SWF After Party

HMay was packed full of exciting book events, a number linked to the Sydney Writers’ Festival. My SWF week began with the evening announcement of the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards at the Mitchell Library. It was a great opportunity to catch up with people and meet new authors.

The other awards evening I attended was the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA). This was a glittering event, particularly this year when we were asked to wear a splash of ruby red to celebrate the 15th awards dinner.

We were spoiled by having Casey Bennetto (creator of Keating the Musical) again as MC. He does an amazing job writing songs about those who present the awards and delivers these as mini-performances. Award presenters included international guests David Mitchell (The Bone Clocks), Michael Connolly (American writer of crime fiction and detective novels, best know for those featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch), Anthony Horowitz (Sherlock Holmes and James Bond original novels, the Alex Rider teen series, Foyle’s War and Midsummer Murders) and Helen Macdonald (H is for Hawk), who also gave the closing address of the SWF.


2014 Miles Franklin winner, Evie Wyld (All the Birds, Singing) also had her own song and Casey Bennetto wished that he had written one for Marcus Zusak (The Book Thief). He ad-libbed something on the spot, incorporating ‘John Cusack’ to rhyme with ‘Zusak’. Zusak presented his former editor, Celia Jellett from Omnibus Books, Scholastic, with the Pixie O’Harris Award for service to Australian children’s books.

Foreign SoilIt was lovely to meet Josephine Moon (The Tea Chest) and Maxine Beneba Clark, who won the Literary Fiction Book of the Year for Foreign Soil, and I spied legends, Sonya Hartnett (Golden Boys) and Morris Gleitzman (Loyal Creatures) at the next table.

Some other award winners were Judith Rossell, who is snapping up awards, including the Indies, for Withering-by-Sea; Tim Low for Where Song Began: Australia’s Birds and How They Changed the World (Tim was so surprised, he was dumb-struck); and Jane Jolly and Robert Ingpen for Tea and Sugar Christmas. Boomerang Books was shortlisted for Online Retailer of the Year.


Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton won ‘Book of the Year: Younger Children’ for The 52-Storey Treehouse and this also won overall ‘Book of the Year’, selected from the winners of each category. Another well-deserved scoop for children’s books.

Andy Griffiths was also a star at the SWF, signing books at the head of an enormous queue for, essentially, a whole day.

Because we are big fans of the Canadian TV series Orphan Black, we went to a screenwriters’ panel at the SWF, where Orphan Black writer, Lynne Coady, was speaking. She looks quite like the multi-role playing star of the show, Tatiana Maslany. Lynne got the conversation to a deeper level by confiding her fear of working as part of a screen-writing team. As an introvert who had been writing literary fiction alone in her basement she was worried how her voice would be heard in a group of, presumably, loud voices. Her vulnerability lit a spark in the panel’s discussion.

Waiting for the PastAnother highlight was hearing three eminent poets, David Malouf, Les Murray (Waiting for the Past) and Ben Okri read and speak about poetry. Moderator, poet/singer-songwriter Kate Fagan enhanced the session.

Another enthusiastic moderator was Davina Bell (The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade see my interview here) who chaired four YA authors in ‘Keeping it Real: Realistic Issues in Teen Fiction’. Authors included international Laurie Halse Anderson (The Impossible Knife of Memory), who intrigued the audience by knitting throughout the session, and Australian Melina Marchetta (Looking for Alibrandi, On the Jellicoe Road), to whom homage was deservedly paid.

Jellicoe Road

The Indie Book Awards 2015 Shortlist Announcement

Get FREE shipping when you use the promo code indies15 at checkout

Every December 170+ independent Australian booksellers take stock of the year in books and nominate their favourite Australian titles for the Indie Book Awards shortlist. The shortlist falls into four categories – fiction, non-fiction, debut fiction and children’s and YA books.

