Cartoon me (aka ‘Immortalised by Priya Kuriyan’)

When I met the lovely and very talented artist Priya Kuriyan at the Reading Matters Conference I never guessed that she was quietly studying all of the authors so she could draw their pictures! But turns out she was…and here are the results on her blog Dehlittante in an incredibly clever and beautiful depiction of Day 1 and Day 2 of the conference.

But before you check out those links…here’s me! Complete with red boots! Sorry, couldn’t help myself – I’ve never been a cartoon before! But seriously, do check out the blog posts because they provide a great overview of the conference, as well as some of the current trends in YA literature.

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Watch the Nona & Me mini-film!

Want to actually SEE where Nona & Me was set? Here is a little film giving you a tour around some of the key locations in Nhulunbuy and Yirrkala!

I am so excited to share this beautiful piece, starring the wonderful Siena and Nanukala, and created by The Mulka Project, a brilliant Yolngu film production group based in Yirrkala. Big thanks to all involved in creating it, and also the team at Black Inc Books for their ongoing support. I’m sure it will be a great resource for students, teachers and readers. Enjoy!

 

#YAMatters

Just back home in sunny Darwin, after a week of coats, leggings and coffee in Melbourne for Reading Matters 2015. It was incredible. I’m going to let some of the photos speak for themselves…

Author fest: Jaclyn Moriarty, Priya Kuriyan, me, Erin Gough and Sara Farizan. Meeting other writers was definitely a highlight of the trip. I loved the diversity of the authors represented too - from so many different cultures, countries, ages, stages of career, backgrounds.

Author fest: Jaclyn Moriarty, Priya Kuriyan, me, Erin Gough and Sara Farizan. Meeting other writers was definitely a highlight of the trip. I loved the diversity of the authors represented too – from so many different cultures, countries, ages, stages of career, genres, backgrounds.

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Sally Gardner from the UK told the inspiring story of how she overcame dyslexia to become a writer. She also performed an incredible poem called Disobey Me. You can find it online – do it.

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In the breaks there were book signings – both for the attendees (librarians, teachers, readers) and also for each other.

And at night time the socialising continued in the hotel 'green room'...lots of red wine and lengthy discussions (not all of them literary!).

And at night time the socialising continued in the hotel ‘green room’…lots of red wine and lengthy discussions (not all of them literary!).

One night a group of us hit the local Korean BBQ place for a whole lotta meat. It was delicious...

One night a group of us hit the local Korean BBQ place for a whole lotta meat. It was delicious…

...although definitely not one for the vegetarians.

…although definitely not one for the vegetarians.

The public program included a session with Will Kostakis (The First Third) and Matt Testro (from Nowhere Boys) on 'Pop Culture' in which none of us knew what an OTP or fictional 'ship was (actually maybe Will knew about the 'ship...). They probably should've called the panel something else! ;-)

The public program included a session with Will Kostakis (The First Third) and Matt Testro (from Nowhere Boys) on ‘Pop Culture’ in which none of us knew what an OTP or fictional ‘ship was (actually maybe Will knew about the ‘ship…). It was a lot of fun to talk all things TV, writing and culture though.

Then it was time to hit the road for the regional Victorian tour with Laurie Halse Anderson. We visited Shepparton, Wedderburn, Bendigo and Ballarat over the course of three days. Beautiful country.

Then it was time to hit the road for the regional Victorian tour with Laurie Halse Anderson. We visited and gave talks at schools and libraries in Shepparton, Wedderburn, Bendigo and Ballarat over the course of three days. Beautiful country.

There were 'teams' of Reading Matters in the NT, SA, QLD and VIC. The other teams wrote YAMatters in red dirt, the dust on a car, a library floor...we wrote it in leaves in chilly Ballarat.

There were ‘teams’ of Reading Matters authors in the NT, SA, QLD and VIC. The other teams wrote YAMatters in red dirt, the dust on a car, on a library floor, the sand of an empty beach…we wrote it in leaves in chilly Ballarat.

Travelling with Laurie was great. What a prolific writer and amazing woman. Such an honour. Here we are with a couple of furry friends - a kangaroo and koala for Laurie to take home, and Inky!

Travelling with Laurie was great. What a prolific writer and amazing woman. Such an honour. Here we are with a couple of furry friends – a kangaroo and koala for Laurie to take home, and Inky!

Here we are, sad Team Vic at the end of the road trip. Bec, Laurie, Jordi and I. It was a blast. Thankyou, Reading Matters 2015!

Here we are, sad Team Vic at the end of the road trip. Bec, Laurie, Jordi, me. It was a blast. Thankyou, Reading Matters 2015!

 

Reading Matters – schedule of speaking events

Reading Matters starts in Melbourne tomorrow! It’s not too late to buy tickets and come along!

