29 October 2010

Friday Stuff and Items - Halloween Edition

1) Aiiiiiiiiiiiiii!
Did you know that in 1996 the residents of North Tarrytown, New York voted to change the name of their village to Sleepy Hollow. Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleep Hollow, is buried in their cemetery. You can take a haunted hayride through the very street down which Ichabod Crane fled the Headless Horseman. We commend the residents of Sleepy Hollow for their commitment to their literary legacy.

2) AHAhaHAhahahaHAha!
Lit Drift has some hilarious suggestions for literary Halloween costumes. Our favourite: 'J.D. Salinger: Take extreme measures to part your hair with the utmost meticulousness. Then don't leave the house at all.'

3) Arrrroooooooo!
So your costume is all sorted. But what about your companion animal? The New Yorker's annual Critterati contest has the answers! This year's winners are SUPERB. Here is Mark as the Nurse from Romeo and Juliet.

4) WoooOOOOoooOOooo
In the mood for a spot of ghosting? We highly recommend younger readers begin with Catherine Jinks's series Allie's Ghost Hunters, starting with Eglantine. Older readers in the mood for a Halloweeny bite of vampire or howl of werewolf could begin with The Reformed Vampire Support Group or The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group.

27 October 2010

Five questions for the Tall Designer

We didn't ask them. Spike did.
They are interesting questions, and he answered in a very interesting fashion.

Go forth, read, enjoy, and discover behind-the-scenes stuff about the cover design for Lili Wikinson's Pink!

If we had asked Bruno five questions it would have looked more like this:
1) I'm going for coffee - is your KeepCup clean?
2) Well, I like it, but what is it, exactly?
3) Do you think we could add the title to the front cover?
4) How do I work the scanner again?
5) Can I have the archive files for Zombies vs Unicorns?
Which would have been far less interesting for everyone, especially Bruno.

22 October 2010

An Open Letter

Dear Libba Bray,

Deep cleansing breath.

We Onions are fond of a letter, of the art of letter-writing, and especially of open letters. And we hereby anoint you Queen of the Open Letter. Your letter to Fiona, 'Your mileage may vary' made us cheer; it made us reflect; it made us proud; and it made us a little weepy.

Thank you.


21 October 2010

What We're All About

Last week we had the pleasure of the company of a class of NMIT students, who were given a peek into this whole thing we call publishing.

And after only a couple of hours with us, we believe they have the makings of fine fine editors and publishers.

They really just got the publishing business, you know. They understood what we are all about...

which, of course, is CAKE!

Look look what we received yesterday:

We admired them.
Then we ate them.*

Thanks, guys!
High distinction.

* For clarity, we ate the cakes; we did not eat the students.

20 October 2010

Wednesday Stuff and Items

1) The Keepers series has its own website! www.keepersbooks.com.au It's so pretty! There's interesting info about Lian Tanner, and the characters in Museum of Thieves, and there are heaps of extras and fun stuff.* There is a report that the quiz is so fiendish that the editor of the book may have not exactly completely passed it, as such.** We challenge you to do better!

2) Penguin books in Malaysia have produced beautiful print ads for their 'unputdownable' classics. Absolutely gorgeous, especially The Railway Children.

3) The Guardian is putting together a dedicated books site for young readers - and they've put out a call for actual real live young readers to help run it. Awesome.

4) We have already noted that Readings had the inspired idea of teaming Nicki Greenberg and Shaun Tan together as the inaugural artists in their Working Art Project. It seems that they are not the only ones who recognise that Nicki and Shaun are a match made in artistic heaven. The Wheeler Centre has paired them up for an event as well. Genius!

5) Maralinga - The Aangu Story by Yalata and Oak Valley communities, with Christobel Mattingley has been shortlisted for the Young People's History Prize in the NSW Premier's History Awards. We're so pleased and proud! Big congratulations to everyone involved in the making of the book!

*Very Nice Work, Sydney Onions!
**Unconfirmed report!