The Indie Book Awards shortlists for 2015 are as follows:


When the Night Comes by Favel Parrett (Hachette Australia)

Amnesia by Peter Carey (Penguin Books Australia)

Golden Boys by Sonya Hartnett (Penguin Books Australia)

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion (Text Publishing)



This House of Grief by Helen Garner (Text Publishing)

Bush by Don Watson (Penguin Books Australia)

Where Song Began by Tim Low (Penguin Books Australia)

Cadence by Emma Ayres (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers Australia)



The 52-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton (illus)(Pan Macmillan Australia)

Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey (Scholastic Australia)

Withering By Sea by Judith Rossell (ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers Australia)

Laurinda by Alice Pung (Black Inc. Publishing)



Lost & Found by Brooke Davis (Hachette Australia)

Foreign Soil by Maxine Beneba Clark (Hachette Australia)

The Strays by Emily Bitto (Affirm Press)

After Darkness by Christine Piper (Allen & Unwin)

LEB Indie Award shortlist Poster 2015_F SMALL. jpeg

Judges from the Leading Edge group of booksellers will select the Indie Book Award winner of each category and the Indie Book Awards overall winner is voted on by the Leading Edge group as a whole.

The Indie Book Awards category winners and the Indie Book Awards overall winner for 2015 will be announced at an event in the Sydney CBD on Wednesday 25 March.

The Indie’s, as they are affectionately known, are the first cab off the rank on the Australian literary awards calendar and have become an excellent early indicator of the books to watch in the coming awards season. As the Bafta’s are to the Golden Globes, and to the Oscars – so the Indie Book Awards are the Australian literary awards early herald. Presented annually since 2008, the previous overall winners of the Indie Book Awards are Breathe by Tim Winton (Penguin, 2008), Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey (Allen and Unwin, 2009), The Happiest Refugee by Anh Do (Allen and Unwin, 2010/2011), All That I Am by Anna Funder (Penguin, 2012) The Light between Oceans by M L Stedman (Vintage, 2013) and The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Vintage, 2014). Flanagan’s instant classic went on to win several other prestigious literary awards in Australia and ultimately the 2014 Man Booker prize which was presented to him in London.

“Good Australian writing needs good Australian bookshops to prosper. Without them Australian writers are one more endangered species whose bush has been bulldozed”
– Richard Flanagan

The independent bookshops of Australia are feisty and adaptive small businesses powered by creative entrepreneurial owner-operator personalities. They are savvy marketeers and early adapters, passionate readers and popular culture buffs. They keep abreast of their customers’ interests and values and trade on a system based on authenticity, loyalty and trust. Independent booksellers personally select the books they stock and hand-sell – therefore it is those books and those choices that ultimately keep business fluid, staff employed, orders arriving in and most importantly customers returning for more great reads and spot on recommendations. An independent bookseller will only hand-sell a title when the quality of the book merits that sale, so we can see the Indie Book Awards shortlist represents the very best Australian books brought to market in 2014 as selected by those who really know their stuff – it’s worth listening to them.

The independent bookselling landscape is in very good shape:

· The independent booksellers have in the past 5 years increased their market share by 50%
· In 2014 the independent booksellers market share of the total Australian market was just under 30%
· The total Australian book market was valued at $937million in 2014
All figures provided by the Leading Edge Group and Nielsen Bookscan

In Australia our army of independent booksellers represent the grassroots frontline of our society’s intellectual good health and cultural exchange. There is no author who does not wish to be championed by independent booksellers; so invested are they in the success of the book – from writers support groups, first draft to final, early buzz, online blogs, bookstore front window displays to in-store signing sessions.

