Meeting a muse: Dannii Minogue

I remember my writing ritual as a kid. I’d rush my homework (well, rush most of it and leave what I figured I could get away with not doing), then would open a Word document, put on some music and start writing.

I couldn’t just have any music playing, some artists worked better than others. Was never a fan of rock or Bjork. I gave hip-hop a chance, but my writing, already cuss-ridden, got a whole lot more profane. After a bit of trial and error, I settled for upbeat, unoffensive pop. So long as the music played, the writing flowed. And the artist who got the most spins? I’m not ashamed of it — but judging by the looks I get from people I tell, I should be — the artist was Dannii Minogue.

I remember making a joke about it at one of my first speaking events at the State Library of Victoria. To this day, co-speaker Michael Gerard Bauer pokes fun at me for liking the other Minogue, and worse, for admitting it.

There are two reasons why I think Dannii Minogue’s Neon Nights album worked so well to alleviate any writer’s block. One, it was released around the time that my writing passion became an obsession, so it got most of its spins while I wrote feverishly. I guess my body associates the album with writing now. And two, that album was a gift I received from the now-deceased friend I went on to dedicate Loathing Lola to. The album reminded me of the morning he surprised me with it at school (and you know, back when we didn’t have jobs, someone spending $20 on someone else’s birthday was kind of a big deal), and of him, and it just brings with it a wealth of positive feeling. And just playing it, I felt good. I felt inspired.

So, you could say, Dannii Minogue acted as a kind of muse.

I attended the launch for Dannii’s new 3-part documentary for FOX8, Dannii Minogue: Style Queen, during the week. The series covers everything from her writing her autobiography, to her pregnancy and her launching her new fashion label. I decided  that while I had her in close proximity, I was going to introduce myself to my muse.

Of course, all while hiding the CD-shaped bulge in my left pants pocket.

So I approached Dannii, and we spoke for a little while (read: a couple of minutes). She signed my CD, and I eventually worked up the courage to tell her that I was a children’s author, and that her album fuelled my writing. It inspired me.

And she didn’t brush me off. First, she gushed. Then, she joked: “‘Put The Needle On It’… inspired… a children’s book?” We laughed, I told her it’s young-adult. She lamented not having a genre for that age group when she was growing up. I asked to take a photo. She said, “Sure.” She put her arm around my back. I, having an epic out-of-body experience, returned the favour.

And then it was somebody else’s turn. We said good-bye. The odds are, she’s forgotten about me already. But you know what? For three minutes, I had my muse’s complete attention. And in those three minutes, I got to say thank you, albeit breathily and briefly, for her helping me achieve my dream.

USER REVIEW WINNER: 50 Steps to Lose 50kg and Keep it Off by Sally Symonds

50 Steps to Lose 50kg and Keep it Off by Sally Symonds
Reviewed by AliceE

At last, a weight loss book that doesn’t tell you to give up an entire food group or live entirely on protein. Sally’s book is based on personal experience, so all of the steps she gives here are actually achievable for a normal human being.

There are loads of practical and creative strategies to help you incorporate healthy eating and exercise into your life while still going about your daily existence – going to work, doing the school run, etc – and still doing things you enjoy that involve food, like eating out. If there’s one thing this book has taught me, it’s that getting fit and healthy doesn’t mean giving up all the good things in life!

Since Sally’s own weight loss story is the basis of the advice she gives, this is also a much more enjoyable read than most other weight loss books. It’s honest, funny, and inspiring – and if it worked for Sally, it can work for you, too!

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, AliceE has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

REVIEW: Beatle Meets Destiny

I’ve been delaying this for a little while, reviewing books is delicate business, and well, Gab Williams is a friend, but I guess I’m gunna have to suck it up and just come out with it: Beatle Meets Destiny is all kinds of fantastic.

I first read Beatle last year, and loved it. But that was after spending a day of laughs with Gab in Hyde Park, and dinner (and wine) with her family at her place. I was very aware of the fact that I may just be a tad bit biased. So, I put it down, and revisited it over the Christmas break.

And when I read something for a second time, I go for broke. I find typos, I analyse the minutia. I figured, if there was one thing that’d expose my bias, it’d be my close second reading. I was part-way through my second reading of the first chapter when I discovered the first crack: the dates didn’t match up (one of the characters couldn’t have been born in the year they were and be the age they were when the novel was set… if that makes sense).

I became fearful, maybe it wasn’t as good as I’d remembered… and then, I felt it happening. Despite the fact that finding everything that was wrong with it was my prerogative, and I was holding it to a higher level of scrutiny than I would’ve if I hadn’t met Gab before I’d read her… I still loved it. Possibly more than during my first reading.

I started to recognise and appreciate the absolute command Gab has over language, the charm of the prose, the effortless way she balances humour and heart. She’s a bro.

The date mistake as a one-off editorial error, and it doesn’t weaken what is one of the most outstanding YA releases in recent memory (and we’ve been spoilt with some outstanding YA in recent times). The voice is confident, the story is moving, and… understated. It’s about a teenaged ****** survivor, but Gab doesn’t milk it for cheap emotional moments, and most importantly, she knows that isn’t enough to build a novel out of.

While most realistic YA novels that deal with sensitive issues deal with them exclusivel (their blurbs usually read: “so-and-so is struggling with x and y“). And that’s it. In contrast, Gab keeps the issue understated and builds a compelling narrative around it. It isn’t even mentioned in the blurb. This is a love story first, issue book second. And that is what magnifies its impact (which is why I censored what it is in the review… it’s something that should be experienced naturally through the narrative).

And the dialogue! It sparkles with wit. I think, that will sell the book more effectively than me yapping on about how good it is. So, here’s an excerpt. The context: the titular Beatle and Destiny are sitting in a booth, it’s their first night out together, and they’re talking about… peas:

‘So that’s peas covered,’ Beatle said, arching an eyebrow. ‘What about your Qs?’
He intertwined his fingers with hers. Looked at the contrast between his hand, the big, blokey fingers, compared with her small-and-pleasantly-delicate-against-his ones.
‘Well,’ Destiny said, biting her lip, ‘I’m not crazy about them. But seeing as we’re talking letters, I’d quite like to have a look at your Rs.’
And she slid her eyes down to his arse, just for a moment, then collapsed in a fit of giggles.
‘Omigod,’ she said, putting her hand over her mouth, ‘the things that are coming out of my mouth tonight! I don’t know what’s wrong with me.’
Beatle looked at her seriously.
‘I hope you don’t mind me saying,’ he said, ‘but I suspect you might be a bit of a Ts.’
She laughed.
‘A?’ she cocked her chin.
Beatle looked closely at her. He moved towards her. His mouth close to hers.
‘Hang on,’ Destiny said, holding a finger up to Beatle’s mouth, preventing him from moving any further forward. ‘What’s the etiquette here?’
Beatle frowned at her.
‘The etiquette?’
‘You know. I met you on the tram stop. I’m just not sure what the kissing etiquette is in this type of situation.’

Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams
A young adult novel that doesn’t quite go along the traditional boy-meets-girl lines. For one thing, Beatle never normally goes out on Friday the thirteenth, but this night is an exception, and how can he avoid talking to the attractive girl who is wearing sunglasses and reading a book while waiting for the tram? Not only is her name Destiny, but her surname is McCartney, and since his real name is John Lennon, and for a whole heap of other spooky reasons as well, it seems destined that they will be together. But Beatle already has a girlfriend. Not that he’s in any hurry to tell Destiny about her… Click here to read the first chapter.

USER REVIEW WINNER: Good Oil by Laura Buzo

Good Oil by Laura Buzo
Reviewed by peacelove

They say ‘age is just a number’ – but when you’re at the tender age of 15 and he’s 21, the difference can be worlds apart. This isn’t an action packed story nor is it wrought with twists and turns and revelations in every second chapter. It’s a story about two people and the genuine connection forged between them. The growing attraction and the hopelessness of it ever becoming something more. It’s about growing up.

This is told in both Chris and Amelia’s POV – not alternating between each chapter, but we’re given access to their notebooks in large chunks for each POV. Chris’ time was shorter than Amelia’s, but oh how I loved reading from his perspective. Not only do I love his personality, I think what I liked most was how real he was. Both of them, in fact. Chris is the easy-going, funny, loveable guy that gets along with everyone. He’s intelligent, but makes some incredibly stupid choices along the way. His life is just as messed up as the average 21-year-old who’s still working in Woolies, studying sociology and doesn’t know what the hell to do with his life. He’s suffered his own heartaches, hangovers and stupid choices and he’s gorgeous and charming and flawed.

