Search This Blog

Friday, May 24, 2013

Literature Circles 2013: The Adventure Continues!

Yesterday, we started Literature Circles.

This year, I decided the best way to do it was with two classes and made my offer to a Year 7 English teacher who had a double period at the same time as me. We both had to do it anyway and it would save us competing for venue(library) and resources(books) as well as giving our students a wider range of choices.

Before beginning, I asked my own students which of them had done it before(some had done it in primary school) and invited them to tell me what they thought it was.

One of them asked, "Is it like a book club?" Not like MY book club, of course, but definitely like an adult one and I agreed: "Yes, that's exactly what it is! It's book club for the classroom."

Because we have had the same books for the last couple of years and there were going to be a large number of readers, I took a look at my shelves and among the class sets and chose some I thought they might like and that had meat for discussion.

Holes used to be the Year 8 class text, before we went to Lit Circles. It's a wonderful book, and students loved it and last year, several asked for it in the library. I made that available. We had more than enough copies. There's a group of four reading it.

I had taught Stephen Herrick's The Simple Gift to Year 11, who enjoyed it, even those who whined loudly about our other class texts, and it had also been on our Year 10 list. It's a verse novel, not difficult reading, but sophisticated concepts for good readers to discuss. We have a group doing it.

Looking For Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta was a Year 10 book at one time, also, but Year 10 teachers got sick of it, so it was out. I offered that too. There was some interest in it, but mostly by students who couldn't handle it. Reluctantly, I had to concede this one won't run this time.

We definitely needed some extra choices, because there's a Year 8(not mine) that did it last year.

So, apart from the above, here's what was chosen: Specky Magee,  Cirque Du Freak by Darren Shan, Mao's Last Dancer junior edition, by Li Cunxin, The Ice Cream Man by Jenny Mounfield,  A Ghost In My Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang, Space Demons by Gillian Rubinstein and a short book called The Big Dig by Meg McKinlay. It's kind of nice that all but two of these books are Australian published. It's not that we did the patriotic thing, it just worked out that way. I've read them all except Specky Magee(next project, thank goodness it's short!).

I was sad that some of the wonderful books from the last two years aren't on the list - Burn Bright and Dragonkeeper and Once. It's not that they had no interest, but that some of the interest was from students who couldn't handle them - well, they could handle Once, but we tried to give first choice where possible and work out the groups so that where there was a student who needed support to get through a book, there was at least one good reader with a kind heart who would help them.

Which brings me to the process of choosing groups. We had a mixture of reading levels. There are Year 7 students reading at Year 12 level and Year 8 students reading at Grade 2 and 3 level. The choice of books was wide enough to cater for them all, more or less, as long as we had aides to help the Integration students, but we had one Integration student who would have been highly offended at being placed with that group, so we gave him a mainstream book that was not too hard and the aide sat with the group. We had students who would fight if we put them together and others who would waste time and some who would put aside their own work to help others who would not be grateful, leaving their own work undone. I would have loved to have a group of high-skill readers who could make the most of it, as I have had in previous years, but they made different choices, so we settled for at least two good readers where we could get them.

All this and giving them their choices of book! We did ask them not to choose a book they had read before, as it would bore them and ruin any chance of a good discussion if someone said, "So, what do you think happens next?" and someone else already knew! Or if someone knew already WHY a character did this or that. We did have to allow one student who had seen the movie to read the book, or there wouldn't have been a group, and besides, he might come to appreciate the differences between a book and even a film that was fairly faithful to it.

Even as it was, I panicked a bit when a student told me he'd suddenly realised he had read this book after all. Turned out he hadn't - he was confusing it with something else.

So, yesterday, after a lot of running around and preparation, we got the library set up and the books ready to collect and then... All the year 7 students were gathered at the other end of the library to be yelled at over a lunchtime incident, for about twenty five minutes! That took a large chunk out of our teaching time and made a negative start. I sat with my year 8 students, keeping them occupied while we waited, having to speak softly in order not to disturb the drama on the other side of the library.

Still, we got going, beginning with getting them into their groups and practising with a short story before they began reading. We had already shown them some discussions from a previous year( how glad I am I had the idea of videoing them!) and most had agreed they did have a better idea of what was expected after seeing them.

