29 August, 2008

Poor Tyler, 15

No one should force teens to read books.
Margo Lanagan, well known short story author, should stick to short stories. This novel is a collection of short stories in chronological fashion set in the same world. The attempt at a novel created parts that were slow and unnecessary as well as the most boring plotline on the planet. The last few chapters were excellent but that was it. Nominate? No. 1Q How did it get published? 1P Yech! Forced to read it. Tyler, 15
Geez, I tried, Tyler. If lashings of good and bad sex, witchcraft, time-slippage and people-turning-into-bears are too boring, I don't know what else I can add that will lift Tender Morsels for you.


OMG, my whole book-tour wardrobe including dog T-shirt!

Over here! Plus a cushion cover, and a journal, even! They're a band, that plays just for cats. That seems entirely suitable.


In the comments here, Judi pointed me towards this Tender Morsels review at Reading Rants:
What I have described here barely scratches the surface of the captivating, complex world Aussie author Lanagan has created. Pushing the boundaries of YA literature, this dark, violent fairy tale, containing elements of everything from The Color Purple to the Grimm Brothers’ Bearskin, is rife with themes of memory, identity, lost childhood, family and what it means to grow up. You will need to digest these Tender Morsels for yourself to discover the magnetic power of her dense, gorgeous prose. Deeply imaginative and beautifully written, this is easily one of the best books of 2008.

27 August, 2008

All festivalled out

Well, I'm back from the Melbourne Writers Festival. I had a great time, during and between panels. We stayed on the 46th floor of the Sofitel, which meant that all night we could see the lights of Melbourne stretching away half across the country, it looked like.

And I panelled and I panelled (this is a lot like 'podiuming', or 'medalling', at the Olympics, except with a lot less media attention). I rubbed elbows in the green room with Gil Adamson (oops, I subjected her to a fangirl moment about The Outlander), and at the signing table with Robert Muchamore, Emily Rodda and John Marsden. I caught up with my mum and dad and my sister Susi, and waved hello to a dozen or so other people, and ate Greek and Chinese and Italian and 'modern Australian' food, and drank slightly more champagne than was good for me - well, it depends on your definition of 'good', I suppose. I don't think I embarrassed myself too badly at any point - ask me again at 3am tomorrow...

The only book I bought, among all the temptation, was Jacinta Halloran's Dissection, because, for goodness' sake, we lived three blocks apart all through the 1970s, and now she's a GP writing a novel that Helen Garner is launching! I have to have a look at that.

I was also given, by Allen & Unwin, a copy of Mary Ann Shaffer's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is both a lovely object and an enticing looking read. I was asked on the final panel what books I was reading at the moment, and totted them up and realised there were 5 of them:
  • Gil Adamson's The Outlander
  • Lili Wilkinson's Scatterheart
  • Justine Larbalestier's How To Ditch Your Fairy
  • Jacinta Halloran's Dissection, and
  • Penni Russon's Breathe
So I must finish at least a couple of those, before I start the Schaffer.

It was colder than Sydney and I got to wear a proper coat without being overdressed. I went to the NGV and saw the Art Deco exhibition. I resisted all the wonders in the gallery shop, which was very noble of me, because they've got a lot of wonders, bookish and otherwise.

So, now my festival is over and it's back to the bank tomorrow. Other, luckier people can continue to be festive at Federation Square right through next weekend. Go! There are a squillion wonderful writers speaking.

23 August, 2008


Well, I put the bits of crashed car back together again, and it even looks something like a car, so that's good. That was a long day, though.

Now the weekend has come and I have to put together a paper or two for the Melbourne Writers Festival this week. I've written tomorrow's and Monday's, but they have to be rewritten conversationally. Then I've got to choose a couple of readings, and put together something for the Writers Who Read panel on Wednesday - which is why it's handy that I've woken up this morning with formative books popping into my head. Steven has brought me coffee and the internets, so there really is no excuse, with a keyboard at my fingertips, not to go over to my panels document and start throwing this list in.

Then there is packing (of every warm garment I own) and general organising to do.

Oh, and some strenuous reading of newspapers. :)

21 August, 2008

If one's going to be on a blogging panel...

...one ought to blog a bit, eh.

This blog has been going for 3 years now, in the course of which I've put up 450 posts. The reason there haven't been more in this last week is that life is pretty damn dull at the moment. All work and very little play, and not the most interesting kind of work either. This week has been a bit like watching a car crash in slow motion, workwise. Tomorrow I have to get up early and go in and see how many pieces I can pick up before closing time.

I was interviewed by Melbourne's Radio RRR on Wednesday, introduced rather oddly as 'one of the highest paid writers in Australia', which made me wonder how the really poor people are managing. When I confessed to full-time, not-story-writing work, Alicia Sometimes said, 'But what about these six-figure deals we've been hearing about?' I asked her to think of the smallest six-figure sum she could think of, then cut off 15% (completely unbegrudged) for the agent, then about a quarter of what remains in tax (yeah, pretty begrudged), and what do you end up with? Slightly more than one year's average wage, and paid in tranches over a period during which the USD:AUD exchange rate was not very kind. And this is for two books which took, well, a leetle longer than six months each to write.

Hmm, I see why I haven't been blogging. Been feeling too sour.

The alternative has been to blog some nice reviews that Tender Morsels has been getting online, including 5 stars from this bloke called 'Neil' over at Goodreads, tee-hee. But that gets a bit tedious for readers too, although it's useful for me to record these things as they happen.