Amelia brings back a whirlwind of 15-year-old-me emotions. Those times when the day comes to an end and with a sigh you analyse everything about The-Unattainable-One. The guy you want, the guy who commandeers 99% of your daytime fantasies, the guy who you hold onto every hope that maybe, just maybe one day he’ll be holding YOUR hand, the guy you know that in the end, will never be yours. What I loved so much about this book were that the characters were so relatable. I was Amelia. I had a Chris. Haven’t we all? The relationship formed between these two was… oh why, why, why couldn’t she be just a few years older? It has you hoping so dearly that these two can be together, but you just know it’s not going to happen.

They’re both at different stages in their life – Amelia has so much to learn and experience, so much more to discover about herself and the world before she’s ready for a Chris. Chris too has much soul-searching to do, to rest his past demons and explore life and where he fits into the world. The ending was bittersweet and while I’ve no idea if there will be, part of me would love to see a sequel written. I want to see what happens to these characters in a few years when they meet up again, if anything will ever happen after they’ve grown more. But I think it was the best ending – despite the sadness of it, it was real and honest and still left a little room for a spark of hope for the future.(5 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, peacelove has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

Hazel Edwards talks co-writing

I’ve always been fascinated by two authors co-writing a book, and I’ve seriously considered it from time to time, sharing the workload with another author. But it isn’t as simple as just dividing the work and completing it, and Hazel Edwards, author of over 200 books for children, young adults and adults, has swung by the blog today to take us through the benefits of co-writing and everything else she’s ever been asked on the subject. So, budding co-writers, this is your manual!

HAZEL EDWARDS
On the benefits of co-writing

Co-Writing can be a bonus. It’s fun.  Twice the work in half the time. With a few laughs too. So what are the benefits?

1. Overcomes procrastination.
Knowing you have a date with a partner gives a personal deadline.You feel obliged to write your share before you next meet.

2. Varied workplaces.
Can be more sociable. Try the cappucinno approach of working in cafes, midway between. Or you can alternate home offices. Of course if you work in another state or country, the coffees have to be virtual.

3. Learning from each other.
From my Duckstar co-writer, I learnt how to pace scenes in a book because as a director, Christine knows how humour works on stage. From my f2m:the boy within co-author Ryan, I’ve learnt about transitioning gender, punk music and technology such as creating book trailers, novel plotting on Skype, web-cam book launches linking countries and how to put funny emoticons on e-messages.

4. Ghosting.
Often non- fiction is commissioned and co-authors may be put together for their expertise, or for one to ‘ghost’. Factual or educational writing is easier to co-author, as long as you have a logical mind. Or one of you does. Structure matters. So does writing for the particular audience.

5. Emotional collaboration.
Long fiction or series require a different kind of emotional collaboration. In the Duckstar series of 4 easy-to-read books, we adopted characters, so the grumpy male bellydancing pig became one of mine. We also acted out scenes to get the dialogue right. We used mood music such as the Grand March from ‘Aida’, but with a budget duck strutting instead of an elephant.We co-wrote detailed synopses, since these stories are animal satires of the various arts such as community opera, touring and advertising. The final language was simple but our concepts were more complex.

6. Editing.
In f2m:the boy within, Ryan wrote the first draft chapters based on our joint synopsis for the YA novel. We rewrote over 4o times, but this was a benefit of a second mind, when the other was tired. We also lived in different time zones.

7. Partners may have totally different skills. 
Working with an illustrator such as John Petropolous on Plato the Platypus Plumber (part-time) who is a graphic designer in his other life, was brilliant because he was used to working to a brief. And he had a quirky sense of humour which enabled him to design the underwater plumber’s tool kit, with tools for fixing grumpy people.In other author-illustrator relationships, many never meet and rely on a written brief. We met several times in coffee shops, where John P kept sketching concepts on the table as we spoke. Fun.

8. Contracts.
Apart from any agreement with a publisher it’s wise to have a 50/50 split with your co-author on any expenses and income relating to the project. The Australian Society of Authors has guidelines (click here).

9. Who thought of what?
Sometimes it’s genuinely difficult to remember later who thought of what. Especially if the project becomes very financially successful. So a signed agreement about co-rights solves later problems. Especially with e-rights and multimedia.

10. Publicity.
Both of you can publicise the project or substitute for each other.

11.  Anthologies
Being part of an anthology differs from co-writing because usually the editor commissions a specific article or story. Unless you are the editor-contributor, which means making thematic decisions about what goes in or needs rewriting.

12. Joke.
Joke about what goes wrong. We lost the ‘Anxiety’ chapter from Difficult Personalities in cyberspace between our computers. Apt.

13. Cope.
Coping with criticism. You need a united front and with a co-writer it’s wonderful to feel another is on your side, and you can celebrate  together too.

14. Finding a Co-Writer
Your co-writer could be someone you already know! I wrote Cycling Solo with my son, Trevelyan Quest Edwards. 🙂

If Co-Writing is Like Marriage, When do You Need to Divorce?

• When one is doing an unfair share of the work.
• If one takes all the public credit.
• External market changes or the project’s aims change.
• When you disagree more than you agree.
• It’s not financially viable.

To read more from Hazel, you can check out her website here, or read a fantastic article she wrote about gender and pronouns to launch Perpetually Adolescent here.

Susanne Gervay talks series and ALWAYS JACK

I’ve already attested to the brilliance of Susanne Gervay’s Always Jack, so I thought, to spare you another post of flowing praise, I’d invite Susanne around to talk about her ten-year journey to complete the trilogy of Jack books. The first book in the series, I Am Jack, spawned a successful stage adaptation by MonkeyBaa, which toured NSW regional, rural and Sydney centres in 2008, and expanded to conquer Australia in 2009. In September, 2011, the play will feature as part of the Ipswich Children’s Literature Festival and then complete a season at the Seymour Centre, Sydney. Now, Always Jack has launched out of the gates, garnering a wealth of critical praise.

SUSANNE GERVAY
On Series

Why do young people wait in long queues for each new book in series such as Lemony Snicket books… Harry Potter books… Twilight?

Trademark fantasy book series by writers like Isabelle Carmody, Garth Nix, Kate Forsyth, Tolkien; crime series with authors such as James Patterson, Harlen Coben, Ian Rankin, Phillip Pulman, Alexander McCall Smith; science, romance, historical series and especially children’s series can have huge readerships.

Series are sometimes commercially manufactured of course. Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series has led to an array of copycat Vampire and paranormal series.

I remember the madness and millions of dollars for the R.L.Stine Goosebumps series for kids, spawning many other horror kids’ series. It always felt like I was reading the same story. 

So have I written a series? A trilogy? I actually nearly fell off my chair (apologies for the cliché) when my Jack books were called a series/trilogy – I Am Jack, Super Jack and Always Jack.  Maybe I have.

It’s been a 10 year journey writing my Jack books for young people. I’ve written a series when not writing a series. I wrote I Am Jack for my son after he was bullied at school, published in 2000 by HarperCollins when bullying wasn’t seriously acknowledged. I wrote it for my son and  kids, the bully, bullied, onlookers, parents, teachers community because bullying ruins your life. I Am Jack is funny, got plenty of jokes, has a wobbly Nanna and even a girl interest.

It was written as a stand alone title. Four years later, due to the success of I Am Jack, I wrote a companion book, Super Jack. Like the first book, it is funny, warm, real, giving a voice to kids and families. This time it’s about blending families as well as lots of other things from bush fires to mateship.

Always Jack carries the Cancer Council’s precious yellow daffodil and like all my Jacks it’s funny, real and jumps into everything from cancer to the Vietnam War to Jack’s first love.

All the Jack books link, but are also stand alone. They have been defined as a series because Jack and his family, their loves and lives are central to each book. However this has to be the longest ‘series’ ever – ten years in the making.

Now that I’ve finished this ‘series’, I think I get it. Readers care about the characters in the first book. They want to know what happens to them. They become fans, even when there is ten years between the first and third book.

What do you think about series? Do you find some of them compulsory reading? Is it the characters? The plots? What is the X-factor of a series you love?

What series do you want to read? Have you a single title that you are desperate to have another book or two follow?

COMPETITION: For Him, For Her Christmas Giveaway

 

Christmas is just around the corner, and we thought, what better way to celebrate than with a giveaway? When it came to selecting a book for the competition, we hit a bit of a snag – how do we pick one book that people would want, no matter what their gender or interests? Then, we had the bright idea: why not give away two books?

And thus, the For Him, For Her Christmas Giveaway was born. There are five packs to be won, each including one book for him, Fab: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes, and one book for her, Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger.

For your chance to win, simply send an email to william@boomerangbooks.com.au with the subject ‘For Him, For Her’, telling us about the best book you read this year. Don’t forget to include your full name and postal address. Entries close December 20, 2010.

A special thanks to our friends at HarperCollins Publishers Australia.

