Sunday, July 31, 2011

i will read you where i go


my fingers are vair tired from using the shift key to Make Capital Letters So People Would Take Me Seriously at the #abaconf11. (but i do hear that not using capitals annoys people like a bee up the nose...i might decide to use them, maybe, at some point. on occasion.) there'll be a couple more ABA-themed posts over the next little while. but for now...

i've been reading like a reading machine. i can't tell you a lot about them just yet because i have to tell magpies first. you should subscribe. here.

two recent reads:

the accidental princess is the first cab off the rank.* the new book from jen storer and published by viking.

a gorgeous fairy story for girls (and boys) - good, adventurous feisty girls (and boys) - about matilda and her sister iris and the curious magical folk who live in the lilac hedge and the forest by their house.

this is no rainbow fairies.

only ever always, penni russon (a&u)

the real world meets a dystopian future. or does it? who is dreaming? are they dreaming? clara and claire come from very different places and extremely different paths but through this rather beautiful story their lives become intertwined. this is only a short novel and i owe it a second, more serious read this week.

but now: holiday. maybe here:

*this is an expression my dad uses. he was a taxi driver in sydney a long time ago. he still refers to any peak hour traffic as "busy as pitt street out here" and we - his very victorian children - look at him, blinking and wide-eyed.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Indigenous Literacy Foundation

A truly interesting and moving session. The panel, made up of Debra Dank, Anne Shinkfield and program ambassador Andy Griffiths, discussed the projects and successes of the Indigenous Literacy Foundation (newly upgraded from 'project'). This year Indigenous Literacy Day will be Wednesday 7 September.

They have started the wonderful Book Buzz program, aimed at getting small readers from remote and isolated communities access to books (and books that resonate with their lives and experiences) because it's reading from a young age that gives kids the greatest chance of becoming readers later in life and will assist them so much throughout their adulthood.

Anne Shinkfield is the Early Years Program Development Coordinator at Shire of Ngaanyatjarraku in Warburton, WA. Her playgroup centre received books from the ILF and has helped to provide translations. Since then, reading and story time have become popular and important with children and their parents alike. Women who have never learned to read themselves are enjoying the experience with their kids.

The continued supply of books to these communities, and their translation into local languages, helps to fuel the cycle of empowerment and participation of our indigenous population and help close the shameful literacy gap that has become so great in our country.

A number of books are now available in indigenous languages, including the Australian classic Grug, which has been translated into Karrawa, a language of the Top End.

The Naked Boy and the Crocodile is a soon-to-be-released collection of stories written by children from all around the country. We got to read the titular story and - oh lordy - it is hilarious. It could have come straight from the Bad Book and it may or may not have a crocodile that poops out a boy. Except not "may not", because it blatantly does. Andy, who collated the hilarious tales, believes that the kids he met have far more exciting, funny and harrowing stories than he could ever make up. Find out for yourself: The Naked Boy and the Crocodile is released by Pan Macmillan Australia in September 2011.

Click here to listen to an ABC Life Matters interview with Debra and Anne.

If you would like to donate to the ILF you can do so quite easily by clicking this link: DONATE NOW! YES YOU! pleasethankyou.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

show off and share nicely

Community Engagement in the Digital Age

They were the two most discussed topics of the ABA conference: "Community" and "How The Internet Can Make Or Break Books".

In this session they came together with altogether wonderful results. Pip Lincolne of Meet Me At Mike's fame joined Becky Anderson (who I talked about here), Kate Eltham and Suzy Wilson (the owner of Riverbend books) and each gave a presentation on the ways they are using and taking advantage of BlogTumblrTwitFace, blogging and the real world to cultivate vibrant communities around their businesses.

It is important to think "outside the shop"

What is important when starting to establish a community is not what we are retailing, but what we believe in.

