Saturday, October 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Koala!

On Wednesday (26th October) I had the good fortune of attending Koala's 25th Birthday celebration and awards ceremony. When Dancing in the Dark was shortlisted and I was invited to attend the birthday celebration, I wasn't sure I'd go. I'm so glad I did. I met about fifteen other authors, all wonderful and friendly. The event took place in the Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre in Sydney, in a fantastic theatre packed with school kids.

The kids all came wearing party hats and each school had made a hat for one of the authors. We sang Happy Birthday to Koala. Each author told an amusing story about the best/worst birthday present ever received. Then there were book signings, and photos with kids, followed by lunch for the authors, publishers and organizers.

The event was fantastically well organized and a lot of fun. For more information about the Koala Awards (which are the NSW Children's Choice Awards), and to view the shortlists and winners, visit the Koala website.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Question of Voice

Apologies to readers who've been unable to post comments as a result of technical difficulties. (I've been having the same.) Here's a question Matt emailed to me about an earlier post on Alternating First Person Point of View:

I'm curious what your thoughts are on alternating between first and third person, or at least third person and third person limited. When writing, I feel my world is so much more immersive from a first-person perspective, but naturally I keep running into things I want the reader to know without the protagonist's awareness. I would also like to give readers a fair chance to identify with other characters. So I was thinking of having occasional third-person chapters peppered throughout my novel. What are your thoughts?

Here is my answer:

It looks like you're coming up against a problem most authors have to face - what narrative voice to adopt given the obvious strengths and limitations of each.

It's true that writing in the first person is very immediate and a good way to immerse your reader in the story right from the start, but the obvious limitation is that the reader can only know what the narrator reveals. The advantage of writing this way is that the reader experiences the story in the protagonist's shoes, and is generally surprised or shocked along with the protagonist at critical moments. However, this is not always the case. If you choose a naive narrator to tell the story - for example, someone mentally imbalanced or a child - the reader is able to 'read between the lines' in a way that the protagonist cannot, and therefore understands more than the protagonist can, even though it is the protagonist who has supplied the information. A good example of this is Room by Emma Donoghue.

As for your desire to give your readers a 'fair chance to identify with other characters', I believe this can be done when writing in the first person, even if it's from a single person's point of view. The most common way to achieve this is through dialogue - if you give the other characters a chance to speak and voice their opinions, you can make them fully relatable. What people say and do goes along way to shedding light on who they are, and what they think and feel. You can also use your characters to make comments about other characters, so if your protagonist seems to, say, mistrust one character and respect another, a different character can be seen to trust the very person not trusted by the narrator, and lack respect for a character the narrator admires.

Just as your first-person narrator can engage in conversation with other characters, so too he/she can overhear things they say - either unintentionally or deliberately. Similarly, he/she can receive/find letters, emails, diaries, etc.

Writing from the third-person intimate point of view can often give a similar sense of immediacy and intimacy as the first person, with the advantage that you can write different chapters from different characters' viewpoints without worrying about whether the voice sounds too similar - which would be my main concern with multiple first person viewpoints (though I must say that there are certainly many writers who manage multiple first person viewpoints competently and to great effect).

As to whether you should write primarily from a first person point of view but throw in a few third person intimate chapters from other characters' perspectives, my own feeling is that it may be difficult to achieve this without undermining the structural clarity of the novel as a whole. Alternating between third person distant and third person intimate is fairly easy, but won't solve your problem. Alternating between omniscient narrator and third person will allow you the flexibility to give differing viewpoints, but will be just as problematic for your novel in terms of narrative structure.

I feel the most elegant way to solve your problem would be to decide on either first or third person narration (whether single or multiple) and use the tools described above to shed light on other characters when the need arises.

However, there are no hard and fast rules about novel-writing. A draft is not written in stone, and sometimes the best way to know whether something will work is simply to try it. While I would not personally attempt a novel that mixes first person narration with third person narration in the way you describe, (at least, not at this point in my writing life), that's not to say you shouldn't. What may not work for me may work for you. Only you can decide.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Meg Rosoff at the Wheeler Centre

on Tuesday evening was as entertaining as expected. She began by speaking about her new book, There is no Dog, coming out in August. The title, she explained, was inspired by the image of a dyslexic atheist standing outside a church with a placard proclaiming 'There is no Dog'. Apparently, in the novel, God is a nineteen-year-old boy who creates a world, but does it badly. He is selfish and self-absorbed and doesn't care terribly much about his handiwork; the second in command, who genuinely cares, is left to clean up the mess.

