I was lucky enough to be profiled in Pass It On, a premier Australian's Children's Book Industry E-Zine. To read the article, have a look at the following link!
I was thrilled to receive an email in March telling me that I was being invited to present at the 2018 Australian Literacy Educator's Association in Perth. And a little terrified.
I've never been off the Eastern seaboard of Australia, let alone totally across the country. And although I'm a teacher and stand in front of an audience every day, there's something about presenting to your peers that is just bone-chilling. I'm that kid. You know, the one who avoids eye contact with the person holding the microphone at the professional development sessions. The one who'd rather sink into the floor than go on stage at a school assembly.
Yet, in July this year I'll be speaking to an undetermined number of people. Undetermined! *Deep breaths* My topic is 'Bringing Shakespeare into the 21st Century', so at least that's right up my alley. Well, it should be. I created it. But the concept and the execution are two very different things.
Isn't it weird and funny that a teacher (nay, career public speaker), can be so daunted by stage appearances? It's something I struggle with constantly, but I know I'm not alone. This year I will overcome that fear, I will succeed where I've been too scared to before. My knees may be knocking together, and I may be afraid I'll vomit, but I will get up on that stage and deliver a speech on a topic I'm very passionate about.
I won't think about the video cameras recording me. Not one bit.
I'm so honoured to have been asked and to be included in this year's line up of brilliant national and international speakers, all of whom are passionate about literacy among young people. I can't wait to be a part of it.
The night before a book release is a bit like many of the other exciting things we go through in life. First day of school...first day at a new job. What if people don’t like me? What if I don’t fit in?
A second book is different to the first one. People give you leniency in primary school, because you’re young and inexperienced. You need help to get where you’re going, and people readily provide it. The second book is a little scarier. It’s a bit like starting high school, or changing schools. You’ve done it once, so you should be fine to do it again. People step back and let you have a little more freedom, a little more leeway. But you still need them, because the nerves are still there. They’re still like gigantic butterflies trying to fly out of your stomach.
Writing a book is like pouring a little of your soul into the pages that others pick up and read. So much work goes into one little thing, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the effort, or play it down. I’m the worst culprit for it, ironically. There’s so much vulnerability already, with your soul out there, dancing around among your colleagues, friends and family that you don’t want to open yourself up to potential rejection. So when people congratulate you on your achievement, it’s easier to play it down, to be cool. Then there’s less chance they’ll think you’re conceited, or full of yourself. It will be safer.
But you know what? Life is too short not to celebrate our achievements. The goals we reach and the levels of life that we unlock. Writing is a dream I’ve always had, I just didn’t know if I had the guts to do it. Well now, here we are. For better or worse, Book Two launches tomorrow, and I really hope it’s as good as the first. I hope I make someone smile, or laugh. I hope I make them love my characters, and to wish for the best for them. I hope the messages I’ve tried to embed in the plot line give someone hope that they’re on the right track, doing the right thing.
So, on the eve of its launch, here’s to Book Two: Scourge of Scotland. There goes another little piece of my heart ❤️
Thanks to the insanely talented Meg Jolly, the new deluxe hardcover of Vault of Verona is now available! It's absolutely gorgeous, and gives readers a new option to enjoy. The cover is my artistic vision for how Harriet would have looked as she stepped back in time to Verona. Young, innocent and a little out of her depth, but still persevering. I hope you love it as much as I do!
In other news, the sequel to VoV, Scourge of Scotland, is due for release on 5 February 2018. It's been through the first stages of editing and the storyline is even more intense, more involved, than Vault of Verona was. There are more twists and turns - and perhaps even a love interest for Harriet (ooooooooh!).
If you would like to be considered for an ARC (advanced reader copy), please send your details to firstname.lastname@example.org with 'ARC' in the subject header. ARCs are likely to be distributed around the middle of January, so keep an eye on your inbox! In return, all I ask is that you provide a review of the new book :)
Thank you to everyone for your support this year...2017 has been a massive year with a lot of 'firsts', a lot of hurdles and challenges, but it has been so rewarding. I'm looking forward to another fantastic year in 2018 with all of you along for the ride!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As a tutor and teacher of literacy, the concept of using your imagination is huge. We teach our kids to work out for themselves what a character looks like, how the scenery will unfold and the twists and turns in plot lines. So...does showing the author's version of a character take that away from the reader?
You might have noticed that the covers of my novels are quite plain...very film noir with the dark backgrounds and pop of colour unique to each book in the series. I was 100% against putting a person on the cover. I didn't want readers to be misled or disappointed by my vision of my characters - I wanted them to create their own. I liked the idea of mysterious archways, given that my stories are based on time travel and moving through portals.
But publishing doesn't work that way, as I'm coming to discover. Nearly every cover designer, distributor, editor and larger publishing house will tell you that unless you're a huge author with a well established following, you put a girl on the cover of your book. You can't appeal to both male and female readers, you need to stick to one or the other. Your blurb needs to be fantastic...but not so wonderful that you give away your story. Your pricing needs to be competitive, but still earn you a living. And so on.