When blogging (or tweeting or facebooking) engage with your followers in your own voice - a personal touch - and make sure you interact with people. If someone leaves a comment, make sure you reply. Pip cautioned us not to limit ouselves to just blogging about your product (ie. books) but to engage with the world and all kinds of topics that create a unique identity around your business.

Remember to link to other people and things that you talk about, that you find interesting. And if a competitor has done something good, give them a thumbs up - credit people who are doing great things. Share the love around.

If you don't know how to use all these strange internet tools - never fear! Suzy at Riverbend has been running social media classes from her shop so that people of all ages and interests can get connected.

A Community That Cares

Meet and get to know your customers (they are your people). Create events on- and offline where your customers can meet.

The Queensland Writers Centre supports around 30,000 writers local all over that massive northern state. Kate discussed how the Queensland floods were a real "coming of age" for social media and the disaster collapsed social and emotional distance. The writers centre, along with the Australia Council, has recently launched The Three Cs Project, which will support the development of arts and community projects in flood-ravaged towns like Rockhampton.

There are so many worthy community projects to be a part of. Meet Me At Mike's began Softies for Mirabel four years ago to support the Mirabel Foundation and they provide toys for children whose families have been affected by drugs and alcohol.

As well as their social media classes, Riverbend Books hosts incredibly popular, themed foodie nights and a knitting bookclub called Knits and Novels. They also offer great little "My First Book Bag" book starter kits for their smallest shoppers and local customers can even get their purchases delivered by bike!

Anderson's Bookshop hosts events, - such as blood drives to coincide with any vampire book release - supports local not-for-profits and involves the whole community, including local restaurants and other retailers.

Anderson's Bookshop hosted J.K. Rowling in 1998 to celebrate the release of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone* with around ninety local kids...but nine short years later thousands upon thousands of Harry Potter fans turned up for the street party. Isn't that the most wonderful thought? As a massive HP fan myself I just keep thinking: if only we could do it all again...for I don't think another series will ever match its wonderfulness.

Aren't these beautiful sentiments? Sharing, caring, being interesting and interested. All wonderful ingredients for a happy world and happier lives. And the internet can help!

What's important is to remember that it's more than retailing. As Pip said: "sincerity is the thing".

Pop on over to The Cultured Animal to read her post The Times They Are a-Changin'.

*Though of course they were reading the Sorcerer's Stone...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Clara in Washington BOOK LAUNCH TODAY

Come on down to the Sun Bookshop tonight (Tuesday 26 July) to help us celebrate the launch of Clara in Washington - the new hilarious YA novel by Penny Tangey.

6pm for a 6.30 start

Have a drink and some nibbles and grab a copy of the book.

See you tonight!

Indie Bound and National Bookshop Day

Two new community-minded bookshop innovations were discussed at #abaconf11:

Indie Bound

A new club is in town. Indie Bound has arrived on Australian shores after much success in the US and UK.

Indie Bound is a small business and bookshop collective that will encourage a "shop local" approach, opening the public's eyes to where their money goes when they buy things and hopefully making them realise that buying locally will help to create healthy local economies, which in turn will help communities thrive.

Membership to Indie Bound will be open to all members of the ABA, will cost $100 for the first year and $50 for subsequent years.

"Put your money where your heart is." - Becky Anderson.

National Bookshop Day

August 20 2011 will be National Bookshop Day.

Like Record Store Day, National Bookshop Day will be a a party to celebrate how fantastic and essential and permanent our bookshop are. At the ABA Sunday practical session Fiona Stager from Avid Reader talked about how NBD will be a strategic campaign that will let people know the true facts of the book industry and correct any misinformation (CoughThanksNickSherryCough) that might have leaked out. There'll be lots of material available to booksellers who want to participate, but we're also free to take our own spin on the party.

Celebrations might include having authors working behind the counter at your local bookshop, book busking (speak to Jon at Pages and Pages for tips), hipster sit-ins (speak to Fiona) in your shop window, "double love" extra loyalty points, reading flashmobs...and the possibilities are endless. I. Can't. Wait.

