Writer's festivals are the best! You get to see and hear so many fantastic, engaging and inspirational writers whose work covers anything from faith to motherhood, politics to adventure stories, history to a humous look at the human race. This year's Newcastle Writers Festival was no exception and as a volunteer I got to meet some of the truly inspirational Australian writers.
Hannah Kent held a Q & A session about her new book Devotion. It was a fascinating insight into how this eloquent, softly spoken, brilliant young woman goes about her writing process. She spoke about where her ideas and inspiration come from, how she pieces them all together, and what drives her characters in this new and compelling novel. Her use of language in the book is so intuitive and draws the reader in from the first short chapter heading 'My heart is a hand reaching'.
My other favourite session was with Monica Dux and Sarah Krasnostein. Both have released books about faith and its influence on themselves and society. It was such a funny, poignant and engaging session and both women spoke about their own faith experiences with clarity and honesty. Lapsed and The Believer are two books you should definitely read and add to your YA 16+ high school library collection if you're a TL.
I was also privileged to meet the wonderful Jane Caro. Jane has just released her latest book The Mother, which is her first fiction novel for adults. The Mother chronicles the journey a mother takes to protect her daughter after she supposedly marries the man of her dreams. Everything is not as it seems as the daughter and her children slowly withdraw from family contact. Jane has been a staunch supporter of teachers, the creative arts and education for many years .
There were so many other wonderful writers at the festival this year but it was impossible to see them all! Suffice to say if you didn't get there this year, then make sure you do in 2023!
Find out more about Hannah Kent
Find out more about Monica Dux
Find out more about Sarah Krasnostein
Find out more about Jane Caro
Hi Michelle and thanks for joining me to answer a few questions about your wonderful new book Sass and Traz Save The Library.
Kerry: Firstly, where did the idea for this book come from?
Michelle: I have been writing this book in my head for a long time. It is a love letter to libraries to thank them for being a safe space when I was growing up. Book characters are among some of my best friends and I hope readers will find some new friend in this book.
Kerry: Is the Ms Burns in the book very similar to the real Ms Burns?
Michelle: Ms Burns was my librarian in primary school. She was from America and had a laugh that filled up the whole library. Unlike the Ms Burns in the book, she wasn’t tall and didn’t have fake eyelashes, but she loved books and inspiring children more than anyone I had ever met.
Kerry: I love the way you talk about libraries being safe spaces and describe it as ‘a haven’ for Traz. Was the library your safe haven growing up?
Michelle: I was definitely one of the kids who spent nearly every lunch hour in the library, especially in high school. It was a place I visited my fictional books and escaped from reality for a while. Filling my head with fiction and non-fiction books was an important part of shaping who I am as a person and how much I value critical and creative thinking as well as education for all.
Kerry: Why twins as the other main characters in the story?
Michelle: This was a throwback to the books I loved as a child where the main characters were twins and always had the best adventures. My younger brother and I are very different, and I wanted to show that just because you are twins, doesn’t mean you think or act the same. I love the idea of twin telepathy and I have friends who are twins who tell me that it definitely does exist.
Kerry: Diversity is a key component in many of your stories including this one. How important is it for you to bring diversity into a story?
Michelle: It is very important to me that kids of all abilities can see themselves reflected in the books they read. I was very lucky as a child that I felt represented. It wasn’t until I became an author that I realised that not all kids were as lucky as me.
Kerry: What advice would you give to aspiring authors on incorporating diversity into their own writing?
Michelle: Start writing from a place of personal experience, but don’t be scared to reach out to diverse cultures and abilities to understand the world from their point of view. I think writing what you know is the most important place to start for any aspiring author, but I also think there is great potential to share our gift with others who don’t have a voice and help them represent themselves as well.
Kerry: Are the books and people you’ve brought to life in the story - literally! - ones that were your favourites growing up?
Michelle: I have loved pirates ever since I watched the Pirate Movie on repeat in the eighties. I was obsessed with King Arthur and the knights of the round table at University, when I was studying history, but have yet to find a movie that can live up to the books. Einstein’s theories have always been a fascination, as are all the historical figures who changed our world. There were so many more that I wanted to add, which will hopefully find a place in book 3!
Kerry: Ms Burns describes the books as ‘treasure’ to Blackbeard and his pirates. Is that how you see books too?
Michelle: Books are the best kind of treasure because they are different things to different people. They give us each exactly what we need.
Kerry: You’re a Children’s Rights Queensland ambassador and an Australia Reads ambassador. What drives your passion to be involved with these organisations?
Michelle: I am passionate about working with organisations that champion the rights of children, give them a voice and supply them with the tools to be the best they can be, regardless of economic or cultural barriers.
Kerry: In the book, Sass mentions ‘. . . we don’t even have a library at school anymore.’ What are your thoughts about the role of libraries and librarians in schools?
Michelle: It is a sad reality that some of the new schools I visit don’t have a full-time librarian, and some even don’t have a library. Books will always have a place in education, no matter how advanced our technology becomes. The benefits of reading a physical book on a young brain cannot be duplicated or improved on a device. Librarians are more than keepers of the books, they are the key holders and they can unlock confidence, inspiration and motivation for the kids who need it the most.
Kerry: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us Michelle and best wishes for Sass and Traz Save The Library.
Published by Daisy Lane Publishing and OUT NOW. A must have for your younger readers library collection.
With thanks to Books On Tour PR & Marketing for helping to organise the interview and Daisy Lane Publishing for access to the digital copy of the book. Link to review here.
It seems spring is the time for new releases here in Australia and there have been so many wonderful books come onto the market. All of the books below are stunningly illustrated and beautifully written and my favourites so far from this year and 2020. Whether you are a parent, a teacher or a librarian, they are all must haves for your collection. I think I'm going to have to have my bookcase extended. . . There are also a few writer competitions and publisher openings both here and overseas to dive into some of which I've listed here. Happy reading and writing wherever you are!
Twitter: Fall Writing Frenzy #fallwritingfrenzy Follow @LydiaLukidis and @KaitlynLeann17 for more details
Pitch It! Competition 2021 from Just Write For Kids. More information here
Cardinal Rule Press are open for picture book submissions from now until November 1st. More information here.
It's been a long time in between blog posts! World Language and Literature Week, Virtual Author visits, a bout of illness and end of year school craziness have gotten in the way. But thankfully now we're on holidays there's more time to write, reflect and relax!
In terms of reflection, I wanted to share my favourite books for 2020. They are all by Australian authors and illustrators and I'm really proud of the fact that each one of them are absolute standouts in their respective literary genres and have already won numerous awards. I've reviewed some here under Book Reviews and now that time permits, will get around to reviewing the rest.
I really think our Aussie authors and illustrators are much undervalued and overlooked in favour of American and/or British writers by a lot of international school libraries and I hope that you will look at these and add them to your #musthaves list for 2021.