BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: The Wonder of Books by Monica McInerney

web-McInerney-Monica-_Michael-Boyny__Size4Looking back, I’ve had a pretty busy fourteen years.

As a writer, here are just some of the things I’ve got up to:

- I spent ten months running a winery-restaurant in the Clare Valley.

- My two sisters and I had a big falling out and didn’t speak to each other for three years.

- I moved to New York, where I not only found a job with a cantankerous old woman, but also met the love of my life.

- I moved from England to Australia with my family and turned an old house in the Victorian goldfields into a tourist attraction.

- I ran a charity shop in a small town.

- I lived on a sheep station in outback South Australia, from where I accidentally sent out a Christmas letter that spilled the beans on all my family’s secrets.

That’s not all. I’ve been busy as a reader too. I’ve been a Cold War spy. A sociopathic Irishman. An international photojournalist. Ernest Hemingway’s first wife. A lighthouse keeper off the coast of Western Australia. A shop assistant in the cocktail dress section of an elegant Sydney department store.*

That’s the wonder of books. Whether we are writing them or reading them, stories take us out of our own lives and put us into other people’s shoes, minds, lives, homes and countries. I learned to read as a four-year-old, sitting on the roof of my family home in country South Australia. I read about the Famous Five and the Secret Seven, about snow and the Mississippi River, about places I never thought I’d see but was still able to imagine. As a writer, I have travelled all around the world fictionally and in real life. I’ve imagined events through my characters’ eyes, laughed with them, cried with them. I’ve had that same experience with other authors’ books.

Reading enriches us in more ways than we can imagine. Books are our passports to new lives and ways of thinking. Our tickets to a world of wonders. Magic carpets for our minds. Happy reading, everyone – not only during Booktoberfest, but every other month of the year too.

*The books I’m referring to are: The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré. Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent. Half Moon Bay by Helene Young. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman. The Women in Black by Madeleine St John.


Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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hello-from-the-gillespiesHello from the Gillespies

by Monica McInerney

For more than thirty years, Angela Gillespie has sent friends and family around the world an end-of-the-year letter titled ‘Hello from the Gillespies’. It’s always been cheery and full of good news. This year, Angela surprises herself – she tells the truth.

The Gillespies are far from the perfect family that Angela has made them out to be. Her husband is coping poorly with retirement. Her 32-year-old twins are having career meltdowns. Her third daughter, badly in debt, can’t stop crying. And her ten-year-old son spends more time talking to his imaginary friend than to real ones.

Without Angela, the family would fall apart. But when Angela is taken from them in a most unexpected manner, the Gillespies pull together – and pull themselves together – in wonderfully surprising ways.

Monica McInerney’s Hello from the Gillespies is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: My Writing Season…. by Karen Hall, co-author of Wychwood

karennhallWhen I first sat down to chronicle the past two decades of our lives creating our garden at Wychwood, it never occurred to me that the actual routine of writing would weigh more heavily on my mind than the words themselves. I’ve never been short of words. More often than not I am the person who fills awkward silences with an excess of them for fear of losing the company of the person next to me. I overemphasize and use way too many adjectives, I embroider a story in the hope that it will prove much more interesting than it actually is. Words weren’t the issue.

It was the routine. My head was exploding. I’d never had to write this much before.

Do I write in the mornings or the afternoons? On the weekends when the kids are home or during the week when the house is relatively silent? If I get up to turn the coffee machine on will I be inviting Writer’s Block to rear its head? Perhaps I should squeeze in a yoga session before I start so I don’t get stiff from sitting for too long, or would it be better to wait until after I’ve done 2000 words so that I’d earned the right to free my mind? If the phone rings, do I answer it or leave it and worry I’ve offended someone by ignoring it?

In the end, I settled on mornings, after a yoga session and walking the dog. Three hours would disappear in no time, sometimes at frightening speed. There were some mornings when most of the three hours disappeared in infuriating frustration – the words wouldn’t come or those that did just weren’t right – but by and large they proved satisfyingly productive and I could close the lid on my laptop with a self-righteous snap.

In the end I did it. Way too many words of course, but once it was over I missed my newfound writing routine and was glad that finishing the first draft coincided with the days beginning to lengthen and the soil starting to warm. Before long, my laptop was forgotten as my garden beckoned.


Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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9781743360651Wychwood

by Karen Hall, Peter Cooper

The garden at Wychwood, at the foot of the Great Western Tiers in northern Tasmania, is one of the world’s most magical places. Wychwood combines Scandinavian design sensibilities with temperate-climate country-garden charm. And to top it off, the idyllic Mole Creek, which is home to brown trout and a platypus, runs through the back of the property. Wychwood commemorates a garden over 22 years in the making, brought to life by a very special family who dreamt of the simple life in Tasmania.

The book details the evolution of the garden from bare paddock to world-class attraction, with its iconic labyrinth, espaliered fruit trees, naturalistic planted beds and curved, clipped lawns. It gives the reader insight into the techniques and secrets that make the design of this garden so successful, offering inspiration and encouragement at every turn, and for every level of gardener. Peter Cooper’s beautiful and haunting photography captures how the garden has transformed with the changing seasons and settled into its surroundings.

About the Authors

Karen Hall is the co-owner of Wychwood, blogger at GardenDrum, chair of the Tasmanian Open Garden Scheme and runs the rare-plant nursery at Wychwood. Peter Cooper is the co-owner of Wychwood, freelance garden designer, photographer and truffle consultant.

Karen Hall’s Wychwood is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Once a Shepherd backstory… by Glenda Millard

In 2005 I was awarded a May Gibbs Fellowship and as a result was given a month’s use of a studio in Adelaide, South Australia. My main objective was to begin work on a new book. Along with that, I agreed to regularly spend time with the grade 5 girls at Seymour College in Adelaide.

Mary Clark was the teacher librarian at Seymour at the time and we communicated for several months before I arrived in Adelaide as to how to best use my time with the students.

What I hoped to do was show the girls in a very practical, hands-on sort of way, how to source a single idea and transform it into a story. It would be a challenge, not only for the students but for me, as I too promised to take part in the exercise.

glenda41I suggested an off campus excursion to a number of different locations around the city of Adelaide, including the Adelaide fresh foods market, a Japanese garden and a St Vincent de Paul charity shop. Mary readily agreed and arranged buses, permission notes from parents and numerous other things required to make the outing possible.

The students were given questionnaires for each location to prompt them to use their observation skills and to encourage them to ask questions. Our aim was to find something that would stimulate our curiosity and then, using a questioning technique I provided and our imaginations, to discover more about it. I hoped that ultimately the chosen article, place or person and the questions we would ask ourselves about them would lead to the framework of a story.

The object I chose was an old military coat at St Vincent de Paul’s. The girls and I, and Mary, all completed our stories over the four weeks I was at Seymour. My story, or course, turned out to be Once a Shepherd.

In the first few drafts, my focus was on where the coat might have come from in a real sense. For example, wool production and the process it goes through to make a garment, from shearing, carding, dying, weaving and then sewing the woven cloth into a garment.once-a-shepherd

However it soon developed into a much more personal story: the love story of Tom and Cherry, the coming of war, the hand-stitched coat, Cherry’s labour of love for her husband, the birth of their baby, the effect of Tom’s bravery and humanity on an unknown, enemy soldier.

I have a great fondness for handmade things. My mother used to make soft toys for my sister and me when we were little girls. I made them for my daughter when she was small and will make others for my first grandchild when it arrives next March. My daughter makes me an apron every year for my birthday. To create a gift for someone, to spend time on it, is significant to both the giver and the receiver, whether it be a garment, a toy, a cake or something else. With each stitch, Cherry put love into the coat she made for Tom and did so again with the toy lamb she made for their child.

I have used a circular technique in the book – beginning and ending with a lamb. There are many symbolic references to the lamb in history and in mythology including purity, innocence and new life. This could also be said of the child in Once a Shepherd.


Glenda Millard’s Once a Shepherd is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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once-a-shepherdOnce a Shepherd

by Glenda Millard

A story of love and war.

Once there was a shepherd, a very special coat – and hope.

A moving tale that will help grandparents connect personal experiences of war with young children.

About the Author

Glenda Millard was born in the Goldfields region of Central Victoria and has lived in the area all her life. It wasn’t until Glenda’s four children became teenagers that she began to write in her spare time. She has been writing full-time since 1999 and has published several books for children. Her first book with Walker Books Australia, Isabella’s Garden, has been awarded Honour Book in the Picture Book of the Year category in the 2010 Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards, and has won a Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Award, Best Book for Language Development, Lower Primary Category (5-8 years), 2010; and short-listed the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards Children’s Book – Mary Ryan Award, 2010.

Glenda Millard’s Once a Shepherd is a featured title in Walker Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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Are you a Booktoberfest prize winner in Week 3?

