21 December, 2014

Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean—anthology out soon

On 2 February 2015, Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean, the "ground-breaking intercontinental collection of speculative stories" from India and Australia, will be published. 
A collection of sci-fi and fantasy writing, including 6 graphic stories, showcasing 20 stellar writers and artists from India and Australia: Isobelle Carmody, Penni Russon, Justine Larbalestier, Margo Lanagan, Lily Mae Martin, Kuzhali Manickavel, Prabha Mallya, Annie Zaidi, Kate Constable, Vandana Singh, Mandy Ord, Priya Kuriyan, Manjula Padmanabhan, Samhita Arni, Alyssa Brugman, Nicki Greenberg and Amruta Patil.
Kirsty Murray and Isobelle Carmody have recently been in India launching this book, and no doubt there'll be some cool events this summer associated with its release.

For the moment, you can go and have a look at its dedicated page on the Allen & Unwin website.

16 December, 2014

The new national Book Council—get angry, get typing

Remember our Prime Minister being applauded for promising a new national Book Council at his Awards ceremony last week? Looks as if it’s going to be funded by a cut to the Australia Council of $2 million a year for three years. 
To make clear what this means: Ozco’s literature funding has been steady at around $4 million per annum for a ridiculous number of years, apart from a short-lived increase under the Rudd and Gillard governments. I was on the Literature Board for 3 years, helping spread the available funds as widely and wisely as possible among increasing numbers of grant applicants. $4 million sounds like a lot, but it’s bugger-all compared to what goes to other art forms, and it doesn’t go far. A lot of excellent work goes unfunded, which is why Ozco staff will always tell you to keep applying, because you never know what your chances might be next year.
And now FIFTY PER CENT of that money is being may be taken to fund a new industry body. And nobody knows anything about this new council yet, but it’s safe to say it’s probably not going to directly support individual writers and existing writers’ organisations. [UPDATE: It's not clear whether the $2m is coming just from literature or from the Australia Council overall—good question to ask in your email! Can't imagine visual arts or the opera handing over $6m of their allocation, though, can you? UPDATE 2: Now it has been made clear that the money will come from the Aus Council's new work and strategic projects money.]
Just in case anyone’s thinking (and a surprising number of people do) that writers are wealthy whingers, ’cause just look at JK Rowling and stuff: According to Ozco’s 2007-2008 economic study of professional artists - http://www.australiacouncil.gov.au/…/do_you_really_expect_t… - the 7,600 professional writers in Australia were the least well rewarded artistic occupation for their creative work. Their mean annual income from writing was $11,100. Even their total incomes (from all work including non-arts work) were lower than all occupational groups, including blue-collar occupations. Between 2001 and 2008, writers’ mean incomes from writing fell by 52%. A fresh study is expected in 2016, but no one expects things to have improved.
If you’ve ever received, applied for or considered applying for an Arts Council literature grant, I suggest you go to the Attorney-General's department's feedback page and ask for details about this new body (who will be responsible for it, what it will be charged with doing, where the money will come from and how and where it will be spent), and express whatever concern/outrage/disgust you feel at the idea of already meagre funds being taken from supporting artists to fund another layer of bureaucracy. Arts Minister Brandis needs to see that we are watching this and demanding some accountability.

07 November, 2014

Sea Hearts and The Night Guest win the Barbara Jefferis Award

I'm really pleased to announce that Sea Hearts is joint winner, with Fiona McFarlane's The Night Guest, of the Barbara Jefferis Award for "the best novel written by an Australian Author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society".
     The award was given at a lovely event last night hosted by the Australian Society of Authors in the foyer of St Barnabas Church, Broadway, at which Tara Moss spoke—and isn't she a brilliant speaker! Better Read Than Dead bookshop sold many, many books, and champagne flowed and the music played and the room was full of friends and colleagues and really, I couldn't have been happier, for my selkies and my self.
     Here's my acceptance speech:
Thank you Margaret, Georgia and Dorothy for all your work and consideration as judges of this year's Barbara Jefferis Award. Amy, Tracy, Jacinta, Margaret and Drusilla, it's an honour for Sea Hearts to share a shortlist with your wonderful works. And Fiona, it's great to join you on the podium tonight. 
I remember standing in the Friends Room at the State Library when Anna Funder won this award for All that I am, saying to myself "…depicts women and girls in a positive way … empowers the status of women and girls in society—I think I am fairly safe in saying that a story about a bunch of women who spend most of their on-page time moping under seaweed blankets, ignoring the solution to their sorrows that is right under their noses, does not really have a shot at this prize."
Which goes to show you what I know.
I'm more than surprised, and thoroughly delighted, that the judges have seen fit to honour Sea Hearts. I was so pleased when this award was set up. There's an ongoing need to just keep forcibly pushing into the limelight literary works about women, as much as by women. As long as schoolboys are asking visiting authors, "Why would you write stories about … girls?"; as long as the global social and economic costs of domestic violence are outstripping the costs of civil war; and as long as women who try to raise awareness of gender-based hatred are being driven from their homes by online threats of rape and murder, we need to keep on claiming column inches and screen time, and story space and art space, for women's matters, women's minds, women's lived experiences.
Sea Hearts is a story about many different kinds of love, some of them perfectly healthy. But the core kind is an unwholesome infatuation in which both partners surrender their reason. It's a love that's based on very little more than the glamour of romantic love itself, and that insists on holding the loved one at an exoticising distance. Both men and women are afflicted by this wrong-hearted loving, but it's the women who are wrenched from their home under the sea, wrenched even out of their own natural body forms, and kept prisoner on the land because of it.
I wrote this story because there was something about that kind of well-meaning, helpless torture that land men perpetrate on their trans-species wives in Scottish selkie tales that made a mess of pity and rage in my mind a long time ago, and the time had come to poke it with a stick and see what kinds of maggots crawled out.
I couldn't say that Sea Hearts offers any solutions, but it takes a lot of problems between men and women and rather painfully turns them over and over in its hands. And if this turning over can be seen as positive and empowering of women and girls—if it can be experienced, even, as positive and empowering by women and girl readers—I'll be more than grateful.