It's been quite cold. I seem to spend a lot of my time feeling cold. Also quite quiet; my office-with-a-view is my very own, and while I like being spared the wedding-and-diet conversations, perhaps I'm spending a tad too much time in my own head. And anyone who's read my stories will know that that's not always a nice place to be. :)

Never mind - all will be festive and fellow-feelingy next week in Melbourne. And I wrote 28 pages of my novella last week. (No, not the one for you, Keith. Soon, soon.) I've stopped the 4-pages-a-day rule in honour of car-crash week this week, and probably in honour of MWF next week, but I'm pleased I did get that much done. I'll start again in September.

12 August, 2008

From high above the city

I'm here at the bank, having run out of work and turned off the clock. Outside is sunny, windy and probably cold. I'm on the 28th floor; I can see all the way to Coogee and beyond to the south, over to, hmmm, that might be Rose Bay out to the east, and to the mountains in the west. Not quite such a good view to the north without the Pope beetling about there, but hey, you can't have everything.

Yesterday I dropped in at Galaxy Bookshop in York Street and picked up the August Locus, and found the first review I've seen of Nick Gevers' Extraordinary Engines: The Definitive Steampunk Anthology, by Rich Horton:
To begin with the highlights: Margo Lanagan's 'Machine Maid' and Jeff VanderMeer's 'Fixing Hanover'...the story works particularly well because of Lanagan's fine writing, her capturing of the heroine's emotions, and the slightly surprising changes she rings on the more or less expected ending. While Lanagan's story seems traditional steampunk to me - a Victorian era setting with added technology - VanderMeer's is different...
So I get to be both traditional and definitive with my first-ever steampunk story. Very satisfying.

Then I got to Charles's editorial, where, yes, he was a whole lot healthier - healthy enough for cake, champagne and opera, and you can't ask for more than that. But he also said:
Wow! What a year this is for new books. One of the best in decades...In YA novels, Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan is my favorite. Its combination of fantasy, realism and horror is perfectly balanced.
Perfectly balanced, hear that? So you can use it for your posture lessons - after you've read and been amazed by it, of course.

What else has been happening? Oh, secret dinners! My lips are sealed. Reading, reading, reading for the Melbourne Writers' Festival panels. A Draftbusters workshop on the weekend - we put in a marathon effort in honour of the Olympics and I have a new resolution to write 4 pages a day or bust, work or no work. Ascham School's Writers' Evening, checking out the upcoming competition - and it's fierce! A close shave with the jury duty - I got out of it this time, but they'll be after me again, come October.

And work. Yeah. I'm juggling two bitsy jobs that seem to be slotting quite nicely into each other's slack times. This bank one is city based, the other can be done anywhere, pretty much.

Okay, I've got 3 pages of my daily 4 to do now. Off I go.

02 August, 2008

Tender Morsels will be starred in The Horn Book!


UPDATED: Lookee here! From Deirdre F. Baker:
Lanagan’s poetic style and her masterful employment of mythic imagery give this story of transformation and healing extraordinary depth and beauty. The characters’ earthy folk dialect tethers Lanagan’s fantasy firmly to very real physical and psychic experience even as the lyrical narrative voice (“Morning came, sweet as new milk spilling up the sky, all dew and birdsong and bee-buzz”) intensifies its fairy-tale atmosphere. At the same time, Lanagan offers up difficult truths—and complicated, human characters—that are as sobering as they are triumphant.

01 August, 2008

Melbourne bound

Not for a while, but people are starting to talk about the Melbourne Writers Festival, and books by fellow panellists are turning up in rather wonderful quantities. I'll be on the following panels—the first on the adult program (but talking all about children's books), the other four on the schools programs
  • Other Worlds (24 August, 4.15pm - 5.15pm, Australian Centre for the Moving Image Cinema 2): Robert Muchamore, Melina Marchetta and Margo Lanagan are all masters at creating fictional worlds in which children can lose themselves. What are the key ingredients that make these fictional worlds so appealing to children and young adults?

  • Myths with a twist (25 August, 11.15am - 12.00pm, ACMI Cinema 2, AND 27 August, 10.00am - 10.45am, same venue) Do fantasy writers avoid reality, or confront it more directly? Are stories with magic in them just a matter of make-believe and play, or do they say serious things? What happens when you allow orcs, ogres and weather-workers into your written world? Margo Lanagan is the award-winning author of many books, including Black Juice, while Penni Russon’s earlier books for young adults include the popular fantasy titles Undine, Breathe and Drift.

  • DIY Culture: blogging isn't writing is it? (26 August, 12.30pm - 1.15pm, ACMI Cinema 2) Is blogging changing the face of culture? How can you blog best? Learn from these two experts from the blogosphere! Lili Wilkinson manages www.insideadog.com.au, a highly acclaimed website for teenagers about books,and blogs about books at www.thinkingsofalili.blogspot.com. Whilst Margo Lanagan blogs about all things at www.amongamidwhile.blogspot.com.

  • Writers who read, readers who write (27 August, 12.30pm - 1.15pm, BMW Edge Theatre) Join John Marsden, Margo Lanagan and Lili Wilkinson as they speak about the books they’ve loved over the years. Each writer will discuss the books and writers that have helped to shape their style, themes and careers as writers.
Oh, I so wish I was going to be at the bank instead that week!

Yes, I jest. I've escaped from the bank this very afternoon. On Monday I have to turn up at the Downing Centre and try to get out of being on jury duty for a six-week criminal trial. If I whinge loud enough, and show them my MWF program and contractual obligations, they might relent and put me on a week-long or fortnight-long trial instead, is what I'm hoping.

But for now, the weekend!