For those asking

Yes, the title of my next novel what is coming out in October is Liar. Simple but effective. Libba Bray came up with it after my title was rejected. For those of you who don’t know all my titles are rejected. I have a title curse. Libba Bray has a title fairy. She also named How To Ditch Your Fairy. Bless you, Libba!

Yes, I do still mourn (a little) for the title I gave it, Why Do I Lie?, after the Luscious Jackson song which partly inspired the novel. But nobody liked it. I can stand up to one or two nay sayers but not to everyone in the entire universe.

Yes, I will be sharing the cover shortly. There are two. One for my Australian publisher (Allen & Unwin) and one for my USian (Bloomsbury).

Yes, it will be out in October in both Australia & the USA. This is my first simultaneous publication. W00t!

Yes, it is a hardcover in the USA and C format paperback in Australia. That’s the large trade paperback format. It is the Australian equivalent of a hardcover. I have never had a book in C format before and am very excited.

Yes, there are about 400 pages.

Yes, no one actually asked that last question. But surely page count is crucial? Especially as this is my longest novel in print.

Yes, it is my first realist novel. Sort of a psychological thriller. It is much darker than any of my previous books. Bloomsbury are billing it as 14 +, which means it probably won’t find its way into middle school libraries in the USA. Allen & Unwin are hoping to attract the cross-over adult market. I’m very interested to see how that goes.

Yes, there are ARCs (Advance Research Copies) in existence in the USA and shortly in Australia. No, I am not the person to ask for one. I have none. You need to contact publicity or marketing at Allen & Unwin or Bloomsbury (childrens DOT publicity AT bloomsburyusa DOT com) depending on what country you are in.

Yes, I am very excited about Liar‘s progress over the next few months. Will anyone who enjoyed HTDYF also like Liar? Will my fans be mad at me for writing a non-fantasy? What will be the general response?

Yes, my fingers are crossed.

On the other hand, I’m more proud of this book than of any of my other books. It’s the first one entirely set in the USA with no Australian characters, which frankly was really hard. I know I did the best I’m capable of and anything beyond that is just icing on the cake.1

  1. No, I did not use any cliches like “icing on the cake” in the actual book. I promise! []

Earth Hour Sydney

Here’s a photo of the view from our new Sydney digs at night. Twas taken by Stephen Dunbar on the 6th of March:

And here’s the same view taken during Earth Hour by my dad:

I wish I’d been home to see it.

Productivity Commission draft report

Some of you have been writing to ask me what I think of the Australian Productivity Commission’s draft report. I’ve been trying very hard to put my thoughts into words, but frankly I’m too depressed and angry. But now Michael Heyward of Text has a most excellent opinion piece in The Age:

THERE’S a lot at stake in the world of books and writing and publishing. Our industry is blossoming. We’re selling great books at home and exporting our writers in unprecedented numbers. We have a superb retail environment, with a dynamic independent sector, and a competitive printing industry that generates significant numbers of skilled jobs. There’s never been a better time to be a writer or publisher in Australia.

He’s spot on. Publishing in Australia is doing great. It’s making money and employing people. Unlike, say, the car industry, which the Australian government has been bailing out for years, we’re not asking the government for a handout. We’re not asking for a single dollar. We just want to retain a law that has helped the Australian publishing industry thrive since 1991.

Introducing parallel importing is not going to reduce the price of books in Australia. One of the book chains most heavily in favour of it already charges above the recommended retail price for bestselling books. If they really cared about making books cheaper would they do that? Removing parallel importing will increase their profit margin with little or no benefit to book consumers like myself.

The draft report’s proposal for the publication territorial copyright to expire after a year amounts to a stealth introduction of parallel importing. As Heyward says many books do much better in their second year than their first:

At Text, many of our best backlist titles have their biggest sales after the first 12 months. It’s a typical pattern. Kate Grenville’s The Secret River sold five times as many copies in its second year as in its first. We published Peter Temple’s masterpiece The Broken Shore in August 2005 and it has now sold 10 times as many copies as it did in its first year. Both of these writers are bestsellers in Britain.

It’s true for books that aren’t bestsellers. Magic or Madness sold better in its second year than its first, so has every book in the trilogy, and I sure am hoping that will also be true for How to Ditch Your Fairy.

I want my books and those of all Australian writers to be as protected as our British, Canadian and USian colleagues’ books are.1 I really don’t think that’s a lot to ask.

There’s information here if you want to submit a response to the Commission’s draft report.

For those who have no idea what I’m talking about, but are a little bit interested, you can find more info here, here and here.

  1. I’d also like to point out that it’s not just Australian authors who benefit from Australia retaining its territorial copyright. Australia is a very strong book market, I know many non-Australian authors who earn more from their Australian editions than from their UK editions. We Australians love to read. []

Women in sports

I wonder why it is that women in sports get so little attention. Unless they’re tennis or golf players and pretty. Or winning gold medals during the Olympics.

I’ve been following the women’s world cup online, but apparently I don’t have much company online or offline where very few folks have been going to their games. I don’t get it. The NZ v Pakistan game sounds like it was amazing. Wish I’d been home to see it.1 Games were $5 each or $35 for a pass to see all of them. Standards were high yet attendance was crap.

And then there’s the WNBA which I love passionately. But the only coverage it gets is all about Candace Parker, who isn’t even going to play this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think Parker’s phenomenal, but she’s not the only phenomenal player in the WNBA. Why do articles about female athletes always begin by disquisiting about how gorgeous they are? Yawn. Who cares how pretty she is when she can play like that?

It’s 2009 and I’m watching Mad Men and there are so many ways in which the world has changed not one iota. Having a women’s basketball league and a women’s world cup in cricket does not make the world cease to be sexist. Neither does having a black man in the white house end all racism.

But I am an optimist. Some day, I’m sure, all those isms will disappear. Some day . . . I just don’t think I’ll be alive to see it.

  1. Here’s hoping the Kiwis can crush the Poms in the final. Guess, I’ll find out when I wake up. []

Things I love right now

The music of Francoiz Breut

Flying foxes zooming by mere metres from my head

The smell of rain

How Sydney looks after the rain: clear and sharp and gorgeous

Kate Grenville’s second submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into Copyright Restrictions on the Parallel Importation of Books

The slow slide from summer to the cooler time of the year1

Pomegranates

Bodega

The Australian cover of my next novel

Rainbow lorikeets

Huge flocks of sulfur crested cockatoos

Sydney

  1. Sydney doesn’t really have autumn and its winters are very mild. []

Women’s World Cup

Is on in Sydney and thereabouts right now. And I am not able to view ANY OF IT. Even though many of the games are dead easy to get to and cheap as chips.1

There are deadlines, there is packing, then there’s leaving of beloved Sydney and beautiful and wondrous brand new digs. So no women’s cricket for Justine. But next time, next time I will enjoy every second of it!2

I hope that the Sydney based cricket fan readers of this blog, of which I happen to know there are at least three, manage to get to some of the matches in my stead. Lucky ducks!

I get back to the never ending rewrite of tortuous horror wonderful rewrite of my next book what comes out in October and is in no way annoying me at all.

I leave you with a photo by the lovely Sarah Dollard taken from deck of brand new digs:

  1. Though had I gone to today’s Oz v NZ match at North Sydney oval I would have spent much time huddling against the rain. []
  2. Also, thank Elvis for the radio. []

Margo Lanagan and me

Will be chatting tomorrow night at Kinokuniya here in sunny Sydney. We will say many wise and excellent things. If you are within a 500k radius you cannot miss this! Margo is genius! I can do a passable imitation of a genius!1

Here are details:

5 March 2009, 6:00PM
Me and Margo Lanagan in conversation
Books Kinokuniya
Level 2, The Galeries Victoria
500 George St
Sydney NSW

I will have MANY How To Ditch Your Fairy bookmarks. How can you resist such excellent enticements?

