general writerly stuff

One percent inspiration…

I couldn’t be more pleased to be blogging at Inside a Dog. I’m putting the finishing touches on The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, and my brain is already shifting gears to what comes next. And so, for the next whole month, I have a delightfully diverting excuse to not think about writing my next book. Writing is hard, and devising handy excuses not to do it can take up an awful lot of a writer’s day. There’s only so much time that can be frittered away on Twitter, or looking at pictures of cute sloths on the net.

(twenty minutes later…)

sloth 2

Writing a novel takes a really long time – months, sometimes years. And some of that time can even be productive. There are hours of fevered, excited typing, amazing light-bulb moments where chunks of plot appear out of nowhere, and fleeting moments of smugness at a particularly cool line that seems to come from the ether. There are days when writing goals are reached before lunchtime, and afternoons are frittered away on BuzzFeed and watching old episodes of Buffy.

And then…

[For the month of June, I will be writer-in-resident at the fab Inside a Dog – you can read the rest of this post here]

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

For the month of June, I will be writer-in-resident at the fab Inside a Dog website at the Centre for Youth Literature. Check it out here. I’ll be blogging about writing,  editing, comic books, Wonder Woman, dog wrangling, chocolate eating – and loads of other stuff.

For the month of June, I, along with my team of super-editors, will also be putting the final touches on my new book. The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl will be out in September, which I still have trouble believing. It feels like only yesterday that these characters were but a few excited notes on a post-it; a year-and-a-bit later, and they are almost ready to make their way out into the world. And as always, I am TOTALLY freaked by the thought. Freaked, and excited. Stay tuned for more info coming soon…

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl

Award news!

LiOS COVEREXCITING ANNOUNCEMENT! Life in Outer Space has been chosen as the winner of the 2014 Ena Noel Award, a biennial IBBY Australia Encouragement Award for Literature for Young People. Past winner include Markus Zusak, Sonya Hartnett, Catherine Jinks, and a host of other wonderful writers who I’m totally honoured to be in the company of.

You can find out more about the award here

The good people at IBBY (International Board on Books for Young People) have this to say:

Melissa Keil’s debut novel arrived on the YA scene with a refreshing, individual style which has impressed not only its target audience but also readers across generations…Keil has a superb knack of capturing the teenage ‘cringe’ factor: the beach picnic episode is a laugh-out-loud account of awkwardness and developing confidence. The ingenuous style of this novel makes it highly readable and amusing.

Colour me chuffed.


Writerly gatherings

I feel like I’ve spent the last couple of weeks talking incessantly – I did my first ever radio interview, and then chatted to high school students for Book Week. I buzzed around at Melbourne Writers Festival, and shot up to Queensland for a whirlwind two days at Brisbane Writers Festival.

I’ve been meaning to write a wrap-up of the festivals ­– some words on the awesome writers I met, and the great panel discussions of all things YA, and on signing books for some fabulous young fans, and the giant crushes I’ve developed on, like, half a dozen brilliant authors who I shared the stage with (Randa Abdel-Fattah, I’m looking at you), and the weirdness of sitting in the hotel restaurant while reading a copy of Avengers Assemble, before realizing that its author, Marvel writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, was sitting at the table next to me. I don’t know what the etiquette is for fangirling while someone is trying to eat their breakfast. Potentially not awkwardly shoving their book into your bag and hurrying away before they catch sight of you reading it.

But truth be told, I’m sort of tired of talking about myself. I’ve had a blast over the past few weeks, but I am also really looking forward to curling up in my jammies with my manuscript. I’ve missed my characters. I can’t wait to be in their world again.

Oh, and also, during MWF week, this happened:


Needless to say, I was gobsmacked. And speechless. And so completely chuffed to be part of a list selected by young readers themselves. If you’re aged between 12 and 20, you can cast your vote here. Make sure to check out the rest of the shortlist as well. I’m honoured to be among such wonderful writers.


Happy New Year!

