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?