See you all tomorrow!

  1. Sort of. []

In a dancing kind of mood

Everything today was wonderful. Just everything. Especially my book launch. Thank you, all! Especially Lili and Jodie for your blush-making speeches, and Readings in Carlton for hosting, and all my wonderful friends for coming along to cheer HTDYF‘s official appearance in Australia. And all the people I don’t even know. Bless!

Thanks to everyone who’s written after my Melbourne events. I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance to reply. Hopefully on my return to Sydney but more likely when I’m in NYC. But I just wanted to let you all know that I SO appreciate your wonderful letters. And, no, being a good speller is not necessary if you want to be a writer. Though it’s not a bad thing either!

For those who were asking, HTDYF should now be available in book shops far and wide across this fair land. And if they don’t have it—demand to know why not! Or alternatively buy Simmone Howell’s Everything Beautiful which rocks.

I leave you with this Alien Onion post on parallel importation, which links to many profound, beautiful, and smart submissions on publishing in Australia. You should especially read Tim Winton’s piece.

And now I will dance towards bed.

Tomorrow = Perth.

Another lovely event + worst oscar dress (updated)

The event at North Melbourne library was fabulous. Lots of excellent quessies and best of all I got to tell a vomit story. Thank you for asking, Aimee! And thank you so much for organising the event. Was lovely to chat with such knowledgeable YA readers. Yes, Twilight was discussed.

So, the Oscars. What do we think was the worst dress? Please to include link to it. I’m still spluttering over Miley Cryus’s explosion.

And what did we think of Our Hugh Jackman’s effort? No expletives please!

Update: I am very much enjoying all your comments here and on the romcom/vomcom thread. I agree with those below who love Queen Latifah and Marisa Tomei‘s dresses. Not entirely sure about the colour of the Tomei dress, and I’d have preferred it to have two straps, but the structure is awesome. For those of your criticising Tilda Swinton: stop immediately! She can do no wrong. And, yes, Sarah Jessica Parker‘s dress was a mistake. Looks like her boobs are about to explode, which would be VERY painful.

First event of Aussie tour completed!

W00t! Just back from chatting with Simmone Howell at the State Library of Victoria in front of a fabulous audience of students, teachers and librarians. It were good. I met two of my blog readers: Joey & Tez! Thank you for the note, Tez! Lovely to meet you both!

A whole bunch of genius writers also showed up to support us: Kate Constable, Karen Healy, Melina Marchetta,1 Kirsty Murray, and Penni Russon. Not to mention Sarah Tran and the Centre for Youth Literature who organised the event, also Lili Wilkinson who introduced us most eloquently.

I think the event went well. It was a little bit tricky because I am a blabbermouth and the fabulous Simmone Howell is not. Thus I had to work very hard not to eat up all her talking time. But I think I managed. I hope I managed. Mental note: MUST LET OTHER PEOPLE SPEAK.

I especially enjoyed hearing Simmone talking about going to a private school after she was asked to leave her public school. I wish she’d talked a bit more about that. I find other people’s miserable school days fascinating especially if they have a secret bogan past.

The audience was attentive and laughed at all the right places as well asking most excellent questions. If this is what typical Aussies audiences are like I think I’m going to have a blast on this tour.

In other news there’s some very very good advice from Cory Doctorow about how to be productive writing despite the dread distractions of teh interwebs. Particularly this bit:

Realtime communications tools are deadly. The biggest impediment to concentration is your computer’s ecosystem of interruption technologies: IM, email alerts, RSS alerts, Skype rings, etc. Anything that requires you to wait for a response, even subconsciously, occupies your attention. Anything that leaps up on your screen to announce something new, occupies your attention. The more you can train your friends and family to use email, message boards, and similar technologies that allow you to save up your conversation for planned sessions instead of demanding your attention right now helps you carve out your 20 minutes. By all means, schedule a chat—voice, text, or video—when it’s needed, but leaving your IM running is like sitting down to work after hanging a giant “DISTRACT ME” sign over your desk, one that shines brightly enough to be seen by the entire world.

Must disable IM. Must do it immediately.

How about that? One blog post but two resolutions. Wish me luck!

  1. We got to applaud her Prinz win. Yay! []

Why are vomit stories the funniest stories of all?

Tonight me and Scott hung out with two fabulous writers, Tessa Kum and Rjurik Davidson, and the conversation turned to vomit, as it is so often does when writers gather. We told many awesomely disgusting stories. There was much laughter. I would share the stories with you except that I happen to know of two regular readers of this blog who would kill me if I did so. That is how strong their aversion is to vomit and stories about said substance.1

Which is something they don’t have in common with this one group of students I wound up talking to on tour last year in Ohio.2 But for some reason I was left alone to entertain about forty or fifty seventh or eighth graders. So, naturally, I told vomit stories. And they loved them, which only encouraged me to come up with more stories. In the end they were demanding that I pen a collection of said stories.

I should do it. Truly, market it to that demographic, and every writer I know, and it would be a license to print money. Maybe I should suggest it to my agent?

Maybe I shall ask Simmone Howell for her favourite vomit stories tomorrow at our event at Victoria’s State Library . . .

  1. I don’t get it. Vomit is the funniest stuff in the world. There is nothing better than a good vomit story. []
  2. Sadly, my memory can no longer tell me what city it was, let alone what school. []

Post for Maureen

Tonight I saw Alan Cumming sing an Abba song! Well, okay, he said he was going to sing an Abba song because it was Sydney and he knows that all Australians love Abba and that Abba had more number one hit records here than anywhere else in the world, including Sweden.1 But the song he said was an Abba song wasn’t an Abba song. Cause he’s Scottish and they’re tricky like that.

He did sing a song by Dolly Parton, Victoria Wood and songs from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Cabaret and a musical I never heard of. Also some Gershwin.

He was incredibly charming and name droppy and did the whole cabaret I’m-fabulous!-You’re-fabulous!-We’re-all-fabulous! thing excellently well. I am always amazed at how charmed I can be by a cabaret show when the performer doesn’t have that great a voice. But we walked out all happy and bouncy.

Also, Maureen, we saw Mr Cumming here:


Sydney Opera House as seen from the Manly ferry

It were fun.

Wish you were here, too Maureen!

  1. Little known fact: you can’t become an Australian citizen if you don’t like Abba. []

Off to Melbourne

My mini How To Ditch Your Fairy tour of Australia (well of Melbourne, Perth, Sydney) begins on Sunday. I can’t believe it’s so soon! How did that happen?

To prepare yourself here’s an article about Sunday’s gig which features an interview with the fabulous Simmone Howell. I just finished her latest, Everything Beautiful, last night. It’s astonishingly good. I don’t even like realism and I LOVED this book. Go read it immediately.

Also Allen & Unwin have created a How To Ditch Your Fairy site. This is a first for me. A publisher creating a whole site devoted to one of my books! I may faint. Have I mentioned that I love my Aussie publisher?

And wait till you see the new US cover of HTDYF. Best. Cover. Ever.

