30 October 2008

In which Eric eats cake

So it seems we haven't had cake for a while (and, it's true, the cake-maker has been away). But she is back today and she arrived with cakes in hand! Hooray! Little bite-sized lemony ones in dainty (pink, yellow and green) paper cupcake cups, topped with icing.

But it's not actually true that we haven't had cake treats. We have been holding out on you. We did have cookies in the near past, and they were sweet and round and melt-in-the-mouth and full of chocolatey goodness - and they disappeared from the kitchen in such a flash that there was no time to photograph them.

And speaking of all things cake - the most excellent cake-maker-in-waiting (Hilary) baked one of the most impressive of our occasion cakes. It was this one.*

But for real - with fresh strawberries and layers of yum. And she baked it for the day Shaun came in to sign our staff copies of Tales From Outer Suburbia. Omnom. Oh happy day.

So perhaps there's a message here for all our illustrators:
if you draw it, we will bake.

*Thanks Shaun - for letting us share Eric's cake.
PS: If you haven't already discovered Eric - you can find him here.

28 October 2008

Totally book

We are so hip. It says so right on the front of our office.

Because 'book', don'tcha know, now literally means 'cool'.

In the most widely used predictive-text lexicon, punching in 2665 defaults to 'book' before 'cool' (much as 43 goes to 'he' and not 'if' - jeez that annoys me), and apparently (Thanks for the heads up, LB) legions of txtrs out there are just lettin' it ride.
'Book. I'll see you there.'
'That new guy is so book'
'I can't believe how book it is that there is a long weekend next week.'
Maybe one day I'll get to write a blurb that's just:
This book is book.
Or even better:

The Urban Dictionary - one of my favourite things on the interwebs - has loads of other meanings for book. Including to 'leave in a hurry' or 'run' ('See you guys, I gotta book.' 'I booked it when the cops arrived.'). But my favourite recent UD find is 'book hobo'. Apparently it's a noun (someone who hangs out in bookstores reading but never buying) and a verb (to hang out in bookstores and read but never buy).
'What did you do on Saturday?'
'Oh, I book hoboed at Readings for a while and then wandered down to Brunetti for a latte.'

This is my new favourite word for my long-favourite pastime.

24 October 2008

A tale of three covers

Guest Post # 2 - from the Mothership, thanks again LB

Here are the US and UK covers for Teen, Inc by Stefan Petrucha. Both are published by our cousins at Bloomsbury. Can you tell which is which?*

We loved Teen Inc - a fast-paced read, part comedy, part The-Firm-style espionage adventure.

(Interjection: A Melbourne Onion ran downstairs to look at a copy of Teen Inc after reading the draft of this post, started reading it by accident and is now totally hooked. The premise is completely awesome: boy is raised by a corporation - his 'parent company' - after the corporation is responsible for the death of his parents. Poor old Jaiden has to suffer through hideous things like board meetings designed to 'facilitate' his dating options.)

We longed for a cover that would say something a little different to Australian readers. Lisa White designs beautiful books for adult Onion titles. And happily she sometimes moonlights on YA and children's books as well. So with a vague brief, a minuscule photo budget and a whole heap of plastic toys and gadgets sourced from the local $2.00 shop, Lisa came up with this for the Oz edition:

Clever girl.

* The illustrated jacket is the UK edition. The photographic image is the US edition.

23 October 2008

Please, Mum, read me the one about the failed presidential candiate

This article in the New York Times opened my eyes to an arena of kids publishing of which I have been sadly ignorant: the political picture book. Feast your eyes on this:

'This picture book biography, written with great love and insight by his oldest daughter, shows us the public John McCain and the personal John McCain in a way we've never seen before -- making this American hero come to life before young eyes.'
'Even as a boy, Barack knew he wasn't quite like anybody else, but through his journeys he found the ability to listen to Hope and become what he was meant to be: a bridge to bring people together.'

