Isolation Publicity with Wendy Orr

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

NimsIsland_roughs

Wendy is the author of several books for children, including the Nim’s Island seriesDragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance – the latter are both set in Bronze Age Greece. 2020 marks the 21st Birthday of Nim Rusoe, and Wendy had to cancel lots of celebrations around this milestone. So she has agreed to appear here to celebrate, along with my review of Nim’s Island which appeared a few weeks ago.

Hi Wendy and Welcome to The Book Muse

  1. You’re a prolific writer, perhaps best known for Nim’s Island, which celebrates its 21st birthday this year – where did the idea for Nim come from, and what is the basic premise?

Nim’s Island is the story of a girl who lives with her scientist dad and various animal friends on a small, secret island. When her dad disappears on a research trip, Nim reaches out to an adventure writer for help – and they both discover more courage than they knew they had.

Nim was inspired by seeing a small rocky islet off the coast of Vancouver Island when I was eight or nine and deciding I’d like to run away and live on an island all by myself. When we got home – to a town in the landlocked Canadian prairies –  I started writing a story about an orphan girl who runs away to live on an island.

Then in 1995, after Ark in the Park won the CBCA book of the year, two girls wrote one week, each asking me to write a book about them. I said that I couldn’t do that, but I started playing the writer’s game of “What if?” “What if a girl wrote to an author and said “Could you please write a book about me?” and the author said, “No, because I’m a very famous writer who writes very exciting books.”  But what if the girl’s life was more exciting than the author’s?   I decided that the girl’s life was more exciting because she lived on an island, and after many bad drafts, remembered the feeling of writing the island story when I was nine, and Nim’s Island finally came to life.

  1. As a remarkable coincidence, the day we set this up, a review copy of the 21st anniversary edition of Nim’s Island appeared on my doorstep just before I sat down to write these questions. Did you have anything fun planned to celebrate Nim turning 21 that had to be cancelled due to the pandemic?

I was planning to do lots of birthday parties at various bookstores, which would have been fun.

  1. Were any other events – festivals, school visits – cancelled in the wake of the pandemic?

Yes, a few. I had less scheduled than usual because of some family events that had to take precedence.

I can’t wait to dive into Nim. I’ve also seen the movie with Jodie Foster and Abigail Breslin – how do you think the movie differs to the books, or at least, the first book, which I think the movie was based on? The first movie is very close to the first book. The book doesn’t have the author’s interaction with her protagonist, as the movie does, but it makes so much sense to me I often forget that I didn’t put it in.

  1. Nim’s Island was the first Australian children’s book to be adapted for a Hollywood film – what was it like to be the first author to go on this journey, and how do you think the Australian adaptation with Bindi Irwin differs? Or is Nim’s Island the kind of place that could be situated anywhere in the world?

I was very lucky; I had a truly wonderful experience all through the production and film process. The producer Paula Mazur and I formed a firm friendship, and I ended up working on the first two drafts of the screenplay with her, as well as being a consultant. I think that there was a total of 10 days that we didn’t communicate with each other in the entire 5 year process – it was very intense, stimulating, and I learned a huge amount. I was on set twice, was very well treated by the stars as well as crew, and then was taken over for the Premiere at Graumman’s Chinese Theater and a short tour of the US. The whole thing was one of the greatest experiences of my life.

Return to Nim’s Island, starring Bindi Irwin as Nim, was loosely based on Nim at Sea. This book would have been horrendously expensive to film as I’d written it, so there had to be a lot of changes, but when I read the final screenplay, I loved it and felt it was very much a story that I could have written. It was filmed in the Gold Coast studios and hinterland, as the first film was, and of course Bindi was a natural for Nim.

Rescue on Nim’s Island  then had to work both as a sequel for the book, and for the people who’d seen the film and expected it to carry on from there. It took a bit of juggling but once I’d worked out what I wanted to do, it was a joy to play in that world again.

 

  1. You’ve also written two books – Dragonfly Song and Swallow’s Dance – set in Bronze Age Greece. What was it about the Bronze Age that made you choose it as a setting?

It’s fascinated me from childhood – Rosemary Sutcliff’s Eagle of the Ninth was probably the most pivotal for me, but all of her work as well Mary Renault’s fed my obsession. Then when I first started writing seriously, about 30 years ago, I had a dream which led me to start researching the Minoans, an absolutely fascinating people.

Both of these novels incorporate free verse and prose – which to me, felt like you were drawing on the oral traditions of antiquity – was this a conscious decision? No, though I’m very pleased it feels like that.  Very little of the writing of Dragonfly Song felt like a conscious decision, although of course with Swallow’s Dance I knew that I wanted to do it the same way. I simply always heard Dragonfly Song in verse – I often hear my books in verse before I write them, but this time I was unable to persuade it to turn into prose. I felt the story was too complex and so eventually decided to write it in the combination that it is now. I was very sure that my publisher would say it was a terrible idea, but she said why not try it? So I did.

  1. How much research did you do into myths of the minotaur prior to writing Dragonfly Song, which very much felt like the journey of Theseus heading to thwart the beast of the labyrinth?

Quite a bit of reading different interpretations of the minotaur myths, and a huge amount on the Minoan civilisation. Swallow’s Dance required even more specific research, and I was lucky enough to receive an Australia Council grant to travel to Santorini and Crete to visit the archaeological sites and museums there and spend time with an archaeologist. Seeing the places in person was almost overwhelming.

  1. You’ve written everything from picture books to middle grad, young adult and as I just found out, you even have a book for adults! Are there any challenges in juggling different styles, genres and audiences, and do you have a preferred audience to write for?

It seems to be more that I find a story and as I work it out, it becomes obvious which genre or age group it needs to be for. If I could only choose one it would probably be middle grade.

  1. If you were to live on an island like Nim, what sort of island would it be, and what sort of shelter would you live in?

Nim’s suits me perfectly: a tropical island, lots of animal friends, and a small hut with internet connection…

  1. Have you won any awards for any of your books?

 

 

*coughs modestly. Quite a few. I’ll attach a list and you can choose which to mention.

Some of Wendy’s awards – she has won and been shortlisted for awards in Australia and America. We both agreed to just feature a handful of the awards she has won or been shortlisted for.

