Author Archives: julialawrinsonwriter

Stitching Stories in September

August and all its Book Week fun is done for another year, dear Reader.

I had the pleasure of presenting to kids from year one to year eleven (not in the same session, you’ll be pleased to hear). I didn’t travel anywhere too far-flung: St Thomas’ Catholic School in Claremont; Victoria Park library, attended by various schools in the area; and Applecross High School, where my week ended with a self-selected group of inquisitive and lively kids. It was such a fabulous few days, I wished Book Week would never end. I will have my own version of Book Month later this year, when I travel to Geraldton, Albany and Fremantle (hey, it’s up the train line) for The Literature Centre’s Talented Young Writers Program. I can’t wait, already.

Children's Book Week 2017 Applecross

Before You Forget, the scarf

 

Book Week was also special because my dear friend Bri early-surprise-birthdayed me a scarf on which is printed the text of Before You Forget (obviously not all of it). I absolutely adore it: it’s harder to think of a more personal and lovely gift for a writer.

CBCA dinner 2017

CBCA WA Branch Dinner, costumes preferred

 

On my YA reading pile: Zana Fraillon’s The Bone Sparrow is breaking my heart, while Cath Crowley’s Words in Deep Blue is putting it back together again; I also started Claire Zorn’s One Would Think The Deep and desperately need to get hold of a copy to continue. The trio were honour books and winner of this year’s CBCA awards, and worthily so (although how the judges pick from so much excellent work is beyond me).

Am writing: slowly, slowly, I’m threading my narrative needle and stitching my new story, a middle grade novel about a moral quandary (pre-ordering yet?!), among other things. It’s amazing how a change in perspective can reveal where the gaps are: I changed from first person to third and thus sewed up one set of holes. No doubt others will appear elsewhere.

Wishing you all a super spring.

 

Joyful in June

It has been a bit quiet on the writing news front, dear Reader, and the rest of life rather hectic, which accounts for my sparse blogging. On the news front, though, I am now about a third in to a middle grade novel, which has had ‘it’s got legs’ approval, so I’m very excited about this. Starting a new novel is as feeling-your-way-in-the-dark as it ever was: I am a beginner every time. Which is the joy (more of which below) and frustration both of this writing life.

Yesterday was the Perth launch for Dianne Wolfer‘s beautiful new picture book, Nanna’s Button Tin, illustrated by Heather Potter.  Button-festooned Frané Lessac started a new trend by launching a picture book by way of reference to Captain Koons’ speech in Pulp Fiction: I’m sure Tarantino could never have imagined this would be one of the uses to which his script would be put, but I think more books should be launched in this manner, although it was possibly confusing to the small children present, who almost swallowed their buttons as adults in the audience guffawed about grandfathers dying. (You had to be there.) Anyway, it was a beautiful event for a special book. I have such admiration for Dianne and her creative openness and writing trajectory, and it was most excellent to see the latest in the Wolfer oeuvre.

Following this were the mainland events of the SCBWI Rottnest Retreat. I was excited to attend this not only so I could catch up with my SCBWI buddies and meet some new ones, but also because my publisher from Penguin Random House, Lisa Riley, was one of the panellists. The session on children’s and YA publishing was enlightening and sobering: Linsay Knight from Walker Books said that out of the 360 submissions (from published and unpublished authors) Walker had received since November, only one had been acquired, with a couple of others making progress. Penguin Random House received 2300 manuscripts in 2016, with many, many picture books among those: given that only 12 picture books are published each year, that gives you some insight into the odds. However, the final word was: if you have a great story, it will out. Eventually! Many, many thanks to the SCBWI volunteers who make the retreat possible: it is a wonderful thing you’re doing, and we know how much work (and prayer: see James Foley below) go into these things.

And speaking of good stories outing eventually, it was wonderful to be at dinner with Michael Speechley as he received his first offer of contract from Penguin Random House. Joyful in June, indeed!

Review-y things

Dear reader, I have been rather pressed doing exciting writer-y things, such as attending and presenting at the Perth Writers Festival, hosting writing workshops with year 10s at Frederick Irwin School in Mandurah, and moderating election forums on where-to for Western Australian writing funding. I’ve also been getting this video out into the world.

