Category Archives: A Single Stone

A Quick Note From the Trenches

Hello, dear people. I am currently occupied with life rather than writing (Oh, as if the two could be separated! you exclaim, but yes it seems they can and indeed sometimes must), but now take a break from life-rather-than-writing to celebrate the US publication of A Single Stone earlier this month and wave across the distance to those new readers who have been stopping by.

People ask me how sales are going and I say, “I have no idea”, because I don’t.

People ask me how reviews are going, and I say, “As they always do,” because how could it be otherwise?

Because it’s a book, a story, a subjective thing, and some people like my writing and some people don’t and there is nothing at all I can do about that. What I can do is try and make the way that I write the very best version of itself it can be, and that’s something I work on every day. (Except for now. Because now is life-rather-than-writing. As I have said too many times already and will not mention again.) Continue reading

The Year of Taking a Deep Breath …

… and writing a great many things …

… is here. It’s here.

What is she talking about? you mutter.

Upon which I refer you to my earlier post, The Year of Doing Way Too Much and Nowhere Near Enough.

And then I say this:

In 1999, in an airport departure lounge, I scribbled the beginnings of what would eventually become my first poem.

In 2001, I said out loud to someone for the very first time that I was interested in maybe writing something one day. I remember this very clearly for reasons I will save for a future blog post.

In later 2001, I had an idea for a picture book, and thought it was excellent and bound to be published.

From 2001-2006, I collected approximately 762 rejection letters for that picture book, other picture books, chapter books, Young Adult novels, and novels of indeterminate genre and readership. I also published a few poems.

In 2007, my first novel, Annabel, Again, was published.

In later 2007, my poetry collection, Cleanskin, was published.

                     2782WALK_AnnabelFULL02.indd    Cleanskinhires

From 2008-2015, I published a further 11 books for children and a far-too-small handful of poems.

books

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The Year of Doing Way Too Much & Nowhere Near Enough

So it’s come to this, November. Or perhaps I should call you by your real name — almost-December-dear-god-where-has-the-year-gone?

2016 has been a year of many things. But mostly of two things, which are subtly connected. For me it will go down as i) The Year of Doing Way Too Much and ii) The Year of Not Writing the Novel I Should Have Written Long Ago (subtitle dear-god-where-has-the-year gone-is-that-my-editor-coming-quick-everybody-hide!).

In 2016, I encountered a perfect and unrelenting storm of day job and volunteer work and family stuff and RSI and book-related commitments and assorted essential but fundamentally not-writing administrivia, all of which combined to leave me with an amount of head-space/writing time which can be best characterised as nowhere near enough.

Herewith a Twitter-ish chronicle of my descent into chaos…

tweets2

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The (Not-So) Accidental Aurealis

Last week two things happened:

i) This shiny trophy arrived in the post! A Single Stone won the Best Children’s Fiction category of the 2015 Aurealis Awards. This was a mighty fine thing and I’m very grateful to everyone involved.

Aurealis ASingleStone_HiRes

Podcast

ii) I was featured in The Australian Writers Centre’s “So You Want to be a Writer” podcast series, which was also a mighty fine thing and a lot of fun to do.

These two things are directly connected. It was the exposure generated by the award that put me on the AWC’s radar as a potential interviewee.

But they’re indirectly connected, too. During the interview, I became aware of a pattern in my responses. When the interviewer, Allison Tait, asked me how I became a children’s writer, I replied that it was sort of accidental. When she asked how it was that I started writing poetry, I replied that it was sort of accidental. We ended up joking about this; we even came up with a potentially excellent future book title: The Accidental Everything. 

(Which I immediately claimed, so back right off, writers!)

And then I started thinking about the Aurealis Award, and how I’d said in my acceptance speech that I hadn’t set out to write speculative fiction, that it had just sort of happened.

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The UK Has Me Covered

As 2016 rolls on, I’m getting ready for the UK release of A Single Stone.

One of my favourite parts of this process is seeing the different ways in which the same book is packaged for new markets.

With Surface Tension, I loved my original cover so much I couldn’t imagine an alternative. And then when I was presented with the US version – which ended  up having both a new cover and a new title – I surprised myself by loving it equally, and differently.

SurfaceTensionhires     Belowhires

In this case, we’ve kept the title, but opted for a new cover. And here I am again – loving the Australian cover of A Single Stone, being incredulous at the prospect of a change …

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Ten Years and Counting …

To quote one of the great philosophers of our time, Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.