“As a reader and now as a debut novelist, independent booksellers have been fellow literature lovers, astute advisers and fonts of knowledge on the subject of quality writing. When publicising After Darkness, the indie booksellers I met went above and beyond to promote it, taking the time to understand the book’s themes, get to know me and craft a personal approach. The book reviews, blogs and awards they facilitated have had a huge impact on creating interest in my work and, more importantly, building a community of Australian readers and writers”
Christine Piper author of After Darkness

“I was delighted and honoured to hear that Withering-by-Sea had been shortlisted for this award. The independent booksellers have been very supportive of me, and of other Australian writers and illustrators, and so this award is a very special one. Thank you for choosing my book”
Judith Rossell author of Withering-by-Sea

“I am so excited about this YA announcement. I’m very grateful to independent booksellers all over the country who’ve so enthusiastically supported Laurinda.”
Alice Pung author of Laurinda

“The thing about booksellers is that when they read a book, they must not merely read it; they must read it from the point of view of everyone in the world, any person at all who might arrive in their bookshop. It’s an incredible skill, and one I’ve often thought might make things a little better for ourselves, were we all to learn it: the ability to understand another’s version of the world. Their customers might say, ‘I’d like a book that doesn’t have any sad bits,’ or ‘I’d like book that has dinosaurs but is set in the year 3000,’ or ‘I’d like a book that has a red cover and was in your window seventy-five years ago,’ and the bookseller will gallantly put their hands on hips, smile politely, and reply, ‘Never fear, dear customer. We have the book for you. Trust me.’ And we do trust them, these superheroes of the book world, and so we should, because they know all there is to know about all books everywhere. And if they don’t, they know how to find out. As an Australian author, I’m beyond grateful to our Indie booksellers for being so passionate and fearless and creative in their support of Australian writing. As an Australian indie bookseller, I’m beyond proud of my industry for being so passionate and fearless and creative in their support of Australian writing. Thank you for deeming Lost & Found worthy of shortlisting in the Debut Fiction category at the 2015 Indie Book Awards, for the respect you give my work and those of my colleagues, and for building bridges between Australian writers and readers. Indie booksellers rule, and we wouldn’t be a country that reads—and writes—without them”
Brooke Davis author of Lost and Found

“Independent bookshops are my home, a sanctuary from a busy world – a place where I find all of my favourite books. I have had so much support from Indies all around the country and I feel incredibly grateful. Thank you”
Favel Parrett author of When the Night Comes

“To be nominated for a debut fiction Indie Award is a quite singular honour. To see Foreign Soil, the product of gruelling years of writing, research and emotional energy, so well received by the Australian independent bookstores I spent so many years browsing, buying, loitering and being inspired in as an emerging writer myself, seems nothing short of miraculous – particularly in a year which has seen so many strong Australian fiction debuts”
Maxine Beneba Clarke author of Foreign Soil

“I’m over the moon to be shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards. It’s particularly meaningful to me because the Indies are voted by Leading Edge booksellers themselves, who are among the most passionate supporters of books, and who know the industry so intimately. This is a real honour!”
Emily Bitto author of The Strays

“Independent bookshops are the lifeblood of our industry. Without the knowledge and passion of independent bookshop staff it’s hard to imagine how I would have come across many of the non-mainstream books that have fired my imagination and fuelled my creativity over the years. It’s also difficult to imagine how my own books would have fared without their enthusiasm and support”
Andy Griffiths author of The 52-Storey Treehouse

“We are thrilled that Emma’s book has been so warmly embraced by readers across Australia. Although ostensibly a memoir, Cadence is hard to pigeon-hole: there are many layers to her book and Emma weaves them together with skill and grace. It is an absolute triumph for a first-time author, and we are delighted that Cadence has been shortlisted in the Indie Book Awards”
Brigitta Doyle, Head of ABC Books, HarperCollins Publishers

Buy the shortlist titles here and get FREE shipping…

The Highlights of a Professional Life: An Interview With Ursula Dubosarsky

Ursula_Dubosarsky_publicity_photo_A_2011Ursula Dubosarsky has written over 40 books for children and young adults. Some of which include The Terrible Plop, Too Many Elephants in This House, Tim and Ed (Tim and Ed Review), The Carousel, The Word Spy series, and The Cryptic Casebook of Coco Carlomagno and Alberta series.

She is a multi-award winner of many national and international literary prizes including The Premier’s and State Literary Awards, The Children’s Book Council Book of the Year Awards, The Children’s Choice Awards, The Prime Minister’s Literary Awards and The Speech Pathology Australia Awards.