They only had about half an hour to read after the interruption and delay, but got into it with a good will. There were already discussions going, arguing about word meanings, read alouds, agreement of how much they should read. One student asked to borrow his novel. I had to say no; last year I lent out novels which never came back and we're short as a result, but mainly, you have to trust people to remember to bring the book to class. And if he was anything like me he'd read the book in an evening and twiddle his thumbs while others caught up. You're supposed to discuss it as you go.

Next week I will be at Reading Matters and my colleague will have to explain about roles. Lucky man!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Harper Lee Rights Case

Receiving Presidential Medal Of Freedom

This morning I read that Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird, is in a legal battle with her agent's son-in-law. Apparently, he has been enjoying the rights and royalties of her one and only classic novel for the last few years, due to her having signed something while recovering from a stroke. She has the rights back, but is now trying to get back the royalties for the last few years. She is in her eighties, but seems to be quite a feisty lady still. Good on her!

If you're going to write only one book, it might as well be a classic. Who will remember anything I have written so many years from now?  I did once get a pleasant surprise when a young blogger told me he had had my first book, on monsters, in his teens, and it had inspired him to write horror fiction. But it's out of print and who else remembers it? I doubt Mockingbird will ever go out of print.

 Why only one book? I heard that its success was so overwhelming, she worried she couldn't come up with something as successful second time around. And that's understandable - when someone has written a massive bestseller the next one sells because it's by them, but people invariably say,"Oh, it's just not as good as XXX..." 

I remember the novel from my own school days. And the movie is a classic in its own right. A couple of years ago, I chose it for my virtual readout in Banned Books Week. I didn't choose any of the more dramatic bits from the trial or even a Boo Radley bit, but the scene where Scout goes to school for the first time. She can read already, which sort of spoils things for the enthusiastic young teacher just out of her studies. The novel is as much about childhood as about the injustice of the treatment of African Americans in that time and place. If you're curious, my reading is on YouTube still, here. Last year, when the students of my book club were reading, Ryan chose this book too. Oddly enough, it was challenged for racism! 

It gets a mention in the novel The Help, which is set in the south in the 1960s, seen from the viewpoint of maids. One of them finds a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird on the bedside table of a young woman who is being snubbed by the middle class women of the town. 

I love this book to bits! I even bought the fiftieth anniversary edition when it came out. I will probably be buying another copy for the library, because it has been requested and our only copy, which is still out, is a bit battered. 

And it's interesting to know that even the writer of a classic has been ripped off, if not by pirates. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Aurealis Awards 2012: A Link For You

Let's face it, Sean Wright does it better than I would in his post this morning, using Twitter posts, including one of mine, to describe Australian SF's answer to the Oscars, so I am going to link you to his web site, where he has done a very nice job of putting together some of the relevant tweets, with his own comments on them.

Amazing how quickly word gets around using Twitter. There was, a few years ago, that journalist who lost her job by saying the wrong thing on Twitter during another awards night, but the thing is, you don't have to be there or even wait for the newspaper or next day's blog posts to find out, if you're willing to wade through all those tweets which talk about what the tweep is wearing, who they're going to meet for drinks afterwards, complain that they can't get said drinks quickly enough and then report on how nice the stage looks and who has just got up to make a speech and what they're wearing. ;-) And you can see how nice the stage looks or who is there, because people snap photos.

As I am one of those who doesn't have the patience to wade through it all or wait, I went to bed and happily read through Sean's post, which you can find here. No surprises in the list of winners, though it doesn't mention which Graeme Base book won the children's picture book section ... A google shows it was Little Elephants, which I haven't read, having lost track of Graeme Base's books some time ago, must check it out. Ah, well, I can't say I'm surprised the veteran won this time, but I am disappointed that In The Beech Forest, illustrated by up and coming young artist Den Scheer, didn't make it - the review on this site, one of my more popular posts, tells you what I think of it. I can only say to the young lady, stick with it - Graeme Base's early book, Animalia, was on the CBCA shortlist,  and that didn't win either, but you know what? It's still in print, while the book that won is long forgotten. Not that I think anything by Graeme Base will ever be forgotten, but the thing is, he has also been where young Den is, and done just fine. And so will she. I firmly believe she is going to be the next Shaun Tan.

