Last Day of 2010

This is my annual post where I sum up what happened in my professional life in that year and look ahead to what’s going to happen in 2011. I do this so I can have a handy record that I can get to in seconds. (Hence the “last day of the year” tag.)

For reasons I’ll explain in more detail below (but are mostly I was not online much) 2010 was ridiculously productive for me. I now have more than 100,000 words of my 1930s novel. Most of it written this year. And I declare those words to be good.1 I have not enjoyed writing a book this much in I do not know how long. I never want to finish. Which is fortunate because I suspect that I’m not even half way finished. Likely not even a quarter. Possibly not even a tenth. Ooops. I may well not EVER finish. But, hey, at least I’m having fun.

For those of you who actually like to read words I write do not fear! I also wrote (with someone sekrit) a whole other sekrit (but hopefully not for much longer) project about which you will hear much next year when we’re allowed to tell you. Writing it was just about the best fun ever. I adore collaborating it turns out. Or maybe I just got lucky with the smartest, wittiest, fastest-writingiest collaborator of all time. Whatever the reason the two of us finished that project and sold it in two different countries.2 And now we get to do it all over again. Colour me, excited.

Such a productive year was particularly wonderful because in 2009 I stopped writing for many months. In that year all I did was rewrite Liar, a few thousand words of the 30s book, and about the same on two other unfinished projects. It was my least productive year since I became a professional writer and it scared me. For a while there I was worried I wouldn’t write again. So, phew! Despite annoying injuries 2010 has been my most happy and productive writing year ever. Here’s hoping 2011 will bring more of the same.

But this is my what-happened-in 2010 report, I shall continue:

Books out in 2010

This year I had only one new book: Zombies Versus Unicorns which I put together with Holly Black. It was published in the US (Simon & Schuster) and Australia (Allen & Unwin) with one of the most perfect and gorgeous covers any book of mine has ever had. I cried tears of joy when I first saw it. Josh Cochran is a genius and so are the design team at Simon & Schuster. The book has had wonderful reviews and even won an award for the audio edition and sold way better than anyone expected.

It’s a publishing truism that anthologies don’t sell.3 Well, this one sure does. Yay! Thank you so much for reading ZvU, buying it, and telling your friends and librarians about it. Much appreciated.

There’s also an audio edition by Brilliance, which features me and Holly reading the introductions. Well, sort of reading, we got more and more ad-libb-y as the day went on. Let’s just say we had a great time. I would happily record audio books with Holly and the Brilliance team whenever they want.

ZvU also sold into France (Pocket Jeunesse), Germany (Bertelsmann Jugendbuch Verlag) & Brazil (Editora Record).

Liar came out in paperback in North America. It was also published for the first time in Denmark (Hoest), France (Gallimard), Italy (Salani) & the Netherlands (Mynx). I had the great pleasure of meeting the Gallimard Jeunesse team in Paris and they were all wonderful and work in the most gorgeous building complex I’ve ever seen. They even have a sekrit garden!

There will also be editions of Liar in Brazil (Editora Record), Germany (Bertelsmann Jugendbuch Verlag), Taiwan (Sharp Point Press), Turkey (Artemis, an imprint of Alfa Yayin Grubu) and Spain (Ediciones Versatil).

Reception of Liar

It’s been brought to my attention that some people don’t feel Liar has gotten the recognition it deserves. While it’s lovely that people feel passionately about the book I want to point out that Liar‘s gotten a tonne of recognition. Liar was more widely reviewed than any of my other books and almost all of those reviews were extremely positive. It also made a gazillion different best book of the year lists. Liar was shortlisted for eleven different awards and won four of them:

  • the Davitt Award for best Young Adult Crime Novel 2010, which particularly thrilled me because I deliberately wrote Liar as a crime novel and the Davitt Award people were the first to notice,
  • the WA Premier’s Literary Award, Young Adult Prize 2009. In Australia the Premier’s awards are a huge, huge deal and even come with a big old fat cheque,
  • the Fellowship of Australian Writers (FAW) Christina Stead Award 2009, which is an award for best novel of the year regardless of genre—Liar was the first YA novel to win. I could not be prouder,
  • and the fourth award has not yet been officially announced but the 2009 Carl Brandon Kindred Award. When I found out I screamed. I think the wording of the award will explain why this means so much to me: “The Carl Brandon Kindred Award is given to any work of speculative fiction dealing with issues of race and ethnicity; nominees may be of any racial or ethnic group.”