Winner:

Award for Children’s Literature (Dragonfly Song)

Australian Prime Minister’s Award for Children’s Literature (Dragonfly Song)

Australian Standing Orders Librarians’ Choice Award, Secondary Schools, (Dragonfly Song)

Environment Award for Children’s Literature, Australia (Rescue on Nim’s Island)

“Mits’ad Hasfarim” – “The March of Books” Israel (Nim’s Island)
Parent’s Guide  Children’s Media Award Winner (USA)

Puggles Award – Children’s Choice, Australia (Rescue on Nim’s Island)

 

Honour or Shortlist:

 

BILBY Award (Queensland)

CROW Award (South Australia)

Kirkus Reviews Best Middle Grade Books, USA
KOALA awards, NSW , Australia

NSW Premier’s Award: Children’s Literature;Community Relations

Rocky Mountain Award
Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award

South Carolina Best Books for Young Adults

Speech Pathology Australia Awards,
Student Choice Picture Book Award (USA)

  1. How long have you lived in Australia, and what made you and your family choose to move here?

I married an Australian farmer while studying in London, UK, so it was obvious that we would move here when I finished college, which is what we did. There were a few unfortunate twists and turns after that, but we ended up managing to buy a farm eventually.

 

  1. Have any particular places in Australia inspired some of your works?

Spook’s Shack was inspired by the 5 acre bush block that we live on now. There was a very creepy shack here that seemed likely to be inhabited by a ghost.

  1. What did you do prior to becoming an author, and what made you decide to give writing a go and submit to publishers?

I was a paediatric occupational therapist. At lunch one day a friend told me she’d written a book and I thought, ‘I’ve always said I was going to write – when am I going to start?’ I was doing a postgrad course at the time but started writing the day after I mailed my last assignment. My dream was to write and work part time but after breaking my neck, I became a full time writer.

 

  1. Do you have any favourite writing companions, snacks or rituals?

My dogs remind insist that two walks a day is the most important writing ritual. I had started becoming a bit precious about favourite pens and notebooks, but since the pandemic started we’ve had family living with us, which includes two toddlers, and I’ve quickly gone back to being able to write whenever there’s a moment, with whatever’s at hand, much as I did when I started writing with two young children.

  1. When not writing, what do you enjoy doing or reading?

Walking – after being told that my injuries meant I’d never be able to go for a walk again, I’m constantly grateful that I can do it. I especially love beach walks. Singing brings me a lot of joy too. Apart from that, all very normal things – coffee with friends, seeing my family, travelling…  And of course reading, but that’s like saying breathing.

 

  1. Who are your favourite authors to read when you’re not writing?

I’m always working on a book, so I always keep on reading too. Lots of classics, a lot of literary fiction – and of course children’s books. I’m not good at choosing favourites, but a couple that I’ve loved lately were Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett. I can’t wait to read the next Hilary Mantel – you can’t go past Phillip Pulman’s Dark Materials series.

  1. Do you have a favourite local bookseller where you live, and who are they? (multiple is okay too)

We’re incredibly lucky to have four great indie bookshops on the Peninsula – 5 if you count Frankston, which has Robinsons Books. Farrell’s Booksellers in Mornington; Petersen’s Bookshop in Hastings, The Rosebud Book Barn and Antipodes Book Shop in Sorrento – they’re each quite individual shops, different from each other except all run by passionate individuals with a great knowledge of books.

  1. Do you have any new projects in the works, and what do you think they will be?

How would I survive without new projects in my head? The next will be Cuckoo’s Flight, a third Bronze Age novel which will come out in March 2021. The others are too embryonic t be shared right now.

  1. The arts are always important, and is even more important now as we isolate from each other – what impact do you think the pandemic will have, and how can people help to support the arts, in particular the Australian arts industry?

I’m hoping that as people turn to the arts during their quarantine, they’ll realise how important arts are to their well-being at all times.  Like many authors and other artists, I’m offering some free resources but hope that people will also understand the need to support the arts that are supporting them. Most bookshops are processing orders and often delivering even while they’re closed, so I’d encourage people to buy from them rather than a multinational like Amazon – your local shop will be able to suggest suitable books for different tastes, so you’ll read books that you’d miss by shopping online. And of course that’s also a great way of supporting Australian authors.

Isolation Publicity with Madelaine Dickie

Due to recent events, many Australian authors have had to cancel book launches and festival appearances. For some, this means new novels, series continuations and debut novels are heading into this scary, strange world without much publicity or attention. The good news is, you can still buy books – online or get your local bookstore to deliver if they’re offering that service. Buying these books, talking about them, sharing them, reading them, reviewing them – are all ways that for the next six months at least, we can ensure that these books don’t fall by the wayside.

Over the next few months, a lot of us will be consuming some form of art – entertainment, movies, TV, radio, music, books – the list goes on. It is something we will be turning to take our minds off things and to occupy vast swathes of free time. One of the things I will be doing to support the arts, and specifically, Australian Authors, will be reading and reviewing as many books as possible, conducting interviews like this where possible, and participating in virtual book tours for authors.

Madelaine Dickie is the author of Troppo and Red Can Origami. Like many authors, she had launches and events cancelled surrounding the release of her book. Whilst this is disappointing for authors, giving them an opportunity to virtually promote their books here and as some publishers and booksellers have done, will help with the release.  

Hi Madelaine, and welcome to The Book Muse

 

  1. To begin with, what genre do you usually write in, and what audience do you primarily focus on?

 

My audience, my readers, love racy plots, gorgeous language and vivid characters. They’re deep thinkers, who are empathetic, curious and not afraid to question the status quo. They also love a good dash of danger—a flirtation with risk!

I write across a number of genres and forms. My early publications were mostly poetry and creative non-fiction, my first novel is a surf-noir thriller, my second novel is literary fiction, and I’m currently working on a biography, a 14,000-word essay on art and violence in Mexico, and a crime novel.

 

 

Madelaine's second novel, Red Can Origami, was released by Fremantle Press in December 2019
Red Can Origami was released by Fremantle Press in December 2019

 

 

  1. Your latest novel, Red Can Origami, is about the conflict between a Japanese mining company and a local Aboriginal group in northern Australia – what inspired you to write this story?

 

I spent about six years living and working for Traditional Owners in the Kimberley, first in Broome, then in Wyndham. It was a privilege to reside in a living cultural landscape, where people have a continuing and powerful connection to country. Through my work, I had the opportunity to attend native title consent determinations, Indigenous Protected Area celebrations, back to country trips and huge bush meetings attended by hundreds of people. Red Can Origami came out of these wonderful and wild years. The book has serious subject matter, but it’s also funny and fast-paced, and the action flies from the rodeos and fishing holes of northern Australia, to the dazzling streets of night time Tokyo …

 

 

  1. Did you have any events related to your book or books planned for this year before everything had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic? What were they, and which were you most excited about?