Congrats to the winners, but also anyone who made it to the list. Just getting there is special! And remember, I am a writer and, I think, a very good one, and I have never made it to the AA or the CBCA shortlist myself, so I am not just trying to be comforting. Heck, I am jealous of you for making it that far!(But I did make it to the Chronos shortlist, yay!)

 I don't envy the judges their job and I do urge everyone to read everything that was shortlisted, not just the winners. I am going to, not having had time to read them all as yet.

What do you think, anyone who has seen the list of winners? Would you have made the same decisions?

Friday, May 17, 2013

Star Trek Into Darkness

Pic by Eva Rinaldi

Wednesday night I went with friends to my local cinema, the Classic, to see Star Trek:Into Darkness. The photo is not from the Classic. It's from the Australian premiere of the film, with, left to right, Karl Urban( who would have thought "Eomer" from LOTR would make such a fabulous Dr McCoy?), Zachary Quinto, director J.J Abrams and Chris Pine. We got the director AND Kirk, Spock and McCoy! I placed this photo, which I think appropriate, instead of a movie poster because the pic, by a lady called Eva Rinaldi, is on Wikimedia Commons, with permission granted to use as long as you attribute, while the film company would make all sorts of fuss. And it's a nice photo - my, they are tall boys! Or J.J Abrams is very short, though he makes up for height in talent.

I can't say much about the movie without spoilers and I won't assume everybody has seen it already, so I will say only that I thoroughly enjoyed it, both for the action and for the cheeky references to other things. The cheekiness started at the beginning, with a sequence on "Nibiru", the supposed Doomsday planet that was going to wipe out Earth last year. There was a scene which made reference to another Trek movie, in reverse, and a villain we have seen before, though in the interim he has developed a British accent, as has another character whom we saw as distinctly American last time. And a lot of action. The main actors have grown into their roles and settled in comfortably and if we can no longer have Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley, their younger versions are doing a very good job of convincing us. There were times when I could close my eyes and almost see the original Spock and McCoy and if Chris Pine's voice isn't quite Shatner's his mannerisms are.

Just go and see it.

So, why am I talking about a movie and a TV show not remotely connected with books, on my book blog? 

When I was growing up, I was developing a love of science fiction, as was my older sister. It was her shelves I raided for my spec fic, although I had already come to it through Verne and Wells. I was looking for visual spec fic as well, because I love my SF/F any way I can get it. The only thing on at the time I was watching was Lost In Space. Since growing up, I have discovered that to be classic sixties pop culture and a hoot. And it featured some of the people I would later see/hear in Star Trek, such as Stanley Adams(Cyrano Jones in Trek) and composer Alexander Courage, not to mention a certain Johnny Williams( yes, THAT John Williams!). And irritating little "Will Robinson" would eventually appear as a lovely alien in the wonderful, intelligent series Babylon 5. 

But at the time, I could only see the silliness of the story lines and longed for real SF. And one night, I got it. I saw a TV show with characters I could care about and stories that made sense to me(and when they didn't I could have fun arguing with friends about them). And best of all, it had real SF writers - classic ones such as Jerome Bixby, Theodore Sturgeon, Norman Spinrad, a story pinched from Fredric Brown, Harlan Ellison(whose script was, admittedly, rewritten completely and didn't he complain about it for years, but didn't refuse his Hugo award for it ;-D). Heck, Larry Niven wrote an animated episode! And there were new writers such as David Gerrold, who has since gone on to fame, fortune and Hugo short listings. With the spinoffs, they stopped hiring SF writers, for reasons David Gerrold told a couple of us in an interview some years ago, for a publication that never happened for reasons beyond our control. If I ever find my transcription of it I will ask him again and perhaps finally publish it here. 

Anyway, I became a fan. I love lots of things about the spinoffs but it was the original that won my heart and still is. 

