My Top 15 YA of 2010!

10 Nov

I haven’t updated my blog in FOREVER and for that I am truly sorry. Life has become so hectic – I have my paws in so many baskets these days that it’s hard to keep track of everything, and unfortunately my writing and my online life has suffered.

I wanted to at least give my faithful blog readers something to read before the craziness that is Christmas engulfs me completely, and when I saw the lovely Kate Gordon’s blog post about her top 20 YA novels of the year, I thought, “now there’s a blog post I can do quite easily.”

Trying to think of all the fabulous YA novels I’ve read this year, though, is considerably more difficult than first thought (and I cut it to 15). So I’m sure I’ve forgotten some, as this year has been such a whirlwind I hardly remember what I ate for dinner last night, little own what I read in March that gave me the chills (the good kind).

So, in no particular order…

1. Torment by Lauren Kate.

2. Beautiful Malice by Rebecca James.

3. Girl Saves Boy by Steph Bowe.

4. Big River Little Fish by Belinda Jeffrey.

5. Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. *

6. Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick.

7. Halo by Alexandra Adornetto.

8. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

9. Elixir by Hilary Duff.

10. Willow by Julia Hoban.

11. Stolen by Lucy Christopher.

12. Alone: Chasers by James Phelan.

13. This Is Shyness by Leanna Hall.

14. Splendor by Anna Godbersen.

15. Linger by Maggie Stiefvater.

*Technically I haven’t read this book yet, as it’s due out soon, but I enjoyed the first novel in the series so much that I’m sure it’ll make my top 15. Positive.

What are your top YA reads of the year?

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It’s Here!

14 Oct

Current Status: Migraine-y

Food Consumed: My nerves

On The iPod: Page One; Katie Noonan & The Captain

Word Count: Lots of (longhand) pages!

Remember a while back I told you I’d won a place in a writing retreat? Well, the weekend of the retreat is finally here, and I’m a bundle of nervous energy.

My weekend of intensive writing starts tonight: the meet-and-greet retreat dinner. I’ve never been too good at dealing with meeting new people (hence part of the nervous energy), and I’ll be on my own, too, as opposed to being with my husband, who is only slightly better at meeting strangers than I am. If you’re anything like me – shy, awkward, doesn’t like public speaking or public scrutiny – then you’ll understand my trepidation.

I also get my manuscript report this evening – this is where most of the nervous bundle of energy comes in! I’m trying to prepare myself for the worst – that my novel is a big ol’ mess and is beyond repair – but there’s still a little voice in the back of my mind (or heart) that loves my novel so dearly that I can’t even begin to fathom why someone else can’t love it the same as me.

I have this sinking feeling that the night may end in tears: my tears.

I’ll let you know…

Quote of the Day

11 Oct

“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”

— Maria Robinson.

Brain Fodder 2: Fisher Boy & Me

30 Sep

Roo smiles at me and lets the grass slip from his open palm. The torn strands catch on the faint breeze and float past me, earthless roots bobbing like tentacles on the wind. – Fisher Boy & Me, words from my WIP.

All images were collected from the lovely, inspirational site, WeHeartIt.com.

To see the first “Brain Fodder” post for my new WIP, click here.

Quote of the Day

24 Sep

“My imagination is a monastery and I am its monk.”

— John Keats.

Literary Censorship: On a Soapbox

23 Sep

This post has been brewing in me for a while. I didn’t want to write it angry, because then I tend to yell and come across as this crazy person who stands on her soapbox and shouts to force others to listen – anyway. So I waited until I was calmer, until I could get my point across clearly and without too much finger-pointing.

I should start by saying that this post isn’t about Ellen Hopkins at all, though it was the censorship of her books that spurred this post.

Ellen is a great advocate for YA literature that is a little left-of-centre, a little out-of-the-box, and since that’s where my literary interest lies, I have great respect for her as an author. I will admit that her books aren’t for everyone: they deal with very sensitive issues, and I get why some people are offended by them, why they don’t want their children to read these novels, why they think these books shouldn’t be available for just anyone on the shelves – I get it.

But this post isn’t about Ellen or her books (which, for the record, I adore). It’s about the censorship.

I’m going to use an analogy here. I’m going to use Vampire Diaries because, quite frankly, I’m obsessed with the show, and want any excuse to talk about it. Here in Australia, Vampire Diaries occupies an 8:30pm time slot. Back when I was a young teen, I was in bed by then. Most teens these days, however, are not, so they can access shows like Vampire Diaries (and other perhaps more risque shows that are on in a similar time slot), with sex and violence and issues that the younger end of the YA scale shouldn’t necessarily be subjected to. Yet we let our children watch shows with sex and violence and adult-type issues and we don’t really bat an eyelid about it.

