What I’ve been up to

I would like to say the reason I’ve been madly behind on blog posts is due to a lot of amazing writing going, but alas, not quite so.

There was a fair bit of amazing editing going on in June and July, though, as my first short story was published in Dubnium, a young South Australian writers collective.

I had a wonderful experience working with my very first editor (shout out to Katie Bryant) who helped me tighten up my short story for publishing. The piece I wrote is called ‘Chitra’ and it was inspired by (unfortunately) some very sad true stories of women I met while living in the Middle East. If you would like to read it (and many other INCREDIBLE talented SA writers), you can get an e-copy  for just $0.99 here.

I also got the opportunity to read an excerpt at the Dubnium launch party in July, which – whilst terrifying – was a fantastic experience.

 

dubniumep1

Notable YA Reads of May, June & July

Eeek! I’m so terribly behind on updating this blog. Apologies! So much for the grand reading plans I had for when I went part-time at work. Somehow I managed to read more on full-time hours – don’t ask me how that works.

I have had the opportunity to read some great YA books these past three months, so without further ado:

MAY

fallforanything

Courtney Summers is up there as one of my favourite contemporary YA writers, and Fall For Anything was a beautiful, raw, emotional read. I loved this cast of characters, the mystery in the plot and the writing is stunning as always.

tamingofthetights

The Taming of the Tights is probably my favourite so far in the Misadventures of Tallulah Casey series by Louise Rennison. I spent a few nights tucked under the covers, snorting uncontrollably at Tallulah and Gang’s latest antics. If you haven’t picked up a Louise Rennison book, do it now – hysterical laughter is good for the soul.

halfbad

Maybe I’m calling it too early, but this could be my favourite read of the year. Half Bad by Sally Green had such a unique, quirky voice that pulled me in right from page one. The world of White and Black witches is unlike any I’ve read before and I was quite enchanted with it. If you love Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Boys series, I think this will be up your alley.

JUNE

June was the month for contemporary Aussie YA!

everybreath

I forgot how much I liked mystery books! When I was a kid, I devoured the Trixie Belden, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Spy Kids, Secret Seven series, but as I grew up I don’t think there was a cross-over into young adult, and I think I was always too much of a wuss to read adult crime fiction as I don’t do gore so well. But Every Breath is the perfect cross over! Great plot, great characters and a hell of a good read. And the Mycroft/Watts tension killed me! Looking forward to reading Every Word.

headoftheriver

Head of the River is my favourite contemporary Aussie YA this year so far. It was fascinating to get a glimpse into the world of competitive rowing. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I would like the book for that reason, but I was so surprised at how interesting I found it, and once I picked it up I didn’t put it down. I thought Pip Harry did a great job at the brother/sister POVs and I could distinguish the two quite well and loved both character arcs.

JULY

shimmer

Paula Weston’s The Rephaim series is just so good! Hands down my favourite paranormal series by an Australian author. The third book, Shimmer, did not disappoint. It was great to get more of an insight into the Sanctuary. I love all the characters in this series and their relationships (Jude/Gaby, Gaby/Rafa, even Gaby/Daniel! Almost felt sorry for him in this book!). I love that the mystery deepens and that there are more questions than answers but I’m still satisfied. And that ending! Argh!

ruinandrising

I loved this world right from the beginning of Shadow and Bone, and I’m kind of sad that it’s all over now! Ruin and Rising was a brilliant end to the trilogy. The setting is the no. 1 thing I will gush about, but I really thought the characterisation over this whole series was fantastic too. I do wish publishers would get over the whole trilogy thing, though, because I would gladly read more books in a series that fleshes out the plot a bit more over a longer period- not that that plot is a weakness with R + R, more just a comment of YA trilogies in general (and general sadness that the series has ended). Definitely one of my favourite YA fantasy series ever.

Notable YA reads of April

My favourite read this month was the third and final installment of Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, Dreams of Gods and Monsters.Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)

I loved this series. I loved the ending to the series. There have been many trilogies I’ve read where the third book really let down the whole trilogy. Not Dreams of Gods and Monsters. Laini Taylor has created the most incredible world/s, with stand-out, lovable characters (and support characters). Her writing is stunning and her story full of hope. My favourite YA paranormal/fantasy this year.

