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

What lovely news for a Wednesday

Hello internet. It’s day three of the school holidays and I am all out of ideas to occupy the small people. They are both still alive and nothing (including my spirit) has been broken, though. So let’s count that as a success thus far.

And* hey, Twitter just delivered some happy news! The Protected has been shortlisted for the WA Premier’s Book Awards. This book continues to prove itself to be the little book that could. I nearly threw this manuscript in the bin and gave up on writing altogether multiple times during its creation. Here’s an understatement: I’m glad I didn’t.

The other shortlisted books in the YA category are:

Croggan, Alison The River and the Book Walker Books (2015)
Groth, Darren Are You Seeing Me? Random House (2014)
Hayes, Nicole One True Thing Random House (2015)
Lawson, Sue Freedom Ride Black Dog Books, an imprint of Walker Books (2015)
Lomer, Kathryn Talk Under Water University of Queensland Press (2015)

What a top notch bunch. I am, as ever, privileged to be amongst them and to be part of the powerhouse that is Australian Young Adult fiction.

When you’re working on a big project, whether it’s writing a book, making a film or creating an album, the whole thing is a gamble. You continue to bet, often against the odds, that something will come of the pain and time you pour into it. You hope that it will find an audience of people who love it as much as you do. If you are someone who is toiling away in the pursuit of a career in the creative arts, please, please hear me when I say that hard work and determination will pay off. Ignore the pressure to ‘grow up and get a real job’. If you’re good at it, stick with it, surround yourself with people who will encourage you when it all seems hopeless and gently guide you when you’ve gone off course.

I still find myself wracked with self doubt when I’m writing. (Especially when it takes me four goes to spell the word ‘privilege’ correctly.) Being shortlisted for awards (and being fortunate enough to win a few) is encouraging beyond words.

Thank you to all the people who helped me on the road to this point. You know who you are. I’m so bloody proud of Hannah right now.

CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers – THE PROTECTED

CBCA#1Yep, this is a thing that happened. I still haven’t seen the Book of the Year sticker on the actual cover of the book, maybe it will feel more real when I do! In the meantime here’s my acceptance speech….

I often say that I write for my seventeen year-old-self, right now my seventeen year-old-self is standing here saying ‘What the frig? How did this happen?’ I’m the kid who had a panic attack in the middle of her first HSC English exam and left. I’m not here because of the wonders of our education system, I am a glitch in the system. I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of high schools recently and I’m not sure all that much has changed. When it comes to education we are very concerned with rankings and bell curves.  It’s worth noting that I was discouraged from taking on what was then called three unit Related English because my ranking wasn’t high enough. We want our kids to perform. We teach them to play Tchaikovsky by rote, but disable their ability to write their own music. I had teachers who fought against the obsession with marks and rankings and focused on nurturing my creativity, but I think that is like trying to light a candle in a cyclone, if you will allow me to get a bit Elton John.

I must thank my darling dad who told me over and over again that creativity was immeasurably valuable and must be held on to. I must thank my mum who gave the me stubbornness and determination required to pursue an artistic path.

Creative minds are vulnerable and mine has caused it’s fair share of problems, I would not have survived, much less written any books without the love and support of my husband, Nathan. Of course my thanks also go to my Publisher Kristina Schultz at UQP and my editor and coconspirator Kristy Bushnell.

I will finish by saying that this wonderful award does not qualify me to go into schools and give students the formula for a good piece of writing. I have no interest in improving their rankings. It does qualify me to visit high schools, look those kids in the eye — the off-beat ones, the weird ones, the ones who haven’t done that Biology assignment but have written 67,000 words, sometimes on their phones — and tell them that they will be okay.   To the Children’s Book Council: thank you for this award, I can not tell you how much this means to me, especially seventeen year old me.

Cutting the giant cake - a job I am well qualified for.

Cutting the giant cake – a job I am well qualified for.

Uncovered – On finding the perfect book cover and losing it

Twelve months ago I was going to do a blog about cover design for The Sky So Heavy. But I couldn’t because I was just feeling too many feelings. I’ve always found the process of book-cover design overwhelming. This goes back to high school days and ‘design the cover’ assignments. The expectation that I would put on myself would be crippling, so determined was I to get it perfect. I was a drawer and a reader, so it should have been my thing, right? RIGHT??!! To get it wrong was unthinkable. THE SHAME! The potential for me to produce a work of stunning insight was only equalled by the potential to fail. (I’m not sure that was as profound as I’d hoped it to be. See? I’m struggling. This is why I haven’t written about this before.)

When my own book is concerned it’s about a thousand times worse – if that’s even possible without full psychological breakdown. (First World Problems, anyone?) Imagine if you had to sit down and decide what you wanted your child to look like. That’s the kind of brain explosion I experience when it comes to discussions about cover concepts.

