Category Archives: Being a writer

So Grateful for Vikki Wakefield.

For my last Aussie YA read of the year (though, knowing me, I’ll cram another couple in), I chose Inbetween Days by my favourite contemporary Aussie YA writer, Vikki Wakefield.

Vikki’s previous two books have smashed me to pieces. This one was no different. I’ve only just this morning finished binge-reading it, so I’m too raw and too bruised to put into words all the ways I loved it. But I wanted to write this post now, so there is maximum time for you all to go and buy it.

And read it. Read it, read it, read it. You will be moved and frightened and cheered and broken as I was, but it’s worth it.

Read it. Support this Aussie author because she’s an under-heralded … genius is the wrong word. That implies something clinical. She’s so far away from that. She’s perfect, pure, raw, stripped-back emotion. Her writing is a howl and a snort-laugh and a shudder and a day of unashamed, unstoppable crying.

I am so grateful that there are writers like this. I am so grateful there is writing like this in the world. I love a world where books like this exist.

I love Vikki Wakefield. If I ever met her I might well cry. Or faint. Or both.

I love this book.

Read it.

Read it.

Read it.

Haters Gonna Hate. Cluckers Gonna Cluck.

Yesterday I read a post on the dreaded Facebook from the gorgeous, talented and inspiring author, John Larkin. He revealed that he’d been the victim of some online bullying and, to show the trolls where they could shove it, instead of getting angry or upset, he bought a goat. Not for himself. For a family in need in a developing country.

I’m not as awesome as John. When I went through a similar sticky situation myself, a couple of weeks ago, I did get upset. The whole thing darn near broke me. And I didn’t buy a goat.

But I’m inspired by John. And I can’t afford a goat. But I can afford a chicken. So I’m going to try and forget the haters. And I’m going with the cluckers. I encourage you to do the same.

Shake it off. With help from Oxfam. It really does make a difference.



So. In the manner of Highlander (thanks, Tiger’s Daddy, for introducing me to that monstrosity of a movie), there can be only one.

One more book in my year of reading Aussie YA, that is.

The rest of the year is looking pretty full-on, work-wise, and I really want to get through the new Robert Galbraith (Oh, Cormoran. Swoons), and the new Magda Szubanski autobiography (Oh, Magda. Swoons), plus a couple more on my non-YA TBR shelf, so I’m scheduling in just one more stop and …

I want you to pick it. Please. What is your very, very, very favourite and best of this year’s YA haul?

I need you to tell me! I need to make the last one as wonderful as all the others. Because Aussie YA rocks. And you all rock.

And also, I’m too FRANTIC DOING ALL OF THE THINGS to research.

So please. Halp.

Talk Under Water

One of my oldest, dearest friends has a son with a cochlear implant.

His name is Flynn. He is the smartest, funniest, goofiest, most engaging little boy you’ll ever meet. He’s the younger brother of a glorious, imaginative, sweet little girl and is also now the proud older brother of another magic boy.

I love Flynn. I am fiercely proud of him and proud of his whole family for how hard they have worked to give him every opportunity to make the most of all his other talents that don’t involve having an implant. I know he’ll live a full and amazing life, because of their support and because of that magic spark of intelligence and wit that plays in his eyes.

I have another friend, online, who is deaf, too, but uses sign language to communicate. She is, literally, the most talented person I know. She writes books, creates beautiful art and jewellery, teaches AUSLAN and, in her spare time, creates little zines for others wanting to emulate her in the creative life. I read her books and coveted her art before I knew she was deaf. My lovely editor showed me a necklace made by her. She never mentioned the creator also spoke using those talented hands.

When I found out, it only made me admire her more. The lady speaks another freaking language. I have the remnants of high school Indonesian. Learning more about her and the way she communicates made me think everyone should learn AUSLAN, so we can communicate better with those for whom it is a first language.

My first high school boyfriend had deaf parents. One parent could lip read. One couldn’t. They were both sublimely beautiful people. I loved watching them talking to their friends – how animated and excited they were at being amongst those who fully understood them. I learned basic sign language to communicate with them but I wish I learned more.

I am committed now, because of Flynn and Asphyxia, to learning more. I’ll never fully understand what it feels like to grow up deaf. Nor should I. It’s not for me to appropriate their difference. But I am in awe of both of them and I want to know all I can about their world.

Which is why I loved reading Kathryn Lomer’s Talk Under Water. It concerns the relationship between a teenage boy, Will, and a girl called Summer, who loves reading and painting and animals and cowboy boots … and also happens to be deaf. This book was a lovely portrait of teenage romance (set near where I live! Hurrah!). It was also another insight into life for one deaf person.