Meg hit the literary scene with a bang when her first novel, How I Live Now, was published in 2004 and garnered a string of literary prizes, and her subsequent novels have also achieved critical and commercial success.

A Harvard graduate, Meg said that 25 years in advertising was undoubtedly an excellent apprenticeship for becoming a writer, since advertising is about selling people something they neither want nor need - which is pretty much what a writer has to do. After all, 'no one really wants or needs your book. You have to make them think they do.'

Yet for all her humour, Meg has a sincere belief in 'the transformative power of storytelling', saying that 'the story you tell about yourself defines who you are. By changing the story, you can change who you are.'

To questions about her own process, Meg said: 'All my characters are kind of me, in extreme versions.' She admitted she is weak on plot so generally steals her plots from other books. She also said that there is more than one way to write a book - while she has written some books in the first person and it has felt like taking dictation, with other books she's had to struggle, painstakingly building the novel one bit at a time.

Meg spoke about the redemptive power of caring for somebody else, which I understand is one of the main themes she explores in her books. 'Once you're responsible for someone else, it's very freeing, because you can no longer be self-indulgent and self-absorbed.' Her point was that self-absorbtion is actually the cause of a great deal of pain.

Her tips for writers? Try not to use adjectives or adverbs. Aim for economy. Cut your manuscript by one third. Oh, and read a book called The Unstrung Harp by Edward Gory.

She clearly takes her own advice, as the extracts she read from her books were beautifully, sparsely written and superbly crafted.

You may be interested to know that when writing a novel, Meg runs out of steam at around 25,000 words (end of first draft), and the editor (a new one for each book since they always fall pregnant) is beside herself with worry, not seeing how Meg will manage to bring the story to the requisite length for a full-length book. And yet she does. Though her longest book to date was just over 50,000.

When asked her opinion on endings, Meg said only a cheerful person could write an unhappy ending, but that she herself is too depressive to get away with that, and must have an optimistic one. 'I could never write a really awful ending,' she said, 'because then I'd have to go off and kill myself.'

I can't tell you what I think of Meg Rosoff's books as I haven't read them. But I'm certainly planning to read them now.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

You Might Have Missed - Claire de Lune

by Cassandra Golds. An absolutely delightful fairytale for upper primary - old age. I loved every minute of this charming story about a young dancer who can't speak, and befriends a mouse who can. Magical, moving and magnificent, this wonderful book, first published by Penguin Australia in 2004, has received a great deal of well-deserved praise.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Happy Passover and Happy Easter!

Hope you all find time during the holidays to settle down to some enjoyable reading.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Books Read While Travelling


Me and Mr Booker by Cory Taylor - a disturbing story about the romantic/sexual relationship between a schoolgirl and an older, married man. A well-written, somewhat confronting novel. Highly recommended, but don't mistake it for a YA novel - this is strictly for adults, despite the protagonist's age.

I'd Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman - a serial killer makes contact with a woman he raped over twenty years earlier, when she was still a teenager. She's the only one of his victims who escaped with her life, and she wonders why she was the one who got away. Told from the alternating perspectives of the woman and the rapist/murderer, now on death row, this is a psychologically interesting story.

Daughters-in-Law by Joanna Trollope - like all her books, this one is very readable, written with Trollope's trademark elegance. It's a cosy, snuggle-up-with type of book. Doesn't try to solve the world's problems but does deal with relatable characters and their problems.

Room by Emma Donoghue - reminiscent of Sofie Laguna'a One Foot Wrong (not so much in the story itself as the voice of the young protagonist), this is a brilliant, heart-wrenching tale about a mother-and-son in captivity, and their flight to freedom. The novel is narrated by five-year-old Jack, who views the room as a safe haven rather than a prison and the outside world as the real threat. The novel is a poignant and powerful testimony to maternal love, and well-deserving of the many major literary prizes and awards for which it has been shortlisted.

Sing You Home by Jodi Piccoult - another book to sink your teeth into. This one tells the story of a a couple whose infertility problems lead to divorce. When she finds herself in love with a woman who may not be infertile, she wants to use her and her ex-husband's frozen embryos. However, he has undergone a religious conversion, and when he looks to his church for guidance, he is told that he should not allow these 'pre-born children' to be raised in a lesbian home. The tale is Interesting and unpredictable, and makes good holiday reading.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dancing in the Dark shortlisted for the Children's Choice Book Awards 2011

So delighted to share this news. Shortly before leaving Israel on Tuesday, I found out that Dancing in the Dark had made the CBCA list of Notables. This morning, after a mere 3 hours sleep last night (yes, I'm still very, very jet-lagged), the week got even better when I opened my inbox and found out that it has also been shortlisted for YABBA's CCBA awards for readers in Years 7-9. It's gratifying to know that my novel has found its way into the hearts of the very readers for whom it was intended.

