Turns out, because I can’t help myself, I’ve got a project I’m launching next month. It’s a podcast (and accompanying Tiny Letter) which will be the interviews I’m undertaking in preparation for the long-laboured book I’ve been working on about raising feminist sons.
The podcast is called This is What Raising a Feminist Looks Like and the first episode will be live in early October. In the lead up I’m launching the Tiny Letter I’ll be sending our fortnightly to share links to the work of my guests, other articles of interest and events that might be of interest to the podcast audience.
The best way to stay up to date with the podcast is to subscribe to the Tiny Letter and ‘like’ the Facebook page. For those not familiar with the Tiny Letter format it’s essentially a very short and sweet email that comes to your inbox.
In an unexpected turn of events, Goodreads tells me I’ve managed to meet my 2018 reading goal already. I wanted to read a book and a half per week which has been my goal for the past couple of years (I have fallen short up until now).
This year I’ve had significantly more time housebound which has probably contributed to me reading more. Certainly when I look back over the titles I’ve read there are a much higher proportion of cosy crime audiobooks which are my go-to solution when my ME/CFS is bad and I’m stuck in bed.
Of the books I’ve read my highlights were Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee, Amelia Westlake by Erin Gough, White Tears by Hari Kunzru, Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina and Fleshers by Alison Croggon. Eggshell Skull and Catching Teller Crow particularly moved me. Notable mentions go to After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson and White Night by Ellie Marney.
It will be interesting to see how many I manage to read by the end of the year given there is still so much time remaining. I don’t imagine I’ll reach two books per week (104 in total) but time will tell.
Working at the Centre for Youth Literature there is always a project on the go or an annoucement of some kind happening. This one is especially dear to me because I’ve seen how much hard work nine teenagers have put into making it possible. The judges whittled a truly excellent shortlist of ten Australian and ten international YA books down to a final five in each category. They read 20 books, made notes, debated for literally hours and finally came up with this shortlist.
My job is mostly facilitating them getting their books, reading them by our deadline and sitting on a Skype call where I get to watch them partake in what I affectionately call Book Wars, where they argue with each other over the merits of the longlisted titles and negotiate their selections. It’s probably the best job in the world. I mean, I’ve never been employed as a chocolate taster so I can’t confirm it entirely, but I think getting a window into passionate bookish teens discussing the best YA literature of the past year is pretty great.
Now that the shortlist is public it’s time for teens all over Australia to have their say by voting. The winner of the Gold and Silver Inky Awards will be announced in Melbourne on October 2 at State Library Victoria.
It will be a relatively quiet MWF for me this year! Most of my time and energy is being spent preparing our Centre for Youth Literature teens to facilitate panels in the schools program. They are a great bunch and I know they will excel in creating engaging conversations for students to enjoy.
My one session of the year I’m facilitating is Crime Scene Imagination where I’ll have the pleasure of chatting to Ellie Marney and Rebecca Lim about two of my favourite things: YA books and crime writing.
I hated being a teenager. Honestly, it was not a good time for me. Which, considering how much I work with young people, is pretty funny. My time at Express Media meant working alongside teens and designing programs for them to increase their skills as writers. Now at the Centre for Youth Literature I get to connect with those bookish teens that most resemble me; more comfortable with their heads in books than out in the wider world.
At the moment we’re running a program for teenagers who want to take their love of reading and try their hand at writing. Story Camp takes place on school holidays over three days at State Library Victoria. A group of teens come together and learn from industry leaders how to tell stories in a variety of formats. The workshop leaders are exceptional. Thus far we’ve had people such as Penni Russon, Emilie Zoe Baker and Candy Bowers. It’s the kind of program that you dream of putting together when you’re at a smaller organisation and money is tight. I’m so looking forward to these intensives during the January school holidays.
If you know any teens who have a passion for words you can register your interest any time throughout the year and we’ll be in touch when the next camp is coming up.
It was a relatively slow reading year. Lots of audio books, lots of re-reads, but a few stand out titles too. Of the 50 books I managed to get through, here are my highlights.
The Book of Dust was my favourite fiction book of the year. It felt so good to delve into Lyra’s world again, and to have this exploration of the period before His Dark Materials. I was bracing myself for disappointment, worried that it wouldn’t live up to the depth of love I feel for the HDM trilogy but was relieved to find it a great accompaniment to the previous works. I’m already hanging out for the next one.
My top non-fiction pick of the year has to be the audiobook of Magda Szubanski reading her debut novel Reckoning, A Memoir. I’m sure it was great to read on the page, but listening to her emotions crackle in your ear made this an extra special experience. It’s not just that she has an engaging story to tell, it was also a pleasure to discover Magda is a beautiful writer. From her descriptions of growing up in Australian suburbia to her ability to capture the experience of visiting places rich with history, she has a beautiful way of describing both setting and emotion.