Read more about National Bookshop day at the ABA website - more information will be available in the coming week or so.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Text Prize 2011

The winner of the 2011 Text Prize for Young Adult and Children's Writing is...


...for his novel The Relic.

Set in Perth, The Relic is an adventure story, a fantasy, "that will make its readers smile but may also scare them under the bed" and sees mythological creatures invade and threaten to take over the world.

Myke - who was here at the ABA conference in person this morning and has a pair of excellent red boots and dapper fashion sense - is a Melbourne writer who started out his writing career with podcasting novels.

You can visit his website here.

Pictured is the 2010 winning title of the Text Prize The Bridge by Jane Higgins. It will be released very very soon and it is very very good.

We interrupt this broadcast...

It was news ahoy at #abaconf11 this morning.*

Today in the eCommerce and eBooks: Options session it was announced that Collins Booksellers have signed an exclusive deal with Kobo to have eBook kiosks in their stores.


Thorpe-Bowker announced their new joint venture with TitlePage. TP will be doing a total revamp of the system to incorporate eBooks, excitingly entitled TitlePagePlus.

Now that eBooks are on the horizon - hurtling towards us as though in speedboats or dune buggies - perhaps the whole prospect won't appear so frightening anymore and we can just accept the eBook as simply another edition of the original.

*and no, it has nothing to do with bacon or fighter planes.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A New (Digital) World Order

Adjusting to the New Digital World Order

There was supposed to be a fancy video link and Skype session about digital books and bookselling but due to technical difficulties* we had a panel of industry professionals talking about this topic instead. And it was good.

L - R: Mark Rubbo (of Readings), Michael Heyward (Text Publishing), Kate Eltham (Queensland Writers Centre and founder of if:book) and Lucie Pepeyan (Collins Booksellers) and Jon Page (Pages & Pages and also president of the ABA).


Readings has already started selling eBooks on their platform, which launched in February and sales are up and up. It features predominantly local authors and local publishers, mostly from SPUNC, Allen & Unwin recently joined as well and soon other big players will also be a part.


Online bookselling, on sites such as Booktopia (and the bigger, slightly more despicable ones) is not a comparable experience to shopping in a "bricks and mortar" bookshop, because your search history will influence what you see on the screen and it is highly unlikely you will stumble on something strange and unexpected. Unlike in a bookshop, where you are free to wander and look and enjoy the experience and perhaps a misfiled tome will be just the thing you didn't know you wanted.

However, Kate quickly jumped on this point and suggested that while, yes, these online bookshops are like that, people who are online actually have the whole expanse of the World Wide Web on which to discover things accidentally - or serendipitously.

It's true. One person links to one thing, someone else links to another and BAM! I've found something I didn't even know I was looking for that brings me a lot of joy. For me this week it was this.** And there's even a book on the way!


Michael Heyward said that the digital book future is "intellectually fascinating but economically absolutely terrifying."

Australia is the only English-speaking region where independent booksellers are strong and influential (yes!). The RedGroup failed because it was, as Michael simply said, a "terrible retailer". He highlighted that we have to improve conversation between retailers and publishers because what we have going on is really worth hanging on to. And so far as Amazon goes, it's a company that isn't Australian, and that doesn't pay GST, and for it to have a stranglehold on book retailing is frightening. The idea of really knowing where your money goes became a very important topic over the course of the conference.


We must maintain diversity in publishing and it could be hard if retailers and publishers don't innovate now. But if the conference panel are anything to go by, booksellers, publishers, writers...they all have innovation coming out of their wazoos.

So the advent of online bookselling and eBooks has changed everything, but it's not all bad.

*I think this is the kind of irony that 90s indie popstars sing about. Like ten thousand spoons when all you need is a knife.
**Ok, ok, the girl who gets hugged by authors I would like to be hugged by told me to look at it ages ago, but I didn't. Then I found the note saying: "look at this AWESOME site because you will LOVE it." And I thought: yes, I shall discover this for myself.