I’ve also had some lovely reviews of Before You Forget: here’s an edited sample to save you clicks (full list here):

From Joanne Morrell in Westerly

…And although the major theme in Before You Forget is based on early-onset Alzheimer’s, there are many fitting storylines for an adolescent readership, providing relief to the book’s tragic topic: a love interest for Amelia in the cute boy next door and a disobedient Jack Russell called Hecta. Lawrinson captures the essence of youth in Amelia. Her character is unfalteringly comical, witty and emotionally charged with every page turn. Her relatable qualities will be a big hit among young readers. Before You Forget does not stray from Lawrinson’s other work, which boasts her usual style of engrossing prose and examination of major themes. But this novel, I feel, has been her biggest challenge yet: incorporating her and her teenage daughter’s heartbreakingly personal story of having lived and in a sense lost her husband and her daughter’s father to early-onset Alzheimer’s. Lawrinson pours first-hand knowledge into this novel about family, friendship and loss.

From Love to Read Local (writingWA)

Established young adult author Lawrinson takes on new ground in this tragi-comic exploration of the impact of early-onset Alzheimer’s on a family. Told through the eyes of Year 12 art student Amelia, the story is unflinching in its description of the effects of this heartbreaking disease, but leavened throughout with heart and humour. As Amelia navigates the difficult terrain of adolescence, she must also come to terms with her father’s personality change, erratic behaviour, and subsequent diagnosis, and renegotiate her relationship with both parents as family dynamics shift. A wry, resilient character, Amelia is above all realistically drawn – at once angry and sad, short-tempered and tender as she tries to find a place for herself within an experience that makes little space for the young. As well as shining a clear light on an important topic, Before You Forget is a compelling story full of compassion, tightly and beautifully told.

From Liz Derouet

I love Julia Lawrinson’s work. Bye, Beautiful (2006) is still one of my favourite YA books, bye-beautifulever. Before You Forget is very different. It is set in the present day with real life issues. The embarrassment felt by Amelia from her father’s increasingly weird behaviour, and her own knowledge that she should be more supportive, is raw and honest. She manages as most her age would, maturing and developing throughout the narrative in a gradual way. In her own way of coping with her need of support and father’s health, she is unaware of Gemma’s slow self-destruction and demise. Lawrinson’s clever way of showing, not telling, has readers see this before Amelia. Both Amelia’s and Gemma’s needs for each other threatens to clash in a detrimental way.

This is an interesting read. While involving a devastating, irreversible diagnosis, it also contains humour and wit. Characterisation is strong and the narrative flows well from the first sentence. Sub-plots and minor characters are as well rounded and well written as the major players, making this, for me, an entire package. This book will do well in public and high school libraries.

From Trish Talks Texts

Julia Lawrinson’s tight exploration of the effects of early onset Alzheimer’s is tough going. Not only because of how long it takes to diagnose Amelia’s dad, but also because of how distressing it is for him, and for the people around him. We see him give money away to strangers, embarrass Amelia at a shopping centre, and we see the grief it causes him when his licence is taken away. It’s not pretty. …

I loved Amelia’s wry observations, and her humble approach to life. While she did bemoan her situation, she never sounded whiny or melodramatic. I thought she dealt well with a terrible tragic situation and is going to be okay. The realism of her situation is important and appreciated.

Before you Forget is recommended for readers who like their contemporary novels a bit gritty, a bit sad, and involving a character who faces adversity bravely. I also love this cover.

Before You Forget: launch speech notes

Last night Before You Forget was launched at The Literature Centre by Laurie Apps, President of the Fremantle Tennis Club and all round fabulous human being. The following are the notes for my speech, from which I deviated from time to time. It followed the first screening of the emotional and beautifully shot Before You Forget video, directed by Kori Reay-Mackey, to be posted in the near future. Thanks to all who came: we had 150 people sitting, standing, celebrating. It was quite a night!

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Lesley, Mailee and the Literature Centre team for hosting this event, and for being such supporters of those of us who create literature for young people. This place is our home and our refuge.

