Friday, May 31, 2013

Wild Awake

It's the first day of summer, and I know three things: One, I am happy. Two, I am stoned. Three, if Lukas Malcywyck's T-shirt was any more red I would lean over and bite it like an apple.
And so opens Wild Awake by Hilary T Smith. This is one I have been waiting for for quite a little while - and it's out now in the US!

You, if you are like me, will adore this. Hilary's words surprise and delight; the prose so careful and deliberate and wondrous. The story pings and zings across the pages, and the voice of protagonist Kiri Byrd (Serious Piano Student) is beguiling. After an unexpected phone call, everything begins to unravel and Kiri pedals through her city and the night, night after night, trying to discover just what did happen to her sister Sukey those years ago and then afterwards she continues on, grasping and gasping at adventure.
Ahead of me, the glittering angles of downtown beckon dangerously, like a drawer full of knives.
Who knew this was out there, waiting for me? Who knew there was an entire midnight world out there while I was lying in bed?
I knew from the first paragraph that this book was for me, but the description of a boy she meets in the fourth chapter just confirmed it:
He's huge. Hagridesque.

Hilary used to be The (anonymous) Intern, you've probably read her blog. It's damn good. Once, we looked at each other's bookshelves. Now she posts not only about books and writing, but also all of her incredible travels and her artistic, nomadic life. She prefers to live for free or for cheap: read about it here at YA Highway, it's truly inspiring. Where can I get me a doom shack?

And the most wonderful thing is that, because I was too impatient to wait to read this book, I casually mentioned it at work and our managing and commissioning editor (also an Intern Spills fan, fortuitously) ran with it. Then everyone in the office read it and loved it and so our m&c ed asked 'please may we buy the rights?' and now we'll be bringing out an Australian/New Zealand edition later this year (not too much later).

I'll post more on Wild Awake in the next little while. It's one of those ones that not only had me reading all in a fluster of page flipping, sharp-intake-of-breath-taking, revelling and reckoning, but also one of those gems that I know will help to grow me as a writer, as well as a reader.

Congratulations, Hilary!

UPDATE: Wild Awake now has a special cover for its ANZ release - see here!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

away from home and back again

Heading Home

Pushing it to a hundred
flanked by paperbacks and pines.

Their branches tremble,
startled by the high-beam halo.

Velvet Underground
drowning out the engine.

Singing the choruses and
dipping lights for oncomers.

Mumbling the verses
and slowing to eighty

through Balnarring and Hastings.
heading for the city,

the freeway and the lights.
Leaving the winter coast

and the house without curtains
for another weekend.
- Adam Ford, Not Quite the Man for the Job (buy it here)

Reading this, I'm reminded of the song Animals by The Guild League, which begins:

Clouds of feathers fleece and foam,
halfway to my childhood home.
In the car and on my own,
white lines where the road is sewn.
Stitches holding down the car,
beside the sun under the stars.
Through the evening coloured so
like pink champagne and eye-shadow.

It's on their album Inner North (buy it here)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

what's a memory?

It begins:

There once was a small boy called Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge and what's more he wasn't very old either.

Have you read it? This most beautiful story is about a little boy who lives next door to an old folks' home, and whose favourite old lady there - Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper - has lost her memory.

He asks all the people in the old folks' home, What's a memory?

Their answers are cryptic, ethereal, esoteric, even contradictory. It's something that makes you laugh, something that makes you cry. It's something as precious as gold. But, armed with their advice, practical Wilfrid sets off to gather some memories for Miss Nancy, because she has lost her own.

Perfectly written by Mem Fox, this one will break your heart in the best way possible. Wilfrid Gordon might seem to approach memory loss and Alzheimer's disease in a naive, childlike way - and he does! - but this book shows the wonderful way that some memories don't have to stay lost, the way objects can be significant and imbued with meaning and just how important it is to make connections with other people - and not just those from your generation. This is how stories are made, and so I hold Wilfrid Gordon close to remind me.

But don't forget the illustrations! You couldn't if you tried... Julie Vivas is some kind of magical watercolour genius. Her pictures bring the story to life in a way that I don't believe anyone else quite could. And it's not just this book, but the others too: The Very Best of Friends, Let the Celebrations Begin, The Tram to Bondi Beach, and of course Possum Magic*. I love her soft colours and distinctive style, I love the droopy socks, I love her chooks.

I don't remember first being read Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, but my childhood edition has an inscription:
 To dear Kate
Happy Christmas 1985
Love from Mum and Dad
Meanwhile, pictured here is a first edition copy of this, my favourite book. I was given it as a present for my recent, milestoneish birthday by some wonderful friends. It's an old memory, now wrapped in a new one.

*Possum Magic and I are the same age and, as such, share a strong connection ... though Wilfrid Gordon is my true favourite.