Last Night at Chateau Marmont by Lauren Weisberger
The new novel from the million-copy bestselling author of The Devil Wears Prada… Heartbreak, headlines and Hermes — welcome to Brooke’s new world! Brooke and Julian live a happy life in New York — she’s the breadwinner working two jobs and he’s the struggling musician husband. Then Julian is discovered by a Sony exec and becomes an overnight success — and their life changes for ever. Soon they are moving in exclusive circles, dining at the glitziest restaurants, attending the most outrageous parties in town and jetting off to the trendiest hotspots in LA. But Julian’s new-found fame means that Brooke must face the savage attentions of the ruthless paparazzi. And when a scandalous picture hits the front pages, Brooke’s world is turned upside down. Can her marriage survive the events of that fateful night at Chateau Marmont? It’s time for Brooke to decide if she’s going to sink or swim!

Fab: An Intimate Life Of Paul McCartney by Howard Sounes
The living embodiment of The Beatles, a musical juggernaut without parallel, Paul McCartney is undoubtedly the senior figure in pop music today. In this authoritative biography, journalist and acclaimed author Howard Sounes leaves no stone unturned in building the most accurate and extensive profile yet of music’s greatest living legend.  Spanning the entirety of McCartney’s life from early childhood right up to the present day, the book delves deep into the life of this remarkable and often surprising man, revealing the often dark reality behind his consistently positive, relaxed public image. For the first time, Sounes will examine in detail the lifestyle of one of the richest men on the planet, the truth behind his much publicized divorce from Heather Mills, as well as his tempestuous relationship with the other Beatles, with startling revelations. Drawing on countless interviews, legal records and public documents, Howard Sounes’ meticulous approach and brilliant powers of research reveal the real Paul McCartney, like you’ve never known him before.

VIDEO POST: 1000 Hour Day by Chris Bray

‘An amazing tale of real adventure and genuine exploration in the modern era – unexplored regions, fearless animals, no support crew, disaster, excitement – the lot!’ Dick Smith In 2005, Australians Chris Bray (then 21 years old) and Clark Carter (20) dreamed of embarking on an adventure — one that would be completely different to any polar, mountaineering or river expedition ever before attempted. With virtually no prior experience they turned their attention to one of the largest islands in the world — Victoria Island in the Canadian Arctic — and vowed to cross it on foot. It was to be a world-first, traversing 1000 kilometres of perhaps the most extreme and diverse landscape on the planet — everything from snow and ice to mud, shattered rock, rivers and fields of boulders. Hiding from polar bears, being chased by wolves and discovering ancient Inuit relics along the way, the pair faced obstacles that ensured their journey was as much a mental battle as it was physical. With humour and honesty, Chris Bray tells their thrilling story — the drama, the dangers and the sheer exhilaration of exploring a terrain filled with magic and wonder.

VIDEO POST: Quay by Peter Gilmore trailer

Culinary genius Peter Gilmore is one of the top 50 chefs in the world. Quay‘s stunning design and photography perfectly echoes Peter’s nature-based philosophy and the organic presentation that is synonymous with the fine dining experience at Quay. Peter’s recipes, including the famous snow egg and his signature iridescent sea pearls, will take you on an inspirational adventure, exploring flavour, texture and technique. Start with a single component, build to a showstopping dish, or simply enjoy the visual and culinary journey.

USER REVIEW WINNER: The Debacle by Emile Zola

The Debacle by Emile Zola
Reviewed by LawrenceW

Tolstoy wrote War and Peace over five years between 1863 to 1868 and Zola had The Debacle published in 1892. Together, they have produced definitive war narratives interwoven with intimately and finely drawn affected lives that live on forever in the reader’s eye and mind.

One can’t help but feel these two great novelists  had a prophetic vision of the wonders of cinema awaiting and sought to prepare readers for such an impact. If anything, Zola is the more exhaustively detailed and yet wastes not a word on his own opinions or morality. The Debacle refers to the French fiasco that was the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 lasting just six weeks and culminating in the massacre of The Commune.

Patriotic feeling is not permitted to intrude on the brutal journalistic descriptions of the horrors and criminally inept absurdities of the conduct of the battles. I was not expecting such gruesome realities.Yet all characters, from the pathetic Emperor himself to the lowest of the poor who trail and scavenge among the dead following each battle are depicted with natural dignity.

The Debacle is a cinematic masterpiece and a more compact War and Peace, admittedly not as overtly ambitious, but we are spared the often tedious moralizing and lectures of the grander book. Tolstoy has an innate poetry in his writing that is frequently carried away (as in poetry) to allusion and abstraction. While Zola has poetry in his amazing attention to the sensual qualities of all he ‘paints’, it is the poetry of impressionism and is never sidetracked from its subject.

After finally and reluctantly putting The Debacle down after what my wife described as a reading frenzy, I wanted to read everything I could find about the history of this period and The Commune, so drawn was I to the characters and events I had just lived through by being immersed so thoroughly in this wonder of a novel.

So, two great books, one much more well known to us in the English speaking world, and this is the mystery; just why is The Debacle so little known to us? (5 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, LawrenceW has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

Inkys 2010 winners announced

The winners of the 2010 Inkys were announced at a special ceremony at the State Library on Thursday.

Lucy Christopher’s Stolen took out the coveted Gold Inky, rewarding an Australian novel, while Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater won the Silver Inky, rewarding a book by an international author.

The shortlist was selected by judges Randa Abdel-Fattah, Broede Carmody, Grace Bell, Esther Crowley and Andrew McDonald. It was then up to the public to decide the winners.

You can view Lucy’s video acceptance speech below.

Dubious honour: Tsiolkas nominated for Bad Sex award

Frequent readers of the Boomerang Blog will know that Aussie author Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap has been up for every literary award imaginable. Now, a more dubious honour to add to the list: the Literary Review‘s Bad Sex in Literature Award, which (dis)honours the most embarrassing passage of sexual description in a novel.

“It’s very repetitive,” one of the judges, Jonathon X told The Guardian, explaining the novel’s nomination, “the sheer laziness of saying ‘they f–ked for ages’ is just one example of slack writing.”

Other nominated books include Maya by Alastair Campbell, and Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.

The award aims to “draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel, and to discourage it”.

This year’s winner will be announced on Monday, November 29 in London.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

2011 Sydney Writers’ Festival Program School Days

The Sydney Writers’ Festival has just announced the 2011 School Days Program.

For the second year in a row, the program features five primary school days held across Sydney, Parramatta and Penrith, with a day offered for free to NSW priority schools at Sydney Town Hall.

The line-up for the primary school days features Deborah Abela, Morris Gleitzman, Richard Newsome, Garth Nix and Sean Williams.

Secondary schools will have programs held at the Sydney Theatre and Riverside theatres, Parramatta, featuring Belinda Jeffrey, Michael Pryor, Bernard Becket and Cassandra Clare.

To see the full School Days program and for ticketing info, click here.

Love to say I told you so

In August, we featured Bill Condon on the blog to talk about his book Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God (click here to catch up). It really stood out for me when I read all the YA releases of last year – it was charming, funny, and as I’ve said a thousand times, Bill set it in 1967, which takes a lot of guts. At the time that Bill dropped by, I was still a little incensed that he hadn’t been recognised on the CBCA Older Reader’s longlist, let alone the shortlist. But now, proof there’s some justice in the world. Since he appeared, his Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God (I don’t think I can link to it enough) has gone on to win the PM’s Literary Award f for YA.

So, Bill, from everyone at the Boomerang Books family, congratulations on your big win. And if you’re having trouble finding a way to spend that tax-free $100,000, you know how to get in touch 😉

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God REVIEW
In a time when publishing for young adults seems to privilege the here and now (and sparkly paranormal romance), Bill Condon had the guts to set his Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God in 1967. There are no token youth-of-today references – there’s not an iPhone or a Facebook fight in sight – instead, readers are confronted with an affecting narrative, authentic teenage voices, and an honest reflection on the adolescent male experience. It’s a timeless story with real heart.

USER REVIEW WINNER: Two Peas In A Pod

Two Peas In A Pod by Chris McKimmie
Reviewed by Rowie84

Violet and “Marvellous” Marvin are best friends;two peas in a pod to be exact. “They go together like the oo in moo.” They’ve lived next door to each other since dinosaur time, until one day Violet packs up her belongings and goes to visit the moon!!! Oh, to be six again and get away with exaggerating stories to make them sound more interesting than the real thing.

Two Peas in a Pod, is a quirky story about best friends, losing each other and then finding themselves again. It will capture children’s and adults’ hearts alike. The language used is very child friendly,imaginative and includes some Australian slang;such as “reckon”, “oi” and “come on”. The pictures are also simplistically drawn in a child like manner, yet they are very detailed and on closer inspection marry with the words. See if you can find the three gnomes, chicken and dog almost on every page.

