31 July 2012

Further adventures of Barry and Stella

Stella: Hello, everyone! Thanks for commenting on our first post!
Barry: Especially you, Mr Smithingtonson. You are very sensible.
Stella: Ha! All the real people agreed with me. Anyway, hurry up and choose the photos now, because it's my turn to write  awesome captions.
Barry: Okay. Here we go...


We were so busy today - we had all the CBCA shortlisted titles to read. Look, Barry still hasn't finished his pile.

Barry: That's because I'm doing 'attention to detail' and 'spending time with the text' like the Onions told us about.
Stella: These are my captions. You had your turn.

So anyway, while I waited for Barry to catch up, I tried to do some proofreading, but the book made me laugh too much. The Onions said it won't be out until November, so I am going to be supercool for at least three months until everyone else gets to read it too. 

After lunch Barry had to send a fax. Neither of us had ever used a fax before, and when we asked the Onion showing us why she had to send one, I think she swore a little bit under her breath. Anyway, it beeped a lot and tried to pull Barry's paw in, which is probably why no one uses them anymore. 

Then we met Charlie, a former cover model who's still hanging around trying to get his manuscript published. We were a tiny bit scared of him but the Onions said not to worry because he was mostly 'armless. I think that was meant to be a joke, because they laughed at themselves a lot.


Barry: Good job, Stella.
Stella: Thank you, Barry. Let's go home, I'm tired.

30 July 2012

Introducing ... Barry and Stella

Midwinter is proving to be a very busy time in the House of Onion. So much reading; so much editing; so much cover designing; so many books going to the printer ...*

We were beginning to despair of getting everything done.

So you can imagine our delight when we discovered that we will be hosting two work-experience slaves  students who will ease our burdens learn all the things.

The first task we've delegated is writing the blog furthering our social media agenda.

So for this week, we will leave you in the capable hands of Barry and Stella. We first met these two when they helped us out in the making of Too Cold for a Tutu

They've promised to take good care of Alien Onion ... with strictly no hijinks.

Over to you, Barry and Stella!


Barry: Hello, everyone! This is so exciting. We're very pleased to be here.
Stella: Why do you get to type first?
Barry: Because I'm older.
Stella: I hate that rule.
Barry: You can't type that, we're being professional.
Stella: Too late, I already did. Hey, can we show everyone the photos?
Barry: Okay, you pick and I'll do the captions.


Here we are this morning, arriving at the House for work experience. Please note, Stella is wearing her tutu even though I told her she needed to look professional. She said you can never be too professional for a tutu.

Some important facts about the House include that it has 51 stairs. But it didn't take long for Stella and me to find more efficient ways of getting up and down. The Onions said they are Considering our Recommendations. So that's exciting.

The first thing we were asked to do is apparently the most important thing an editor does all day.**

Then we spent the rest of the day reading and making Helpful Comments.

We can't wait to come back tomorrow!


Stella: That was really good, Barry. But I can do the captions tomorrow?
Barry: Okay. Are you going to wear your tutu again?
Stella: Yes!
Barry: Just checking.
Stella: Okay, everybody reading this, we will see you tomorrow!!! But in the meantime, if you have any opinions on the wearing of tutus in the workplace, will you please leave them in the comments? Because Barry doesn't believe that they can be Professional, but I'm pretty sure they can.

* So much Olympics to be watched, so much holidaying to be done ... FOR SOME.
** I don't know why, because the coffee tasted GROSS. And Stella got mad when I spilled some on her tutu. 

27 July 2012

House of Books! House of Books! House of Books!

No, not that kind.


Not that kind either.


Nor yet that kind.


We have a new house in the House!

Inside House of Books you will find some of Australia's favourite and most culturally significant books, available for the first time as ebooks and print-on-demand.

That's right, writers like Miles Franklin and Thea Astley, straight to your device - speedily and for cheaps.

Because good books should never die.


Kid lit types might want to shack up with Nick Earls.

Fans of that other great house of books, Varuna, might like to move in with Eleanor Dark.

Participants in the 2012 Australian Women Writers Challenge who might need a boost from Stella to Miles, or a leg-up from Miles to Franklin-fantastic, will most definitely want to room with 

There are heaps more but we ran out of house puns.

So enter House of Books, and enjoy!

24 July 2012

This is Margaret Mahy

'Good morning; Allen & Unwin; this is Susannah.'
'Good morning, Allen & Unwin. This is Margaret Mahy.'

Margaret Mahy.
Margaret. Mahy.
On the phone.
To me.
I mumbled something incoherent; I cleared my throat and tried to breathe as my Best Professional Phone Manner dissolved into a puddle of Unprofessional Stammering.