For those of you in Melbourne here’s where you’ll find me:

Sunday, 22 Feb 2009, 2:00PM – 3:30PM
Me and Simmone Howell in conversation + cake
State Library of Victoria—Conference Centre
328 Swanston Street
(Entrance 3 on La Trobe Street)
Melbourne, Victoria
Go here to book

Monday, 23 Feb, 2009, 6.00PM
Talk & signing
North Melbourne Library
66 Errol St
North Melbourne, VIC

Tuesday, 24 Feb 2009, 6:30PM
Australian launch of How To Ditch Your Fairy
Readings Carlton
309 Lygon St
Carlton, Victoria

Hope to see some of you there. I’ll be the one eating a mangosteen and discoursing on the merits of Elvis’ 1968 comeback special.

What larks we shall have!

Questions I have been asked lately

These questions come from my email and from this blog. Cause I’m short on time I thought I’d just answer ‘em all here:

Q: Don’t you think it’s wrong that Stephen King attacked Stephenie Meyer?

A: No, I don’t. I also don’t think he attacked her. Writers are allowed to not like other writers’ books. We’re even allowed to say so out loud. Saying you don’t think much of someone’s writing or their books is not an attack on them. Writers are not their books.

The only reason I don’t blog my opinion of books by living people is because I am a coward. Why I even got into trouble for admitting my hatred of Moby Dick and of a certain famous detective series. It’s not even safe to hate books by dead people!

Writers are crazy. And fans of writers are almost as lunatic. Truly. See what happens if you say anything against Angela Carter on my blog. Hint: I WILL KILL YOU DEAD.

Since I know just how bad we writers and fans are I do not engage. But I do not object to others’ bravery in doing so.

Sash asked: Sorry if you’ve already answered this somewhere, but are there any Brisbane appearances coming up??

A: No, there are no Brisbane events for me. You can find all my confirmed appearances here. I update it as soon as an event is confirmed. And I always announce any new appearances here on the blog.

I don’t choose where I go. All my appearances in Australia are organised by my wonderful publisher here, Allen & Unwin. My appearances in the US are organised by Bloomsbury. If you want me to appear in your town or city you need to bug them. Go to their websites and find the contact email address for publicity. Then write and tell them why you think I should go to your neck of the woods.

Q: I’m a published YA writer but many of my friends are literary writers and they sneer at me for writing YA. How can I get them to read my books and realise that YA is not crap?

A: You can’t. Just give up now. Nothing you can do or say will change their minds. Unless you start publishing capital L Literachure and win the Booker. And even then they’ll think it’s a fluke cause you’re really a YA writer. Or they’ll be impressed and congratulate you for finally having grown up as a writer.

What you really need is new friends. Preferably ones who read and write YA.

Jessica asked: “…the Australian press sometimes has a strange habit of always being about 15 years behind everyone else when it comes to realising that things like children’s books, graphic novels or genre fiction might actually have some validity or even readers.” I was curious about the Australian publishing industry in general. And since sometimes you talk about it (or Australian authors), I thought you’d be a good person to ask!

A: I guess my response would be: show me a mainstream press anywhere in the English-speaking world that’s realised that children’s books, graphic novels and genre fiction are important. The mainstream coverage of those areas is pretty woeful everywhere. I don’t think Australia’s any worse than the US or the UK. It’s just smaller and thus has less press so it probably looks from the outside like there’s less coverage. Thanks to Jason Nahrung The Courier Mail in Brisbane is especially good on covering all those areas.

Q: Are those birds on your blog real?

A: Yes.

Q: Whereabouts in Surry Hills are your new digs?

A: In the good part of Surry Hills where all the rainbow lorikeets are.

Ally asked: How easily are they [rainbow lorikeets] scared? (Like are they used to people)

A: They’re pretty used to people and being handfed. I don’t because there are signs all over the Botanical Gardens explaining why that’s a very bad idea.

Kelsey M. asked: Are you thinking of making the books [Magic or Madness trilogy] into movies?

A: Typically, writers do not make their own books into movies. I don’t know anything about how to make movies so I leave it to the experts. If a movie maker wanted to make my books into movies they’d have to negotiate with my agent for the right to do so. Currently no movie maker has been given the right to make a movie of the trilogy.

Q: From your blog it sounds like you’d prefer to stay in Australia and never go back to America. Is that true?

A: I cannot answer that question on the grounds that it will make my USian friends upset with me. Er, I mean, of course not. I am very lucky that I get to spend so much time in two such wonderful countries.

Q: Why aren’t you going on the Irish castle retreat with all those other YA writers. I thought some of them were your friends?

A
: Many of them are indeed friends of mine. I’m not going because I’ve heard the food in Ireland is really bad and that the castles are cold and damp. I fear that my friends will get pneumonia and die. If they haven’t already been killed by scurvy from eating nothing but potatoes.

No, I’m not jealous. Why would you suggest that? I’m sure they meant to invite me. The email probably got lost or something . . .

Flying things seen from our flat

crows
flying foxes
magpies
myna birds (alas)
white ibis
pigeons
rainbow lorikeets
sulphur crested cockatoos

Heard but not seen:

kookaburra

We’ve learned that the flying foxes fly past at the same height as our flat—so we can see and hear them clearly—mostly when it’s raining or there’s low cloud cover. They’re way up high when the skies are clear. So, um, there has been much praying for rain. There weren’t nearly as many flying foxes in Sydney when I was a kid so I never get tired of seeing them.

Same for rainbow lorikeets. They’ve been everywhere over the last week. Yesterday they decided to distract me by landing on our deck directly in front of where I sat writing on our couch. I mean seriously how am I supposed to keep working with them frolicking about in front of me? Here’s a photo Scott took after I called for him to come down from the study and check ‘em out:

And here’s a close up:

They hung around for about half an hour. Chirping to each other and to the other lorikeets perched on nearby buildings. Um, no, I got no work done during that time.

Why, yes, I am loving our new digs. It’s amazing how having a view changes everything.

And, I kid you not, another flock of ‘em flew past just as I was about to publish this. Their brilliant greens, reds, blues and yellows even more intense against the grey sky. Leaving this place is going to be such a wrench. I want to stay forever.

Melbourne, Perth, Sydney—I am everywhere!

I am now doing three appearances in Melbourne. How lucky am I?

    22 Feb 2009, 2:00PM – 3:30PM
    Me and Simmone Howell in conversation + cake
    State Library of Victoria—Conference Centre
    328 Swanston Street
    (Entrance 3 on La Trobe Street)
    Melbourne, Victoria
    Go here to book

    23 Feb, 2009, 6.00PM
    Talk & signing
    North Melbourne Library
    66 Errol St
    North Melbourne, VIC

    24 Feb 2009, 6:30PM
    Australian launch of How To Ditch Your Fairy
    Readings Carlton
    309 Lygon St
    Carlton, Victoria

The new one is the talk at North Melbourne Library.

Then I’ll be in Perth for the writer’s festival. My tentative schedule is:

    28 Feb, 2:00PM
    PWF Main Program
    Fingers on the Pulse
    University Club Theatre
    Perth Writers’ Festival Precinct
    University of Western Australia
    35 Stirling Highway
    Crawley WA 6009

    * 1 hour session. Young adult fiction authors Tristan Bancks, Barry Jonsberg, and Justine Larbalestier have their fingers on the pulse1 of teenage interest. They discuss how they stay relevant for their younger audiences. Chair: Sarah Knight.

    Sun 1 Mar 10.20am PWF Family Day
    How to Ditch Your Fairy
    Kids Tent
    Perth Writers’ Festival Precinct
    University of Western Australia
    35 Stirling Highway
    Crawley WA 6009

    *30 minute session for kids aged 9 – 12

    1.00pm PWF Family Day
    Justine Larbalestier: Writing Workshop
    Fox Theatre
    Perth Writers’ Festival Precinct
    University of Western Australia
    35 Stirling Highway
    Crawley WA 6009

    *1 hour workshop for kids age 10 -12. How to Ditch Your Fairy author Justine Larbalestier shares the tips of the trade for writing fiction.

