04 December 2012

Christmas memories

My earliest solid memory of Christmas was when I was six.  My sister, the mean one, (ok - I was the youngest; all my siblings were mean) took me in to the neighbours back shed and showed me where my parents were hiding our presents.
'See?  There is no Father Christmas you dummie.'
I cried.  I cried loudly.  It was little consolation that my sister was severely punished when I ran bawling back to mum and dobbed on her.  In my mind she was tied to a stake and burned to a crisp but I don't think that really happened.  I never saw any scars anyway, either mental or physical.  Basically my mean sister got away with destroying my childhood with one swift, well-aimed blow to my psyche and Christmas was never the same again.

Finding out that Santa wasn't real was a terrible jolt to my six year old mind.  It ranked alongside discovering there were no tiny people singing and playing weeny instruments inside the radio.  That Grandpop's blood sausage didn't taste like chocolate. (Yep - mean sister again.) That falling stars weren't actually whole falling stars but just the cosmos' way of burning off its rubbish.  That when my elderly neighbour shouted  'Look behind you, Zorro!' while watching the television, he couldn't actually hear her.  It also took rather too long to discover that paying my brother to polish his shoes was not a privilige and that it was actually unreasonable to have to pay him twice if the shine wasn't quite up to scratch. I grew up in a time when belief in things like these was entirely plausible - we had no Google to check our facts. All my facts came via my untrustworthy siblings and don't even get me started on the lifetime of falsehoods my brother told me.  He's still doing it, but just for the record, I know now that the reason you know it's me calling, bro, is not because you work for ASIO...

It's almost a relief to know there are still a few remnant populations tucked away in the suburbs whose parents are still inculcating lies like Santa and Falling Stars into their children's heads.  I do have some small concerns for those kids whose parents have purchased Elf On A Shelf and stuck that little tattletale in their children's bedrooms to report back to Santa on wether they've been naughty or nice.  I'm inclined to think those kids might need some expert help later on.  I want to give my grandchildren Christmas stocking and tell them Santa brought these but my daughter is more inclined to tell them these things are likely manufactured by underpaid Chinese labour and contributing to global warming.  I don't think she's actually told them this yet but the chances are high that she will. 

All I really have left to show for Christmas is my Cake.  Yes, Cake with a capital C.  The fruit is soaked for a full year in fabulous brandy.  Then in September gigantic duck eggs are sought and a dozen cracked open and beaten with kilos of brown sugar and rich yellow butter.  There are almost 3 kilo of various dried fruit in the bowl and I have to use my hands to mix it all.  After it's baked the Cake is covered in homemade marzipan and then with another layer of Christmas icing - also home made.  I love my Cake.  I unwrap it on Christmas day and wrap a ribbon round it then place it high on the Christmas Cake Plate in the centre of the table.  We eat it with hard sauce.

But not me, not this year.  This year I will just take great lungsful of the fruity aroma as others dig in because this Christmas I'm going to Avoid Those Calories. 

Christmas just isn't going to be the same.  But I hope Santa comes...

Have a wonderful holiday everyone.  Our office is closed from December 17th till January 7th.  That's plenty of time to write a blockbuster for us, right?

17 October 2012

Vale Max Fatchen

The old bus slowed to a complete stop this week as we heard the sad news of our dear friend and eminent children's author Max Fatchen's passing. We all have our favourite memories of Max and his gentle spirit will be missed.

Max, we hope you are paddling in the sun in a better place.

Max by Tom Jellett in Australia at the Beach

08 October 2012

Sorting my bookshelf

This is a very beautiful, special Spring.  Maybe, as a friend commented this morning, it's because of all the rain we have had.  Maybe it's just a gift from the universe but it is magical to see the blossom on all the trees, the flowers everywhere in gardens and on the verges and to feel the softness in the air after winter.  It brings with it the urge to clean and sort and dump unwanted/uneeded stuff.  I have no idea why but spring cleaning is a real phenomenon in my house.  My own version of this has been to sort my bookshelves and as I have been doing this I have reflected on just how much work books really are in my life. 

