Monday, 16 March 2015

Every Word Launch, Melbourne

This evening I was privileged to launch a book for the very first time. (And it's both amazing and terrifying to still have firsts....)

I've known Ellie Marney since before her Every series kicked off with Every Breath but we've never actually spoken about her books. We've spoken about writing, reading recommendations, festivals and a whole host of things but never about a book. So there's nothing like diving in the deep end and speaking about a writer's book to them in front of an audience.

And so this is what I said...
Allen & Unwin


Welcome to the always wonderful Readings Carlton where we will celebrate a gifted storyteller. But before we talk all things Ellie, let us respectfully acknowledge the wonderful storytellers of our past and present as we meet today on the traditional lands of Kulin Nation, in particular the Wurrundjeri and Boonwurrung people. We pay respect to their Elders and to the Elders of all communities and cultures across Victoria.

I am the lucky individual invited to launch the final title in the Every series, Every Move. This book series, that has been so enthusiastically adopted by readers and writers alike, is about to burst free into the word and close the final chapter of Rachel Watts and James Myrcroft. Or is this just one elaborate fake out?

I am probably a suspense writer’s worst nightmare. Growing up I would grab a suspense title and immediately turn to the last page. I always wanted to retroactively figure out the whodunit. As an early teen I evolved…somewhat…and read the first 10-20 pages, guessed whodunit, checked in the back and moved on. What I had failed to realise was I wasn’t some crime reading savant…just a bit of an idiot.

Great books involve, surprise and hopefully leave you a little changed than where you began.

Great books create an attachment with characters that burrow into your consciousness, good or bad, and leave you wanting more.

Great books make you want to kidnap the writer and make them continue writing in the series?

No?

Just me?

I was totally kidding.

I met Ellie for the very first time at this very Readings store before I had read even one word of her work.  Turns out she is one heck of a writer who has managed the elevate the presence of suspense writing in youth literature. Her interpretation of the Sherlock lore might have lured readers in but they stayed for Rachel, Mycroft, Mark, Mai, Gus, Alicia, Harris and who I am choosing to be my fictional Uncle, Professor Walsh.

But enough about Ellie – we’re here to talk about Every Move. Every Move, the final instalment in the Every series.  In the interest of not being a spoilsport, I’ve moved on since childhood, I am going to adopt the methodology of Arthur Conan Doyle. When we was teaching medical student, some of which were the first female students, he would teach them three things to familiarise themselves with the patient and diagnose them accurately.

I am going to steal his steps as they equally apply to the mysteries of Every Move.

Step 1: Observe Carefully 
Readers will observe that Rachel and Mycroft are in different places after the traumatic incident in London. And I must admit that I was a little traumatised too – three fingers, Ellie? One would have been fine. Wild has made contact and all bets are off. Weeks on, Mycroft has buried himself in the details of his foe and Rachel has been unspooling as her tether to her family and Mycroft have loosened.

Rachel’s transition in this book is nothing short of inspiring as she fights to take control of her fear. At one point a character questions ‘You’re not really his Watson, are you?’ and she’s not. Rachel is questioning, lightning smart, vulnerable and never a sidekick.

James, as he became more commonly referred to, isn’t really Sherlock either. Yes, he’s smart, resilient, broken and a stubborn arse but he’s also loving, sensitive and one heck of a kisser. He’s still a boy, a boy knitting together a circle of trust and recognising that there are more important things than the past.

Step 2: Deduce Shrewdly 
My crime reading savant skills didn’t kick in with Every Move due entirely on that fact that Ellie has plotted the heck out of this book (and series). A final book in a trilogy can often be a race to tie up all loose ends before there are no pages left but that’s not the case here. Each book in the Every series, stands strongly by itself and yet manages to work strongly as a collective. This cannot be achieved without a Mycroft and Rachel-like attention to detail, a cunning mind, and an unflinching ability to enact what must be done for maximum impact.

While I may have caught onto the villain, I could not have deduced how the story would resolve, who would be involved and what the repercussions would be? Particularly as Harris, late addition to this world, fits in seamlessly even when he dances around the fringes of our core duo.

Step 3: Confirm with evidence 
This is where you come in. I can rant and rave about how greatly I think of this book; the evolution of the characters, the reintegration of Melbourne into the world after London, the strengthening of family ties, the social commentary, and perhaps even the steamy romantic scenes that are built on love, trust and lust. But ultimately you need to confirm it yourself. So pick up a copy of Every Move and get reading.