Then last, but absolutey not least, my one Sydney appearance open to the public:

How cool is that? Me and Margo nattering for your listening pleasure. How could you miss it?

  1. *cough* []

Nana china

One of the most pleasing things about finally have our own digs in Sydney was getting all our stuff out of storage. Including my nana’s china:


Look we has TWO whole shelves of it!

I remember her saying that it was one of the first presents she bought herself when she came to Australia in 1939. Scott and me use it as our everyday crockery. No point in it sitting on the shelf collecting dust, right? And I love the sense of continuity that so many people have used these plates and cups and platters over the last 70 years. Pretty cool, huh?

Here, have a closer look:

I suspect it was very common in the late 1930s and early 1940s because several friends have seen it and gone, “I can’t believe it! That’s my nana’s dinner set!” Also it was the special occasion china that they used on this BBC Channel 4 reality show from a few years back, The 1940s House,1 where a family had to live as if they were back during the London Blitz.2

I’m wondering if the same set was available in the US as well. Because I like the idea of a few of the characters in my 1930s novel eating off it. Though I’d also have to find out when it was made because I doubt my novel will go up until 1939. Though maybe in the sequel?

Do any of you have inherited china or such like? Do you use it? Keep it in a glass case? Do you collect additional pieces? It had not occurred to me that I could add to this set until I was Googling around trying to find out more about “England’s Countryside” by Myott, Sons & Co. and lo and behold: many pieces for sale on Ebay and elsewhere. Is there nothing you can’t buy online?

  1. Mighty Google has failed to find the name of the show for me. *kicks Google* Thank you, Chris for identifying it for me! []
  2. Hint: they did not have fun. []

Schadenfreude is wrong

While I was eating my breakfast of mango, passionfruit, banana, sheep milk’s yoghurt and granola and looking out at the view of the city, a flock of rainbow lorikeets went screaming past, their red, green and blue feathers illuminated by the sun and I thought about my dear, dear friends—especially poor Maureen Johnson, little Libba Bray, and wee Robin Wasserman—back in New York City, who, judging by their frequent sad missives to me and Scott, are cold right now. Cold and miserable and they’ve completely forgotten what the sun looks like.

I decided that it is my duty here in sunny gorgeous Sydney to cheer them up. First, I thought of describing a day in the life of Justine in Sydney to remind them what warmth and beauty and happiness are like. But then I decided that might be construed as gloating or, worse—as schadenfreude—and we all know that schadenfreude is wrong.

So instead I turn things over to you, kind and gentle readers, what do you think will best cheer up sad little NYC writers who have the northern hemisphere winter blues?1

For those who do not know what rainbow lorikeets look like, here’s some hanging out on the building just across from our new digs:

  1. Short of plane tickets to Sydney. []

HTDYF in Australia

How To Ditch Your Fairy will be published in its shiny new paperback Australian edition next month.

So. Very. Soon.

If you go over to the Allen & Unwin Alien Onion blog you’ll see what it looks like.

And guess what? I’ll be doing a wee bit of a mini Oz book tour. I’m dead excited.

Two of my events are in Melbourne, including the actual book launch:

    22 Feb 2009, 2:00PM – 3:30PM
    Me and Simmone Howell in conversation + cake
    State Library of Victoria – Conference Centre
    328 Swanston Street
    (Entrance 3 on La Trobe Street)
    Melbourne, Victoria
    Go here to book

    24 Feb 2009, 6:30PM
    Australian launch of How To Ditch Your Fairy
    My book will be introduced by the lovely Lili Wilkinson!
    Readings Carlton
    309 Lygon St,
    Carlton, Victoria

Please to come out and see me, oh lovely Melbourne peoples. Bring your friends! Bring your friends’ friends!

Then I’ll be at the Perth Writer’s festival. Not sure of my exact schedule yet, but will post as soon as I know it. I haven’t been to Perth in an age so it will be fun to catch up with my sandgroper friends. Here’s the dates I’ll be there, if not my actual schedule:

There may also be a Sydney event in March, but nothing definite yet. Fingers crossed. I would hate to slight my home town.

Can’t wait to see some of you out and about in the real world.

An amazing test

I couldn’t let one of the best tests and test series of all time go by without saying something, now could I?

We were there for day 3, which was splendid and full of pinkness (the shirt I wore was blinding) incident and event (how did those bloody bails not come off?), but nothing compared to the fifth day. That was mental! I can’t believe Graeme Smith batted with a broken hand. I’ve had a broken hand, I couldn’t have lifted up a bat, let alone wielded one. He totally deserved his man of the series award.

I can’t believe it came down to the last few overs. How about Ntini batting defensively? You rule, Ntini!

I rate this Australia v South Africa series almost as high as the Ashes series in England when those bastards won by, like, two runs. (I still think we was robbed.)

I’m ecstatic that South Africa and India are as good as (if not better than) Australia right now. True contests at last. And Sri Lanka and England aren’t far behind. I really hope that the West Indies, Pakistan and New Zealand start to get their shit together too.

I cannot wait until the next three tests in South Africa at the end of February. (So far away! Waaah!) But I’m stoked I’ll be in Australia to see the first two.

I am absolutely thrilled I was at the SCG for one of the days and that I got to watch every day of all three tests. Fifteen days of glorious cricket. Best game in the universe. Nothing could be better. (Well, if they sacked Ponting as captain that would be better. Though I’m not sure who to replace him with.)

Note: Yes, there’ll be more writing advice shortly. I just need a little time to recover from the edge-of-my-seat tension of that last day’s play.

Last day of 2008 (updated)

Yup, it’s my annual what-I-did-this-year skiting post. I write these mostly for myself so I can easily keep track. Hence the last day of the year category. Thus you are absolutely free to skip it.1

This year was exceptional. I’m still pinching myself. My first Bloomsbury USA book, How To Ditch Your Fairy, was published and seems to be doing well. I was sent on my first book tour, which was fabulous. It’s insane how much fun I had and how many fabulous schools, book shops and libraries I visited in California, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Thank you to everyone who came to see me while I was on the road. It was a blast getting to meet you all! I loved hearing what fairies you all have!

Now this is going to sound like the acknowledgments page but bear with me cause I thanked my fabulous editor, Melanie Cecka in print, but not the wonderful publicity and sales and marketing folks because, well, I didn’t know them back then. Deb Shapiro is the best and funniest publicist I’ve ever worked with, Beth Eller is a genius of marketing, and all the sales reps who’ve been flogging the fairy book mercilessly across the USA are too fabulous for words. Extra special thanks to Anne Hellman, Kevin Peters, and Melissa Weisberg.

HTDYF also sold (along with the liar book) to Allen & Unwin in Australia. This is a huge deal because it’s the first time I’ve had a multi-book deal in Australia and A&U publishes many of the best writers in Australia, including Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Penni Russon and Lili Wilkinson. My editor and publisher, Jodie Webster, is a joy to work with. So’s Sarah Tran and Erica Wagner and Hilary Reynolds and everyone else on the Alien Onion team. Bless!

Both Bloomsbury and A&U seem even more excited about the liar book than they were about HTDYF. Which is a huge relief to me because, um, it is not the most obvious follow-up to the fairy book. Older, darker, scarier, completely different. Stuff like that. Here’s hoping that not too long into the new year I’ll be sharing the title, the cover, a sneak preview, and other such fabulous things.

