Your Book Week Costume Sorted

It’s that time of the year folks: time to wrangle some crepe paper, sticky tape and random things you put at the back of the cupboard thinking ‘I’ll use that for Book Week’ five years ago and forgot about. Sure, your kids might be at uni now, but what student doesn’t want to add a bit of colour to their tutorial and really make a bold statement about how much they love Australian children’s literature? If you’re looking for some inspiration – and lets face it, there’s only so many times you can send your kid in a panda onesie claiming that Kung Fu Panda is actually adapted from a book – look no further, because I have your costume sorted. Why not go with a One Would Think the Deep theme? There’s not even any need to dress your kid up as the Leviathan, you can simply pop them into this tidy costume design conceived by One Would Think the Deep‘s cover designer Astred Cherry.

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Happy Book Week everyone, it’s the only week that matters. And if you’re interested, I still have some slots available for Book Week school visits, just click on ‘School Visits’ at the top of the page. I might even wear my costume.

About

My latest novel, One Would Think the Deep (UQP) was awarded the 2017 CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers, was shortlisted for the 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for Young Adult Readers, the 2016 Queensland Literary Award – Young Adult Literature, and the 2017 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

The Protected  (UQP) won the 2015 Prime Minister’s Literary Award for young adult fiction, the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year (older readers), the 2015 Victorian Premier’s Award for young adult literature and has been shortlisted for the Gold Inky Award.

My first novel The Sky So Heavy (UQP) was published in 2013. It was awarded Honour Book by the Children’s Book Council of Australia and shortlisted for both the Gold Inky and the Aurealis Award (Young Adult).

 

I am foremost a writer of young adult fiction, but you don’t have to be a young adult to read my stuff; you could be a middle-aged uncle, or a nanna, or thirtyish professional water-skier with a passion for hot housed orchids.

I am available for school visits and festivals again!

IMG-0584Hey! I am available for school visits and festivals again! If you’d like to book for a school visit contact The Children’s Bookshop Speakers Agency on (02) 9481 8811 OR Booked Out (03) 9824 0177. If you are a festival organiser please contact my publisher, University of Queensland Press. PLEASE DON’T CONTACT ME DIRECTLY, I am terrible at organising things!

‘One Would Think the Deep’ to be published in the UK!

Here’s some thrilling news for your Wednesday: (Okay, probably more thrilling for me than you. Still.) If you couldn’t tell from the title of this blog, One Would Think the Deep is to be published in the UK by Ransom Publishing in August. August! That’s really soon in the publishing world and I know the people at Ransom have been staying up and working through the night for weeks to ensure its speedy delivery to UK readers. (This may be an exaggeration. I don’t know. I just imagine them working all night because they are very excited about the book.) You can read their write-up about One Would Think the Deep on their blog here.

If you are in the UK go and preorder it now, for goodness sake. You’ll bloody love it.

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2017 White Ravens

I’m absolutely thrilled that One Would Think the Deep has been included in the 2017 White Ravens catalogue. As explained in the catalogue:

The White Ravens catalogue is the most important annual publication of the International Youth Library. It aims to promote quality in children’s book publishing and has become increasingly useful tool for anyone interested in looking beyond national borders. This year, the White Ravens contain a selection of 200 notable children’s and young adult books from 56 countries published in 38 languages.

The other featured Australian titles are Somewhere Else by Gus Gordon, Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall, and The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard.

More information can be found at http://www.ijb.de/home.html

Prime Minister’s Literary Award!

IMG_20171119_095730_001Hey there readers, I am utterly thrilled to announce that One Would Think the Deep has been shortlisted for the 2017 Prime Minister’s Lit Award for Young Adult Fiction! The awards are announced at 10am, Friday 1st of December at Parliament House. Hopefully there will be scones. A huge congrats must go to my fellow shortlistees – it’s quite a formidable list and I am honoured to be in the company of such quality writers. Claire x

I’m very behind in this, BUT look! It’s the Children’s Book Council Book of the Year!

Screenshot_2017-11-23-10-08-16If you have wandered around this site a little, you might have come across a post from almost exactly a year ago which explains how I came to be hospitalised for some pretty darn serious mental health issues. The good news is that I’m doing a whole lot better and hopefully I will be able to resume school visits and festival appearances. I’m writing again and also working on another super exciting (and slightly terrifying) non-YA project due for publication late next year. Things are however, still a little up and down and I know I have been erratic when it comes to posting here. Anyway, in case you missed it, One Would Think the Deep was awarded the 2017 Children’s Book Council Book of the Year for Older Readers, way back in August. It was and still is this surreal, oddly shaped thing that I’m having trouble filing appropriately in my head after such a tumultuous and frankly traumatic year. But there you go. Cx