'When Hillary was young, she wanted to be an astronaut, to soar as high as the stars above. She kept reaching up and up as she grew. There were people who told her no. But she didn't listen to them. There were people who didn't think she could do it. But she believed in herself. And Hillary has been making history ever since. This is the inspiring story of a girl with dreams as big as the open sky.'
What do you think, people, have I identified a gap in the Australian kids book market? Are you clamouring for KRudd: Cow Farm to Kirribilli ? Would you bust down bookshop doors to buy 32 pages of full colour celebrating Malcolm Turnbull's rise from his grim boyhood days of living in rental accommodation? Are any illustrators out there dying to draw Julia Gillard?

PS: Searching Amazon in this vein has also opened up a whole new world of Christmas presents. Did you know you can buy 'Richard M. Nixon and His Family Paper Dolls', or 'George H Bush and His Family Paper Dolls' (featuring W as a boy). You can also get the Reagans, the Clintons, the Kennedys or, most mystifyingly, the Carters.

21 October 2008

All the way up to eleven

Over at Inside a Dog current writer-in-residence Brigid Lowry (author of many wonderful books including, Guitar Highway Rose, Tomorrow All Will Be Beautiful and Juicy Writing) is devising strategies for chasing away the blues brought on by the change of season. She suggests making a list of: Things That Would Make Me Happy or Things I Am Prepared To Do Without.

This Onion is a big fan of Spring (yes - even with all that annoying wind) so is not struggling with any seasonal blues, but we do love a list.

So here's a list of Items We Are Not Prepared To Do Without:

1: Daylight savings
2: The West Wing
3: HB pencils, a sharpener with a good action and a clean eraser
4: The Macquarie Dictionary
5: Lightly salted, thinly sliced potato chips
6: A healthy pile of books beside the bed
7: Editing in the wild (Thanks, P) -->
8: Jasmine tea
9: Those tiny bulldog clips that are totally useless, but very cute
10: Fresh tomatoes
11: Good Tupperware

16 October 2008

Rolling out the welcome mat

Here in the house of Onion we be very pleased.

We welcome into the pantry a writer we have admired for some time. Justine Larbalestier is a writer, reader, eater, drinker and sports enthusiast, which I'm sure many of you will know if you are a regular visitor to her blog over here.

Justine's latest YA novel, How to Ditch Your Fairy has just been published to a raft of rave reviews in the US and we are dance-happy in the house because we will be publishing the Australian edition in March - WOOT! Welcome, Justine!

We even have a sneak preview of the cover of the Oz edition.

Prepare to be abuzz with yearnings for your own personal fairy. We are wishing we had a speed-reading-and-retaining fairy so we could devour in a flash all the books in the pile beside the bed AND remember them in crisp detail so as to discuss (with colleagues, authors, book club, friends) in witty, thoughtful and charming manner.

Bring on the rubbish

Speaking of Sweet Valley High, a recent ABR article led us to this excellent piece (an oldie but a goodie) by celebrated British children's author Peter Dickinson in which he makes a great case for pop culture.

One Onion particularly related to the stressed-out boarding schools boys going home to the comfort of books they'd loved as younger children. While supposedly on swot vac in her final school year (and hello to anyone currently going through that torture) she worked her way through her entire Noel Streatfeild collection. (This editor. Stressed about HSC exams? No!)

Unexplained mystery for the day:
Why does the url spell it "defense" but in the article it's "defence"?
Is his website designer American??
Would anyone other than an editor have noticed???

15 October 2008

Guest Post - from The Mothership

We are delighted to have our first guest post - which comes to us from one of our esteemed Sydney Onions, LB.

Here in the mothership (in Sydney) we, too, are passionate about cake. Not just passionate: competitive! At our recent fiercely contested Bake-Off, legendary Marketing Designer Anthony was recognised for his rich chocolate and hazelnut tart. Other awarded selections included a basil and marscapone tart (yes, we do savoury too), shortbread biscuits and an American baked cheesecake (mmm, cream cheese and sour cream …).

We even had celebrity guest judges for the day: food judge, radio presenter and author Barbara Lowery and the esteemed bookseller David Gaunt from Gleebooks. And those who partook donated a gold coin to the Indigenous Literacy Project.

