31 January 2011

Hot! Hot! Hot!

For the last two weeks all the talk in this town has been tennis, tennis, tennis. But now the evenings of five-set matches that stretch long into the night (or not) are behind us and it's time to change the conversation.

So here is a list of items that are so HOT!* right now:

1) Melbourne. Melbourne is so HOT!** right now.

2) Shaun Tan. Shaun Tan is so HOT! right now. Was it only last month we announced that it was finger-crossing time because Shaun Tan's The Lost Thing had been short-listed for an Oscar nomination? Why yes, it was. And unless you've been hiding from the heat under some kind of rock, you'll know by now that all that finger-crossing was worth it - behold! Herewith the list of nominees for the 83rd Academy Awards featuring in the category of Short Film (Animated) is:
"The Lost Thing" Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
Go little Lost Thing, go!

3) Tarte tatin. Tarte tatin is so HOT! right now.

Well, not so much right now, but the little shallot, potato and goat's cheese tarts, they were HOT! and OH SO UNBELIEVABLY TASTY! when the Cake-Maker Virtuoso brought them into the House as a special birthday treat for an Onion who swings savoury rather than sweet. Oh my, you can tart it up any time, C-MV!

* We are, as ever, grateful to BOM and to the good folk who have installed their weather-reading instruments on the roof of McCoy Building School of Earth Sciences at Melbourne Uni for enabling us to be up-to-the-minute informed about all things of vital weather-related importance.
** That UVB rating is forecast to get all the way up to...12. That's one more than 11, people, so all - especially you fair-skinned folk - are advised to hide under your hats, or stay inside and amuse yourself with some kind of reading material, a book perhaps?
*** And for those of you who fancy trying your own hand at a little HOT! tarte tatin, here is a recipe that nomify prepared earlier.

24 January 2011

Open letters: a tale of love, found and replaced

Find and Replace, mi amore,

I love you, I love you, I love you almighty, I wish your pyjamas were next to my nightie.*
I love it when you strip the double spaces and the strange multiple tabs from my sentences and paragraphs.
It makes me weak at the knees when you take a word I don't want and turn in into something else entirely. Something better and stronger and bolder.
It's magical between us.
I hope you won't think me too forward if I say I want to REPLACE ALL.

Love unto infinity,
Your editor xxx

Find and Replace,

YOU ARE DROPPED. You are unfollowed and unfriended.
You have behaved ABOMINABLY.
You ought to have known that those words you substituted were not what I wanted. You have made a mess of everything.
Your wilful misunderstanding of my wishes has hurt me deeply.
I think it's best that we have no further contact.


Dear Find and Replace,

I am now willing to concede that I played some part in the recent ... unpleasantness that occurred between us.
I can see that some things I said were a little ambiguous. I ought to have been clearer.
I would like to resume our friendship - but I hope you understand when I say it has to be on a strictly professional basis. We can't let ourselves get carried away.

Kind regards,

*Now don't be mistaken, now don't be misled. I mean on the clothes line and not in the bed.

19 January 2011

Wednesday Stuff and Items

1) The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky (out in April) is just the most stunning book. Really, we're rendered a bit wordless by how much we love it, so, here, look at the pretty pictures in this fabulous new book trailer.

2) Neil Gaiman is going to be yellow.*
We are green with envy. But also purple with pride. If you haven't read his latest, Odd and the Frost Giants, get thee to a bookery.

3) The Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo tweets!
A brave and bold Sydney Onion has taken the reins of an Allen & Unwin Twitter account. And lo there was much excitement! If you are interested in Gossip and News and Insight and, perhaps most importantly, GIVEAWAYS then follow @AllenAndUnwin

4) And in things that make us go 'hee!' news, we keep hearing reports that Paul Kelly's wonderful How to Make Gravy has been spotted shelved in the cookbook section of bookstores. Perhaps they could put a little shelf-talker under it: Paul Kelly, Australia's finest singer-songwriter-saucier.

*And last year, his (now) wife, Amanda Palmer, guest programmed Rage. So between them they have now achieved two long-held ambitions of at least one Onion.

13 January 2011

What Do Editors Do All Day, part 4 - Blurb Writing.

It gives us great pleasure to bring you the fourth installment in our occasional series, What Do Editors Do All Day.

If you'd asked us two weeks ago what we were doing all day, the answer would have been eating left-over potato salad and sitting by the fire* reading.

But this is a shiny new year and we are back at our desks eagerly making books and trying to get them into the hands of readers who will love them.

Other than the cover, the blurb is the only tool a reader has to tell if a book they pick up is right for them. To put it another way, the blurb is the publisher's best chance to communicate to the reader exactly why they should buy that particular book and not any of the other eleventy-million shelved nearby.