27 September, 2014

Conflux 10 appearances

I appear to be taking a year off from this blog. Which is long enough to have to re-learn how to get into it. Way to complicate things, Google and Blogger.
     Anyway, I'm breaking radio silence to bring you my schedule for next weekend's appearances at Conflux 10 in Canberra, where I am really pleased to be Guest of Honour, alongside Alisa Krasnostein.
     Here's what I'll be doing on the formal program, mostly in Forrest Room 2:
  • Friday 3 October, 6:45pm, Conflux Registration area Launch of Jack Dann's new e-collection Jubilee17 dazzling stories!
  • 10am Saturday, Forrest Room 2 GUEST OF HONOUR INTERVIEW Nicole Murphy will be interviewing me. Warning: There may be juvenilia.
  • 1pm Saturday, Forrest Room 2 FANTASY JOURNEYS This panel explores fantasy tropes about heroes and their journeys, discussing how hero quests can be both journeys of discovery and self-discovery. My fellow panelists are Satima Flavell, Tracy M. Joyce, Russell Kirkpatrick and Karen Simpson Nikakis.
  • 3pm Saturday, Forrest Room 2 WRITING BOOKS THAT KIDS AND YOUNG ADULTS ENJOY With Isobelle Carmody, Ingrid Jonach and possibly Janeen Webb, I'll discuss how to write books that appeal to young people. Donna Maree Hanson will chair.
  • 4pm, Saturday, Forrest Room 2 GRIEF, LOSS AND TRAUMA This one's all about narratives that include traumatic and distressing events. Maureen Flynn, Richard Harland, Kaaron Warren and I will share strategies for creating inspiring narrative that honours the character’s emotional developments.
  • 5.30, Saturday, Forrest Room 2 Launch of Alan Baxter's novel Bound, the first in the Alex Caine trilogy. Come for the bubbles, stay for the kettle scenes!
  • 11.30am Monday, Forrest Room 3 EMOTIONAL DEPTH Expressing real emotion in stories that evokes a response by the reader. Richard Harland, Rob Hood and I will discuss techniques, strategies and examples of emotionally-deep expression.

But I'll be around for the whole weekend, so if you see me, come and say hello.

23 December, 2013

2013 in review: an out-and-out skite

My four Aurealises, and my
I've been meaning to compile a list of all the Sea Hearts/ Rollrock achievements, and the end of the year provides a neat excuse, as well as the time, of course *waves cheerily to the day job*.

So here we go. Some of this is from last year, but I wanted all the glory in one place, so forgive me if it gets repetitive. Also, if anyone spots anything I've missed (but I'm not trying to list all online reviews of everything—the holidays aren't that long) please give me a nudge in the comments. By the time I got this much listed I was a bit dizzy:

Sea Hearts/The Brides of Rollrock Island's Big Year:


  • the Guardian
  • The Times
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • NZ Listener
  • Locus
  • School Library Journal

Starred reviews:

  • Booklist
  • Kirkus Reviews
  • Publishers Weekly
  • The Horn Book
  • The Bulletin of the Centre for Children's Books


  • Publishers Weekly Best Books 2012
  • Horn Book Fanfare
  • Locus Recommended Reading
  • 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • Carnegie Medal
  • International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (actually a longlisting—shortlist to be announced April 2014)
  • Stella Prize
  • NSW Premier's Awards (Ethel Turner Prize)
  • British Fantasy Awards
  • Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature (YA—winner TBA March 2014)
  • Australian Independent Booksellers Award (Children's and YA section)
  • Aurealis Award (Best YA Novel, jointly with Kaz Delaney's Dead, Actually)
  • Aurealis Award (Best Fantasy Novel)
  • Ditmar Award (Best Novel)
  • Norma K Hemming Award
  • CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers
  • WA Premier's Literary Award (YA)
  • Winner, Meanjin Tournament of Books