Lovely to come home. The trip was wonderful - a complete break from routine. Now it's time to get back to work on my second novel.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A short post from Budapest

to thank you all for your lovely and supportive comments, emails, etc.

Budapest is a beautiful city. The Buda side is hilly, which fabulous views of Pest.
The food is surprisingly good, and we keep discovering charming streets and squares.

Day after tomorrow it's back to Israel...

Saturday, March 26, 2011

New from the US - Dancing in the Dark has finally found a US home

As this was confirmed while I was travelling, I was waiting till I returned to Melbourne to let you know. But since my wonderful US agent WERONIKA JANCZUK has already announced it on her blog and some of you already know, there seems no point in waiting. Hence...

I'm thrilled to share the news that Dancing in the Dark will be published by Flux in Jan/Feb 2013. I know it seems ages away, but the upside is that Flux is a fabulous company that specialises in YA and has a terrific list.

Special THANKS TO MEGAN BURKE. Were it not for her blog, and her interview of the youngest literary agent I have ever heard of, I would not have known that the passionate, dedicated and super-energetic Weronika even existed. 

Apologies to my fellow bloggers for having been largely absent from the blogosphere of late. I (perhaps unwisely) came to Europe with neither an iPhone (which I don't possess) nor a laptop - so must rent time on the hotel computer if I want to so much as check my email. And since there's so much to see and do, I haven't had time to read your blogs or even respond to comments on mine.But I'm thinking of you...

Re requests for photos - another apology. I've snapped a few on my mobile phone but am embarrassed to admit that I haven't yet learned how to download them, so that too will have to wait...

And one final apology - I haven't managed to heighlight the names of Megan Burke and Weronika Janzcuk and provide links to their blogs because I'm currently using a German keyboard and it's significantly different from what I'm used to.

Prague, Vienna, and some exciting news...

Spent 3 days in Prague and one in the nearby medieval city of Kutna Hora. Walking through the old city of Prague is like walking through history, its architecture very much unchanged.

The Jewish Museum, housed in a number of restored/renovated synagogues, is really excellent, but I had mixed feelings about the huge role it plays in the city's tourism. On the one hand, the museum does a fantastic job of educating people about the Jewish community in Prague and the surrounding areas - the history of persecution and anti-semitism, culminating in the Holocaust. On the other, it's unsettling to see such horror and cruelty turned into entertainment for tourists.

Unlike Prague, which seems kind of static and frozen in time, Vienna is vibrant and dynamic. What a marvellous city - an eclectic mix of old and new that works really well.

If you like cake, Vienna is the place to be. With such an amazing selection of the most exquisite cakes and patries, it's so difficult to choose just one.

Today, we lashed out and had lunch in the revolving restaurant in the Danube Tower. What fabulous views!

And last but not least, the exciting news my title promised...
No, actually I think it merits a post of its own.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I'll be up at 4.00 am. to be at the airport by 5.00. Flying to Prague, where we'll spend 4 days and nights. Then on to Vienna and Budapest - 10 days in all...

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Trip Down Memory Lane

but this time, not through books. I've spent the last few days in sunny Tel Aviv, walked for hours, saw the house I lived in for 10 years, as well as the kindergarten and school my kids attended. Had a wonderful afternoon in the redeveloped port, now a place to meet with friends while gazing out at the Mediteranean. Spent a day in Jerusalem - had forgotten how beautiful that city can be with its manginificent views.

Israel's a foody country and the food is fabulous - the quality of the fruit and vegetables is fantastic and the cheeses to die for. Even the simple 5% cheese with its melt-in-the-mouth texture makes you salivate.