I was really looking forward to all of my events. They included talks for the City of Fremantle; Melville Library; Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival; and Corrugated Lines up in Broome.

 

  1. You’ve travelled to Japan, Mexico, and many African countries – how have these trips informed your writing, and do you have a favourite place you’d love to go back to one day?

 

Martha Gellhorn spoke of countries being like lovers. For me, Indonesia was my first love affair—passionate, troubled, exhilarating, exhausting. I’ve spent about three years in Indonesia all up on different trips. It’s where I wrote my debut novel Troppo. Troppo is set in Sumatra and is about mad Aussie expats, black magic and big waves.
Now, my tastes and interests are shifting. In Mexico last year, I wrote a non-fiction essay about representations of violence in Mexican textile art and lithographs, as well as manifestations of violence in the surf culture. This is coming out in an anthology with Fremantle Press in 2021 and I’ll be allowed to share more details soon.

I think generally, travelling has always meant the space to write, the space to dream, to think, to read, to drift, and to reflect with some objectivity on my own country, on Australia, on our strengths and shortcomings.

I’d love to go back to Pavones in Costa Rica, and one day, I would love to visit Angola and Equatorial Guinea.

 

  1. When did your writing journey begin with Fremantle Press?

 

My journey with Fremantle Press began when I won the City of Fremantle T.A.G Hungerford Award for Troppo in 2014.

 

Madelaine's first novel Troppo won the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award
Madelaine’s first novel, Troppo, won the City of Fremantle Hungerford Award in 2014

 

  1. Have you won any awards for your writing, and what are they?

 

At university, I won the Illawarra Mercury Journalism Prize and the Nicholas Pounder Prize. I received a Prime Minister’s Asia Australia Endeavour Award to write the first draft of Troppo in Java … and the book went on to win the Hungerford Award, as well as to be shortlisted for the Barbara Jefferis Award and the Dobbie Literary Award. Red Can Origami was written in Tokyo, at Youkobo Art Space, with the support of an Asialink Arts Residency.

 

  1. Do you prefer writing with pen and paper, or on the computer, and why?

 

I write in pen or pencil on blank sheets of A4 paper. This slow form of writing lends itself to stronger, more poetic work. It gives me the chance to see how the words within a sentence settle next to each other. I write and rewrite and rewrite until the rhythm is exactly right.

 

  1. Apart from Troppo and Red Can Origami, have you written anything else in either short or longform that has been published?

 

My first short story won a national competition and was published when I was seven years old. I wrote it on a typewriter and my dad helped me with the editing! Since then, my short stories, radio stories, poetry, essays and creative non-fiction pieces have consistently been published, mostly in Australia, and sometimes overseas. While I was in Japan, I wrote a piece titled ‘Wandering the Yellowcake Road’ about my journey through parts of the Fukushima Da’ichi Nuclear Exclusion Zone. If you Google the title, you should be able to find this one online, published by Coldnoon International Journal of Travelling and Travelling Cultures.

 

  1. Have you ever appeared at, or attended writer’s festivals, and have there been any that have stood out for you?

 

I was invited to Makassar International Writers Festival in 2017, organised by Lily Yulianti, and presenting in Indonesian was an incredible (and challenging!) experience. I was inspired by how many young people were in attendance. They were curious, engaged, energised and intelligent. It was really different to the vibe at writers’ festivals in Australia.

 

  1. How important do you think the arts are in society, and what can people do to support them in these difficult times?

 

I think literature is crucial to our contemporary society. Literature is our memory, our history, and our mirror. I hope people are able to keep reading. My reading has suffered a blow since the coronavirus pandemic—I’m spending more time on that endless scroll of Facebook, or Instagram, or news, and finding it harder to focus, to lose myself.

 

  1. Do you have any favourite booksellers you support in your local area?

 

I live in Exmouth, a remote town on the Ningaloo Reef of Western Australia, and I’m very pleased to have the support of The Social Society and Exmouth Newsagency and Toyworld. They both stock copies of my books!

 

  1. Who are your favourite authors and/or books?

 

I love the work of Barry Lopez, Don Winslow, Thea Astley, James Crumley, Antonio Lobo Antunes, Merlinda Bobis, Ludmilla Petrushevskya and Denis Johnson.

 

Madelaine's writing schedule is structured around tides, winds and the arrival of swells. Photo by Aimee Jan.
Madelaine arranges her writing schedule around tides and swells. Photo by Aimee Jan

 

  1. Other than writing, what do you enjoy doing during your spare time?

 

I’m a surfer—and not a summer surfer, or a sometimes surfer. My writing days and weeks are structured around tides, winds and the arrival of swells. Many of our surf spots here are boat access only, and my best days in the surf are off the reef with my girlfriends. They’re amazingly capable water women—they have their skippers’ tickets, can 4WD, own their own boats, and are incredibly brave. When I’m not surfing or writing, I like going for long walks through the desert with my husband, and I like drinking cold white wine on hot desert evenings.

Red Can Origami came out of six years living, working and fishing in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Red Can Origami came from 6 years living, working and fishing in the Kimberley region of WA
  1. Working in the arts, what have you learned from others in the industry, and have you been able to apply this to your own work?

 

My greatest lessons have been from the masters—from writers who push the boundaries of form and of language. From the way Beckett finds rhythm in minimalism, to Joyce’s bold and shameless play, to Kurniawan’s quirky narrative structures, writing is a constant learning process. I have also learned a great deal from Georgia Richter, my wonderful editor at Fremantle Press.

 

  1. What do you think the most important thing the arts can bring to people in these trying times?

 

I think the arts can bring escapism and hope, can prompt reflection and contemplation.

 

  1. Do you have any other novels in the works, and when do you hope to be able to release them?

 

I’m currently working on a biography of the Kimberley Aboriginal leader Wayne Bergmann.

Wayne is a Nyikina man, a boiler-maker welder, a lawyer, and a former finalist in the Western Australian of the Year Awards.

He has rubbed shoulders with Queen Elizabeth, the King and Queen of Sweden, as well as numerous Australian Prime Ministers and Western Australian premiers. His most demanding role was as CEO of the Kimberley Land Council (KLC). At its helm, Wayne successfully negotiated a 1.5-billion-dollar compensation package for Traditional Owners relating to Woodside Petroleum’s proposed gas plant at James Price Point, north of Broome. Wayne came under constant assault during this time, was called a ‘toxic coconut’ and accused of thinking white, lying white, and talking white. He approached me to write this book out of a desire to set the public record straight.