Owning books requires one to house them somewhere - obviously - and this requires furniture and the takeup of space. Since I have a small house, not wishing to burden the universe with my heating and cooling bills, my space is limited.   The books take up rather a large proportion of it.  Not only that but they get dusty. I have to clean the shelves and the books themselves and not being a perfect housekeeper this can be a big chore when I do finally get to it.  Then once a year I need to cull.  Take some off the shelves and donate them to the Lion's bookshop  which is where a lot of them came from in the first place.  This process is very time consuming.  I am a reluctant culler of books, possibly because I have trouble identifying what I may never want to read again.  After all,I got the books in the first place because I wanted to own them, right?  It is easiest with what I would describe as fast fiction.  Books that are just time fillers; the sort you leave behind in the holiday house or hotel  because to take it further is a waste of your bag space.  Patricia Cornwell, Maeve Binchy, Robert Ludlum; books of that ilk get culled mercilessly.  But all the rest undergo a patient scrutiny that can make the job a very long one indeed and since I have a habit of using anything to hand as a bookmark I first have to flick the book open to see what might be hidden between the pages. 

Recently I was helping Emily Rodda, aka Jenny Rowe prepare for the Blue Mountains book sale she and a friend organise each year.  This involves wiping each book carefully with Mr Sheen (who'd have thought?) and following this with a flick of the pages.  The most fascinating things flick out sometimes. Death notices, photographs, newspaper review cuttings.  We looked at what people had culled from their collections - rather a lot of the aforementioned style of works made up the bulk - but there were also a great number of the coffee table style of book that appears to have gone out of fashion.  The sort that have been 'hand made' by Chinese workers applying top and tail bands, ribbons, sticking down the hard covers.  The kind that don't fit on any ordinary presses.  I was soon lost in thought about the place all those books had once occupied in the lives of their owners.  Some so well-worn they were barely holding together.  Others looking as thought they had never been opened.

All this reflection leads me to the 21st century's recent offering to book lovers - the e-book.  No shelving.  No dusting  Heartless culling at the flash of a finger because, probably, the hard drive is full, and anyone can write one which means - what?  Definitely it has led to bookstores closing down so fast the books haven't had time to leave their cartons.  Is literature is being debased by things like FSOG becoming a multi zillion best seller?  Should we worry that now anyone can write a book without the aid of an editor or publisher?  Does anyone care about standards in literature anymore or are we all keen to leave those rubbishy books behind in cyberspace, hidden forever from dust, needing no shelves, taking up no room in our homes or our hearts?

I return to my floor, my enormous pile of dusty books. I replace them, dusting as I go, one by one. 
Turns out I haven't got any unwanted books this year.
I eye the bookcase.  It's not so big really; a very good friend like this doesn't take up a lot of space my in life when I think about it.  And besides, my grandchildren have so much fun pulling the books off the shelves.   
I think I will try the kitchen cupboards next.  I'm sure I'll find at least two veggie peelers I dont want.

04 October 2012

Spring books

The spring air has warmed up the vegie oil in the ol' bus and we are jugging along at our top speed (a leisurely stroll) as we head into the best book-buying time of year (yes, it's time to talk Christmas in the retail world). Let's have a peek, shall we?

Following the success of Clancy the Courageous Cow comes a new picture book by the talented Lachie Hume. It doesn't matter how many times you (have to) read it, 'haystation' is always funny.

Speaking of Christmas (sorry, I mentioned it again), if you have to make an early purchase to post to a small person overseas, The Gift by Penny Matthews (illustrated by Martin McKenna) would make a super neat package.

For the bigger young people, we have the incomparable, inimitable Be Home for Armageddon by Luke Edwards. Guaranteed wackiness.

And for the history buffs, the latest from the ever-mysterious LS Lawrence, Hammering Iron. In this novel set in ancient Greece, Paramon's destiny is to discover a secret that will change everything, a secret that men will not hesitate to kill for ...