Ten years ago, I was feeling a bit discouraged. I’d been submitting work to publishers for a few years and had amassed a thick folder of rejection letters. There were a few personal notes in there, too — a few “Not for us but keep writing!”-type comments, a few “Revise and resubmit?” requests.

I felt like I was close, but also that I could stay close for the term of my natural life, that there was no guarantee a door would open for me, ever. I had begun wondering how much longer I could justify putting time into this writing thing for nil return. I was working long hours in academia; I had a young child. I was stealing time from all over the place in order to indulge this … whatever this was.

I knew I’d never stop writing, never stop jotting down small fragments here and there. But maybe I should stop trying to shape them into stories; maybe I should stick with poetry, which was where I’d started, after all.

Two months later, I signed a contract with Walker Books Australia to publish my first novel, Annabel, Again.

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So That Just Happened … and also that

It’s been a busy few days. It began on Friday morning when I sat bolt upright at 3am and realised the year was drawing to a close and my annual carbon footprint was altogether too small.

Happily, this was easily remedied. I rolled out of bed and drove immediately to Perth airport. I flew across the country and all the way up to Brisbane. Then I drove to a hotel, stayed overnight, and at the crack of dawn, flew home to Perth again. And just like that, I was back on track.

While I was in Brisbane, a ridiculous thing happened, and it looked a bit like this:

QLA2    20151013_091353

A Single Stone was announced as the winner of the Griffith University Children’s Book Award at the Queensland Literary Awards!

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Shifty Shades of Grey

A while ago, I joked about having jumped on the dystopian bandwagon. But the truth is that post is a little disingenuous, because I don’t think A Single Stone is really a dystopian narrative. The furthest I would go is to describe it as “speculative fiction with dystopian elements”.

Oh, what’s the difference? Why split hairs?

In the first place, because if ever there is a hair to be split, I will pierce it with a fine-gauge needle. It’s just what I do.

And in the second, because the difference is important.

A true dystopia is exactly as it sounds, an anti-utopia, a “not-good place” to coin a literal translation. And I can categorically say that no world I ever write will be either utopian or dystopian. Because those terms imply a certainty about what’s good and bad, and those definitive, clear-cut divisions aren’t at all interesting to me.

What’s interesting to me are the shifty shades of grey, the ambiguities. I am categorically not interested in categorical statements, worlds, or characters; I want the stories that crawl out of the spaces in between, a world whose value system balances on their edge.

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The Real Mica Mines

I recently received a question from a reader that stopped me in my tracks. When I was writing A Single Stone, she asked, did I know about children mining mica in India? She included a link to a newspaper article entitled, “India’s mica mines: The shameful truth behind mineral makeup’s shimmer” In reply, I said two things: Wow and I had no idea. In A Single Stone, young girls tunnel deep into mountains to harvest a mineral called mica. I chose to use this real-world mineral name for a few simple reasons:

  • Since childhood, I have thought of it as fool’s gold – bright and shiny but essentially valueless
  • It forms flakes and sheetsImage result for mica flakes
  • I liked the way the word sounded

It’s possible that some of these reasons are more compelling than others. Although I gave my mineral a real name, for the purposes of the narrative I invested it with some fictional properties. In hindsight, I’m not sure why I didn’t just invent something entirely fictional, as I did for some other elements in the story. Not having done so, there was now this unexpected real-world connection, about which I felt a little uneasy.

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Behind the Cover

With A Single Stone making its way out into the world, I’ve been thrilled to hear that the cover is attracting a lot of praise. As someone who isn’t a visual thinker at all, I have very little involvement in the design process. When I’m writing (and reading) I don’t picture the setting or characters; even at the end of my sixty-third draft, I generally have no idea what people look like or where they are. This leads to my editor guiding me into the sixty-fourth draft with questions like, But how could they possibly see him from there? and Just how big is this valley anyway?

For this reason, among others, I’m perfectly happy to let designers and illustrators get on with their work independently. Once there’s a draft on the table, or early sketches, I might start to have some input, but until then, I’m completely content to leave things in the hands of others. As a result, I generally have no insight at all into how the design process works. And for that reason, I was absolutely thrilled when Gayna Murphy did this wonderful blog on how she went about designing the cover for A Single Stone.

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