Little J & Big Cuz is the most important show on television

Kids are obsessive creatures. At the moment my five year-old is hooked on the ABC animation Little J & Big Cuz. If you don’t spend a lot of your time overhearing children’s television programs, let me explain: Little J & Big Cuz follows the adventures of the title characters, aged five and nine, in their outback community. Little J & Big Cuz live with Nana and Old Dog (who has caused debate amongst my kids as to whether he is actually talking out loud or the audience just happens to be privy to his musings). As described by its creators: ‘Little J and Big Cuz are busy with the ups and downs of playground and classroom. There’s always something surprising going on, whether it’s at school, in the backyard or beyond… With the help on Nanna and Ms Chen, Little J and Big Cuz are finding out all about culture, community and country.’  It is the first Australian animation aimed at an Indigenous audience with almost exclusively Indigenous characters. It was created by Indigenous director Tony Thorne and written by Indigenous writers from across the country. The cast features celebrated actors such as Deborah Mailman and Miranda Tapsell. actf_news_little_j_big_cuz_premiere

While the show may be aimed at a young Indigenous audience, it has picked up a significant number of non-Indigenous viewers like my son, who was introduced to it at preschool, where there has been a strong focus on Indigenous culture and history recently. For example, the kids recently experienced an Aboriginal smoking ceremony and now begin each day with an acknowledgement of country. My son doesn’t view Little J & Big Cuz as a show about Aboriginal people. He views it as a show about people. He doesn’t seem to have a partition between white and black cultures, instead he relates strongly to the character of Little J because they are both five and interact with the world the way five year-olds do. The show is important foremost because it gives Indigenous kids the opportunity to see themselves reflected in story, something intrinsically valuable to all children and young people, but its impact on non-Indigenous kids cannot be overstated.

Storytelling is vital to human experience because it gives the gift of empathy. It allows audiences to view the world through the eyes of someone else. It breaks down the barriers between ‘us and them’, barriers which cause unending amounts of suffering throughout the world and all human existence. It demolishes modes of dehuminisation.

While watching Little J & Big Cuz I cannot help but contrast my son’s childhood interaction and experience of Indigenous culture and history with my own. I, like many of us, was a kid in a time before welcome to country statements were introduced in a significant and widespread way. My first earliest memory of learning about Aboriginal culture is a lesson in year two about why there is an Aboriginal man on the two dollar coin, I don’t remember anything after that until year six when an Indigenous elder visited, showed us how to throw a boomerang and played the didgeridoo. He spoke about how men were allowed to play, but not women. Most of the student chatter afterwards was about how sexist he was.

Australian history was taught through the lens of white experience: Captain Cook founded our country, the ‘first settlers’ were a bunch of white blokes who arrived in boats and carried guns. In year eight  there was a brief module in history class about the suffering inflicted on the Indigenous population by the early settlers. It was an awkward, stilted chapter in our history textbook. (Fortunately it was my art teacher who gave the most powerful and vital insight into Indigenous history and experience. She did it through artworks, most significantly Gordon Bennet’s Outsider.)

By contrast, my son is taught about the impact of white settlement on Sorry Day, he is given the opportunity to be immersed in Indigenous stories and culture, he can recite the story of how birds got their colours whenever we see a rainbow lorikeet. He does not view Indigenous people as victims, instead he is educated in their history beyond the genocide which was suffered at the hands of white man. He sees Little J as like himself: a five year-old boy who likes adventures. He knows Little J’s life is a bit different to his own, but these differences bring curiosity rather than animosity in a way which can only be achieved through that most vital part of human experience: story.

The work in healing the wounds inflicted upon Indigenous people by white man is not done and probably never will be, but stories like that of Little J and Big Cuz are a vital ingredient to the process.

Little J & Big Cuz can be found on ABC2 and iView. More information can be found at https://www.littlejandbigcuz.com.au/

Thank You

Hey people,

I just wanted to thank you all for the amazing response I received after I wrote my previous blog post. The messages of support – including many from the amazing community of YA writers – have been overwhelming in a really really good way.

I’m currently doing okay. It’s up and down and the road to recovery isn’t quite as short as I would like it to be, but I am blessed with a beautiful, supportive family and amazing friends. At the moment I am focusing on my recovery so I’m a bit quiet on the social media front. I’m writing when I can, but I’ve found the most helpful thing for me at the moment is drawing and painting. Some of you may be aware I’m working on a picture book; it’s about octopuses, because they are frigging amazing and peculiar creatures. If you follow me on Instagram at claire_zorn you can catch the occasional glimpse of my work.

Claire x

So Much to Tell You* (Hi from the psych hospital. No really.)

First up: if this post raises any concerns for you please, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue 1300 224 636 or if you’re a young adult you can visit www.headspace.org.au

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Hey people. It’s been a really long time. It’s been a long time since I met any readers, visited a high school or did a festival. I have three books sitting on a desk in my hospital room. I wrote them all. My name is on the cover. I have them here to remind me what my mind is capable of because  none of the author stuff – the festivals, the workshops, even the actual writing – feels real anymore. But I must have done it, because there those books are, on my desk as well as on shelves in people’s homes and bookshops. (Forgive me if my sentences are a little clunky, there are a lot of meds doing a lot of funny things in my brain right now.)  The Protected  even won The Prime Minister’s literary award, the CBCA Book of the Year, the Victorian Premier’s Award and the WA Premier’s Book Prize! That’s a lot. And it’s a bloody great height to fall from, but here we are. Or here I am.