So there you have it Liar is by a country mile my most successful book by whatever metric of success you want to use. It’s the best reviewed, won the most awards, generated the most fanmail and discussion,4 and has sold better than any of my other novels in Australia and the USA. On top of that it’s a book I’m proud I wrote.5 I’m stoked.

Read These Books!

My favourite YA book of 20106 was Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves. Dark, weird, quirky, full of unexpected turns, fabulous world-building, and gorgeous writing. It’s not like anything else I’ve read. Well, other than her second book, A Slice of Cherry, which comes out in 2011. I highly recommend both.

Onto next year:

Books out in 2011

    The paperback edition of Zombies versus Unicorns


and, um, nothing else . . .

That’s right for the first time since 2005 I have no new book out. But I promise you there will be something new (see above about my sekrit project) in 2012 and in 2013. Truly.

My Silence this Year

You might have noticed that this is my first post in six months. For someone who used to blog every day that’s a huge change. A weird one. Yes, I do miss blogging. No, this is not the beginning of me blogging frequently again.8 I won’t be blogging much for the foreseeable future. Sorry. But thank you so much all of those who wrote to let me know how much you miss this blog. You made me all teary, you did. As did you lovely people I met at ZvU events this year who told me ditto. Bless!

I spent the year dealing first with an acute injury that kept me from writing but that healed relatively quickly. Then I discovered that I had RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) i.e. shooting pains in my arms and neck because of having typed a vast deal for about thirty years.9 I still have RSI. I cannot type for more than twenty minutes at a time or more than four hours a day without pain. I spent 2010 learning how to deal with it.

I tried many, many, many different things but here’s what worked for me:

RSI management:

  • My computer is for writing novels. I only tweet or blog or IM or email or any other non novel-writing keyboard activity on days when I don’t write. I also make sure I have at least one or two days a week completely away from the computer.
  • Most days the internet is switched off on my computer. Ah. The calm and ease of concentration with it gone. I honestly don’t miss it.
  • I am very strict about writing only in twenty minute bursts with stretching in between and not for more than four hours a day.
  • I use an ergonomic split key board, two trackballs with writst rests—one for my left hand and one for my right, my screen is at eye level, and I sit on an exercise ball forcing me to use my core muscles at all times.
  • Weekly massage and physical therapy. Accupuncture has also helped. I have tried other therapies but those are the ones that have given me the best results.
  • I work out five times a week with a trainer.10
  • I do pilates once or twice a week.

So, yes, I am doing much better than I was—most importantly I’m able to write—but it’s a continuing thing for which there is no magic cure. I hope those of you at the beginning of your writing life pay attention and start developing good habits now before permanent damage is done. I wish I had! /lecture

Being offline a great deal of the time does mean I’m harder to contact than I was. My apologies. If you wish to contact me the best way to do so is still via email. If I don’t get back to you and you deem it urgent contact my agent, Jill Grinberg. (Her details are in the automatic reply.)

In conclusion

This time last year my writing was not going well. I was in a dither about what to write next and was working on four books at once. Obviously, see above, I concentrated on the 30s novel, which is not finished, and the sekrit project, which is.

I said my goal was to be happy writing and I was. That’s my goal for this year too. And for the rest of my life. I declare it to be a most excellent goal. I commend it to you!

Thanks everyone who wrote me letters of support and letters about my writing this year. Those letters were wonderful. I treasure them and I’m very sorry I haven’t been able to respond. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being moved by the different responses people have to my work.11

I hope 2011 shapes up beautifully for all of us.12

Happy new year!

  1. I’m sure when I re-read them I’ll be less thrilled but right now I think they’re fabulous. I’ll stick with that feeling, thanks. []
  2. Well, our agents did. Thank you, Jill! []
  3. Take that, smelly publishing truisms. I bet green covers aren’t the kiss of death either. []
  4. And, no, I’m not counting discussion generated by the cover controversy. []
  5. I don’t care what anyone says I think that’s the most important thing of all. []
  6. Not written by a friend or husband of mine. []
  7. And this was not, in fact, published in 2011. Current rumours are that it will be out April 2012. []
  8. You do not want to know how many days it took me to write this. []
  9. This is a very common condition. I know gazillions of writers in the same boat. []
  10. Yeah, I’m one of those people. Sorry! []
  11. Yes, many of your letters made me all teary. What can I say? I’m a sook. []
  12. Even the Australian cricket team. Not that I’m holding my breath on that one . . . []


  1. allreb on #

    As a fan who also happens to love novels about the 1930s and NYC, I’m very very pleased the 1930s novel is going well! (Though of course, selfishly, I hope you finish it. *g*)

    Oooh. I have Bleeding Violet on my TBR shelf; your rec definitely moves it up a few spots. (I read Flygirl a few months ago, which you’d also recommended, and it was one of my favorites of the year.)