Ursula’s books have been characterised as timeless classics with universal accessibility, always heartwarming, funny and indelible. Her picture books, in particular, emanate energy and delight, wit and ingenuity. She has worked with some legendary illustrators who have brought Ursula’s playful words to life, including Terry Denton, Tohby Riddle and Andrew Joyner.    

I am absolutely thrilled and honoured to have had this opportunity to discover more about Ursula Dubosarsky’s writerly mind, joys, achievements and plans for the future, and she has been so gracious in sharing her views with our readers.

Where do you get your creativity from? Were you born into a creative family?
Well I was born into a family of writers, although they are more non-fiction writers than fiction writers. But non-fiction demands plenty of creativity, as I discovered when I tried to write non-fiction myself (my “Word Spy” books.) My mother also had an amazingly vivid dream-life -I sometimes wonder if that’s where the story ideas come from…  

What or who are your biggest motivators?
For some reason I find this a very confronting question! and I don’t know how to answer it. Perhaps it’s one of the biggest mysteries of creative acts – why do it? It feels like a compulsion.  

Which age group do you most prefer to write for, younger or older children?
I love the succinctness that is demanded of you in writing for younger children – I love throwing out all the words until you have just that bare minimum. The other nice thing about writing for younger children is you get to work with illustrators, which has been such a pleasure in my life. But of course as anyone would say, each form has its particular rewards (and hardships.)  

the-word-spyWhat has been the greatest response / fan mail to you and your books?
That would be my three “Word Spy” books – non-fiction books about language, particularly the English language. I think one reason they get the most fan mail is that the books are written in character. They are narrated by a mysterious person called The Word Spy. So I think children really enjoy the fantasy of writing to an imaginary person – I enjoy the fantasy of writing back as a character! The Word Spy even has her own blog “Dear Word Spy” where you can see lots of the letters children have written to her – and her answers! http://wordsnoop.blogspot.com.au/

What is your working relationship like with illustrator, Andrew Joyner? Do you or the publisher choose to pair you together?
Oh I love working with Andrew.The pairing came about quite naturally. At the time I was working for the NSW Department of Education’s School Magazine, which is a monthly literary magazine for primary school children. I was doing some editing there, and Andrew happened to send in some illustrations. I just so responded to his work, immediately. Anyway then when I had written the text for “The Terrible Plop” he was a natural person to suggest to Penguin, the publisher, as an illustrator for the book.

Cover_0What was your reaction when ‘Too Many Elephants in This House’ was selected for this year’s ALIA’s National Simultaneous Storytime? How were you involved in the lead up and on the day?
That was truly the most thrilling and touching experience. We were just delighted to hear it had been chosen, and I can’t tell you how heartwarming it was to see children (and adults!) all over Australia reading our book. ALIA did a brilliant job of organising and promoting the event – we hardly had to do a thing. On the actual day Andrew and I read the book aloud at the Customs House branch of the City of Sydney library down at Circular Quay. I can truly say the National Simultaneous Storytime was one of the great highlights of my professional life.  

IMG_6741You’ve had two of your picture books turned into successful stage productions; ‘The Terrible Plop’ (2009-2012) and ‘Too Many Elephants in This House’ (2014). How were you approached / told about the news? What creative input did you (and Andrew Joyner) have in the productions?
In both cases it was a matter of the theatre company (Adelaide’s Windmill Theatre for “The Terrible Plop” and NIDA for “Too Many Elephants”) seeing the book and then approaching the publisher to see if we’d be willing to have the book staged. We were very willing! In neither case did we have a lot of input into the production. The writer/director at NIDA did keep us informed and sent us draft scripts -but I think we both felt it was better to stand back and let her and the actors and the rest of the creative team follow their own instincts. Again, for me and Andrew it was a tremendous experience to see the books transformed and re-imagined.  

What are you currently working on? What can your fans look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
Well Andrew and I will be working together on an illustrated novel, so much longer than and very different to our picture book collaborations. It’s called “Brindabella” and is about a kangaroo. I have written the text already – and am now looking forward enormously to seeing what Andrew does with it.  

