Posts Tagged 'writing awards'

The Graveyard Book

2009-03-11I haven’t blogged about individual books yet on this blog, but staying true to her name, the Well Read Rabbit does read a LOT (about 3 or 4 books a week) and felt compelled to write about this one.

Neil Gaiman is a genius.  Not just your run of the mill ‘has a brain bigger than a small planet’ or ‘invented something life saving’ genius.  But a genius of words and worlds.  I have always been a big fan of his, from his picture books (Wolves in the Walls) to his children’s novels (Coraline) and Adult novels (American Gods).  But for me, The Graveyard Book went beyond.  It is part fable, part adventure, but always subtle and genuine and real.  A story that moves between worlds, shifts your sense of reality and is imbued with magic, but was ultimately about a small boy growing up and trying to find his place in the world: Gaiman combines such things with an enviable ease.  He has a wonderful ability to create characters that experience incredible things, but always react calmly and thoughtfully, and they are all so uniquely quirky and vivid and flawed.  The writer side of me knows Gaiman as the king of dialogue.  Dialogue is an art that is deceptively hard to master, and his always reads like a song.  I agree whole heartedly with Garth Nix‘s assessment of the book:

I wish my younger self had the opportunity to read and reread this wonderful book, and my older self wishes that I had written it.

But it’s not just Garth and I who felt this way about this book.  So did the Newbery Medal committee.  And Gaiman was his usual charming and unassuming self when he twittered about the morning the news was announced:

First: ‘Mr Gaiman briefly ponders putting marmalade in tea, then realises he has lost his mind.’
Then: ‘About to drink second cup of tea without Marmalade this morning. Also, I just won the Newbury Medal for THE GRAVEYARD BOOK.’
Finally, it sinks in: ‘Newbery, not Newbury. Also F***!!!! I won the F***ING NEWBERY THIS IS SO F***ING AWESOME. I thank you.’ (sans expletives, for the sake of innocent ears and eyes)

Gaiman’s way of tackling the question ‘Where do your ideas come from?’ has always fascinated me.  In the dedications section of the book, he mentions that his first spark for The Graveyard Book happened when watching his 2 year-old son ride his tiny tricycle through gravestones one summer (twenty-something years ago).  But apart from this, he is often a little more guarded in his discussion of the topic.  I suppose he gets the question a LOT.

Anyway.  Buy the book.  Read it.  Love it.  Then talk to me about it (there’s nothing I love more than a good book natter).

Developing a Brand

Rabbit - psychicHow drab does that sound?  Certainly not the most exciting part of the publishing industry, yet one of the most important when aiming for longevity.  The idea is that authors in today’s market needs to develop a ‘brand’ or recognisable identity, in order for readers to know what to expect from their next book.  Agents and publishers tend to encourage authors (at least initially) to write consistently within one genre in order to develop such a following.  Rachelle Gardner, an American literary agent, has been speaking about this concept over on her blog.  She says the following:

This is a marketing issue, first and foremost. If you want to publish books, attract a loyal readership, and have long-term success as an author, then you’ll need to pick a genre, do it well, and keep doing it over and over. Simple as that. All the arguing in the world and all the talent in the world is not going to change this reality.

This sounds easy enough, unless you’re like me (as I know many are).  My reading interests vary widely between humour and quite dark tales, and likewise, so does my writing.  Branding is something I’m going to have to consider very carefully if I get to the publication stage, choosing between fantasy, humour or straight fiction.  However illustration (in Australia) seems to be the opposite.  I’ve been advised that because it’s such a small market, in order to develop a career you need to be a jack-of-all-trades.  In other words – be able to illustrate anything from non-fiction to fiction and have multiple styles to draw from.

Of course, as with any good rule there are always exceptions.  As soon as an author becomes successful or wins a coveted award they can play around more within genres and age ranges, as Michael Bauer does.  Illustrators seem to go the opposite way – when they’re in demand they can develop a strong style that then becomes their brand, such as Pamela Allen.  If I could develop an illustration brand, it would certainly be ink, collage and watercolour.

So, what’s you brand?

When Writers are Lost for Words

Rabbit - psychicI attended the Aurealis Awards on Saturday night, the annual Australian speculative fiction awards held in Brisbane.  The room was brimming with publishers, editors, agents, authors and wannabes like me.  It was a place where geeks of science fiction and fantasy were not afraid to speak out and embrace their geek-dom.  The alcohol might have helped.

But what really stayed with me about the night were the acceptance speeches.  As an aspiring writer, I often view authors as these rather enigmatic figures.  People blessed with an ability to express themselves intelligently in interviews, with market savvy and ever thoughtful things to say.  I suppose this probably comes from those we see most in the limelight, speaking about their craft in ways that makes everyone want to become a writer.

But it would seem even the most natural public speaker loses such skills when accepting an award.  I don’t think I have ever seen authors so humbled, touched, and yes … lost for words.  It was really quite endearing.  There were many brilliant children’s authors and illustrators represented on the night.  Shaun Tan won the illustrated book award for ‘Tales from outer Suburbia’, a surreal and poignant book exploring the Australian burbs.  Emily Rodda took out the children’s fiction award with ‘The Wizard of Rondo’ and Melinda Marchetta the young adult award for ‘Finnikin of the Rock’.  Isobelle Carmody was also up for an award, as was one of the hosts for the night, Simon Higgins (who I got to chat with, and is incredibly funny, down to earth, and clearly suited to writing his ninja novels).

We have several speculative fiction writers in my wider writing network, so I look forward to one day attending the awards in support of them as nominees…

 


About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:

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