Being here, back in the country I lived in for 17 years, seeing the people who were so much a part of my  life, evokes so many mixed emotions - nostalgia maybe chief among them. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Today, kids all over the country will go to school in fancy dress to celebrate Purim which is on Sunday. Though it's only 7.30 in the morning, I've already seen some little relatives in costume - a 2-year-old nephew is a lion, and a 6-year-old niece is Minnie Mouse.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


for my recent absence. I've been busy getting organized for a trip, beginning at 6.00 am tomorrow morning. I'll be away from Melbourne for 5 weeks, during which time I'll be spending 2 nights in Seoul en route to Israel, 2 or 3 weeks in Israel and the remaining 10 or 12 days or so in Europe - not sure where exactly, except that Prague is definitely on the agenda.

The last time I travelled overseas was over 4 years ago, so this one's a biggy. I'll probably have Internet access some, but not all, of the time, so will check in occasionally, when I can.

In the meantime, Happy Reading! Happy Writing! Happy Blogging!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

World Book Day

Did you know that today was world book day? I'd never heard of this until today. It's a celebration of much-loved children's books. Click here to see and hear some favourite stories.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Writing Class - Revealing Character Through Action

Novice writers often make the mistake of describing their characters rather than showing them in action. This not only slows the story down, but can be tedious to read.

To make your writing more powerful, try replacing common character descriptors with revealing action that forms part of the story. For example:

1. Instead of ‘Ted was stingy’ or ‘Ted was frugal’:

· Ted rummaged in the dark for his box of used matches. No point in throwing them out when he could use them again.

· Ted folded the piece of toilet paper over again and again; it would be a waste to flush it away after just one wipe.

· Why was the little girl asking for money? It had taken Ted a lifetime to accrue what he had, and he wasn’t about to part with it now.

2. Instead of ‘Beth was generous’ or ‘Beth was kind’:

· Beth gave the remaining coin to the beggar.

· Ignoring the rumble in her stomach, Beth handed her sandwich to the man with the limp. He did look hungry.

· As she changed the baby’s nappy, Beth smiled at her mum. ‘I’ll look after him,’ she said. ‘You go and rest.’

Do you prefer this approach? Or would you rather stick with ‘Ted was stingy’, ‘Beth was kind’?

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Enid Blyton's Missing Manuscript

How timely that so soon after taking my trip down memory lane with Enid Blyton, this article appeared in this morning's Age. The mystery surrounding this missing manuscript is a fitting reminder of a much-loved author who wrote, among other things, quite a few mysteries.
Don't you just love this old black-and-white photo of her?
And check out the picture below:

Oh, how styles of book covers have changed over the years! Don't you just want to follow those mischievous children and see where they go?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Might Have Missed - It's Not All About You, Calma

by Barry Jonsberg. This book is one of my all-time favourites. The story is narrated by Calma, a Year 11 student who tells us fairly early on that she is unreliable narrator. She is also a very believable one, and she relates her tale in a clever voice full of wit and humour.

This is a story about family, friends and jumping to conclusions. It's funny, relatable and very, very readable, and manages to combine realism with a good dash of romance. As an added bonus, the reader learns quite a lot about English (in which Calma excels) along the way.

Published by Allen & Unwin in 2004, It's Not All About You, Calma was shortlisted in the CBCA Awards, Older Readers, in 2005. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend you do.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Writing Class - Editing for Publishers: What your English teachers never told you

When writing &/or editing fiction, bear in mind that publishers prefer:

· Active rather than passive writing. eg. A waiter was serving Sally a piece of pie when a speeding Volvo shattered the window (16 words) rather than: Sally was being served a piece of pie by the waiter when the window was shattered by a speeding Volvo (20 words).

· Strong action verbs rather than weaker verbs attached to adverbs. eg. John strode down the aisle and grabbed the bride (9 words) rather than John walked purposefully down the aisle and forcefully took hold of the bride (13 words).

· The use of a few, well-chosen adjectives rather than a profusion of adjectives. eg. The essay was long, and yet it lacked depth (9 words) rather than The essay was long, drawn-out and extensive, and yet it lacked depth (12 words). Or better still, no adjectives at all. eg. The essay lacked depth despite its length (7 words).

It’s not a question of ‘good’ writing or ‘bad’ writing. Nor is it the case that the passive voice, passive verbs, adverbs or strings of adjectives should never be used. It’s just that, as the above examples show, active writing, strong verbs and fewer adjectives will generally make your writing sharper, clearer, and above all, shorter.

If you can get your message across in as few words as possible, your work will be more engaging and easy to read. And if your book is a long one, it won’t be because your writing is long-winded, but because you’ve focused on developing your plot and characters and exploring your themes.

