Thursday, 23 January 2020

January Updates- Back on track with the ms, #authorsforfireys and upcoming appearance at Perth Fest!

I don't know about anyone else, but the last two months have felt to me like they have gone by in a blur.

I've been studying over summer in a (possibly ill-advised) attempt to get my Masters faster, and on top of that, I've been working extra shifts at the day job, which as you may imagine, does not leave a lot of time for writing.  I am slowly getting back on track with the manuscript for my second novel (and third book, I suppose, now that Well-Behaved Women is out in the world), which is an historical novel set in Subiaco around the time of World War One. We're slowly trying to become morning people in our household, so writing time now happens before work, and sometimes even before 7am, where previously it happened around 8.30 at night and the struggle was trying to write enough before the fatigue kicked in. I'm finding that because I am writing early, my inner critic is not completely awake yet which is proving to be very helpful for getting the words down.

Recently I read somewhere that Joe Abercrombie does a targeted multi-draft approach when he is writing a new book-- the first draft is the ideas draft, then he goes back and focuses on character, and then finally he goes back and focuses on plot (I think that's the correct order...) I'm trying out this approach myself and am doing the character draft. I might have to add in a fourth version though as I will need to do a draft where I focus on incorporating research, historical atmosphere and accuracy.

Still would be fewer drafts than I've done on Between the Sleepers!

Speaking of which, I recently came up with a new idea for how to fix the opening of that novel, so I expect to be working on that later this year and then sending it out on submission...

I participated in the #AuthorsforFireys auction this January, where Australian authors, publishers and other book professionals raffled off items raising money for the CFA and other organisations needing help in the wake of the devastating bushfires affecting our country. I decided to raffle off not only a signed copy of Well-Behaved Women but also a hand made scarf, which I'm now knitting as fast as I can so I can send it off to my generous highest bidder, who donated $312 to the CFA. It was really empowering to participate in the initiative and I am grateful to YA authors Emily Gale and Nova Weetman who spearheaded the whole thing and worked tirelessly to keep everything going smoothly. I think the last tally they tweeted about said that we had managed to raise $500 000 -- who said the arts don't matter?!

Photo by Jess Wyld


Finally, the Perth Festival Literature and Ideas Festival program was launched last week and guess who is on it!  (Well, Neil Gaiman, Bruce Pascoe, Matt Okine, Julia Phillips, Holden Sheppard.... But also ME!) I'll be appearing at two sessions-- the first on Saturday at 1.15 pm in the Tropical Grove where I'll be reading you a story, and the second on Sunday at 3.30pm in the Alexander Lecture Theatre, in conversation with Michelle Johnston.  Yes, if you come to my session, you can't go and see Neil Gaiman... but Neil is sold out anyway, so that's hardly my fault!  Please do come and listen to one of those sessions, I'd love to see some friendly faces in the audience and have a chat with you all. I'll even sign books for you.  Not going to lie, I am very excited about being on the other side of the signing table!

That's it for me, this made for a lovely distraction from getting ready for work but I must get back to it. I'll be updating my list of WBW events very soon so if you can't make it to the festival and you haven't come to an event yet, or you'd like to come to another one, stay tuned.

Happy reading, in the meantime, and thanks for all your support in the first two months of my book being out in the world. You are all the best.

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

22 Books to Get Excited About in 2020


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JANUARY

Miss Austen - Gill Hornby

Wild Fearless Chests - Mandy Beaumont

FEBRUARY

The Good Turn - Dervla McTiernan

Weather - Jenny Offill

Escape Routes - Naomi Ishiguro

The Salt Madonna - Catherine Noske

Adults - Emma Jane Unsworth

MARCH

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The Mirror and the Light - Hilary Mantel

The Animals at Lockwood Manor - Jane Healey

The Wreck - Meg Keneally

The River Home - Hannah Richell

APRIL

The Lost Jewels - Kirsty Manning

The Dior Secret - Natasha Lester

Gulliver's Wife - Lauren Chater

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MAY

Katherine Howard: The Scandalous Queen - Alison Weir


JUNE

All Our Shimmering Skies - Trent Dalton

The Lying Life of Adults - Elena Ferrante


JULY- DECEMBER


Transcendent Kingdom - Yaa Gyasi


Hollowpox - Jessica Townsend

Ordinary Matter* - Laura Elvery

The Rook* - Josephine Taylor

The Honeybee* - Craig Silvey



* These titles as called in the Sydney Morning Herald's Books to read in 2020 and may not be confirmed.

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Book Review: Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend


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Morrigan Crow is back in the second instalment of the Nevermoor series, a new children's/ middle grade fantasy franchise that has garnered comparisons to Harry Potter and Studio Ghibli combined. This time around, Morrigan is attending Wunsoc, the elite Wundrous Society academy where she will be a scholar along with the rest of her unit. Other scholars along for the ride include best friend and dragon rider, Hawthorne and salty mesmerist, Cadence. There is magic, mystery and a lot of good times to be had in this novel, and it's definitely not just for kids.

