Posted in Books, drugs, friendship, In Ecstasy, Uncategorized

In Ecstasy – the second book

It’s getting closer!

In Ecstasy is working it’s way towards the printers! I’m pretty pleased with the way it’s shaped up and I’m looking forward to galley proof stage.

For those of you who don’t know In Ecstasy is about teenage friendship and the destructive power of drug use. The story is told through the voices of Mia and Sophie, two fifteen year olds who, on a whim, take ecstasy at a party. We then follow their separate journeys. It was a tough book to write, for so many different reasons, but I’m feeling pleased with the shape Janet, Cate and I have so far knocked it into!

Watch this space for more updates!

Posted in Books, CBC, cyber bullying, Destroying Avalon, Literary Awards, reviews, Uncategorized, writing

Children’s Book Council Celebrity Brunch

Last Sunday it was a privilege to attend the CBC’s Celebrity Brunch where the short listed books were reviewed. This year three wonderful students from St Stephen’s School Carramar were invited to review the Older Reader’s Section. After they came to terms with the fact their all time favourite English teacher’s book wasn’t on the list (though we all were delighted it made Notables!!) they set about reviewing.

Well, wasn’t I the proud teacher! My students (who I share with the Head of Department- actually they’re really hers, but I like to claim them) were  well spoken, intelligent and engaging, the three of them were wonderful ambassadors for the school. They opened the proceedings and then each celebrity reviewer stood up to make their contribution.

I had a light bulb moment. Now, this is going to seem patently obvious to most people- and it something I’ve paid lip service to myself (without really understanding) a review is just one opinion. I know- there is no great revelation here. But when you watch people stand up and deliver their review it puts into context the faceless reviewer. Reviewers are just people with their own likes and dislikes, their bad days, fights with their partners, annoying or delinquent children, they are normal, everyday people who have an opinion to express.

I guess I realised the scathing reviews (not that there’s been that many) but the ones I remember- before any of the praiseworthy -are just the opinion of someone who didn’t like something I wrote. Perhaps they’d been a victim of bullying as a child and thought I trivialised it, perhaps they expected something more of the book that I didn’t deliver, perhaps they just didn’t like the way I wrote. What I learnt was it didn’t really matter. I need to take on more of the praiseworthy reviews- because after all, these people obviously have more in common with me. Why should I disregard those reviews that praise my work in favour of the ones that diss it?

So, I have a new mind set with regard to reviews- one that I really hope I can embrace. From now on I will look at all reviews (good and bad- you never know there might be something to learn from the bad ones!!)and try my hardest to remember what the good ones say!

Posted in Books, Destroying Avalon, Getting published, In Ecstasy, Uncategorized, writing

Insecurities of Writing

A couple of weeks ago I handed over my manuscript to my editor– after a big structural reworking. It had required a lot of re-writing, development etc to address the points (and there were at least 6 pages of points) from our editorial meeting.

The problem is once I’m home, letting go of particular phrases I might like the sound of because they don’t fit, or having to change aspects of the plot and therefore lose some element I like can prove quite hard. However, I try very hard to ‘let go’ and use my editor’s criticism to develop the novel.

I recently finished reading a mammoth novel (not about woolly creatures) but around 450 pages in length. It is by a ‘brand name’ author– incredibly successful and prolific. I hated it. There were passages that ‘clunked’ , descriptions that were cringe worthy, character development that was totally ludicrous and I came to the conclusion that good writing is like beautiful light fittings– the lovelier they are the less you notice them– the more ostentatious and elaborate the more intrusive they feel. I wonder if once an author reaches a certain level they just don’t listen to their editor any more– or maybe an editor is too ‘in awe’ to really comment. Then, do very successful writers get worse– the more they write?

I’m probably suffering from second book syndrome– the fear that the second will not live up to the first. And worse that it might not surpass it. I remember listening to Tim Winton on writing and he was asked “have you written your best work yet?” I remember slapping my steering wheel (I was driving at the time!!) and declaring loudly– for him, “Of course not.” To my mind no one has ever produced their best work until they are dead– otherwise what’s the point in trying?? But he was a little more (humble?) reserved in his answer– and said “May be not yet.”

