty happy with their authors’ haul of gongs.

Sleep-deprived father-of-a-teething-baby, Anthony Eaton (Into White Silence), author and poet Catherine Bateson (The Wish Pony) and author/illustrator Colin Thompson (The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness) were all Honour Books for 2009.

Everest survivor Lincoln Hall was all but drowned out by honking seals as he accepted the Eve Pownall Book of the Year Award for non-fiction for Alive in the Death Zone.

The charming and talented Shaun Tan added to his prize-winning haul with Tales from Outer Suburbia taking out Book of the Year for Older Readers.  Glenda Millard with Stephen Michael King took top honours in the Younger Readers Category with Perry Angel’s Suitcase.

For a complete list of the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s 2009 Book of the Year Awards, click here.

If you haven’t yet read Dust, do not click on this link. It will take you with the speed of light to the newly posted Teachers’ notes (which might spoil it for anyone who hasn’t yet read the book).

If you don’t care about spoilers, click here with impunity; Judith Ridge’s incisive discussion of the text was illuminating, even for me (and I wrote the damn thing).

[Judith Ridge is a longtime advocate of children’s and young adult literature. She is a Churchill Fellow, has an MA in children’s literature, and has written teachers’ notes for books by Melina Marchetta, MT Anderson and Morris Gleitzman. You can check out her Misrule website here and her blog here.]

P1010110I believe the landscape of our youth calls to us as writers and I now have the faux Hereford-skin Ugg boots to prove it.

I squealed like a girlie when I spotted them in the Biloela shoe shop last week. Rocked by memories of Goggles and Hercules, our pet Hereford bulls, sauntering endlessly around our paddocks, oblivious to the three kids on each of their backs… I just had to have those boots.

My daughter is eleven and hates everything I try to buy her. “Put that down, Mum,” she orders when I pick up anything that in my wilder dreams she might like. “Just put it down, and walk away.”

But she was 600 km away in Brisbane and they were the last pair in the shop. And they were her size. Or close enough. A perfect souvenir of a fantastic homecoming.

I’d visited my old alma maters Jambin State School and Biloela State High, as well as Redeemer Lutheran School (the Principal used to sit behind me on the high school bus, so she had reason enough to be nervous about my visit). I made a point of sitting up tall as houses, being on my very best behaviour, and managed to avoid being sent to the office.

Besties from high school!!The previous night I had launched my novel Dust to a  hometown crowd. Family, friends and well-wishers including my two besties from high school and Mrs Peters, a teacher from my primary school, all came to celebrate.

Local cattle baron, Geoff Maynard, the first boy I ever kissed, launched the book. “Is it like launching a ship?” he asked. “Should I bring champagne and a rope?” He stole the show with a version of long ago that will pass into local legend for those lucky enough to be present on the night. For the record, here’s my version…

We were seven or eight years old, playing the leads in the Jambin State School’s prehistoric play at the local hall. He was distracted by whether his too-short cave-man skirt was covering his undescended testicles and mis-timed the air-kiss that was supposed to accompany the line “Hi Honey, I’m home!” Our lips collided, I forgot my lines, and the next thing I knew we’d aged forty years, my first novel had been published and a tattooed barman was pouring me a Moet at the Settlers Inn in Biloela.P1010125

Now, how’s that for a good ending to a story?

‘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.

24 October – Toowoomba

English Teacher’s Association of Queensland Seminar, “Wining away the afternoon with Christine Bongers” (wonder who’s driving me home?)

Image_SchoolArts_HR22 June

International stage and screen luminary, the actor and playwright, Bille Brown will launch my novel Dust at Riverbend Books, Bulimba on 22 June.

Like me, Bille was born and bred in Biloela. Like Dust, his new play The School of Arts, is set in the landscape of our youth.

The good old Bilo network – kickin’ it for Queensland’s 150th anniversary!


25 June

TLC Books at Wynnum-Manly is hosting an author event to launch Dust to bayside book-lovers on Thursday 25 June from 6pm. For bookings: click here or phone 07 33935130.

14 July

Dust will also enjoy an industry launch as part of the opening night festivities for Voices on the Coast, the youth literature festival run by Immanuel College and the University of the Sunshine Coast. Click here for more details on opening night or here for the full program and booking forms for school groups.

23 July

Watch this space! Plans are afoot for the much-anticipated Biloela launch of Dust. Queensland Heritage Park and the Banana Shire Council Libary are on full alert. My spies tell me it is safe to return to my old alma maters at Jambin State School and Biloela State High (after thirty-plus years, surely all is forgiven?) Stay tuned – more details as they come to hand!

Voices on the Coast 2009

Voices on the Coast 2009

Tickets are on sale now for July’s excellent youth literature festival Voices on the Coast.

Festival organiser, the lovely Kelly Dunham, has  included a launch for my novel Dust at their gala opening at the University of the Sunshine Coast on Tuesday 14 July.

I will be hobnobbing with the literati over bubbles and canapes along with performance poet David Ghostboy Stavanger, and the Blokes and Books panelists. Click here to book your ticket for a fun evening basking in the glow of some of the brightest stars in the youth literature firmament.

Teachers can book school groups in for the Wednesday and Thursday sessions, by clicking here for the full program and booking forms.

Me, Morris Gleitzman and ten thousand school kids – should be wild! 🙂