When people and Wunimals (human animal hybrids) begin to go missing, members of the Wundrous Society, including Morrigan's patron Jupiter North, grow visibly worried. Jupiter is so distracted by his work that he's not around when Morrigan begins to struggle with her new school, where she must keep a dark secret from all but her team. Morrigan struggles with teaching staff and fellow students who believe all Wundersmiths to be evil-- as a secret Wundersmith, Morrigan begins to wonder if she's capable of bucking the trend, or if she too will become a monster like the only other Wundersmith still alive... Ezra Squall.

I enjoy the Nevermoor series a lot. The books are well plotted and paced, and include elements familiar from a lot of my favourite series' growing up, including a focus on loyalty and friendship conquering over evil, a main character who marches to the beat of her own drum, and a richly created world. Jessica Townsend has clearly had a lot of fun creating these books as well, and it shows, because there is a real sense of joy in both novels so far. While some parts of the stories may seem a bit derivative, I think what is really coming to light as the series evolves is that these are books for and by a person who really loves reading. They are a celebration of the power of books and reading, and an homage to the great stories that have gone before. They are the perfect escapist series to curl up with over the Christmas period too, because they're light and easy without being fluffy and dumbed down. There are also a lot of mature concepts beginning to develop so I am really looking forward to see what is happening next!

Hollowpox, the third book in the series is due out in the second half of 2020 and I'm pretty excited about it!


Thursday, 12 December 2019

Guest Blog: Rachel Watts on the Climate Crisis and what you can do about it

Recently, I have been feeling anxious about the future of our planet. On top of that, I was also feeling hopeless-- like there was nothing I could do to make a difference. That's why I approached local write, Rachel Watts, to write this guest blog about what ordinary Australians can do about the climate crisis we find ourselves in. Rachel has been vocal about her own reactions to our situation across social media, and has done her homework around the issue. Handing over to Rachel now...

What it means to declare a Personal Climate Emergency


It is a sunny day in early summer and here in Perth I'm grateful to be able to breathe clean air.
That's where we are as a country. Each day I spend time at a local park where red-tailed black cockatoos feed. In the late afternoon there's the scent of eucalyptus in the air, and I always imagine it's because the trees have sighed in the afternoon breeze.

This land is ancient, and perfect, and in deep distress.

Watching the images of fires in NSW and QLD, of koalas screaming as they burn, and more recently of Sydney blanketed in smoke, I came to a stunning realisation.

This is not going to go away.

This was the beginning of my personal climate emergency. It was the moment at which the disaster stopped being abstract. When there's a disaster heading straight for you, you do everything you can to protect yourself and those you love, and the global climate crisis is no different. Each individual in this country needs to get onto emergency footing and call for action.

So, I have a few suggestions for things you can do in response to the climate crisis ranging from the individual level to things you can do collectively. My biggest request is this: whatever you do, tell someone what you’re doing and that you’re doing it as a climate change response. Have that conversation. In my opinion, we should be talking about nothing else. Use your networks and sphere of influence, and your skills, and pass the message along as often as you can. As climate scientist JoĆ«lle Gergis said at Quantum Words in Perth earlier this year: everyone counts, and every day counts. 

1.     Divest your superannuation.

In all likelihood, the biggest investment you make as an individual is your retirement savings, your superannuation, and if that lump sum is in some random account that your employer told you to take out, you don't know what it's funding. Unless a super fund expressly declares itself to be divesting from fossil fuels you might be supporting that industry without realising. The superannuation fund you choose will depend on your circumstances, so do some research. Some options you may like to look up include Future Super, Australian Ethical Super and Verve Super. You can also go to Market Forces, which actively studies super funds and banks for their fossil fuel investments. If you can't change your super fund, you can contact them and express a desire for a fund that does not invest in fossil fuels.

Divesting your super might take all of 15 minutes. It's worth it. 

2.     Manage your waste, your emissions and buy with the future in mind.

Let me say up front: nothing you can do as a person or a household can fix this problem if big polluters in the LNG, coal and oil industries don't also take responsibility for their emissions. That requires government policy.

There is also a tendency after making individual changes, like giving up your car, that you will feel you have done enough. Studies show that the more people do individually, the less likely they are to support systemic measures like carbon prices. You also have to support these things. We are in peril. There is no such thing as having done enough.

Having said that, I think of reducing my own personal impact as building my resilience. I want to live more lightly on this planet, and learning how to get around without a car is a good way to do that. Composting and reducing household waste are also powerful, and help to foster a regenerative mindset. Gardening and supporting greater biodiversity are a sheer joy to me. These small changes have knock on effects that lead to other changes, helping you live your climate emergency in a regenerative, healthy way.

It's a good idea to buy fewer things. Challenge yourself to go a month without buying anything new, apart from food. Even when it comes to food, you can probably buy less (or no) meat and dairy. If you have space, you could try growing your own vegies. You can fly less, particularly if you fly regularly for work, by holding meetings online. Try not to over-think this, and don't shame anyone for the decisions they make. Everyone's circumstances are different, and remember, we're all in this together.