Because that’s the thing. Summer, Flynn, Asphyxia, and Robin and Peter – the parents of my teenage love – are all deaf. But that’s the only thing that links them. I don’t know what Flynn will grow up to be – in aviation like his dad, psychology like his mum or something completely of his own devising. But his life will be a very different life from the one lived by my first boyfriend’s parents and by Asphyxia. I just want to watch his journey with admiration and continue to be around his mum, who has worked freaking hard to get him to where he is now. I want to keep reading Asphyxia’s books. I want to keep reading more books about deaf characters. I want a world where deafness is not their defining feature, just as my mental illness isn’t mine. I want a world where every way of experiencing deafness is accepted and celebrated because it’s another way of being unique.

I want a lot of things. And now, as I get off my soapbox, I want the new Robert Galbraith. But, while I take a break from Aussie YA, will you please bombard me with suggestions for which one I should read next? Because I can’t stay away from YA for long. Although if anyone can tempt me away, it’s JK!

And I’ll leave the final word in this post to Asphyxia, who posted this on Facebook today:

“There’s a misconception that lipreading is just like reading a book. You look at the mouth and read, right?

But no, it’s far, far more complicated than that. I have to queue up words in my mind, invent possibilities that fit the facial expression, body language, approximate number of syllables etc etc. Sometimes there are a couple of possibilities, and I hold both in my mind simultaneously, waiting for it to become clear. While I’m doing this, collecting possibilities and sifting through them all, I need to keep the conversation going. So I smile and nod and say ‘mmm,’ and ‘yep…’ as appropriate. If I don’t do that, the speaker stops, and we haven’t gotten anywhere.

Sometimes though, I get right to the end, and I realise that none of the possibilities work. The whole thing just doesn’t make sense. And then I have to say, ‘Sorry, can you go right back to the start?’

And you might wonder, well why were you nodding and smiling and saying yes all along when I didn’t understand. But that’s because it’s how lipreading works. It’s not a lie. It’s the only practical way to do it.

It can take a whole minute or two after the speaker finishes, that it suddenly comes to me what was said.

As you can imagine, this is incredibly hard work. I have an hour of lipreading in me a day, tops. After that, fatigue sets in. And if I go too far, pushing myself for maybe 3 hours, I am WIPED afterwards, and my head pounds. It can literally take me days to recover.

This is why, even though I’m a pretty competent lipreader, I prefer other modes of conversation.

If you’d like to do your bit to help raise awareness, feel free to share this post. Thanks!”

Asphyxia's photo.

Mr Wilson.

Image courtesy of The Advocate newspaper.

For those of you who might be interested, here are the words I wrote for Mr Wilson’s funeral last week.

I wish I could be here today.

That’s not true. I wish there wasn’t the opportunity for me to be here today.

Greg Wilson was the sort of man who wasn’t meant to die. He was, in the truest sense of the word, a legend.

I heard whispers of his name before I even put on my Burnie High uniform. At Cooee Primary, students talked about him in hushed tones, as if they might summon the bogeyman if they spoke more loudly.

“Beware, if you get those letters on your timetable. BEWARE!”

I didn’t get a GW until grade eight. I don’t think I breathed, for that whole English class. But it didn’t take me long to work out that the legend was only a myth.

Mr Wilson had rules. Strict ones. No running in the covered way, tuck your shirt in, “Shut the barn door!” He expected nothing less than one hundred percent effort in his classes.

Effort. Not excellence.

He challenged us. He expected us to put up a fight. If we did, we won his respect and once we had it, it wasn’t easily lost. Once we had it, he had our back.

I won Mr Wilson’s respect by standing up for The Catcher in the Rye. It’s still my favourite book. He thought it was rubbish. I was terrified of arguing but I noted the twinkle in his eye when I did. I’ve never forgotten that twinkle.

Mr Wilson taught me how to write a perfect paragraph, how to edit, how to choose my words carefully, how to create a cover page that was a thing of beauty. He also taught me I was strong. In late high school, I struggled with anxiety and migraines and the combination of the two led to Mr Wilson finding me in a ball in the corridor, in tears, when I should have been in class. I expected a detention.

Instead, he said to me only three words, “You are strong.” Not be strong. “You are strong.”

He believed in me.

Years later, I saw Mr Wilson again, rocking out on stage with a band of Yolla kids, hair long, shirt slightly untucked. The twinkle was now pure starlight.

That moment will always stay with me. He looked so free.

Mr Wilson was a legend. He was challenging, firm, strict even. But he has made more of an impact on me than any other since. There was a teacher of equal brilliance at college. He taught me to challenge opinions. Mr Wilson taught me to have them in the first place. And that I was strong. I never knew it before.