So, my editor rang me today– to ask if she could edit directly onto the computer screen (as opposed to hard copy– which I then accept or reject). Of course I said– go for it. Anything that sounds awkward or laboured cut it– go to work with that editorial pen and carve the sucker up. I want to become a better writer– not a worse one. Besides behind every successful novel there has to be a good writer but an even better editor.

Posted in awards, Books, cyber bullying, Destroying Avalon, Literary Awards, Uncategorized, WA Premier's Book Awards, writing

The Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards Presentation Night

It’s true, I have the inside information, I know who the winners are! They were announced last night at a dinner held amongst ‘the stacks’ in the State Library. And so…

FICTION

The Travel Writer   Simone Lazaroo

POETRY

All the Time in the World  Dennis Haskell

WRITING for YOUNG ADULTS

Destroying Avalon  Kate McCaffrey

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

The Arrival  Shaun Tan

SCRIPT

Sardines  Hellie Turner

NON-FICTION

Rob Riley  Quentin Beresford

Arthur Tang  Peter Edwards

WEST AUSTRALIAN HISTORY

The Workshops   Bobbie Oliver & Patrick Bertola

PREMIER’S PRIZE WINNER

The Arrival  Shaun Tan

I don’t think it came as a great surprise to anyone that Shaun’s book would win the Premier’s Prize- and deservedly so. It is an outstanding success. Shaun was unable to make the presentation but his very proud parents accepted the award- which I imagine must have been a huge thrill!

I honestly had not prepared a speech- as anyone at the presentation will attest to! I hadn’t even mentally prepared one- so I gave a rather perfunctory and generalised thank you. After the shock wore off I realised I’d failed to acknowledge the other short listed authors; Julia Lawrinson, Katy Watson-Kell and Diana Chase- the only remedy was to personally acknowledge them, after the presentation ended! I didn’t really thank the judges at all- and so I’d now like to take this opportunity to send a big thank you to them- Ms Chloe Mauger, Professor Andrew Taylor, Professor Ed Jagger and Ms Lucille Fisher. As Simone Lazaroo said everyone else was mentioned in the book’s acknowledge pages- and in Destroying Avalon there is a page and a half of acknowledgements (you all know who you are)!!

It was a fantastic honour and I am thrilled to have my book acknowledged in such a way! The lesson of the night was, of course,what happens when you spend all your time thinking about clothes and none of it on what you should say if you should win!!!

Posted in awards, Books, Literary Awards, Uncategorized, WA Premier's Book Awards

WA’s Gliterati Literati

Last night it was both a thrill and an honour to rub shoulders with the WA Premier’s Book Awards shortlisted authors at a cocktail function. The function was held in the foyer of the State Library. They weren’t all there- I expect more of them will attend the dinner, but it was a good turn out in a friendly and relaxed environment.

All the shortlisted books were show cased- some beautiful looking books (shallow as it sounds I ALWAYS judge a book by its cover) and I got to mingle with the likes of Julia Lawrinson, Katy Watson Kell, Liliana Stafford and her daughter Sophia Zielinski,  Raewyn Caisley and Diana Chase to name a few.

We drank wine- and made merry, and then we were all presented with a certificate (Julia got two!!) And the night wrapped up quite early. Except for Jason and I! Childless and in town for the first time, in a long time, we ended up having dinner at Valentinos, alfresco-style watching Northbridge crank it up for a Friday night. At the risk of showing my age hasn’t the night life in the city improved?! It was only about eight o’clock and the place was full of people eating out and pubbing it. I think sleepy old Perth has woken up!! Having said that, it was a great vibe- a lovely dinner- I wasn’t too keen on the vino- a little young and sharp. But the gnocchi was good- not as good as Jason’s home-made gnocchi- but honestly I’ve never tasted any as good as his!

Home before eleven and a good evening was had by all. It was only this morning I realised what a blunder I’d made! What a colossal error! Oh the missed opportunity. There I was surrounded by short listed authors discussing all the important issues relevant to the local writing scene and I forgot to ask the most important thing! What were they wearing to the dinner? Formal? Smart dress? Dress? Pants? Oh bum- how could I have been so foolish!! Liliana, Julia, Katy, Diana- anyone out there reading this you MUST comment- what will you be wearing?!!