My LiOS advances. They may have pride of place on my mantelpiece...

My LiOS advances. They may have pride of place on my mantelpiece…

So it’s been a busy couple of months. I had yet another birthday (which, as is typical, I did my best to ignore). I moved house (always a fun, and not at all stressful thing to do over Christmas). I made New Years resolutions, which I have promptly forgotten about three weeks later. And oh, I finished the final, final, final copy edits and tweaks and last second panics, and I sent my book to press. It’s in stores tomorrow, which is something I haven’t quite managed to get my head around yet. I’ve been chatting with lots of very cool people over the past few weeks, doing interview-type things and answering questions about my book – the sort of questions that are forcing me to think back to when Life in Outer Space was but a couple of random paragraphs on my laptop. Surprisingly, thinking about the book this way – the actual process of writing, of forming and developing a world – is a weirdly difficult thing to do. As I wade through the initial research and drafting stage of my new novel – battling the empty page and the difficult slog of a first draft – I’m finding that I need to constantly remind myself that Life in Outer Space, and these fictional people who I feel like I know so well, weren’t always fully formed. There were many, many moments where the only whiny words that my writing buddy and I could share, were, ‘writing a novel is really hard…’ It may be a naff thing for an author to admit, but two years later, these characters – Sam and Camilla and Mike and Allison and Adrian – feel like old friends to me. I hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as I did.

Now, here are some links to a few of those very cool people I mentioned above:

Book Probe

Where the Writer Comes to Write

Vegan YA Nerds

‘Is the author’s name supposed to be spelt like that…?’

Working in a publishing house, there’s a particular sort of geek-fest that occurs with the arrival of the first copies of a book. Shipped straight from the printer, it’s the very first time that anyone gets to see a project – that’s typically been underway for over a year – as something other than flat sheets or a file on a screen. It’s a little hard to describe just how exciting cracking open that first box of books is. Finally being able to hold the finished, physical object in your hand; blurring your eyes a little over the cover, just in case you’ve spelt the authors name wrong (hasn’t happened yet, but there is always the sick-making fear). Typically, a bunch of people will be ooh-ing and ah-ing over it, while the editor peers through splayed fingers shrieking ‘I can’t look!’

So my novel is not quite at that stage yet. But a mini geek-fest was had nonetheless, as an advanced bound proof copy of Life in Outer Space has made its way to my house (bonus points to the postie who managed to throw it over my locked fence and land a direct hit on my doorstep, not in my trees or my next-door-neighbour’s yard, as periodically happens).

It has a cover, and a spine. It has my name on it (spelling a-ok). It’s going out into the world, to the hands of the sort of people who receive advanced proof copies – if you’re one of them, hello, welcome, would love to hear from you.

Next step: final proof read, then to press for real.
Michael approves.

The most remarkable book ever to come out of the publishing corporations of Ursa Minor

Like many people this week, I was glued to my computer watching the amazingness of human ingenuity as NASA’s Curiosity rover landed on Mars. I cheered. I hearted mohawk-guy. I resisted the urge to run home and dig out my old star wheel, because as a grown-up, you’re really not supposed to own a star wheel.

I may have been a bit of a space nerd as a kid. I’m not sure if this was inspired by my love of Wesley Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation, or if it was due to the fact that I had read and re-read Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy to the point where I could (and still can) recite the opening pages by heart. The Guide was given to me by one of my uncles when I was about ten years old, mainly to help me play the text-based Hitchhikers Guide computer game, one of a handful of games that my grandpa installed on his very first computer. I still remember the blank, black PC screen with a single line of orange text:

‘You wake up. The room is spinning very gently around your head. It dips and sways a little.’

I believe the appropriate response was to type:

‘Get out of bed.’

It was a lot more fun than it sounds.

So – I read The Guide. I understood about half of it. But regardless, up to this point, my childhood reading consisted of a steady diet of Enid Blyton, L.M. Montgomery and The Babysitters Club, and The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was the first grown-up book that opened my eyes to the fact that language itself could be as rich and absorbing and funny and clever as the story being told. It was the first book I remember that had a distinct and identifiable authorial voice, and it influenced my reading tastes to this day. 