In my imagination, he’s in his own heaven right now, rocking out with his shirt untucked and his hair long and wild and the barn door is flung wide open.

He’s still a legend.




After nearly two weeks in Technonomansland while waiting for “Internet Men” (Tiger’s words. I tried to tell her they might be Internet Ladies to no avail) to fix something something something wire cable MASSIVE STUFF UP something …

The Internet Man CAME TODAY!

He was a man. Sadly. But Tiger was beside herself excited at his arrival. She even played him a song on the ukelele.

Anyway, my point and I do have one is that WE ARE NOW ON THE WORLD WIDE WEB AGAIN!



Oh, and catching up on all of the work I’ve not been able to do because no internets.


Hence, this post is just a very brief update to say I read How to Be Happy and it was as awesome as everyone said, but why the cuss did it need to be set in a drama school?

I mean, I know, it was a memoir and the author went to drama school and so he was kind of just … telling what happened but couldn’t he have lied a bit and said he studied marketing?

I went to drama school. I still have actual PTSD from it. It didn’t help that, as I was cringingingly remembering my own drama days while reading this book, a new Facebook reunion group cropped up full of photos of my drama school. Go away, drama school. I did not like you then. I do not like you now.

And Shannon with the red hair? I still refuse to “show you some respect” because you were the lead role in our third year production of The Good Woman of Sechuan.

No, I’m still not over it.

Any of it.

But I’m getting distracted. My point is the book was brilliant and I probably didn’t enjoy it as much as I should have.

If you didn’t go to drama school, or did but enjoyed it, please read this book. It is a searingly honest memoir of mental illness, sexuality, friendship, family and love. Its writer is ridiculously talented. Even if he did go to drama school.

Next up is FINALLY A TASMANIAN BOOK HURRAH as I delve into Kathryn Lomer’s Talking Under Water. Kathryn launched my own first book and has been a tireless champion of my work but luckily her own writing is epically brilliant, so I know I won’t have to fudge my review.

Catch you when I’ve waded my way through all this work.

I promise not to get distracted by cute squirrel videos on YouTube.


Rabbit Hole …. Rabbit Hole … Rabbit Hole …

Oh Dear.

I went down a rabbit hole. Again. I am the definition of ” … SQUIRREL!”

I was meant to be reading David Burton’s reportedly BRILLIANT How To Be Happy for my next stop in the YA tour, but …

Then I accidentally bought Julie Hunt’s phenomenal new graphic novel, Kidglovz.

And then I accidentally started reading it and accidentally got obsessed with it and devoured it because is is AMAZING and then I decided I had to reread every graphic novel I own NOW and lots from the library too, and buy a couple, and order a couple more and now …

Oops. Holy Rabbit Hole, Alice.

But I’m back. I think. Anyway, I’ve started the book I’m meant to be reading and so far it is EXCELLENT. So hopefully that will distract me from any other rabbit holes or …


Maybe …

Pieces of Sky


The last few weeks have been of the “epic high, devastating low” sort.

Epic highs have included:

  • Listening in rapt awe to amazing writers speaking at the Tasmanian Writers and Readers Festival
  • Being part of a panel deciding on grants that will hopefully aid Tasmanians to make a career in the arts
  • Judging writing prizes, where the work submitted was of such an exceptional quality it was actually excruciatingly difficult to choose the shortlist
  • Celebrating the third birthday of a gorgeous little man
  • Hearing that a new life is on its way, into a beautiful family …
  • And, of course, my constant joy – a little faerie darling called Tiger.

But then came the lows. An old friend lost his battle against mental illness. Another friend suffered more life blows than any person deserves. My stepmother had a painful operation. Tiger had health woes and so did I. My dad is still away and I miss him dearly.

So now you have a precis of Life in Kateland. But what has this got to do with my latest YA find?

Well, while my life felt like a stormy sea, Trinity Doyle’s book, Pieces of Sky felt like a calm, sunny day at Boat Harbour Beach (my favourite place in the whole world).

It might sound strange to those who’ve read this book, or have heard about it. After all, it deals with some pretty heavy themes. It is, at times, nail-bitingly tense. At other times it’s horribly sad. But, all the while, Doyle’s confident, lyrical prose carries you through on gentle, rippling waves. She is so assured in her style, and so accomplished and proficient that whatever tension there may be in your life is washed away as you read. This is the mark of a supremely talented writer. The fact that this is Doyle’s debut is astonishing.

Thank you, Trinity Doyle, for your talent and for this gift of a book. I was so grateful for it as my life felt as if it was caught in a rip.

I can’t wait to see what you do next. Maybe my life will be all calm seas. Maybe you’ll write a tsunami of a book that shakes it up a bit. Whatever the case, I know I’ll be impressed.

