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
In case anyone needed more evidence that responses to art are subjective, Below recently featured on two unexpected – and surprisingly juxtaposed – 2013 wrap-up lists.
List the First: “Best Book Covers of 2013”
List the Second: “Best Book Hidden Under the Worst Cover”
While I’m genuinely surprised by the second one, I do sort of love that it fits with the notion of things being hidden below the surface, which is central to the story in Below.
With Below having been out in the US for a couple of months now, reviews have been coming in, and it’s made me realise something.
I was nervous about this book.
That is perhaps a little odd as it’s been out for two years in Australia already. It’s had plenty of reviews and feedback from readers over here. I’m not sure why I felt nervous about the US release; it just somehow felt like I was diving into a different sort of pond. Even though Candlewick had already published my picture book No Bears and chapter book Duck for a Day, there was something different about this, perhaps more of myself in this work somehow.
Two bears, actually. On the CBCA Book of the Year Shortlist.
I was out when the announcements were made, and I’m not a smartphone kind of girl. So I found out via text message and slightly garbled phone calls (Frané Lessac, I’m looking at you!). First, someone told me that both Surface Tension and No Bears had made it onto the Notables list. I was thrilled by this.
Later, other texts started coming in. No Bears had made the Shortlist too. Wonderful. Amazing.
In two categories. Early Childhood and Picture Book. What?
I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be reviewed. Partly in response to recent conversations with some other writers, and partly in response to, well, being reviewed.
The result is a three-way blogapalooza in which myself, Anna Branford, and Sally Murphy, decided we would gather, and post, our thoughts on this topic with a view to starting a conversation between ourselves, and perhaps others. So after you’ve read this, it might be interesting for you to head over to their blogs, too. I know I’m about to. I haven’t read their takes on the issue, and I’m sure we’ve all taken a very different approach to things.
To begin with, I suspect I’m not alone in having a somewhat ambivalent relationship to reviews. Writers need them, of course. We need people to notice our work – to read it, engage with it, hold it up to the light for others.
Maybe I should re-frame that: to pass judgement. Isn’t that what a review does, after all? Isn’t that what a review is for?
In an earlier post, I mentioned having been told that Surface Tension had apparently received a “cracker of a review”, but that I hadn’t yet seen it. I’ve now seen it, and a couple of others too, and am so thrilled with the response this book seems to be eliciting so far.
So this is a wholly self-serving post to gleefully report on those reviews and bombard you with my favourite pull-quotes from same.
#1 From Bookseller+Publisher:
Surface Tension is a wonderfully layered story—reading it is like being gradually immersed in a pool of water as each layer of the narrative slowly washes over you. The writing is so gentle that the mystery at the heart of this book is as much a surprise to the reader as it is to Cassie, our protagonist, when piece by piece it floats to the surface before her … There isn’t a dull moment in this book.
If you’re wondering why I’m looking so tanned and relaxed it’s because I’ve been in Broome! Okay, it was only for three days and there wasn’t much time for lying around in the sun, but it was a fantastic trip nonetheless. I spent time with Years 8 and 9 from Broome Senior High School, then an afternoon with some keen readers and writers from Cable Beach Primary School. We talked about how stories get started – about images that fall into your head and priests on oceanic balloon flights and chihuahuas that get blown away in storms and about ways in which you can take all your wild and crazy ideas and turn them into stories.
Have been Googling “Cleanskin” in an attempt to find reviews, blog posts etc on my poetry collection for the publisher to use in their grant acquittal.
Here’s how it goes:
Search Term: Cleanskin
Search Results: Quality Australian wines from $5.99 a bottle.
Me: Hmm, I wouldn’t mind a glass of red.
Repeat. Repeat again. Forget what I was doing in the first place.
Of course, I could just add “McKinlay” into the search string, but that wouldn’t be anywhere near as much fun.
Note to self: do not choose book titles that remind you of red wine. Alternatively, be more self-disciplined.
A while back, my editor called to tell me that “Annabel got a gumnut!”. My brain cast around for possibilities – was this perhaps the premise for a new, Enid Blyton-style story? Had Annabel, Again sold into a country with an anti-pistachio bias and had to undergo some editorial changes (which I would happily accept! Call me, anti-pistachio nations!)? Then she explained that no, it had simply been reviewed in the Children’s Book Council journal Reading Time, in which gumnuts are awarded to recommended books.
I haven’t seen the review, though I’m happy to have it, of course, but more than that, I guess I just wanted to say that it is a peculiarly lovely thing to work in an industry where praise is awarded on a sliding scale of gumnuts.