My favourite part of this story was when Violet and Marvin stared at the clouds and imagined what shapes they could see. I loved doing this when I was young so I decided to take my nephews outside with a large sheet of paper and oil pastels.They drew amazing cloud pictures and I scribed their sentences for them.

This book takes the reader on a journey but also through a rollercoaster of emotions from happiness, sadness, loneliness and then joy. It makes the reader question how he or she would feel to lose their best friend. What lengths would they go to to find them again? It inspires people to keep the faith, never lose hope and always look at the positive side of life. Bloomin’ Marvellous! (3 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, Rhishy has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

On Pratchett

I was surprised to realise that I’ve been blogging for over two years now, and yet, I’ve never once blogged about Terry Pratchett. That is astoundingly bad form, form I plan on correcting right now. I can trace my reading history through author loyalty. There was Enid, there was Morris, and then, Terry. Sure, I’ve had fleeting dalliances with J.K. and Chuck, but I always come running back to Terry. Maybe it’s because he’s the only one with a normal name (okay, so J.K. isn’t that strange when you expand it…). Or maybe it’s the innuendo.

Definitely the innuendo.

In the seventh grade, at my best friend’s insistence, I read my first Pratchett. Equal Rites. If you haven’t read Pratchett, his Discworld series is an interconnected maze of books published since 1983, and Equal Rites is the best place to start. It’s Book #3, sharp, funny, wise, breath-taking. For so long, I’d wanted to write books – but it wasn’t until I’d finished with Equal Rites that I’d decided what kind of author I was going to be.

This is a story about magic and where it goes and perhaps more importantly where it comes from and why, although it doesn’t pretend to answer all or any of these questions.

It may, however, help to explain why Gandalf never got married and why Merlin was a man. Because this is also a story about sex, although probably not in the athletic, tumbling, count-the-legs-and-divide-by-two sense unless the characters get totally beyond the author’s control. They might.

However, it is primarily a story about a world. Here it comes now. Watch closely, the special effects are quite expensive.

A bass note sounds. It is a deep, vibrating chord that hints that the brass section may break in at any moment with a fanfare for the cosmos, because the scene is the blackness of deep space with a few stars glittering like the dandruff on the shoulders of God.

The thing about Pratchett was, when I revisited Equal Rites and its related sequels the following year, it was better. Sure, the pratfalls still made me laugh, but I noticed something else: sex. Every second line meant something else. A character had written a cookbook called The Joye of Snacks, and I never quite understood why it was so frowned-upon. As I grew older, I discovered more and more and… well, the man has a gift. I feel his OBE is well deserved.

And now that the final book in his YA Discworld series has been released, I Shall Wear Midnight, I’m going to give you an introductory reading list. While you’re getting your NaNoWriMo on, devote the rest of your November to discovering Pratchett. And don’t scoff because it’s fantasy… it’s so much more. Read these, and in this order:

Equal Rites
Wyrd Sisters
Witches Abroad
(it did Shrek better… and 10+ years earlier)
Lords and Ladies (inside every fat girl, there is a thin girl… and a lot of chocolate)
Maskerade
Carpe Jugulum
(dare you to read a vampire book after this and say this isn’t the best)

The sub-series then continues in the form of the young-adult books:

The Wee Free Men
A Hatful of Sky
Wintersmith
I Shall Wear Midnight
I’ve had enough of being depressed that with I Shall Wear Midnight over, I may never get to see these characters again. And I want someone to mourn with.

At least until I restart the series again and find another buried sex joke I didn’t catch the first 300 times.

Wednesday Web Sighting: Writing for Young Adults

Our friends at the NSW Writers’ Centre have just given us a sneak peak at their upcoming program, so I thought I’d pass it on tonight – they’re running an extensive 5-week Writing For Children and Young Adults workshop with acclaimed author, Jeni Mawter… so, so tempting. Lots of you have mentioned creative writing on the Facebook Fanpage, so I think this might be right up your alleys. This one’s only for residents in NSW, but if you see any interesting writing courses across the country, email me and I’ll post up details – don’t want to look NSW-biased. 😛

Revised Harry Potter 7 Trailer

Embedded below is the just-released second theatrical trailer for the first part of the final Harry Potter film – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Warner Bros. recently announced that it would not be releasing the film in 3D as previously announced, after realising the up-conversion to the third dimension would not be completed to a high enough standard before its release.

Wednesday Web Sighting: 15 scathing book reviews

Last week, I spoke on Perpetually Adolescent about bad books, and a friend passed on this link, and I laughed so hard that I had to share. EW.com compiled a list of its 15 scathing book reviews. a preview:

Jeffrey Archer poses something of a problem for reviewers. On the one hand, his popularity makes bad notices seem like high-handed snobbery; on the other, novels like this are so unspeakably awful that they elicit nothing short of anger.

Click here for more.

Sorry, bad books exist

Sorry, bad books exist.

I know. You’d be forgiven for thinking they don’t, but they do. On this blog and others like it, bloggers focus on and praise books that move, that affect, that inspire. Because we love reading. All reading is good.

But is it… really? Sometimes, you struggle from page to page, wondering how, in a system of authors, editors, publishers, beta readers, publicists…. how a book can come out being so earth-shatteringly terrible.

Whenever I visit schools, I tell them my author origin story. I wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider or anything equally dramatic, I was just a boy in the back of a Year Six classroom forced to read a book so earth-shatteringly terrible that I had to put it down and pick up a pen. I thought I could do it better, and I was convinced that I would.

We’ve all been there – confronted by a book that we’ve had to force ourselves to finish… Well, I told this story at a school last month, and I was told I was sending the wrong message, it’s not appropriate to talk about a bad book in a classroom – it’s encouraging kids to not read.

And I believe the opposite. Luring kids into a false sense of security, tricking them into thinking that unlike any other story-telling medium, novels are not susceptible to suckness is only setting them up for future failure. One day, there’s going to be a book they don’t connect with. One day, they are going to hate a book. Just like they hated Transformers 2, or the new Rihanna CD, they’re going to hate a book. It’s inevitable.

That’s why I think we try to limit our talk to just those good books. They’re not all good, but when a good one lands on our desks, we scream from the rooftops. Hopefully, we’re writing positive reviews for the right reasons, not to uphold some archaic notion that all reading is good. But one man’s pleasure is another’s torture, so I won’t always be right.

But I can be certain.

As certain as I am that Susanne Gervay’s Always Jack is wonderfully heartfelt. I was deathly afraid of reading this book. One, I’m good friends with Susanne, and two, this is her baby, the third part in a trilogy she has wanted to birth for a very long time (forgive the horrible metaphor). And it’s not YA. I don’t usually read anything else. This was really far out of my comfort zone. But it was so fulfilling. The way it dealt with cancer and can act to open up discussions of the disease within families is masterful. It isn’t the dramatic downer a lesser author could have made it and I loved every single second of it.

As certain as I am that Six Impossible Things is the first of many fantastic novels that Fiona Wood will gift us in the coming years. Realistic dialogue that doesn’t just grab you, it shakes you while it’s at it. It mixes humour with the subtle emotional stuff so well. It didn’t take long to read, but honestly, it’d be worth triple the investment of time. and I love me a nerdy-yet-lovable protag.

As certain as I am that there’s another amazing Australian novel just around the corner.

Ah, the joys of being perpetually adolescent.

Thinkings of a NYWF attendee

For years, I’ve dreamt of TINA (This Is Not Art).

To be fair, in promo material, they always print it as THISISNOTART, so I mistakenly dreamt of attending the awesomely-named This Is No Tart festival for a short while. TINA is run in Newcastle every year, and encompassing a big part of it is the National Young Writers’ Festival.

I was invited to attend NYWF as a speaker this year, so I thought I’d share my TINA musings, brought to you by boxed wine, lots and lots of boxed wine.

So, as with most of these things, my brief stint in Newcastle began with me making a monumental ass of myself. I arrived at the hostel at midnight. My dorm was separated from the toilet/bathroom by a darkened hall. Turns out, in the light of day, when I stumbled, half-naked toward the bathroom, that that darkened hall was not so much a hall as it was the reception area.

That pretty much set the tone for the proceedings, but luckily, the later times I made an ass of myself, it was partly because of the boxed wine or the ginger beer (both staples of NYWF). The mood relaxed, the curse words flowing, the drinks filled to the brim, we took to the stage, and we talked all things literary.

I was on a panel with new 16-year-old YA author, Steph Bowe – which pitted authenticity against experience: who writes YA better – kids or adults? None of us took a particular stance. Steph said it was all about “respecting” the YA reader, respect the reader, and that’s the key. I reckon bad writers write bad YA, whether they’re adults or kids, and good writers write good YA, whether they’re adults or kids. Being a teen has advantages, it gives them the eye (and the know-how not to call it “The Facebook”), but being an adult has its advantages, the writing’s usually a lot better.