Anyway, I think I’ve reached peak water reference now. Like, tidal-wave-level water reference. So I’ll finish here.

Next? A memoir! I know, right? But it’s still YA. It’s the winner of last year’s Text Prize and it’s called How to be Happy. Heaven knows, it sounds like a book my life could use right now.

Its writer, David Burton, is from Queensland. But never fear, Taswegians! I now have a Tassie YA to read next, in the form of the newie from the brilliant Katherine Lomer.

Everything is coming up Katie. Things can only get better …

Like the clouds parting to reveal a beautiful blue sky. Over a white-sand beach. In January. With Colin Firth walking along it wearing retro boy-leg swimming trunks …

All right. Going now (not in any way to Google Colin Firth Swimming Trunks).

Sleepless Lullaby

I remember the machine by his bed. It made a sound like sighing. Numbers twitched, unable to settle. A jagged line sawed across the screen. At least it was something to look at. Something that wasn’t him. They’d brushed his hair, as if he were already dead. A song came into my head, I couldn’t chase it away. ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’. I pretended to smile, pretended to be brave. ‘Twin brother in a coma,’ I mouthed, ‘I know it’s serious.’ He would have laughed. He would have been better than me at this.


I’ve read a few Bernard Beckett books before. I knew what I was getting myself in for when I picked up his latest – Lullaby. I knew it would be ferociously clever, beautifully strange and an argument in itself against every ignoramus who believes YA is dumbed-down and one-dimensional.

I thought, as I turned the first page, that I was prepared …


I was not prepared because Lullaby is – more than any of Beckett’s other work – a COMPLETE AND UTTER EARTHQUAKE OF A MENTAL FREAKOUT CRAZY WILD AND BRILLIANT OH MY STARS EXPLOSION OF EVERYTHING.


That’s really all I have for you. Because I don’t think – a week on – I have come even close to mentally processing this novel. The night after I read it, I didn’t sleep (not unusual), but (unusually), it was only partly because of a sleepless child and a psychotic cat. It was mostly because TOO MUCH BRAIN.

This novel will hurt your mind, I promise. It will leave you staring dumbly at the last page with your mouth open and possibly there might be drool or tears or both or there might even be some rocking in the corner.

Have I made myself clear?

Lili Wilkinson, I am relying on you to heal me with another one of your no-less-clever-but-hopefully-more-quirky-and-less-GAH books.

Green Valentine, here I come.

And, oh, everyone, in case the above in any way terrified you, you should totally read Lullaby. It will shake you but it’s so worth it.

Grimming over with talent


Hello, my name is Martha Grimstone. Shall I tell you my best secret? One day I’m going to be Lady Martha the Magnificent. I don’t know what my special talent is, but I hope to find it any day now. I live in a grand old house in a valley full of rare and thirsty herbs, which my grandfather uses to heal and comfort people. If only he would let me into his apothecary so I could work my very own spells . . .

I’m just going to put this out there: Asphyxia might well be the most talented lady in Australia.


Not only is she a writer, she’s a puppeteer, jewellery-maker, fine artist, teacher-of-Auslan and general Awesome-Creator-About-Town. In short, Asphyxia is the kind of person CS Lewis was talking about when he said that thing about thinking six impossible things before breakfast. I have complete faith Asphyxia thinks of at least thirty-eight.

I am an unashamed Asphyxia fangirl, as you can probably tell from my shameless gushing. I’d already read all of the Grimstones books before, and loved them so much I actually dreamed them. I wanted to be a Grimstone.

So it was kind of cheating for me to revisit them as part of this blog tour of Australian YA. Also, it was kind of cheating for me to include these books at all, as they’re not technically YA at all. But when the glorious new bindup of complete Grimstones danced into my favourite bookshop, I was so magnetised towards it that I was willing to eschew a rule or three.

I loved the books even more on second reading, particularly because they felt even more magnificent in this huge volume. There’s a grandeur about a big book and the Grimstones are totally deserving of grandeur. They are gothic, wicked, crazy and beautiful and I love them and I love Asphyxia and I totally DESERVED them after a couple of months of reading nothing but Very Literary Things (which were amazing and brilliant but NOT GRIMSTONES).


Everyone, y’all should get some Grimstones in your life. Find out more here.

Next, I’m cheating again. Because I totes suck at following rules. So I’m leaving Australia altogether and going fangirly (again) over the boundless amaze that is Bernard Beckett, and his newie, Lullaby.

Off I trot …

Stay With Me

Usually, I try to think of something witty and entertaining to say when talking about these books. Sometimes I use puns. Occasionally I mention The Backstreet boys.

I deliberate over combinations of words. I try and sound clever.

You can’t do any of that when you’re broken.