It was Trek that helped me learn to write short stories - back then, my only writing was a bunch of woeful novels that I will never, ever try to sell. I wrote about 150 fan stories, some of it other universes, but mostly Trek. One of the sub universes I created for my fan fiction, with a friend, appears briefly in Wolfborn, my first novel. It was a planet called New Wales, populated with descendants of Arthur's people, plus some terrestrial animals now extinct on Earth, such as the Shetland unicorn, which tended to turn up and embarrass young men with its affectionate greetings. If you've read the novel, you will remember a scene in which the hero, Etienne, meets his friend Armand in the Otherworld, along with his hill pony Dapple, who is actually a unicorn, but her horn only shows up in this world. This is terribly embarrassing to Armand, who has been bragging about his skills with girls.  Dapple the unicorn was a tribute to a unicorn called Maggie, who embarrassed Pavel Chekov in one of my fan stories.

One of these days I will do a novel set on New Wales - I had planned one years ago, when Patricia Kennealy Morrison beat me to it with her series set on a New Wales-like world with similar origins. But it has been years. And her novels weren't funny. Mine will be.

The thing is, Star Trek has helped me as a writer and a reader, so I don't apologise for mentioning it here. If you haven't seen the original series, it's easily available on DVD. Watch it! 

Thursday, May 09, 2013

The Heiresses By Alison Rushby. Sydney:Pan Macmillan, 2013

The year is 1926. Seventeen year old Thalia, Erato and Clio are summoned to London by a woman called Hestia, who tells them that she is their aunt and they're triplets. They were separated at birth, after their mother's death. Now, their unpleasant father has also died and the money he held in trust for his wife should be theirs, but there's a problem: a half-brother, Charles, has the money and isn't about to let go of it. And in 1926, the law allows this. Hestia is determined that her beloved sister's children shall have the money she wanted them to have. They will live with her meanwhile.

Each of the girls has a different background and personality. Thalia, who has been kept on her guardians' estate all her life, not allowed to learn much beyond French and the piano and repressed, is grabbing the excuse to rebel and do all the things her "uncle" thinks women shouldn't do. Erato aka Ro was brought up by a loveable but irresponsible university academic and his wife, who was the one who looked after the money and has died, leaving him to make disastrous financial decisions. Ro wants to study medicine and is generally the most sensible of the three - until she meets a young man. Clio has been brought up by a vicar and his wife, the only parents she has ever known, and had a more or less normal life, but her father has died and her mother is very ill, needing treatment. This could be her chance to get the money she needs.

The 1920s was a lively era. The world had just been through "the war to end wars" with millions dying, first from the war itself, then from the Spanish Flu that came almost immediately after. People reacted against this. The outrageous flavour  of  the  times comes through well in this novel. 

 Among the books many positive features was the occasional touch of humour, such as when Thalia is caught with a boy in her room and has to put up with a tutorial on various types of birth control. We weren't given an info dump, just hints, as the novel went, of what made the characters act the way they did. There were some interesting and sobering touches about the eugenics studies happening at the time, with a young eugenicist suggesting the sterilisation of those who don't measure up, which made me, at least, shudder, knowing what happened in Germany only a few years later.

A number of things didn't quite make sense for me. For example, having summoned her nieces to London and vowed to get them their mother's money, Hestia then disappeared for large chunks of the novel, leaving them to do their own investigation into mysteries around around their birth and make their own arrangements about wresting the money from their half-brother; her only contribution, after a useless meeting, is to phone him up and yell at him now and then. And while I could understand Thalia's rebellion, I wondered just how she learned to drive and smoke a few days after arriving in London from a country estate in which her guardian wouldn't let her wear make-up let alone smoke or learn to drive! Yet one day she goes out and returns a little later in the day driving a car and smoking, with not a single cough or splutter.

This novel has been slotted into the "new adult" category rather than YA, but really, I will be happy to offer it to the better readers among our students in Year 9 and 10. There's very little in it that I haven't seen in YA before and the characters are in their late teens.

A light, entertaining read that would be just right for the beach or over a coffee.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Free Ebook - Legally!

...And speaking of free -legal! - downloads, two ASIM stories have been shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards, the New Zealand answer to the Ditmars, which will be presented at the New Zealand Natcon in July. They are "Paint By Numbers" by Dan Rabarts, from ASIM#55 and "Better Phones" by Grant Stone from ASIM#56.