What other hobbies do you enjoy besides writing?
I wish I could say something strange and unexpected but it’s just walking! I love to walk the dog, but I also just like walking altogether. And I do like looking for very unusual cake recipes, researching their history and then having a go at baking them. I’m not much of a cook but I enjoy it!

the-terrible-plopFan Question –
Katharine: In The Terrible Plop, where did the bear run to? Did he ever find out what the Terrible Plop really was?

(This question is) something I’ve never been asked before and never thought about! I guess the bear would run home to all his brother and sister and mother and father and granny and grandpa and uncle and auntie bears, who listen to his story and tell him that’s what comes of sitting in folding chairs and that in future he should stay safely inside their big dark cave. So I don’t think he OR any of the others ever find out what the Terrible Plop really is – in fact over time it becomes part of the Great Bear Mythology…

Ursula, thank you so much for answering my questions for Boomerang Books! It’s been an absolute pleasure!

Find out more about Ursula Dubosarsky:

Interview by Romi Sharp

Continuum X post-con report

In June this year I excitedly went off to attend Continuum X, the 10th in a series of Melbourne-based science fiction and pop culture conventions. But this year was special. This year, Continuum doubled as the 53rd Australian National Science Fiction Convention.

International Guest of Honour was Jim C Hines, author of, amongst other books, Goblin Quest, Libriomancer and Codex Born. He is also known for a series of photographs in which he attempted to place himself into the ridiculous poses that female characters are often put in on genre book covers. Check it out. Australian Guest of Honour was Ambelin Kwaymullina, author of the The Tribe series of novels (The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf and The Disappearance of Ember Crow).

Lib     Ashala

Both guests were friendly, eloquent and well worth the price of admission. And they both delivered extraordinary Guest of Honour speeches — you can check out Jim’s here and Ambelin’s here.

But there was lots more to Continuum X. There were panel discussions on an amazing range of topics, from early science fiction cinema to The Big Bang Theory; from technology for writers to religion in science fiction. Perhaps the most extraordinary of these was “We Do This Stuff… Gets Personal”. The programme description was as follows: “Based loosely on the “living library” idea, this is a chance for people to talk about their experiences of being an othered gender, sexuality, race, physical, mental or sensory disability or otherwise other, with questions from the audience. Open to writers who want to write better characters and anyone who just wants a better understanding of what it’s like in someone else’s head.” Not only did this panel provide the opportunity for writers to learn, it promoted understanding, which is a starting point for a more inclusive community.

There were readings and signings from an array of authors including Alan Baxter, Sue Bursztynski, Michael Pryor and Trudi Canavan, to name but a few. There were numerous book launches including:

  • Guardian by Jo Anderton
  • Trucksong by Andrew Macrae
  • Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love
  • Perfections by Kirstyn McDermott
  • Use Only As Directed
  • Death at the Blue Elephant by Janeen Webb
  • Kisses by Clockwork edited by Liz Grzyb
  • Nil By Mouth by LynC
  • The Stars Like Sand: Australian Speculative Poetry edited by Tim Jones and PS Cottier

9780992460129I was particularly excited about Nil By Mouth, which I had the great pleasure of launching myself. I was also honoured to co-host the Continuum X awards night with fellow-author Narrelle M Harris. Awards presented that evening included the Ditmars (for excellence in Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror), the Chronos Awards (for excellence in Victorian science fiction, fantasy and horror), as well as a number of special awards.

Fragments of a Broken Land: Valarl Undead by Robert Hood, picked up the Best Novel Ditmar.

“The Home for Broken Dolls” by Kirstyn McDermott, in Caution: Contains Small Parts, picked up the Ditmar for Best Novella or Novelette.

The Bride Price by Cat Sparks got two Ditmars — one for Best Collected Work and one for Best Short Story for “Scarp”.

9780734410672Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan got both the Ditmar and the Chronos for Best Artwork.