I also took to the stage for ‘Is It Time To Go Home Yet?’, sharing embarassing anecdotes from my career as a writer. None of which I’m prepared to commit to print (just yet…).

There was something absolutely joyous about descending on Newcastle with like-minded young’uns, but there was something for older writers and readers as well. We had a blast, with everything discussed from blogging to column writing, to how to pitch and the art of writing the perfect author bio. So if you’re keen to write, or just like to think ,drink and laugh, TINA’s for you. Check it out next year.

USER REVIEW WINNER: The Princess and her Panther

The Princess and her Panther by Wendy Orr
Reviewed by Rhishy

What a delightful tale of two young sisters. The older sister, dressed as a princess, is the leader of the expedition. The younger sister, dressed as a panther, lets her imagination run wild. Together they embark on a journey to camp in their backyard.

As night time falls, the girls huddle in their tent. It’s at this point that they hear small animal noises which take on gigantic proportions. They try to remain brave by repeating their mantra: ‘The princess was brave, and the panther tried to be.’ Can you guess what happens next?

Ah, those were the days. I remember when I was the same age as the girls, I loved to camp inside. I would throw a sheet over the clothes rack, place a blanket underneath, raid the kitchen for food and then hide hoping mum and dad couldn’t find me!

The Prep children in my class really enjoyed this story, in particular the idea of dressing up, role play and pitching a tent.

Overall, this book is great story that questions what it means to be brave. It engages the young reader through beautiful illustrations and repetitive text. It also helps stimulate imaginative play through the idea of dressing up as a princess or a panther.

I highly recommended this book for children aged between 4-8 years. (5 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, Rhishy has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

TRAILER: The Making of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

“I love you…”
“I know.”

This is one for film buffs and Star Wars fans – a newly-announced in-depth look at the making of fan-favourite second/fifth installment, The Empire Strikes Back. As someone who devours making-of documentaries on anything Star Wars, I honestly can’t wait… Check out the clip below.

Description
An exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of arguably the greatest and most cherished of all the Star Wars films, the most important motion picture sequel of all-time, and a movie that changed pop culture forever: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. J.W. Rinzler, author of the acclaimed The Making of Star Wars, once again uses his unprecedented access to the Lucasfilm archives, and their treasure trove of never-before-published photos, design sketches, paintings, production notes, interviews, anecdotes, and scripts, to take us back thirty years to relive the entire production process for one of the most anticipated movies ever produced – along the way unveiling stories as entertaining, enthralling and mind-boggling as the film itself. As a long-standing member of the Lucasfilm staff, J.W. Rinzler has enjoyed unparalleled co-operation and support from the original moviemakers, including both George Lucas and veteran director Irvin Kershner. The result is a truly definitive account that is destined to become a must-have for all true Star Wars fans and serious cinephiles. Jonathan Rinzler is a New York Times bestselling author and longtime editor at Lucasfilm Publishing.

Gabrielle Williams Q&A

One of the great things about Get Reading! is that I’ve had a fantastic chance to meet authors from other states I haven’t crossed paths with before – one of those authors is the fantastically entertaining Gabrielle Williams, who I sat down with while in Melbourne to talk about all things Beatle Meets Destiny.

Okay, first up, you used to work in advertising, so, what better way to start this interview than with a sales pitch – “sell” Beatle Meets Destiny to our readers.

Ugh! Selling my own book makes me feel very uncomfortable. If I talk it up, it sounds like I’m being boastful, but if I talk it down no-one will want to read it!

How about if I just say I think it’s awesome?

That’d help.

Well… it’s awesome, and it is in the running for some big awards…

True. It’s been short-listed for the Prime Ministers Literary Awards and the Victorian Premiers Literary Awards, as well as being included in the “Get Reading! 50 books you can’t put down”. It was also a Notable Book in the Children’s Book Council awards (not short-listed, but still!).

It’s still a big deal.. Now, why name your character John Lennon? You a big Beatles fan?

 I thought it would be quite funny and burdensome if you had a famous person’s name: it seemed to say alot about your parents and also open up lots of opportunities for comedy. I don’t think any other band would have worked for my story quite as well as The Beatles. The only comparable band would perhaps be the Rolling Stones, but to have a main character called Mick Jagger seems to stretch the boundaries of believability for some reason, whereas to have a main character called John Lennon seems kind of normal with only a twinge of weirdness. I think characters’ names are so important when you’re writing a book, I can get quite hung up on it until I find exactly the right name for each of them. Then, when I find the name, I seem to find my story as well.

I loved the randomtwin interviews that pop up every so often during the course of the novel . Where did that idea come from?

I’m not sure. I just liked the idea of throwing in these random stories, and then at the end of the book when the reader has decided all these twin stories have no relevance whatsoever, you find out exactly how they all fit in to the story. I also quite liked the idea of throwing in random stories – almost like ad breaks in a tv show – to break the rhythm and surprise the reader a little.

The final major scenes (at Destiny’s house) had lots of characters and plot-lines all converging at once. How difficult was it to write? Did you always envision everything exploding at once?
 
The final major scenes did take a while to write. I wrote version after version, with my editor screaming out ‘more chaos more chaos’ after each edit until she was satisfied that it was well and truly calamitous. I wouldn’t have been half as cruel to Beatle as she made me! But I love that it all comes to a head, that so many people are there to witness his humiliation, and that there was no way around it but for him to tell Destiny the entire truth (even if he managed to lie to everyone else who was there).

Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams
A young adult novel that doesn’t quite go along the traditional boy-meets-girl lines. For one thing, Beatle never normally goes out on Friday the thirteenth, but this night is an exception, and how can he avoid talking to the attractive girl who is wearing sunglasses and reading a book while waiting for the tram? Not only is her name Destiny, but her surname is McCartney, and since his real name is John Lennon, and for a whole heap of other spooky reasons as well, it seems destined that they will be together. But Beatle already has a girlfriend. Not that he’s in any hurry to tell Destiny about her… Click here to read the first chapter.

TRAILER: Burnt Snow by Van Badham

Burnt Snow by Van Badham
Sophie is in the last term of Year 11. She’s used to moving around with her accountant father and free-spirited mother, so the move to a small town on the South Coast in NSW doesn’t seem too out of the ordinary – at first. As Sophie negotiates teenage preoccupations with overprotective parents, whether her pyjamas are cool enough for a sleepover and the school-ground politics of secrets, lies and faithless boyfriends, something dark is hovering on the edge of her vision. The school Goth delivers her an ominous warning, strange birds seem to be following her – and fate keeps reuniting her with the dangerous bad boy with a past that nobody wants to talk about: Brody Meine. Violent storms suddenly erupt, windows explode in the classroom, and a fire engulfs an entire street. And all these escalating, demonic happenings seem to take place when Sophie and Brody Meine are together…

TRAILER: Lost on Earth by Steve Crombie

Lost On Earth by Steve Crombie
“The only way I am coming home is by bike or by box,” Steve Crombie writes when he first hits the road, travelling 90,000 km from Australia to the Arctic Circle via South America. It takes him two years. He suffers from dehydration, starvation and disease. He rebuilds his motorcycle four times. Along the way Steve not only tests his limits but meets the world head on – waking up behind iron bars in Tierra Del Fuego; traversing the length of the Amazon with a 260 kg motorcycle in tow; evading pumas in Guyana; skimming across the Caribbean on a yacht with wanted criminals; dodging bullets in Nicaragua and finally paddling a few laps in the Arctic Ocean. Lost on Earth is an adrenaline rush, taking the reader to the wilds of South America, with a man who made the dream of following a road less travelled into a reality.

Introducing Steph Bowe and GIRL SAVES BOY

I know introducing Steph Bowe online is like introducing Google, but still… This is for the 5 people who don’t know who she is, and was initially written as an introduction for a book event today:

I’ve been tasked with introducing Girl Saves Boy. Now, I know the importance of a good introduction. Call me fickle, but I’ve picked up books in stores, read the first page and put them back down because they just didn’t grab me. As a writer, I’ve seen and admired the power of a gripping beginning, which has the power to shape the way a reader interacts with a story.

And today, I’m not just introducing a story, I’m introducing a flesh-and-blood person, someone I’ve known for a little while now.

I first met Steph Bowe two years ago, and by “met”, I mean, I sent emails from Bronte, and she replied to them from Victoria. She had won a competition and a copy of my book. If I had to define our relationship in the beginning, I was the author and she was the fan. She had a blog, which she eventually directed me to when she wrote a review of my book. I read that post, and liked it, not only because of the nice things she said about me, but because of the way she said them. There was something so real about her voice, and I kept coming back to her blog, long after she wrote about me. And with every single post, I got to know her a little bit more.