And that's not all! Check back soon for more lovely, lovely picture books and summer reading!

24 July 2012

RIP Margaret Mahy

We are sad today to hear of the death of Margaret Mahy, superhero children's author and the first non-British author to be awarded the Carnegie Medal. Mahy was a New Zealander who worked as a children's librarian and wrote her early novels at night after her two daughters were in bed. The author of over 100 picture books and 40 novels, Mahy will be sadly missed.

The Moon & Farmer McPhee by Margaret Mahy, winner of theNew Zealand Post Children's Book of the Year award 2011 

12 July 2012

July books

This month we're very excited to see our new favourite picture book (we have a new favourite every month!) out on shelves and already being mentioned (thanks, Readings). A brilliant new collaboration between sparkling new author Emma Allen and the incomparable Freya Blackwood, The Terrible Suitcase is the story of a little girl's first day of school and how she copes with the tremendous injustice of being given a terrible suitcase instead of the red rocket backpack she wanted for her new school bag.

Also out this month is a time travelling adventure from new-to-kids'-books author Craig Cormick. Time Vandals crosses time, continents and even into zombie-land as Time Rangers Mai and Jack attempt to put the space-time-continuum back to 'normal'. It's hard to know whether to be more worried about whether Ixi the garden gnome in disguise can be trusted or whether the rampaging gargoyle will finally catch up with them. The only way to find out is to read on!

Congratulations, Mr Lawrence!

We're very pleased to note the appearance of the mysterious Mr L.S. Lawrence's latest book, Horses for King Arthur, on the shortlist for the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards. Lovely! Congratulations, Mr Lawrence! And to his fans, look out soon for his next epic historical novel, Hammering Iron, out in September.

04 July 2012

New Unsolicited Manuscript Guidelines

We've been struggling with the work associated with the hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts we receive at Omnibus for a very long time now and finally the time has come to stop. We just don't have enough time to enter, read, return and re-enter the looming pile anymore. But rather than stop reading we have decided to change the rules.  So please pay close attention!

If you look on the web here you will see that we have totally re-jigged our guidelines.

1. NO manuscripts will be returned, regardless of whether or not they include return postage. So don't include a stamped self-addressed envelope anymore.

2. You will ONLY hear from us if you are successful. If you don't hear within three months assume you were unsuccessful and try elsewhere.

3. We will not let you know your manuscript arrived. Assume the postie is good at his or her job and will deliver it safely or return it to you if you've put your address on it.

4. Don't call us to ask if your work has been read yet. We haven't got time to answer any queries and we can't anyway because we no longer enter unsolicited work onto a database.

5. Don't send anything original (as in you don't keep a copy) because we will be putting all unsuccessful work into a secure paper recycling bin. And don't worry, this is a very safe system. No one will be able to read/steal your work. It gets shredded in a giant commercial shredder. We pay for this system.

6. There is absolutely no advantage in sending your submission with a cover letter from an Assessment Agency. We highly recommend that applicants avoid this expensive process completely, as the letters make no difference whatsoever in our final decision on whether work will be published or not.

BUT WE WILL READ EVERYTHING!  We always did, we always will. That's how we discovered Marcus Zusak, Michael Gerard Bauer, Lyn Lee and a host of other award-winning super-successful writers. We know you're in that pile somewhere ... and we will find you if you are.

If your work is already here with its stamped self-addressed envelope then we will faithfully return it to you but in a very short while we will not. All the rest of the guidelines are up on the web - go see for yourself.

Every night I get on my knees and pray for a monster best-seller to appear in the unsolicited pile. If the nuns were right then I probably shouldn't hold my breath. But as my dear mother likes to say - live in hope, even if you die in despair.

A note from your Conductor

11 June 2012

Wintery reading

There's nothing quite as nice as popping into your local bookshop on a cold and frosty day for a browse of the shelves. The hush, the smell of ink, and the feel of all that solid paper is always a treat. The new books from Omnibus you might see on the shelves this winter are all warming and guaranteed to smell slightly of ink.