Posted in Books, cyber bullying, cyber bullying resources, Cyber Cop, Ivanhoe Grammar School, literary appearances, Michael Carr-Gregg, Susan MacLean, Uncategorized, writing

Return from Ivanhoe

No it’s not the sequel to Destroying Avalon, it’s what I’ve been up to lately. The musings have been quiet because I have been in Melbourne! Late last year as I innocently googled the title of my book (a past time all authors assure me they engage in- except the likes of JK and Stephen King!) I came across a review, on a WordPress blog. Destroying Avalon had only been released in September and this review was written in about October. Intrigued, I read it and was rewarded with praise and glowing recommendations! I returned fire (friendly of course) thanked the anonymous reviewer and addressed several of the questions that had been raised. Pressed send, end of story.

Not quite. When I came home that day there in my Inbox was a reply to my comment. The reviewer was none other than the Head of Ivanhoe Grammar in Melbourne. What developed then was months of corresponding and co-ordinating my trip as Writer-in-Residence to their school.

What a school! On my last night there I attended a Parent Forum- for the launch of Ivanhoe’s Cyber bullying policy and when I spoke I made the point that if I lived in Melbourne I’d send my kids to Ivanhoe. I sincerely mean it! Firstly, Graeme Harder- the head of Ivanhoe Plenty, is a forward thinking man, he seized on Destroying Avalon at its release and began organising cyber bullying forums and sessions immediately. To my mind this is a man with his finger on the pulse! The school is lovely, and the students brilliant.

I had sessions with each year group- engaging and polite kids. I also had a writer’s workshop with the Talented and Gifted Writers’ Group- wow, impressive people. These students are SO smart, and lovely too. We could have extended the time from two hours to four and probably would have needed more. The head of secondary Renata Rowe was a wonderful host, organising and accommodating us (my sister-agent flew over with me) and Chris Norwood (of the library) was wonderful too. It was a fantastic time.

The trip concluded with the parent forum which was lead by Adolescent Psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg and Victoria’s Cyber Cop Susan MacLean. Talk about authorities on the subject. Together these two make a formidable duo- armed with all the latest imformation on cyber bullying and teenage depression. They are fantastic speakers to have in a school and also have resources to help schools tackle cyber bullying. Michael Carr Gregg’s website is certainly worth checking out.

I hope to stay in touch with the kids from Ivanhoe- via this blog (some have already commented) or through my email at jn-arts@bigpond.net.au. One day I’d love to go back- who knows In Ecstasy is out next year- maybe then!!

Posted in Art, Super Mums, Uncategorized, Year 12 Perspectives

Year 12 Perspectives Exhibition

This may seem like a small divergence from my usual topics- which tend to largely focus on writing and me. But continue reading- you won’t be disappointed, it still is about me!!

I went to the Year 12 Perspectives Art Exhibition at the Art Gallery of WA. It’s an anuual exhibition of the top artwork from the newly graduated year 12s . WOW. I tell you what we are nuturing some amazing creativity here in WA (cultural mecca of Oz). These kids- mostly around seventeen years old demonstrate fabulous skills, but mostly perceptions about the world that bely their age! I was floored by the depth of thought, the political ideas, the awareness of their world around them. Those critics  who bang on about the self-absorption of teenagers need to check out this artwork- it’s quite humbling!

Anywho, back to me. There was this one piece of work that appealed to me above all others. It was a painting of a woman, with arms like Shiva (plenty of them) each engaged in another activity. Like juggling, ironing etc- all you working parents get the idea! There was the baby in the high chair and through the window was a dog (think Mambo-style) peeing on the laundry on the line, as a bird pooped on it too. Chaos ruled supreme! The painting was called, I think, Super Mum and I wished I remembered the artisit’s name. FANTASTIC! It’s a piece of work I’d love for myself. I stood in front of it thinking “that’s me!!”

Anyway ‘well done you art students’- thanks for the enjoyable exhibition! Back to my ironing and juggling and rollerblading and….

Posted in literary appearances, Uncategorized

All Saints’ Literature Festival 2007

Just when you thought that was it… there’s more! The annual All Saints’ College Festival of Young Adult and Children’s Literature is on again! And you guessed it, lil ole me is a presenter!

You can see me at various times from Wednesday 21 March through to Friday 23 March. I will be flogging that old chestnut Destroying Avalon again! But I do hope to include things about writing in general- especially writing Young Adult Fiction. (I’ll be dusting off the notes I used at PIAF!!)

It should be fun. I love a good festival, I do.