And then you will feel loss.

The book and series have come to an end.

But fear not, there will be another Ellie Marney title along the way. One that has whipcracking repartee, characters who are brash, cocksure, vulnerable and wise, a world that you can believe in and feel for.

And on that note….

Welcome Every Move, may you be discovered by readers in the present and future.

May you result in many impassioned letters to Ellie demanding more.

May you leave readers at a loss.

May you leave readers wanting more.


Happy launch day, Ellie. 


May we take photos with our eyes closed for many more years to come.
(Left photo - @sarahjansencom)




Thursday, 5 March 2015

Australian Romance Readers Convention 2015


This weekend I am doing something new and different - I'll be moderating two sessions at the Australian Romance Readers Convention in Canberra.

Which sessions might you ask - these ones!

Beyond firsts: why we need NA

The New Adult writing all stars of this panel include; 


Rockin’ My World

I have the pleasure of probing the minds of these rockin' ladies:


From an audience member perspective, I am really excited to hear Victoria Dahl speak and all my historical romance writers (way too many to name.)

Also, the lovely ladies of this community who have been so welcoming to me. I am now lucky enough to call them my friends.

If that's not enough romance...I am also a Romance Writers Of Australia R*BY (Romance Book of the Year) judge again this year. So many books, so little time!


Friday, 13 February 2015

Reading Matters 2015 - Look what I have been working on!

Last month marked the end of my fourth year as Program Coordinator at the Centre for Youth Literature. Amongst the many elements of this role, coordinating Reading Matters is quite possible the largest. For those of you who aren't familiar, Reading Matters is Australia's largest and longest running celebration of youth literature.  And it's also my baby.

Our team has been working on it for a long time and yesterday we were finally able to release the program.

In summary, we are presenting a YA focused program over 7 days;

  • student program (28 May)
  • professional program (29-20 May - conference)
  • public program (31 May)
  • national tour (2-3 June - locations tba)
This is the first time that there is a dedicated public program for YA enthusiasts. It will also have a writing focus with sessions around writing realist, fantasy, sci fi and pop culture for young adults. We're also taking eight writers to four different Australian locations (3 interstate, 1 regional Victoria) simultaneously.

What I am most proud of is the diversity we have on our program. We have emerging and established writers. We have writers who work in poetry, prose, graphic novels, animation, illustration, theatre, and non-fiction. We have writers that represent a myriad of different careers, cultures and backgrounds because representation, storytelling and art matter. 

Who is coming?
  • Laurie Halse Anderson (USA)
  • Clare Atkins
  • Sara Farizan (USA)
  • Sally Gardner (UK)
  • Erin Gough
  • Kyle Hughes-Odgers
  • Amie Kaufman
  • Will Kostakis
  • Priya Kuriyan (India)
  • Jaclyn Moriarty
  • Abe Nouk
  • Tom Taylor
  • Jared Thomas
  • Sean Williams
  • Clare Wright
  • Stig Wemyss (audiobook narrator)
  • the Nowhere Boys team (producer, cast member & game developer)
  • teens representing Creative Rebellion Youth (poetry), AYTP Fresh Ink (theatre) and a panel of readers
If you're a YA professional in libraries, schools or within the publishing industry - there is definitely something for you. 

If you are an aspiring YA writer, or passionate YA reader - there is something for you. 

If you're simply curious - there is something for you.

As for me? I am relieved I no longer have to keep all our work secret.  And my hope is to see many familiar, and new faces, at Reading Matters this May. 

Reading Matters is a celebration of the breadth and strength of Australia's youth literature publishing and services. It is a celebration of great writers, booming trends, and the teens that love reading young adult fiction. It's about the fantastic people that work in libraries and schools across Australia, that put that right book in the right hands.

Hope to see you there!


Where to find more information:

Monday, 18 August 2014

A Tale of Two Outlanders*

dianagabaldon.com
My friend has been excited over the television adaptation of Outlander for what seems to be forever. It came up in conversation, her Twitter feed was swamped with mentions, she was trying to speak Gaelic from the Starz videos, and I learnt that she’d named her dog after a minor character in a later book. She's WAY into it. When it was announced that this well-known romantic, time traveling tale was being re-imagined, I failed to understand the reference. I had never heard of the series. Not once. And I read considerable quantities of historic romance. I seem to have fallen in the Outlander void.

Now my friend, Danielle, has been asking me to read it. I considered it. And then I discovered it was eight hundred pages long and really who has time to read a book that is that long? Seriously, that’s 3-4 YA books, or a really, really long saga that I actually want to read. But for an obligation read….no.