The much-anticipated The Friendship Matchmaker Goes Undercover by the inimitable Randa Abdel-Fattah is out in June. How will Lara manage her new best-friendship with Tanya, as well as continuing her friendship matchmaking duties? She goes undercover, of course! And how do we think this will work out? Oh, Lara, you have a heart of 10-carat gold and we love you in spite of your many and varied faults.

There is also book 2 of the Tales of the Blue Jade series by Peter Cooper, The Mapmaker's Apprentice. Fill up your hot-water bottle and keep cosy as Dillen, Koto and Tajni trek through the icy mountain pass on their next quest. 

'Once again Cooper has captured the reader’s imagination and their heart, familiar characters leap of the page and new characters tweak the reader’s interest.
The Mapmaker’s Apprentice weaves together themes of courage, friendship, overcoming hardship ... resulting in yet another spectacular book in this anticipated series. Twists and turns within the plot keep young readers turning the pages hungrily to see what Dillen and his friends will face next.
Overall a stunning story, Cooper does not disappoint. A highly recommended read for younger and older readers alike. 10/10!' - bugreviews.wordpress.com

For those of you hanging out to see how Raven Lucas is going in her search for her missing father, wait no longer! Raven Lucas 2: Dead Wrong by the ever-spirited Christina Harris is out now.

But don't worry, summer will return and Wombat is here to remind you what that might be like. Yes, One Woolly Wombat is turning 30! He hasn't aged a day, has he? Happy birthday, you dear old wombat.

21 May 2012

Q&A with Peter Cooper

Out this month is is the exciting second book in Peter Cooper's Tales of the Blue Jade fantasy series. Peter blogs regularly here but today we have him right here on the ol' bus to tell us about his writing process. And if you'd like to test your knowledge on the series so far, head on over here and take a quiz!

How long did it take you to write The Ghost of Ping-Ling?

All up close to eight years, although the story evolved so much I probably wrote closer to four different novels in that time. 

Do you procrastinate?

It depends a little on whether I'm writing or editing. When I'm editing I can occasionally drift off to check email or the news or stare aimlessly into space. I tend to be more focussed when I'm writing because I'm caught up in the creative process.

Are you an early-morning or late-at-night writer?

If I could choose my optimal writing time it would be from around 8 am to early afternoon. That seems to be when my head is clearest and I'm most able to focus. However, because I work full time my writing tends to happen between about 8 pm and 10 pm. I'm not as productive as I would be earlier in the day but I usually manage to get a good amount done.

Where did you get the idea for The Ghost of Ping-Ling?

From many places over a long period of time. The story started life as a satirical take on Lord of the Rings (believe it or not) and then as time went by it became less satirical and less like Lord of the Rings, until eventually it took on a life of its own. The idea of setting it in an Asian-style world came later in the form of an 'aha' moment and was mostly inspired by my love of the television series Monkey, as well as Journey to the West which the TV series was based on.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?

When I was about 12. It was a science-fiction saga called 'Children of the Empire', about a future human empire populated entirely by children. They would listen to loud music in their spaceships and all kinds of cool things like that. It probably won't be in print any time soon.

What does your family think of your writing?

My twin five-year-old sons are my biggest fans. Whenever we go into a bookshop they find my book and yell out that it's 'Daddy's book!' then busily look for their names in the front. They were quite put out when book 2 had Mummy's name in the front instead of theirs.

What are you reading at the moment?

I have a few books on the go, including Emily Rodda's Wizard of Rondo and a book of short stories by Sean Williams. I just started reading Artemis Fowl which is incredible. I'm also reading my sons the Hobbit, which we're all enjoying immensely.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

When I was a teenager all I wanted to do was join the Navy, but they knocked me back on medical grounds. Then I wanted to be an archaeologist and an explorer, and I actually went to uni to study archaeology though I quickly found out it wasn't as exciting as Indiana Jones made it look. Eventually I settled on engineering, although it took me until my late 20s to reach that point.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?