The fairy book also sold in Germany to Bertelsmann, who published the Magic or Madness trilogy there and gave it the best covers ever. It was awesome getting to meet the two Suzannes: Krebs and Stark in Bologna. Thank you for believing in my book so strongly that you bought it when it was still in manuscript. I still can’t quite believe it.

Speaking of the trilogy it sold in Indonesia to PT Gramedia and in Korea to Chungeorahm Publishing, which means it’s now published in ten different countries and eight different languages. All of it Whitney Lee’s doing. It’s astonishing to me how well the trilogy is doing more than three years after first publication. Fingers crossed that will continue.

I also had two short stories published. A rarity for me. My last short story was published back in 2004. These two were the first I’d written since then. Short stories are not my thing. They’re so much harder to write than a novel. ““Pashin’ or The Worst Kiss Ever” appeared in First Kiss (Then Tell): A Collection of True Lip-Locked Moments edited by Cylin Busby and was universally declared to be the grossest story ever. “Thinner Than Water” is in Love is Hell edited by Farrin Jacobs. I’m proud of them both for very different reasons. But don’t expect any more. Writing short stories hurt my brain.

Last year I was wise and only aimed to write one novel in 2008. Just as well because that’s all I did this year no stories, no articles, nothing else. I wrote the liar book and began the 1930s book. It’s very clear that I’m a one-book-a-year girl.

I also mentioned in that one-year-ago post that I had three sekrit projects. The first is no longer a secret: the Zombie Versus Unicorn anthology that I’m editing with Holly Black, which marks the first time I’ve edited original fiction. Am I excited? Why, yes, I am. It will be out from Simon & Schuster in 2010 and we’ll be announcing our insanely excellent line up of authors in the new year. Truly, you will die at how great our writers are.

One of the other sekrit projects morphed into a solo project (the 1930s book) and I’m still hoping that the last of the sekrit projects will go ahead some time next year. Here’s looking at you co-conspirator of my last remaining sekrit project! You know who you are.

Next year will be taken up with writing the 1930s book and editing the Zombie v Unicorn antho. The 1930s book is the biggest most ambitious book I’ve tried to write since my very first novel set in ancient Cambodia. I’m loving the researching and writing. Immersing myself in another era is the most fun ever! I think my next ten books will all be set in the 1930s.

My 2009 publications. This is a WAY shorter list than last year:

    Update: Possibly September: paperback of How To Ditch Your Fairy

    September: the liar novel for Bloomsbury USA.

    October: the liar novel for Allen & Unwin.

Yup, just the one two novels from me and one a reprint. Sorry! You should also get hold of Cassandra Clare’s City of Glass when it comes out. It’s the final book of the City of Bones trilogy and the best of the three. I read it in one sitting on my computer.2 Then later in the year there’s Robin Wasserman’s sequel to Skinned. You know you want it! Yet another book I read in one go. Also on my computer. Think how much better it will be between actual covers.

Then there’s the three YA debuts I’ve been talking about by Peterfreund, Rees Brennan and Ryan. If you read no other books in 2009 make sure you read those three. I’m also dying to read the sequel to Kathleen Duey’s Skin Hunger, which was my favourite book of 2007.

Last, but not least, the old man has his first novel in two years, Leviathan, coming out in September. Fully illustrated by the fabulous artist Keith Thompson and better than anything else Scott’s ever written. I’m so proud of him and of this book. You’ll all love it. Seriously, it’s worth the price just for the endpapers!

I travelled way too much this year. Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, the UK, France, Canada, all over the USA, and home to Australia. Again. Looks like the same for next year. I have no idea what to do about that. I guess when you try to live in two different countries at the same time that’s the price. Oh, and lots and lots of offsets. We try to be good.

This is where I usually say that I think the coming year’s going to be fabulous. But this year I’m not sure. The economic news back in the United States has been dire. Friends have lost their jobs, their editor, their imprint. It’s scary in publishing right now and it’s even scarier in many other industries. I really hope good governance in the USA will make a difference world wide. But I just don’t know. I had great hopes for the Rudd government and here he is botching the fight against climate change and trying to put up a filter for the internet in Australia. Ridiculous. Surely Obama’s government will not be so stupid.

Here’s hoping 2009 will see a return to sanity all around the world, but especially here in Australia.

Happy new year!

  1. I would if I were you. []
  2. Actually I was lying in bed. Whatever. []

Congrats, South Africa

South Africa just won their first test series against Australia in Australia. I’ve been dead impressed by them. Especially by debutant Jean-Paul Duminy. What a way to score 166 runs! He now has an average of more than a hundred. And he’s awesome in the field. He is looking to surpass Ntini as my favourite South African cricketer. I can only see South Africa getting better as more and more South Africans get excited about cricket. Under apartheid they only had a small pool of white cricketers to draw on. Now the pool gets bigger and better every year. If that keeps up they will be dominant for a long time.

South Africa and India have both beaten Australia in a series this year. Convincingly. It’s good to see more than one strong test side in the world. It’s good for cricket not to have Australia winning everything. Really, there’s only one nation that we must always destroy—England. If we keep doing that I’m good.

I’m hoping, though, that the third test will be a little closer. Not just because I’ll be going but because three strong test sides is brilliant for cricket. I want to see Australia fight back. I want to see them strong. I think they need to drop Hayden and have Phil Hughes in his stead. And we really really really need a new captain. Ponting is lost without Warnie setting his fields for him. And how about giving that Bollinger lad a go? There’s a lot of talent out there. Let’s see them get a go at test level.

Another reason it’s so awesome to be home. I have now watched ten days of cricket some of it astonishingly good: Mitchell’s bowling in Perth, Duminy’s fightbacks with the South African tail, Ponting’s almost century. And I’ve been really enjoying Shane Warne’s commentary. I wonder if I can get tickets to the musical? Bless you, Warnie.

And, yay, South Africa!

Australia

No, not my homeland, the movie. I went and saw Australia because my sister, Niki Bern, worked on it. I doubt I’d've gone otherwise. I’m not a fan of Nicole Kidman’s acting unless she’s playing a psycho or a bitch. Her turn in Moulin Rouge is one of the worst pieces of miscasting I’ve ever seen. The ads for Australia are full of Kidman’s eyes afluttering and Jackman looking all manly. They did not fill my heart with hope.

Also the title put me off. Was Lurman claiming he could sum up my country’s history in one film? That he could encompass everything important in one movie? Right. Good luck with that, Baz.

Or, worse, was he pandering to dumb and kitschy expectations of non-Australians? I can’t tell you how many folks I’ve met on my travels who are astonished to discover there are cities in Australia. Or are convinced that the entire country is one great big desert and that all Australians are just like the crocodile hunter. To which, sigh.

brandonwalter

It was not as bad as I expected. There are worse ways to spend three hours (or however extremely long it was). I wasn’t bored that often, which was more than I expected. For which I thank Brandon Walters playing Nullah. This eleven-year old actor single-handedly saved the movie. When he’s on screen that’s where you’re looking; when he’s not you pine for his return.

Lurman should have ditched the tedious Kidman/Jackman story and told Nullah’s instead. I wanted to know more about him, more about his mum and about King George. Walters was by far the most convincing and interesting actor in the movie. The only one who didn’t seem to be embarrassed by his lines. The only one who made the cliches seem fresh. If the movie had been about Nullah, it could have been amazing. Instead it was a frequently cringe inducing, occasionally beautiful, sometimes funny, but mostly an embarrassing big fat mess.

Other than Nullah the highlight for me was seeing my sister’s name in the credits. Her biggest one thus far: Compositing Supervisor. Go, Niki!

