Category Archives: books

Fabulous February News

Dear Reader, it has been an eventful time between last entry and this.

But before I give further details on the nature of the eventfulness, the Fabulous News is this:

Maddie in the Middle is a 2020 Children’s Book Council of Australia Notable Book, in and among a record field of entries!

I am so grateful to Fremantle Press and the CBCA for giving Maddie her chance to shine.

I am also utterly delighted to be on the Notable list with fellow Freo Press creators Holden Sheppard and Kelly Canby (whose name in my opinion invites an echo – Kelly Canby, Kelly Canby, Kelly Canby – no? Just me?), as well as our fellow Western Australians Megsy Caddy, Meg McKinlay (twice, as usual), Sally Morgan, Karen Blair, Michael Speechley and Briony Stewart.

This news followed the most fabulous Literature and Ideas weekend (formerly Perth Writers Festival) during which I communed with my writing tribe, met new members of the same, and fangirled Christos Tsiolkas and Rick Morton. A J Betts (whose Rogue should also have been on the Notable list, just by-the-by) and I had a great talk on controversy (Prince earworm) and then I was interviewed alongside Ingrid Laguna by our Curated by Kids hosts.

However (see above), when I got the news of Maddie’s Notable listing, the first person I wanted to call was my Mum. Which I could not do, as she died after a sudden and horrible illness on Boxing Day (having very thoughtfully delayed her exit so as not to coincide with my daughter’s birthday mere days before). A friend said to me that losing a parent is like having a nuclear bomb go off in your brain, and this is apropos.

My childhood best friend said: ‘Right now you are carrying a sack of boulders. One day it will be a small pouch full of precious jewels. But the rocks have to pound each other and you first, and let them. Grief knows what it is doing.’

Mum told me to remember the good times, and I suppose at some point I will be able to with some equanimity. In between times, love, friendship, kindness and yoga are getting me through. And this new addition to our family also: 2020 Annie and Truffle



Bye, Beautiful and places in the sun

Writing can seem like a lot of effort for little reward.  Your books (if you’re lucky enough to get published in the first place) might be ignored, go out of print, drop off the radar (or never be picked up by the beacon in the first place), or date too quickly (I believe I mentioned a phone box in my first novel, just as one example).  Now there is a whole new level of uncertainty with the demise (they say) of the bookshop and the unknown quantity of the ebook.

I am therefore more than usually gratified that Bye, Beautiful, six years after its release, is still getting attention like this.

Also, I spoke at John Curtin College of the Arts last week, and was presented with a range of remarkable interpretations of Bye, Beautiful, like these:

In other news, I recently drove 2000kms with an old school friend to visit another old school friend on her mango farm.  It reminded me of how important high school is, despite its limitations or otherwise – and regular readers of this blog will know I haven’t always been inclined to speak fondly of my alma mater – and particularly the importance of those formative friendships.

I also learned that I’m a pretty good shot with one of these:

And that fanging around on one of these in the dunes is about as much fun as there is:

Writing exciting

In an otherwise trying week, I had a burst of writing-related serendipity on Wednesday.  Sometimes, with writing, you feel like you’re trying to melt glass with your breath: it just won’t yield, and no matter the effort you expend.  Sometimes it’s not the writing itself: you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you’ve lost your mojo, or you know what you want to say but not how to say it.  All you are doing is howling at the moon.  At other times, things elegantly, magically cohere.  Like last Wednesday: I talked new projects with a fellow writer at lunch, among many other soul-enriching things, then returned to my desk to find:

 a) a pile of Amazon-purchased books (see picture below, which also contains two others from my Dymocks Fremantle foray), and

 b) an email from my editor with the proposed cover of Losing It.  I squealed with delight and surprise.  I can’t share it with you just yet, but if you were to design a cover for novel about four smart seventeen-year-old girls making a bet to lose their virginity (yes, you can tell it’s fiction coz they’re so old, right?!), what would you come up with?

Stay tuned and I’ll show you what Penguin’s designer came up with.  It’s right.