Spending time with my family rates highest. I also like bike riding and recently I've started doing Judo, which I really enjoy although it's a constant reminder that I'm no longer 20 years old.

When was the last time you went on a bus?

A few weeks ago, when I pulled a hamstring muscle at Judo and couldn't ride my bike to work. It was a nice ride but alas not my preferred mode of transport.

04 May 2012


I am off to Darwin next week to speak at WordStorm, the Northern Territory's literature festival.  This is definitely a treat - not only for the opportunity to escape these cold Adelaide mornings as I walk to the bus covered in all the woolens I can find, but also because it's years (let's see, my youngest was eight when we last visited and he turns 21 this year) since I was last there.  Darwin is a long way from the rest of Australia but such a remarkable part of our country that I am very much looking forward to returning.  I only wish I had the opportunity to visit some of the more spectacular places while there, but sadly that is very unikely.  I hope to have the opportunity to meet and talk with plenty of N.T. writers and illustrators - in particular indigenous creators.  It has long been my wish to publish more indigenous writers and illustrators to complement Omnibus' wonderful backlist in this area.  So if you will be there, come up and say hello.  If you are an illustrator be sure to have a portfolio somewhere handy - include your sketch books; these are where I get most of my inspiration.  Our author Leonie Norrington lives in the Top End and I was excited to be able to visit her 'in situ' so to speak.  But Murphy's Law says Leonie will be in France when I am in Darwin.
Let's hope I get another opportunity to visit in the future.

 ABC radio have just started a monthly on-air bookclub.  They look like starting with our very own Monster Blood Tattoo.  I will post more when I have the details.

I have been thinking a lot about the list recently.  I am really keen to find new writers - people who are capable of realist fiction with powerful narrative and strong story lines. In the past couple of months the in-box has been crowded with picture books again.   I need three new Mates too - if you don't know what these are take a look at the link.

And this picture is not related to any of this post at all, but simply proves I'm doing more than reading on the weekend.

My first croquembouche.
A note from your Conductor.

02 May 2012

Q&A with Edwina Howard

The Ice-cream War was discovered by our intrepid Conductor on one of her expeditions into the Slush Pile (unfortunate industry slang for 'ever-growing mountain of unsolicited manuscripts'), a term that, in this particular case, is hilariously appropriate because this book is all about frozen goodies (slushies, geddit?).
Awkward punning aside, first-time author Edwina Howard is a rare find and so we thought you might like to find out a little bit more about her. We asked her the Omnibus Eleven Questions to get to the bottom of her genius.
How long did it take you to write The Ice-Cream War?
I guess it took about five years from the time the very first idea trickled into my head. But it only took about six months of solid work.
Do you procrastinate?
Well, I don’t think of it as procrastination exactly, but I have noticed that if you delay things for long enough they frequently either cease to need doing or you simply forget they ever needed doing.
Are you an early-morning or late-at-night writer?
I am the Nite Riter! Remember me when you look at the night sky … (Sorry, that’s a rather sad Mad Max reference.)  I’m not so much of a morning person any more, probably because I do most of my writing late at night, hence creating a vicious-circle-type effect.
Where did you get the idea for The Ice-Cream War?
In my first ever writing notebook I wrote 'something about ice-cream' which seemed terribly cliched. I started asking a few what if questions, tried to turn it around a little, and it went from there. Jake simply came to life in my head, and I wanted an animal character who wasn’t remotely cutesy (as none of my animals ever are). It seemed like a fun thing to pull ice-cream around in an ice-cream cart. Plus I listened to the radio and they were talking about getting boys to read. I kind of thought, well, if it’s funny and fast moving it should be entertaining. Reading should be fun.
Have you ever had your own Shetland pony?
Sadly I have never owned a Shetland pony. I was lucky enough to own a very clever 13.2hh bay pony called Tommy who was incredibly cunning and always played plenty of tricks.  He had a particular way of peeking at you beneath from his forelock which is pure Hoppy.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I have always been terribly lazy. My stories have always taken place in my head. It took until my mid-thirties to start committing anything at all to paper!
What does your family think of your writing?
Sometimes they probably wish they could eat it. Dinner can be late at our house.
What are you reading at the moment?
I usually have a handful of books on the go. At the moment they are Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, Phillip K. Dick’s The Turning Wheel, Eyewitness to History (I never knew they saw a UFO on Apollo 11!), T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (illustrated by Axel Scheffler – which I appropriated from the children), and Roald Dahl’s The Twits (the whole thing about beards and with the glass eye always cracks me up).
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
A dressage rider, a spy, a rock star, an actress and funnily enough I really wanted to do something with books.
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Sadly I wish I could just write! But if you insist, I like sleeping too.  And reading. And spending time with my family (and other animals).
When was the last time you went on a bus?
I love buses!  There aren’t too many out here in the country though. I think the last bus I went on was a few months ago, and it was to the beach, which is a rather nice place to take a bus.