If you’re going to see Australia wait till it’s on DVD—that way you can skip all the bits that Brandon Walters isn’t in.

Boxing Day

I love Boxing Day.1 It is the most excellently lazy day ever. Right now I have my feet up, watching the beginning of the Boxing Day test, while eating my brekkie of mango, banana, sheep’s milk yogurt and granola. (We ran out of passionfruit. Get some more tomorrow.) Is there anything better than this? I don’t think so.

I have high hopes for this series between Australia and South Africa. The first test was splendid. Every day (except the last) was full of reversals and much excitement. I didn’t see the series in India so this is the first time I’ve seen the Aussies up against a team that can beat them in ages. It’s most excellent. If only we had a better captain. Ponting’s a great cricketer but I’m deeply unimpressed by his captaincy skills.

Mmmm. Boxing Day, cricket, mangoes, laziness. I’m home, aren’t I? If it were up to me I’d never leave.

Hope you’re all having a marvellous day wherever you are and whatever day it is. Hope you are having as much relaxing fun as I am!

  1. I know the date stamp for this post says Xmas Day, but it’s not. I was too lazy to change to east coat aussie time from east coast usian time. []

Fruitz I has them

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Look at my pretties! Two different kinds of mango and passionfruit, mangosteens, sugar bananas! I couldn’t figure out how to fit the yellow and white nectarines and the peaches into the bowl as well. Or the box of black cherries.

Mmmm, summer home in Sydney. Happiness. Ain’t nothing else I want.

I believe I’ll help myself to another mangosteen. Or am I in more of a peach mood? Or how about those rambutans? Decisions, decisions . . .

YA and other animals

Diana Peterfreund and Carrie Ryan saved me from writing a post I’d been sort of planning for awhile—on the various lame ways people dismiss YA—but which I kind of couldn’t be arsed actually writing. So bless them both!

I’ve come across this example all too often:

“XYZ is pretty good, for a book for children, but I doubt the author will be allowed to take it to the next level, because children’s books rarely do that.” (The “that” in question, by the way, is a rebellion against the powers-that-be by the teen main characters, which is so common in YA fantasy and SF books that it’s practically a cliche.)

Succinctly put, Diana!

Though mostly what I get from adult writers and readers in place of dissmissals, are blank expressions. “What’s YA?” they ask. This happened to me most recently here in Sydney. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen since we were studying for our PhDs together. She’s a successful (and fabulous—I love her work) writer of adult fiction and memoir, winner of many awards and grants, very clued in to the Australian publishing scene, but when I told her what I write, she didn’t know what I was talking about, and hadn’t heard of any of the top YA writers or novels I named. It was very disorienting. She didn’t even know Twilight.

I’m trying to decide whether that’s better or worse than all the people who assume that all YA is exactly like Twilight. Yes, I have had people seriously say to me, “YA? Isn’t that the vampire romance genre?”

Sigh. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Twilight. In fact, I’m a hundred per cent for it. Stephenie Meyer’s success has created a whole generation of readers. Many of whom, I’m convinced, wouldn’t be reading without her. A few of her fans have gone on to read my books. Bless her and bless them! I feel the same way about Meyer that I feel about Rowling. Grateful bordering on worshipful.

But as the readers of this blog know, there’s more to YA than vampire romance. Why, we have zombie romances, faerie romances, troll romances, robot romances—we have any kind of romance you can name. My next novel is a liar’s romance and the one after that is a 1930s romance.

See, stupid YA knockers or ignorers, we has much variety in YA! Why, I’ve even heard rumours that there are YA novels that aren’t romances at all. Though I’m yet to confirm it.

I don’t want to skite

But I’ll be eating here very very very soon.

Have I mentioned that I love being home in Sydney?

Now if only I didn’t have to work so hard and could take some days off to really enjoy it. Like, say, tomorrow, in front of the tellie what will be showing the first test against South Africa at the WACA.

Can’t have everything I spose.

Hope you’re all as happy as I am.

The best thing

The best thing about being home—other than hanging out with my family—is the fruit. So far I have gorged on cherries, lychees, mangoes, passionfruit, sugar bananas, nectarines, peaches and . . . wait for it . . . mangosteens!

Mmmmmm.

My life is perfect.

In which I am naughty

I have a mountain of work, admin, packing, and correspondence to catch up on, but instead I am reading through my new favourite blog, Cake Wrecks, which I discovered via an old favourite blog, Jenny Davidson’s Light Reading. I’m sure all of you have been enjoying it for years. What can I say? I am slow.

So far it has led me to many pleasures but few top the delight of the world’s worst Dalek cakes. I confess that I laughed so hard I cried.

Then it led me to this. The making of the most incredible cake I have ever seen:

Apparently it took twelve days to make. Wow. Just wow.

On the back of your sound advice

I have decided that I will do all future signings my way and ignore Scott’s advice entirely. The only people who can tell me to hurry up when signing is whoever is running it. So there, Scott!

I hasten to add that crazy long signings are not a regular occurrence for me. They pretty much only happen at places like NCTE or TLA or on school visits. If I had lines like Scott gets routinely I would probably study how he gets through a line speedily while also managing to chat to those he’s signing for. He is a master. He does in fifteen seconds what takes me a minute.1

Thanks so much for your responses. They will keep me strong next time I have a long signing!

  1. This could be because he’s a USian and I’m an Aussie. On the whole USians move faster than Aussies. I have no idea why. []

Reading & walking

Over at Alien Onion, the blog of my Oz publisher, Allen & Unwin, there’s some talk about walking and reading at the same time.

It is a skill I wish I had. My few attempts have been sad failures. Thing is when I read I get so sucked into the story I have no idea what’s going on around me. Which is not good when there are other people around and, worse—cars. Once I walked into a light post. Let us not speak of it.

I suspect my problem is not just reading and walking at the same time but any kind of multi-tasking. I have a slow simple brain that struggles to do more than one thing at a time. Sigh.

What about youse lot? Are you more successful than I am at walking and reading at the same time?

North American HTDYF tour winds up (Oz tour begins?)

In just a few days I’ll be back on the road—to Texas—winding up the HTDYF tour. I’ll also be promoting Love is Hell, answering all your questions, finding out what everyone’s fairy is, and converting those who need converting to the glorious ways of zombies.

Tomorrow I’ll be doing an appearance right here in Manhattan with many fantabulous authors. I did my very first YA author appearance at Books of Wonder. Way back in the olden days with Eoin Colfer and Scott. It was incredible. Peter Glassman (Books of Wonder’s proprietor) has been very good to me and Scott in the ensuing years. It’s always a pleasure to do a Books of Wonder event:

    Saturday, 15 November, 12:00PM-2:00PM
    with William Boniface, P.W. Catanese,
    Suzanne Collins, Joanne Dahme,
    Daniel Kirk, Dean Lorey, Amanda Marrone,
    Ketaki Shriram and Robin Wasserman
    Books of Wonder
    18 West 18th Street
    New York, NY

Do please join us! Also if you attend would you do me the favour of asking every author there to declare their allegiance on the zombies versus uni***n front? We have a right to know!

Then next Wednesday I will be in Austin, Texas, city of amazing food and people and music. Yum! This is my only event of the How To Ditch Your Fairy tour that includes Scott. I think we shall have fun. Not least because BookPeople is one of my fave bookshops in the entire US of A:

    Wednesday, 19 November 2008, 7:30PM
    With Scott Westerfeld
    BookPeople
    603 N. Lamar
    Austin, Texas

And then my last event of the tour will be in gorgeous San Antonio. Land of great boots and wondrous food:

    Thursday, 20 November 2008, 7:00PM
    Barnes & Noble
    San Antonio, Texas

And thus will end my HTDYF tour.