Enter the controversial YA novel. It has sex. It has violence. It has issues that we perhaps don’t want our young teens to read about – drugs, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse – the list is endless. They’ve seen all this stuff with their own eyes in movies and on television shows. It looks real. They’re accustomed to it. Yet reading a novel with all this stuff they’ve already been exposed to in it is suddenly not acceptable.

We don’t want our kids to read books that explore the darker side of teen life; of life in general.

We don’t want our kids to be able to hire these books from a library.

We want to ban these books in case someone else’s child reads them and corrupts our children.

If you don’t want your child to read certain things, that’s fine – I understand. We’re all different and we’re all raising our children differently. I don’t hold you not wanting your child to read Ellen’s books – or books of a similar nature – against you. I really don’t. But don’t stop everyone else’s child from reading these “controversial” books just because you’ve decided your child can’t. That’s all I’m saying.

I know I’m probably not making my point very eloquently – forgive me. But I hope, in all of that rambling mess, you were able to see where I was coming from. Because it isn’t about Ellen’s books at all. It’s about the double-standard in the industry, and the cruel message that we’re sending to our authors: that’s it’s not okay to write these types of books, to write from the heart. That it’s not okay to write something that doesn’t have a happy ending or teaches teens that the world can be a dark place.

That it’s not okay to put a piece of our soul on a page – unless it’s a socially-accepted piece of our soul.

BWF 2010: Part 2

17 Sep

Valentino gowns. An enthusiastic Norwegian. Organic coffee beneath a sprinkling of rain.

This was my second glimpse of the Brisbane Writer’s Festival. And it was much better than my first, I can tell you.

Ali and I started our day at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). We had an hour until our panel; we had plenty of time. Seeing the Valentino exhibition was high on my list of things to do while I was in Brisbane for the festival, and I’m so glad I got the chance to see it, because it was so beautiful! Honestly, if you haven’t seen it yet, you need to get your ass there and SEE IT! I think I wanted to take just about every gown I saw with me (and there was a lot – you get your value for money and then some!)

After the disaster that was our first panel (the day before), we didn’t hold high hopes for Random Acts. I started devising an exit strategy before we went up stairs to the Qld Terrace, just in case (since it would have been handy on the Saturday). As it turns out, we didn’t need an exit strategy. We didn’t even need plans for the rest of the day, because I could have quite happily listened to Jostein Gaarder, Louise Doughty and lovely chair, Katherine Lyall-Watson, for hours.

The panel was all about philosophical thinking and personal beliefs: whether certain events in our lives really are random, or whether they’re being controlled by a higher power, kind of like a puppeteer maneuvering his puppets on a string as he/she sees fit. It’s hard to condense the panel into a few words because there was SO MUCH in it – Jostein talks so quickly and with such excitement that you find yourself being swept along with his voice, and you’re so engrossed you forget to take notes!

Leaving the panel, my head was full of all different kinds of scenarios and whether some things are random or not. Also, I wanted to buy both Jostein and Louise’s novels (which I haven’t yet, but I swear I will; I kinda depleted the bank account just a tad the day before at QWC and Avid Reader…)

The rest of my time in the Qld capital was spent feeding my face (pretty much) – eating the most amazing Chinese of my life with Ali and her lovely family, and stuffing myself full of to-die-for grilled chicken at The Norman with my grandfather.

And then came Belinda Jeffrey’s book launch. We all packed in tight to the little Avid Reader bookstore on the Monday night (because of my last, not-so-nice experience of West End earlier in the week I dragged my hubby along as body guard/walk-us-to-our-car man).

The launch was short and sweet and wonderfully done. It was so lovely to finally meet Belinda, say a quick hello and snag an autograph inside the cover of her shiny new book (which has the best cover in the world, I might add – I love it!) And then it was back to the apartment to pack up all the stuff I’d bought during my trip and head home with weary feet and a head full of writing-talk.

The question now is: would I do it all again next year? In a heartbeat.

I Come Bearing Good News!

15 Sep

I got the news in the BP service station outside Caboolture. I was on my way to Brisbane for the writer’s festival, and it was the first time I’d had phone service since I’d left home.

I didn’t expect to get a place – in fact, I was so sure that I had no chance of winning that when the email came through – “delighted to let you know you have been accepted” – I was struck mute for at least a few minutes.

I had just won myself a place in a mentoring writer’s retreat.

I’ve wanted to tell you all this for a while now (I found out a couple of weeks ago), but I didn’t quite know how to put it into words before. I’m still not sure I’ve done the news justice. Sure, to some out there this may seem a bit like overkill: to get so excited over something that, when compared to a publishing contract or something of similar magnitude, is quite small. But to someone like me, someone who has previously been too afraid to even put my work out there for critique, someone who has been knocked back with short stories and poems, someone who has felt the lowest of writing lows (and more than once), someone who has doubted her skills almost at every turn, well, this is huge and exciting and I still can’t believe this happened to me. Is happening to me.