With the authors' permission, ASIM is making them available free in ebook format until July 14, from the website here. Why not wander over and grab it while available? And if you're going to the con, you might consider voting for them. Even if not, enjoy! I have to admit, I didn't choose either of them, but one of my choices in the multi-editor issue was in Greece and the other was here in Australia. They were wonderful stories - but so are these. You can get them in PDF, ePub or mobi.

I hear there's going to be another Peggy Bright Books sampler soon. I'll let you know when that happens.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Conflux 9: the 2013 Natcon

This time last week I was on my way home from Canberra on a Virgin Australia flight. I had to get a taxi to the airport because, unlike other places, Canberra doesn't seem to have a bus route that goes directly there - you can, if you're familiar with the area, take a bus NEAR the airport, but not actually there. And if you come from interstate, chances are you just want to get to the airport or from there to the hotel (no courtesy buses either, it seems, or not to the hotel I stayed in) without having to lug your bag around and ask people where to go. Still, because it is the way things are done there, at least the process ran smoothly, with the hotel getting me a taxi immediately. The last time I was interstate, at Swancon, the hotel connection bus I had booked failed to appear and the hotel gave me a cab voucher, because it was getting uncomfortably close to my departure time. It wasn't all that much dearer than a Skybus and got me from door to door.

Now, the con itself: I had a ball!

I rarely go interstate for a convention and the last two I have attended have been Natcons, where I was persuaded by friends who wanted to share a room. Swancon is always great - I've been to three - and this was my second Conflux and also excellent, as it was last time. It is, after all, a professional development for me as a YA writer and teacher-librarian, because the place was crawling with YA writers such as Kate Forsyth, Garth Nix, Margo Lanagan,  the delightful Richard Harland, Felicity Pulman (from whom I bought the last two of the Janna Mysteries for my library - she had to self-publish them because her publisher scrapped the series after four, but I had a young man waiting to read the rest of the series) and even new children's writer Tom Dullemond, who is a member of the ASIM Co-op, whose book was launched at the convention. Sean Williams was there; he's better known for adult fiction, but has done some work for children and teens recently, and some of my book clubbers are currently reading his manuscript from Allen and Unwin.  Not there, alas,  was Michael Pryor, but perhaps he will be at my next convention, Continuum, which is on the Queen's Birthday Weekend and I know my publisher Paul Collins will be a GoH there. There's something great about

I set off on the Wednesday evening after work, catching a flight from Tullamarine airport. I was expecting to have some sort of meal, but there really wasn't time - the plane was no sooner up in the air than it was coming down again - a short trip and even shorter for a probably good tail wind - so they offered us crackers, cheese and fruit juice. No tea or coffee. I was hungry and yearning for a cuppa by the time I arrived.

My taxi driver was a nice young man who had been doing this for two weeks. He was a systems analyst between jobs, as taxi drivers tend to be when they're not uni students. The trouble was, he didn't yet know his way around and had to ask another driver where Rydges was - there are two in Canberra and I had specified Capital Hill. He tried to drop me off at Lakeside - just as well I saw the name on the door mat! So he apologised profusely and took me to the right place for no extra charge.

I checked in and met Edwina Harvey, one of two friends with whom I was sharing a room, but Edwina and Anne had been out for dinner already, so I went to the hotel dining room, where I took one look at the menu, went "Eek!" at the prices and ordered a bowl of beer-battered chips, about the only thing on the menu I could afford, apart from a salmon entree which I didn't want because you couldn't have it without batter and I hate battered fish - the last time I had some, the batter was nicely browned and the fish was almost raw.

Those beer batter chips were to be my lunch at least twice more, when I couldn't get out.v Fortunately, I had prepaid for the Steampunk Afternoon Tea and the Regency Banquet and a buffet breakfast was part of the hotel's deal.

Thursday afternoon I attended the Steampunk Afternoon Tea, wearing a long dark skirt and a long-sleeved blouse, with a bit of Victorian-style jewellery and a shawl. There were, of course, a lot of folk who could sew better than me and came in proper costumes.

Here's a picture of the winners. To the left is Lewis Morley, artist extraordinaire, and that samurai robot is Thoraiya Dyer, who seems to have an unfair amount of talent. 

The winners

And here's a pic of Lewis Morley and his partner Marilyn Pride, who illoed my first two books for Allen and Unwin. I once wrote her into a children's chapter book, as an artist who was coming to visit her old school, where she had donated a painting, but nobody knew where it had disappeared. I think the illustrator of THAT book must have recognised the cheeky reference, because the picture of the artists in the book looked uncannily like Marilyn.