If you want to try to catch one of my sessions here’s the rundown:

Friday 29th May 

3.45 – 4.15pm Fresh Meet

Saturday 30th May 

9.40 – 10.30am We need diverse books

2 – 2.30pm Literary Landscapes

Sunday 31st 

12 – 12.45am Pop Culture (PUBLIC EVENT)

Monday 1st June 

6-7pm Shepparton Library (PUBLIC EVENT)

Tuesday 2nd June

11-12pm Wedderburn Secondary College

1.45pm – 2.45pm Crusoe Secondary College

Wednesday 3rd June

11 – 12pm Ballarat library (school event)

1 – 2pm Ballarat library (school event)

Hope to see you there!

Reading Matters, here I come…

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Today, I’m flying to Melbourne, via a three hour stopover in Alice Springs, arriving just in time for the authors’ meet and greet for Reading Matters. I’m excited and honoured to be talking at what I’m told is one of the biggest, best and most enjoyable conferences for YA authors and readers.

I’ve been getting ready for this for the last couple of months; the Reading Matters Team sends out copies of books by your co-panellists so you can read them before the conference (I know – great idea, huh?). Which means I’ve read…

The Flywheel by Erin Gough

Jump by Sean Williams

Calypso Summer by Jared Thomas

The First Third by Will Kostakis

Dear Child by Abe Nouk

On A Small Island by Kyle Hughes-Odgers

Tell Me How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

Speak, Wintergirls and The Jagged Edge of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambellin Kwaymullina

And yes, reading these books means that I will be meeting these authors! Can’t wait! I’m also thrilled be spending three days touring rural Victoria with Laurie Halse Anderson after the conference finishes!

Why there’s no Nona

This is my latest blog post as the Inside A Dog author in residence. I thought Nona & Me readers might be curious to know these answers too! Here goes…

As Nona & Me is read by more people, there is one question that keeps appearing. The book is called Nona & Me: why isn’t there anything written from Nona’s perspective?

There are so many answers to this that I find it difficult to pin down one. So here they are, three reasons tangled together, numbered, but no one more important than the other:

1) I didn’t feel comfortable writing from an Indigenous perspective

I have read books written from the cultural perspective of main characters that are not the same culture as the author. I haven’t had an issue with this, and in my next book I’m planning to do this myself – to push myself as an author and take writing in a different voice to a new level. But I still wouldn’t write in first person when writing an Indigenous character. For me, this is about leaving a space for Indigenous authors to tell their own stories. This is important because of the history of white Australia taking from Indigenous people: taking stories, art, children, land…and the list goes on. If a Yolngu (Aboriginal from north-east Arnhem Land) writer one day wants to write a book called ‘Rosie and Me’ I would be ecstatic. But it is not my story to tell.

I was relieved and somewhat reassured when reading a recent blog post by Ambelin Kwaymullina (entitled ‘We need more diverse characters in YA’ – highly recommended reading) to learn that she seems to feel the same way: the first person is a space best reserved for Indigenous authors.

2) I don’t know enough about Aboriginal culture

All books require a certain amount of research. In writing Nona & Me, I worked with a Yolngu advisor – a wonderful woman and teacher called Merrkiyawuy Ganambarr Stubbs. She was among the first to hear the story, and she gave me lots of feedback and information along the way, as well as reading both drafts. I literally could not have written it without her input. But even with her help there was so much I didn’t, and in some cases couldn’t (for cultural reasons), know.

For example, this could be as minute a detail as her telling me a certain relative needed to be at the funeral to receive the wreath from Rosie. Or it could be as huge as me asking her if the idea that Nona would aspire to be a nurse was my own Western construct about people needing a job to be successful. In that case, Merrkiyawuy revealed that she herself had trained to be a nurse at the age of eighteen!

These are just two examples of many, that I hope demonstrate the depth of my lack of knowledge. Even writing what I did required extensive consultation and assistance.

3) I wanted to leave a space for imagination

I wanted Nona to remain a bit of an enigma. We get to know her, but we want to know her more. I hoped this would make readers stop and think, if they happen to meet their own Nona (and by this I mean not just an Indigenous person, but a person of any other culture that seems foreign to them), and take the time to get to know them and learn a bit about their story. Because it’s by learning these stories that we begin to break down stereotypes, to look beyond what someone appears to be, and find out more about the why, how and who?

4) Because…there is Nona…in everything…

For me, Nona was at the back of every thought Rosie had and every decision she made. Nona may not have been physically there all the time, and we didn’t hear from her perspective, but she was so much a part of Rosie’s childhood and the formation of the very essence of her character: she is a big part of the reason why Rosie is how she is today. And symbolically, I tried to reflect Nona in the blue winged kookaburra Rosie spots throughout the book.

What do you think? Would you have written part of the book from Nona’s perspective?

I’m Inside A Dog!

This month, I’m the author-in-residence for Inside A Dog!

I’ll be writing about topics like multicultural characters, writing for TV and why I didn’t write from Nona’s perspective.

Check it out and feel free to comment and ask questions!