(Ad libbed thanks to Laurie Apps, director Kori Reay-Mackey, video donors, and Penguin Random House)

  • Alan Genoni was a brilliant English teacher at Kelmscott High School, encouraging me early in my creative writing endeavours, and I am honoured that he is here tonight – as well as delighted that he also won Western Australian High School Principal of the year last year.
  • Judith Ridge, guru of literature for young people, is here from Sydney, and I’m thrilled that this is also her first time to Perth: we’ll make sure it’s not your last.
  • The energetic force of nature that is Susanne Gervay is also here from our SCBWI family in Sydney, and it is gorgeous to have her here.
  • Katrina Lievense, art teacher extraordinaire from John Curtin, was kind enough to read through the manuscript and make sure I had the arty bits right: she and Anne McCaughey were my first readers, and I so appreciate their feedback: and I think they related to one of the themes of this novel – art as saviour.
  • Thank you to my colleagues from writing, health, teaching, parliament and law.
  • Graham Smith, John’s oldest friend, and his family are here tonight – until fairly recently, John could recite every move in the year seven chess final that Graham beat him in.
  • Gemma Maxwell, whose name I used with permission in the novel, and about whom you heard Annie talking about in the video, whose mum also had early onset, and to whom the novel is also dedicated – thank you, and Tessa and Farrel for being here tonight.
  • Thank you to all of you who have provided us with the nibblies – and especially Brioni Dunstan. I want to just say, Bri should have been in events management – as well as organising the food tonight, she threw a surprise party for me and Nigel a couple of years back, with the theme All You Need Is Love, a subject to which I will return, which remains one of the most lovely things anyone’s ever done for me.
  • And speaking of Nigel, I want to thank him for his daily love and kindness, which sustains me.

Speechy bit

So now, to Before You Forget, and why it is here, and why it matters so much to me – and will, I hope, to others.

The last five or six years have been trying, to put it politely.

If I were to describe it accurately, I would have to use all my Kelmscott words.

I have learned so much about human nature, good and bad – as someone wisely said, the best thing about the worst time of your life is that you see the true colours of everybody.

Sometimes, this resulted in a fondness for fermented grape juice, periods of insomnia, and acting out in extreme and self-destructive ways, such as deciding to do a law degree.

But these years were the impetus for writing the novel – indeed, made the writing of the novel essential to our psychic survival.

The last five years have also made me appreciate more than I ever have the value of human connection.

All of you here, and more who are not, have sustained me and Annie, in large ways and in small, practically, emotionally, spiritually, virtually or in person, and I truly cannot thank you enough.

I would like to make special mention of Morgan Yasbincek, Paul Webster and Shaun Salmon, who have supported John constantly through his illness, and keep doing so even though he no longer knows them.

But the star of this show is Annie.

I wrote this novel after seeing not only the torment that her father’s condition caused her, but also seeing how her loss, for the most part, was not acknowledged or understood by others.

There was no place for her in all the dealings with care providers, doctors, the State Administrative Tribunal, in all the horrible and unnecessary contests we went through over John’s care.

Her voice, her perspective, her relationship with her father were not heard, seen, or valued.

The system for dealing with people with early onset – in a framework of aged care – is woefully ill-equipped for younger people in general, and especially for younger people who still have children and teenagers at home.

This has to change.

Annie has become a strong, self-reliant, clear sighted and determined young woman because of what has happened to her – and I am so proud of her – and I know John would be too.

But I wish things had been better for her.

And I hope it will be better for the thousands of young people living with watching their parent’s deterioration, for those who lose parents when they are still alive, the living loss of early onset Alzheimer’s disease and its many variations and permutations.

So, this is what I hope Before You Forget will provide – an inside view on a little-understood disease and its effects on those living with it.

I also hope it’s a cracking good read.

I remember pitching Before You Forget to Jane Godwin, former publisher at Penguin, at our SCBWI retreat at Rottnest, saying ‘it’s about a girl whose dad has early onset and her best friend gets anorexia and her mother starts drinking and she’s obsessed with 9/11 – it’s a comedy, obviously.’

There is comic relief in the shape of a small and crazy Jack Russell named Hecta.

He is closely modelled on a small and crazy Jack Russell named Hecta who, despite regularly escaping out of doors onto busy roads, eating unidentifiable items from the yard or bins at Brightwater, humping poor patient Labradors until he does himself an injury, or stealing and eating glad-wrapped sandwiches from people’s handbags, manages to be the kind of dog that people look at and say, ‘Ah, isn’t he sweet.’