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

I was tagged by the oh-so-lovely Trinity Doyle, a fellow Australian Contemporary YA writer whose work I can’t wait to read! She has a great blog with lots of reviews and author interviews. Go check it out at trinitydoyle.com

What am I working on?

I’m working on a yet-to-be-titled manuscript that is set in Damascus, in 2011, just before the Syrian conflict started. It’s about an unlikely group of friends from different language/cultural backgrounds whose lives will all be affected by the Arab Spring.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

This story, although fictional, is based on real events. I was living in Damascus at the beginning of 2011, studying Arabic, and had to move to Jordan once things in Syria began getting a little dicey. It will be similar to Christobel Mattingly’s No Gun for Asmir or many of Rosanne Hawke’s books, but different in that it will be aimed at an older age group. Compared to the other YA manuscripts I’ve written (and a lot of YA books I’ve read), where the conflict for the character is quite internal (and about their personal journey), the conflict in this will be driven by external events.

Why do I write what I do?

I write YA because I read YA and love YA. I tend to get the most motivation to write after I’ve read an amazing book, and in the beginning, those books were always YA. I do find it very interesting that the stories I’m dying to get on to paper are contemporary Australian YA, because fantasy was my go-to drug of choice, especially as a teenager. In fact, I hated ‘real world’ books growing up. But then I read Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta and it pretty much changed my life. Contemporary YA books are those that hit me hardest and stay with me, and I think that’s why I write in that genre. I think there is a potential fantasy series in me, but it’s brewing and will take a few more years before it manifests itself.

How does my writing process work?

I’m still figuring this out. I lived in Jordan for a few years and I had a very set routine there. I taught English from 7-3, came home, plonked myself on the couch and wrote for a good couple of hours every night. Now I’m back in Australia, my new job involves shift work, so my routine is all over the place (and not much writing getting written).
When I do get around to writing, however, I write every scene/chapter by hand in a notebook before typing it out. I find if I only type first, I sit and re-read, then backspace, then cut chunks out, and then end up with nothing after a few hours. If I hand write first, it can still be terrible, but I can focus on changing it later when I type it up.
With my first MS I was a ‘pantser’ and it took me five years to finish! My second MS had a pretty solid outline, and it only took 9 months to write, so I think I’m a ‘plotter’ convert.

I’ve tagged a wonderful friend of mine and fellow Adelaidean, Jehaliel, on the My Writing Process blog hop.

Jehaliel’s a young Australian who loves penguins, rocks and music. She writes poetry, a little fanfiction and original novels in the TC, LOTR, Chronicles of Elantra and various other fandoms.  Jahaliel is the name of her OC and Enoraryn is the name of her sword. You can find her at Enoraryn’s Shipping Co.

Notable YA reads of March

I didn’t read as many YA books as I usually would this month because I spent most of it devouring the 800+ pages of Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries, which I thought was brilliant despite being literary fiction ;-).

I also didn’t get a chance to read any 2014 releases this month, but I finally got around to reading:

The Messenger

You thought I’d have learned my lesson after The Book Thief (which I avoided for years because everyone talked about it so much and then ended up LOVING). I put The Messenger off for so long too, and it makes me sad to think I could’ve experienced it so many years before now. Oh well. I love Zusak’s writing. I love his characters. This story was remarkable. (As a side note: this is what I wish all ‘New Adult’ (still don’t know how I feel about labelling this category) was like – not the smutty crap being pumped out in bucket loads right now. It’s in the same vein as Raw Blue by Kristy Eagar, Holier Than Thou by Laura Buzo and The Piper’s Son by Melina Marchetta)

My second recommendation that I read in March is:

These Broken Stars (Starbound, #1)

It wasn’t perfect, but overall I quite liked the story and the world in which it is set (think Titanic meets Across the Universe by Beth Revis – at least that’s what I was imagining). It was a page turner for me. I’m really interested to see how the trilogy works with having different main characters for each story (or so it seems), as I’m probably a bit over trilogies now.

the first time I saw snow (on the way to Cappadocia)

Location: Cappadocia, Turkey
Year: 2009

I’m pretty sure I will forever be remembered as the annoying Australian who wouldn’t shut up about seeing snow on the bus ride from Antakya to Cappadocia. To be fair, it snowed once in my hometown (July, 1996 ) in the Adelaide Hills, but it was pretty much glorified frost that lasted a few more hours than usual. It wasn’t cold enough to snow when I made it to Goreme, a small town in Cappadocia, Turkey, but one day I went out to the Ilhara Valley, and that’s when I got to take my first step on snow.