This book broke me. This book shattered and destroyed me. This book had my heart in a vice and my every nerve ending exposed and raw.

It’s beautiful. It’s challenging. It’s hard and tender and magic and real and explosive and still and I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.

Nellie was just like my Tiger. And Tess (yes, the main character’s name is Tess, which didn’t make the reading any easier), could have been me. Could have been any of us. And that’s what makes this book just so damn powerful. This could have been the story of any single one of us. Which is why it’s terrifying. Which is why it should be read; demands to be read.

Read it.

I have no more words than that.

And I’m now going to rebuild myself by reading the Grimstones. Which is probably not strictly YA and takes me back, yet again, to Melbourne. So I’m breaking the rules. But I’m a bit too broken to care about rules. So off I go …

Stay With Me is by Maureen McCarthy (AKA God of YA literature). It is published by the Onions.

And I’m Back …


I confess I’m up to no good.

Or was.

Or wasn’t, actually, because I was doing Good Work reading some amazing entries for a literary prize.

But as a blogger, and a reader-of-other-things-that-weren’t-prize-entries, I was unforgivably bad.

But now …


So …

I’m back. And I was going to use an image from that Eminem song but I’m really over Eminem and also I’ve had this song stuck in my head for about three weeks and I still think Howie is kind of adorable in that film clip, so that’s the explanation for the above.

Plus tired. Because SO MUCH PRIZE READING. But back. So hurrah.

And also back to reading Maureen McCarthy, so DOUBLE HURRAH!

Will report back soon*

* Actual soon. Not soon like last time, which actually meant “in a really long time” …

Happy BIrthday Helen

The title of this blog might not make any sense to anyone who didn’t live the nineties, but for those of you who did …

Well, it still might not make any sense.

But the thing is, whenever I think of Melbourne, I think of one of two songs, the first being Paul Kelly’s From St Kilda to King’s Cross. The second one is Happy Birthday, Helen, by Things of Stone and Wood (whatever happened to them?).

“Let’s not forget last night
Yeah, how we drove along the Yarra …”

Stuck in your head yet? That’s okay. Just sing Never Gonna Give You Up until it goes away. Hee hee.


My point (and I do have one), is that I’m back in Melbourne.

Because Tassie, you failed me. I received not one single suggestion about a good recent Tassie YA read and I consoled myself by reading Josephine Moon’s The Chocolate Promise, which was set in Tassie, and that was fun and all, but it was not YA. Or written by a Tasmanian.

SO. I’m back in Melbourne. Because if I wasn’t so besotted with my island home, I’d move there in a heartbeat. It’s the second coolest city on Earth (after Hobes). Also, because NICOLE FLUFFING HAYES. Who is totes awesomesauce and wrote this novel AND GOES FOR THE HAWKS SO EXTRA AWESOME POINTS.

Oh, by the way, the book is called One True Thing. And if it’s even half as good as Hayes’ last novel, it will be super, super, super brilliantly super.

Much. Excite.

Anyhoo, I’ll report back after I’ve sailed down the slightly brownish waters of the Yarra.

“You are the tunes in my head, the fire in my ribs
You are the voice in my heart that whispers compassion
Happy birthday Helen
Oh-oh…, oh-oh…, oh-oh…”

Two guys, two girls and a weeping face …

I was seven when the eighties ended.

As a teenager in the nineties, I used to say this with a degree of pride – after all, the eighties were the era that style forgot, weren’t they? The era of glitter hair gel and bubble shirts and perms and pastel suits? Not to mention dodgy music (Olivia Newton John! Jason Donovan! Rick Astley! Eek!). We nineties kids were much less daggy; much more switched on. We were the Reality Bites generation; the Mallrats generation. Empire Records. Grunge. Experimental-era Madonna and Kylie. We had it all going on.

Now, as a middle-aged person, saying I was seven when the eighties ended makes me feel so ooollllddd. Most of the kids I write for weren’t born for another ten to fifteen years after the eighties ended. And, ironically perhaps, they think the eighties were cool. They think of The Smiths, The Cure, The Breakfast Club. Pastel suits are so hipster ironic.

And I wish I’d been older when the eighties ended, just so I could earn some street cred by saying I was there.

But my point (and I do have one), is that the eighties is the era in which the latest book in my blog tour of Australia was set. And gosh darn does it make the eighties look amaze. No bubble skirts here. Strictly (school-shoe-style) Doc Martens, bleached pixie cuts and arty, brooding, Nick Cave-y men.

I really wish I’d been there (in a non-small-child capacity).

