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Judging the ya books of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards

I was watch­ing a news report of 96-year old artist Dickie Miny­in­tiri win­ning the National Abo­rig­i­nal and Tor­res Strait Island Art Award last week and couldn’t help but gawk wide-eyed when the cam­eras showed us his and a hand­ful of other art­works that had been nom­i­nated for the prize. They’re cur­rently on dis­play at the Museum and Art Gallery of the North­ern Ter­ri­tory and you can view them online too – it’s worth tak­ing a few moments to browse through. They’re beau­ti­ful, strik­ing pieces of art and I remem­ber sit­ting there think­ing, I have no idea how the judges set­tled on one piece of art when each looks to be its own unique and won­drous beast.

And I realised I’d done exactly that myself only a month or so ago when I judged the Young Adult cat­e­gory of the Vic­to­rian Premier’s Lit­er­ary Awards. No doubt judg­ing indige­nous art seemed like a her­culean task to me because I don’t have the same expe­ri­ence and cul­tural ref­er­ence points that I do for teen lit­er­a­ture, although Aus­tralian YA also had its fair share of unique and won­drous beasts pub­lished over the past year.

The actual judg­ing of the Vic Premier’s awards with Mike Shut­tle­worth and Leesa Lam­bert of The Lit­tle Book­room was a blast. With so many books to dis­cuss, each meet­ing we had was like tak­ing part in a book club on steroids. There were opin­ions fly­ing every­where, books being waved pas­sion­ately about in the air and a truck­load of fun being had (by me any­way, who knows what Mike and Leesa thought of all my opin­ions and book waving).

One of the most pleas­ant things about judg­ing the awards was read­ing each of the 70 or so books we were sent and for each one think­ing: Yep, I can see who the reader of this book would be. It’s for adven­tur­ous boys with a sen­si­tive side, it’s for slightly with­drawn girls aged 13–15, it’s for ‘class clowns’ at around 14 years, etc. Not that match­ing a per­ceived audi­ence to a book is part of the judg­ing process, and maybe it’s the tiny bit of book­seller inside me, but I found it com­fort­ing as I read through the books to match each one up with a reader in my mind.

I read a lot of teen fic­tion over the course of two months and got a pretty good idea of the spread of YA pub­lish­ing in Aus­tralia at the moment. It was par­tic­u­larly cool to see the rise of the urban fan­tasy novel, as noted in our judges’ obser­va­tions, where we were also able to name drop some nov­els that didn’t make the short­list, namely Lili Wikinson’s A Pock­et­ful of Eyes, Mar­i­anne de Pierre’s Burn Bright, Scot Gardner’s The Dead I Know, Rebecca Lim’s Mercy, Rebecca Burton’s Beyond Evie, Leanne Hall’s This Is Shy­ness, Ursula Dubosarsky’s The Golden Day and Laura Buzo’s Good Oil. Hooray for all of these books. They deserve to be bor­rowed from libraries, writ­ten on shop­ping lists and marked as ‘to-read’ on book­wormy social net­work­ing sites.

But of course the biggest to-dos must be saved for the three books on the short­list: The Life of a Teenage Body-Snatcher by Doug McLeod, The Three Loves of Per­sim­mon by Cas­san­dra Golds and Graf­fiti Moon by Cath Crow­ley. Three highly orig­i­nal nov­els, each more than wor­thy of win­ning the over­all YA award. I’ll be at the awards din­ner next month, cheer­ing all three of them on – even though I already know who wins.

Writing with St Peter Julian Eymard Primary School

I had the plea­sure of going out to Moorool­bark a few days ago to visit grades 3, 4, 5 and 6 stu­dents at St Peter Julia Eymard Pri­mary School to talk all things authorly, pass on some writ­ing tips and debate who is the best foot­ball team (North Mel­bourne, of course).

The kids wrote some super short sto­ries together and illus­trated book cov­ers to go with them too. They were an ener­getic bunch and we came up with a cou­ple of pretty com­pelling tales. Here they are for your enjoyment.

THE LONELIEST GNOME EVER

by 3/4H, St Peter Julian Eymard Pri­mary School

There once lived an angry gar­den gnome lonely inside. The gnome looked out­side and saw all the other, colour­ful happy gnomes. He was angry that he couldn’t be like them. So he started wear­ing black over­alls and a black T-shirt and a black top hat which unim­pressed his own­ers so they put him out­side and his clothes turned colour­ful and his mous­tache turned orange.

THE TIME TRAVELING SCIENTIST WITH BAD HAIR

By 5/6J, St Peter Julian Eymard Pri­mary School

Fred was a sci­en­tist. He was very smart but had lava lamp hair. He built a time machine in his back­yard and went back in time to his most recent hair­cut. Turns out, it was him­self cut­ting his own hair. He ends up giv­ing him­self a con­cus­sion with the lava lamp that inspired his haircut.

a blog post tribute to the telegram

it is fas­ci­nat­ing to think back to the days when there was no inter­net and a lot of com­mu­ni­ca­tion took place via telegrams STOP and so I have decided to write this blog post in the style of a telegram from yes­ter­year COLON with­out punc­tu­a­tion STOP you may have already noticed just how hard it is to read a piece of writ­ing COMMA or any­thing for that mat­ter COMMA when there is no punc­tu­a­tion STOP it is kind of like lis­ten­ing to a per­son talk­ing in a mono­syl­labic style EN DASH is any­one else read­ing this in a stephen hawk­ing voice or is it just me QUESTION MARK any­ways I won­der what the old timey peo­ple would have thought of a word like any­ways being in a telegram ELLIPSIS FOR DRAMATIC EFFECT they prob­a­bly would have thought it was just a typo or as they would have called it a QUOTE MARKS typo­graph­i­cal error END QUOTE MARKS AND STOP yes COMMA indeed COMMA telegrams sure would have made peo­ples APOSTROPHE NO WAIT DOESNT THE APOSTROPHE GO AT THE END IF THE WORD AFTER IT IS POSSESSED BY SOMETHING PLURAL LIKE PEOPLE NO WAIT SORRY I GOT IT WRONG THE APOSTROPHE GOES AFTER THE S OF PEOPLES AND BEFORE WE GET TO LIVES SORRY CARRY ON AS YOU WERE lives eas­ier but they would have been painful to read all the time STOP wow EXCLAMATION MARK is any­one still read­ing this after all that QUESTION MARK per­son­ally I think I’m done with this telegram style of punc­tu­a­tion STOP I am not really a fan of read­ing text with­out para­graphs HASHTAG first­world­prob­lems STOP over and out STOP andrew KISS AND HUG

My First Video Blog Post

Writing with the kids of Maryborough

I headed out to the Vic­to­rian Gold­fields last week, not to look for gold for I was 160 years too late for that, but to visit grades four, five and six stu­dents from Mary­bor­ough Edu­ca­tion Cen­tre. The kids from MEC hung out with me at the Mary­bor­ough Library and lis­tened as I told sob sto­ries about my child­hood (my pri­mary school crushes were never ful­filled) and explained how I turned my sob sto­ries into a novel (turns out mis­ery makes for good stories).

They were an enthu­si­as­tic bunch of kids who treated me very well and were keen to do some quick group writ­ing too. Together we came up with a cou­ple of short sto­ries involv­ing giant tacos, foot­ball and luu­urve! You can check them out below. And to the kids, librar­i­ans and teach­ers of Mary­bor­ough — thanks for hav­ing me! *waves from Melbourne*