Meantimes, the books included:

A Pattern Language, principally by Christorpher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein (if you want to understand why most urban planning doesn’t work well, check this out)
A Wrinkle in Time (I remember now that I wouldn’t pick it up as a kid because I couldn’t work out how to pronounce Madeleine L’Engle’s name – go figure.  Reading it now because of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, which is the best junior novel I’ve ever read)
Bog Child, Siobhan Dowd
Noah’s Law, Randa Abdel-Fattah
M.T. Anderson’s Feed and Louis Sachar’s Holes
Gathering Blue, Lois Lowry
Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793 and Speak (not pictured, because it’s in my suitcase)
Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia (I am ashamed to say I once marked a bunch of student essays about this novel without having read it myself.  Anyone else ever done that?)
and Lois Lowry’s The Giver

I will be making a dent in this pile soon, as I head off to read, write and talk to my publishers.  *breathes out*

Bits and pieces

1.  Back in the early 90s, when I first got into the writing scene in Perth, there was an incredible bubbling of energy, ideas and poetry collections from writers like Morgan Yasbincek, Tracy Ryan, Barbara Temperton, Marcella Polain, and Sarah French, to name but a few.  There were readings, arguments and frisson, friendships and collaborations, striving and success.  Even if, like me, you weren’t a poet, wouldn’t have known a cinquain if it jumped out at you in a dark alley and thought a pastoral was where cows graze, you were nevertheless swept up and along by the sheer creative whoosh of it. 

A similar thing is happening in the kids’ lit scene here in Perth at present, I noticed as I sailed westwards to Rottnest for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators third annual retreat, which I attended with folk like Norman Jorgensen and James Foley, whose Last Viking book launch I attended on Friday night, Briony Stewart, whose next book Kumiko and the Shadow Catchers is about to be launched, and Meg McKinlay, whose book No Bears was launched at Rottnest by the talent-fostering Sarah Foster from Walker Books – to name but a few.  I spent most of the time cycling around the very windy island, ruminating, and having long discussions about writing, the universe and everything with my fellow housies Meg, Patricia McMahon (into whose lap in the dark a quokka leapt) and the indefatigable Dianne Wolfer, but I did notice that same indefinable energy and enthusiasm that I remembered from way back when.  I also believe there was karaoke.

The lap-leaping quokka

AJ Betts getting funky

AJ Betts and Meg McKinlay vik-ing it up

Do you think I could add these to my parliamentary outfit?

2.  Steph Bowe was talking on her blog about the pros and cons of homeschooling, which got me thinking (I know, who knew?!)  The best school year of my life was spent doing what was then called distance education for year 11, and I was only allowed to do it because of a series of factors (like getting booted out of face-time school) went in my favour.  And I loved it: I loved being able to set my own timetable, work at my own pace, and be treated like an adult by my (invisible) teachers.  It did set me apart from my peers a bit, but given most of the peers I had at my high school, that was no bad thing.  It is a great way of studying, especially for the introverts among us.  Why should you be forced to be social if you don’t want to, just to learn?

3.  Here is my latest book haul (thanks, Lending Rights!)

They are: Jenny Downham’s You Against Me; Antonio Buti’s Brothers:Justice, Corruption and the Mickelbergs; Henry Hoey Hobson by Christine Bongers; The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom, which people have been recommending for years; my own copy of Boy on a Wire by sock-man Jon Doust; Michael Gerard Bauer’s Just a Dog, which made me weep; Melvin Burgess’ Junk; Happy As Larry by Scot Gardner; The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky (about whom I agree with Lili Wilkinson); Margo Lanagan’s Yellowcake (ditto); Six Impossible Things by Fiona Wood; Isobelle Carmody’s The Red Wind; Libba Bray’s Beauty Queens; and the books I mentioned earlier, No Bears by Meg McKinlay and The Last Viking by Norman Jorgensen and James Foley.

Chess Nuts in reviewland

It’s always nerve-racking to receive your first reviews for a book – almost as nerve-racking as wondering if you’re going to get any. So I was very pleased that Chess Nuts has had two great reviews, last week by Jane Barry in The Courier Mail and this week by Susan Hewitt in The West Australian‘s West Weekend magazine.

Jane Barry commented:

Lawrinson addresses a salient topic in her writing. Why can’t teenagers feel free to pursue different interests and not worry so much about losing face with their peers? Over the years towards maturity, how many opportunities are lost, or passions suppressed, just for the sake of worrying what others will think? She also writes with a clear understanding of the intricacies of chess and the almost complete absorption it demands. References to famous quotes from chess masters appear throughout, lending an air of credibility to the author’s research. A good book for any teenager, especially those who need prompting to follow their own interests.

Hewitt says:

This book is aimed at primary school kids, and even those who can’t read it themselves will find it easy to engage in the story. All the lessons about acceptance and getting on aren’t daggy or teacherly, they just kind of work themselves in.

It’s interesting that the two reviewers have a different take on the audience for the novel: I think it’s because kids read differently, it would entirely depend on individual interests and reading levels. Hence the madness of the age-banding proposals that were (are?) being debated in the UK.

On another note, it’s delightful that The West has entirely modernised its reviewing of books, thanks (I believe) to new books editor Will Yeoman. At last!