I knew about the art heist that’s central to this story, not from having been a cool arty type during the time when it happened (sob), but from studying art history, much later. And I wasn’t even a cool art history student – to be one of those you had to, like Luke in this story, not give a f***. I won the art history prize at school. So not cool. I remember the episode intrigued me as a seventeen-year-old who wished she was a rebel. Having discovered that the new book by the incredible Gabrielle Williams concerned this very event, I’d been dying to read it.

So much so that I returned to Victoria, when I was meant to move on to another state in my “hop” (oops).

And the book did not disappoint. I was transported back to an era I never properly lived in, and to a place where I’ve never lived, but about which I’ve always been fascinated (oh, Melbourne, if I didn’t love Tassie so much, I would be all of the in you). Its melding of young adult and new adult characters was refreshing and innovative (and gave enough variety for there to be at least one character you were rooting for – Yes, Penny was a bit of a frustration in her blind adoration of Luke, but how I felt for her). And the crime story at the centre of it made it a gripping, thrilling page-turner, too.

This book has everything, and more, because it’s riding on the crest of an eighties revival wave that will surely make it super popular with its target audience and their glorious constant adoration of all things retro (because, in the nineties, didn’t we love the sixties? And eighties kids were all about the fifties – Dirty Dancing, anyone?).

And Gabrielle Williams is the coolest of the cool kids. Apparently, this is the first in a few books in this series. Colour me excited.

*coughs* Now on to serious matters: TASSIE YA, WHERE ARE YOU??? And before you start yelling, “PENNI RUSSON!!! TANSY RAYNER ROBERTS!!! KATHRYN LOMER!!!!!!!” (If, indeed, you are the type to randomly yell the names of awesome authors), I’m trying really hard to only read books from 2014 onwards in this blog tour, and all the above authors, while still producing epically brilliant work, have eschewed the YA demographic for their latest stuff. And yes, Julie Hunt and Lian Tanner, and Angelica Banks are doing awesome things in kidlit, but they’re definitely not YA.

So …

Until you all start yelling the names of Tassie YA authors that I’ve somehow missed, I’m going to have a tiny break again and read The Chocolate Promise, by Josephine Moon. It’s not YA. And its author is not Tasmanian. But it’s at least SET here, so that’s something …

Afterwards, if you haven’t barraged me with Tassie titles to devour, I’m thrilled to say my next read will be the newie by Nicole Hayes, One True Thing. Squee. But still, TASSIE! WOMAN UP!

The Blog takes a Pause (and is super glad it did)

I was thinking of calling this blog post “Who Let the Dogs Out #2”, but I decided that didn’t do justice to the epic level of awesome reached by the book it concerns.

I’ve read some incredible books already on this blog tour of Australia. However, this book is one of the best books I’ve read Ever. Or, as Kanye would say, Of. All. Time.

I actually finished it a week ago. It’s taken this long for me to feel capable of processing it.

It’s called The Pause. It’s by John Larkin. And it’s an important book.

I’ve been visited by the black dog on and off for most of my life. He first came to see me when I was a little tacker, as I processed the after-effects of my family splitting up. Later, as a teenager, he came for a long time. A couple of not-too-nice people in my life opened the door and he came bounding in, bringing his toothbrush, obviously expecting to stay. And stay he did until I finally kicked him to the kerb in my last year of high school.

Then he was back when I was twenty-one.

And again at twenty-seven.

And after the birth of my precious Tiger, he came again and I grappled with feeling of inadequacy in motherhood. This feeling has never gone away and so the dog has always been in the shadows,

Someone let him in again with his toothbrush fairly recently. I’ve given him his marching orders and he seems to have taken obedience training while he’s been away but still, this book …


Because it’s about a black dog. It’s about helplessness and loneliness and feelings of failure and believing your life is so bleak and dark and bottomless in its misery that it might as well be over. It’s about deciding that the blackness must end. It’s about running for a speeding train and …


And what comes next? A life unlived. A life to be lived. A second chance. Or at least the imagination of one.

This book is enormously powerful. It was important to me. It will be important to so many, particularly young people. It is a novel that screams “It gets better” with every turning page.

I am so glad John Larkin paused. I am glad this book was written. I am grateful for him, for it.

I am grateful too, oddly enough, for my own black dog. He shows me darkness. But in words and in the glowing face of my Tiger, I find light.

And there will always be more words, more books, and so life goes on and the blog tour does too.

For the next stop, I’m looping sneakily back around to Victoria, so I can delve into a book I’ve been longing to read. I’m a huge fan of Gabrielle Williams. I adored Beatle Meets Destiny. And who could resist a book with a title as awesome as, The Guy, The Girl, The Artist and His Ex? See you next time.

On the road again …



Gone Girl is back!