'I love you. I mean ... I love ... your books. I love you and your books. I love...'
'Thank you. Can I speak to Sarah, please.'

And so I transferred her. And then I sat quietly for a moment. And then I experienced an exalted moment of knowing I was working in a place where Margaret Mahy sometimes telephoned. She was writing Kaitangata Twitch and we (WE!) were publishing it. It's a moment I've never really recovered from.

Margaret Mahy died yesterday, aged 76.

When I found out, I rang my mum. Because it was Mum who read me The Great Piratical Rumbusitification and The Librarian and the Robbers, The Chewing Gum Rescue and The Downhill Crocodile Whizz. We had laughed and laughed and laughed. So now we cried a little.

And it was Mum who bought me a copy of The Changeover, but wisely left it on the shelf for me to discover myself. I avoided it for years because it looked like this:

and had "a supernatural romance" on the cover. 

But finally I picked it up, and by happy chance or grand design I was just the perfect age for Laura Chant and Sorry Carlisle, then Harry and the Carnival brothers, and Angela and Tycho. And I've been the perfect age ever since.

It's hard to define what it is that makes Margaret's writing so special. There is humour and wit and sadness, strength and vulnerability (and often strength in vulnerability), the wonderful terrible power of being a girl, and the breathtaking possibility and serious responsibility of making yourself, definining yourself, and then changing the definition.

Her writing means something powerful for New Zealanders - reflecting their stories, their land, themselves.
It means something adjacent to that for Australians, and something else again for the rest of the world - who honoured her with awards like the Hans Christian Andersen and the Carnegie.

I read recently that one of Jeffrey Eugenides's characters yearns for new words for complex emotions, for 'the happiness that attends disaster' or 'the excitement of getting a room with a minibar.' I want a word for 'the joyous aching melancholy one experiences while reading a Margaret Mahy novel.'

I find that feeling again in Karen Healey's writing, and in Penni Russon's, and in a different, fiercer way in Margo Lanagan's. I will always be seraching for it in new writers, and can always find it again in Margaret's 100+ books.

Where will I begin the re-reading?
Where will you? 

Thank you, Margaret. I love you. I love your books. I love...

*I believe it was about  five minutes into our first meeting with Karen to discuss her novel, Guardian of the Dead, that she pulled a battered copy of The Changeover out of her bag, and we knew then that we were going to get along just fine.

13 July 2012

Friday stuff and items

1) IS THIS ABOUT MY ATTIC WIFE? Texts from Jane Eye. Too too perfect.

2) Harry Potter and the Ten Years Later. Oh dear. So funny. Not for childers.

3) Todays learning: 'strait and narrow' versus 'straight and narrow'.

4) Have you been keeping up with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries? We are. And we met Bing Lee!

5) Advances! Pretty pretty advances to gloat over.

06 July 2012

Shortlists! Longlists! HOORAYS!

We have VERY GOOD NEWS. The shortlists for the 2011 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards have been announced. And there is much to HOORAY about.

2011 Western Australian Premier's Book Awards Shortlist

Crow Country by Kate Constable 
The Coming of the Whirlpool by Andrew McGahan 
The Dead I Know by Scot Gardner 
Only Ever Always by Penni Russon 

The Little Refugee by Anh & Suzanne Do Illustrations by Bruce Whatley  

And in FURTHER VERY GOOD NEWS, the longlists for the Sisters in Crime Davitt Awards have also been announced. More HOORAYS! MOAR!

2012 Davitt Award Longlist

The Shattering by Karen Healey 
A Pocketful of Eyes by Lili Wilkinson
The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky

So many hurrahs to Kate, Andrew, Scot, Penni, Ahn, Suzanne, Bruce, Karen, Lili and Ursula!

And many congratulations to everyone who made the shortlists and longlists.

05 July 2012

It's NAIDOC week!

Put on your party hats and your party shoes, shake a leg and stamp a foot in celebration of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, and the contributions made by Indigenous Australians doing all sorts of amazing things, in all sorts of awesome ways, all over this country.

For instance, in the field of children's literature, perhaps? OF COURSE!

Here are just a few fabulous books by Indigenous authors, artists and storytellers, to get you in the mood for celebrating.

Nunjul the Sun  by Meme McDonald and Boori Monty Pryor 

'I'm heading out on m'own, down the highway to the big city. Going south. I lost my taste for knowing the old ways. I'm wanting what's new. What's exciting, what's out there on the other side of town. That's what got me on this bus. I gotta get out, see. This is my chance. My chance to do something.'