My completed novel, “Times of Bright” is already with the author who will be conducting the retreat in a month’s time. During the three days she will provide me with feedback on my strengths and weaknesses as a writer, in order to help me polish the manuscript into something I can then send away to agents and publishers for consideration.

I envisage many rewrites in my not-too-distant future, but that’s okay, because I’m on the track to publication now. And I can only go forward from here.

Brain Fodder 1: Fisher Boy & Me

12 Sep

There are so many blog posts I should be doing right now. I need to finish the second part of my time at Brisbane Writer’s Festival. I need to reveal the exciting news I have to tell you (it really is quite exciting, I swear!). Right now, I can’t find the words to do those blogs justice, and that’s probably because my brain is all abuzz over what I hope will soon be my new WIP.

Below is a collection of images I’ve saved to use as inspiration for my latest work. The title is an old one now – it was what I’d originally planned the novel to be when I first starting the initial plotting months ago. But since I’ve completed ‘Times of Bright’ and come back to this, the story has evolved so much, and while I have a new title and a new plot to go with it, I don’t want to reveal too many details about it just yet (for fear of jinxing my fickle muse, and also because it could change another half dozen times before I truly start writing).

What I can say (because this has remained a constant right from the start and will continue to be a constant until I finish the drafts to come), is that this novel is a love story about a girl and a boy and fishing.

All these images I have found on WeHeartIt.com (a truly heaven-sent site full of the most beautiful pictures you will ever find anywhere).

BWF 2010: Part 1

9 Sep

 

My first impression of the State Library of Queensland (SLQ), and the writer’s festival in general, was a slightly panicked one. I was running late. My first panel was due to start at 1:00pm – it was 12:50pm when I caught my first glimpse of it all… as my car sailed over the new “Go-Between” bridge and into the city!

I was pretty stressed at this point. My friend and critique partner extraordinnaire – the lovely Ali Smith from LoveMissAli – was already there and having a crisis of her own (she’d left her ticket at home and was in the ticket line to get it re-printed). So, I was on my way to Roma Street Station, when I should have been at SLQ, and Ali was friendless (because I was so late) and hoping she’d get her ticket re-printed before the session started. Not exactly a promising start to our festival plans.

Thankfully, that was about the worst that happened during our writer’s festival weekend. I managed to get the library on time (thanks to my lovely hubby cutting across some traffic where he perhaps shouldn’t but he got me there safe and sound so that’s the main thing), and Ali managed to get her ticket and we got into the session with a minute to spare and seats still available.

We needn’t have rushed, let me tell you. We went into the panel thinking we were going to get some juicy tips on how to craft the perfect short story, but what we actually sat through was a bunch of short stories from the author’s life – real-life stories – that rambled across time and back again, from friends of his to his son to some couple in an emergency room… I don’t know, I didn’t follow it all that well. It was literally a bunch of rambling stories, and at one point I think I asked Ali whether our speaker was drunk or not.

Highly disillusioned, I found solice in the QWC headquarters, where I chatted with a lovely lady behind the counter, picked up a copy of the latest AWM book, and bought a raffle ticket (I didn’t win, FYI). The few minutes I spent in the QWC office refreshed me: I was ready to go back out into the festival, and I was ready to put that rather unusual panel behind me (after about an hour of serious bitching between Ali and myself over coffee (on Ali’s part) and water (on my part) and countless cigarettes (on both our parts)).

If you’re feeling brave, you tackle the walk to West End in the daylight hours. I’d been warned before that West End wasn’t a place you go unless you really have no way of avoiding it, and I really wanted to go to Avid Reader, so there was really no way of avoiding it. The walk there wasn’t so bad – there was the usual riff-raff you’d expect in a not-so-safe district of a capital city, shoeless men slurring drunkenly at passers-by with open alcohol containers on the footpath – but it was the walk back to SLQ that opened my eyes just a little bit, and had me dashing across the pavement a little quicker than I usually would. A man staggered over to the ANZ across from us and started bashing on the glass doors, which were, of course, locked solid. He was cussing loudly (something about being ripped off?), was obviously very drunk, and I feared the glass might actually shatter at one point. Ah, West End, the memories.

What I remember most fondly about that first day at the festival is:

– Meeting the lovely Ali Smith for the first time in person

– The sheer size of the SLQ (to a small town gal, it is seriously monstrous and so beautiful!)

– Cigarettes on the steps overlooking the river

– The realisation that Avid Reader is perhaps the most perfect little bookstore of all time, and I want it to be mine (or to have a bookstore just like it)

The things I remember not so fondly? Waiting 30 minutes for a takeaway coffee at the SLQ’s cafe (though it wasn’t my coffee so I was perhaps less impatient than if it actually was mine I was waiting for), everything about that first panel I attended, and the addition of the bloody bridge that almost made me late for a panel that, in hindsight, I wouldn’t have minded missing in the least.

Stay tuned for part 2 (which I swear will be much more exciting than part 1).