Aux Armes, Booksellers!

The 2011 ABA conference (we've filled the Hilton On The Park with our raucous bookish enthusiasm) kicked off this morning with a keynote address by Becky Anderson, co-owner of Anderson's Bookshop in Illinois and the President of the American Bookseller's Association.

Becky talked about her family business, still in business five generations on. Initially just a drugstore, they soon started selling books (and other sundries). As such, she rawther hilariously pointed out that she comes from a long line of drug pushers - but that drug pushers are also book lovers.

As she spoke on, it felt like a wonderfully rousing call to arms. Things are changing, no doubt about it. Bookselling "can no longer be business as usual." Bookshops are creaking, groaning and we need new strategies and innovative business practices. We need to start with a clean slate.

Booksellers and publishers need to work together to a common goal. That goal being: sell more books. We need price protection on eBooks, engaged and collaborative booksellers, new and innovative business practices, e-commerce enabled websites. And passion. Lots of passion.

Becky gave us some SCARY FACTS. Such as:

Amazon are calling the big publishers in NYC to lure their best editors away. If they have their own imprints, and their own distribution, they have an enormous industry monopoly. We booksellers (and publishers) need to stand up to those "who treat books as a lost leader" who offer the great deals on books to lure people to buy other things.

But she also gave us some UPLIFITNG STORIES:

Macmillan publishers in the US decided that enough was enough and that Amazon's pricing of $9.99 for an eBook was unacceptably underpriced (highlighting the need for an agency model concerning eBook pricing). When Amazon didn't accept this, the publisher put them on stop - simply ceased to supply their titles to them. A powerful action, Macmillan has since been joined by other major publishers. Rawr!

In America last year, Amazon dominated, with 80% of the eBook market. But this year, after the introduction of Barnes and Noble's Nook, their numbers have dropped down to just over 50%. In Australia we're still at the starting out point when it comes to bookshops and eBooks. Readings has introduced and that is a fabulous start, but we need to enable all stores to access this kind of software (but that's a discussion for another session).

In the UK and Ireland this year World Book Night was a fabulous success and saw a million books given away to strangers in the street and to those who don't have easy access to books, such as those in hospitals and prisons. The US will be joining the party next year with their own World Book Night to take place on Shakespeare's birthday.

We need to acknowledge the need to do things differently, we need a new approach and to not be afraid of trying lots of different tactics in order to find the thing that works.

A marvellous start to the conference. Becky is a wonderful speaker and she reminded me why I love bookselling and puffed up my pride a little (or a lot) in regards to my employ, saying: "We are the tastemakers, the loudmouths. We put books on the map."

Saturday, July 23, 2011

ABA Conference 2011

Tomorrow (Sunday) and Monday I will be blogging from the ABA Conference "Through the Looking Glass", along with my friend The Cultured Animal. There'll be mucho tweeting happening too - look for the hashtag #ABAconf11.

It's been a tumultuous year for booksellers (a little bit scary if we're honest) and I am anticipating this conference to be extremely interesting and vibrant - a time to hear industry professionals discuss important issues - bookselling in a digital age, social media, eBooks and how to develop community relationships with a view to encourage people to shop local.

Visit the ABA website.
Check out the potential twitter highlights at the Fancy Goods blog.
Click here to read my response to Nick Sherry's remark that bookshops are not long for this world.