So writing a good blurb is really important.
It's also really hard.

  • A good blurb tells enough of the story to intrigue the reader, but doesn't give too much away.
  • It shouldn't be too long.**
  • The praise for the writing needs to be enthusiastic but not forced.
  • It can be good to make comparisons to other books - but not ludicrous or spurious comparisons.
  • You want to send recognisable signals about genre and appropriate audience, but you don't want to sound hackneyed or trite.

Writing a good blurb often includes making many false starts, and requires the help of people from all over the company - and in many cases the author too. And sometimes it includes changing your mind when you actually see the blurb in place on the cover. It can be a long process.

Which is why we've come up with a handy shortcut.
The Onions' Patented Easy-to-use Blurb Writing Kit.

  1. Below is a set of handy flashcards illustrating commonly used adjectives.*** Print out a set of the cards.
  2. Cut out each card.
  3. Fan out as per a deck of cards and ask your colleague to choose five at random.
  4. String together with nouns like prose, tale, exploration, feat and tour-de-force.
  5. Source endorsement from high-profile author.
  6. Adjourn to pub for rest of the afternoon.****
No need to thank us. We live to serve.

For earlier installments of our What Do Editors Do All Day series see:

* I know! A fire in December! Crazy but true.
** Not only because a long blurb risks boring the reader, but because your designer is liable to get cranky when there's too much text to fit on the back cover.
*** Of course, if you are Dave Eggers you simply put all the best adjectives into the actual title of the book - and then you can skip the blurb-writing process altogether and adjourn to the pub to read the page proofs of your heartbreaking work of staggering genius while you sip on a nice glass of shiraz.
**** Or adjourn to your local bookshop for a spot of Blurb Bingo. Print out the LOLjectives on one piece of paper and give a copy to a friend and keep one for yourself. Start at opposite ends of a bookshop. The first one to locate all the adjectives wins. Adjourn to pub.

10 January 2011

We solemnly swear...

... that we are working very hard.

We are proofreading.
We are writing blurbs.
We are designing covers.
We are copyediting.
We are writing editorial letters.
We are checking page-proofs and print quotes and schedules and advance copies.

Why are we telling you this? Because we're about to post another cake photo, and we wouldn't want you to get the wrong idea. We really are working Very Hard.

In honour of SB's birthday the Cake-maker Virtuoso created the most stunning Red Velvet Cake. Or, as EJ prefers we call it, Southern Lady Food Cake.

A triumph! We ain't never been as plum delighted in all our born days.

06 January 2011

Start as you mean to go on

With cake...

New Year, New Year!

Start spreading the news,
We're talking today
We want to be a part of it - new year, new year

So it seems we didn't quite get all of the singing out of our system in the lead up to Christmas, but everyone loves a song to start off the new year, don't they? Of course they do.

We've had a lovely time swanning about during the Christmas break - eating, drinking, reading and generally being merry, but now it's time to get back into the swing of this whole cake-eating book-making business.

Here's a little news we'd like to spread so you can be a part of it in this fine new year, new year!

1. Babel Clash is hosting a Zombies vs Unicorns event starring Holly Black and Scott Westerfeld. So if you're still yet to pick a Team perhaps Holly can convince you of the awesomeness of a unicorn apocalypse or Scott can persuade you that baying for brains is the ultimate in immortality.

2: Anyone out there keen to write a novel? We're guessing the answer to this is a resounding YES! And you know how we like to please, so, without further ado, we introduce ... the Faber Academy at Allen & Unwin.

Sounds fancy, right? Well it is fancy, it is! The first course, cunningly called 'Writing a Novel' is a hands-on six-month, intensive, practical course of writing exercises, readings and discussions, focussing on the joy of novel writing* with a view to completing a full draft of a novel. The deadline for applications is Friday 28 January, so scurry on over here to get the lowdown on how to apply.

3. Voting is now open for one of our favourite activities - deciding on the Macquarie Dictionary Word of the Year 2010.

We are especially enamoured of the following entries:

blink kissing noun a method of putting a cat at ease by blinking slowly rather than looking at it with a direct gaze, mimicking the behaviour of cats themselves, who stare when being aggressive but blink when not.
charismatic megafauna noun large animals which have an appeal for the general public, as whales, pandas, gorillas, etc
4. Spotted in the Mothership - Turtle cake! Excellent work KB, we applaud your cake in all its turtley glory.

Those old year blues, are melting away
We're gonna make a brand new start of it
- in this new year...

* Yes, dear readers, you read that right. Novel-writing is a joy. Novel-writing is a joy. Novel-writing is a joy. (Repeat.)
** We are confident no one actually needs the terms self-gift or plate up defined for them.