Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So you want to write a novel?

This is a brilliant video on writing. SO funny and astute.

And, because I'm not really sure of internet etiquette, here is the address of the guy who made it: http://wahoocorner.blogspot.com/

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Billie en francais = Lili!

Very excited to recently get an email with THIS cover attached. I can't wait to receive my copies of the books. It will be interesting to see what other changes the French language edition will have to make to my stories. I was more than happy for the publishers to change 'Billie' to 'Lili' for a French audience, but I will be fascinated to see how they deal with all the 'B' words in translation...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lunch with the PM

Well, I put on a frock and got myself down to Fed Square today for my lunch date with Ms Gillard. Today, the winners of the PM literary awards were announced.

I was 99.9% certain that I wasn't going to win because I was convinced that the winner would be given some notice to prepare a speech, despite being told by the organisers that this wasn't the case and to prepare something anyway. Which, of course, I didn't.

When the winner of the Fiction Award, Eva Hornung for Dog Boy, was announced (my pick!) she wasn't there to collect it (apparently too busy collecting hay) so her publisher, Michael Heyward from Text Publishing accepted the award on her behalf. He had a very well-prepared speech on hand, which only convinced me even further that he already knew that Eva had won.

But THEN, when the non-fiction award was announced, the winner (Grace Karsken for The Colony: A History of Early Sydney) was standing not far from me and the look of genuine shock on her face chilled me to the bone. It wasn't possible: surely they couldn't just spring it on someone like that? That's a heart attack waiting to happen! You're talking $100,000 here - not a rose and a handshake. In my world, that's life-changing stuff! (Or at least mortgage-denting.) However, despite being almost in tears, Ms Karsken pulled a very well-prepared speech from her handbag and read it out beautifully, even remembering to thank the PM and to call the minister for the Arts, Minister Crean, instead of just Simon, as I no doubt would have done.

This is when I went into panic mode. If the winners genuinely didn't know they'd won, then I was still in with a chance! What was worse was that Martine Murray (the author of our shortlisted book) still hadn't arrived and there was a very strong possibility that I would have to stumble up there on my own. At this stage I was thanking God I hadn't worn heels. If my name was announced and I didn't black out on the spot I would surely stumble walking up the stairs to the podium. And fall. On national television. Right into Our Julia!

When the YA winner (Bill Condon for Confessions of a Liar, Thief and Failed Sex God) was announced and his wife, Di Bates, squealed in excitement, the terrifying possibility of appearing with Ms Gillard on national television with no speech prepared loomed even closer. At that moment I tried frantically to recall all the names of people I would have to thank and, of course, not a single one came to me. My editor! She was standing just there! What was her surname, for god's sakes? I had worked on THE BOOK with her for blooming months but my mind was a total blank. I could barely remember my partner's name, and he was standing right next to me.

Then there were the other dilemmas that came flashing through my mind: do I take my handbag, or leave it? Do I offer my sweat-drenched palm to the PM or wipe it on my frock first? What was Mr Crean's title again? Where was Martine, for goodness' sakes? Was it too late to text her to see how far away she was? What if I was texting when they called my name. Oh, Lordy!

So, when Lorraine Marwood's name was announced for her children's novel Star Jumps, and I saw all the panic and shock rip through her body as she tried to decide whether or not to take her handbag to the podium, and whether on not she had time to fish around inside it for her camera, to be honest, even though the one hundred thousand tax-free dollars would have come in handy, all I could think of at that moment was: 'There but for the grace of God go I.'

So, it was terribly lovely to be shortlisted, lovelier still to be at a fancy lunch with the PM (who didn't stay to eat - she does have a country to run) but I tell you what, if I'm ever shortlisted for something again, I'll be prepared!

Congratulations again to all the winners!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tomboys, jazz and the importance of imagination

This is an excerpt from an interview on the Billie B Brown series that will be published at www.kidslife.com.au at the end of November. I have just pulled out my favourite bits.

KL: Is Billie’s name, and the spelling of it, intentional?

Yes. In writing books for children I love to create strong girls and sensitive boys. For me, this is a very efficient way of creating a well-rounded character that doesn’t slip into stereotype.

I studied painting in China for several years as a young adult and I am still very interested in Chinese philosophy, particularly its dedication to creating balance in life. The term ‘Yin and Yang’ is bandied about a lot these days, and the symbol is used on everything from Chinese medicine to surfboards, but basically it illustrates the balance of life ie; that in all black, there must be a touch of white, and in white there is always a touch of black.

So, for me to create a well-rounded character, I like to make sure that my boys are in touch with their feminine side and my girls have a little bit of boy in them. ‘Billie’ was the perfect name for
my character because obviously it makes you think of ‘Billy’, the boy’s name, first of all, but then it also might make you think of Billie Holiday, the beautiful, strong and gorgeously feminine jazz singer from the 1940s and 50s.

KL: How does Billie differ to the accepted stereotype of girls her age?

To be honest, being a mother of three boys, I haven’t read many books for girls published recently, but I could tell you anything you want to know about Spiderman!
However, I am keenly aware of how girls are treated in the media and, I have to say, sometimes it turns my stomach. I am a strong advocate not only of desexualizing young girls but also for allowing kids to stay kids for as long as they need to be. Childhood seems to get shorter and shorter and with that also disappears the terribly important ‘doing nothing’ time where imagination is allowed to flourish.

As an author and illustrator, imagination is one of the key aspects of my job, but, if you think about it, imagination and creativity are essential to all areas of life, whatever your job or interests are. I believe that the seeds to developing a strong and healthy imagination are planted in our early life and this grows best by simply allowing children regular opportunities for unstructured play. Once kids break through the ‘I’m bored’ barrier and are left to their own devices, that’s when their imagination really starts to kick in.