Friday, July 22, 2011

coffee : l'atelier de monsieur truffe

l'atelier de monsieur truffe, lygon street in brunswick

new to lygon street and my local area is l'atelier de monsieur truffe (original monsieur truffe you'll find in collingwood) it's a big warehouse cafe and chocolate factory. i neglected to have any chocolate, however, and shall have to revisit. there's a really lovely rustic quality to the place and though it's big it isn't impersonal. kid and pram and bike-friendly. enter via the bright red door in the wall.

my toast and jam was good, served on a big wooden chopping board. my dining companion (the girl who gets hugged by authors i'd like to be hugged by) had a rhubarby crumble, which was served with a little cow jug filled with milk. it was very cute. but the coffee was only ok, with the crema more airy fluff than cream and a slightly gritty quality.

the staff were really nice and i think the cafe is still finding its feet - so i will definitely return, definitely to try some chocolate.

you can find their blog here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

daddy issues

We've been sharing our work in writing class. A lot of our characters have dead and/or absent fathers. One classmate suggested we just don't want to have to write the dads in. Mmm, maybe. Our mothers aren't a happy bunch either, on the whole. It's curious. We laugh about how so many children's books get rid of the parents in the first chapter, leaving the main character free to have adventures and fun. We're writing young adult fiction - and I notice in the books I read that the teenage protagonists often play the role of the parent, or have loopy parents, or neglectful ones. And now I want to pop a dad back in, because I'm sad I took him away. Hey - maybe I should add step-parents and godparents and grandparents!

But this musing also came about because I've been listening to a lot of Wainwright lately. Rufus, Martha, Lucy and the great patriarch Loudon Wainwright III. What spectacular voices! What a fascinating family! Surviving Twin is a bittersweet song, by Loudon, about his relationship with his dad. It's from the album Last Man On Earth. He just gets right to the heart of the matter and it seems so honest.

Surviving Twin

Last week I attended a family affair
and a few remarked upon my recent growth of facial hair.
"You look just like your father did, with that beard," someone said.
I answered back "I am him" even though my old man's dead.
I didn't want to be him. Well, at first I did.
When I loved and looked up to him as a little kid.

He sent me to his old school, I was a numeral with his name.
And he gave me this gold signet ring and he wore one just the same.
And I guess that I believed him, and probably it was true,
when he told me I was just like him, that's what some fathers do.

But a father's always older and my dad was rather tall.
Who says size doesn't matter? He was big and I was small.
I needed to be big enough to be someone someday
and I learned I had to beat him and that was the only way

I learned I had to fight him, my own flesh, blood, bone and kin.
But I felt I was just like him - can a man's son be his twin?

First we fought for my mother, that afforded little joy.
When he left she was heart broken, and I was still their little boy.
But I started to get bigger and to win the ugly game,
when I made a little money and I got a bit of fame.

And I saw how this could wound him, yes this could do the trick
and if I made it big enough I could kill him off quick.
But how can you murder someone in a way that they don't die?
I didn't want to kill him...that would be suicide.

I got frightened and I backed off, I let up and i was through.
And in the end he did himself in, usually that's what we do.
A man becomes immortal through his daughter or his son.
But when he fears his legacy, a man can come undone.

And the beard is a reminder of a living part of him -
for though my father's dead and gone, I'm his surviving twin.

Monday, July 18, 2011

fairytale 2.0

little red: a fizzingly good yarn, rapunzel: a groovy fairytale and cinderella: an art deco love story by david and lynn roberts (anova)

they've been unavailable for a little while, but i'm so glad to have these three kooky fairytales back in stock. they're so wonderful and offbeat: in little red the small boy, when confronted by the granny-swallowing wolf, offers his attacker some fizzy, burp-making drink. in cinderella a leek makes a limousine and the ugly sisters do the charlston. and in rapunzel (my favourite) our heroine is locked in a flat high in an apartment building where she listens to david bowie and the prince is in a band. if you've got any small people to shop for - these are brilliant.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

review : beauty queens

Beauty Queens, Libba Bray* (Allen & Unwin)

Isn't it the most riotous premise? It's brilliant: a plane full of teenage beauty queen contestants crash lands on a deserted (or, rather, not quite so deserted) tropical island. Libba Bray's latest novel is firmly tongue in cheek and just brilliant. It made me cry 100% less than Going Bovine but I loved it just as much. It's Drop Dead Gorgeous meets Lord of the Flies, via Lost.

