28 May 2010

Friday stuff and items

1) We confess that some people in the House of Onion may not have read Happy As Larry. Silly people. To them, we offer this incentive.

That Nicki Greenberg, she certainly gives great Gatsby. And the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writing and Ideas have very cleverly made her great Gatsby giving available to the world. Hurrah!

3) 'Atmospheric, complex, and intense.' That's what Publisher's Weekly said about Celine Kiernan's The Poison Throne. They also said:
'...this epic starts strong and doesn't falter one iota, ending with a cliffhanger that will leave readers demanding more.'
More! More! More Moorehawke! And what ho! A competition! The Rebel Prince is the final installment in The Moorehawke Trilogy - Who will survive the final battle?

Well, you can be the very first* to find out, and all you have to do is cast the lead characters in the (hypothetical) movie of the books and send their photos to Celine. So if you fancy yourself as something of a casting director, or if you fancy searching the interwebs for just the right photo of that handsome actor/actress you adore, or if you fancy impressing an author with your astute understanding of the essence of her characters, then Celine has the competition for YOU! Fancy. Fancy. Fancy.

And while we are on the Moorehawke subject, we'd like to take this opportunity to impress you with Elise Hurst's brilliant covers for this series.

Genius. Pure genius.

4) And, finally, we happened to stumble upon this excellent collection of bookshelves in the wild* - and now it seems we are in breach of the tenth commandment. Alas.

* Of course, when we say very first here, we mean apart from the author, her agent, her editors, the designer/typesetter, proofreaders...
* Of course, when we say wild here, we mean in real people's homes, not, you know, in the actual wilderness - not even on the beach.

26 May 2010

GOOGLE (say 'goohguhl) (googled, googling) 1. to search for information on the internet 3. an instance of such a search: 'to have a little google'

Sometimes editing is a soaring occupation.
Some days it's all about big picture, blue sky and game plan. It's about motivation and reaction and resolution. It's about keeping secrets or making revelations, about staying or going, about love and hate and life and death.*

At other times it's all about the small stuff, the cellular level, the minutiae. It's the pebble, the pin head, the grain of sand.

I think Grover really explains this polarity best.

Today we're going to talk about 'near'.

The saying 'Don't sweat the small stuff' was not coined by an editor.

It's not just the commas and the apostrophes and the full stops; it's the small details in the fabric of the story that can make the difference between the reader believing or losing faith.

BUT, contrary to popular opinion, editing does not require a vast and all-encompassing knowledge of all the small stuff that has ever been, will be and is, so that the editor is able to spot a mistake at 50 paces.

Good editing is far more about developing a nose for when something might be wrong, so you can look it up. It's the equivalent to having what my grandad called a good 'bump of direction' and so always being able to find your way home.

If you have a good 'bump of mistaken' then all you need are good tools of the trade. We have many that we have a deep and abiding love for - the Macquarie Dictionary**, Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, Urban Dictionary, the Style Manual, The Elements of Style (Strunk & White) to name a couple more than a few - but the touchstone resource for editors in the House of Onion is, we have to admit, Google.

We love Google. We use it every day. Many times a day.

But you do have to know how to use it. Good googling is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever.***

A quick glance at the questions that have driven the denizens of the House of Onion to Google recently gives you a pretty good snapshot of what an editor does on a 'near' day, when we are sweating the small stuff. (As usual, some Onions have been unable to resist annotating their responses.)

- Did Subaru make a 2-door hatchback in the early eighties?

- Which stations are on the Sydney-Bathurst train line?

- What was the name of the Yardbirds song about daises and when was it released?

- Chromosomes

- What's the word for people who are both male and female (temporarily forgotten).

- Whether aforementioned people are scientifically referred to as 'freaks' on a chromosome-y level, or whether this descriptor is totally inappropriate.

- What is a pie floater and which states is it popular in?

- Would 'strong, silent type' ever have a hyphen? (Leading to: 'do women like dangerous men, or the silent type of guy'? and 'Dating the strong, silent type'. Hmm, useful.)

- Should 'Boathouse' be capitalised if you don't put 'Fairfield' in front of it? (Leading to: ooh I really ought to go there for lunch soon, and ooh perhaps I'll just email my entire family and suggest this.)

- How is water used in a nuclear reactor?

- What are cream scones?

- Do Burgher Sri Lankans have blue eyes?

- Did people in the Middle Ages refer to 'hours' even though they couldn't measure time?