Image

If Fin got his shirt off more I could have had something like this for The Sky So Heavy. Shame.

Just to be clear, writers generally don’t design covers for their own books. (If you’re unsure as to why, check out the self-published book covers tumbler. Or just look to the left. There’s a reason professional designers have to go to uni for three years.) Book cover design is tricky and could well be the catalyst for a full-scale psychological breakdown if the level of neurosis exhibited by my fourteen-year-old self is anything to go by. But editors do have a discussion with the author about what they would like or any ideas they might have. As well as what they don’t want.

For The Sky So Heavy I really had no idea. I wanted to put it in the too-hard basket. I eventually nutted some vague ideas out with my editor and we ended up with something that I don’t love, but which seems to be selling well. Which means I’m finding my readers, so the cover’s done it’s job. It’s also worth pointing out that the process took place in the first year of my youngest son’s life, so it’s fair to say I had other priorities and only so much (read: very little) head space to devote to the whole thing.

Then along comes book two – not a sequel, but a stand-alone on which I have worked, off and on, for the last nine years. I have rewritten The Protected completely, not once, but twice. I guess you could say I’m kind of attached to it. (UNDERSTATEMENT.) I have also been far more emotionally present during the whole publishing process this time around, compared to The Sky So Heavy. I won’t go into details, but if you understand the level of pressure I put on myself when it came to designing an imaginary book cover when I was in high school, you can probably guess how my brain copes with the pressure of raising a tiny helpless baby. It’s not pretty. (There’s not going to be a trilogy as far as that narrative is concerned.)

The initial design the publisher sent to me for this next book was one they were very keen on, but I was not. My reasons for disliking it were partly to do with ideas about gendered book covers and partly to do with my aversion to dark close ups of pretty girls’ faces. My editor was gracious and understanding, so sent me another alternative. Which I absolutely loved. Really, truly, loved. We were in agreement, it was done. Over the last two weeks I have gazed at it on and off for long slabs of time in which I probably should have been doing other things.

But then my editor discovered another YA book, newly released in the US, with the exact same stock photo on the cover.

So it’s back to the drawing board, quite literally.

I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, if you want to read more about cover design and the myriad of aesthetic travesties that have been created in its name I highly recommend Caustic Cover Critic. Here you will also find many examples of unfortunate cover double-ups that weren’t caught in time…

Deer Dairy: blogs, diary writing and appalling spelling

Social media is the death of society, no? There been loads of studies by people with Ph.Ds banging on about how we don’t communicate properly anymore. Apparently our only fulfilling relationships are with our communication devices rather than with the people they are designed to enable us to communicate with. (Note, I am generally referring to electronic gadgets such as phones, tablet thingies etc. Far less people are believed to be attached to their morse-code devices.)

I listened to a Radio National program this morning (it appears I have become a grown-up at some stage) which discussed social media’s relationship to the demise of writers’ diaries. Writers’ diaries being those fabled, leather-bound objects bursting with page after page of scrawled inner-thoughts, many of them private at the time of writing. These private, presumably genius, insights into the human condition are usually ‘unearthed’ after their writer’s death and promptly published for all the world to read. Yes Virginia Woolf was intensely private, but look! Here’s all her innermost dreams, fears and desires now downloadable from Amazon for only $3.99!

I suspect that if a similar fate were to befall my daily scribblings, the majority of the said book would be about the bread and Diet Coke that simply MUST be purchased post-haste. Do reminders scrawled on ones hand count? I wonder if Ms Wolfe referred to lists scrawled on her arm in biro. (Were biros around in her time? Questions, questions!)

Finish Mrs Dalloway

Remind Leonard to fix the tap

Buy gin

And what of the young folk? Do they still keep diaries locked with a flimsy keys hidden under their mattresses? (I kept one such treasure trove which today only stands as a testament to my appalling spelling skills and my relentless monitoring of Tim McCallum’s hairstyles, rather than pithy insights into the human condition.)  Now that they have FaceKick, Twitter and SMS and all that, do kids still keep journals or write letters to each other? DO THEY EVEN KNOW HOW TO HOLD A PENCIL?

For the entirety of years seven and eight my BFF and I kept an exercise book in which we wrote letters to each other. The cover was a contacted collage of teddy bears and pictures of a pre-teen Leonardo DiCaprio torn from Girlfriend magazine. We would take turns writing in it at home and bring it to school to hand over. I remember all too clearly the time it was confiscated by our Science teacher after we were sprung reading it in class. How dare you indulge in the sordid practice of daily handwritten communication, thereby improving your writing and general comprehension skills!!!! (The Science teacher did not speak like this, unfortunately.) I kept up my own journal writing for years afterwards: mainly declarations of love for various unworthy males, complaints about my physical appearance and complaints generally.