Your thoughts on this one?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Down Memory Lane - The Magic Faraway Tree

and anything else by Enid Blyton. Let the critics say what they will, but this author must have done something right. Why else would generations of kids all love her books? The Magic Faraway Tree was a personal favourite (as was the Magic Faraway Tree Again), and I read it over and over again.

I first read it at the age of six or seven, but even at the age of 12 or 13, when my reading level was way beyond it, I'd still revisit it from time to time, and always enjoyed it as much as ever.

If there's one thing Enid Blyton knows how to do, it's keep the reader turning the pages. She hooks them on plot, has them bursting to find out what happens next, and makes sure the payoffs are worthwhile.

I loved climbing that tree, entering those magical lands, eating those toffee shocks, sliding down the slippery slip, making friends with Silky, fearing Dame Washalot.

Literary 'experts' might bag Enid Blyton, but in my opinion, writers can learn a lot from her bestselling books.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ever had your novel rejected when you know it's good?

If you have, then you're in great company. Maureen Lang, today's guest blogger on Rachelle Gardner's blog On Life as a Literary agent, has written a terrific post called Don't Take This Personally, in which she reminds us of just why even a seasoned author's book might be rejected, even if it's the best book ever. I felt I just had to share.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

You Might Have Missed... No Worries

by Bill Condon. The story is narrated by seventeen-year-old Brian who has dropped out of school and is working the night shift in a milk factory. His mum is mentally ill - dangerously so - and his dad is living in a shed. The issues he has to deal with are serious and confronting, but it's not entirely doom and gloom. There's a wonderful cameraderie among his co-workers, and a tentative, blossoming romance with a fabulous girl. Still, it's an ultimately distressing novel, though sadly accurate in its portrayal of the way in which the mental health system can often let you down.

The novel packs a huge emotional punch but is easy to read. The language is simple and direct - in fact, masterful. Not a single word is redundant or out of place. This was a book I couldn't put down.

Published by UQP in 2005, No Worries was an Honour Book in the CBCA awards 2006 and was shortlisted for the New South Wales Literary Awards. I'm so glad the judges didn't miss this one. Did you?

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Winner of my Competition for a Free Manuscript Assessment is Announced...

The competition to win a free manuscript assessment for an MG or YA novel is now closed. Thanks to those of you who entered.

The lucky winner is Jeigh Meredith, who has been notified by email.

Jeigh blogs at WriterBrained - a fantastic blog, well worth a visit!

To those who missed out this time, I hope to run this competition again later this year.

Congratulations, Jeigh!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Do fashions in writing really change?

This post was inspired by Sally Rippin's comment on my previous post, Less is More, and the idea that it's never a good idea to bombard the reader with too much detail. Sally said:

'It's interesting you write about this... because...last night as I finished reading Roald Dahl's 'BFG' to my youngest son... I couldn't help much detail he uses in describing not only surroundings but also action, much more so than many contemporary children's writers do. I guess writing fashions change as do children's reading styles and expectations.'

I agree, I think writing fashions definitely change, though I'm not sure to what extent the changes are dictated by children's reading styles, and to what extent they are determined by the publishing industry. Or rather, could it be that a change in publishing standards has resulted in a corresponding change in reading styles?

Certainly, novels became shorter with the advent of television, and shorter still once the Internet became a ubiquitous part of daily life. There is so much competition for our leisure time, and recent surveys have suggested that attention spans are becoming shorter.

In the nineteenth century, long, highly descriptive novels were the norm. Few such books would be published today. But there are always exceptions.

A number of people in the Australian book industry agree that had JK Rowling sent her manuscript to Australian publishers, Harry Potter would never have been published, because it was just too long.

Which brings me to further distinctions: 1) fashions in writing are not neccessarily the same the world over - the Australian publishing industry in particular favours literature that is spare and concise, and 2) fashions differ between genres - fantasy writers can often get away with longer, more detailed descritpion where writers of realistic fiction cannot.

Now, more people are writing than ever before (writing itself has become more fashionable) and some readers will only read short books so that they can read more books in total. However, I believe there will always be readers who want a good, long story they can sink their teeth into.

Fashions aside, my suggestion to keep details to a minimum was really about the quality of writing. As Sallly observed, Roald Dahl's writing is very descriptive, and yet I don't believe it suffers from too much detail, since in his case, every word enhances the story. And in the end, that's what counts.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Writing Class - Less is More

A certain amount of description is essential in all good stories, but writers often struggle with getting the balance right. How much description is enough? How much is too much?

