life in outer space

And some more award news…

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Fantabulous news over the weekend – Life in Outer Space has been shortlisted for the 2014 Prime Minister’s Literary Awards! The following books were shortlisted in each award category:

Fiction

A World of Other People by Steven Carroll (HarperCollins)
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan (Vintage Australia)
The Night Guest by Fiona McFarlane (Penguin: Hamish Hamilton)
Coal Creek by Alex Miller (Allen & Unwin)
Belomor by Nicolas Rothwell (Text Publishing)

Non-Fiction

Moving Among Strangers by Gabrielle Carey (University of Queensland Press)
The Lucky Culture by Nick Cater (HarperCollins Publishers)
Citizen Emperor by Philip Dwyer (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Rendezvous with Destiny by Michael Fullilove (Penguin)
Madeleine: A Life of Madeleine St John by Helen Trinca (Text Publishing)

Prize for Australian History

Broken Nation: Australians in the Great War by Joan Beaumont (Allen & Unwin)
First Victory 1914 by Mike Carlton (Random House)
Australia’s Secret War: How unionists sabotaged our troops in World War II by Hal G.P. Colebatch (Quadrant Books)
Arthur Phillip: Sailor, Mercenary, Governor, Spy by Michael Pembroke (Hardie Grant Books)
The Forgotten Rebels of Eureka by Clare Wright (Text Publishing)

Poetry

Tempo by Sarah Day (Puncher & Wattmann Poetry)
Eldershaw by Stephen Edgar (Black Pepper)
1953 by Geoff Page (University of Queensland Press)
Drag Down to Unlock or Place an Emergency Call by Melinda Smith (Pitt Street Poetry)
Chains of Snow by Jakob Ziguras (Pitt Street Poetry)

Young Adult Fiction

The Incredible Here and Now by Felicity Castagna (Giramondo)
Pureheart by Cassandra Golds (Penguin)
Girl Defective by Simmone Howell (Pan Macmillan)
Life in Outer Space by Melissa Keil (Hardie Grant Egmont)
The First Third by Will Kostakis (Penguin)

Children’s Fiction

Silver Buttons by Bob Graham (Walker Books )
Song for a Scarlet Runner by Julie Hunt (Allen & Unwin)
My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg (Allen & Unwin)
Kissed by the Moon by Alison Lester (Puffin)
Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan (Hachette)

Congratulations to all the shortlisted authors – my must-read pile is now teetering precariously, but I’m looking forward to getting stuck into some of these wonderful books. You can read more about the award here, and the official Prime Minister’s Literary Awards press release here.

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Your manuscript, the director’s cut: editing and second draft blues

image copyright savagechickens.com

Possibly the hardest piece of editorial advice to accept is the suggestion that bits of your writing should be cut. When you’ve slavishly toiled over every word in your first draft, slashing them from your pages again can be sort of heartbreaking. You love ALL THE DETAILS you’ve created for your characters, and you want everyone else to love them too! The layout of the bathrooms in your space station on Zargon Four is REALLY COOL and NEEDS the eighteen pages of description that you have devoted to them!

One of the trickiest lessons to learn as a writer is to trust in your own words. Trust that you’ll probably need to write far more in your first draft, while you’re discovering your characters and your world, than will ever need to make it onto your final pages. Trust that sometimes a paragraph may not be necessary when a sentence or two will convey the same sentiment. And trust that your readers will be able to make the leaps you want them to make, without every infinitesimal detail sketched out for them.

Here is a little example from my novel, Life in Outer Space. No real spoilers here – this is the opening of a chapter early in the book, which gives a bit of background on one of the main character’s best friends. The first version is the paragraph as it was written in the original draft. The second version is the same section of text as it appears in the final book.