I don’t keep a journal anymore. But I do blog. And the knowledge that what I write may have an audience  generally keeps the standard higher and stops me droning on endlessly about the size of my thighs and how many pieces of banana bread I have or have not eaten. And that can only be a good thing.

It also ensures that I write whenever I can. If I set myself the vague goal to post a good few paragraphs once a week, I do my best to meet it. If I was only writing for myself, no doubt in one of the multitudes of overpriced notebooks I have purchased from Pentimento, I wouldn’t manage once a month. The fact that all those notebooks are still mostly empty only proves this.

ImageBut what if the knowledge of future publication sensors my brain and stops me getting to the pithy stuff? Well, I found one of the journals from my late teens and it includes a page with a movie ticket sticky-taped to it. Beneath it is written:

Just like in the movie ‘Elizabeth’, when Elizabeth I keeps Joseph Fiennes alive as a constant reminder of how she was blinded by the affections of her heart, so too will I keep this movie ticket bought for me by the one who has broken my heart. 

Because having ones lover plot ones death in a treasonous conspiracy is quite similar to when the guy that took you to two-for-one Tuesday at Penrith Hoyts dumps you. Bloody hell. I think that pretty much concludes the argument doesn’t it? (Excuse me while I vomit quietly into a bag.) I shall keep that diary as a constant reminder of how unbelievably melodramatic and indulgent ones private writings can be. Thank you, social media, for saving me from myself.

Kids’ Book Review Interview

http://www.kids-bookreview.com/2013/08/author-interview-claire-zorn.html

The kind people over at Kids’ Book Review have published an interview I did with them. You can read it bellow or follow the link to view it and lots of other interesting things on their site…

Author interview: Claire Zorn

KBR welcomes Claire Zorn, author of The Sky So Heavy, a gripping new novel for Young Adults that is released this month.
 
Can you describe The Sky So Heavy in ten words or less?
A group of teenagers struggles to survive a nuclear winter. Or … A bit like The Road but with more jokes.
How did the idea for the book come to you?
I started thinking about the story roughly two years before I even wrote a word. I remember I was sitting on the train — I find train travel strangely inspiring — and I saw a scene in my mind: a teenager in a dark, cold place, trying to protect a group of people and feeling way out of his depth. I also got a line in my head: ‘I’m sixteen years old and this is the first time anyone’s held a gun to my head.’ With a little tweaking this ended up being the opening line of The Sky So Heavy.

I kept turning those ingredients  over in my mind for a couple of years. Then the debate over Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers flared again and I was struck by the way a person’s life — their access to food, shelter, medical care and education — is decided by a line on a map. I’ve always really struggled to understand the fear of asylum seekers; I feel that if people could imagine themselves and their families in those circumstances, there would be so much more compassion. So I imagined what it would take to put the average, middle-class Australian in that situation.
Is there a message in the book that you would like readers to grasp?
I hope that the story can contribute in a small way to the debate over asylum seekers and perhaps reflect the complexities of the issue. I also wanted to engage with the idea of a generation inheriting the stuff-ups of their predecessors, especially global warming. I didn’t set out to allude to that with the climate change in the book — but I like the way it is a sort of inverse global warming.
Why did you choose to write in this genre?
I like the immediacy of Young Adult fiction. I’m a very impatient reader — I want to get to the meat of a story as soon as possible — and I think that translates to my own writing. I tend to have no trouble ruthlessly pruning my stories to get to their core, which suits YA. Young readers have such a strong, shall we say, ‘crap detector’. You have to work to hold their attention. There’s nowhere to hide and I like that challenge.
I also find teenagers to be the most fascinating characters. They’re so savvy, yet there’s such vulnerability to them as well. Those years on the edge of adulthood are so complex and I really like stories that push their characters over the edge from childhood into adulthood. All my favourite books are about characters taking that journey.
Your manuscript was picked from the slush pile! Did you have the manuscript professionally edited before you sent it out to publishers?
It was picked from the slush pile in a round-about way. I reached a point with The Sky So Heavy — which I think every writer gets to — where I couldn’t keep working on it without some quality feedback. Which was when I paid to have a structural report done on it. I chose someone with lots of experience in YA, who was very well regarded in publishing circles and it was the best thing I could have done. The feedback she gave me really helped me get the manuscript to a standard it couldn’t have reached without fresh eyes. I re-drafted the whole thing after I got that report back and then submitted it to agents.
While that was happening UQP put out a call for YA manuscripts. They stipulated that they weren’t looking for speculative fiction, so I didn’t submit The Sky So Heavy, but another manuscript. They were interested in this other story, but it wasn’t quite ready enough for them to offer me a contract. By this time I had signed The Sky So Heavy to an agent and she suggested that they have a read of it. I think I submitted it to about four agents before it was picked up.
The Sky So Heavy, UQP, $19.95 RRP