It’s a fantastic project and I’m genuinely thrilled to be at the desk each day. This book is going to be really special and really powerful! I’m hoping to finish a first draft by the end of the year.

 

 

Anything you wish to say that I may have missed?

 

Thanks Madelaine and best of luck in your career.

 

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery by Renée Treml

sherlock bonesTitle: Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery

Author: Renée Treml

Genre: Mystery

Publisher: Allen and Unwin

Published: April 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $14.99

Synopsis: A hilariously funny, action-packed mystery, starring the intrepid Sherlock Bones.

‘Hi there, I’m Sherlock Bones.
Who is Sherlock Bones, you ask? Well, I don’t like to brag, but my trusty side-kick Watts says I’m the greatest detective in our whole museum.
Don’t you, Watts?
Watts…?’

You might not be able to hear Watts, because she’s technically a stuffed parrot, but I always know what she’s thinking.

And right now she’s thinking: Can we solve the mystery of the missing Blue Diamond and save the Museum of Natural History, before it’s too late?

~*~

Sherlock Bones is a skeleton – a frogmouth skeleton on exhibition in the natural museum in Sydney, and he has a trusty sidekick – Watts. But Watts is a stuffed parrot, and the people who work at the museum are unaware that Sherlock Bones moves around. When the Blue Diamond goes missing, Sherlock Bones investigates – along with Watts and their new friend, Grace – a raccoon who has stowed away and found herself in the museum, helping look for the diamond. Will Sherlock Bones and his companions find the diamond, and is the thief closer than they thought?

Told in a graphic novel style, the clues are dropped cleverly throughout as we follow the trail to find out what has happened to the diamond. It is a light-hearted mystery for kids aged six to nine, and books like these can grow their confidence in reading before they move onto short chapter books and novels for middle grade readers. Renée wrote and illustrated this book – and it is exquisitely and perfectly done. As readers, even though the illustrations are in black and white, they are still filled with fun and help to tell the story along with the words.

AWW2020

As someone who hasn’t read many graphic novels before, it was an adjustment, but it didn’t take long, even though I had to check some panels a few times to make sure I knew what I had read or seen was right. At times, I flicked back a few pages as I wondered if I had missed something – if I had, it only took me a few minutes to get back into the groove. The story was really well told and plotted, and I thoroughly enjoyed this new experience. It might take some adjustment to a new format but I think a book like this is a really good place to start, as whilst the story is simple, it still has the same complexities we might expect from a novel, these just come in a visual format.

It was also a great take on the traditional Sherlock Holmes narrative, and a good way to get kids into a new genre, style and way of reading.

Sherlock Bones and the Natural History Mystery is also on the shortlist for the Readings Children’s Book Prize for this year. Judging for this prize ends on the 30th of April.

 

Announcement 2020 Vogel Winner – Media from Allen and Unwin Australia

2020-Australian-Vogel-winner

Every year, Allen and Unwin run the Vogel Awards for an unpublished manuscript for authors under the age of 35. This year, the announcement had to made online, and was hosted by Claire Bowditch. Below is a copy of the press release sent to me by Allen and Unwin, about the winner, A Treacherous Country by K.M. Kruimink. Here is the author’s reaction to seeing her book for the first time as well.

A Treacherous Country

About the book:

Set in the 1800s, Gabriel Fox is newly arrived to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) from England. Drawn by the promise of his heart’s desire and compelled to distance himself from pain at home, Gabrielle is on a quest to find a woman called Maryanne Maginn.

His guide, a Cannibal who is not all he seems, leads him north. As Gabriel traverses this wild country, he uncovers new truths buried within his own memory.

Media Release for distribution: Monday, 20 April

In conjunction with the Vogel’s company and The Australian, Allen & Unwin is pleased to announce the 2020 winner of The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award, A Treacherous Country by
K.M. Kruimink. This authentic, original and playful novel is about loyalty, wisdom and the freedom to act.

The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award is one of Australia’s richest and most prestigious literary prizes for an unpublished manuscript from an author under the age of thirty-five. This longstanding award is integral to Australia’s cultural landscape having launched the careers of over 100 Australian authors including Tim Winton, Rohan Wilson, Kate Grenville, Andrew McGahan and Gillian Mears.

K.M. Kruimink says she entered The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award with no concrete thought of what would happen to her submission.

‘For me, at that time, the value in entering was in the structure and the deadline: it helped motivate me to complete something. To actually win is helping me articulate to myself what I would really like to do with my career, and it’s given me permission to articulate it to others, too.

‘It’s astonishingly wonderful to have my book published, and it’s just as wonderful to be able to say, “Yes, this is something I’ve wanted to do”.’

About A Treacherous Country

About K.M. Kruimink

K.M. (Katherine) Kruimink was born in Tasmania and spent most of her childhood in the Huon Valley, with an interlude on the West Coast. After completing a largely ornamental Arts degree at the University of Tasmania, she lived and worked interstate and abroad for several years. Today, she lives once again in the Huon Valley, now with her husband and daughter. A Treacherous Country is her first novel.

Set in the 1800s, Gabriel Fox is newly arrived to Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania) from England. Drawn by the promise of his heart’s desire and compelled to distance himself from pain at home, Gabrielle is on a quest to find a woman called Maryanne Maginn.

His guide, a Cannibal who is not all he seems, leads him north. As Gabriel traverses this wild country, he uncovers new truths buried within his own memory.

The judges were unanimous with their praise, saying:

‘Witty, warm, lively and delightful. It has an assured voice that rose out of the pages rich, complete and true. The development of character and plot is simultaneous, elegant and natural.’  Tegan Bennett Daylight, award-winning author of Six Bedrooms

‘Dialogue and interplay are fantastic. The characters and storyline completely “hooked” me. Loved the ending.’ – Megan O’Brien, bookseller

Adelaide Festival Award for Literature

small spaces

Several prizes and shortlists have been announced recently – and one award that has been given in the past week is the Adelaide Festival Award for Literature. A Media Release from Walker Books about this award and the book appears below:

From Walker Books:
MEDIA RELEASE

Sarah Epstein wins Young Adult Fiction Award at Adelaide Festival Award for Literature for Small Spaces

Sarah Epstein’s debut YA novel, Small Spaces, has taken home the Young Adult Fiction Award at the Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature on Sunday 1st March – winning the $15 000 prize.

