Tiny stories

One of the questions I was asked recently by a young fan (whoa, I have those!) is what things I am watching on YouTube. Which made me doubly excited, because a) this young fan was aware of how obsessed I am with YouTube, and b) I got to talk about cool stuff I’m watching online. I love short stories, written or otherwise. Regardless of the medium, it takes a particular skill and cleverness to make you care about characters, or invest in a narrative in a compressed amount of time. While there are plenty of amazing live-action short films out there, I’ve chosen a handful of my favourite animated shorts, some of which are clever, funny, moving, inspiring, or simply a diverting couple of minutes from the real world. Like the best books, what they all have in common is that they made me want to re-visit them as soon as I had finished, and they made me want to share them with everyone I know.

Marcel the Shell with Shoes On

Possibly one of the cutest things ever. Featuring a ‘dog’ named Allen.

Pigeon: Impossible

Bond meets Stop the Pigeon (if you can’t remember Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, look that up on YouTube as well).

[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]

When the words are not your friends

There are many moments in the life of every novel, when the thought of trying to write feels like this:

Avengers 2You know that the ideas you need are somewhere in the murky depths of your brain, but now, they’re stubbornly, and persistently, refusing to surface. Frustration with your own uselessness starts to build, till you’re feeling like this:

Avengers 3Here are a few things I’ve found useful for navigating around writers block:

Write whatever excites you

Avengers 4

The writing gods have bestowed upon you the kernel of an awesome idea – a Viking ship! Trapped in a frozen fjord! Overrun by zombies! You’ve breathlessly begun penning the scene-setting opening chapters, but now, you have no idea how to get your Viking from the tavern in Gokstad to the fateful encounter with the Longship? Leave that bit aside for now. Don’t save up the writing you’re passionate about in order to fill in first-draft plot holes, or while you figure out the geography of a fjord. Maybe you’re desperate to write the big romantic resolution, or the epic battle scene, or maybe you’re dying to use this one great line that you know belongs in the last chapter. Write whatever elicits an emotion. Write whatever scene or piece of scene or sliver of dialogue you feel like writing right at that moment. Write whatever makes you want to return to the pages of your world, whatever motivates you to keep on going, in whatever order that happens to be in. Keep in mind that when you are genuinely stuck, sometimes you need to jump ahead in order to figure out what goes before…

[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 one where I get to talk about comic books…

tumblr_mzam93QGoB1smcbm7o1_250So you have an idea. A persistent something that has gnawed at your brain doggedly enough for you to start jotting it down. You’re getting to know your characters, and laying down the brickwork on the bumpy path that will become your plot. What next? Well – unless you’re writing a real-time testimonial of your own life (mine might be called Girl Who Stares at Computer and Drinks Many Teas) – you’ll probably need to do some research.

Astonishingly, most fiction authors are not in fact experts in every worldly field. Whether your book is set in a suburb that isn’t your own, or on a space station orbiting Pluto – whether your character is a forensic genius or plays the flute or is champion chess boxer (yes that is a thing) – chances are, your story will demand knowledge of some things that are unfamiliar to you. Writers always walk a line between creating their own worlds, which they set the rules for, and ensuring those rules make at least some real-world sense. Bringing into existence another person who has skills that are not yours can be pretty daunting. There’s always the fear of getting something wrong, or simply of being ill-equipped to execute the story you want to tell…

[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…

fall-in-love-with-all-the-fictional-characters

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…)

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

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!)

Life in Outer Space – the US blog tour

LiOS US coverLife in Outer Space is on the road! Check out these blogs for reviews and other LiOS hijinks…

Monday

Blue Owl Reviews

Tuesday
Maestra Amanda’s Bookshelf
Boys to Books

Wednesday
Gidget’s Bookworms

Thursday
A Word’s Worth

Friday
Check back right here for a chance to win a copy!

Monday (Oct. 21)
Random Chalk Talk

Tuesday (Oct. 22)
Dear Teen Me