I’d also recommend checking out the author-in-residence archives as there have been some amazing authors blogging on there, including Alice Pung, Vikki Wakefield, Melina Marchetta, Barry Jonsberg and more.

CBCA…still pinching myself…

I think my heart stopped. I could hear it in my ears. Ba boom ba boom…and then…holy moly…there it is: Nona & Me shortlisted for the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year for Older Readers.

I had actually given up. I saw the Notables announced on Twitter (I’m not on Twitter – just not enough time in the day – but I look at it now and then) and I was absolutely thrilled to make it onto the list. But I saw the other Notable books and thought…well, that’s that for the CBCA Awards. And you know what? I was happy. Making the Notables is bloody good. My heart was still racing but I made myself move away from the laptop. I distracted myself by reading – I’m halfway through The Cracks In the Kingdom by Jaclyn Moriarty (a book listed in the Notables that I am coincidentally reading at the moment – incredible imaginative language and storytelling). And that’s when an email pinged onto my mobile…Christina (hello Christina!) from Black Inc Books, my publisher, had written to say ‘Have you heard???’

I hadn’t. Ba boom ba – wow!

I’ve grown up reading CBCA Shortlisted and Notable books. I’ve admired them, laughed and cried reading them, re-read them. So it is absolutely mind blowing for Nona & Me to be recognised by the CBCA now. Add to that the fact that I recently met some of the other shortlisted authors at the Somerset Celebration of Literature so it is an extra thrill to be listed alongside the lovely Christine Bongers and self-proclaimed sci-fi nerd Melissa Keil!

But…and I apologise for the downer here…I can’t help but think of that twinge I felt knowing I’d just missed out on the Victorian Premier’s Award Shortlist…and hope that the other authors on the Notables list aren’t feeling that now. Because we are all in this together. It is honestly a privilege to have joined the world of YA writers – those I’ve met so far are intelligent, funny, creative, big-hearted, passionate…and probably a little crazy, in the best way possible. They have spent hours, weeks, years writing fantastic stories that make people connect, think, imagine, believe. So here’s to all of us…

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Very excited to have been longlisted for the 2015 Inky Awards! The list was officially announced at Somerset, which meant I had the pleasure of wrestling with fellow long-lister Melissa Keil (for The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl) over the Inside a Dog dog…does that dog have a name? I need to find out!

In any case, here’s the list. If you haven’t read these books check them out ’cause there are some fantastic titles on there (not biased at all of course!). Now it’s up to a panel of teen judges to debate and decide on the shortlist…and then the final winner…

Hmmm…yes, in retrospect it might have been a bit more sensible to look stunning for the camera like Melissa rather than giving that little dog such an attentive pretend pat…I’m not even an animal person!

 

 

 

 

Somerset, oh, Somerset.

My first writers’ festival – the Somerset Celebration of Literature. What a blast. So many great experiences crammed in to three days. Like the total newbie I am in this YA writing world, I went to see as many authors talk about their books as I could.

What? Oh yes, of course, I was there to talk about Nona & Me. And I honestly loved talking to students about how I came to live in Yirrkala, and about writing for television and how I used the techniques I’d learned from that to write the novel. But as soon as I’d finished doing that each day, buzzing with post-presentation adrenaline, I’d grab a quick bite to eat and go and see other writers’ presentations.

I wanted to see them all, but of course I couldn’t, so here are a few things I learned from the talks I attended (hope the authors don’t mind me sharing!!):

Melissa Keil creates digital collages of what her characters look like – their clothes, their accessories, their style.

Christine Bongers thinks one thing that ALWAYS makes a good story is if someone has a secret. She asked a group of students: “Do you want to know a secret?” …and they literally all leaned in…

Luka Lesson can hold a crowd in the palm of his hand…and if you ask him to freestyle, he will…

Ellen van Neerven writes poetry and still isn’t sure her incredible award-winning book Heat & Light fits together as a complete novel…

James Moloney has written so many books they cover an entire table…and occasionally eavesdrops on his teenage daughter’s conversations for inspiration!

Sarah Ayoub grew up attending a monocultural Lebanese school and was incredibly affected by the Cronulla Riots and the following (and continuing) negative stereotyping of Lebanese Australians…prompting her to write Hate Is Such A Strong Word.

John Ahern travelled around the world with his wife and two kids and told stories that were equally inspiring and terrifying!

Special thanks to the Somerset Team for inviting me to attend, and to all the other authors for making it so fun. And to my ‘elves’ Lara and Anneliese for making sure I didn’t get lost!

With Luka Lesson and Ellen Van Neerven – we were the panel for a session for adults about crossing cultural borders using writing…hearing these two amazing writers speak about their experiences was definitely one of the highlights of the festival for me.

With my two helpers from Somerset College – Lara and Annaliese. They made sure I got to my presentations on time, introduced the sessions and provided fantastic all-round moral support.

Book signings…

And an action shot – me talking about looking for guku (bush honey) in Yirrkala with our Yolngu family.