And my own Gamers’ Rebellion got the Chronos for Best Long Fiction. 🙂

You can check out a complete list of nominees and winners on the Continuum website.

All up Continuum X was a great experience for genre book fans — so many authors, editors and publishers just wandering around, as well as speaking on panels, reading from their works and taking part in question and answer sessions. I picked up a bunch of books to add to my ever-growing to-be-read mountain, as well as adding to my really, really long list of books I must purchaser in the near future. 🙂

A HUGE thank you to the organisers, panellists and attendees for making this such an enjoyable event. I’m already looking forward to next year’s Continuum.

Catch ya later,  George

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Awards season

TROPHYIt seems that Awards Season is upon us! Everywhere you look there are prizes and honours up for grabs in the writing world — from the individual state awards to Australia-wide honours; from the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards to the Speech Pathology Awards. There are way too many of them for me to list here, so I’m just going to chat about a few of the ones that interest me most — those dealing with speculative fiction and writing for young people.

The most prestigious Australian awards in children’s writing are the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards. These are juried awards with appointed judges. Unusually, I have not read a single one of the books on this year’s shortlist, [hangs head in shame] although Doug MacLeod’s The Shiny Guys is sitting on my must-read-soon pile. I have, however, read a number of those on the Notables list. I am particularly pleased to see Ships in the Field by Susanne Gervay and Anna Pignataro, and Blood Brothers by Carole Wilkinson on the list. I reviewed both books last year (see my reviews: “Migrants and Carousels” and  “New Dragonkeeper”). Ships in the Field is an extraordinary picture book and Blood Brothers is another great addition to Wilkinson’s DragonKeeper series. And of course I’m very chuffed that Trust Me Too, an anthology edited by Paul Collins that includes a story from yours truly, is on there. Check out the shortlist and the list of Notable books.

Also in the area of books for young people, there are the Inkys (although the long list won’t be announced until June) and the YABBAs (although they also don’t take place until later in the year).

In the world of spec fic, the major ones are the Aurealis Awards and the Ditmar Awards. The Aurealis Awards are juried, while the Ditmars are decided by popular vote. The Aurealis Awards also have categories for children’s and YA fiction… which is BRILLIANT! Check out the shortlist.

The Ditmars are the Australia Science Fiction Achievement Awards, and include fan categories (for unpaid work) as well as professional categories. Check out the full shortlist.

And then we have the Chronos Awards, which are a Victorian state version of the Ditmars. I’m very pleased to see the shortlist includes Bread and Circuses by Felicity Dowker (see my review: “Bread and Circuses”) and Walking Shadows by Narrelle M. Harris (see my review: “Vampires in Melbourne”) — two of my favourite books from last year.

And I’ve got to mention that my other blog, Viewing Clutter (it’s a DVD and Blu-ray blog), has been nominated for “Best Fan Publication”. I’m rather chuffed about that! Check out the full shortlist.

Awards are interesting things. They mean a lot to some people and not much to others. Sometimes they can help bring attention to a particular book or author; sometimes they have very little impact. And often they are steeped in controversy. But all that aside, I think it’s rather nice to see authors and illustrators being given a little bit of recognition and encouragement. Check out the shortlists and if voting is involved, see if you’re eligible. It’s your chance to support the authors and books that you like reading.

Catch ya later,  George

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Non-fiction prize casts a wide net

The shortlist for the 2012 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction was been announced on Friday 5 October and it’s an impressively mixed bag.

The nominated books will are as varied in location as they are in subject matter. They will take you up Everest, across UK on foot, and down into the slums of Mumbai. They look at humanity from the darkest moments of Franco’s reign in Spain, to the innovation of the man who invented modern theatre, and go further into a long difficult look at mankind’s history of violence and what we can expect from it today.

David Willetts, the UK’s Minister for Universities and Science and chair of the judging panel, said the prize was looking for significant books which would “change our view of the world” and “make a lasting contribution to their genres”.