15 October 2010

The Power of Story

Way back in July, we Onions gathered downstairs in the large (cold) book-lined room* in the House and were treated to an all-singing, all-dancing presentation by the delightful Boori Monty Pryor. The subject of this wonderful performance was the hot-off-the-presses book, Shake a Leg by Boori and Jan Ormerod.

And yes, dear readers, there was audience participation. After explaining the story of each dance, Boori had us all up shake-a-legging; clapping and foot-stomping, branch-shaking and cheering as he guided us through the dances - each one developed to communicate ways to find food or avoid dangers, such as crocodiles or the black and yellow bee, which unlike the native bee, has a sting in its tail.
'Because different mobs speak different languages those boys needed to make up a warning dance to tell others about this new stinging bee.'
We were all a little hesitant about the dancing at first, but we soon found our rhythm as Boori showed us how each dance so beautifully illustrated the power of story: the sense of connection and communication and life and respect and the spirits of all living things and the importance of heritage and keeping it alive through storytelling.**

Shake a Leg is now out in the world and has had joyous all-singing, all-dancing launch events in Townsville, Melbourne and Fremantle.

It's a wonderfully contemporary celebration of food, dance, storytelling, cultural understanding and the secret of pizza! It so captured the imagination of one of our teacher reviewers that she not only wrote this fabulous review, she was also inspired to make this very impressive crocodile pizza. Om nom. Pizza.***

And while we can't offer you a taste of the actual crocodile pizza, we can offer you a taste of the actual book. Herewith an extract we prepared earlier.

*You can get a (figurative) peek into this room over here where you will also get a sneak peek into other (not-so) sekrit Onion business.
** Which in turn reminded us of this article by Christos Tsiolkas in the Guardian. It's the story he told at the Gala Night of Storytelling that celebrated the opening of the Wheeler Centre - and while it doesn't quite have the same power in print than it had the night he spoke it aloud to a pin-drop quiet full-house of listeners at the Melbourne town hall, it's still wonderfully moving.
*** And pizza can very often be an excellent substitute for cake.

14 October 2010

The House of Onion

We may have mentioned the House in which we work. Yes, the House we may have mentioned it.

We talk of it so often not only because we spend so much time here, but because we are fond of it. And calling it 'the House' is no idle boast. It really is a big old Victorian terrace house, long since divided into office space but retaining a rambling, ramshackle and, if we're completely honest, slightly run-down feeling.*

If anyone ever wrote a story about the Onions, the house itself would have to feature.

There's the Harry Potter cupboard under the stairs, the sinks that crop up all over the place, often in unexpected places (such as a cupboard, but not the one under the stairs), and the leftover signage from previous tenants. (Ecumenical Affairs Commission, anyone?) There is the satisfyingly wild square metre of earth and pretty weeds in the parking lot, the rickety old wooden fire escape and the very purple carpet.

And there is the odd fact that the bottom floor is always freezing - even in the very middle of a hot summer day when everyone upstairs is sweltering.

Perhaps somebody ought to set a mystery novel here. If only we knew any good writers...

Herewith, a list of other Houses that are characters in their own right.

Misselthwaite Manor -
The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett
When Mary Lennox first steps into the great hall of Misselthwaite, it is impossibly huge, cold and unfriendly and she is small, sallow and spoiled. A place of a thousand rooms and most of them shut-up and locked, Misselthwaite gradually comes to life with the garden, the servants, the master of the house, and all. The day Mary spends exploring the many rooms, finding the nest of mice and the little ivory elephants is one of my favourite passages in the book.

Samarkand -
Secret Scribbled Notebooks and My Candlelight Novel by Joanne Horniman
Kate and Sophie, our heroines, were adopted by Lil who runs a shabby old guesthouse that squats by the river in Lismore. Samarkand is a crumbling two-storey weatherboard on stumps, and sees a thin procession of odd guests, but there's something magical and otherworldly about it.

I first met Sophie in My Candlelight Novel, where she's twenty-one and has a baby called Hetty, with whom she lies indolently in various of Samarkand's many dim green balconied rooms, reading novel after novel. There's a sense that Sophie can stay sheltered in Samarkand dreaming and reminiscing and writing letters to her sister Kate forever; indeed, every year the house is isolated from the world, like a big ship, when the river floods. It sounds like just the thing - and it's a real place. Wonder if there are any vacancies?