Original manuscript:

Adrian and I met in kindergarten when we were four. At least, that’s what Mum tells me. It’s not like I can remember the actual day he walked into my life. I don’t remember a significant incident, a montage of conversations in the sandpit that would change our lives forever or anything like that. Fact is, I just can’t remember a time when Adrian wasn’t around. The earliest Adrian-memories that have stuck are of him falling down a lot. Not being shoved over by arse-faced bullies — that would come later. I remember Adrian just walking over flat ground and then no longer being upright. His mum always says that he took longer than everyone else to learn to coordinate his arms and legs, but I have my own theory. Adrian Radley always had more stuff going on inside his head than the synapses of his brain could cope with. When we were kids, this meant that he’d be thinking about his play lunch, and the park, and about the episode of Dragonball-Z he’d watched that morning, and about fifty billion things he wanted to say to me all at the one time. Now it means the parts of Adrian’s brain that are thinking and the parts that are controlling his mouth are usually having different conversations. Sometimes in different conference rooms. Often, in different countries. If Mike is the brother I never had, then Adrian is the Chernobyl-born cousin who came for a visit and never left. I guess some people enter your orbit and get stuck in your gravity, and there’s nothing either of you can do about it.

Final draft:

Adrian and I met in kinder when we were four. At least, that’s what Mum tells me. It’s not like I can remember the actual day he walked into my life. I don’t remember a montage of conversations in the sandpit that would change our lives forever or anything like that. I just can’t remember a time when Adrian wasn’t around.
If Mike is the brother I never had, then Adrian Radley is the possibly inbreed cousin who came for a visit and never left. I guess some people enter your orbit and get stuck, and there’s nothing either of you can do about it.

 

[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]

Conversations with imaginary friends…

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I love characters. As a reader, my favourite books are those where I can turn the final page and imagine the characters continuing on with their lives. I want to love them, but I’m okay with occasionally loathing them too. I want to care about them enough to send fictitious hugs when things aren’t going their way (or fictitious butt-kicks, when butt kicks are warranted). I don’t need to like them all the time, but I do need to be invested in their stories. As a reader, I live for a good book hangover; being so absorbed in the lives of make-believe people that I don’t want to say goodbye.

One of the best parts of writing a first draft is getting to know my new characters, and seeing them grow from mere crumbs of an idea, to people who feel like fully formed humans. I love living with them, walking around with them nattering in my head, and I love making decisions that steer them in certain directions and then seeing how those directions play out. There’s nothing cooler than being stuck on a plot point, and having a character give you the answer. In other words, I’m probably more ‘pantser’ than ‘plotter’.**

Here’s an example from Life in Outer Space

[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]

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…)

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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]

And more award news…

In a week that continues to be unreal, Life in Outer Space has been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year 2014, Older Readers. In the children’s publishing departments where I have worked, there’s a bit of a tradition on shortlist day, of poring over the CBCA website while undertaking multiple refreshes as the announcements roll out. As an editor, it is always exciting to see a book you’ve been involved with being recognized; I can’t describe how cool, and wonderfully overwhelming it is to see my book up there too.

Giant thanks to the CBCA judges, and to my amazing Ampersand publishers at Hardie Grant Egmont. And, a heartfelt congratulations to all the other notable and shortlisted authors! Looking forward to catching up on some reading between now and the August Book Week announcement…

2014 CBCA Older Readers

 

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.

 

Happy (almost) bookiversary, Sam and Camilla…

It’s been almost a year since Life in Outer Space became a real thing. I haven’t had much reflection time lately, as I’ve had my head (and other assorted parts) firmly wedged in the editorial world of my new novel**. Suffice to say, it’s been a fun, surreal, humbling, exciting, and very weird year. A year ago, I could never have predicted the wonderful response that the book would receive, or the lovely people who would give it a boost on its journey. So to everyone who has bought it, borrowed it, read it, recommended it or reviewed it – thank you. Virtual hugs are being dispatched to each and every one of you.

In light of the fact that my life recently has consisted of nothing much more than re-writes of my manuscript, watching Parks and Recreation, and trying not to melt in Melbourne’s apocalyptic heat wave, I thought I would spend a few posts looking back at some highlights of the past year. One of my fav bits of the last twelve months has been hearing from people who have connected with the book (see, I just can’t bring myself to say that I have ‘fans’. But you know. You guys).

So here is some awesome Life in Outer Space art, by the extraordinary Angelyn. Her Sam and Camilla made me swoonish when I first saw these, and they are basically exactly what I had in my head. You can find more of her work and other things here.

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** (That new book should have a title, and a cover, soonish. Stay tuned!)