Margo Lanagan

One of my favourite authors is the Australian writer Margo Lanagan. Here’s a quote from her: ‘I write a lot of stories with babies, children and young people in them, because I’m interested in the way people piece together their world for the first time. As we grow, we try to work out what’s happening and why, to interpret other people’s intentions. We also have fresher perceptions of atmospheres, weather, physical, social and interpersonal events, because quite often it’s the first time we’ve encountered them.’margolanagan2

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Ursa

I’m very proud that my latest YA title Ursa has now been launched at the Storylines Margaret Mahy Day. Head of Publishing Linsay Knight at Walker Books had this to say:

“Working with last year’s winner, Tina Shaw, has  been an absolute delight. Her standout entry Ursa shone from the outset. And her unstinting work ethic and desire to deliver the strongest book possible has made our blossoming relationship with her a real pleasure. Ursa is a book for our times and aStorylinesURSA_cover tour de force for Tina. Everyone at Walker Books congratulates her and celebrates the launch of this extraordinary book with her.”

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Advanced Reading Copy

Am very excited to see the ARC of my YA novel Ursa that’s due to be released early next year by Walker Books. This is what the full cover looks like.

URSA ARC COVER

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Storylines award

Me&JacindaI was at the Storylines Margaret Mahy Awards Day yesterday and won the Tessa Duder Award for an unpublished manuscript. While there, I happened to shamelessly cadge a photo from our PM (my heroine).

One thing that really struck me yesterday was the sheer amount of female talent in the place – I was blown away by all that womanly writing and publishing. The line-ups on the stage for the Notable Book Awards: nearly all women. The Storylines organisation is run by strong and talented women … and look at One Tree House (my publisher): Christine and Jenny are dynamos, and have just picked up a major publishing award at the Bologna childrens book festival. I was very impressed by the sheer energy in the place yesterday. So fitting that we had the strong and positive Jacinda to speak to us and give the MM medal.

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My new YA title

I find the decision by Whitcoulls to not stock my new YA title ‘Make a Hard Fist’ – as it’s possibly too confronting and therefore a hard sell – to be a disturbing trend for New Zealand publishing. So does this mean that Whitcoulls are actually dictating the terms of what we publish in New Zealand? If they don’t take a title because it’s a hard sell, then publishers here (as we’ve seen) will be selling books that are tending towards the bland end of the spectrum, the safe approach, presumably to sell less confrontational books more easily to Whitcoulls. So, what about Patrick Ness, as an example – will Whitcoulls not sell his books because they are confronting? No, because he is an overseas author, and thus accessing a larger market segment than boring old Whitcoulls. What can you do? Go into Whitcoulls and order my book!MAHF_cover

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The wonderful Hilary Mantel

I’m such a fan of Hilary Mantel’s writing, so was thrilled to pick up a discounted copy of her story collection at a bookshop recently. There is a marvellous story  about two girls who are spying on a strange figure in a wheelchair on a patio:

And we saw – nothing; we saw something not yet become; we saw something, not a face but perhaps, I thought, when I thought about it later, perhaps a negotiating position for a face, perhaps a loosely imagined notion of a face, like God’s when he was trying to form us; we saw a blank we saw a sphere, it was without feaUnknownture, it was without meaning, and its flesh seemed to run from the bone.

– from ‘Comma’ in The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

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New year’s inspiration

unknown-3To see in the New Year, I’ve been reading the marvellous and thought-provoking memoir by Tim Winton: The boy behind the curtain. Am particularly enjoying his muscular descriptive passages that bring the Aussie landscape to life, such as driving across the Nullarbor Plain:

‘That morning I drove past salt pans and vast eucalyptus woodlands into monochrome treelessness. The overcast sky spilled to earth, its blotchy greys hard to distinguish from the cloudy puffs of knee-high scrub stretching windblown and insubstantial to the horizon. The gunmetal two-lane ribboned out changeless until the afternoon surprise of Madura Pass when there was a sudden decline as the Hampton Tableland gave way to the hypnotic Roe Plains. Down on the flats it was all sky. It was like travelling across the seabed, which is more or less what that land is. Everything looked scoured, as if one giant swell had just receded and another was about to come surging in. The only thing separating me from Elsewhere, it felt, was this low, dun-coloured shelf I was pelting across. I drove until I ran out of daylight and when I climbed down onto the dirt I felt stoned.’

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About distractions

Found this marvellous description from the poet Mary Oliver of how easy it is to be distracted as a writer:

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the unknowndoor. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.

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They’re reading my book in the UK

I have had the loveliest email from James Watson, a teacher in the UK:

Hello Tina, I am a Year 3 teacher in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England and my class is currently working on a writing project surrounding your book, The Cloud Rider. The children that I teach have been really inspired by your story and we have been able to use the theme of your book to develop some wonderful drama, speaking and listening and characterisation lessons. We enjoyed reading about your inspiration for the story, with the settings being intrinsically linked with your childhood and this gave us scope to use the structure of The Cloud Rider narrative to develop our own stories with the adaption of our own settings.

Once again, thank you for the inspiration for some wonderful developing writers.

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Writing about Life

I’ve just finished a great ‘memoir’ style book that reminds me that you don’t have to think of memoir as starting at the beginning and sketching in one’s whole life … H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald is about a young woman who trains a goshawk, and concerns only one section of her life, but it’s wide Hopen in terms of ideas. She is grieving the sudden death of her father, and weaves this into her journey with the hawk, so it’s not just a nature story, and it’s more than a grief memoir. I would highly recommend anybody who is interested in writing about their own life to read it, and see how Macdonald has used language and anecdote to tell her story.

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