24 April 2012

April books

We are very proud of our three books out in bookshops this month. Each is very special in its own way. Tanglewood, written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Vivienne Goodman, has been a labour of love. Over seven years in the making, this book was kept alive by people having faith in the artistic process. This book was worth the wait.

Already featured on the front page of their website, it was lovely to read how much reviewer Dani Solomon from Readings Carlton was looking forward to our next new book.  'It was quite thrilling knowing as I was about to open Emily Rodda’s The Silver Door that inside was a quiet, thoughtful boy named Rye reaching out to enter a silver door of his own which, just like the book in my hands, would lead him into a completely strange, new and exciting world.' 

The Ice-cream War by first-time author, Edwina Howard, is already a hit with readers. Starring a Shetland pony and two enterprising friends, this book is hilarious and a wonderful debut from a very promising children's book author. Congratulations, Edwina!

23 April 2012

I noticed this on the Wheeler Centre website.

What are the books that you loved when you were younger, but now make you cringe with embarrassment? We've asked bookish folk like Kirsten Tranter, Michaela McGuire, the Wheeler Centre's Jenny Niven and Ronnie Scott that very question – and the answers have included R.L. Stine, Sweet Valley High, Judy Blume and Michael 'Jurassic Park' Crichton.

Is it just me or is it unfair to pin point books from your childhood that you are ashamed to admit you loved as a kid.  What about targeting books from your adult life that you once loved but that now make you cringe?  It smacks of the superior attitude so many people in adult publishing demonstrate when it comes to children's books.  So what if you loved Goosebumps when you were eleven and read every one in the series?   Or Sweet Valley High?  Ok, so those books might have been rather a long time ago but every generation has had a series like these that wasn't the most literary in the reading world but they got us reading and kept us reading.  And isn't that the whole point?
Emily Rodda aka Jenny Rowe has always said that reading is what counts - so called 'rubbish' books might be what we want today but we are unlikely to always want them and as we grow our tastes change and our reading choices grow and mature.  But we should not be ashamed  about our youthful reading choices.  Books we loved should not make us cringe with embarassment.  So shame on you, Wheeler Centre, for intimating that there were ever books we loved that we should now hide from view, take off our shelves or refuse to admit to in public.  They made us happy once.  They were a friend, a place to retreat to and a comfort. 

And in case you're interested, I LOVED Cherry Ames, Student Nurse and A Little Bush Maid.  What did you love?

A note from your Conductor xx

13 March 2012

Mad March, Writers' Week and small-minded people

March in Adelaide is the time rather a lot of strangers roam the street, map in hand, looking for one of a number of events that happen in Adelaide.  Melbourne envies us our cosmopolitan insouciance as we natives wander white-hatted from outdoor event to outdoor event. They can only look on in wonder and disbelief as rain stays away, the sky is blue and a light breeze blows through the parks.  Writers' Week, Womadelaide, The Fringe, the Adelaide Festival, and oh yes, that race. The city is, for a few short days, practically shut down as roads are turned over to race tracks and cars with writing all over them shred their tyres through our leafy parkland streets.  Quite frankly I'd be very happy for Melbourne to steal the race from us like they stole the last one and good luck to them, Albert Park can have it. This year the screaming engines rather spoiled Ennio Morricone's concert and our beloved Premier had to call someone to suggest they turn off their ignitions. Now.  