Despite the fact that, at this point, we hadn’t met, I felt our relationship change. I was no longer just the author, and she was no longer just the fan. We had, over time, simply become friends. And as her friend, I have watched her grow into a confident young writer, whose work manages to balance an almost lyrical quality with a pure honesty. Having now read her novel, I’m proud to say that our relationship has once again been redefined.

She’s the author, and I’m the fan.

Which puts a lot of pressure on me and my introduction. I have compress my admiration of Steph into an intro that’ll, hopefully, positively shape what, for many of you will be your first Steph Bowe experience. I’ve always been one to shy away from mentioning anything when talking about books for fear of spoiling something, no matter how miniscule a detail. But what I will say is: a lot of you will come to  Girl Saves Boy as ‘the book written by the sixteen-year-old’. And I think that’s selling it short.

Don’t get me wrong, for a book written by a sixteen-year-old, it is something remarkable, a masterful achievement. But just as there’s more to Steph than being sixteen, there’s more to  Girl Saves Boy than being a book written by a sixteen-year-old.

It’s difficult to explain, but by the time I reached the back cover, I had this overbearing sense that I hadn’t read a book so much as I had experienced a beginning. The beginning of a career that will no doubt span many years, many acclaimed books, many in-store appearances, many signings, and many introductions.

There is the promise of so much between these covers, and as a reader, Steph’s certainly got me gripped.

USER REVIEW WINNER: Dead In The Family

Dead In The Family by Charlaine Harris
Reviewed by Molly

Dead In The Family, #10 in the Sookie Stackhouse series, is definitely no let-down. Loyal and dedicated fans who have read the previous books in the series will not be disappointed.

The novel is still action-packed and realistic in its depiction of Harris’ supernatural world, however in this particular book, but there’s been a change: you’ll meet a slightly more world-wary Sookie. This in no way detracts from her original character – in fact, this growth of character is what makes her easily likeable and real.

The intricacies of Sookie’s relationship with Eric are explored, and Bill is by no means absent. Nor are her fae relatives, of which there are some who seek revenge on Sookie.

Indeed, Sookie must accept and heal from the devastating torture she experienced in the previous novel under the hands of her fae relatives, and the deaths of her fairy godmother, Claudine and her new friend Amelia’s werewolf boyfriend.

Overall, this book most definitely lives up to expectations and there is much room for an 11th – loyal fans and readers will be very pleased with this latest wonderful addition. (5 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, Molly has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

Boomerang Fact: Did you know that the Sookie Stackhouse books are the basis for the wildly successful TV series, True Blood?

Cath Crowley talks GRAFFITI MOON

Let me make it in time. Let me meet Shadow.
The guy who paints in the dark. Paints birds
trapped in brick walls and people lost in ghost
forests. Paints guys with grass growing from
their hearts and girls with buzzing lawn movers.

CATH CROWLEY
On Graffiti Moon

At the start of Graffiti Moon, Shadow spray paints a little yellow bird on a brick wall. It’s belly up to the sky. It might be asleep. It might be dead. He’s painting his life how he sees it. He’s painting it all over the city – ghosts trapped in jars and hearts cracked by earthquakes. I’m interested in art but I’m even more interested in how people on the edges find a way to fit in – and in what happens to them if they don’t.

Shadow can’t read and he doesn’t want to tell anyone that so he drops out of school. He works in a paint store because it’s safe and because the owner makes him feel worthwhile. It’s boring, though, and he spends his days dreaming of escape. There’s no practical way he can do that so instead he escapes onto a wall.

A few years ago, I worked in a non-mainstream classroom with a group of amazing teenagers. Some needed help reading, some needed techniques to process information, some needed a safe haven. All of them were smart. They worked hard. Often times harder than everyone else because they had to in order to keep up. And at some stage over the years almost all of them referred to themselves as dumb. They weren’t dumb. They were different.
Like Shadow is different. That character came from my imagination but he was in my imagination because those kids put him there.

He communicates through art – street and gallery. He loves Rothko, Sam Leach, Ghostpatrol, Miso, Vermeer, Jeffrey Smart, Banksy and Rosalie Gascoigne. He’s a complete outsider, so I didn’t want to place him in any community. That’s why he works alone. He’s separate from other graffiti artists. He visits galleries but he doesn’t feel smart enough to say what he thinks about the art hanging there.

He meets Lucy, a girl who loves art as much as he does. They have conversations in images as well as words. One thing that draws me to artists like Rothko is that it’s a relief to bypass language. I feel so much looking at his work because of the colours he uses.

Lucy has been studying glassblowing for a couple of years and she loves the colours and the properties. She likes how it’s strong but you have to treat it right or it breaks. It’s a great metaphor for people and love. Bethany Wheeler, a glass artist, invited me into her studio and talked to me about her craft. Her description of fused or slumped glass reminded me of people who are lost.

So in the night world that Lucy and Shadow inhabit they talk about art and they change because of those conversations and they slowly move towards morning – and back towards the wall where Shadow has drawn that sleeping yellow bird.

Lucy sees that little yellow bird as the hope that hides in people and because of her Shadow starts to see it this way too. It’s definitely not dead to him now and it’s not asleep anymore. It’s slowly waking up.

Cath Crowley

Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley
Lucy is in love with Shadow, a mysterious graffiti artist. Ed thought he was in love with Lucy, until she broke his nose. Dylan loves Daisy, but throwing eggs at her probably wasn’t the best way to show it. Jazz and Leo are slowly encircling each other. An intense and exhilarating 24 hours in the lives of four teenagers on the verge: of adulthood, of HSC, of finding out just who they are, and who they want to be.

BREAKING: Lin Oliver coming to Sydney

Hank Zipzer: The World’s Greatest Underachiever co-author Lin Oliver is coming to Sydney, attending the International Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Conference (SCBWI), 17-19 September.
 
The HANK ZIPZER series stars charismatic underdog Hank, and is co-written by Henry Winkler – The Fonz from Happy Days. Inspired by the true life experiences of Henry Winkler, the series is funny, touching and deals with learning differences in a gentle and humorous manner.

“I think it’s most important for kids to know that inside each one of them is a unique and special contribution to make to the world,” says Lin. “Their life’s journey is about finding what their unique contribution is, and it doesn’t matter if it’s not like everyone else’s journey – there are many ways to get there.”
 
‘The stories are well-told and enjoyably colourful . . . there’s plenty of fun to be had with Hank and his friends.’
Spectrum, Sydney Morning Herald

PM’s Literary Award Nominee: Bill Condon

In a time when publishing for young adults seems to privilege the here and now (and sparkly paranormal romance), Bill Condon had the guts to set his Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God in 1967. There are no token youth-of-today references – there’s not an iPhone or a Facebook fight in sight – instead, readers are confronted with an affecting narrative, authentic teenage voices, and an honest reflection on the adolescent male experience. It’s a timeless story with real heart.

When I wrote the above review, I’d just completed the task of reading every single Australian young-adult book being considered for the CBCA’s Older Readers prize, and I knew, without a doubt, that I had just read something special. When it wasn’t recognised by the CBCA, I was… well, incensed. Now, the literary world seems to have corrected its… grievious oversight, and Bill Condon’s Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God has made the shortlist of the PM’s Literary Awards (Young Adult fiction category) – worth $100,000, tax-free.

As I always seem to do in these circumstances, I decided to invite Bill to drop by and extend on Chrstine’s blogpost, and look at what inspired the brilliantly-titled Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God. And what it feels like to be shortlisted, obviously.

BILL CONDON
On inspiration and awards…

One day about two years ago – as a way of avoiding writing – I searched through the online phone book for a name from the past that had popped into my head. I looked
in every state and found just a handful of people with this name. Then a Google check on one of them told me he was a chess champion. My man from the past was very good at chess – I had a match.

I hadn’t spoken to him for over forty years but when we talked it was easy. I asked him if he remembered when Brother Michael, our school Principal, punched and kicked him with hundreds of boys watching, all of us amazed to see him punching back.

Oh yeah. He remembered vividly and he was still seething about the injustice of it. I got the impression it had been eating at him all those years.

‘I didn’t do it!’ he said, almost pleading with me to believe him. ‘They found out later who did but I never got an apology.’

He’d been accused of stealing money. When he denied it, he was attacked. That happened when he and Brother Michael were alone in a classroom, but it spilled out into the quad when he fought back.

I had my own troubles at the school but I’d always told myself to get over it and move on. Even so, at times I still found myself searching Google and the phone book for
the name of one particular lay teacher. I didn’t know what I’d do if I ever tracked him
down, but I couldn’t get him out of my mind. And then I found the chess champion, who was also, like me, still trapped in the past. More and more it seemed like the only way to exorcise these ghosts, was to write about them.