- What time is the Cats game on the weekend and which network is broadcasting it?****

And answers? Google did provide. So, while we're sometimes a little uneasy about your plans (*whispers*) for world domination, for the time being, Google, we like you, very much. Just as you are.

* And sometimes it's about doing a little happy dance in a colleague's office because a resolution suggested to an author about a particularly troublesome plot point has been received with appreciated warmth.
** Thanks, Macquarie, for supplying the title of today's post.
*** Bad Googling leads you up the garden path and abandons you by the duck pond.
**** We concede this one may not actually be a book-related Google query, however it is not beyond the realm of possibility that we might one day have to Google: What was the date of the 2007 Grand Final in which the Cats triumphed over Port Adelaide by the biggest margin in VFL/AFL history.

24 May 2010

Monday stuff and items

1) The Design Awards were held last Thursday night, and our Tall Designer went along. Unfortunately he didn't pick up any prizes himself - but he did collect the prize for the Best Designed Children's Non-fiction Book on behalf of John and Stella Danalis for Riding the Black Cockatoo. Hooray!

2) Are you looking for something very interesting to while away your Monday morning? Meanjin and Jonathan Walker have you covered. Jon's guest post over at Spike on the Making of Five Wounds (in two parts) is absolutely fascinating. And there are videos - what more could you want?

3) Speaking of awards, and speaking of speaking, Speech Pathology Australia have announced their Book of the Year Award shortlist and we are very pleased and proud to see so many of our books.

4) The lyrics in the Wombles theme song are 'The Wombles of Wimbledon Common are we' not 'The Wombles of Wimbledon, common are we'.

This proves two things: 1) punctuation is important, and 2) the world is an unstable place and at any minute things that you thought were solid can be ripped from underneath you.*
Also, Bloomsbury is reissuing the Wombles books. Womble free, wombles. Womble free!

5) People appear to be naming their babies Cullen. We feel that this is ... an interesting choice.
Speaking of names, likeable Collingwood** midfielder Steele Sidebottom is closing in on the coveted title of Name of the Year. He's up against Charity Beaver in the semi-finals. In our opinion Steele wins hands down.***

6) And finally, we have a new addition to our list of words that are impossible to pronounce. You've been hearing the news readers refer to it as the 'Icelandic volcano', you've seen it written down: Eyjafjallajokull. But have you heard it pronounced? We got a little addicted to clicking play and hearing it again, and again.

*To other Onions, it proved them right all along, but they can pipe down and let the others wallow in their sudden uncertainty.
** Two adjectives that don't normally hang out together in this neck of the woods now that the Cake-maker Extraordinaire has left the premises.
***Luckily that's all he looked like winning on the weekend. Go Cats!

20 May 2010

The Magic Pudding

Spoiled. Spolied rotten is what we are.

There was not just cake today, but pudding.
Not just pudding, but sticky date pudding.

Perfectly magical for a chilly Melbourne afternoon.

Thank you, Cake-maker Virtuoso. Om nom nom nom.

*editors return to their keyboards with sticky fingers, warmed hearts and renewed vigour*

18 May 2010

Who's afraid of the big bad wolf?

Of course, as every chicken-owner knows, where there is poultry - there are predators. However, it seems that the wild dogs of the literary landscape are rather more appealing to humans than to domestic fowl.

Herewith, the beginnings of an arbitrary list...

Wolf Brother by Michelle Paver

Wolves in the Walls - Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Woolvs in the sitee - Maragret Wild & Anne Spudvilas

Lonesome Howl by Steven Herrick

White Fang by Jack London

The Big Bad Wolf

Fox - Margaret Wild & Ron Brooks*

Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl

Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss

Foxy Loxy

Jacob Black (obvs) and his ever so alluring predecessor, Oz**

The weasels and stoats***

And how could we have a list of wild dogs without mentioning this:

* Oh Fox. How we love you, despite your betrayal - and we are shivering with the excitements about your handsome new hardcover edition (with cloth binding!) to celebrate the tenth anniversary of your original publication.

** As you may have noticed, rules, we relax em.
***The passage where Mole is hunted through the Wild Wood is so frightening and gives one such a good impression of what it might be like to be prey, that we thought we'd just remind you of it. ROWR (weasel roar).
From 'Chapter III - The Wild Wood', The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham

It was over his shoulder, and indistinctly, that he first thought he saw a face; a little evil wedge-shaped face, looking out at him from a hole. When he turned and confronted it, the thing had vanished.