I’ve gathered a few different versions over The Guide over the years, but my favourite is still my first copy; a small B-format paperback, battered and yellowed, spine cracked, pages dog-eared and some only tenuously attached. I know there is an ebook drinking game out there with my name on it; but one whiff of that musty smell of old paper, and I’m ensconced in front of my grandpa’s monochromatic PC with the book in hand, discovering a love of outer space, and cracking prose, and depressed yet lovable androids. 

I haven’t read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy in years, but I feel like a revisit is in order now. As I wade through the pre-press, pre-publication phase of my novel, my brain is on uncertainty overload, churning through every failure scenario as only a proper neurotic writer can do (including one disturbing dream where my novel is jacketed with an awful cover that has, like, a comic sans title and an Instagram photo of my face on the front. Nice work, subconscious).**

A comfort book is a thing every true book nerd understands. My library has grown a bit since I was ten, and there is a giant pile of new, unread books teetering on my bedside table; but even glancing at those first few lines of the Guide – far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy – is as reassuring as a cup of tea and a fuzzy warm blanket. 

** I have not seen the cover of my novel as yet, but I am pretty confident that it will feature neither comic sans, nor a picture of my face.

Final drafts and ‘Star Wars’ fishbowls

It’s done! The final draft of my novel has been dispatched to the expert hands of my editor, and I have succumbed to my standard pattern of a couple of mental high-fives and a brief happy dance, followed by sleepless nights of crushing insecurity. I know that that the manuscript is in the best shape it could possibly be; but at this stage, I am pretty sure I could recite the entire 70-odd thousand words by heart, and it’s a little difficult to see them with anything approaching fresh eyes. But, it is one step closer to becoming a real book, and I will be keeping my fingers and toes and other crossable bits crossed that the thumbs-up from my editor will be forthcoming.

In the meantime, the things I’m most excited about are:

  • Getting designed first pages
  • Being able to officially announce the title
  • Seeing the cover
  • Cleaning my desk

Over the last year my desk has become a bit of a haven for character-related props and other novel-esque ephemera. My protagonist has a Freddy Krueger stuffed doll? I, too, must own a Freddy Krueger stuffed doll! I know that this was partly because a hasty trip to the shops was my way of assuaging writers block – after all, tracking down a DVD of a movie that the character watches or a book that he reads was sort of related to the writing – but suffice to say, my credit card and Minotaur have become good friends over the past year.

Yes, that is a fishbowl of Star Wars plushes. I doubt there was a Woolies in Melbourne left un-plundered in my quest for the complete set. And believe it or not, I wasn’t a horror movie fan before I started writing this book. Except for The Evil Dead. The Evil Dead was always awesome…


So this is, officially, my very first blog post on my very first blog/website/interwebs page thingy. Huzzah! It’s a slightly odd thing to be writing because at this point no one is reading anyway, but nevertheless, I shall shout out into the void – welcome to my little corner of the web. 

Today, I am polishing what is hopefully the final draft of my first young adult novel, an as yet untitled romantic comedy that will be published in March 2013 by the wonderful folks at Hardie Grant Egmont. As a writer and book editor, I should probably be able to produce a searingly brilliant and insightful post about the editorial process; but really, after working on this novel solidly for over a year now, and with my final draft due tomorrow, the ‘process’ has come down to this: drinking copious amounts of coffee, and desperately thumbing through my thesaurus for synonyms for the word ‘scrambled’.

And procrastination. Oh, the procrastination. My word document shall be opened, and stared at, and closed again with nary a comma altered. The font on my blog will be changed, and changed again. Episodes of Game of Thrones will be watched. My house will be the cleanest it has been since the day before my last draft was due. 

Hopefully, searingly brilliant writerly insights might be possible in the future. But for now – I really just need another cup of coffee…