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In the Room with Aussie Greatness

Gleebooks in Glebe brought together some of Australia’s finest Young Adult Writing talent last night for what turned out to be a very humorous and enjoyable panel discussion.  Melina Marchetta, Erin Gough, Will Kostakis and  Chris Morphew were chaired by Felicity Castagna and discussed a range of topics pertinent to the current YA market.

One of the most striking facts from the evening was a statistic, only 1 out of 10 Young Adult books sold in Australia is from Australia. The majority are bought in from the US and the UK. Will, who has just released his latest novel Sidekicks, commented on how great our Aussie talent is at the moment, particularly some of the contemporary voices. He said he connects to seeing the places he lives being reflected in the work. Melina, who’s work includes The Lumatere Chronicles, thought the statistic to be very sad and believes that the Young Adult novels from Australia have been very strong over the last two years. It would be interesting to know how much the block busters such as John Green’s various titles influence these numbers. It would also be interesting to know how many Australian titles are released by Australian publishers compared to the number of titles they buy in from overseas.

There was a vibrant conversation about the appeal of writing for a YA audience. Chris, who is hilarious (and who’s book, Man in the Shadows, I had to buy because I know I will belly laugh when I read it) said that he loves the YA audience because they are so up for the adventure you want to take them on, they’re open minded readers. Erin added that this audience is all embracing, and to write for them gives you a sense of freedom.

The big conversation of the evening was around covering diversity in text. Both Erin and Will’s books have characters with different sexual orientation. Erin spent about eight years trying to write the great Australian novel, she didn’t want to be pigeonholed as ‘the gay writer’ and have a limited readership. But she has found this not to be the case, people have embraced her book, Flywheel, and they’ve embraced it for more than its lesbian content.

I’ve read and enjoyed work from most of these authors and I now have a handful of new books that I can’t wait to get stuck into. Felicity, who’s own book The Incredible Here and Now received the Prime Minister’s Literature Award, was an eloquent and engaging chair. Thank you for sharing Melina, Erin, Will, Chris and Felicity, and to Gleebooks for pulling such an awesome panel together and hosting such an enjoyable evening.

 

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Truth and Vulnerability

At the Writers Unleashed festival last weekend, I sat bolted to my chair as Trinity Doyle shared with us her insights on dealing with emotions in Young Adult literature.

She highlighted the importance of Truth and Vulnerability in our work. “Nobody is going to connect with ‘I’m fine'” she said. And she’s absolutely right. Teenagers are emotional, hormonal and for the most part melodramatic. Their crushes are all consuming, they fall in love, they fall out of love, they hate, they envy, they need and they need now! So as adults writing for Young Adults it’s important to remember the immediacy of their love, wants and needs, and not let our years of experience, and somewhat tamed hormones influence their reactions. “Let the raw, intense feelings of adolescence flood your work,” Trinity says.

Trinity pointed out that for the most part teenagers are outsiders all trying to fit in to what they see as the social norms. She suggests digging deep into the memory banks and thinking about what made you hurt as a teenager. Connection with readers comes from vulnerability. “Do not undermine the emotions of your characters,” she said.

I sat in awe of the amount of thought she had put into writing the emotions of her characters and can’t wait to read her debut novel Pieces of Sky, “A soaring, uplifting novel about love and loss from an exciting new voice.”

Pieces of Sky

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The inside word from Penguin, Random and Panterra

Saturday was the highlight of the Southerland Shire Writers calendar with the Writers Unleashed Festival providing the opportunity to hear from editors from various publishing houses. The event concluded with the Editor panel where we heard from:

  • Heather Curdie, Children’s at Penguin.
  • Beverley Cousins Adult Fiction Random House.
  • Zoe Walton, Children’s at Random House, and
  • James Read YA and Adult, Pantera Press.

Heather highlighted her tips and recommendations for manuscript submissions. She said that first and foremost she comes to a manuscript as a reader, looking to be engaged and entertained. She follows no firm rules and tries to clear her mind of preconceived ideas. But what it must have is;

  • Quality writing
  • A great voice (must be distinctive and original)
  • Great characterisation (characters must come to life on the page)
  • Compelling plot
  • Engaging first few chapters (for children’s books this is so important, they won’t persevere if they are not pulled into the story in the first couple of chapters)
  • A really satisfying conclusion

She’s currently looking for: Contemporary YA with a strong male protagonist & High quality stand alone Junior Fiction, that’s fun and intelligent.

Beverley spoke about what makes a manuscript publishable.

Things that are taken into consideration when looking at a manuscript they like;

  • Balance of the list – do they need more or less historical fiction at that time, do they already have too many rural fiction pieces on the list etc.
  • Profit potential – is the book commercially viable
  • Publishability of the book.

It is a difficult balance because each book is a work of art, but it needs to make a profit. So there is no easy answer.

She looks for Quality;

  • Well written
  • Compelling story
  • Ability to reach a wide audience

For commercial fiction, here is her advice:

  • Plot is key
  • They like a novel that promotes debate
  • The author has a clear idea of what the novel is about and it is something that a large number of people would want to read about.
  • Don’t go overboard describing everything you have researched.
  • Don’t overload with stage management.
  • Don’t over explain characters emotions.
  • Everything on the page should have a reason for being there and drive the story forward.
  • Make sure it is well edited before submitting.

Zoe used examples of books that they have recently published to highlight what they look for.

Starting with her best selling Rangers Apprentice series. She noted that whilst it was not an original concept John brought a really great sense of humour to his writing which kids love. He uses fantasy without magic which is unusual and makes his characters have to work hard for their success.

Next she looked at Alice Miranda. She said it is Jacqueline that makes these books special, she really understands and engages with her fans, and she works really hard for her books.