Nunjul the Sun continues the story of the young Murri boy begun in My Girragundji  and The Binna Binna Man . Njunjul's 16 now and moving to the city, where he'll have to deal with a whole bunch of stuff - like basketball and girls and teenage stuff and identity stuff and ... none of this conveys just how funny, warm and moving this book is. Read it.

Ten Scared Fish  and Kangaroos Hop by Ros Moriarty, illustrated by Balarinji

Perfect for the littlies.The kangaroos hop, the butterflies fly, the echidnas shuffle across the land and down to the water's edge where a sleepy crocodile lies ... Shhhh! 

Ubby's Underdogs by Brenton McKenna

Australia's first Indigenous graphic novel! We heard Brenton speak at Reading Matters and he was so interesting and funny and generally awesome we dashed off to read Ubby's Underdogs. DASH OFF TO READ IT! It's wonderful - and there are sequels. And, as an added bonus, it's full of fabulous girls. DASH OFF!

A multi-award winning classic, this book tells the story of how Anangu from five different language groups came to live together at Papunya. It is collaboration involving many voices and many hands -  the staff and students of Papunya School, working together with children's writer Nadia Wheatley and artist Ken Searle.

Shake a Leg by Boori Monty Pryor and Jan Ormerod

All you fellas watching, come up, join in, warrima.
Clap your hands, little ones.
Stamp your feet, nannas.
Get down and dance, you smart young things, mummas and daddas.
Let's get the whole town dancing!
Even the Prime Minister got in on the act

Maralinga - The Anangu Story  by Yalata and Oak Valley Communities with Christobel Mattingley

'Maralinga - the Anangu Story is our story. We have told it for our children, our grandchildren and their children. We have told it for you.' This is the story of the Anangu people of South Australia and their life before and after the UK government dropped nuclear bombs on their traditional lands. It is an important story for all Australians.

Yirra and her deadly dog, Demon by Anita Heiss and the students of La Perouse Primary School

Yirra's mum's sick of vacuuming up fur balls, the neighbours are fed up with having their undies nicked from the clothesline, and her step-dad just wants his slippers back. The fabulous, Anita Heiss, and kids from La Perouse Primary tell a hilarious, fast-moving, energetic story - a contemporary view of urban Indigenous Sydney life.

Playground compiled by Nadia Wheatley

An amazing anthology of true stories about childhood, compiled from a wide range of memoirs and oral histories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Alongside reminiscences of getting bush tucker, going fishing and taking part in ceremony, there are descriptions of playing games, building cubbies and having fun. The warmth of home, the love of family and the strength of community shine through every story.

When I was Little, Like You by Mary Malbunka

Playing with friends, building cubby houses, climbing trees, collecting sugarbag, digging for honey ants, hunting for lizards, and learning about the seasons, animals and plants, Mary Malbunka creates a vivid picture of a truly Australian childhood in which country - ngurra - is life itself.

Maybe Tomorrow by Boori Monty Pryor and Meme McDonald 

'The other day this little one asked me, "When did you start being an Aborigine, and how old were you when you started that?" Like it was a career path or something. I just cracked up laughing.'
From the Aboriginal fringe camps of his birth to the catwalk, basketball court, DJ console and more...this is a new anniversary edition of Boori Monty Pryor's life, his pain, his joy and his hopes, and it is as powerful now as it was when it was first published.

Happy reading! Happy NAIDOC week!

04 July 2012

Team Players

There may be no 'i' in team, but there's a 'u' in Team Human

Or there will be as soon as you grab hold of a copy, now that it is out in the world. OUT IN THE WORLD. 

How out in the world? Just, like, standing on the doorstep? Just edging down the garden path? Just opening the front gate?

NO! 100% in the world.
All over the world*.

Sarah Rees Brennan is talking about it in Ireland.

Justine Larbalestier is talking about it in Sydney.

Jordi Kerr is talking about it in Melbourne.

And Cory Doctorow is talking about it in Boing Boing.**

If you are in Sydney next week, get yourself along to Kinokuniya on Thursday 12 July for the Team Human launch  where Justine and Margo Lanagan will be talking about it too.

Unfortunately, Sarah is unable to attend this fabulous event, due to the world being large.***

If you are curious to know how two people on different continents collaborated to write such a fabulous take on the vampire novel, Sarah and Justine will be chatting with Scott Westerfeld here on Monday 9 July  at 10 am (Australians, don't be fooled by the fact that the website says Sunday at 8pm).

Or you can check out this Q & A with Justine.

And you can read the first chapter of Team Human here

And remember, people, friends don't let friends date vampires.

* Well, most parts of the English-speaking world, anyway.
** Boing Boing is basically a country, right?
*** It really is a long way to Tipperary, and Dublin is even further than that.