Lynda LaPlante’s Tennison novels (I watched Prime Suspect when it aired originally in the early 90s, I can’t overstate how central it was to developing my love of British crime). I really enjoyed coming back to this character and getting a sense of how she evolved into the tough-as-nails female detective.
Ida was definitely a standout; this YA-scifi title is deftly constructed and keeps you turning pages long past bedtime.
Songs that Sound like Blood was a great YA read this year. Jared Thomas excels at telling the story of a young person at a pivotal point in their life, capturing the pressure and uncertainty accurately.
Birds Art Life was also a really lovely short read. I’ve long loved Kyo Maclear’s kids books and being asked to facilitate an in-conversation session at MWF with her and Shaun Tan was a great excuse to delve into her work for adults.
Lastly, I did a lot of re-reading this year and particularly enjoyed listening to Phryne Fisher in audiobook format. She sparkles when being read aloud, I thoroughly recommend listening to whole series.
This year was supposed to be my maternity leave year… how did I do keeping to my goal of not taking on any major projects? Well, let’s say I failed, but I failed well.
Linus was born November 2016, and I did manage to have almost a full 12 months without a major project. I did, however, take the opportunity to be a guest at the International Literature Showcase in Norwich, City of Literature. And then I accidentally (on purpose) fell into the perfect part-time role at the Centre for Youth Literature (CYL) at State Library Victoria.
So why did I knowingly divert from my 2017 goal? Because these two opportunities were worth it. Visiting Norwich and meeting literary programmers, producers and artists from all over the world was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I felt so fortunate to be the only Australian in attendance and learned so much in my week in Norwich. Joining CYL has been a career goal for me for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the few workplaces I see doing youth-driven, engaging programming for YA lovers. The chance to deepen my YA knowledge (I’m a huge YA reader) and learn from this experienced team of programmers and producers was one I couldn’t pass up. Not to mention it happens to be the perfect part-time fit for my current life with two children.
These two things are my clear work highlights of 2017. As I wrote about earlier this year, it wasn’t a stellar year for reading. I finished up reading 50 books, which is far less than I’ve managed for quite a while. That’s what having a baby does to your hobbies! I also facilitated some really great panels at Reading Matters, Melbourne Writers’ Festival and the inaugural Feminist Writers Festival: I always feel so lucky to speak with writers whose work I love such as AS King, Lili Wilkinson, Shaun Tan, Penny Modra and Kyo Maclear.
I’m looking forward to 2018. When I joined CYL it was on a short contract until the end of the year but I’m incredibly happy to have extended that until mid 2018. I’m really enjoying the role and working with some great people. It does mean that I am unlikely to get much writing done, but as always producing brings a different kind of work pride and enjoyment. I’d like to read more books next year, too. I think that’s my only firm goal for the year professionally: read more. Always nice to set a goal you enjoy.
Tomorrow is my first day presenting at MWF 2017. As per my earlier post, I have six excellent sessions to host. Day one kicks off with two sessions in the schools program (Oliver Phommavanh doing writing exercises with students and Leena Van Deventer talking about writing video games). Did you know that the schools program is exclusively for young people? That’s right, no adults allowed. It’s one of the things I admire about the festival as especially in the YA space there can be a sense that adult fans are edging out young people. So no, if you’re over 18 you can’t come along and enjoy those sessions as much as you might want to.
My public session tomorrow is one I am so looking forward to. Sexism as a Mental Health Crisis will be held at QVWC, which is a gorgeous venue and they always make such lovely hosts. In preparing with the writers, it’s clear this session could easily run for double the time allotted and we still wouldn’t be covering everything. It’s a topic rife for deep analysis and I can’t wait to hear what these women have to say.
After much soul-searching, FFS has decided to postpone our FFS: Whose Conception is it Anyway event which was scheduled for this Saturday 26 August.
As most of you know, the event clashes with the Equal Love Rally. We were disappointed when it was announced as being on the same date as our latest panel, but hoped that people might be able to go to the rally and still attend the panel later in the day. As the rally information has become more available it’s clear this will be difficult for most people to manage.
Ultimately, we don’t want to be a deterrent to anyone attending the march. We are passionate about LGBTIQ+ rights, and believe that this rally is a priority for our community and us. It doesn’t sit right to be hoping people will rush off after marching to attend an event.
We will be offering a refund to all ticket holders, or you can hold on to your ticket and use it at the rescheduled event. We will be working with our speakers and venue to find another date to present the panel in the near future.
Thanks for understanding, and our apologies to anyone who is inconvenienced by this decision. It’s not one we have come to lightly. We look forward to marching with you all on Saturday!
Details for the Equal Love Rally can be found here.
Feminist Family Salon (FFS) returns with a conversation about making families in new ways. Our panel will explore conception, pregnancy, birth and our bodies. How do we navigate the many different ways we can bring babies into the world when our family doesn’t fit the nuclear mould? Is how we conceive, grow and birth our child political? Does the ‘how’ of how our babies come into the world matter?