Tash Carmody has been traumatised since childhood, when she witnessed her gruesome imaginary friend Sparrow lure young Mallory Fisher away from a carnival. At the time nobody believed Tash, and she has since come to accept that Sparrow wasn’t real. Now fifteen and mute, Mallory’s never spoken about the week she went missing. As disturbing memories resurface, Tash starts to see Sparrow again. And she realises Mallory is the key to unlocking the truth about a dark secret connecting them. Does Sparrow exist after all? Or is Tash more dangerous to others than she thinks?

Small Spaces is a CBCA Honour Book, winner of the Davitt Award for Best YA Crime Novel, and was shortlisted for another seven awards.

The Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature are presented every two years during Adelaide Writers’ Week as part of the Adelaide Festival. Introduced in 1986 by the South Australian Government, the awards are managed by the State Library of South Australia.

The awards offer a total prize pool of $167,500 across six national and five South Australian categories, including the coveted Premier’s Award worth $25,000 for the overall winner.

About the author
Sarah Epstein spent her childhood drawing, daydreaming and cobbling together books at the kitchen table. A writer, illustrator and designer, she grew up in suburban Sydney and now lives in Melbourne with her husband and two sons. She is passionate about YA, especially the thriller genre, which is her favourite to read. Small Spaces is her first novel.

I shall be reviewing this for Walker Books in the coming weeks. I never got to read it when it first came out and reviewing books in relation to awards is always interesting – it is often clearer as to why they won, and what drew people to it in the first place. So I am eager to read this book when I get it.

Congratulations Sarah !

 

2020 ABIAs

Every year, the Australian Book Industry Awards are presented to various books published the year before. In the past week, the long list has gone up, and I have taken the following list from the Readings blog. Some of these I have read, and some I am hoping to read. I will not be able to get to them all, but it is nice to see a bit more diversity in titles this year, allowing more books to get some well-deserved attention on this list.

Of the books on this list, some I reviewed – and most I enjoyed, and some didn’t catch my interest, or I ran out of time last year to get to them. A panel of judges has decided on this longlist, and will from here, decide on a shortlist, which will be released on the 9th of April, with the winners in each category announced on the 29th of April. A couple of books are nominated in more than one category, which often happens, yet being able to see that there’s much more diversity in the titles chosen gives a better view of Australian literature, rather than what is just the “it” book of the year. This isn’t always a bad thing, but often there are other books in the category that are just as deserving and when they have more of a chance to win, that makes it more exciting.

The titles in each category are…
General fiction book of the year

 

Wide-General-Fiction-Book-of-the-Year
• Bruny by Heather Rose
• Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
• Cilka’s Journey by Heather Morris
• Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham
• Peace by Garry Disher
• Silver by Chris Hammer
• The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan
• The Wife and the Widow by Christian White
Literary fiction book of the year

Wide-Literary-Fiction
• Damascus by Christos Tsiolkas
• Exploded View by Carrie Tiffany
• Room for a Stranger by Melanie Cheng
• The Drover’s Wife by Leah Purcell
• The Weekend by Charlotte Wood
• The Yield by Tara June Winch
There Was Still Love by Favel Parrett
• Wolfe Island by Lucy Treloar
General nonfiction book of the year

Wide-General-Non-fiction-Book-of-the-Year• Accidental Feminists by Jane Caro
• Against All Odds by Craig Challen & Richard Harris with Ellis Henican
• Banking Bad by Adele Ferguson
• Fake by Stephanie Wood
Kitty Flanagan’s 488 Rules for Life by Kitty Flanagan
• See What You Made Me Do by Jess Hill
• The Yellow Notebook by Helen Garner
• Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman
Biography book of the year

BiographyBookWide
• Australia Day by Stan Grant
• Jack Charles: Born-again Blakfella by Jack Charles
• Gulpilil by Derek Rielly
• Penny Wong: Passion and Principle by Margaret Simons
• Tell Me Why by Archie Roach
• The Prettiest Horse In The Glue Factory by Corey White
• When All is Said & Done by Neale Daniher with Warwick Green
• Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

Book of the year for older children (ages 13+)

Wide-Book-of-the-Year-for-Older-Children-(ages-13+)
• Detention by Tristan Bancks
• How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
• It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
• Kindred edited by Michael Earp
• The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
• This Is How We Change the Ending by Vikki Wakefield
• Welcome to Country: Youth Edition by Marcia Langton
• Welcome To Your Period by Yumi Stynes & Dr Melissa Kang
Book of the year for younger children (ages 7-13)

Wide-Book-of-the-Year-for-Younger-Children-(ages-7-12)
• Explore Your World: Weird, Wild, Amazing! by Tim Flannery
• Funny Bones edited by Kate Temple, Jol Temple & Oliver Phommavanh
• How to Make a Movie in 12 Days by Fiona Hardy
• Real Pigeons Nest Hard by Andrew McDonald & Ben Wood
• The 117-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton
• The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Ugly Animals Sami Bayly
• Under the Stars by Lisa Harvey-Smith & Mel Matthews
• Young Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
Children’s picture book of the year (ages 0-6)

Wide-Children_s-Picture-Book-of-the-Year-(ages-0-6)
• All of the Factors of Why I Love Tractors by Davina Bell & Jenny Løvlie
• Bluey: The Beach
• Kindness Makes Us Strong by Sophie Beer
• Lottie and Walter by Anna Walker
• Mr Chicken All Over Australia by Leigh Hobbs
• The Painted Ponies by Alison Lester
• The Tiny Star by Mem Fox & Freya Blackwood
• Tilly by Jane Godwin & Anna Walker
• Wilam by Andrew Kelly, Aunty Joy Murphy & Lisa Kennedy
Illustrated book of the year

wide-Illustrated-Book-of-the-Year
• Australia Modern: Architecture, Landscape & Design 1925–1975 by Hannah Lewi & Philip Goad
• Ben Quilty by Ben Quilty
• Finding the Heart of the Nation by Thomas Mayor
• Macquarie Atlas of Indigenous Australia: Second Edition Bill Arthur by Frances Morphy (eds.)
• Olive Cotton by Helen Ennis
• Step into Paradise by Jenny Kee & Linda Jackson
• The Lost Boys: The untold stories of the under-age soldiers who fought in the First World War by Paul Byrnes
• The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland
• Three Birds Renovations by Erin Cayless, Bonnie Hindmarsh & Lana Taylor
International book of the year