    Happy New Year, and I hope you have an awesome 2011. πŸ™‚

  2. Georgiana on #

    So glad to hear you’ve found ways to work around your injuries.

    Hooray for sekrit projects and fun book. I will be looking for both when the time comes.

    Happy New Year!

  3. Ro on #

    A 1930’s novel??? Sweeet! Just started reading your writings and love it. I especially loved ‘Magic or Madness’, all three.

    I want to tell you that after having just found your blog a few months ago, I have taken great strides to become more ergonomic as I embark on testing the waters with my writing ability, something I’ve always been too chicken to try until of all things, going blind almost three years ago, which left me with a lot of time on my hands. πŸ˜‰ I don’t use a mouse, rather an Apple computer with a screen reader controlled by short cut keys.

    After reading about your injuries, I moved my laptop cart away from the couch and bought a good chair. I alternate between that and my wireless keyboard, and coffee makes me get up to, ahem, pee, like your water trick. πŸ˜‰

    I also get massages, though every three weeks, but I’ve been doing that to help with my MS, and I also work out, but I’ve been doing that to keep me in shape to work my beautiful guide dog.

    My massage therapist was noticing how the writing was affecting me, and I told him about your tips, to which he begged me to listen. I did, and feel better already.

    I also just listened to ‘Zombies vs. Unicorns’ and am glad to know that was you. I couldn’t quite tell from the description of how things were narrated. And man, that last unicorn story made me want to vomit, yikes! My favorite Zombie story was the Mac n Cheese one. Loved it! I really enjoyed the anthology.

    Ok, I need to stop rambling. Just wanted to thank you for your help. Who knows if I’ll ever publish, but man I love writing, and now I’m treating my body a little more nicely while doing it.

    Hope you have a great 2011!!!

  4. JD McCoy on #

    Sorry to hear about your RSI. But there is this really great program called Dragon Naturally Speaking that I use to write. It writes as fast as you can say it. And it learns as you “write”. I went from hand typing about 20-45wpm to 100-150+wpm. The program is really user friendly and is about 98% accurate. -The mac version is called Dragon Dictate. Hope this helps you out. And good luck with the writing in 2011. I wish both you and your family the best this New Year πŸ˜€

  5. wandering-dreamer on #

    While I am sad that the sekrit project won’t be out until 2012 (actually, I’d rather read the 1930 book since I’m another 1920/30s nut) with your RSI it’s totally understandable. Actually, after seeing your posts on how bad it is I started using my laptop while sitting at a table more than I did before and seeing this post reminds me again of how important that is.
    Best wishes for 2011 and good luck with your writing!

  6. Charles on #

    Selfishly, I wish you could blog more and that you were going to have a new book published next year but I’m thrilled things are going so well for you.

  7. Shanella on #

    Hey Justine,
    I’m so glad I got to meet you on the ZvU tour. =) My friend who came with me that night is now a YA reader, yay! I’m looking forward to reading more of your work in 2011.

    Here’s to a happy and healthy year!
    Best wishes!

  8. Amy Lynn on #

    Glad to hear you’re still writing and beating RSI! I look forward to both the Sekrit Novel and 1930s Novel when they come out!

  9. Malcolm Tredinnick on #

    Happy New Year for 2011, Justine. Been a shame not to read more blogging this year, but the reasons seem pretty solid, so it’s good hear that you’ve had a good year on the professional front. Good to hear the ZvU did so well. Holly’s Your selection of writers did some excellent work there overcoming so clearly biased and frankly unbelievable presentations from the zombies one-horned demons crowd.

  10. Sherwood on #

    Good to see your phosphors and even better to find out that you’ve been writing!

  11. Ari on #

    I’m so glad you had a good writing year! may your 2011 be more of the same or allow you to get even more done, whichever suits you πŸ™‚

    Bleeding Violet was fantabulous, one of my favorites of the year as well. Now if I could just get my hands on Glorious…

    Oh and I recently got a copy of Half World and I’m very much looking forward to it (my sister is reading it first *sigh*). Congrats to you and Hiromi for the wins! (I only recently learned aobout the Carol Brandon Society when I learned about the Octavia Butler scholarship and i’m so happy I now know about them. Love their goal). Your award reminded me that I still haven’t read Kindred *deep deep sigh*

    Anyway, here’s to a spectacular 2011!

