In celebration of our 25th anniversary of children's publishing we are delighted to present the second edition of Onion Origins.
Once upon a bookstore (in Oxford)…
I had finished four years of a science degree majoring in psychology, with no idea of what I would do next, when my sister and I decided to backpack across Europe for six months.
On a cold and rainy day in Oxford, we stumbled across the university bookstore and gratefully pushed our way inside. Browsing the shelves, I found my way to the young adult section and spotted The Changeover by Margaret Mahy. The one with this cover:
I have no idea what attracted me. (Maybe it was the line ‘A Supernatural Romance’, I’ve always been a sucker for a bit of URST!) I’d always been a keen reader, but ‘literature’ was a distraction to a science student, so instead for five years I’d worked my way through various genres – science fiction, fantasy, crime – and had just started to dip my toe back into children’s fiction (which I’d never really left – those Noel Streatfield books at Mum & Dad’s house were very well worn!). But I’d never heard of Margaret Mahy. I had only the vaguest sense of what young adult fiction even was.
I took The Changeover home and stayed up all night under an extremely warm doona in Blackheath. It was exciting and suspenseful, sad and funny, slightly supernatural but painfully real, and very sexy – and all of this in a little over 200 pages. I’d never read anything like it.
Needless to say I was hooked – not just on Margaret Mahy, but on the whole oeuvre of young adult fiction. From that moment on I worked my way solidly through Mahy, Peyton, Voigt, Garfield, Cooper, Marsden, Hartnett and co. How could I not have known these wonderful books existed? My love of young adult fiction was born.
I’m sorry to say I did not immediately wake up to myself and rush out to find a job in children’s publishing. No, I came back to Australia and spent ten years working in social research, reading and dreaming of writing the great Australian YA novel. Eventually I started a course at RMIT in writing and editing, before landing a job with Allen & Unwin, where I found my true calling on the other side of the pen ...
One day I even met Margaret Mahy. She drew me a cat. I was speechless with joy.
Thank you, Margaret Mahy, and thank you, Allen & Unwin, for setting me down the path of a very happy and deeply satisfying career in children’s publishing.
- Eva Mills, Publisher