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WEEKLY PRIZE DRAW WINNERS –
CONGRATULATIONS TO:

Booktopia Weekly Prize Draw :

$250 Booktopia Gift Voucher


Week 1 L.Pettit, Merewether, NSW


Week 2 M.Taylor, Marrickville, NSW


Week 3 A.Brozicevich, Fremantle, WA


Booktoberfest is on right now, and you’re invited, so come and celebrate with us!

Booktopia’s Booktoberfest is a month-long celebration of books, authors, publishers and most importantly you, the readers! We’re running competitions, giveaways and lots of other goodies for you all October.

Australia’s biggest publishers have come to the Booktoberfest party with some incredible prizes, with over $13,000 worth of books up for grabs!

And don’t forget about our weekly prize draw! Simply place an order between during October to go in the running for our weekly draw – we have 4 x $250 Booktopia Gift Vouchers to give away!

So put on your party hat, grab your dancing shoes and let’s have some fun. Get your Christmas shopping done now and you could win!

Click here to check out Booktoberfest 2014

Booktoberfest Partners

Click here to check out Booktoberfest 2014

BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Books… by Dee Nolan, author of A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage to France

dee-nolanThere wasn’t a time when I didn’t hanker after books. I grew up seeing the deep pleasure my mother got from reading and wanted it for myself. Pocket money funded my little girl obsession with pony stories as I fell utterly under the spell of the Pullein-Thompson sisters and Pat Smythe. The English horsey world they wrote about was so far removed from my Australian farm life but I was living it in my head every time I tried to make my grumpy pony jump hay bales like the heroines did in books with stirring titles like For Want Of A Saddle. I bombarded the children’s page of the Adelaide Advertiser with my little stories and poems. Submissions deemed worthy received certificates, and a sufficient stash of certificates qualified for a book. A sort-of early Fly Buys for kids. The first book I chose was The Three Musketeers. I still have it.

Books ignited my childhood imagination, bringing the world to my bedroom, laying the foundations for a lifetime’s curiosity about faraway places and awakening a passion for the written word. I can’t be the only one to want for today’s children the best things of my own childhood so, when babies arrive, my present is a book. Of course, a very special boy born in London and named George Banjo by his homesick Australian mother, received the collected verse of his namesake along with an adorable children’s edition of Mulga Bill’s Bicycle, a personal favourite since forever. It’s now four years on, and an email arrived last month with a heart-melting photo of a kindergarten class dressed as their favourite characters for Book Week. There, in between Bob The Builder and Buzz Lightyear, was George in loud striped socks, trousers rolled up and a flamboyant spotted cravat – a dead ringer, as A.B. would have said, for the Mulga Bill of the delicious Niland illustrations in what has become George’s favourite bed-time book. It was an emotional moment. I think he has caught the craze.


Dee Nolan’s A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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a-food-lover-s-pilgrimage-to-france

A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France

by Dee Nolan

Dee Nolan laces up her walking boots for more adventures of the cultural and culinary kind, this time retracing the footsteps of the early French pilgrims, who travelled to Santiago de Compostela in vast numbers. In this book, as in her previous book A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage Along the Camino to Santiago de Compostela, she seamlessly weaves together her two great passions: the history and religious relics of the medieval pilgrimage and her keen appreciation of food and wine.

As Dee winds her way through the vineyards of Burgundy to the gastronomic capital of Lyon, across the vast Aubrac plateau of the Massif Central and through the fertile valleys of Quercy and Gascony, she discovers that ‘what is old is new again’ – not only are the ancient pilgrim paths enjoying a resurgence in popularity, but early farming methods are making a comeback and there’s a renewed interest in regional produce and food traditions. Travelling at ‘human pace’ reminds her of the importance of connection – to our past and present, to the land we live on and the people we meet.

This captivating book unearths numerous treasures in the French countryside, from exquisite Romanesque churches to world-renowned wine and cheese caves, colourful local customs and food experiences of both the Michelin-starred and home kitchen variety.

Dee Nolan’s A Food Lover’s Pilgrimage To France is a featured title in Penguin’s Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Why I chose the chef life… by Mr Dan Hong, author of Mr Hong

danhongWriting Mr Hong gave me the opportunity to reminisce about the early stages of my career and think about exactly why I chose a life in food. Putting it all down on paper was a lot of fun and gave me the opportunity to think about the significant moments in my food journey that changed everything for me.