Wide-International-Book-International-Book-of-the-Year
• Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow
• Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
• Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
• Lanny by Max Porter
• The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
• The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
• Three Women by Lisa Taddeo
• Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Small publishers’ adult book of the year

wide-Small-Publishers’-Adult-Book-of-the-Year_01
• Cosmic Chronicles by Fred Watson
• Feeding the Birds at Your Table: A guide for Australia by Darryl Jones
• Invented Lives by Andrea Goldsmith
• Kindred by Kirli Saunders
• Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson
• Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
• Split by Lee Kofman
• The White Girl by Tony Birch
Small publishers’ children’s book of the year

wide-Small-Publishers_-Children_s-Book-of-the-Year
• Baby Business by Jasmine Seymour
• Cooee Mittigar by Jasmine Seymour & Leanne Mulgo Watson
• Little Bird’s Day by Sally Morgan & Johnny Warrkatja Malibirr
• Love Your Body by Jessica Sanders & Carol Rossetti
• Lunch at 10 Pomegranate Street by Felicita Sala
• Sick Bay by Nova Weetman
• Summer Time by Hilary Bell & Antonia Pesenti
• You Can Change the World: The Kids’ Guide to a Better Planet by Lucy Bell
The Matt Richell award for new writer of the year

Wide-The-Matt-Richell-Award-for-New-Writer-of-the-Year
• Being Black ‘n Chicken, and Chips by Matt Okine
• Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
• It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood
• Sand Talk by Tyson Yunkaporta
• The Prettiest Horse In The Glue Factory by Corey White
• The Whole Fish Cookbook by Josh Niland
• Troll Hunting by Ginger Gorman
• Your Own Kind of Girl by Clare Bowditch

Good luck to all the nominees – looks like an interesting list this year!

CBCA Notables 2020

CBCA200205_NOTABLEBOOKS-WEBSITEBANNER

Every year, the Children’s Book Council of Australia chooses to award children’s books in the category a variety of honours and awards, including the Notable Books, Honour Books, and Book of the Year. Celebrating children’s books in Australia since 1946, the CBCA is a good award that gives attention to books for younger readers that might not always get the coverage that adult books do or highlight authors who may not be as well known. There are several past CBCA books I have read – I’d have to dig through all my books and reviews to find them all, but no doubt they have all won or been honoured because they are wonderful books and the Notables this year seem to have a diverse range of plots and authors for readers to explore. This post outlines the award, the categories and the Notable books that the judges will be choosing from this year. Having read some of them, I know it will be a tough call with so many good books out there.

Below are the key dates in the award announcements for 2020:

Announcement Dates:
Notables – announced the last Tuesday in February at 7pm AEDT
Short List – announced the last Tuesday in March at 12 noon AEDT
Winners and Honours – announced the third Friday in August at 12 noon AEST
The advocacy role played by the CBCA promotes the literary experience for children and assures the scope and vitality of Australian children’s books. The annual CBCA Book of the Year Awards affirm the quality of some of Australia’s most creative people and provide a boost to their capacity to devote time to their craft.
Established with the first awards in 1946, the annual CBCA Book of the Year Awards aim to:
• promote quality literature for young Australians;
• support and encourage a wide range of Australian writers and illustrators of children’s books and;
• celebrate contributions to Australian children’s literature.
Here are the award categories:
CATEGORIES
There are six categories in the CBCA Book of the Year Awards.
• CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers
• CBCA Book of the Year: Younger Readers
• CBCA Book of the Year: Early Childhood
• CBCA Picture Book of the Year
• Eve Pownall Award
• CBCA Award for New Illustrator (previously the Crichton Award for New Illustrators administered by the CBCA Victorian Branch)

View the complete list of notables here: https://www.cbca.org.au/notables-2020

The Notable Books I have read are:

 

The Honeyman and The Hunter by Neil Grant
Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte
As Happy As Here by Jane Goodwin
Hapless Hero Henrie by Petra James
The Dog Runner by Bren MacDibble
The Glimme by Emily Rodda

The Notables I hope to read are:

Angel Mage by Garth Nix
Pirate Boy of Sydney Town by Jackie French
The Girl, the Dog and the Writer in Lucerne by Katrina Nannestad
The Secrets of Magnolia Moon by Edwina Wyatt, Illustrated by Katherine Quinn
Sick Bay by Nova Weetman

I’m sure there are others on the list that will interest me, but I shall have to do some investigations into the books to make my final decision. Some I already have and will be working my way through them. Bren MacDibble’s book is also on the Readings Children’s books short prize, and I am hoping to read each book on there and review it, and write about the prize in another post.

 

January 2020 wrap up

In January of this year, I read 13 books, and got a start on each of my challenges – some have more categories filled in than others, and some will have multiple books for each category, apart from the book bingo challenges, which will only have one each.

Below is a table outlining where each book fits in. Some book bingo posts and reviews are scheduled for the next few weeks and months.

January – 13

Book Author Challenge
Any Ordinary Day Walkley Book Award

 

Leigh Sales AWW2020, Nerd Daily Challenge, Book Bingo, The Modern Mrs Darcy, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle

 

Rick Riordan Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

 Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium

 

Belinda Murrell AWW2020, Nerd Daily Challenge, Book Bingo, The Modern Mrs Darcy, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

Dragonfly Song

 

Wendy Orr Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Book Bingo, Nerd Daily Challenge, – WINNER: 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Children’s Fiction
WINNER: 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, Children’s Literature
HONOUR BOOK: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2017

 

The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz

 

Heather Dune McAdam Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading

Nerd Daily Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo

Josephine’s Garden Stephanie Parkyn Reading Challenge, AWW2020, Nerd Daily Challenge, Book Bingo, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

The Soldier’s Curse (Monsarrat Series Book One) Meg and Tom Keneally Reading Challenge,

Nerd Daily Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo, AWW2020, Dymocks Reading Challenge

Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking   AWW2020, Nerd Daily Challenge, Book Bingo, Reading Challenge, Dymocks Reading Challenge

 

The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah

 

Troy Cummins Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge,
The God Child

 

Nana Oforiatta Ayim Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge, The Modern Mrs Darcy, Dymocks Reading Challenge
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Ravenclaw Edition) JK Rowling Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge, The Modern Mrs Darcy,
Shark Out of Water Ace Landers Reading Challenge, Nerd Daily Challenge,
A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10)

 

Sulari Gentill Book Bingo, The Nerd Daily Challenge, Reading Challenge, Australian Women Writer’s Challenge, Books and Bites Bingo , Dymocks Reading Challenge

Books and Bites Bingo

game card books and bites

Set in Europe: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

Debut Novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
Travel Memoir:
Published More than 100 Years Ago: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Written in the First Person: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Fairy Tale Collection:
A Book with a door on the cover:
Written by someone called Jane:
An Australian crime or thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
Wherever you go:

Eco-themes:
A Neil Gaiman book:
Short story collection:
Published the year you were born:
Makes you blush:

That Book you keep putting off:
A book with lots of hype: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
Short story collection:
A book with bad reviews:
Book to movie:

Scary:
Someone you love’s fave book:
Made into a TV Series:
A title longer than five words: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
Fave childhood book:

STFU Reading Society #AustLit Reading Challenge
1. Found on #BookstagramAustralia

2. An Australian classic

3. A book by an Indigenous Australian author

4. A book about climate change [cli-fi or non-fiction]
* Bonus: Read both a fiction [cli-fi] and non-fiction book on climate change
* You might want to check out the Climate Reality Book Club over on Insta for some ideas

5. A book by an LGBTQ+ Australian author

6. A #LoveOzYA book
* #LoveOzYA is a great resource to find an Australian YA read, or check the hashtag on Insta too!

7. A memoir by an Australian woman

8. A poetry collection
* Solo author or anthology

9. A 2020 Finalist for a State Premier’s Literary Prize
* Note: Not all states have a Premier’s Literary Prize / some are awarded biennially rather than yearly, so are not running in 2020.
* New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards – Shortlist announced March 2020 / Winners announced 27 April 2020
* The Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 29 February 2020
* Victorian Premier’s Literary Award – Shortlist out now / Winners announced 30 January 2020
Bonus: Read a finalist [shortlisted book] from each of the State Premier’s prizes

10. A Book by a Territorian author – NT or ACT
Bonus: Read both an NT and ACT author

ACT:
NT:

11. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation

12. A book from across the ditch – A book by a New Zealand author
Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn

THE MODERN MRS. DARCY
2020 Reading Challenge
a book published the decade you were born:
a debut novel: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
a book recommended by a source you trust: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Amanda Barrett
a book by a local author: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
a book outside your (genre) comfort zone: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim – literary fiction
a book in translation:
a book nominated for an award in 2020:
a re-read: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
a classic you didn’t read in school: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
three books by the same author:
1. Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
2.
3.
The Nerd Daily 2020 Challenge

1. Author Starting with A: Shark Out of Water by Ace Landers
2. Female Author:
3. Purchased on Holidays:
4. 2020 Film Adaptation: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
5. Fantasy or SciFi: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling (Ravenclaw Edition)
6. Recommended by Us:
7. Under 200 pages: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
8. Six Word Title: The Binder of Doom: Speedah Cheetah by Troy Cummins
9. Written by two authors: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
10. Mystery/thriller: A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill
11. Green Cover: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
12. Recommended by a friend: Any Ordinary Day be Leigh Sales
13. Set in the past: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
14. 2019 Goodreads Choice Winner:
15. A book you never finished:
16. Protagonist starting with H: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One) – Hugh Monsarrat
17. Reread: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
18. Non-fiction: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
19. Released in February: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking, The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah by Troy Cummins
20. Part of a duology:
21. New York times best seller:
22. Recommended by family:
23. Over 500 pages:
24. An award-winning book: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award 2019
25. Orange cover:
26. Bookstore recommended:
27. A number in the title:
28. An audiobook:
29. Debut author: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
30. Inspired my mythology/folklore: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan, Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr,
31. A retelling:
32. A one-word title:
33. Bought based on cover:
34. Author starting with M:
35. Start a new series: Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
36. A book released in 2019:
37. Male author: Trials of Apollo: The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan,
38. 2020 TV Adaptation:
39. A book gifted to you:
40. Author with a hyphenated name:
41. Released in September:
42. Purchased years ago:
43. A standalone:
44. Author with the same initials:
45. Told from two perspectives:
46. Romance or thriller:
47. A protagonist starting with S:
48. Two-word title: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
49. Set in a foreign country: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn,
50. Animal featured in cover: The Binder of Doom: Speedah-Cheetah by Troy Cummins
51. Written by your favourite author:
52. Based or inspired by a true story:

Dymocks Reading Challenge

1. A book by an Australian author: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
2. A book by an Indigenous author:
3. A book from our Top 101:
4. A book from our Kids’ Top 51:
5. A Dymocks ‘Book of the Month:
6. Re-read your favourite book of all time: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
7. Ask a friend for a recommendation: Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales
8. A book featuring your favourite country:
9. A book from your TBR pile: Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
10. An award-winning book: Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr – CBCA Honour Book, Prime Minister’s Literary Award 2017 – WINNER: 2017 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, Children’s Fiction
WINNER: 2018 Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature, Children’s Literature
HONOUR BOOK: CBCA Book of the Year, Younger Readers, 2017
11. A Mystery/Thriller: The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One), A Testament of Character by Sulari Gentill
12. A memoir:
13. A book outside your usual genre: The God Child by Nana Oforiatta Ayim
14. A book of short stories:
15. A self-help/motivation:
16. A fairytale/fable adaptation:
17. Book one in a fantasy series: Trials of Apollo – The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan
18. A book that teaches you something new:
19. A book with a red cover:
20. A book with a colour in the title:
21. A book you can read in a day: Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell, Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
22. A book about books:
23. A book that made you laugh
24. A book published this year: The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam
25. A book you said you’ve read but haven’t:

Australian Women Writers Challenge – 25

1. Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award
2. Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell
3. Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr
4. Josephine’s Garden by Stephanie Parkyn
5. The Soldier’s Curse by Meg and Tom Keneally (Monsarrat Series Book One)
6. Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking
7. A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

 

Book Bingo

Book bingo 2020

Themes of culture

Themes of inequality – The Nine Hundred: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Jewish Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune McAdam

Themes of Crime and Justice – A Testament of Character (Rowland Sinclair #10) by Sulari Gentill

Themes of politics and power –

About the environment –

Prize winning book – Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales – Walkley Book Award

Friendship, family and love – Pippa’s Island: Puppy Pandemonium by Belinda Murrell

Coming of age – Ella at Eden: New Girl by Laura Sieveking

Set in a time of war

Set in a place you dream of visiting – The Good Turn by Dervla McTiernan (Ireland)

Set in an era you’d love to travel back in time to – Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr (Minoan Times)

A classic you’ve never read before

Book Bingo one 2020 – A Prize Winning Book

Book Bingo 2020 clean

Welcome to another year of book bingo with my co-hosts, Amanda Barrett and Theresa Smith. This year, we have cut down the number of squares from thirty to twelve, so one square a month to post about, though nothing is stopping us from filling out the card within a few months and scheduling every post. Which perhaps, might be a good way to think about it – filling it out as soon as possible and getting it all scheduled to focus on everything else and running the challenge and our posts for the Australian Women Writers challenge.