Just a short update to let y’all know that, having dipped my toe in the (very murky) waters of a the Mississippi with Gone Girl (which was, for the most part, pretty good but also OMIGOD DISTURBING YUCK GET OUT OF MY HEAD NOW PLEASE THANK YOU), I am back on the horse, trotting around OZ on my YA blog tour.

Next stop? As promised, Siddernee! I’m about to start reading (and I think it’s a very apt title, after my little holiday), The Pause, by John Larkin, who is a writer I LOVE. So the looking-forward-ometer is in the very high range.

Also, by super coincidence, I have been alerted to the fact that it is John’s birthday today. Happy birthday, John! Off to read your book now! Hurrah!

Bye for now …

Who Let the Dogs Out (Blog stop number four)

9780857983763I don’t like dogs.

No. that isn’t strictly true. I do like dogs a lot, but in the same way as I like wild tigers and gorillas and great white sharks. I think they’re beautiful and amazing examples of the wonder of the natural world.

I just don’t particularly want them anywhere near me.

It’s really dog owners that I don’t like. The bad ones, anyway. The ones who let their dogs off the leash in the park when my daughter wants a run, or in town when she’s just trying to walk. The ones who say, “He wouldn’t hurt a fly”. The ones who think the rules don’t apply to them. That their dog is a special, unique example of the species – the one dog incapable of harm.

All dogs are capable of harm. That’s why they scare the bejeepers out of me.

But what does all of this have to do with Intruder, the latest book in my tour of Aussie YA?

Well, it’s about dogs. One dog in particular: a slobbering, messy wonder of a dog called Herc.

In real life, I would be petrified of Herc (who, from what I can gather from my rudimentary knowledge of dog breeds is probably a bulldog). On paper, I loved him.

And I loved this book.

I said in my last post that I was a bit trepidatious about starting a book with the title Intruder, given my aversion to all things gory, gruesome, or in any way heebie-jeebie-inducing. The author, Christine Bongers, assured me that her book wasn’t like that – that the name referred to something else entirely.

A couple of pages in, when the young narrator – a female – is having her bedroom and her body violated by a shadowy predator, I was poised to jump on Twitter and make “pants on fire” exclamations.

But Bongers wasn’t lying. The title, intruder, refers to so much more than the prowler who enters the heroine’s home. And, in fact, the search for the identity of this man is secondary to the other plotlines in the story – about parental responsibility and family secrets and mental illness and young love. It is a layered, complex, incredibly moving story and I was completely gripped by it.

And then there’s Herc. If I ever were to get over my dog phobia, it would probably be through the love of a dog like Herc. He actually reminded me a lot of myself – a bit hapless and hopeless and flawed, but with a heart of gold. On slobber levels he might beat me, but otherwise, we’re kindred spirits. Bongers has done an amazing job of making every character so nuanced, she even extended it to the canine ones.

It may not stop me from breaking into a run the next time I’m approached by an off-lead pooch, but the fact she won me over with this glorious mutt says something.

The book won me over too, completely. Christine Bongers is a true, underrated talent, and I hope her name becomes more well-known in the coming years.

I’m taking a wee break from the blog tour to – finally – read Gone Girl ­before someone gives away the ending (and yes, I am aware there will be heebie-jeebie moments in this book. I am both brave and foolish). But I’ll be back soon in Sydney, with a book by one of my writing heroes, John Larkin. Stay tuned!

Terry Pratchett


Dear Terry,

I was in love with a boy, when I was in Grade Eight. His name was Will. He lived on a farm near Wynyard. We caught the bus home together. Our bus driver used to say to him every day, when he got off the bus, “Mind the cows, Boy.”

I’d watch him walk up the hill, as the bus trundled along the highway.

Will was in my home group. Will loved Calvin and Hobbes and Discworld.

I went to the newsagency in Burnie and I bought both. I brought them to our home group, to impress the boy I loved. I read them both, to impress the boy I loved.

He never loved me back. But I loved Discworld.

Years later, I thought I saw you at Stonehenge.

I wished I had the courage to go up to you and tell you all of the things and all of my feelings.

I wish it now more.

Tiger’s Gran Laurel, and her Uncle Al,  gobble up your books. Their house is part country farmhouse, part Ankh Morpork.

At the zoo, her Uncle Neil bought her an orangutan. I call him Horace Worblehat.

I think, often, of the boy I loved, and the girl I was.

I remember the cover of The Colour of Magic, which I bought from the newsagency.

I wonder if it was you I saw at Stonehenge.

I can see the hole you made in the world when you left. It’s a bit silver and shimmery.

I like to think that, through it, I can see wonder.

Don’t rest, Terry Pratchett. Keep searching for the limits of the possible.

“So much universe, and so little time.”

Stop Two – Dystopiaville.