Or will it?

Stay tuned those of you who live in Sydney and Melbourne and possibly even Perth. There’s a very good chance that in February and March I will be doing a few events at home for my fabulous Australian publisher, Allen & Unwin. Actually the Melbourne event is not a possibility anymore—it’s an actuality! More info as I gets it.

Really looking forward to meeting some more of you in the next few days and weeks! Zombie power!

Excellent article on accent

Over at Daily Kos, Meteor Blades (via Scott) has an article on accents in which he points out that, yes, everyone has one and quotes Geoffrey Nunberg being smart on the same topic:

    If authenticity is a matter of heeding your true inner voice, then it probably isn’t surprising that people listen for signs of it in the way you speak. And our idea of an authentic accent reflects our idea of the authentic self. It’s the natural speech you sucked up from the surroundings you grew up in, unfiltered and uncorrected. It’s how you’re supposed to sound when you’re talking to yourself.

    It’s also a delusion. Or at least if your speech is like yourself, it’s because both are a work in progress. My own speech covers a lot more territory than it did when I was growing up in a New York suburb. Sometimes it shifts toward what people would hear as East Coast nondescript. And sometimes it gets pretty sidewalks-of-New York, particularly when I’m talking to friends from college days. (“Hey — you never used to talk like that,” my sister once said to me after she overheard me talking on the phone with one old friend.) But it doesn’t make sense to ask what part of that is my “authentic” voice. You grow up, you meet new people, you change the way you talk. If you still sound the same way you did when you were fifteen, you haven’t been getting out enough.

That’s my emphasis on the last sentence. Because, well, EXACTLY. People who travel a lot, live in other places, and pick up some of the local accents, aren’t freaks, they’re just paying attention. Accents are never set in stone unless your ears are clogged and you’re living in a hole in the ground. (And even then wouldn’t you pick up a worm accent or something?)

We are all hybrids.

That is all.

Voting

One of the biggest culture shocks for me as an Australian living (some of the time) in the USA is voting. Every election year I’ve been here there have been voter intimidation and fraud scandals. Maybe I missed it, but that does not happen at home. Not every single election.

Seems to me that the aim in the US is to make voting as difficult as possible. Why? I don’t get it. I’ve had friends disallowed to vote because the official said they had the wrong ID. It didn’t exactly match the name on the voter rolls. As in, their driver’s license had their middle name spelled out in full, “Rachel”, but the voter roll had just a middle initial, “R”. I’ve heard of all sorts of arcane local voting rules that are aimed solely at keeping people from voting.

I find it incomprehensible because I come from a country where voting is made as easy as possible. In fact, you get fined if you don’t vote. Back home there are no books teaching you how to avoid having your vote suppressed.

Also what’s with the voting day being a Tuesday and then that day not being declared a holiday? I know people who have a really hard time getting off work in order to vote. Sadly they live in areas where early voting isn’t possible.

And what’s with all the different areas of the US having different methods of voting? Paper ballots here, mechanical machines there, electronic machines way over there, and goat’s entrails in the hinterlands. Wouldn’t uniform voting laws across the country so that everyone casts their vote in the same way make a lot more sense?

Again. I just don’t get it. At home we have an independent electoral authority in charge of the whole thing. And, like I said we don’t have voting scandals every election.

A country that makes voting hard is making democracy hard. Voting isn’t just a right, it’s a duty.

So you don’t think I’m entirely down on the USian version of democracy here’s what I like about the US system:

Fixed terms.

Brilliant idea. I wish Australia did that. One person in power for more than eight years is a really bad idea.

Alien Onion

Allen & Unwin, my Australian publisher, has a blog: Alien Onion. (See if you can figure out why it is thus named.) And they has written a post welcoming me. I is dead chuffed. Thank ‘ee!

There’s also a preview of the Oz cover of How To Ditch Your Fairy. See if you can spot what’s different to the US cover.

Do check out the rest of their blog it’s the most lively fun publisher’s blog I’ve seen. With lots of excellent guests and pictures of cake. I think it will give you an inkling of why I am so ecstatic that Allen & Unwin is my new Australian home.

In which I agree with a commenter

Pixelfish had this to say in comments. I could not let it languish there:

At what point did publishers start getting anal about the usage variations between the US and all other English speaking countries? Because my original copies of the Chronicles of Narnia had English spellings, but my new ones don’t and are in the wrong order. My Canadian copies of Harry Potter have the Britishisms intact, even though they don’t use all the slang, but the US ones don’t. I liked it better when US YA publishers let me find out MORE about the world instead of LESS. Part of the reason I read was to get away from my perfectly safe little Utah neighbourhood. But I digress . . . oh boy, howdy, do I digress.

I have no idea when that started. But it is a Very. Bad. Thing. I disapprove. HEARTILY.

Back at home I grew up with books with Commonwealth spelling and also with USian spellings. So Enid Blyton & Patricia Wrightson = colour. Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys = color. Though sometimes the punctuation would be changed.

I really hate the way many US publishers USianise things. I was just reading the US edition of an Australian book set in Oz with Oz characters. Except that the characters compared things to the size of a dime. (We don’t have dimes in Australia.) They discussed each others height in feet and inches. (Australia is metric.) The distances they drove were in miles. (Ditto. We have kilometres.) They used no Aussie slang. Everything that could be even a tiny bit confusing to a US reader was changed.

It drove me crazy. I stopped reading the book. I’ll read the Australian edition when I go home.

How stupid do publishers think readers are? We can figure stuff out from context. If we don’t know stuff we can look it up. Part of the fun of reading a book set in a different country is learning about the differences. Changing the spelling, adding “dimes” and “quarters”, removing all the local slang, wrecks the flavour and rhythm of the book. I think it’s a dreadful editorial decision and I wish they’d stop doing it.

Er, what you said, Pixelfish.

HTDYF in Australia (Updated)

Many of you have been asking, “When is How To Ditch Your Fairy going to be published in Australia?” I apologise for not answering. For ages I did not know if it would be or not and then it sold and I was not allowed to tell you. But now I can!

How To Ditch Your Fairy will be published in Australia in late February by the fabulous Allen & Unwin. That’s right I am now published by the same house that publishes Ursula Dubosarsky, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix, Penni Russon and Lili Wilkinson amongst many other fabulously wonderful Oz YA writers.

What’s more A&U are not only publishing HTDYF, they’re publishing the liar book too!

Keeping this news to myself has been excruciating!

Not only will the book be coming out in Oz next Feb, which is mere months away, but I may even be doing a few appearances in support of it. Possibly in parts of Australia other than Sydney or Melbourne. More details as soon as I have them.

As you can tell I’m very excited. I feel like I’ve found a wonderful home in Australia just as I have with Bloomsbury in the USA. I hope to be with both houses for many years to come.

Update: Several people have written to ask me whether the Oz edition will have the same cover as the US one. Yes, it will. The fonts will be slightly different and “colour” and “realise” wil be spelled correctly. It will also be a paperback not a hardcover.

I wish I had studied maths

I stopped studying maths in Year 7. Before that I’d made a bit of an effort but in my first year of high school (in New South Wales high school starts in Year 7) I downed tools. I was bored, annoyed, and couldn’t see the point so I quit. Technically I kept going to maths class—it was compulsory until the end of Year 10—but I failed each year and was never made to repeat. I didn’t learn anything new after Year 6.