It’s important to give your readers enough description to allow them to imagine the scene without bombarding them with too much detail. The trick is in revealing only the salient details.

Writers are often told they must know everything about the fictional world they’re creating, but this advice can be counter-productive. If your scene takes place in a garden, you probably don’t need to know or describe every plant in that garden (unless, for example, one of those plants is poisonous and will later become a weapon used for murder, in which case you might).

Likewise, you probably don’t need to tell the reader exactly what your characters had for breakfast (unless one of your characters turns out to be allergic to something he ate).

As a general guide, assess each detail for its relevance to the story you’re telling. Include only those details that reveal character, advance the plot, or in some way enhance your story.

Still not sure? Try removing the detail. Is your story poorer for the lack? If so, put it back. If not, leave it out; it probably just isn’t needed.

Paring down can strengthen a story. Trust your reader to fill in the gaps.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bookclub with The Younger Sun

was a lot of fun. The kids are lively, interested, and avid readers with plenty to say. We met in the Hogwarts Room in The Sun Theatre, which really does look like a set out of Harry Potter, and we sat at a long, Hogwarts-like wooden table.

It was great to meet the lovely Kate, who manages The Younger Sun and does such a fantastic job of co-ordinating the bookclub.

I was chuffed to discover that The Younger Sun is not just the name of the bookclub , it's the name of a bookshop specialising in children's books, and it's right across the road from its parent, The Sun Bookshop. When so many bookshops have only a small section of childrens and YA books stuck somewhere at the back, it's refreshing to find a whole bookshop devoted entirely to kids of all ages.

Thanks Kate and gang for a wonderful day!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Down Memory Lane - A Fish Out of Water

This delightful book by Helen Palmer was first published in the US in 1961. It's a charming story about a boy who buys a goldfish, and ignoring strict instructions not to feed him too much, is dismayed to find that the fish outgrows his fishbowl, a number of vases, the bathtub and the local pool.

Interestingly, Helen Palmer was married to Theodor Geisel, more commonly known as 'Dr Seuss', and the book is based on a short story he wrote in 1950.

A Fish Out of Water is still in print and probably will be for years to come, entertaining generation after generation.  There's just something about it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

You Might Have Missed... The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

by Mark Haddon, though chances are you didn’t, since more than 2 million copies have been sold. This book would probably rate in my Top 10 Ever. It’s a brilliant example of crossover fiction – adults seem to rate it more highly than teens.

Haddon tells a highly original story narrated by the 15-year-old protagonist, a boy with autism, though Interestingly, the word ‘autism’ is never mentioned. The language is deceptively simple, the content insightful and authentic. An absolute masterpiece!

First published in 2003, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time won the 2003 Whitbread Book of the Year and the 2004 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book.

From the intriguing plot to the brilliant characterisation and the uniqueness of the voice, this novel succeeds at every level. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Dancing in the Dark - 1st Birthday!!!

Today is the first anniversary of my debut novel. Exactly a year ago, Dancing in the Dark hit the bookshelves. Even now, a whole year later, I still get a thrill when I find it in bookshops.

The two years between completing the manuscript and seeing the final book in print were filled with smaller milestones and highlights. These include:

· Finding an agent (Debbie Golvan of Golvan Arts Management) to represent me.

· Having a number of publishers expressing interest.

· Receiving emails from publishers saying how much they loved the book.

· Entering the offices of Penguin Books and meeting the publishers.

· Receiving actual offers.

· Accepting an offer.

· Receiving the signed contract.

· Meeting and working with Michelle Madden, a lovely, dedicated and highly professional editor. Ditto the rest of the staff at Penguin.

· Seeing the beautiful cover design (by one very talented Evi Otemoto, whom I’ve yet to meet).

· Holding the actual book in my hands.

· Putting the book on my shelf at home.

· Seeing multiple copies of my book in a fabulous window display at Sunflower Bookshop.

Post-publication highlights include:
· The launch of Dancing in the Dark – I enjoyed it immensely.

· Reading positive reviews of the book in newspapers, blogs and magazines.

· Being interviewed for radio, newspapers, magazines, blogs and e-zines.

· Receiving fan mail.

· Meeting readers who tell me how much they loved the book.

· Receiving invitations to appear at the Melbourne Writers Festival and the Brisbane Writers Festival, and attending those festivals.

· Meeting other writers.

I’m humbled by the fact that my dream to be a published author has become a reality. Heartfelt thanks to those who worked behind the scenes – the unsung heroes at Penguin and the booksellers who’ve recommended my book to their customers.