After reading the immensely wonderful, yet epically harrowing A Small Madness for the first stop on my Aussie YA odyssey, I thought I’d give myself something a tad less taxing for my next destination.

This is from the website for Pandora Jones: Admission:

“Pandora Jones wakes in an infirmary – her body weak, her memory providing only flashes of horrific scenes of death. She soon discovers that her family has succumbed to a plague pandemic which almost wiped out humanity. Pan is one of the survivors who have been admitted to The School – a quarantined, heavily guarded survival-skills facility – to recover their strength, hone their skills and prepare for whatever comes next. Pandora’s skill is intuition, but how useful will it be outside the secure walls of The School? And what if it leads her to question where the truth lies…

Plague. Pandemic. Intuition. Secrets. Truth. Courage. Action. Survival.”

I’m an enormous fan of Barry Jonsberg. I’ve read all of his previous novels and saw him as something of a kindred spirit in our quirky outlooks on life. I not long ago read My Life as an Alphabet and was utterly entranced by it. I loved it humour and its heart and the way it examined “the big stuff” – as I try to do – with a light and tender touch.

I knew the Pandora Jones series was different. I knew it was dystopian, but I somehow had it in my head that it was meant to be a funny, kooky take on the genre. I thought it would be a happy, easy read.

Maybe the words “horrific scenes of death” should have given me pause but, you know, I’m an eternal optimist.

Then, a couple of pages in, people’s heads started exploding. Lungs were coughed up. Olympic swimming pools of blood were spewed out of various body cavities. Small children died. People shot themselves.

Not so much of the fun and kooky, then.


I’m no good with violence. Totally squeamish and wussy, me. So I really had to force myself to read on past these first chapters of utter carnage.

And good golly am I glad I did. Pandora Jones: Admission might not be the easy read I thought it was going to be, but I kind of liked it more for that. It felt real, plausible, chillingly possible. The dystopia Jonsberg creates is so nuanced and realistic that I had actual nightmares in which I was inside it. I was at The School. And i was nowhere near as capable and fierce as Jonsberg’s protagonist, so I kind of sucked at it.

This book is a page-turner in the true sense of the phrase. I found myself desperately seeking out slivers of time in my day in which  to gobble up a few more pages. I was desperate to know what happened: what was real, what was fake, who I could trust. I was terrified that I wouldn’t discover all the answers.

Which, of course, since this is the first in a trilogy, is exactly what happened.

Bugger it.

I have to move on to Victoria for my next stop – this time to the last in a trilogy, from the uber-amazing Ellie Marney. I’ve been looking forward to Every Move since I finished Every Word, and hopefully I’ll get my answers in this one. I’m thrilled to have this next on my list …

But I think I might have to sneakily read book two in the Pandora Jones series very soon.

Damn you, but gotta love and salute you, Mr Barry Jonsberg.

What I wish for my daughter

Little Girl Superhero
I’ve been totally absorbed in the “Everyday Sexism” project since it first began. It is a brilliant idea, addressing a very real and important issue; allowing the stories of women to be heard; showing everyone – male and female – that sexism occurs every day, everywhere.

And it’s no laughing matter.

I feel like, as a thirty-something, fairly ordinary-looking woman, outside of the workforce, I don’t bear the brunt of sexism as much as some others may. I’m kind of invisible, and I don’t actually mind that.

I make my voice heard when I need to.

But I do carry around with me, all day, every day, a small girl child. A small girl child who might love her fairy wings and tutus, but who is only just getting to grips with gender difference and what it means to be a girl child.

And sexism definitely is there, every day, for her.

At a recent festival, she’d decided she wanted a big, red balloon sword. She was offered a small, pink one.

At a cafe, she wanted a blue cupcake. The worker laughed and said, “No, you’ll have pink, won’t you?”

A lady at the bus stop said, “Won’t it be wonderful when her hair grows, so she looks like a girl?”

A lady in a shopping centre, when she was climbing on the couches, tutted and said, “Got yourself a real livewire, there, haven’t you? You’ll need to stamp that out pretty quickly.”

And so it goes on. Every. Day. I’m sure mothers of boys get it, too, but I can only see it from our perspective. Her perspective.

And yes, I buy her tutus. And yes, I buy her fairy wings. But we have dinosaur boots, too, and she plays with trucks and footballs and she loves construction sites. My girl is a complex little human being, whose ideas about herself should not be dictated by her reproductive organs. And I’m worried for her.

Everyday Sexism is doing an amazing job of calling out sexism in grown women. But what about our small girls?

I’d love to hear your stories. I’d love to hear how you reacted. And I’d love to hear your hopes for your own little ones.

Think of it as a kind of “Everyday Sexism” junior edition. Because the way it is isn’t the way it has to be.