The Professor's House -
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis
It is the start of World War II and the Pevensie children are evacuated to the country house of Professor Kirke (or Digory, as we are later, well... earlier really, to know him). It is big and old and easy to get lost in. And, of course, it contains a certain wardrobe... Who doesn't long for a house that's really properly big enough to play hide-and-seek? And who, on finding themselves actually IN such a house, hasn't checked the backs of the wardrobes? Just in case.

Windermere -
Mostly Sunny by Marion Roberts
Initially Sunny is not convinced it's a good idea to leave her childhood home (with the awesome kitchen shed out the back especially built for tall people) to move into the huge mansion on the river left to her family by Granny Carmelene. After all, there is the room full of scary portraits with following eyes. But Windermere proves to be a house with a lot of potential - and a turret bedroom worth fighting for. There is room to romp, and space to Be Sustainable. There is a grumpy gardener and there may even be a ghost...

Manderley -
Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
None of us have read Rebecca since high school, but none of us forget (do we?) the house shrouded in Cornwall fog, with its creepy opulence, grand staircase (scene of many a drama, including the fabulous disastrous frock incident) and priceless-but-eminently-breakable ornaments. The whole place is as good as owned by the sinister and not-quite-human Mrs Danvers, with Maxim de Winter hiding in the firelit library or generally unavailable physically and emotionally, and the poor gauche newlywed narrator without a name or much of a backbone is pretty much uncomfortable and inept everywhere. Of course, Manderley is one big shrine to the impossibly glamorous Rebecca, who is somehow undiminished by any revelations; her ghost is never going anywhere...

The Museum of Dunt -
The Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner
Not quite a house but definitely a home - to the Keepers and a lot else besides, not all of it ... nice. Rather like the old Melbourne Museum before it moved to its clean and modern (and rather boring) current quarters, you never know what you might encounter around a dark and dusty corner: a preserved snake in a jar, a giant whale, a Brizzlehound**. The Museum of Dunt moves and breathes; its mood is unreliable; it likes to be sung to; and it's never the same two days in a row. It keeps the city safe, but it harbours dark and dangerous things. Venture past the Dirty Gate at your peril!

Green Gables - The Anne books (up until Anne's House of Dreams) by LM Montgomery

We'll let LM Montgomery do this bit herself:
Anne wakened on the morning of her wedding day to find the sunshine winking in at the window of the little porch gable and a September breeze frolicking with her curtains.
"I'm so glad the sun will shine on me," she thought happily.

She recalled the first morning she had wakened in that little porch room, when the sunshine had crept in on her through the blossom- drift of the old Snow Queen. That had not been a happy wakening, for it brought with it the bitter disappointment of the preceding night. But since then the little room had been endeared and consecrated by years of happy childhood dreams and maiden visions. To it she had come back joyfully after all her absences; at its window she had knelt through that night of bitter agony when she believed Gilbert dying, and by it she had sat in speechless happiness the night of her betrothal. Many vigils of joy and some of sorrow had been kept there; and today she must leave it forever. Henceforth it would be hers no more; fifteen-year-old Dora was to inherit it when she had gone. Nor did Anne wish it otherwise; the little room was sacred to youth and girlhood--to the past that was to close today before the chapter of wifehood opened.
-- from Anne's House of Dreams

And of course we couldn't mention houses in literature without thinking of the blackened ruins of Thornfield Hall or pining a little for Pemberley. Oh Pemberley.

Which literary houses do you love? Where do you long to live? And where would you not set foot if you were paid?

* This must be the reason we feel so comfortable lying on the floor here. Much of our best editorial thoughts are had while lying on the floor.
**Okay so we never saw a Brizzlehound in the Melbourne Museum, not even in the dungeons with the stuffed items.