Early one Friday morning in July I was in the car on the way to do a school visit when I got a sudden sharp achy pain in my chest and found I couldn’t breathe properly. This was accompanied by a strange liquidy hot swooshing sensation that flooded my chest, limbs and brain.  At first I thought I must have drunk my coffee too quickly. It had been such a long time since I’d had any issues with anxiety that it took me a while to realise it was a rather acute panic attack. I started to cry, consumed with the most potent terror imaginable. I pulled over. I breathed slowly and deeply. I waited for it to pass, drove to the school, did three talks on auto-pilot and a (hopefully) convincing impression of someone who is completely mentally sound. (I’ve had a lot of practice at that. I don’t know if that’s the right spelling of the word ‘practice’ in this context. I don’t care.)

I came home, had pizza and watched TV. I looked forward to the next day. But the next morning, and the morning after that, the panic was back: a great snarling black monster squirming through my body squeezing my chest and turning all the lights out in my mind.

Initially my doctor chalked it up to exhaustion. That didn’t really make sense to me because in the weeks leading up to this point I had felt better than I think I ever have in my whole life. I was super motivated, I was writing lots, drawing and painting lots, and had become very, very enthusiastic about house plants. I really wanted to believe it was exhaustion. That meant I just needed to rest and I would be sweet.

I rested. I rested really hardcore. But it didn’t make any difference. I’d have a week or so of classic anxiety, panic attacks, then sobbing and hideous depression; only for it to lift as suddenly as it had started and I’d go back feeling totally fine. This went on, up and down through July , August and September like the most hideous, poorly designed and possibly deadly rollercoaster you can imagine. (My simile game is weak at the moment, forgive me.)  Every time I thought I had come good and the glitch in my system had passed, it would bowl me over again.

I had to pull out of Byron Bay Writer’s festival. I had to cancel school visits and all my bookings for Book Week. That was the worst. I hate letting people down. I hate pulling out of commitments. I got an email from a devastated reader who had been looking forward to seeing me in Byron. I cried while I read it. I’ve been composing something in reply over and over in my head ever since, but I can’t get the words right. I like to get the words right. It’s kind of my job.

We thought maybe it was a series of viruses. We thought maybe it was something to do with meds. (Which I have taken diligently for years and up until now have served me very well.) My doc ran tests. Maybe it was my thyroid. Maybe it was diabetes. Maybe it was a brain tumour!

The MRI showed no tumour, which was good. But I longed for an answer.

(My GP, I should add, is amazing. But it’s hard to diagnose the bizarre array of symptoms I was experiencing. I was also in complete denial that it was anything wrong with my mental health, it was far more appealing for me to believe (and insist) that this was something that had gone physically wrong in my body.)

I did make it to Melbourne Writers’ Festival where I did my sessions in a daze, signed books on auto-pilot then went back to the hotel, curled in a ball and wailed. Like really ugly snotty crying, not at all dignified or glamorous; even though it was the Sofitel, which is a really, really fancy place.

I went on a European holiday with my husband and sons. We used a bit of the prize money from The Protected to go to Amsterdam, Berlin and Italy. We had some really fun times. I also had some of the absolute worst times I’d ever experienced – it’s a very special thing to have a prolonged panic/anxiety attack in the Van Gough museum while looking at the paintings poor bloody Vincent did when he was losing his own mind.

About ten days ago the rollercoaster threw me off and I was left crumpled on the floor. I couldn’t battle it anymore. I couldn’t do anything except cry and think horrible, catastrophic thoughts. All the lights went out.

So here I am in a psychiatric hospital. God has been very gracious and kind to me. If I hadn’t won those prizes I wouldn’t have been able to afford it and trust me, anyone who has ever been in a public psych ward knows you need years of therapy to get over the experience of being in a public psych ward. This hospital is a really nice one, it has good food, a gym and wifi. It is staffed with kind people who are skilled in caring for those of us who have had a run in with a rollercoaster. (That metaphor really is all I got right now, apologies.)

I’m okay. The word ‘bipolar’ is being used and that’s scary, but it’s an answer to the truly baffling experience that has been my life since July. Also, Stephen Fry has bipolar and he seems to be managing, right? I mean, the constant reruns of QI are excruciating, but I would like to have him to a dinner party. (Him and Jesus. And Truman Capote. And Rob Brydon. And Felicty Ward.)

The main reason I am writing this post (which is the only thing I have written since July) is because it’s really super important to break the stigma about mental illness. It’s very easy when you’re really down or anxious to think that everyone else in the world has it together and you are the only one not coping and therefore there is no way out for you. Do I need to list the awards again? (I don’t mind, really.) This shit can happen to anyone. Talk about it. If you are feeling like you’ve been thrown off the rollercoaster (Oh yeah, I’m still flogging that one.) tell someone. If they don’t take you seriously, tell someone else. Tell your parents, a sibling, a teacher, a friend, your doctor, or that weird aunt with a lot of house plants. Speak up. They won’t think you’re a drama queen, a freak, a nut job, or weak. They will think you are human.

Claire x

*Title is a homage to one of the writers who made me want to be a writer, John Marsden. I tried ‘Looking for Claire Zorn’ in honour of Melina Marchetta but it didn’t have the same ring to it.