And then I folded like a cheap suit.

You’ll notice she favourited it. I believe she’s collecting evidence so that when I fall in love with the series she can hold it before me and yell ‘told you so’. I am not entirely sure this is going to happen. Danielle is very sure.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

ATX Festival: my ramblin' recap

ATX Festival is a three day festival celebrating television in Austin, Texas.  While young adult fiction is my passion and my career, television has its own slice of my heart. The festival was a beautiful combination of popular and critical darlings, a laid back feel and an intimate approach.

I fell in love with this festival.

Attendees were unbelievably friendly (I have new FB friends a-plenty) and the embracing of heightened TV enjoyment was a joy to behold.  Attendees asked thoughtful questions, industry people meshed with viewers, and everyone was relaxed. Not simply a fandom event, this festival has committed itself to exploring the creatives behind the stories we watch and some of the actors that help bring it to life. It does feel as though it's on the cusp of being bigger, the presence of some autograph hounds and vulture-like fans, alluded to a more fan-ish future.

But what panels did I see?:


Orange is the New Black
The crowd was treated to the first episode of season 2 a few hours after the entire season had been accessible on Netflix.  It was such an incredible feeling being seated in the State Theater surrounded by so many people being moved, and laughing at a show we all felt passionate about.  Soon after the moderator (Todd van der Wolf - AV Club) introduced Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes), Danielle Brooks (Taystee) and Lea DeLaria (Big Boo). The panel was sustained by the amazing charisma and chemistry of the actresses as the moderation was (to be kind) underwhelming.

Beyond Bullying: What's Next for TV's LGBT teens?
A late addition to the program, this GLAAD supported event featured Wilson Cruz (MSCL's Ricky) as its chair alongside Faking It's Carter Covington (creator) and Michael Willett (Shane). I was enormously excited to this panel because the representation of LGBT teens, and any diverse teens, is a rare feat in TV.  Cruz began the panel with a list of openly gay characters on television and then lead a discussion about the representation, characterisation and expectation of gay teens on our screens. OINTB's Lea DeLaria attended the session as an audience member but was included in the discussion as well.  It was a thought provoking panel and I'll refer those interested to this post by a fellow attendee. The generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness of each of these panel members was inspiring.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

That time Adele met FNL...


Source
Having just returned from an awesome three week holiday in the US, I should have started blogging immediately upon my return.  I sadly did not.

Though I spent more of my time in NYC (and there will be a post about this), I made a quick visit to Austin for the ATX Festival (also another post.)  I immediately fell in love with Texas and its people...and the margaritas.

On the shuttle ride to my hotel I saw field lights from a sports field  in the distance.  The strains of Explosions in the Sky started weaving their way through my brain and sure enough I started getting a little teary eyed.  I love Friday Night Lights. I reference it way too often, watch it continually and gift it to many.  A few years back I even asked a series of YA authors to write about it for this blog. I have a love affair with the show, its cast and creatives, and Texas in general. Football, however....

The ATX Festival is a celebration of television, new and old, and it was the perfect kind of event for me.  Attendees were passionate and lovely. The program was diverse featuring in depth industry panels alongside screenings and reunions that tugged on our viewing nostalgia. But one of the most special experiences for me was attending the FNL tail gate screening. Basically a parking lot was taken over, a large screen brought in, live music played, beer drunk and several members of the cast available to the adoring (but v chill) public.

While I had a ball meeting so many actors who have a special place in my heart, watching an episode (Ch-ch-changes) with so many other fans in the Austin heat was an unique and very special event. In fact, having attended many screenings over that weekend, I think we should all be watching television as communities. 

Anyway - I met people.  I spoke with people. FNL people. And I hugged the people. I think my face says it all.

Yes - I met Grandma Saracen (aka Louanne Stephens)...
When she heard I was there from Australia she bowed down.
She also hugged the stuffin' out of me. She also had the longest line.
I think in some way people came to check that she was okay and in the end she made
everyone else feel looked after.

Stacey Oristano (aka Mindy) - super lovely.  

Derek Phillips (aka Billy Riggins) may have been the only person in attendance who was redder than I. He was so open and enthusiastic to all the fans.

Tyra-freaking-Collete. Actually Adrianne Palicki, who is the most beautiul person alive. She hugged me when she heard I was there from Oz too. 

Jason Katims - he who makes awesome TV (FNL, MSCL, Roswell, Parenthood etc).
I thanked him for making me cry weekly.