Someone once said ‘write what you know’, and that’s what I’ve tried to do with
Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God. Much of it is true and by writing about
it, I think I can at last close the door on those issues. No more hunting down sadistic
teachers for me. (I might have to go after critics now.)

I thought this book was dead in the water after it missed out on scoring even
a Notable listing in the CBCA awards. But then it did a Lazarus and made it on to the
shortlist of the Prime Minister’s Awards. A big shock.

I’m very sorry for all those writers whose books aren’t on that list. I know the feeling – but if I can get there, so can you. Keep going. I’m very honoured to be in such great company. I’d love to win, of course, but I don’t expect to and won’t be disappointed.

Whatever happens, I’m living every writer’s perfect dream.

PS. On retirement, Brother Michael received the Order of Australia for services to
education.

Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God by Bill Condon
Neil Bridges attends a Catholic boys’ school in which teachers rule with iron fists and thick leather straps. Some crumble under the pressure but Neil toughs it out, just as his Vietnam-bound older brother has done before him. He has to be a man, after all. But at sixteen, how can he be sure of himself when he’s not sure of anything else? He loses a friend and finds another, falls in love and unwittingly treads a path that leads to revenge and possibly murder…

Christine Bongers on HENRY HOEY HOBSON

Christine Bongers, a former radio and TV journalist, is celebrating the release of her new novel, the riotously funny, fast-paced Henry Hoey Hobson, a novel aimed at upper-primary readers. For those unfamiliar with Christine’s work, her Dust was released to critical acclaim in 2009, and went on to be selected as a CBCA Notable Book for 2010. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it to the book launch – geography’s always working against me – so to make up for it, I invited Christine around to introduce her new novel, and discuss just how Henry Hoey Hobson popped into her life.

CHRISTINE BONGERS
When inspiration happens…

Dark figures slipped out of the shadows. Warlocks and witches, monsters and vampires, circling the open coffin. Pale hands, fingertips dipped in black, reached in and pulled out bottles of liquid that gleamed red in the moonlight…

Halloween 2007 and Brisbane’s spec fiction writing community was partying at the home of my very favourite vampire writer, Jason Nahrung.

In the flickering flames of my memory, I was the one who didn’t fit in. Wrong outfit, wrong genre, and running late for a rival function that was more twin-set and pearls than fangs and gothic horror. I stood at the edge of the crowd, gazing with longing at the fabulous creatures cavorting around the coffin…

My mind is like a messy desk, crammed with memories, embellished by imaginings that I stack into wobbly piles that inevitably collapse and are restacked with other random musings. The bits that slip down the back I forget; the carnivorous dust bunnies can have them. The bits I hang on to are those that I instinctively feel will make a good story.

For a couple of years I held onto that image – a coffin, brimming with drinks, circled by those wondrous creatures of the night. But as a writer of realistic fiction, I wasn’t sure when, or how, I would use it.
In 2008, I made a half-hearted start on a children’s story called My Very Favourite Vampire Writer but lost interest after only eight lines. I pushed it to the back of the messy desk in my head and got on with the adult crime novel I was writing.

Then in 2009, Henry Hoey Hobson stalked into my consciousness. A likeable kid that nobody liked. How was that even possible?

His story came together in my head as a three-way collision between groups with seemingly nothing in common, and a boy who didn’t fit in.

If true character is revealed under pressure, then I wanted to crush Henry Hoey Hobson into diamond.

I made him non-Catholic, non-anything as far as he knew, dumped him into a little Catholic school, stripped him of friends, family and options, and made sure his single mum was too busy to throw him a life raft when he looked in danger of drowning in the dangerous waters of Year Seven.

I made him an outsider, and gave him just one shot at making friends – the creepy new neighbours, owners of a coffin, the only people in the street less popular than he was…

I had a ball writing this book. I not only found a use for my coffin scene, I also found a use for my very favourite vampire writer (for those in the know, he was the inspiration for the character of Caleb; his muse, the gothic and mysterious Vee is another story altogether).

Henry’s resilience in the face of adversity made me laugh… made me cry… and ended up making me proud.
CBCA National President Marj Kirkland agreed. When she launched Henry Hoey Hobson in Brisbane, she told the crowd that she’d fallen in love with a twelve-year-old boy.

I did too and I thank the high heavens that I went along to that Halloween party… Henry Hoey Hobson would never have been written but for those drinks around the coffin.

Christine Bongers

Henry Hoey Hobson is Perpetually Adolescent’s Top Pick this fortnight – grab a copy today!

USER REVIEW WINNER: Pit of Shame

Pit of Shame by Anthony Stokes
Reviewed by GavelBasher [Phillip Taylor MBE and Elizabeth Taylor of Richmond Green Chambers]

You may or may not have thought of a gaol – even a famous one—as anything worth writing a book about, but fortunately and perhaps predictably, the author, Anthony Stokes does not agree with this view. He is a prison officer at the once infamous Reading Gaol immortalised by its most famous inmate, Oscar Wilde – and now a Prison and Young Offender Institution.

Pit of Shame is the product of ten years of archival research into the gaol’s 500 year history and if that’s not fascinating enough, check out the thought provoking foreword by Theodore Dalrymple, contributor to “the Spectator” and a former hospital and prison doctor.  Reading’s current Governing Governor, Pauline Bryant – the first woman to be in overall charge at Reading – also adds a note of appreciation for the ‘initiative and hard work’ which resulted in the publication of ‘this great book’.

Here is a book which will be of interest not only to criminologists and penal reformers – who should all read and note Dalrymple’s remarks in the Appendix – but to students of English literature.

‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ was the last literary work written by Wilde, who might have been somewhat gratified to learn that, after his death, some two years after his release, the poem occasioned many a re-think about prison reform.

To those in the know, however, the poem speaks the truth about the prison although not necessarily the prisoners.  Wilde, it seems, was selective in his choice of anecdote and comment regarding, for example, the murderer he cites as CTW, who, killed his wife ‘the thing he loved…murdered in her bed.’

Either deliberately, or because he was not familiar with all the facts, Wilde excites our compassion for CTW by omitting to add that he actually lay in wait for his wife with a razor, cutting her throat three times.  Due to what was noted at the time as ‘an unforgiveable degree of premeditation’, CTW’s plea for clemency was turned down and he was subsequently hanged.

What we find particularly apposite and insightful in this intriguing volume is the insight Dalrymple offers into Wilde’s mind-set.  Months before he went to jail Wilde penned a few maxims proclaiming his cherished beliefs in an Oxford undergraduate magazine called ‘Chameleon’, writing that ‘any preoccupation with ideas of what is right or wrong in conduct shows an arrested intellectual development.’

Well — whatever your attitude is to an attitude like that, Dalrymple — and presumably author Anthony Stokes – doesn’t like it.  He condemns ’the sheer callow, shallow, ‘spoilt-child’ silliness of all this…upon…which the brilliantly gifted Wilde wasted so much of his life and energy….’

‘Wilde was never a wicked man,’ adds Dalrymple.  ‘It was nevertheless only in prison that he learned the value of truth, sincerity and goodness, and by then it was too late.’

If you want to read more, including the research and bibliography at the back of this very readable book, (which makes it a boon to scholars) buy it. (5 stars)

A big thanks to all the members who submitted reviews – keep reviewing your favourite books at http://www.boomerangbooks.com.au for your chance to win! For being this month’s winner, GavelBasher has won $50 to spend in Boomerang Bucks.

EXCLUSIVE: Fiona Capp talks MY BLOOD’S COUNTRY

I’m currently reading Fiona Capp’s My Blood’s Country, and loving every word of it, so I thought I’d invite Fiona onto the blog to share some of her words with us, an invitation she has kindly accepted. For those that don’t know My Blood’s Country, it’s a memoir of sorts, as Fiona takes us on a tour of revered poet Judith Wright’s “Blood’s country”. This truly Australian story is a must-read for all poetry lovers, and lovers of language.

FIONA CAPP
Visiting a poet’s world

I was about twelve years-old when I took a book from the shelf next to my oldest sister’s bed. It was Judith Wright’s sixth collection of poetry The Five Senses, published in 1963, the year I was born. At this time I was mad about Romantic and Victoria poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Keats, Tennyson. All dead white males. I knew that Judith Wright was a major figure on the Australian literary landscape. Perhaps this is why I assumed she too must be dead.

I looked at the biographical blurb and did a calculation, or perhaps I noticed that she was described in the present tense. Then it registered. Judith Wright was not only a woman and an Australian but she was alive. The whole lofty business of writing felt suddenly much closer to home. The fact that Wright was a living, Australian, woman – as opposed to a dead, European, male – changed everything. I had recently started scribbling poetry myself. I knew that tingling, dizzying feeling of a poem coming on, that sense of connection with forces beyond oneself that Judith Wright wrote about in her title poem ‘The Five Senses’. In my early twenties I realised that I was not really a poet, but I’ve never forgotten that feeling. A few years later Judith was invited to speak at my school speech night. I met her and began corresponding with her and this continued until her death.