Last but by no means least, a huge thankyou to all of you who’ve taken the time to read my book when there are so many others to choose from. I don’t take a single one of you for granted.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Writing Class - Teach it to learn it!

Did you know that the best way to learn something is to teach it to others? This is true not only of writing but of many things. In fact, many people teach whatever it is they most want to learn.

If you’re passionate about writing, try this: Get hold of a piece of unpolished writing – it could be your own – and try to find three things that could be improved.

Then share your findings with a friend. You’ll be surprised how teaching someone else can enhance and consolidate what you already know.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Upcoming Appearance - Bookclub with The Younger Sun

So glad I'll soon be visiting the The Younger Sun Teen Bookclub. Can't wait to meet Kate and her brilliant band of bubbly bookworms.

We'll be chatting about my debut novel, Dancing in the Dark. Feel free to join, whether you've read it or not.

When: Saturday the 5th of Feb, at 2.00 pm.
Where: The Sun Bookshop, 10 Ballarat Street Yarraville

Believe it or not, I've only been to Yarraville once, even though I live in Melbourne. That was for a book launch about two years ago, and where do you suppose it was? You guessed it - The Sun Bookshop. It's a delightful shop that simply oozes book love, and it spills into the foyer of the adjacent theatre (where Kerry Greenwood's book was launched, complete with musical numbers and home-made muffins).

The delightful bookshop and theatre are situated in the heart of the equally delightful Yarraville shopping strip, worth a visit in itself. Such a wonderful place to stroll and browse and stop for coffee and cake or a full-blown lunch.  I'm planning to make the most of it!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Wonderful Wesites

I’m a sucker for wonderful websites, and I’ve just been visiting those of some children’s authors whose sites reflect their books and their writing.

These include the sites of:

1) Cassandra Golds – her website looks beautiful and magical, just like the fairytales she weaves.

2) Jayne Lyons – whose site is designed to look like the places her stories are set in, and who is 100% committed to using the same language on her website as she does in 100% Wolf and the rest of the series.

3) Doug MacLeod – this website is replete with his own brand of humour, and last but not least…

4) JK Rowling – her official website is every bit as spectacular as one would expect, and as imaginative as the books they represent.

Interestingly, most websites of adult and young adult authors don’t seem to reflect their authors’ books in quite the same way.

My own website was consciously designed to reflect my debut novel, but I’m now at a crossroads. The site really isn’t working for me as I’m not able to manage it myself and must rely on someone else to update the content. I’ve therefore decided to replace the entire website with one that I will be able to manage alone.

So I wanted to ask you: Do you think an author’s website should in some way reflect their books?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Down Memory Lane - The Curious Adentures of Fairy Fluster

This is the first post in the series Down Memory Lane,  a series that takes me back to my childhood favourites - the books I read again and again.

One of these was The Curious Adventures of Fairy Fluster, written by Hazel Willson and published in 1956. This was a charming book about a well-intentioned fairy who kept getting her spells wrong. It wasn't exactly a novel, as each chapter dealt with a different adventure.

I wish I could get hold of this book again, but sadly, I believe it's out of print, and I haven't been able to find it second-hand.

Does anyone else remember this book? Are there books you loved as a child that are no longer for sale?

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I’m thrilled to announce the very first competition on this blog!

For a chance to have your YA or MG manuscript (of no more than 60k words) assessed by me (I’ve done manuscript assessment for IP Books and Hachette Livre – formerly Lothian Books), just follow the blog and leave a comment (or email me) saying what book you’ve read in the last month and why you liked it.

If you blog, tweet or facebook about this comp you'll receive an additonal entry (for each one!), so be sure to add links to each relevant field along with your comment so I can verify.

I'll assign a number to all entries and the winner will be decided by a random number generator. Make sure you leave your email address as well as your comment (or email it to me separately) as the winner will be notified by email before the announcement on the blog is made.

Comp closes 10th of February (5.00 pm. Melbourne time).

Any questions? Just ask. Can’t wait to see what you’ve all been reading!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You Might Have Missed... Tensy Farlow and the Home for Mislaid Children

by Jen Storer (Penguin, 2009). This is a wonderful story about an orphan without a guardian angel to protect her. But Tensy is no ordinary girl, and perhaps there’s a deeper reason for this grave anomaly.

Jen has a unique and enchanting way with words, and she uses an omniscient, humorous narrator to weave a captivating, New Age tale.