Notable YA reads of Jan/Feb

January

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Laurie Halse Anderson is an auto-buy author for me, and when I found out The Impossible Knife of Memory was released earlier in AU than the US, I tracked it down quick smart. And it did not disappoint. Anderson writes in a way one can only be envious of. The book itself is heartbreaking and marvelous, bringing light to the not-all-that-understood issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and the impact it has on families.

February

The Intern

Gabrielle Tozer‘s The Intern is a heartfelt and easy read. I really enjoyed Josie’s voice; she’s a kind, genuine character who has a refreshing outlook on the world. I was also surprised at how I wanted to read more about the magazine world (I really thought I wouldn’t be interested in this).

The Last Girl

The Last Girl by Michael Adams  is intense and action-packed. And such a cool concept. Recently I’ve been contemplating just how much I want social media in my life. Coming from an applied linguistics background (nerd alert), I’ve always been interested in how the amount of input we receive (especially via the interwebz) can manipulate our thoughts and language, to the point that it actually scares me a little. This book did not put my fears at ease! Looking forward to the sequel coming out in March.

Not giving up my day job

I am extremely grateful that, after 6 weeks or so of uncertainty, I can keep my job working with young asylum seekers.

I work with an NGO, and as you can imagine, given the current political climate regarding asylum seekers, things have been a little bit tense for both the clients and staff.

The good news is that I have been offered the hours I want, which hopefully means I can get back to writing some more. I have a story to tell and I’m pretty keen to get it down on paper as quick as I can.

I’m also in the process of applying for an Arts SA grant for a mentorship with a South Australian author. It’s my first shot at grant writing (an art form in itself!), but I figure you’ve got to be in it to win it. Will keep you posted.

Hottest 100 and Australia Day

I’m pretty darned excited to be back in Australia for Australia Day this year — it will be my first one in three years. Australia Day 2011 I spent a number of hours in the Dubai airport, then a few hours on a plane to Damascus, and then a number of hours after that running around Damascus in the freezing cold trying to find a money changing place or an ATM. 2012 was with my good Aussie friend in Amman, Jordan. And last year Australia Day was a Saturday at school marking essays. And each Australia Day was spent madly hoping for good WiFi so we could stream Triple J’s Hottest 100 live.

And this year I will be back at my good mate’s house with friends from high school, a pool and a water slide, a good amount of beer, and it will be the same as every Aus day party we’ve had there since Year 10. Good times ahead!

This is my Top 10 for the Hottest 100:

The National  – Graceless
Lana Del Rey – Young And Beautiful
Lorde – Team
Noah And The Whale – There Will Come A Time
Chvrches – Lies
Wolf Alice – Bros
Thundamentals – Smiles Don’t Lie
Arctic Monkeys – Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?
Haim – Let Me Go
Gang Of Youths – Evangelists

 

Top Ten Australian YA Reads of 2013

I know I’m biased, being Australian and all, but I really do think Aussie authors produce some of the best stuff in Young Adult literature. Here are my top ten — a lot of these were released this year, but I finally got around to reading some oldies that have been on my to-read list for a long time.

10. Hate is Such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub

9. Steal My Sunshine by Emily Gale

8. Girl Defective by Simone Howell

7. The Whole of My World by Nicole Hayes

6. Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty

5. Ice Age by Kirsten Reed

*This was on the YA shelf in the library, but I think Text consider it adult fiction.

4. Wildlife by Fiona Wood

3. The Sky So Heavy by Claire Zorn

2. Stolen: A letter to my captor by Lucy Christopher

1. Haze by Paula Weston