Boori Pryor – first Australian Children's Laureate speaking at Adelaide Writers' Week
My favourite this year was Writers' Week. With a new director, Laura Kroetsch, at the helm  aided by Anna Hughes they managed to pull off the best event I think we have had in a long time. The truth is, and there are rather a lot of people in cardies who won't like this, Adelaide Writer's Week had become insular, stuffy and boring. There was nothing at all for children's writers, for example, so if you happened to be one or be interested in one it wasn't the place to be. There was nothing for families, the white marquees flapped noisily in any slight breeze and when not flapping did a rather remarkable imitation of plastic saunas.  People used to emerge from sessions and wring out their clothes. 

This year Laura disposed of the marquees which caused instant consternation among the white-hatted brigade. How dare she? Really! Those tents were an institution, didn't this foreigner know that?  (Oh yes, she isn't 'one of us' – indeed she had an actual accent which clearly put her at the back of the bus.)  She moved the food away from the areas where speakers were speaking and the book tent moved closer to the food with a very nice area between them for seating. The weather was perfect (sorry all those who were hoping for bog and wind to ruin it) the speakers were potent and the audiences excellent. There might not have been as many huge names there but our Writers' Week is famous for bringing in writers before they are famous. We may not have much money to fling at these overseas guests but those that come love the place. There was a brilliant family day, the marquees were replaced with light airy spaces covered by blue sails and the backdrops and entrance were woven sapling branches which added to the sense of lightness and creativity. And in a master stroke, the week was dedicated to children's writer, Margo Lanagan. Margo and I began writing at the same time – both published by Allen and Unwin. Margo went on to international fame ... sigh.

What a pity some of the very big publishers decided not to send their publicists when they had up to fourteen of their authors attending. There were no publisher parties this year either - are these publishers pinching in their belts and sticking the good wine under their desks perhaps? There is no doubt the industry is suffering right now and if it wasn't bloody-mindedness then I can only assume lack of funds was the problem.

Congratulations to Laura and her team.  Here's to many more innovative and exciting Writers' Weeks under her guidance. And here's to all those doubters and naysayers realising change isn't always a bad thing - sometimes it actually improves our world. Bring it on, Laura!

A note from your Conductor xx

08 March 2012

New in March

Goodness, it's been a busy start to the year. We editors have had our heads buried in pages and I happen to know our patchworking designer has worn a groove in the footpath between our little office and a certain well-known South Australian chocolatier conveniently located just around the corner. Those big screens run on excellent quality cacao, you realise. It's been novels, novels, some more novels and some picture books too. That must mean a flood of new reading and sumptuous freshly printed illustrations must be on their way. But for now you will be more than satisfied with this humorous gem, out in March. Not Bog Standard is a compilation of catastrophic and mind-bending tales, guaranteed to have young readers chuckling if not laughing out loud.

09 February 2012

New this month!

January in publishing is traditionally a no-releases month. The book-buying punters are deemed worn out from all of that Christmas giving, and the publishers and editors and designers travelling on this bus seize the chance to get down to some serious Lego playing with grandsons, go to the pool every day with newly-learned-to-swim kids, or drive down the coast for some well-earned computer-free time.

But come February, all bets are off! It's time to set free some truly delicious new fiction onto the lovely fresh shelves of bookshops across the land.

Setting out on its own is the first book in a new series from  exciting new author Peter Cooper. A fire in a temple, an orphan running for his life. But is Dillen running away from, or towards, his destiny? A mysterious Easterner has sent Dillen on a simple quest: find the sorcerer Hallegat and serve him well. But for Dillen, things will never be simple again.

And from one of Australia’s most popular writers for children, Christine Harris, comes an exciting new series for nine to thirteen-year-olds. Raven Lucas is our heroine and she's smart, resourceful and desperately searching for her missing father. Guaranteed page-turning.