This personal connection forms the framework for my journey through the landscapes that inspired her writing, which I made 30 years after we first met. I went to New England where she grew up on a sheep and cattle station, to Mt Tambourine in Queensland where she spent her married life and then to the bush property near Mongarlowe, 100 kilometres east of Canberra where she spent her final years. It was an incredibly rich experience, one that helped me better understand her writing, her activism and her life, particularly the tragedy that shaped Judith’s childhood, her complex relationship with her family, and the two great loves of her life.

Inevitably, not everything about these places was as I had imagined it from reading her poems and so this journey was at times a confronting and disturbing one as I struggled to reconcile my expectations with the reality. Above all, the experience of writing this book brought home to me what a visionary Judith Wright was; how she sensed in her bones that something had gone profoundly wrong with our attitude to the earth, long before the term ‘conservationist’ entered public discourse. Her work and her message remain as urgent as ever.

Adele Walsh on Mary Sues

Adele Walsh is another, and possibly my favourite, perpetual adolescent. She’s taken another break from her review/commentary website Persnickety Snark (which is really quite awesome and bookmarkable), to grace us with her ever-appreciated presence (and snark… the snark is always appreciated).

ADELE WALSH
Mary Sue? No, thank you

I hate Mary Sues.

I loathe them.  I want to hurt them.  I want to ruffle their hair and kick their butts.  I want them to have sharp edges and quizzical thoughts.  I want them to be more concerned with life’s bigger mysteries than whether or not they should go with a shoddy pallor and fangs or long incisors and excessive body hair.  I want them to want more for themselves.  I want them to seek more than romantic entanglements because without them, they find themselves just as uninteresting as I do.

When I started blogging I didn’t know what a Mary Sue was.  I did.  But I didn’t. 

For those of you unfamiliar, you will soon realise that you are on first name basis with Mary Sue.  Wisegeek defines Mary Sues as “…a character in a work of fiction who exists primarily for the purpose of wish-fulfilment on the part of the author. She plays a prominent role in the work, but she is notably devoid of flaws or a complex personality, and she usually represents the pinnacle of idealized perfection.”  Crack open a fan fiction story anywhere and you will have yourself a Mary Sue.  It was so prevalent that the readers of fan fiction were the ones to coin the term.  And some say no good can come of fanfic?

Mary Sues are the current literary trend in young adult literature.  There are many that buck the trend but it seems like so many of the books that are making the serious money are the ones that are shells rather than fully formed, well crafted beings.  To put it bluntly…that blows.

This week alone I have read a handful of books, none of which have a shadow as their protagonist.  One or two might flirt with the idea but for the most part they are representations of teens in a myriad of settings reacting in understandable ways and piquing interest through their motivations rather than who they snog.  I love a saucy kiss as much as the next person but it shouldn’t propel the plot (and the personality) of a protagonist for an entire afternoon read.

Cath Crowley’s Charlie longs for country boy Dave but also writes and performs music, speaks to her dead mother and grandmother, befriends old enemies and struggles to connect with her father. Released as Chasing Charlie Duskin in 1995, Crowley was shortlisted for the CBCA’s Nook of the Year Award for Older Readers and deservedly so. This year, five years after its Australian release, the book will be released on US shores rebranded as A Little Wanting Song

The new name doesn’t really spin my wheels but titles like this give me hope. Hope that some readers who find so much joy in the insipid goings on of Mary Sues in paranormal love entanglements with vampires, angels or flying monkeys (a girl can dream) might also pick up a novel like this. That her sweeping prose and relatable characters might spurn on more discerning reading choices. 

If not Crowley, then perhaps they should dust off an oldie but a goodie. If they like snoggable rogues, how about Tamora Pierce’s George? Alanna: The First Adventure introduces the reader to a world of heightened emotion, a magical setting and some swoon worthy fellows.  And the female protagonist kicks ass…literally.  Maybe we can sell them on the Disneyfied idea of a sweltering hot prince and a dashing but naughty King of Thieves?  What girl wouldn’t want to delve into that world? 

Or perhaps I could shove Kristin Cashore’s Fire into their arms if fantasy’s their bag?  Or Kathy Charles’ study of a death hag if the morbid side of life and a dark sense of humour is their kind of thing?  Or maybe I toss Lili Wilkinson’s Pink at them and hope they have an appreciation for musical theatre?  The point is… (and yes I have one) readers will only move away from their Mary Sue fondness if they develop a more discerning appreciation for a well rounded protagonist. 

Many teens became reacquainted with reading through Twilight, Hush, Hush and Fallen but that isn’t all there is. If that’s all they want to read then we have to get creative.  Find ways to hide the carrots in the mashed potatoes, make distracting plane sounds as we shove the spoon into their mouths.  There is a bigger world of fantastically amazing protagonists out there and I want to share them.  I want to see these layered women of wonder be immortalised on the big screen, to have the tomes grace bookstore shelves in numbers more than one.  I want a lot for these characters.  They deserve more. 

Ultimately, readers deserve more.  We need to want more, find more and push more.  But how will they know this if they continue to re-read the same Mary Jane tomes over and over again?  I will have to satisfy myself with those of my circle who want the same thing I do, to encourage those in my wider sphere to read one of my recommendations and world domination will soon follow… won’t it?

VIDEO POST: Curtis Stone wants you to win $1000

We’ve just received word of a new competition that’s sure to get your inner-chef excited:

For your chance to win $1000 to spend at the Curtis Stone shop, simply cook a recipe from Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone and take a picture of you, Curtis’ cookbook and the dish, and send it to curtis@randomhouse.com.au along with a review of the dish in 25 words or less.

For full terms and conditions, click here.

“For me, there are few things that are more relaxing than lingering at the table with good friends… But I know that for a lot of people, putting together a meal, especially for guests, is the opposite of relaxing… I’m here to tell you: It doesn’t have to be that way.”
– Curtis Stone, from the Introduction

Australian chef Curtis Stone, host of US TV’s hit Take Home Chef and regular judge on Channel 10’s ratings-busting Masterchef, is best known for his laid-back approach to cooking. Though he’s worked as head chef in several Michelin-starred London restaurants, some of his most memorable meals are the ones he’s shared with friends at home. Now, Curtis shows you how to have as much fun in the kitchen as your guests are sure to have over a comfortable, unforgettable meal.

Relaxed Cooking with Curtis Stone, you’ll find everything from ‘First Thing in the Morning’ bites and ‘Brunches to Blow Their Minds to ‘Weekend Lunches’ and ‘Something to Eat on the Sofa’. With the home cook in mind, Curtis avoids off-putting culinary lingo and hard-to-find ingredients. Instead he picks what’s in season and just around the corner. This down-to-earth approach results in wonderfully interesting and flavourful taste combinations that are perfect for parties or just hanging out with a close friend or loved ones.

VIDEO POST: Michael Porta reflects on Sydney-shattering crimes

Evil In The Suburbs by Cindy Wockner and Michael Porta
Sydney will never be the same. In August 2000 a gang of rapists lured 12 victims from train stations and via the internet in a series of planned attacks. One 16-year-old was staked to the ground by a dozen men and raped repeatedly. Another young teenager was assaulted by 14 men up to 25 times at three different locations. Last week the ringleader of the rapists was sentenced to 55 years for his part in the gang rapes, making headlines across Australia and internationally. His brother is due to be sentenced next week. Apart from the acts of violence, the rape cases have caused volatile debate about race and religion in Australia. The rapists were Lebanese Muslims and, in several cases the men used racial slurs, calling their victims “Aussie bushpigs” and telling them they should try it “Lebo style”. The cases have focused attention on the whole idea of multiculturalism and what it means to be Australian and they have split the Muslim/Christian communities of western Sydney. This book will tell the full story of each of the cases – beginning with the first rape which occurred just as Sydney was dressing up for the 2000 Olympics. It will cover the police investigations, the crucial role of an Arabic speaking, Muslim police officer who first discovered a link between the attacks, the stories of the women and their vindication after the massive jail sentences delivered in court, and the thinking of men and women in the Muslim community so wounded by the actions of its 14 sons.

Click HERE for an interview with former police officer and co-author Michael Porta.

VIDEO POST: Georgia Blain talks DARKWATER

Darkwater by Georgia Blain
Amanda Clarke is dead. Her body was found floating facedown by the riverbank, and no one knows what happened. As rumours fly and fear grows, it seems that everyone suspects Lyndon, one of Amanda’s friends. He’s known for his temper, his cruelty and his criminal family – and now the police want to talk to him. Ages 14+.