‘Their broad range of subject matter reflects the diversity of English-language non-fiction, and has the potential to inspire readers of all interests. It was partly deliberate to have such a wide range. Even though quality is so important all of the judges have still tried to show a range, from magisterial science from Steven Pinker, to Macfarlane’s extraordinary response to the natural world.”

I’m most excited getting my hands on Steven Pinker’s history of violence and humanity, The Better Angels of our Nature. Pinker, who is the author of the excellent “The Language Instinct” and “Blank Slate“, argues that humankind is becoming progressively less violent and that modernity and its cultural institutions are actually making us better people. And although I’ve loved reading his previous books I completely forgot to pick Better Angels up, so the announcement of the prize was a timely reminder to get my hands on a copy.

I’ll probably try to get my hands on a copy of all six books short-listed, which is at least one of the good results of having a non-fiction prize this prestigious and well publicised. As I have said (okay, whinged before) non-fiction is often left in the cold when it comes to awards and prizes, so it’s good to see it rewarded. And even better when the net is cast this wide, pulling in so many excellent and diverse books.

The full shortlist is:

The award is worth £20,000 (approximately $30,000AUD) to the winner and aims to reward the best of English language non-fiction. It is open to authors of all non-fiction books in the areas of current affairs, history, politics, science, sport, travel, biography autobiography and the arts. The winner will be announced on 12 November.

ABIA Awards highlight Australian non-fiction reads

The finalists for this year’s Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIA) have been announced and it’s looking good for Australian non-fiction reader and writers this year.  The ABIA awards are voted on by booksellers and publishers, rather than literary panels, so rather than focusing on high-brow fiction these awards instead highlight what publishers and bookshops find that readers can’t get enough of.

Real life reads have no shortage of sales but they often get left out in the cold when it’s time to give out writing prizes and awards. Not so with the ABIA awards; not only are two categories  out of seven exclusively for non-fiction reads (biography of the year and a general non-fiction category) but plenty of non-fiction has made its way into lists where you would normally expect fiction to reign supreme.

The Book of the Year for Older Children (age 8 to 14 years), has one such hat-tip to real-life reading in its listing of Lonely Planet’s lively Travel Book, Not For Parents Edition. The book of the year category also has a non-fiction offering in William McInnes & Sarah Watt’s memoir, Worse Things Happen At Sea, a celebration (and occasional commiseration) of Australian day to day family life, which is listed alongside such fiction feasts as Caleb’s Crossing and Foal’s Bread.

Non-fiction is also well-represented in the newcomer of the year (debut writer) category, with 3 of 5 of the new writers penning memoirs. Two of those books,  A Private Life by Michael Kirby and Life Without Limits (written by Australian-born Nick Vujicic who hasn’t left being born without arms or legs get in his way becoming an international inspirational speaker) have also nominated for biography of the year. How-to writing also gets a shout-out in the form of a nomination for container-gardening guide The Little Veggie Patch Co, which I suspect will shortly be responsible for yet another pile of dead pot-plants on my balcony.

The nominess for Biography of the Year will also delight fans of sports-writing with 2 of the 5 finalists, Darren Lockyer by Darren Lockyer & Dan Koch and The Long Road to Paris by Cadel Evans, jostling for first place. Hazel Rowley’s fascinating Franklin and Eleanor rounds out the list of biographies to five.

The finalists for General Nonfiction book of the year are:

There’s plenty there to keep even the most avid booklover reading but if you only have the time to devote to the pick of the crop, the various winners will be announced on May 18 as part of the 2012 Sydney Writers’ Festival.

YABBA 2010

YABBA! What is YABBA, I hear you ask. Well, YABBA stands for Young Australians’ Best Book Award. The awards ceremony was held earlier today and I was lucky enough to attend.

YABBA is an annual set of awards for kids’ books that is nominated for and voted on by kids. So, unlike many other awards for which finalists and winners are chosen by ‘adult experts’, these awards are a better indication of what kids actually like to read. Also, unlike most awards that are restricted to books published during the previous year, with YABBA, kids can nominate any Australian children’s book that has been published in the previous ten years.