Book bingo 2020

With many options to yet come through, and some decisions to still be made, I decided to start with the prize winner category. There were many books I could have chosen for this, in many genres and categories, but settled on Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales, which looks at how an ordinary day can turn into one of blindsides, tragedy and things that we don’t expect to happen when we roll out of bed in the morning. I go into much more detail in my review, and this book ticked off at least one category in each of my reading challenges, so I am off to a good start there!

Any Ordinary Day

Any Ordinary Day had nuances in it that gave insight into what goes on behind the scenes of journalism at times and how the ongoing, twenty-four seven news cycle changed the way news was delivered and the trickle of details that come out over time, rather than a report with all the facts at once, which I found interesting in light of current responses to media. Understanding that journalists perhaps can have pressures of networks or publications pushing them to get a certain angle or get everything in by a certain time – shows how only seeing the end result, the story presented or printed – can affect how people react. Either they want to know more, or they get frustrated with so little coming through when they think it should, yet at the same time, people get frustrated when they’re not informed – so in writing this book, Leigh examined the balance of this and ethics and how she struggles  to maintain this balance so she can do her job effectively, whilst still maintaining her humanity. A very well-thought out book in my view.

Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales

Any Ordinary DayTitle: Any Ordinary Day

Author: Leigh Sales

Genre: Non-fiction

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Published: 19th November 2019

Format: Paperback

Pages: 272

Price: $24.99

Synopsis: The day that turns a life upside down usually starts like any other, but what happens the day after? Dual Walkley Award-winner Leigh Sales investigates how ordinary people endure the unthinkable.

As a journalist, Leigh Sales often encounters people experiencing the worst moments of their lives in the full glare of the media. But one particular string of bad news stories – and a terrifying brush with her own mortality – sent her looking for answers about how vulnerable each of us is to a life-changing event. What are our chances of actually experiencing one? What do we fear most and why? And when the worst does happen, what comes next?

In this wise and layered book, Leigh talks intimately with people who’ve faced the unimaginable, from terrorism to natural disaster to simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Expecting broken lives, she instead finds strength, hope, even humour. Leigh brilliantly condenses the cutting-edge research on the way the human brain processes fear and grief, and poses the questions we too often ignore out of awkwardness. Along the way, she offers an unguarded account of her own challenges and what she’s learned about coping with life’s unexpected blows.

Warm, candid and empathetic, this book is about what happens when ordinary people, on ordinary days, are forced to suddenly find the resilience most of us don’t know we have.

~*~

Any Ordinary Day, winner of the 2019 Walkley Book Award, looks at those moments in life, the tragedies, the horrific situations, that happen on days that start like any other – as any ordinary day. A day where we get up and begin our ordinary routine to go about our daily lives. Until something out of the ordinary, like a sudden death, a landslide, an accident – or something like the death of a well-known figure such as Princess Diana, the 9/11 attacks or the Lindt Café Siege – occurs, and the world of the people connected to people involved in such events, and even beyond, is altered forever, and the subsequent grief and other reactions that come from it differ from person to person, and situation to situation. This is what Leigh considers in her book, as well as the role of the media, her career as a journalist and how the beginning of the twenty-four hour a day, seven days a week rolling news cycle altered reporting when it began around the First Gulf War.

AWW2020

Within this book, as well as the human cost and reaction to events that are life-changing, Leigh examines how the demands of the need to know can impact how a journalist reports – where they need to navigate ethics, time constraints, and pressure not just from the public but by those that employ them. She acknowledges that the new media, the insertion of new technologies that allow people to access, and perhaps wat, news at their fingertips at any time of the day, has and can affect how the media responds to, and reports the news. In one case she talks about throughout the book, the Lindt Café Siege, she talks about one survivor she talked to, who had also been dealt a blow with her health, and how she dealt with the aftermath, and worked her way back to her life and what she was dealt. In some cases, Leigh points out that there were instances where people (specifically, the research she talks about from American institutions where people were asked about why they thought something bad had happened to them) thought it was God’s will, or it was meant to happen and various sentiments along those lines. In contrast, it felt like the Australians she spoke to – Stuart Diver, Hannah Richell and others – found more pragmatic ways to move on, even if it took them some time. Walter Mikac, who lost his wife and daughters in the 1996 Port Arthur Massacre, started the Alannah and Madeleine Foundation to help children touched by violence as a way to help him remember his daughters and find a way to move on. What all of these examples have in common is that everyone will find a different way to cope with tragedy and will find their own ways to move on.

The role of the media in presenting stories can drastically affect how the public views those involved. Leigh illustrates a vulnerability in examining her role in inadvertently hurting people, and taking feedback into future stories, so she knows where she has gone wrong as she’s tried to balance ethics and the public need to know. She tells stories where she has been worried about what to write or report on, and where she has held back, especially early in her career where she was plagued with uncertainties. She also points to how a journalist reporting on a medical student who was missing for about two months, and who ran a story on 60 minutes soon after and how the public response was somewhat against him. It was a story she heard about second hand, and as with all the examples here, researched it.

Leigh also talks about a few times where her own life – her children, and the challenges of one being disabled and a difficult birth, things she has managed to get through with the help of friends, and the overwhelming feelings of gratefulness she felt. By combining her experiences and research, I feel Leigh has given a well-rounded take on how news reports on certain events from her perspective, and how something out of the ordinary can change us – and how events like the death of Princess Diana and 9/11 are the kinds of events where we all remember where we were when we found out. I remember that day in August 1997 – we were in David Jones buying a new computer when it was splashed across the television screens in the electronics department. Watching it unfold there and at home is a clear memory, and perhaps a good example of why the twenty-four seven news cycle doesn’t help anyone – those involved in the stories, the journalists and the viewers – because there will always be facts that cannot be delivered when they need to be or when viewers think they should. Perhaps the only exception to this rule is an event like the catastrophic bushfire situation plaguing the whole of Australia at the moment – where we need to know if we need to evacuate or what the fire fronts are doing. Other stories perhaps, can wait until all the facts are in place, and I felt like this is something Leigh grapples with – and has her whole career as she entered the world of journalism as this sensation was taking off.

Finally, keeping in mind that the role of technology has changed the way reporting happens – and the way it can now beam these tragedies as they happen into our living rooms, there is a further impact – on those who see it that way, and the way we try to cope with it. It is at its heart about dealing with the blows of life that come our way, and how everyone deals with them differently.