At the time I thought it was excellent that I could get away with it. In class I read novels under the desk. I never studied and finished my maths exams quicker than anyone else cause I guessed all the answers. Thus giving me more time to read novels.

Now I regret it. My regret is very very very big. Because now I don’t have the underpinnings to understand even the most basic mathematics and science. (I also stopped studying science very early.) Writing the Magic or Madness trilogy was a nightmare. It’s very difficult to write a character who is a mathematical prodigy when you yourself are a mathematical moron.

My current regret, however, is fuelled by the Rethinking Basketball blog. Quentin who writes it is a numbers boy. He has all sorts of fancy formulas and statistics to map the performances of different WNBA players and teams. Like how to take defence into account when figuring out who the Most Valuable Player should be.

I understand almost none of it and that fact fills me with despair. If I could go back in time I would tell the bored and cranky twelve-year-old me that maths would come in handy later on and I should really pay attention to the nice man. (My Year 7 maths teacher was a sweetie, who did not deserve me as a student.)

But plenty of people—including my parents—were telling me that at the time and I ignored them. I probably would have ignored the adult me as well. Sigh.

So it’s now more than a little bit ironic that I am in the position of telling twelve year olds that they should pay attention in maths class. But you really really should. Who knows when or where it will come in handy. But trust me, it will. Don’t be as stupid as I was.

This has been a public service announcement. You are most welcome.

Wishes

I’m lying awake with a nasty case of bunker brain. Sleep eludes and weird thoughts intrude. I’m trying to combat them by

    a) planning some fun ways to promote How To Ditch Your Fairy—so far the winning plan is to glue copies of the book to the backs of toilet doors—and,

    b) trying to figure out how to describe the smell of flying foxes without using the words “musk” or “feral”.

Also I’m wishing I could draw.

How about you?

The problem of being a small English-speaking country

Some more thoughts on yesterday’s post:

Australia, like New Zealand and Canada and Jamaica and South Africa and many other mainly English-speaking countries, has had a long battle to publish its own stories by and for its own people. The majority of the books we buy and read are not by Australians but come from the UK and the USA. Creating our own publishing industry, which published Australian books was a struggle and to this day many Australian books are subsidised by the Australian government.

But despite all the obstacles and expenses there is an Australian publishing industry and it publishes many wonderful Australian writers. Peter Carey, now an internationally known writer, was first published by the University of Queensland Press. Well-known Australian YA writers like Margo Lanagan, Melina Marchetta, Jaclyn Moriarty, Garth Nix, and Marcus Zusak were all first published in Australia and that’s where they established their reputations. Their success in other markets came later.

If parallel importing had existed when they were first establishing themselves would they have been nurtured in the same way and gone on to the same kind of success?

I also wonder about the writers who are successful at home but have never made the transition to broader markets. What will happen to them under parallel importing? Will they no longer be published at all? Or be published by such small presses that it will be impossible to find their books?

And what about the Australian classics that are rarely, if ever, published or read overseas? Books like Miles Franklin’s My Brilliant Career, Henry Handel Richardson’s The Getting of Wisdom, Ethel Turner’s Seven Little Australians, Barbara Baynton’s Bush Studies, Sally Morgan’s My Place not to mention the works of Banjo Patterson, Ruth Park and Henry Lawson. What overseas publishing house will be interested in keeping them in print?

It’s also important to remember that those writers who are published overseas have to change their voices in order make sense to non-Australian audiences. As Nick Earls points out in his letter to Prime Minister Rudd against parallel importing, foreign editions of Australian books are not the same as the homegrown edition:

Also, it is common for changes—sometimes substantial changes—to be made before a book is published in an export market, particularly the US. Many Australian references are lost and idiomatic language is altered. These are compromises we make in order to be published in the US, and to communicate specifically with US readers.

Parallel importing must not be adopted.

Preventing the destruction of Australian publishing

Garth Nix is full of wisdom. He has written a very smart and wise and passionate argument against parallel importing. I agree with every single word.

Basically there are plans to allow booksellers to import foreign English-language editions of books into Australia without restriction. The argument is that this will bring down the heinous price of books. Australian books really are insanely expensive. I’ve seen mass market paperback for more than AU$20.1

However surrendering the Australian market is NOT the way to fix that problem. As Garth writes

I am surprised there is support for an “open” market in Australia because it would be no such thing. It would actually be a “surrendered” market. The entire publishing world still works on the basis of territorial copyright and it will do so for a long time to come, despite electronic editions and the Internet, of which I will have more to say down the page. This is particularly the case with English-language publishing. The USA and the UK have actually been strengthening their respective book copyright regimes, not surrendering them. What is “open” about Australian-published books not being able to be sold in the USA or the UK, but American, British or any other English-language edition from anywhere being able to be freely sold here?

Internet retailers would be able to sell books much much cheaply than real world booksellers because they don’t have to worry about attracting passing customers and thus can have their operations out in the much cheaper boondocks. Unlike the real world booksellers who not only pay higher rents but have to make sure their book shops are well-kept and inviting to customers. They also have to pay more staff. And the bigger the internet retailer—like Amazon—the easier it would be for them to sell books cheaper and wipe out all competition. Parallel importing would be a disaster for local booksellers. Just as it would be a disaster for local publishers.

It would also make it a lot harder for Australian writers to get published:

But besides the Australian publishers and booksellers, you know who would really be affected by a Surrendered Market? Beginning authors, like I was, twenty years ago, when my first book was published by an Australian publisher, and sold by Australian bookshops. That same beginning author, in a brave new world of a Surrendered Market, would likely have only small presses to go to here, or needs must go straight into competition against every English-speaking author in the world who wants to be published in the USA or the UK.

The majority of Australian writers will tell you how difficult it is to get published overseas. The introduction of parallel importing means that will be their only option.

Like Garth I am not speaking from narrow self-interest as the introduction of parallel imports is unlikely to have much of an affect on my career because I am primarily published out of the USA. But Australia is my country and I care passionately about developments that will dramatically reduce the number of Australian books in the world.

I have friends who have not been picked up by publishing houses in the US and the UK because their books are “too Australian” and not sufficiently “universal to have appeal outside Australia”. Whether that’s true or not (I can think of any number of extremely Oz books that have been published to great success in the US) it is true that if you are mainly submitting to a foreign market it will affect how you write. Killing off the local Australian publishing industry is going to kill off many uniquely and wonderfully Australian voices.

I think that will be a disaster.

  1. The US and Australian dollars are approaching parity. []

Songs heard a million times

Recently the National Film and Sound Archive in Canberra launched Sounds of Australia a collection of recordings to mark Australian history and culture. One of the most recent additions was “Most People I Know (Think that I’m Crazy)” by Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.

Fair enough, thought I. That’s a song I’ve heard a million billion kajillion times and think of as being very Aussie. I also thought it was one of our first hits overseas. However, my extremely accurate research indicates that that might not be so. I’ve been asking several of my USian friends if they know the song. So far none of them do.1

So, do any of you non-Australians know this song? And if you did were you aware that it’s Australian?

For bonus points do you non-Aussies know “Eagle Rock” by Daddy Cool? (Try not to laugh to hard at the vid.) So far no-one I’ve asked, not even Scott, knows this one:

And how about Yothu Yindi’s “Treaty”? It could not be more Aussie. Hope it winds up in Sounds of Australia:

As should “From Little Things Big Things Grow” by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly:

Version the most recent:

Version the original(ish):

Thank you non-Australians for participating in my extremely scientific survey.

  1. Except for Scott and I think he’s tainted from having spent so much time in Australia and prolly heard it there. []