My mini-collection Cracklescape from Twelfth Planet Press didn't do too shabbily this year, either:

  • Locus
  • Tor
  • SF Signal
  • Locus Recommended Reading (Collection and Novelette—"Significant Dust")
  • Shirley Jackson Award ("Bajazzle")
  • Aurealis Award (Best Fantasy Short Story—"Isles of the Sun")
  • Ditmar Award (Collected Work)
  • Ditmar Award (Novelette or Novella—"Significant Dust")
  • Aurealis Award (Best Fantasy Short Story—"Bajazzle")
  • Aurealis Award (Best Science Fiction Short Story—"Significant Dust")
  • Focus 2012: Highlights of Australian Short Fiction, compiled by Tehani Wessely, Fablecroft Publishing ("Significant Dust")
  • The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 7, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Night Shade Books ("Significant Dust")
  • Award Winning Australian Writing 2013, ed. Adolfo Aranjuez, Melbourne Books ("Bajazzle")
  • The Best Horror of the Year, vol. 5, ed. Ellen Datlow, Night Shade Books("Bajazzle")


My fourth short story collection Yellowcake came out in the US and the UK in May, and it did pretty well for itself too, being reviewed in the Guardian, in the School Library Journal, on Bookslut and on Strange Horizons, and getting starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and a listing in the Scotsman's Christmas round-up by Keith Gray.


And I had four short stories published:
  • "Angels of Abstinence" in Purgatorio: Australia Today, a chapbook anthology put out for the Melbourne Writers Festival, edited by Ellen Koshland
  • "By Desecration Rock" in The Lifted Brow's Melbourne Writers Festival issue
  • "Black Swan Event", in Griffith REVIEW's "Once Upon a Time in Oz" issue
  • "We Three Kids"—This novelette will be available online during the 12 days of Christmas 2013, and a print chapbook will be published at the end of January 2014.

And Danel Olson's anthology Exotic Gothic 4, from PS Publishing (as Postscript issues #28/29), which led off with my story "Blooding the Bride" won a World Fantasy Award.

So I can't complain about not getting any attention this year.

In 2014 I have, as far as I know, only one, leetle (2500-word) short story coming out, details of which I'll pass on when I get them. I'm hoping to get a novel finished and submitted pretty early in the year, leaving most of the year free to work on, possibly, its sequel, or another couple of projects I've got cooking. It has to be a better novel-writing year than 2013 was.

03 December, 2013

Meanjin Tournament of Books...

...is all about watery themes this year, so the shortlist is very blue, except where it's green or black. And wonder of wonders, Sea Hearts (a) is on it and (b) has made it through the first round.

Sea Hearts is nominated for the IMPAC

I know, it's outlandish. But it's true. Me and Hilary. And, erm, 150 other authors/books. I am celebrating now, in the expectation of its not getting any further. We'll find out in April.

28 October, 2013

Not one, not two, but THREE reprints!

The Wagga residency was two weeks of energetic writing and leisurely exploring the very green countryside in that part of the Riverina, with Griffith Agricultural Show and Junee's Broadway Museum being highlights. Wagga's Museum of the Riverina was beautifully and professionally curated, too, but I also like a collection that's just everyone's old stuff piled into rooms with assorted labels (or not).

The reading and workshop went well, and I drafted 130 pages (about 43,000 words) of novel, which I'm now typing up in fits and starts—am about two-thirds of the way through. It would be nice to have something like a full draft by the end of January, but I've a short story to write as well before December, and a weekend away, and a competing project, and a part-time job, and there's Christmas, so we'll see.

I still have major decisions to make, in terms of the era in which this novel is set, and the country where it's all happening, and what kind of person one of the two protagonists is going to be. How much of the manuscript I'm typing will stay is anybody's guess—in fact, there are bits I'm not typing, being pretty sure they're wrongheaded—but I'm not throwing them away yet either, just in case they're not.

In the meantime, three of my stories have been reprinted in recent anthologies, which were waiting at the PO box when I got home from Wagga. From left to right, they are:
  • Ellen Datlow's Telling Tales: The Clarion West 30th Anniversary Anthology, which is a very cool production from Hydra House, containing stories from Clarion West alumni with comments on each story by CW instructors. "Mulberry Boys" (first published in Ellen's Blood and Other Cravings, is in here, with comments from the wonderful Howard Waldrop on my back-asswards approach to my career.
  • Then there's the handsome hardback The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene and published by Ticonderoga Publications, which is a big, solid chocolate box of stories, one of which is "Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow", which first came out in Jonathan Strahan's YA witches anthology Under My Hat.
  • Thirdly, Adolfo Aranjuez has again edited Award Winning Australian Writing for Melbourne Books, and this 2013 edition contains the Aurealis-garnering and Shirley Jackson-shortlisted "Bajazzle", my nasty sheela-na-gig story, first published in Cracklescape.
Right, back to writing something original now.