Lulu Bell was next, of Belinda she said that she really knows her market and knows what appeals to her readers. She is a great example of write what you know. Belinda’s dad is a vet and so is Lulu Bell’s in her stories.

Samuri verses Ninja, Here the title says it all. It is a high concept book with wide appeal.

Moving on to her Young Adult books she said that what makes a story stand out from the crowd is an original voice.

Are You Seeing Me? She couldn’t stop thinking about the characters in the story after she’d read it, which compelled her to acquire it.

 

James said that Pantera are a boutique press and they like to take on debut authors and nurture them, their writing and their careers. They are VERY unique in the publishing industry in that they pride themselves on a fast turnaround time. Getting back to authors within 3 weeks. Yes 3 weeks!!!! But you do need to follow their submission guidelines very closely.

They consider all types of fiction from Young Adult upwards and they are currently looking for commercial womans fiction. Ideally the next The Devil Wears Prada. Their submission guidelines are on their website https://www.panterapress.com.au/submit-your-manuscript

 

 

 

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Have you got an illustrator? Yessss!!!

It’s the question I have been asked over and over for the last 6 months and been dying to divulge the answer to. I can finally tell the world, with so much excitement, that the brilliantly talented Katherine Battersby, Author/Illustrator of the awesome Squish Rabbit series has agreed to illustrate the series. My fabulous publisher, Anna McFarlane suggested Katherine to me back in May and from that moment my manuscripts took on a whole new life in my imagination. I simply cannot wait to see Katherine’s imaginings for this series.

The series is scheduled for release in May 2017. It feels like a long way off, but given how quickly the last year has gone, I know it will be upon us in no time.

If you’re not familiar with Squish Rabbit, do yourself a favour and hunt out these gorgeous books, you cannot fail to fall in love with Squish!

Squish pics

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The Rise and Rise of Shelly Unwin Part 3

The final interview in the series. We look at the events and associations that helped me achieve my publishing goal.

Just Write For Kids Blog

Today is the last interview with Shelly Unwin in which we look at some of the ‘nuts and bolts’ of her steps to her publishing dream. They include practical advice for anyone who is interested in getting published.

The things that impress me loud and clear from your story, Shelly are:

  1. although these books are only a very recent thing for you to be working on, the process of having written other things over several years (despite rejections and setbacks) helped you bring these ideas together at the right time.
  2. Having good networks and an understanding of the industry also developed over time and brought you into contact with the right people at the right time.Shelly 1.3

You’ve mentioned a few key steps in this process about building up networks and putting yourself in the right place at the right time. Can you comment further on these?

Faber Academy and “Stack…

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Lothian looking for Junior Fiction

It is always good to get an insiders view on the publishing industry and this morning was no exception, with the delightful Suzanne O’Sullivan from Lothian sharing her thoughts at the NSW Writers’ Centre, First Friday Club.

Suzanne confirmed that with blockbuster titles from the likes of John Green helping the market along, children’s book sales continue to be very healthy. And the area of the children’s publishing market that Lothian are keen to see more strong submissions in, is Junior Fiction. Series books for 6-9 year olds, with an approximate word count of 15,000-20,00 words. Suzanne is also always on the look out for great picture books.

However getting your work in front of Suzanne is no mean feat, as she only accepts agented submissions, or submissions following on from consultations at conferences or literary speed dating.

But if you are lucky enough to make it into her pile of submitted manuscripts, these are her tips for how to stand out:

  • Have a really clear sense of the market, “this book fits into this trend,” or “this book fills this gap,” (but be careful that the gap really is a gap in the market and not a gap in your knowledge of the market!)
  • Really hone your writing. Make sure it is fully workshopped and edited before you send it.
  • Let your writing be the star, regardless of your other successes the writing needs to speak for itself.

And what themes is she looking for?

  • Humour, she loves a story that makes her laugh, but the humour must be supported by a good story with heart.
  • Friendship, friendship themes are always very popular in junior fiction.
  • Adventure based stories.

So according to Suzanne, what can writers be doing to help them achieve publication?

  • Be active on social media.
  • Be active in writers groups and attending conferences etc
  • Show a willingness to get out there and promote yourself.

Suzanne also mentioned a preference for authors who have a body of work targeting one area of the children’s market, so that they can build a strong readership and utilise this readership for the authors other books.

And there is a small glimmer of hope if you are not lined up to attend a conference or event where Suzanne is meeting writers- Lothian are currently thinking about opening up submissions for one genre at a time, probably early next year, so make sure you follow Suzanne on Twitter @Suzanne_OS and keep your eye on the Hachette website http://www.hachettechildrens.com.au

Happy writing everyone!

 

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Signed, Sealed and so excited!

Finally I can announce my exciting news!

I have been offered and accepted a publishing contract for a five book picture book series with Allen & Unwin. It is a dream come true. I couldn’t be happier and I couldn’t have found a more passionate, consultative or engaged publisher for this series. I am beyond excited. I can’t say much about the series, other than that it is aimed at 1-5 year olds and at this stage we are hoping to release all five books at the same time. I will be able to give you more details closer to the release date.

But for now I have taken down the affirmation poster that has been on the door of my tea cupboard for the last two years!

affirmation poster

Because I have indeed just signed A Great Publishing Deal!  I’m still pinching myself.  I wanted to share my news with all of the friends, old and new, that have supported me along the way. And I wanted to say a huge thank you, particularly to my critique group, Picture This, for your invaluable help and insight, to my family for your belief and support and to my agent Alex Adsett for helping to pull everything together and coach me through a nerve wracking decision process.  Yippeee!!!