12 October 2010

A Spot of Inky

The shortlist for the Inkys was announced today and what a pretty shortlist it is.*

These ones are especially dear to our hearts:

Silver Inky
Going Bovine by Libba Bray

Gold Inky
Liar by Justine Larbalestier

Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Congratulations, Libba and Justine and Karen!

You can see the shortlist in all its glory on the Read Alert website.
And if you are between 12 and 20, go forth and vote!

We don't have our own celebratory cake today (woe woe woe), so here is one someone else prepared earlier:

*Editor strokes shortlist fondly and gazes at it, starry-eyed.*

08 October 2010

Desktop Publishing

'I've learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he or she handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.' - Maya Angelou

So true, Maya Angelou. So true.

We think you can also tell a bit about a person from what they keep on their desks.

Herewith, a photo essay from the House of Onion:

All this talk of desks has put us in mind to revisit the world's first unmanned flying desk set.*

*And as an added bonus, you'll know how to say 'world's first unmanned flying desk set' in Spanish, because we couldn't find a clip that didn't have subtitles. That should come in handy. But don't let it detract from the pathos of the moment. Oh Todd. Oh Neil. *sob*

04 October 2010

A match made in...Readings

So Readings have some items that are extremely relevant to our interests.* Bags! Or more-specifically Working Art bags! Featuring Nicki Greenberg's Hamlet and members of Shaun Tan's Tuesday Afternoon Reading Group from Tales From Outer Suburbia.

Not only do they look very fine indeed, but they come in either a short-handled or a long-handled version - because, you know, some people prefer their bag-handles short and some prefer their bag-handles long. We don't know about you, but we are fans of the long-handled bag. So much easier to sling over one's shoulder - and if your bag is full up with your very own copy of Nicki's Hamlet, you are definitely going to want to sling it over your shoulder. It's a big book, people. Huge.

We did mention some time ago that Hamlet was not out until October and that October was a long time to wait. And now the wait is over, dear readers - Hamlet is out in the world and will be officially launched on Thursday by the always dapper and ever entertaining Mr Bernard Caleo.

And in behind-the-curtain news, slip on over to this post on the Readings blog for some inside information about how Nicki went about creating this sumptuous version of Shakespeare's play, staged on the page. And we are very pleased to report that it has already won many fans including New Yorker cartoonist and all-round amazing artist Drew Dernavich who posted this rather fabulous review.

So off to Readings with you! Quick smart! Lickety split! And snaffle yourself some books, some CDs, some DVDs, some bargains and a limited edition Working Art bag (or two) to carry them home in.

* Well, Readings always have a goodly number of items that are relevant to our interests. We're sure we are not the only ones who always leave this store a little heavier in the bag region and a little lighter in the wallet region.

01 October 2010

Word of the day - drey

A conversation over dinner

Onion's mum: 'When Felix was cleaning out the gutters yesterday he said, "I think there's a nest up here." So I went up the ladder to look and said, "Oh yes, but I think it's a drey, not a nest." And Felix said, "What's a drey?"...'
Onion: 'What is a drey?'
Onion's mum: 'You've never heard of a drey either? It's a possum's nest.'
Onion: 'Really? Awesome.'
Onion's mum: 'How did you not know that?'
Onion: 'How did you not teach me?'
*We draw a veil over the rest of the conversation*

Specificity in language is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. And the words for animal shelters are almost as good as collective nouns.

Pigs have sties
Birds have nests
Eagles have eyries
Chickens have coops
Cows have byres*
Sheep have folds
Dogs have kennels**
Horses have stables
Bees have hives
Rabbits have warrens
Bunyips have billabongs
Bears and wolves have dens***
And, apparently, possums (and squirrels) have dreys.

A cow does not live in a kennel; a chicken does not roost in a fold; and a horse in a hive would be much like a bull in a china shop.

What others should we add to the list?

* Thank you, Playing Beatie Bow for firmly lodging this one in our memories.
** Or dog houses in the US, but a dog house here is more commonly understood as a shelter to house errant husbands.
*** Daniel bearded the lion in its den. But do lions actually live in dens in the wild? In all those Attenborough films the lions are always lolling about on the savanna. Maybe you need to hibernate to have a den.