When I finished up at the Centre for Youth Literature at State Library Victoria I promised myself (and my family) that I’d take six months off to recover from the burnout that came with doing a job where I had put 110% of myself into my work for so long (such is the joy of trying to balance working and managing a disability). The plan was to freelance while working from home, slowing down significantly and refocusing on my health.
I’m giving myself a mental high-five for lasting this long, but the right job at the right time has come up and now I find myself back in regular part-time employment. I’ve joined Yarra Plenty Regional Library working on a diverse range of events presented throughout their nine branches.
I’m chuffed to be working in a library service again as I really enjoy this area of literary programming. There’s a strong focus on delivering what is useful and valuable to the community, and I really enjoy audience-driven programming. The other reason I’m also pleased because this is the library service I grew up utilising. Eltham was my local library, and I spent a lot of time there after school, as well as at various other branches. If I could go back in time and tell my younger self that one day my job would be all about books, writing, reading and ideas younger me would have been thrilled. Let’s face it, older me is still pretty thrilled that this is my life.
The role is a maternity leave fill, so I expect to spend the next year at YPRL and am looking forward to seeing what I will learn in that time.
A new episode of the podcast is available now via iTunes and all your regular podcast services!
In this episode I speak with award-winning Young Adult author Ellie Marney about her experiences raising four boys in regional Victoria.
We chat about the isolating experience of motherhood in the western context, the evolution of parenting at different stages of your children’s lives and how teenage boys experiences are being changed by the spread of feminist concepts and much more.
I was so thrilled to be able to talk to Ellie, I’m a huge fan of her books, particularly her Every series, a must for any crime-loving YA reader. Head on over to her website to learn more about her work and keep up to date on her upcoming releases. Ellie somehow manages to write prolifically despite juggling many other balls, as she talks about in this podcast episode, and there is always a new gem just around the corner.
I published this article on SBS this week about trying to understand a disorder at the opposite end of the minimalist spectrum.
Both Marie Kondo and Hoarders ask: how much of the stuff surrounding us do we really need? In an age of consumer culture, fast fashion and single-use plastics, this is a valuable question. We have an attachment to physical items that our planet cannot sustain, whether we obsessively collect them in every inch of our homes for fear of throwing out something potentially useful, or rid ourselves of every item that does not bring us pure joy.
I sometimes find myself squirming as I realise how often I say things the subjects of Hoarders say, such as “I just don’t want this to go to waste, it would be useful to someone” and I was keen to explore how we are often pushed and pulled between minimalism and acquisition of material goods. It was fun to explore some of this as it relates to our fascination with these two shows. Head on over to read the full article.
I’ve written about the importance of primary school aged children being able to understand and respect personal boundaries.
Being a good person, and a good friend is about more than just not being a bully. If we only focus on teaching young people how not to take part in bullying behaviour, we fail to impart on them how important it is to be a positive member of a community. When children understand everyone has a right to have their personal boundaries respected they are equipped to develop healthy and supportive relationships with their peers.
It’s bittersweet to be exiting the Centre for Youth Literature a little over a year since I first joined the team. I came on board for a short-term three month contract and as is often the way with contracts, it was extended.
In my time at CYL I’ve worked on the Inky Awards, the relaunch of Inside a Dog, Story Camp, two YA Showcases and more. I have worked with some of the most wonderful people, notably excellent in their professional abilities and also passionate and dedicated to YA literature. I’ve made friends, been blown away at what teenagers will do if you give them the space and opportunity to lead their own projects and read more amazing YA books than I can count.
Having said all of that, I will be relieved to return to freelance work. It’s a difficult balance working in such a demanding role while having a disability. It’s left me feeling very worn out and thinking wistfully of all the other projects I’d love to be working on or writing I would love to be doing.
I’ve made myself and my family a promise: I won’t even look at a new job (as in, permanent employment or one-off producing contracts) for six months. I need that time to rebalance, focus on my own work and my existing projects, and assess where I want to focus my energy for the next while. Hopefully writing it in this post will keep me accountable!
I look forward to a new ordinary in 2019, one where I might have my own creative work to share again. I’ll keep you updated.
A new episode of the podcast is available now via iTunes and all your regular podcast services!
In this episode I talk to Erin Farley about raising her son, four-year-old Jose. Erin has over fifteen years experience working in communications and campaigns with not-for-profits, unions, government and in politics.
We chat about single parenting, the motherhood penalty on careers, public discourse on mental health, deafness and the gendered nature of English language acquisition and much more.
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 has been one of the toughest of my life, professionally and personally. It has been a year where the highest of highs have been reached, but the lowest of lows have seemed to dominate. I’ve written less than I wanted to, but done amazing projects such as the Independent Publishing Conference. I’ve met wonderful people I haven’t had the opportunity to work with before, and said goodbye to a friend and co-worker I admired and loved dearly. I’ve read more books than I have in a long time, been published for the first time in publications I have wanted to see my work in, challenged myself to try new things. I founded an organisation for women writers, reviewed books on Triple RRR, facilitated sessions at the Melbourne Writers Festival.
At this stage of the year I’m feeling exhausted. There is a lot to process and a lot to consider as I head towards 2016. What do I want to achieve next year? What opportunities do I need to chase? What do I need to say no to? December and January will be my opportunity to think about these things, and to spend time focusing on my family and my health. Our writing community lost too many people this year, had our arts funding slashed, spent a huge amount of time in suspended animation trying to see where the chips would fall with government bodies and oversight. Here’s hoping 2016 is kinder to us all.
After an epic three days, the Independent Publishing Conference is finished for the year. I’m exhausted, but very happy with how the event went. I hadn’t planned to run an event of this size in 2015, but when the Small Press Network asked I couldn’t say no. The organisation is such an important part of our literary ecosystem, and I felt like this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the publishing/publishers aspects of our industry. Mostly when programming I work with artists, so this was a chance to expand my knowledge and use my programming skills in a different way.
So far feedback from the conference has been great, and while there were some challenges with logistics and the usual event hiccups, it seemed to go well. It was a pleasure to meet so many interesting people, and hear from such a wide range of speakers. I learned a great deal, and hope to have the opportunity to work with some of the people involved again.
For now I focus on all of the post-event logistics; reports, budgets, thank you’s, invoices. If I owe you an email please bear with me as I work through the overflowing inbox I’m facing.