Publishing with Penguin Books Australia

Publishing with Penguin Books Australia

I am proud to announce that I have a contract with Penguin Books Australia for a non-fiction book, Horse Rescue Stories.

I have been working on the book for most of this year and have been travelling around the country and interviewing, photographing and meeting some wonderful people who have rescued a horse. The focus of the book, a topic close to my heart, is the way in which a rescued horse changes the person’s life, just as much as the person changes the horse’s life.

I am so very proud to be working on this book, a project I didn’t go looking for but that came to me in one of those fantastically serendipitous ways, and am really looking forward to bringing these stories to you. Stay tuned for updates!

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Letting a Book Go

Before

I really haven’t solved the question of how to let books go.

Some of you may remember the picture I posted a while ago of my bookcase, overflowing with books. And you may remember that I ended up simply buying another bookcase instead of letting any of the original books go.

Well… some months on… my husband and I are in a wild de-cluttering frenzy at the moment, in part because we’d like to move house by the end of this year and our rationale has become ‘if we were to move house tomorrow, would we take this with us?’

The main bookcase has long been in need of de-cluttering but we’ve managed to do wild cleaning out of the kitchen pantry, cupboards, the shed and various drawers, each day passing stressful eyes over the bookcase, which has sat there silently, reminding us to do something about it. (We couldn’t even open the doors safely for the books that came hurtling out towards us.)

Yesterday, we finally did something. And we talked a lot about the process and just why is was so damn hard to let a book–any book–go from our life. We love books. We value books. We treasure books. We see books as artworks, repositories of wisdom and knowledge. But it’s more than that. Every book we’ve read becomes a part of us. And we become a part of that book. We give a piece of ourself to the book and the book becomes a piece of us. Letting go of a book is like letting go of a friend, a memory, a sensory experience.

After

What do you do with the books that you re-read every few years or so? Or the books that you adored but will probably never read again but still can’t stand to let go? Or the novels that you probably won’t read again but you feel you should keep ‘just in case’ you need them as references when writing your own stories? Or the books from childhood that shaped your imagination and spirit but that are literally falling apart and mouldy?

The de-cluttering resulted in three massive horse-feed bags filled with novels and non-fiction to be donated and a whole lot of space left in our precious bookcase for more gifts to come into our life. But it didn’t happen without vigorous debate, considerable angst and even some tears. It was a deeply emotional experience. Letting go of a book is not just letting go of a ‘thing’; it’s letting go of a living energy.

I still don’t know how to do it. We just did it as best we could: messily, angrily, sadly, and hopefully.

The only bright side in saying goodbye to these friends is that new ones will soon be here.

 

Queensland Writers Centre Blog Tour, coming to a blog near you

The wonderful people at the Queensland Writers Centre have invited me to be a part of their blog tour, running from October until December 2009. I was a little surprised but also delighted to be considered part of the tour. The idea is that they ask me six questions and I answer them …

Where do your words come from?

Passion. Anything that I am passionate about eventually bubbles its way to the surface and wakes me in the middle of the night until I do something about it.

Where did you grow up and where do you live now?

I grew up on the north side of Brisbane. Last year we moved to Blackbutt, which is only two and a half hours north-west of Brisbane, yet because it is inland (rather than straight up the coast), somehow receives very few services. (We won’t, for example, be included in the mass government upgrade to internet services that’s on its way.) But we have six acres of land that we are steadily filling with four-legged furry children and that makes us happy.

What’s the first sentence/line of your latest work?

There’s a moment when you know you’re going to fall off a horse.

This is from my current work in progress, a YA novel set in the late 1950s in rural Australia.

What piece of writing do you wish you had written?

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. No one could read this book and not be touched by plight of horses and the overall themes of the need for compassion for every living being. And the character of Ginger’s story in particular… oh, it still makes me cry just thinking about it.

More recently, the Ingo series by Helen Dunmore. These are engrossing children’s fantasy books about our oceans and people’s responsibility towards them and their inhabitants.

(There’s a bit of an animal/environmental theme going on here…)

What are you currently working towards?

In writing, I am working towards a series of YA novels set across three time periods in rural Australia. In life in general, I am working towards feeling compassion and kindness to every living being (which is more difficult with the humans). Right now, I am setting up a new charity for the rescue and rehabilitation of abused, neglected and homeless horses.

Complete this sentence… the future of the book is…

enduring.

This post is part of the Queensland Writers Centre blog tour, happening October to December 2009. To follow the tour, visit Queensland Writers Centre’s blog The Empty Page.

Distilling the Memoir

I have a memoir that I began working on so many years ago that I’m not sure when exactly it began. I do know that I haven’t worked on it for over a year. But it calls to me every now and then and I have been hearing its voice recently, calling me to mend it.

I realise that right now, I have lavender, but what I really need is the essential oil. I need to distill the words—-steam them open to release their fragrant workings and healing properties. Right now, the words are pretty, waving in the breeze and showing their colours. But they are a little weed infested and we are held back from reaching the richness of the scent within. img_0348 

A memoir is a difficult thing. For me, it is the  most challenging of all the genres of work I have begun and finished. More than any other form of writing, it is terribly difficult to gain perspective on something that is so personal. And it involves so much going back rather than moving forward. 

But the bees are buzzing around my words, spreading pollen and helping my little flowers to grow—-hopefully into something beautiful.

Authors sponsored like sports stars!

I look forward to the day when I read that headline in a newspaper.

Since my last post when I wondered whether Pilot might like to sponsor an emerging author with a lifetime of her favourite pens I have thought about this a bit more.

Why can’t authors be sponsored like swimmers or tennis players? We could get clothes sporting brand names like Pilot or Apple or Dell (terribly fashionable and tasteful of course… not like the sweat bands the tennis stars get!!). We could have holidays from hotels and resorts that would like to be featured in a novel. We could be given laptops and printers and training all courtesy of our sponsor. In return we would credit them in the acknowledgements pages or even feature them within the book.

I know this change has already begun. Some novelists have agreed to put people’s names into their books and use them as minor characters. They do this either for straight payments or for donations to their favourite charities (as Marian Keyes did in This Charming Man).

It could be a form of product placement just as they do in movies.

Besides which loads of writing contests already restrict their entries to certain themes that are designed to promote their agenda. You could say that about One Book Many Brisbanes (of which I am a winner and therefore declare my interest in the comp) and I was happy to write about a city I love and bank the prize cheque thanks very much. Why not??

Do I think this type of sponsorship is open to corruption of a story? Quite frankly no. An author’s first responsibility is to her characters and storyline. Any ‘product placement’ that interferes with a story is likely to turn off the reader and the whole point of sponsorship like this is that company’s want readers. Non-fiction material could be a completely different matter (and would fall into the same ethical dilemmas as journalism). But fiction… I say go for it.

Now if I could just get Pilot onboard with this I would never again have to throw a teeny tiny tantrum because I can’t find my favourite pen.