I had a blast...and soon there will a post about all the other programming I enjoyed at ATX.  But for now, let's remember how awesome this show was.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Teen Author Carnival 2014

It has been four years since I was last in the New York City in which I visited blogging pals, survived the hellish-ness of the subway in August and revelled in the beauty of the city.

This year I shall be returning to attend BEA for the very first time....and chair a session at the fifth annual Teen Author Carnival. I am so excited as one of those people that I spent time with many years back was Mitali who organises TAC. I've always wanted to experience the event she created alongside the very fetching Devyn and Korianne, and now I get to see it in action AND chair a session. Mind blown.

 So what will I be chairing...

I’ll Be There For You 
1. Ann Stampler – Afterparty
2. Rebecca Serle – The Edge of Falling, Famous In Love 
3. Kara Taylor – Wicked Little Secrets 
4. Elizabeth Eulberg – Better Off Friends 
5. Sarah Mlynowski – Don’t Even Think About It

This panel will be taking place at 6pm alongside three other smashing panel line ups. However, I am rather partial to my lovely crew of lovelies.  So please come along, ask questions and try to decrypt the mysteries of my Australian accent.



#TAC14

Monday, 19 May 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars (FILM)

Source: US Weekly
Last week I was very fortunate to be invited to a preview screening of The Fault in Our Stars. Penguin Teen Australia extended an invitation and I grabbed at it with two grubby hands.  But what did I think?

SPOILERS ABOUND - BEWARE

If you're reading a YA blog, of which this is, and haven't heard of (or read) this novel then I have no words.  I won't be retelling the plot as 1) I shouldn't have to, and 2) I am too lazy.

The Story
Admission - I think TFioS is a good book and have often remarked that the first ten pages are as close to YA perfection as I can conceive. However, I don't think it is the masterpiece that it is often touted as, and I have always had concerns with the Gus character, the whole Amsterdam segue and the narrative arc.  Basically I found Gus to be insufferable and would have prefered for John Green to concentrate on a girl, her view on life and death, and her parents.  The romance was never the part that grabbed me, Hazel's voice was.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

2013 YA Romance highlights

*Note: This first appeared in the Australian Romance Readers Association members newsletter - Issue 55.

In a publishing industry that is going through tremendous change, there are two areas that continue to thrive; romance and young adult (YA). It just so happens that I love both tremendously and have this opportunity to bring to your attention the 2013 YA titles that show what can be done when you bring these two worlds together.

YA is fiction that explores that period of adolescence in which everything changes and a whole heap of ‘firsts’ take place. Romance does underpin a majority of YA so I have chosen titles that explore first love, disappointment and occasionally sex, with aplomb.

Rainbow Rowell has made an enormous impact in the youth literature sphere this past year and with good reason. Eleanor and Park (Hachette) explores the journey that takes place when two misfits meet on the school bus, connect over music and comics, and fall in love. Eleanor is a big, brassy, nonconformist; she’s also the new kid at school with a horrible home life. Park, unlike Eleanor, manages to blend in despite being half-Korean. His family, while safer, is just as much of a mess. It’s about connection, family and finding a light in another person. Beautiful writing featuring duel perspective loveliness.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Future of YA

A few months back I was interviewed for a major Australian media outlet on the future of young adult literature.  They sent me the following questions. I have a tendency to respond long but in the end they only used lines that 1) referenced John Green, and 2) a tiny Twilight pun.  

So here's what I answered, many months ago, when asked the following questions:  

What are the reading trends you are seeing with teenagers and YA fiction? Has supernatural romance run its course? Is it still strong? Are there any clues to what the next wave might be?
Supernatural has always been popular but the sparkle is definitely rubbing off a little.  Dystopian is the current trend that has exploded off the back of series like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking.  Neither supernatural, paranormal or dystopian are new to readers but their increasing relevance in pop culture is making a greater impact.  All of these genres within YA have commonalities -  romance, adventure, empowerment and often mix of all genres to make new breeds of story.  Sci-fi has had a small resurgence, with a bent towards romance, and contemporary/realist YA is always present on the bestseller lists. 

There is growth in the New Adult category which can be seen as a part of YA but is more fittingly aligned with commercial adult fiction.  New Adult was coined by St Martin’s Press in 2009 for narratives that detail the time after high school and before working life – YA collegiate in a sense.  However, its success can be attributed to the romance and erotica elements of what is being written and a decidedly adult audience.