3.     Reach out to your community.

Do you know your neighbours? Building your local network expands your sphere of influence and helps you think local first. A great way to start is to join a Buy Nothing Network, a community garden or a volunteer group. All of these things will be listed on Facebook or your council's website. Start or join a local Climate Change Action group. Share things you can make, grow or do with the people around you. Donate to important causes. Pay attention to your council's climate change policies and apply pressure when they need a nudge in the right direction.

Knowing your neighbours also means checking in to make sure they're okay, particularly during heat waves and emergencies. Take care of the people around you and be part of building up the resilience in your community.

4. Put pressure on politicians and join a protest group.

Collectively, we need to put pressure on State and Federal Governments to take more urgent action. This means voting climate, calling your MP's office to talk about climate, and signing (or starting) petitions.

But many folks have already been doing that for years, and time is running short, which is why you're seeing a surge in protests. And it's why you should join one. This is not a political issue, it's an issue of survival.

You may feel like you’re not that kind of person. But the situation won’t change until a vocal and active majority of people demand it. We need to make noise. Action is also a good antidote to fear, and it helps to build community around the cause. However awkward you feel, please do show up to events. If you can't attend actions, share them on Facebook and support activists vocally. Don't let them be demonised in the media.

Climate Protests Australia lists events around the country that you can attend.

5.     Be an accomplice – advocate for climate justice.

I don't list this action last because it's less important, I've put it last because it's truly global. Climate change is a class issue. It will affect everyone, but it won't affect everyone equally. People in the global south are more vulnerable to climate change, as are people with less wealth, and people who are already marginalised in some way. Climate change is also product of colonisation. Advocating for Indigenous rights is a climate change action. First Nations people have been fighting for Country for hundreds of years. Elevate the voices of others and learn to recognise and speak about inequality when you can. Stand with them.

If you're interested in climate justice you can consider joining the Climate Justice Union WA, which aims to create a positive future for First Nations people, for rural communities, for fossil fuel workers, for low-income communities, for people affected by extreme weather, and for all other people impacted by climate change.

 Get to know some of Perth’s climate change activists at The Centre for Stories on Saturday, December 14 when the founder of XR Grandparents Les Harrison and speaks with 11-year-old climate activist Reuben Saggar at In Conversation: Perth's Youngest and Oldest Climate Activists.

You can also meet and dance with some Extinction Rebellion affinity groups in the Perth CBD on Friday, December 13 from 4pm.



Rachel Watts is a writer from Perth, WA. She is currently writing a literary novel on remembering the dead in the Me Too era and a climate change novel on building healthy communities in a broken world.

Connect with her, or buy her book Survival using the links below. 



Friday, 6 December 2019

5 things no one tells you about being an author...

1. You will get sick of talking about yourself...

I didn't think this could possibly be true. I love talking! I love being asked things! But last night, totally aside from doing any book events, someone asked me how uni and work were going and I was like.... ughhh.

But remember that this is how most authors feel. Debra Adelaide, in her latest book The Innocent Reader talks about the need to put on the mask and go out there and do the talk anyway. Remember that for the people in the audience, these questions are new. Your book is new. You are new. And they are giving some of their time to you, not only to listen to you talk, but also hopefully to go home and read your book. They may have parted with their money for the privilege. You owe them the respect of giving a great talk, and answering questions with kindness, even if you do feel like a broken record.

2. You will forget what happens in your own book.

Or rather, you'll forget which versions of things appear in the book. The other day, I told a story about something that happened at home and the interviewer said 'Oh that's funny because that happens in one of your stories.' 

3. You will forget what question you have been asked half way through answering it.

I always thought this was funny when I was an audience member. Then it happened to me... 

I have found that it's useful to have talking points to call on, and these can often be adapted to tricky questions. If you're unsure of what an interviewer wants to ask, it's fine to ask them to unpack the question a little bit. The audience know you're human and if you didn't really understand the question, they probably didn't either.

4. You will struggle to write coherent and 'un-weird' messages in peoples' books while simultaneously trying to carry out charming conversations with them.

This leads to the fun situation where you ask someone if 'Laura' is spelt the traditional way and they look at you like you just ate a crayon. Last night, I lay awake for quite some time, certain that I had written the wrong name in a friend's book.

5. All hail the power of the 26 minute nap.

Book tours are tiring. They involve a lot of evening events that mean you have to drive there in peak hour traffic and then miss your usual dinner time because you're too busy signing books! (A pretty great problem to have, really.) I have found myself getting quite tired in the afternoons lately, and so when I know I have the time, if I feel myself getting sleepy, I set a timer on my phone for 26 minutes and allow myself to snooze. It's enough time to shake the cobwebs away without making me feel cranky and disoriented. 


So there you have it!  I am sure that from events to come, I will learn more things, and I am trying to be open to the process and appreciate every second of it, because as Brooke Davis told me when she was launching her novel Lost and Found, you only get one first book.  No, it hasn't really been what I expected, but when I let myself enjoy it, it's been great. I am thankful to all the wonderful libraries and bookshops who have hosted me so far and look forward to talking to more of you in 2020!