The afternoon tea was delightful, and we had eaten our cake stand of cakes and sandwiches when, to our surprise, they brought us another one. 

That night I was on a late-night panel on the subject of fairy tales, moderated by Jenny Blackford. I think I may have been the only member of the panel who hadn't done folklore academically! Everyone else was either a PhD or Masters candidate. I really just wanted to talk about the use of fairy tales in fiction, especially YA fiction, which I know best, but we got diverted by other things. Oh, well. It was a good panel anyway, and afterwards I stuck around for one on the subject of self-publishing, although it's not something I would do myself, becuase it was on the subject of whether or not self-published work needed an editor. Patty Jansen, a member of the ASIM group who has self-published a lot, argued that it was a waste of money because you could always rely on beta readers. A freelance editor on the panel suggested that some of her potential clients might have been better off spending their money on learning to write! She would not accept first drafts.
Someone else commented that not everyone was as honest as this editor and not all writers had access to such excellent beta readers as Patty.

Patty said that if some people wrote and published dreadful stuff, it was no skin off her nose. At this point, I piped up with, "It is if you're a reviewer!" and everyone laughed.

This attitude of, "Oh, I can get my family and friends to read it!" is one reason why I rarely review self-published work, and then only if the author has a track record in the paid publishing industry, such as Felicity Pulman. There may be some wonderful self-published work out there, but how do you know till you have agreed to read it? And the ones who approach me mostly want to offer me an ebook, which I can't put on my library shelves and this is one of the main reasons why I review.

We all went to bed, with no time or energy for the ASIM  room party we always promise ourselves.

Friday afternoon, after some panels and some I went with Edwina for a swim in the hotel pool before going to a memorial to Jan Howard Finder, aka the Wombat, whom I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog. It was a small group, but nice to remember him together. Everyone had a funny story to tell about him and it was especially pleasing to have an attendee who had only met him once but wanted to pay tribute. David MacDonald said he had met Jan when they were both on a Tolkien panel in the US. Jan had made him feel welcome and had been delightful.

David actually took this picture with my iPad. That's Marilyn Pride, Susan Batho, me behind Susan,, Graeme Batho and behind him Edwina, Jean Weber and Bill Wright, a Melbourne fan who asked for copies of my photos of Jan so he could use some for his fanzine.

The evening brought the Regency Banquet, which was very special. I had made an effort to prepare a costume, buying a Simplicity pattern which turned out to be very complicated for the likes of me, and got as far as cutting out the pieces. I simply wore a long dress and shawl with a ribbon under the bust.
And here I am with my friend Anne Devrell, who did make the costume from that pattern. She can sew. I can't - well, not with a machine. 

I had read about this banquet, which had been done before. It was carefully researched by Dr Gillian Polack, Canberra fan and historian extraordinaire, along with a team of volunteers who had cooked and tried out a huge number of recipes before settling on a menu, which was handed to the hotel. They had the menu, so they were able to reuse it at this banquet, and towards the end, the chefs were invited in to be applauded by the diners.

We were also entertained by a historical dance group, who played historical instruments, performed complex Regency dances and invited us to come up and learn the simpler ones with their help. That was a lot of fun and I had a go at most of them.

I enjoyed the food - you could eat as much as you liked without every touching meat, Gillian had made sure of that, none of this giving veggies the side dishes everyone else was having or a salad. Even the rolls were Brentford rolls, and part of the menu. Gillian went around anxiously apologising that the flavours weren't quite right, but they tasted fine to me. Typical picky historian! I had no room for dessert, which was a pity, because they looked wonderful, but Gillian persuaded me to try the homemade apricot ice cream and I had a bit of the "burnt almonds" which were really just almonds stuck into the kind of glassy toffee even I can make. Delicious!

More panels on Saturday - I was doing one called "Appropriating the sacred" which I thought might be about the use of religion in spec fic and was all ready to talk about some of the books I had read with religions in them, but it was really more about the ethics of using existing religion in fiction, especially Indigenous religion. Still, it worked well and I waffled along.