He quickened his pace, telling himself cheerfully not to begin imagining things, or there would be simply no end to it. He passed another hole, and another, and another; and then--yes!-- no!--yes! certainly a little narrow face, with hard eyes, had flashed up for an instant from a hole, and was gone. He hesitated--braced himself up for an effort and strode on. Then suddenly, and as if it had been so all the time, every hole, far and near, and there were hundreds of them, seemed to possess its face, coming and going rapidly, all fixing on him glances of malice and hatred: all hard-eyed and evil and sharp.

If he could only get away from the holes in the banks, he thought, there would be no more faces. He swung off the path and plunged into the untrodden places of the wood.

Then the whistling began.

Very faint and shrill it was, and far behind him, when first he heard it; but somehow it made him hurry forward. Then, still very faint and shrill, it sounded far ahead of him, and made him hesitate and want to go back. As he halted in indecision it broke out on either side, and seemed to be caught up and passed on throughout the whole length of the wood to its farthest limit. They were up and alert and ready, evidently, whoever they were! And he--he was alone, and unarmed, and far from any help; and the night was closing in.

Then the pattering began.

14 May 2010

Duck duck goose

Some time ago we observed that pigs were popular.

And recently we attended the CBCA Victorian judges talk by Suzanne Thwaites who gave a terrific insight into the judging process and warmly enthused about all the books on the CBCA short-list. She also noted that in the course of the judging process (which involves reading a tremendous quantity of books - we are in awe, truly) that 2009 was the year of poultry publishing, with ducks, roosters and chooks regularly featuring in their reading pile. And who doesn't love a duck?

The books that tickled the judges fancy are Bear & Chook by the Sea by Lisa Shanahan & Emma Quay and Kip by Christina Booth (both short-listed, Early Childhood), A Chook called Harry by Phillip Gwyn & Terry Denton (Notable, Younger Readers), Wendy by Gus Gordon (Notable, Picture book) and, of course the magnifiique Mr Chicken Goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs (short-listed, Picture Book).

So, embracing the spirit, herewith we present the beginnings of a list of a fine tradition of books or characters that suggest that poultry is indeed perennially popular:
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
Bear & Chook by Lisa Shanahan & Emma Quay
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack & Kurt Wiese
The Seven Diving Ducks by Margaret Friskey
Uhu* by Annette Rosemary Macarthur-Onslow
The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter
Henny Penny (and friends)
The Little Red Hen
Mother Goose
Donald Duck, Foghorn Leghorn & Camilla the Chicken**
And we are rather enamoured of Doug Savage's editor-chicken tackling Hamlet on Savage Chickens. A chicken engaged in a task that is relevant to our interests. Why is it relevant to our interests, you ask. Hasn't Hamlet already been edited, you suggest.

And we would refer you to the genius of one Nicki Greenberg who, for some time, has been working on a stunning graphic novel edition of Hamlet - coming soon to a bookshelf near you. When we say soon, here, we mean... October. Trust us, October will be here before you know it. But just to whet your appetite...

* We're not certain that an owl qualifies as domestic fowl... but we are willing to relax the rules a little. We promise we would never consider serving him up for dinner...
** Mr Duck, Mr Leghorn and Ms The Chicken are clearly film stars rather than book stars. We refer you to rule-relaxation note above.
*** Definitely literary chickens.

07 May 2010

In praise of teachers...

To Mrs A - For her red hair, red lips and fierce pronouncements: 'Next to her Bible, a dictionary is a girl's best friend.'

To Miss L - For being human enough to come into the classroom, in a few words tell us that we were on our own for this period, and put her head down in her private grief. I never found out what was paining her.

To Miss S - For reading aloud, with emphases and suspenseful pauses in all the right places, about creeping Hobyahs and mysterious girls with yellow ribbons around their necks; and for introducing a Prep to the delights of the spine-tingle; and for the Mercurochrome smiley on a scraped knee.

To Mr McL - For sudden-death maths, and for handsome.

To Miss S - For her inspired reading of the 'Professor Branestawm' series and her divinely manicured pearlie-pink polished fingers that mesmerisingly turned the pages.

To Mrs A - For being the first to show me that writing could open up wonders of imagination that I had no idea I possessed.

To Miss C - For making me the library monitor, allowing me to take out SEVEN books at once, teaching me how to use the microfiche, and for putting me off smoking forever with her very-long yellow-stained fingernails and ashtray odour. I almost forgive her for the lectures on the danger of reading books she deemed 'too old' for me.