16 January 2012

Bait for the Reader

Sometimes you ought not research the person whose talk you are going to see.  In the internet age a great deal of everything anyone has ever said is already on youtube.  Googling the name of the speaker/presenter can take you, as it did me, direct to the very words he or she will be speaking.  That might not be a bad thing unless you'ver paid good money for tickets.  In my case the tickets were a welcome Christmas gift so I wasn't actually out of pocket.  Just a wee bit out of sorts because I had hoped to be surprised.  The speaker was Ira Glass.  The subject was the structure of story.  If you go to this link and watch all four parts you will have saved yourself the $45 for a ticket and learned something at the same time.
The art of the story
Ira Glass is  certainly interesting.  He can tell a story and he understands structure (he studied semiotics).  He made me think and I loved the way he used his iPad to run the whole show on stage.
But I wish I had remembered to buy tickets to David Sedaris.  I think he might have been more fun.

A note from your Conductor xx

13 January 2012

Holding Out For Wonderful

Welcome to the New Year at Onyabus.  I've been remiss in posting - there is never enough time in the working day to sit and think but I am determined to Do Better.

Today has been a day of emails, interviews and, sigh, unsoliciteds.  The pile of unsolicited manuscripts is awfully high and awfully lacking in genius.  Would that it were otherwise.  Where are all the undiscovered diamonds of the children's lit world I wonder - those marvellous manuscripts from writers so talented they cannot help but get offers from all and sundry to publish their work?  I am probably the only children's publisher in the world who actually sifts through the unsolicited pile myself but I read on with a somewhat sinking feeling and less hope in my heart than when I began this morning.  There is always hope at the start of the reading pile.  There is always a need for chocolate or a stiff drink at the end.  I see we have been sent more stories about fairies...FYI we don't publish fairy books.  More stories about environmental disasters - no, not for us, thankyou.    Lots and lots of stories that the writers felt were picture books but are nothing more than lists of actions undertaken by a too-twee child.  Dog and cat stories - mostly heroic dogs and recalitrant cats.  No thanks. Four manuscripts were purportedly written by very small children whose grasp of language is uncannily adult but whose stories are woeful.  Sorry. Your teacher, aunt, mother or father ought to put the stories you write in a drawer and give them to you on your 21st - not post them to us. There is a smattering of stories about desperate teenagers whose lives are forever blighted by First World Problems like their hair, their boyfriend or their mother.  No thanks. We even have manuscripts about god, creationism and good calories. 

I am beginning to slump. 
Or even become slightly more deranged than usual..

How I look when deranged

Please someone send me a fabulous story - something utterly original.
In case I sound terribly ungrateful for the many manuscripts that fly in our door each day I am not.  I am just very, very picky. Markus Zusak's first published book, The Underdog came from the pile - such a wonderful story.  So original.  So beautifully written.  We snapped it up all those years ago and now look at him!  Then there was Michael Gerard Bauer, the perfect gentleman of publishing whose first book, The Running Man, came off the unsolicited pile too and went on to win so many awards they scarcely all fit on the cover.  Lyn Lee wote Pog - an unsolicited manuscript that won a swag of prizes.  We can spot a good one when we see it.  It just seems to me that there are a vast number of people out there who can't write but do anyway (and good on them, just don't send it to us) and an equal number of people who write what we call the OK Book; it's OK but it isn't wonderful. 

I'm holding out for wonderful.

A note from your Conductor xx

10 January 2012

I'm (definitely) not singing

This CD has been on high holiday rotation in our house ... and car ... and headphones ... since it was found under the Christmas tree. Who can argue with the musical Dad expertise of Rhys Muldoon, Tex Perkins and Kram of Spriderbait? Our favourite song has to be 'Bob the Bear' in which Bob attempts to find the source of a nasty smell in the nappies of his playmates: 'But who, but who, who had done the poo?'

Irreverent in the extreme. Recommended for the offspring of Generation X.