Shortlisted for the 2010 Aurealis Award, the 2010 CBCA Younger Readers Award, the 2010 WAYRBA children’s choice awards and the 2010 inaugural Prime Minister’s Literary Awards, Tensy Farlow is a fabulous, challenging choice for children aged 10-13.

An absolute delight to read, it’s a novel to nourish the heart and soul.

Friday, January 21, 2011

New Blog Directions Revisited

Following my post on new blog directions earlier this month, I have decided that in 2011, as well as keeping you updated about my own work as a writer and related events, I will:

· Continue with the Writing Class. If you have a particular issue or question you’d like me to address, just email me at Feel free to comment on the writing classes. Other opinions are always welcome.

· Write a series of posts under the heading You Might Have Missed… in which I will talk (briefly) about books (mainly YA but some MG and occasional adult novels) that I have enjoyed and recommend. These posts will focus on books that were published prior to 2010. In this way, I hope to help keep great books flourishing after the publicity and fanfare following initial publication has died down.

· Include a series called Down Memory Lane, in which I will recall some of the books I loved as a child.

What are the books you’re worried people might have missed? And what are the books you loved as a child?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Writing Class - Alternating First Person Point of View

Many of the novels I read in 2010 use alternating first person points of view. This means that the story is told, in the first person, by more than one narrator, the viewpoint generally switching back and forth between two or more characters.

It’s a popular form of storytelling, both generally and in YA novels in particular, but it’s problematic because of the difficulties involved in doing it well.

An example of alternating first person point of view done well is Will Grayson, Will Grayson, and in this case, there is a simple reason for its success; the novel was written by two different people. The two characters who narrate the story are both called Will Grayson, but as each Will Grayson was written by a different author, the reader is exposed to two distinct voices.

That is not to say that an alternating first person point of view only works where there is more than one author; however, it takes a highly skilled author to pull it off.

In some of the novels I read last year, the characters’ voices were so similar that I found myself constantly reading back or skipping forward to figure out which character was currently narrating the story. This happened even with stories that were told by characters of different sexes, and was particularly apparent where the narrators were of a similar age.

In some of these books, as if in anticipation of this very problem, each chapter had the name of the narrator at the top of the page. While this is certainly useful, it’s more of a cop-out than a solution, since the narrators should sound so different that the possibility of confusion should never arise.

Jodi Piccoult is an example of a writer skilled in voice. While there’s a consistency to her authorial style, she manages to create distinctive voices. Her book My Sister’s Keeper (told from 8 different points of view), exemplifies her mastery of voice and point of view.

The key lies in knowing your characters, hearing their voices in your head, understanding the way they think and the way they speak.

If you allow your characters to narrate their story, their whole identity must be expressed through their narration. It goes without saying that an eighty-year-old woman will not sound the same as an eighteen-year-old man. Their use of language will differ.

Bear in mind that if your characters are not different enough to sound different, you might have a deeper problem of character and characterisation. But not necessarily – it could just be that you’re not yet a brilliant enough writer to handle alternating first person points of view. If this is the case, you might be better off writing in third person point of view.

I’ve chosen to write about this very specific problem today as I’ve seen so much of it lately and it’s been on my mind. (Next week, I’ll write more generally about point of view.)

Have any of you noticed this problem, too?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

New Blog Directions for 2011

I've been thinking of a few blog ideas I might try out this year, but I thought I'd run them by you first and ask for your feedback.

Idea One: The inclusion of a regular spot (eg. once a week or once a month) where people can ask questions about writing and I will do my very best to answer. If I have trouble answering them myself, I will enlist the help of others.

Idea Two: Delivery of the Writing Class in a more organized and scheduled way, rather than posting random classes when I feel like it, as I've been doing to date.

Idea Three: The addition of something along the lines of 'My favourite post of the week' in which I provide a link to a post I particularly liked. For example, this post on 'eight lessons in story from The Sound of Music.'

Would love your feedback on these ideas. Would you like to see these kinds of posts? If so, how often? I'm also open to suggestions for other kinds of posts. What are the sorts of things you want to read?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Books That Pose Interesting Questions

Just finished reading Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine. If you haven't yet had the good fortune to come across this fabulous author, do seek her out. Her work is so interesting and original.

Chapter 23 begins with the question: 'If you could interview anyone and ask them five questions that they had to answer truthfully, who would they be and what would you ask them?'

A lot of books pose interesting questions. What are some of the questions you've come across in books you've read?