The Ditmars were on at five pm, so again I ended up having a chips lunch. I attended two kaffeeklatsches, one with Garth Nix, one with Kate Forsyth. Kate's was especially interesting, I thought. though I think Garth Nix is a fine writer. He was startled to hear that at my school, it's the boys who are borrowing his Old Kingdom Trilogy, which is about three strong young women.

Here, in case you don't know, is the list of who took home the Ditmars:

Best Novel
  • Sea Hearts, Margo Lanagan (Allen & Unwin)

Best Novella or Novelette
  • “Sky”, Kaaron Warren (Through Splintered Walls)
Best Short Story
  • “The Wisdom of Ants”, Thoraiya Dyer (Clarkesworld 12/12)

Best Collected Work
  • Through Splintered Walls, Kaaron Warren (Twelfth Planet)

Best Artwork
  • Cover art, Kathleen Jennings, for Midnight and Moonshine (Ticonderoga)

Best Fan Writer
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for body of work including reviews in Not If You Were The Last Short Story On Earth
Best Fan Artist
* Kathleen Jennings, for body of work including “The Dalek Game” and
“The Tamsyn Webb Sketchbook”

Best Fan Publication in Any Medium
  • The Writer and the Critic, Kirstyn McDermott and Ian Mond

Best New Talent
  • David McDonald
William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review
  • Tansy Rayner Roberts, for “Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.” (

I pinched this from the Locus web site, which included the other entries. I have only read the Margo Lanagan book and the Tansy Rayner Roberts stuff and I have seen the cover of Midnight And Moonshine, which I bought, and I have to say I think those ones deserve their prizes.

A bunch of us went out for dinner afterwards, hoping to drown our sorrows - Simon Petrie of the ASIM bunch had been on the novella shortlist and Peggy Bright Books had had its wonderful collection Light Touch Paper on the list too - but we ended up  just eating Mexican at a fast food place.

The next morning I had to leave directly after breakfast, but it was great to catch up with friends, meet those I hadn't seen before and I learned a lot from those panels.

A delightful con!

Book Piracy Is Alive And Well And Living On Line - An Author Rant!

Earlier this evening, I was googling myself, as you do, in hopes of a new review, perhaps, or some such, when I found a web site called, which was offering PDFs for free - including my children's book, Your Cat Could Be A Spy, which was published by Allen And Unwin in 2006. It was part of a wonderful non fiction series called It's True! The problem with being part of a series is that when the publishers decide it's time to end it, your book goes out of print along with all the others. They printed six thousand copies of my book and sold them all, though most went through Scholastic Book Club, which meant that I got very little in the way of royalties and not a lot went into libraries where I might at least have had lending rights paid on them. But hey, there were thousands of kids who ordered a copy of my book because they wanted it, through schools or school libraries, and there are many writers of adult books who don't sell that well, some literary writers far more famous than me who have never sold more than 2000 copies of anything in their lives. The book is still available from the publishers as POD and possibly under its North American title, This Book Is Bugged! 

As a school librarian working at a school which has distributed iPads to the kids, I have been looking up sites which offer free downloads legally, even if it means classics from Gutenberg which only a few will be interested in or self-published books which might or might not be good. To download someone's hard work for which permission has neither been asked nor given would be unthinkable.

I have no idea who is behind this web site - there's no "About Us", no contact details, nothing. No doubt deliberate. And interestingly, it has a link to Amazon, in case you want to check it out further - why is this? Weird!

 I downloaded the PDF to see what would open up - I know, not safe! But I had to know. It's the whole book, art and all, except the cover. Which means my wonderful illustrator, Mitch Vane, the lady who illoes her husband Danny Katz's articles in the Age, has also been ripped off. She was supposed to get a percentage of any royalties.

I am really not interested in hearing about "freedom of information" so often ranted about by my librarian colleagues. If you've put months or years of your life into a piece of writing or art, nobody has the right to help themselves to it. When someone chooses to offer their work for free, that's fine. I have done so with some of my fiction on this web site, all stuff that has been published already. But if someone grabbed a copy of my ASIM stories or the Chronos eligibles and used it for their own benefit without asking me, that would make me see red. Heaven knows, there are plenty enough of online giveaway offers from authors and publishers.