Just as everything else in life, everyone has an opinion on what you should and shouldn't do, and it can be incredibly overwhelming. Breakdown inducing, even. But as tough as it can get, this is where you know who really has your back. Who will tell you the truth, even if they know it isn't what you want to hear. People who will listen to you - really listen - let you vent/cry/rage, then pick you up off the floor, dust you off and point you back in the right direction. Those people are rare, and they're very valuable. I got so twisted and turned around that I commissioned a new book cover in the depths of my self loathing, convinced that I had done everything wrong. And given I know what it feels like to have someone pull out of a collaboration when you're a fair way in, there was no way I was walking away from it, even though I ultimately decided to stick with my plain Jane covers.
And the result was glorious. It's not finished yet, but the artistic vision of the creator is breathtaking. She took a wishy washy, umming and ahhing brief from me about something vague that I thought I wanted and she turned it into magic. Although I'm going to release all of my books with the plain covers first, I will now have some absolutely gorgeous covers waiting in the wings to re-cover my books when I reach my first million sales (jokes!). And I still get to appeal to male and female readers - something that I am perhaps even more stubborn about than putting a girl on the cover of my books. Literacy is important to every one, regardless of gender, interest, upbringing or social status. It is SO important to give our boys books to read that they can walk around with, without fear of being shamed by their peers. Given my books are in the YA category, that is especially important to me.
SO...given all that [spoilers ahead], I have chosen to share my imagination with you. I know that some readers are very visual, and some people like to see within the mind of the author. Take JK Rowling for example. Everyone knows what Harry Potter looks like, largely because of the casting of Daniel Radcliffe in the title role. I'd like you all to meet Harriet (below), and a cast of other characters as time goes by. The next to be released will be Lady Macbeth in the new Scourge of Scotland, a story that is taking a decidedly darker turn than Vault of Verona, as befits the gloriously bloody Macbeth. I'll talk a little about her in another blog post. She's fascinating.
I hope you love my artistic vision, but always remember that as the reader, the most flattering thing you can do for an author is to create your own image of what you think the characters look like. That's authentic reading, and that's true engagement with the stories I've created.
Sigh. Not getting out of it that easily. So I carefully explained what the issue is about to both of them, keeping it as simple as I could. My daughter's response was 'why are they asking you?' - which is exactly what I think. It's none of my business and doesn't affect me in any way (yet!), so why should I be consulted? As a legal studies teacher I fully understand the process of constitutional reform (and the fact that this postal survey isn't binding, but that's another story!) - I just feel slightly holier than thou voting on someone else's ability to access basic rights.
Taking aside the religion and ethics from the issue and looking at it purely from a legal studies point of view, I am 100% an advocate for same sex marriage. Not having your significant other able to make decisions on your behalf if you're in an accident, sick or otherwise incapacitated would be terrifying. Imagine lying in a hospital bed, with the person who knows you best in the world beside you, and the administration has to call someone else who might not know you nearly as well to make decisions on your behalf. How frightening, and how insulting.
As a history teacher, I don't see the evolution of marriage to allow same sex couples to participate in the institution as any different to the strides we have made in allowing Catholics and Protestants to marry, or light and dark skinned people to marry. Those restrictions seem non-sensical to us in this day and age - and in 50 years, so too will this.
As an Australian citizen, I hope we stop this arguing and wasting of resources. I hope we stop opening up the door to hatred and instead shine a light on the beauty that is love. I REALLY hope we're not that backwards as to get this wrong with the rest of the world watching on.
I hope that yes wins, I hope that love wins, and I hope that equality wins. No matter which way you justify it.
Australia must urgently review the way that it deals with asylum seekers by looking at models and policies in other countries to inform a new strategic direction. The current criteria for successful migration policy dictates that illegal arrivals are a serious border control issue for the Australian Government. Although current Australian policies have stemmed the flow of ‘boat people’ and are therefore successful according to this criteria, these policies fail numerous other important definitions of success, including positive international relations, multicultural and inclusive communities and adherence to traditional principles of egalitarianism. For example, Australian migration policy breaches international obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, however adept it has proven to be at keeping illegal migrants out of the country. Refugees in regional processing centres, particularly children, are suffering from clinically diagnosed mental health conditions and health care professionals working in immigration detention facilities cannot fulfil their duty to act in their patients’ best interests, nor fulfil the obligations of their employment. A new immigration policy could adequately secure Australian borders, ensure human rights of asylum seekers are upheld, support economic development, improve Australia’s global reputation and set a renewed course for Australian identity.
Although I'm excited by end of term, I'm really stoked to be planning the Creative Writing Workshop for next Thursday!
Alongside Jessica Davidson, we're going to be teaching some of Bribie's best and brightest creative writing models, fleshing out characters, creating prose, drawing, editing and selecting genres.
I can't wait to see what our participants have to offer to the literary world, and I'm particularly keen to seen them enter the Literature Factory Creative Writing Competition!
Now...back to my planning!
Yesterday was nerve-racking, but fantastic! For the live interview with Emma Griffiths, see the link below. It starts a few minutes in :) Thank you so much to the ABC for the opportunity to do the interview!