Friday, 29 May 2015

The Text Prize and the importance of young adults reading

Last night, I was very excited to receive this year's Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Literature (cue for big excited screams) for my manuscript The Book of Whispers. It was a lovely evening, and wonderful to meet so many of the people at Text Publishing who seem like a great team. I had to give a speech (cue for shaking knees) and this is what I said (well, kinda... this is what I planned on saying, I added some bits as well, that due to nerves, I don't remember!): 

Thanks so much  to everyone at Text Publishing for hosting this event and for offering this award for Young Adult and Children’s fiction. I’d like to acknowledge the other shortlisted writers whose manuscripts sound really exciting. 
The Text Prize has already produced so many outstanding books, across a fascinating variety of genres from memoir to tales of adolescent loss and learning how to cope. These stories  show how vibrant and exciting literature for children and young adults can be. 
The ideas for The Book of Whispers came to me while travelling through Turkey a couple of years ago. My two main characters are a young crusader knight and a girl who has been brought up in a convent. The Book of Whispers in the title refers to a locked medieval manuscript that only Luca can open and only Suzan can read. 
There are actual demons in my story and I hope they’re scary ones. Their need for suffering and pain gave me some chills while I was writing them. But I also wrote this novel  thinking about The Book of Whispers as a site of communication between people and between cultures.
I hoped that one day I’d be able to finish researching my story of a journey from Tuscany to Jerusalem by travelling through Syria. You just need to watch the news to realise why I’ve had to postpone that, but this brings me on to something else I wanted to say.
I’m a high school teacher as well as a writer and each of these practices reinforces to me the importance of literature for young people. Stories need to be valued because they build bridges between people. They let us imagine what it’s like to be another person. They let us experience lives that are not like ours. They build a capacity for emotional connection and empathy.
This is one reason why the Text Prize means so much to me.  I’m really excited and humbled to be following in the footsteps of the previous winners, and I think in creating stories that are – hopefully – enlightening  and understanding – we’re all doing something really important for today’s young readers.
So thank you.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

The Text Prize shortlisting

Now, this is something that I'm excited about...

Text Prize

Awarded annually to the best manuscript written for young adults and children, the Text Prize has unearthed extraordinary, multi-award-winning novels and launched international publishing careers. The winner receives $10,000 and a publishing contract with Text Publishing.      
Four outstanding manuscripts have been selected from 268 entries to make up the shortlist for the $10,000 Text Prize, awarded annually to the best unpublished manuscript for teenagers and children.  
NEVERLAND by Margot McGovern
Margot McGovern is a freelance writer and reviewer who contributes to a number of leading literary publications. She is a former associate editor of Ride On magazine and lives in Perth.
Sophie Overett is a cultural producer and writer in Brisbane. She was a Young Writer in Residence at the Katharine Susannah Prichard Writers Centre in 2014 and in 2015 is a Queensland Literary Fellow.
SOLSTICE by Mark Russell
Mark Russell is a writer whose work has appeared in publications including Inside Film and the Canberra TimesSolstice was originally written as a screenplay, which won a Screen Australia Development Grant in 2010. He lives in Melbourne.
THE BOOK OF WHISPERS by Kimberley Starr
Kimberley Starr is a teacher and author based in Melbourne. Her debut novel, The Kingdom Where Nobody Dies, won the 2003 Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Best Emerging Author.
The winner of the 2015 Text Prize will be announced on Thursday 28 May at an event in Melbourne.
The 2014 winner, How to Be Happy by David Burton, will be published in September.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Book of Whispers... author's notebook

A Young Adult manuscript I've been working on, The Book of Whispers, takes as is premise the idea that the First Crusade (year 1098) was inspired by demons who wanted to get a holy book of their own to Jerusalem. It tells the story of Luca,  a young Italian knight who is one of the only people who can see demons,  and Suzan,  who is the last speaker of the dying language the book is written in.

page from The Book of Whispers notebook

Readers often ask where writers gets their ideas from? The answer is everywhere--but a more interesting—well, to me, anyway—question is what do writers keep their ideas in?  The answer is, a notebook! It's not quite the same thing as a  journal. I have one of those, too, that I mainly write in when I'm traveling. But for each manuscript I have a notebook that's a book of ideas. The Book of Whispers has been created alongside my favourite ever notebook. I've got postcards and printouts and sketches pasted into a large soft Moleskin notebook,  along with notes about my research and ideas about settings and characters and plot and, for this novel, about the world of demons.

More than anything else I've written, this story required lots of fun research... I started with a trip to Turkey! And at home, I read about demons and medieval relics, and if course, the crusades! So I've posted a couple of pages from my notebook (many containing details I've subsequently changed or omitted... a notebook is always a work in progress).

page from The Book of Whispers notebook


Fantasy Worlds at the Brisbane Writers Festival

This will be exciting! Appearance at the Brisbane Writers Festival  with Garth Nix, Amie Kaufman and Jay Ktistoff!