  12. DragonRose on #

    This is very nice way to start 2011!! (the homemade cookies I’m eating are also very nice) I bought Z vs U and the paperback of HTDYF, as well I got a Liar as a birthday present!!! Now I am very excited for the Sekrit Project!

  13. Karen Mahoney on #

    I just wanted to wish you a happy & successful 2011. I hope the writing continues to go well under the enforced new schedule. I’m really happy to hear you’ve been writing up a storm, despite the challenges you’ve been facing! You’re an inspiration. Truly.


    P.S. Bleeding Violet & Liar are both on my ‘best of’ list for 2010 (going up on The Book Smugglers tomorrow)! πŸ™‚

  14. hillary! on #

    I knew sitting on an exercise ball instead was better than a chair!

    It’s great to hear your doing so well and I hope you do even better!

  15. john cash on #

    What a great Christmas present, to get a new post from you!

  16. Shveta Thakrar on #

    Justine!!!!! So happy to see your post!

    So much love to you, and congratulations on winning the Kindred award!

  17. Shveta Thakrar on #

    Actually, now that I’m reading the post–heh–congrats on all the awards and all your success! I can’t wait to hear about this new collaboration. πŸ™‚

  18. Doret on #

    Hi Justine

    This is a very nice surprise. I know with RSI this had to be difficult to write but you did it for your fans and its much appreciated.

    Please save your keystrokes for your 1930s novel or the novel of your choosing and do not respond to any of these comments.

    The post itself is more then enough.

  19. angharad on #

    I think I know who the coauthor for your sekkrit project is and if I am right . . . W00T.

  20. Katy on #

    A post from you where none was expected has just made my day.

    God, I’ve missed you blogging. Happy New Year!


  21. Cat Moleski on #

    So glad to come across this update and even more glad you had a great writing year! Looking forward to your 1930s book whenever it comes out. Yours was one of the first blogs I ever subscribed to and I always liked what you had to say. I was sorry to see that you had to stop, but since I’m rarely on the internet anyway it was also empowering to hear that time away from the internets is productive. Here’s to a great 2011!

  22. Ian Waldron on #

    Hi Justine,

    Love your blog and love your work (so cliched I know)

    Sorry to hear about the RSI and all the related stuff. I work in IT and spend serious amounts of time in front of a screen – it can be really bad. Fish oil I’ve found helps (but exercise, a good desk setup and physio are the best).

    Keep plugging away (most people seem to get better at back mangement) I’m sure that I for one will really enjoy the results!

  23. Jodie on #

    So excited to see posts here and they remind me I should be reading my copy of ‘How to Ditch Your Fairy’ SOOON.

    Do you have any tips for someone who has to use the computer all day for an office job (there is nothing but computer work in my job 9 to 5), but would like to be able to write things outside work without injury? Is it best to switch to pen and peper outside of work?

  24. ClareSnow on #

    When u wrote:
    I said my goal was to be happy writing and I was. That’s my goal for this year too. And for the rest of my life. I declare it to be a most excellent goal. I commend it to you!

    I read it as you saying your goal:
    was to be happy for the rest of my life. I declare it to be a most excellent goal. I commend it to you!

    I like that version and I’ve decided to make it my own.
    I loved loved loved Liar and Zombies vs. Unicorns. they both made me happy, which is a less common occurance than wld b nice cos I hav depression and its been really bad for the past 2 years.

    when I’m having a bad episode and can’t do anything, I can read. my doctor sed thats cos reading for me is like breathing, i don’t even need a working brain to read and enjoy a book!?

    Yestaday I met with my thesis supervisor Helen Merrick who i believe you know. we talked about zombies and unicorns and I said she had to read it to 6y.o. Julia, but Helen wasn’t so sure. Good thing she’s J’s mum. I sat nxt to Helen as she typed and we decided how to do the very minor corrections for my thesis that was passed in June last year. That thesis being a major factor in my 2 years of hell. So Helen made me finish my thesis 8mths after it was passed.

    And you write the words that let me escape my head and be happy while i inhale your stories. thank you for your writing. you and Helen r both truely awesum.

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