Established in 1985, YABBA is a not-for-profit organisation run by a volunteer committee. And this year was their 25th Anniversary. This special awards ceremony was a HUGE event, hosted by the Williamstown campus of the Bayside P-12 College. In addition to the hundreds of kids who attended, guest authors and illustrators included Carole Wilkinson, Deborah Abela, Sarah Davis, Corinne Fenton, Terry Denton, Andy Griffiths, Leigh Hobbs, Jackie Kerin (in above photo), Morris Lurie, Claire Saxby, Craig Smith and Celeste Walters. Oh yeah, and me too. 🙂 Each of us got the chance to speak at the ceremony on the topic of “My favourite character – unmasked”, and then after the ceremony we participated in a signing event. It was LOTS OF FUN!

There were four awards presented. Rather than just list the winners, I’ll give you the full shortlist for each category, as all these books deserve some recognition.

Section 1 Picture Storybooks

Section 2 Fiction for Younger Readers

Section 3 Fiction for Older Readers

Fiction for Years 7-9

Congratulations to the winners and to all those on the shortlist.

Somehow, I just can’t imagine a book called Farticus Maximus ever making the shortlist for an Australian Children’s Book Council Award. So I reckon it’s pretty terrific that we have a set of awards where kids can nominate and vote for what they are actually having fun reading.

For more info about the awards, check out the YABBA website.

Tune in next time for a blog about blogging.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter… where I yabba on quite a bit. 😉



There is certainly no shortage of awards in the literary world. From the general to the specific; from the highly desired to the barely recognised; from popular vote awards to those judged by experts — there are lots of awards to go around.

It seems like every time I venture out into cyberspace, someone is winning an award for something. Not that this is a bad thing. There are so many excellent books being published each year, that even with the plethora of available awards, they are still only scratching the surface of all those deserving of recognition.

On a personal level, I find myself not thinking about awards all that much. Yes, it’s very nice when you win one… but not winning one does not make your book any less worth reading. And often it is a matter of personal opinion. Literature, like any art form, is very subjective. What one person adores as brilliant, another may despise as worthless. I often look at awards lists and think to myself that, if it were up to me, I would have made some very different choices.

On a professional level, I am interested in awards, as they can help to promote a book. My publisher (Ford Street Publishing) was very happy when my teen novel, Gamers’ Quest, won a Chronos Award earlier this year. It meant that I could have an award sticker on the book cover, as they tend to attract attention… even if the average teenager has no idea what a Chronos Award is.

Being a children’s author, I tend to keep an eye on the awards specifically targeting books for kids and teens, such as the YABBA awards, the Inkys and the CBCA awards. But I’m also a writer of, and major fan of, science fiction. So I am rather interested in seeing the outcome of two upcoming sets of awards — the Ditmars and the Hugos.

The Hugos are awards for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy, presented annually at the World Science Fiction Convention, and voted on by the members of that convention. This year’s convention, just in case you haven’t already heard, is being held in Melbourne. It’s the 68th World Science Fiction Convention and it is only the 4th time it has made it to our shores. More info about this year’s convention, called Aussiecon 4, is available from their website. And here’s the list of this year’s Hugo Award nominees. A VERY impressive list of talent!

The Ditmars are the Australian SF Awards, created to recognise excellence in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror by Australians. Each year they are presented at the National Science Fiction Convention. There’s an amazing array of local talent on this year’s ballot… go on, take a look. I’d be surprised if you didn’t recognise at least some of the names that appear on it. This year, I’m rather excited by this set of awards because H Gibbens, computer animator extraordinaire, is on the ballot for the book trailer he created for Gamers’ Quest. He did an amazing job with the trailer, so I am extremely pleased to see him getting some recognition for it. I’ve posted the trailer on this blog before, but what the hell… here it is again.

So what do people think of awards? Do they make a difference to your reading choices? Do you seek out award winning books?

And tune in next time when I’ll be writing about talking about writing.

Catch ya later,  George

PS. Follow me on Twitter!