This novel reveals the truth.

Thank you all for being here, for sharing this ‘journey’ with us, and I hope this novel finds a treasured place in your hearts.

before-you-forget-launch-picture-jane-grjlusich

Fabulous February

It is a big month, dear reader. I had my first book signing at Boffins, hosted by the lovely Amy Woods: edited transcript of the same will appear on Amy’s blog some time in the not-too-distant.

This wonderful article by Heather Zubek appeared in The West .

 

And the Before You Forget video has been shot, and is now being edited by Kori Reay-Mackey and his creative crew. I’ve had generous support from so many people to produce the video – they will be honoured in the credits list – and I know this is going to be something special. Here are some stills from the shoot, filmed on location at Paper Bird in Fremantle:

001

 

Other info about Before You Forget, including reviews as they appear (good ones, of course!), are here.

Jumping for joy in January

Dear reader, it is finally the publication month of Before You Forget. It has been a long time coming: that’s how it feels to me, anyhow. Any novel takes so much work, time and attention, and this one has taken a certain level of emotional chutzpah to get to the finish line. My eternal gratitude to my patient editors at Penguin (it’s been so long there have been a few, but Katrina Lehman is chief among them.) The novel now has its own web page here, which also talks a little bit about why I wrote it. The cover is just beautiful, more so in tangible form: thank you Penguin Random House for doing the book proud.

And here is its first review, from Amy at Boffins Books.

The remarkable Amanda Curtin, herself one of my favourite writers, was kind enough to feature Before You Forget as part of her guest blogger series, here. (Yes, it seems this is going to be a very link-y post. Stay with me, dear reader!)

I have a pretty full dance card for the Perth Writers Festival this year, hanging with more of my favourite writer buddies, including Dianne Touchell, whose Forgetting Foster is about a young boy whose father develops younger onset Alzheimer’s. We’re going to have some cracking conversations about that: here are some of her thoughts on the subject.

I am raising money to make a short video about  Before You Forget, featuring my daughter and her artwork: it is the story behind the story. The money will pay the talented young creatives who have committed to the project, including clever director Kori Reay-Mackey. The link is here if you have any spare cash. We are hoping to launch it at the Perth Writers Festival next month.

I hope you are all having a splendid 2017 so far.

lawrinson-publicity-shot-2016-2

Picture by Annie Lawrinson

Good things come

♥2016 has been an eventful year in my life, to put it mildly, and even more so for many of you out there. Some of my closest friends have experienced terrible losses and grief. The state of the world is, at best, parlous. Human beings continue to confound, being full of generosity and kindness sometimes, or fear and hatred other times. Let’s not let the other times render us insensible to what is important in this world.

Choose kindness. Choose gentleness. Choose love.

♥In the spirit of gratitude, here is my list of ‘why 2016 hasn’t been a complete disaster.’ I encourage you to compile your own.

  • I was lucky enough to travel to Singapore not once, but twice, once for the Asian Festival of Children’s Content, second for the tour accompanying the Near and Dear Singapore-Western Australian book creator exchange. Both trips were glorious, and mind-opening, and full of good food and better company.
  • I was also lucky enough to go to Geraldton for Children’s Book Week: words cannot express how much I adored it, and the people there.
  • I went to Bali, too. (Now, I understand why people do. My girlfriend and I had The Bestest Time ever.)
  • I now possess a Bachelor of Laws, with Distinction.
  • I have a new book at the printers (squeeee!).
  • And, I have a beautiful new niece, born on the same day as one of my dearest friends. Bambina (not her real name, obvs!) brings delight to all who encounter her.

♥In the eventfulness of recent years, I’d forgotten that Losing It had been bought by Random House in Germany. Imagine my surprise, then, to be copied into a tweet with the awesomely chick-lit-ish cover yesterday, by Walking in the Clouds. Isn’t it fun? (And if anyone’s listening, I’d be happy to do a promo tour of Germany in 2017!)

Viermal grosse Liebe mit Sahne von Julia Lawrinson

♥All caveats about privileged white blokes aside, this study into what makes for a contented life is worth watching. Of course it is about connections, friendship, love. That is what makes our lives worth living, or bearable when the ceiling caves in. In the end, your people are all you have. Cherish them.