It's way over the top, a delight from start to finish. A fun satire (subtle as a tsunami) and you fall in love with the girls as they are forced to fight for survival and reassess themselves as girls and as people. Adina (Miss New Hampshire) and Tiara (Miss Mississippi) were probably my faves, as well as Petra and Mary Lou. Shanti Singh (Miss California) and Nicole Ade (Miss Colorado) were hilarious and fierce as the two people of colour determined to stick it out in the whitewhite pageant world. And poor Miss New Mexico, who suffered greatly following the crash: "half of an airline serving tray was lodged in her forehead, forming a small blue canopy over her eyes."

Referencing all the action movie tropes, and just generally being very vocally aware of their own plot and devices, our beauty queens are faced with the presence of the nefarious Corporation who are involved in a terrible plans to secure American economic interests via a war with MoMo B. ChaCha aka The Peacock dictator of the Republic of ChaCha (oh! and my favourite character - General Good Times!!!) - and the girls' lives are in the balance...with exploding hair removal cream among the weapons.

You will like this book. The one-liners were brill, the footnotes and the short chapters introducing the girls, Corporation advertisements and movie "trailers" just hilarity - I especially loved the David L. Evithan bit - great way to honour your editor, as well as basing dashing young pirates on them.

On a last note, I have to give props to Taylor. She is also a brilliantly memorable character and I cast Mandy Moore (circa Saved!) as the insane, dedicated girl warrior. "Let's not get all down in the bummer basement where the creepy things live. There are people in heathen China who don't even have airline trays."

*i enjoyed the two youngish kids looking at this book's cover at the shop the other day, completely ignoring the boobs (well done boys) and instead saying "this almost says 'library'! libbabberry libraberry librabrary."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

scholastic fantastic

Marcelo in the Real World, Francisco X Stork (Scholastic)

As part of a compromise and deal, so he can go back to his special school for his final year and help look after the ponies he loves, Marcelo must spend the summer break working in the mailroom of his father's law firm. His father thinks that some time in the real world will help snap Marcelo out of his head - the same head in which Marcelo hears beautiful music and spends much of his time. Jasmine is in charge of him at work, and though at first she's frustrated by his slowness, she quickly learns how to interact with him and they become friends. When Marcelo finds a photograph of a girl whose face has been severely damaged as a result of the faulty windscreens made by one of the law firm's clients - and he learns that the whole debacle is just going to be swept under the rug - he has to decide what is the right and best thing to do.

With its wonderful characterisation and tight plot (softened by the poetic, meandery way it's written), this is a really beautiful novel about kindness and friendship, and about confronting the bad things in life as well as the good.

Confessions of the Sullivan Sisters, Natalie Standiford (Scholastic)

It is Christmas and Lou Almighty is very upset with the Sullivans. One of them has offended her and if she does not receive a written confession and apology by New Year's Day they will all be removed from her will, and therefore cut off from her substantial inheritance. The family - Ginger, Daddy-o, St John, Sully, Norrie, Jane, Sassy and little Takey - get together and decide who it could have been to offend their fearsome grandmother so much. Unanimously, they decide it must be one of the girls:
"And so it was agreed that the three girls - Norrie, Jane, and Sassy - would spend their Christmas break writing out a full confession of their crimes, to be handed to Almighty by midnight on New Year's Eve. After that, they would have to hope for the best."
Was it Norrie's falling in love on the boy from her Speed Reading class that did it? Was it Jane's tell-all blog? Or was it that Sassy had murdered someone?

A wonderful, very funny and must-read book. Written with the same ease found in How to say goodbye in robot (my review here) - and perhaps even better dialogue - this one is an American, more grown-up, version of Hilary McKay's Casson family stories and also a little reminiscent of Nancy Mitford too.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

my cover or yours - back again!

i think that necro-sexpections might be against the law.

also, if you like it then you should have put a crow on it. *doing beyoncé dance*