Mr Hong is full of recipes, of course, and stories about my life to date – from growing up in my mum’s Vietnamese restaurant in Cabramatta, to experimenting with supermarket staples while left to my own devices at home during high school, and later my culinary training at some of Australia’s most prestigious restaurants.

My first job was at Longrain, a wonderful place to start my journey in food, and included packing away all the fresh produce every morning, making six different curry pastes and deep-frying shallots – a great learning curve for me at that stage – and I’ve been very fortunate to have wonderful mentors throughout my career ever since Longrain.

Thinking about it, David Chang is one of my greatest food heroes because he was one of the first chefs to dare to throw out all the rules focus on one thing: deliciousness. For me, the best food is delicious, easy and fun. Couldn’t live without fish sauce! I love bold, strong flavours, freshness and balance – and most of all, I see food as something that connects people, makes them happy and can be shared with the people I love.


Mr Hong is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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mr-hong

Mr Hong

by Dan Hong

Eat like you never have before, with Dan Hong at the reins it will be an enjoyable ride. Dan’s appetite for rare sneakers, hip-hop and collecting cookbooks is only surpassed by his passion for food: everything from fast food to fine dining. Growing up in the suburbs of Sydney with a food-obsessed family and a mother who fell into owning a Vietnamese restaurant by chance, Dan has gone on to become a critically acclaimed chef, working at some of the most prestigious restaurants in Australia, including Sydney’s Mr Wong, Ms G’s and El Loco.

Dan’s potent mix of proud heritage, technical skill and boundless enthusiasm for experimenting with big, bold, fresh flavours makes his approach to food truly unique. Mr Hong is as much an exploration of Dan’s colourful path through life as it is a beautifully illustrated book of one hundred scintillating recipes – Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, as well as fusions of the three – re-imagined and re-invigorated for a new generation of food obsessives. Feast your eyes and dig in.

About the Author

Dan Hong has worked in some of the most prestigious restaurants in Australia, including Tetsuya’s, Marque and Bentley, and his mentors include Mark Best, Brent Savage and Thomas Johns. He has opened some of Sydney’s most exciting dining destinations, including Ms G’s, El Loco and Mr Wong (honoured with a hat in its first year of business at the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide awards) and most recently Papi Chulo, a smokehouse and grill at Manly Wharf, Sydney.

Mr Hong is a featured title in Murdoch Books’ Booktoberfest Showcase, click here for more details

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BOOKTOBERFEST GUEST BLOG: Books that have inspired me…. by Andrew Cranna, author of The Bloodhound Boys series

Author: Andrew Cranna

Author: Andrew Cranna

There have been many books that have inspired me to become an author/illustrator and compiling a list of just ten books was veeeeery difficult. Being a children’s writer, it’s children’s books that I’ve always enjoyed and found comfort in. Being a fairly reluctant reader as a child, I was always searching for books that combined expressive text with eye-catching illustrations. My love of children’s books has never waned and I still enjoy browsing through picture books and children’s literature as it always seems to transport me back to my happy childhood.

So here are 10 of my personal favourites. I’ve grown up with many of these titles while some I’ve only discovered in recent years … but all I love. Each book in its own way has contributed to my writing and drawing style.


1) The Muddleheaded Wombat by Ruth Park and illustrated by Noela Young9780732284374

One of my earliest memories is drooling over the pages of The Muddleheaded Wombat. The illustrations in the book would always astound me as a child and I would often wonder how Noela Young could possibly sketch such realistically magical images. I would carry this book with me everywhere I went and spend most weekends trying to copy Noela’s The Muddleheaded Wombat the best I could. I believe it’s this book that sparked my love of children’s books in the very beginning. I now have the great pleasure of working alongside Noela Young, illustrating stories for The School Magazine.

 


a-fish-out-of-water2) A Fish out of Water by Helen Palmer and illustrated by P.D. Eastman

A Fish out of Water is about a fish named Otto that’s fed too much and grows ridiculously out of control … and keeps growing! The story is based on a short tale by Helen Palmer’s husband, Dr Seuss. It’s classic storytelling, decorated with dazzling illustration work. I was always super-duper careful not to feed my pet goldfish too much fish food after reading this book.


3) Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendakwhere-the-wild-things-are

From the moment I read Where the Wild Things Are, I wanted to be Max … the dreamer, the adventurer all dressed up in his animal onesie. The way Sendak transforms Max’s bedroom into a wilderness filled with strange and fascinating creatures is remarkable.


4. Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. Illustrated by Quentin Blake9780141350370

As a child, I thought poetry was boring until I discovered Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl. Revolting Rhymes is Dahl’s take on traditional nursery rhymes through twisted sarcasm and juicy humour. Quentin Blake’s sketchy illustration style complements this collection of dark poetry perfectly. The drawing of the Big Bad Wolf after he devoured two of the little pigs is a personal fave.


5. Gorga, the Space Monster – Choose Your Own Adventure by Edward Packard and illustrated by Paul Granger

Although many teachers from the 1980s may disagree, Choose Your Own Adventure books were viewed as quality AND essential reading by the kids of that generation. They were fun, easy to read, had cracking illustrations and gave the reader the power to choose how the story would end up. I remember trying to collect as many from the series as possible, and … I would always cheat. I’d read the endings first and work my way back … but at least I was reading! My favourite Choose Your Own Adventure book was Gorga, the Space Monster. Gorga was a cute and cuddly purple alien. But watch out … choose the wrong path and Gorga could accidently devour you in one breath! It was awesome!


97814052062806. Tintin – Explorers on the Moon By Herge

I guess people are either Asterix or Tintin fans. I’m definitely the latter. The Tintin series has been a phenomenal success over the years and the books have always been popular in the schools that I’ve attended as a student and now a teacher. Tintin books have timeless appeal with each page exploding with good old-fashioned action. The stories usually involve some kind of mystery that sends Tintin, Captain Haddock and Snowy the Dog off to every corner of the globe. These iconic characters constantly erupt with personality and flare and always seemed to be involved in a high speed car/plane/boat/motorcycle chase. Explorers on the Moon was the most enjoyable read for me from the series.


the-lost-thing7. The Lost Thing by Shaun Tan

I’m always amazed by the incredible creativity and imagination of Shaun Tan. His wonderfully strange stories are always complemented with just as unusual, but always breathtaking artwork. The Lost Thing picture book was later transformed into an animated short film, which won Shaun Tan an Academy Award. Each year at my school, I always make a point of showing every new class The Lost Thing film … it’s magical!


8) My Place by Nadia Wheatley and illustrated by Donna Rawlinsmy-place

My Place is a very special book and one of its creators has played a very important role in my life. Not only is My Place one of the great Australian picture books about the nation’s ever changing landscape, but it is also one that changed my artistic landscape forever. In 2012, illustrator Donna Rawlins visited my school to talk about My Place (I’m a primary school art teacher). Donna spied some of my drawings hanging around the school. She took a fancy to one of them and asked me to meet with her colleagues at Walker Books Australia. From this meeting, The Bloodhound Boys was born and so was my career as a children’s author/illustrator. Whenever I see My Place in the library or being read by a student, I always think of Donna and this very special day. Thanks Donna!


the-dangerous-alphabet9. The Dangerous Alphabet by Neil Gaiman and Gris Grimly

The book’s blurb: “Two children, treasure map in hand, and their pet gazelle sneak past their father, out of the house, and into a world beneath the city, where monsters and pirates roam. Will they find treasure? Will they make it out alive?” A mixture of horror and spelling, The Dangerous Alphabet is lots of fun spooky fun, written by the mysterious Neil Gaiman and illustrated by the just as mysterious Gris Grimly. Both author and illustrator specialise in creepiness. Older primary school-aged kids would love this.


And a book I’m itching the read …

10. Hug Machine by Scott Campbellhug-machine

Scott Campbell’s new children’s book about ‘hugs’ looks fantastic. I’ve always been a huge fan of Campbell’s originality and humorous illustration work. The book trailer for Hug Machine (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyRmZDyKPQU) is brilliant. If the book is anything like the trailer, Hug Machine should prove to be very popular.


the-monster-truck-tremor-dilemmaThe Monster Truck Tremor Dilemma (The Bloodhound Boys Series)

by Andrew Cranna

Deep under the Earth’s crust, Skull River City is experiencing unexplained earthquakes AND impending doom. But Rocky and Vince have a challenge of their own – competing in the Monster Truck Grand Prix. A roller-coaster ride full of twists and turns, this lethal race will lead the Bloodhound Boys way off track. Will these undead friends be able to follow the signs back home in time to stop the earthquakes?

About the Author

Andrew Cranna is an artist, educator and author who is currently based in Sydney NSW. Andrew’s cartoons and illustrations are loved by young people across the country and appear regularly in the pages of The School Magazine.

Grab a copy of The Monster Trick Tremor Dilemma here

 

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