♥I wish you all a peaceful, reflective, bookful 2017 with your people.

November news

♥I have finished my gigs for the year, having recently visited Bullsbrook College (thank you Australian Society of Authors!) and Mercedes, among others. From 2017, if you want me for WA gigs, please contact fabulous folks at The Literature Centre on 08 9430 6968 or info@thelitcentre.org.au . In the east, Booked Out are still the people to contact.

♥The last proofs for Before You Forget are in. This book was written in close consultation and collaboration with my daughter, and I am tremendously proud of it. Stay tuned for launch details. The blurb reads:

Year Twelve is not off to a good start for Amelia. Art is her world, but her art teacher hates everything she does; her best friend has stopped talking to her; her mother and father may as well be living in separate houses; and her father is slowly forgetting everything. Even Amelia.

At times funny, at times heartbreaking, this is an ultimately uplifting story about the delicate fabric of family and friendship, and the painful realisation that not everything can remain the same forever.

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The dedication for Before You Forget

 

♥It is hard to comprehend recent world events: the hatefulness that has informed the result of the US election, the awful behaviour that has been rewarded, the destructive divisiveness. It is hard to try to meet hatred with love and tolerance, but it seems that it is incumbent on us to do that. Not that you shouldn’t name and speak out about appalling attitudes and actions, of course. But fear will make us smaller, and decent people need to be more decent in these trying times. And for those who seem consumed with resentment of their fellow citizens and humans, this is a timely reminder:

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An important reminder: from Newman College library

 

 

Beyond Carousel and other new things

The launch of Brendan Ritchie‘s Beyond Carousel (Fremantle Press) was a reminder of the warmth of the writing community in Perth, aside from a great launch of a novel that, if it is anything as good as its prequel, will be a cult hit. Norman and Jan Jorgensen, James Foley, Renae Hayward, Georgina Gregory, Kate McCaffrey, Marcella Polain and Mike Williams, and proud publisher Kate Sutherland were among the throngs of wordy people and well wishers crammed into the delight that is Beaufort Street Books, where our very own Tim Winton had been talking that very morning. The incomparable Amanda Betts launched Beyond Carousel in her brilliant, witty way: Brendan’s taster had all punters racing out to read their copies forthwith.

brendan-ritchie

Brendan Ritchie

kate-mccaffrey-amanda-betts-and-me-12-oct-2016

A trio of trouble

I have just received the proofs for my latest novel, due out in February. Here is a sneak peak of the inside title page. The novel features a year 12 art student called Amelia, so the arty smatter is fitting, as well as metaphorical:

before-you-forget-title-page

Inside title page

And here is Hecta, our dog, chowing down on his carrot. He features in the novel as himself, although there is no carrot-eating to be found.

hecta-chows-down

Hecta with an A

 

Go for 2 & 5 in gorgeous Geraldton

  • I should rephrase the above to something like, ‘gorgeous Geraldton in which I picked up gruesome germs’, given that I am just recovering from the same nearly two weeks later. But it was gorgeous nevertheless, from the bubbling enthusiasm of the kids to the generosity of spirit from my hosts at the library to the en-costumed teachers and librarians who welcomed me into their schools. I also got to meet, remotely, some very keen readers and writers from the Meekatharra School of the Air.
  • This completed Book Week for me, having started it rather closer to home at the unphotographically represented but sparkling-lovely Coolbinia Primary, at which I was also reunited with a fellow former member of the Youth Theatre Company of WA. It was amusing to reflect on how well behaved we are these days, compared to the summer of 1985. Ah, maturity!
  • Since returning, apart from lying on the couch watching mafia flicks and food production docos, I’ve also had a sneak preview of the cover of Before You Forget, and its accompanying blurb. When I’ve got permissions, I shall share.The cover is poignant and apt. The final edit of the words will shortly be underway, too.
  • I seem to be writing something new, and non-fiction, in the space that post-law study provides. Writing with absolutely no expectation attached is liberating.
  • If you are interested in presenting at the Asian Festival for Children’s Content in Singapore in 2017, and I heartily encourage you to do so, the call for papers is out. You won’t find a more fascinating conference anywhere, I’ll wager.
  • If you’re a reader and you’ve never come across the American writer Howard Norman, you really should. Here is an excerpt of him reading from his latest.