Three other things pleasing us are:

1. The 10PM Question, Kate de Goldi's wonderful new novel, which the Onions are working on for February. Ostensibly for young teenagers, it also has loads to say to adult readers.

2. Literary villains on the screen

Flicking channels on Sunday night, I caught the end of Holes. The film is good, though it has nothing on Louis Sachar's original. But I do admire Sigourney Weaver's turn as the wicked Warden. She certainly does a nice line in crazed.

In other villain news, coming soon (March in Australia) is the stop-motion animated film of Neil Gaiman's wonderfully creepy book Coraline, and I for one can't wait to see the wicked Other Mother on the big screen (with the voice of Teri Hatcher). Gives me shivers just thinking about those button eyes. There's a fabulous website to keep us busy in the meantime.

3. A Night Out in New York

No villains to speak of, but we were delighted to see a preview of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, the film of our very own book. Kat Dennings is delicious in it, and it's already receiving praise for transcending the teen movie mold.

- LB

PS: We Melbourne Onions are VERY excited about the Nick & Norah film - we have seen the trailer and, oh, how it looks GOOD!

14 October 2008

What's in a name?

Penni over at Eglantine's Cake posted recently about the super-seductive world of Sweet Valley High. At least one Onion was a devoted Elizabeth and Jessica fan. Browsing the Wikipedia entry for the series, I was reminded how awesome is Francine Pascal's facility for names - you don't need the line or two of synopsis to figure out what sort of character each might be. A skill Ms Pascal shares with Mr Charles Dickens.

Here is a small quiz:

Winston Egbert
a) hot quarter back, or b) class clown.

Mister Smallweed

a) amoral money lender, or b) good-hearted, if simple, hero.

Enid Rollins

a) slightly drippy best friend of main character, or b) outgoing gorgeous prom queen.

Sir Leicester Dedlock

a) old and crusty baronet or, b) impetuous and handsome young man.

Caddy Jellyby and Prince Turveydrop

a) ravishing, 'perfect size 6', blonde twins, or b) amusing minor characters who live a hard but happy life.

Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield
a) ravishing, 'perfect size 6', blonde twins, or b) amusing minor characters who live a hard but happy life.

The other day I came across My Name in Books: A guide to character names in children's literature. According to the Amazon description: 'Because youngsters delight in reading about characters with the same first names as their own, this guide is a great way to motivate them to read!'

It does seem a leetle strange. Will 10 year-old Gilbert Blogs who is into trains and extreme sports really be motivated by reading Anne of Green Gables? But then again, I do remember the frisson of delight I felt on reading my own name - spelled correctly with an 'h' at the end and everything - in Playing Beatie Bow. (It was suggested by the mother as a possible witch's name - Coolest. Thing. Ever.)

PS. The author of My Name in Books is Katharyn E. Tuten-Puckett (for real).

10 October 2008

Making us look good

Zoe Sadokierski has the mad design skillz.

She used to be an Onion, and now that she has left the fold (the larder? the pantry? where do you store onions?) we lure her back as often as we can.
Here is a selection from our Sadokierski library.

Isn't she clever?

Zoe has an online folio here for your viewing pleasure. And here she blogs about book design, with examples of two of our all-time favourites: The Great Gatsby and The Red Shoe.

Sadly, we are to be without her services for three long months, as Zoe has adventure on her mind.

Using a world map, the internet, her flatmate Katherine and lots of red wine, she cobbled together a travel itinerary that includes: drinking breakfast cocktails on a plane to Tokyo, travelling from Beijing to St Petersburg on the trans Mongolian rail, visiting Santa under the northern lights in Lapland, finding her Grandma's village in Poland, pursuing Dracula in Romania, floating around some hot baths in Budapest, eating her way through Germany to Berlin at Christmas, and heading home via London and NYC. She will not have a mobile phone or laptop.

Colour us envious. Sigh.

Happily, she has exciting new projects to work on when she returns...

09 October 2008

Oh go on then, let them eat cake

The most-excellent cake-maker has been busy. Hooray!
In honour of farewelling one of our esteemed printers (on maternity leave) we were treated to:

Lemon & Raspberry friands
Quince & Cardamom friands

All served on an authentic (not retro) tiered cake-stand inherited from the grandmother of one of the Onions (thanks Nan).