To Mr S - For telling me that 83% was not good enough.

To Ms C - For the breath of a world beyond the suburbs and the southern hemisphere.

To Mr S - For the Paradox of the Stone and other philosophical conundrums to stretch the Year Seven brain.

To Mrs C - For giving up on trying to teach the rambunctious Year 10 English class and sitting with me to discuss Careful, He Might Hear You.

To Mr W - For teaching me how to make a wooden pencil box with the sliding lid that I treasured, carved, plastered with stickers, and had stolen from my locker within weeks; for the sporty car and surfer's locks; for the first teacher-crush.

To Mrs W - For showing me that playing the piano was as much about love as it was about technique.

To Ms M (student teacher) - For reading Storm Boy to my Grade Three class and then orchestrating for us to be bussed to the big smoke to see the film. And for sweeping her arms warmly around the weeping of us as we re-gathered on the bus.

To Dr B - For making me believe I could study physics. (He was wrong.)

To Miss L - For teaching me NOT to end the story with 'then I woke up and it was all a dream'; terrifying every student in our year level except me; appreciating my leather-bound Ancient Egyptian assignment despite the fact that it was 900 times the word limit, and being outraged enough to personally buy me a book prize when I didn't win the history prize that year.

To Mrs C - For teaching us the meaning of 'sycophant'; loving language with such an out-loud passion; terrifying every student in our class, including me - with her wit; allowing me to perform puppet shows rather than public speak; pulling strings to keep me in all her classes; and for eventually informing me, to my horror, that I knew as much as she did now and I was on my own.

To Mr B - For not telling my mum when I wagged.

To Miss C - For making us memorise the rivers of Europe. It still helps with crosswords.

To Mrs R - For being scarily strict, a little bit crazy and infinitely inspiring. And for running down the hall in high heels to arrive breathless at our door just in time to join in with Sing, Sing, Sing.

To Miss M - For taking us camping and abseiling, and forcing me to find courage in the face of an unyielding granite cliff that dropped away sickeningly into the bush below.

To Mrs C - For making my lunch every day.

To Miss G, the librarian - For her joyful and inclusive game of alliteration during a hot summer's day excursion, demonstrating with gusto how to bellow your name and an alliterative adjective ('Lovely Liz!') while leaping off the wharf into Manly bay.

To Mr S - For Heart of Darkness, for stories within stories, for the Gospel of Luke as literature, and for tick spasms in the margins of essays.

To Mrs R - for being an immigrant who knew far more about our country than we did, for stretching our suburban brains, and for teaching us anticlines, synclines and rigour.

To Mrs S - For rescuing me after I swallowed the cap of my pen.

To Mrs R - For her quiet, earnest enthusiasms and for her oft-insisted instruction: 'Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.'

To Mrs J - For the joys of slip-stitching, for celebrating the button stem, and for warning against iron-on interfacing and unnatural fibres.

To Miss C, the headmistress - For having a bold vision for what girls could do, and for knowing how to make us cry in assembly.

And especially to AG who inspired this post - For making her class laugh by pretending the Interactive Whiteboard wand was a Harry Potter wand. 'Accio answer! Accio book!'

Yours with gratitude and in admiration,


04 May 2010

Touch the wooden gate in the wall you never saw before

There are people in the world who like to be shown how to do something, and there are people who like to work things out for themselves. And there are people who like to have the instructions at hand, but manfully steadfastly ignore them.

And then there are people who helpfully devise and illustrate reassuring Instructions for any of us who find ourselves stranded in a fairytale.*

You may recall we have noted before that we are fans of these Instructions - and of Neil Gaiman reading them.

And now (well, in June) we offer them to you in a very user-friendly format indeed. A book! Yes! A book. Of illustrated Instructions. Clever? Yes, we thought so.

So remember:
The deep well you walk past leads to Winter's realm;
there is another land at the bottom of it.
If you turn around here,
you can walk back, safely;
you will lose no face.
I will think no less of you.
Excellent! There's even a get-out clause for those moments when your courage fails. And for other moments:
Do not lose hope - what you seek will be found.
No thanks required. As ever, we are here to help.

*And let's face it, sometimes life can feel stranger than a fairytale, so in those moments it may be useful to have Mr Gaiman's Instructions to hand - even if you choose to ignore them. We will think no less of you.