Oh the deliciousness...
Wish you were here.

PS Other Onions wish to make it known that they prefer the spelling 'cardamon', because that's how they were brought up.

07 October 2008

The importance of being Stoker (updated)

This article in the Guardian about how Bram Stoker's great-grand-nephew is going to write the sequel to Dracula contains many things to please me:
  1. I am, pardon the pun, a sucker for a vampire. (Anyone watching True Blood? So hot.)
  2. The great-grand-nephew's name is Dacre. (Which, in case you hadn't spotted it, is very close to Dracula. Although apparently it means 'trickling stream' in old English.)
  3. Dracula was originally called Dracula: The Un-dead, 'before an editor changed the title'. (*This editor becomes drunk with power and goes off to see if she is working on any potential classic novels that will spawn a new genre/angsty obession, which she can change the title of and thus win eternal fame.*)
  4. Dacre Stoker 'formerly coached the Canadian Olympic Pentathlon team.'
It also contains a few things that puzzle me:
  1. Is this, like, for serious?
  2. 'Our intent is to give both Bram and Dracula back their dignity.' Where did their dignity go? I, personally, have never thought, 'That original telling of the Dracula legend, man that's undignified.'
  3. 'Maybe even more important is to give the novel's legions of loyal fans what they have been waiting over a century for...the return of the real Dracula.' The real Dracula? Is character authenticity hereditary? Can you put it in a will? And are the fans who have been waiting over a century un-dead themselves - or just really, really old?

Evidently we weren't the only people to find this amusing. The Guardian article has been changed; there is now an explanation of the indignity of Hollywood, no reference to the 'real Dracula' and no mention of fans waiting over a century. Thankfully, Dacre Stoker still formerly coached the Canadian Olympic pentathalon team. (Of course, the un-dead nature of the internet means you can still dig up the cached original article if you want to.)

03 October 2008

Exercising my democratic right

One of the Onions just faxed and posted her US FEDERAL WRITE-IN ABSENTEE BALLOT. (You just write the name of the person you want to be president. Weird.)

Go little ballot paper, go!

In about three minutes, Sarah (I can see Russia from my house) Palin will take on Joe (I, also, was once parodied on Saturday Night Live. No really I was.) Biden.
The awesome Maureen Johnson will be live blogging it.

02 October 2008

Brian Banana Duck Omnom Tasty

A quick explanation of our profile pic and our cake obsession:

One of the denizens of our big old house is the very talented Andrea. Andrea is very talented at publishing books about sport and opera singers and other awesome things, but more importantly she is EXTREMELY TALENTED at CAKE-MAKING. There was the one with beautiful pineapple flowers all over it, and the one that looked like a soccer pitch (for the World Cup), and the multi-layer chocolate meringue one, and the awesome summer puddings and more and more. But my favourite was the little biscuits to celebrate Brian Banana Duck Sunshine Yellow by Chris McKimmie.

See ... his pants are orange and his beak is yellow, just like Brian's.

Andrea - any chance of a Special Kev cake?

01 October 2008

White Rabbit

Things that please an editor on this first day of October:
  • It's 23 degrees in Melbourne.
  • Tender Morsels. Our Margo's new novel is out in the big wide world. And we all get to talk about it at our next in-house bookclub.
  • The American Library Association's Banned Books Week - celebrate the freedom to read.
  • When we surveyed the house about what they were reading for our Pile Beside the Bed list, the most common response was: 'Do I have to choose just one?'
  • The improvements to track changes in the new Microsoft Word.
Things that don't please an editor on this first day of October:
  • Footlet socks designed for the stylish low-cut shoe.
  • Repaired boot zips that stick.
  • No voicemail and a phone that won't accept calls.
  • Not having the new Microsoft Word.

Let them (not) eat cake

We would show you photos of our latest cake-eating; however, the little cakes, they were of the brown-and-gold variety - and some of us have erased them from our memories, choosing to dream instead of the blue-and-white cakes we consumed last year.