29 May 2009

Liar Liar, Pants on Fire!

Justine Larbalestier's brilliant new book is called Liar.*

When the reading copies landed there were rumours of a productivity lapse in the Mothership...

The main character of Liar is, well... , she's a liar, and recently Justine's been blogging about lying and surveying her readers about their lying habits.

So, in the spirit of confession to lies of misdeeds past - we surveyed the Onions to find out when they may have been a little cavalier with the truth in literary matters. And we were well-rewarded:

1. In response to the librarian's question, I told my grade 5 class that Island of the Blue Dolphins was my favourite book, even though I had NEVER READ IT, because the four girls who answered before me all said it was their favourite. I was (still am?) consumed by guilt - as if I'd betrayed all those books that I really and truly did love. This guilt was only partly assuaged by the fact that I then immediately read Island of the Blue Dolphins - and discovered that I did, in fact, love it.

2. I have never read The Gruffalo.

3. I wrote my Year 11 essay on Pride & Prejudice having only read to p 27 (because it bored me). I tried reading it again in the summer after Year 12 - and couldn't put it down. I have since read it many times - I remain mystified about how I could possibly find it boring. PS. I got an A for the essay.

4. When younger than I am now, I pretentiously went on about how great Anna Karenina was, when I'd failed to ever read beyond the bit where Vronsky and Anna get together, and had only ever watched the BBC series in its entirety. In fact, to this day I keep putting AK aside for novels that don't hurt my arms to hold up in bed, even after seeking out the fancy new translation with the cover of flowers wilting on breasts.

5. I wrote my essay on The Old Man and the Sea after watching the movie - and I still haven't read the book.

6. I was in grade 5 and somehow lost the book I had borrowed from the mobile library (a bus that visited the school once a week or so like the bus the Queen discovered outside the Palace grounds in The Uncommon Reader). Rather than leave the classroom with the keen reading pupils, I stayed back with the unreading rest for fear of being struck down if I stepped into the book-lined bus. So each week I burned with shame and fear until at the end of the year a bill was sent to my parents!

7. On more than one occasion, I have given the impression that I have read Phillip Pullman. It's not true. I haven't.

8. The books I have lied about having read are too numerous to mention!

9. I liked Angie Sage's Magyk more than Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. (There - I've said it... and lightning hasn't struck. Hmmmmm....)

10. Between the ages of 18 - 23 I pretended to have read Ulysses by James Joyce... I would wax lyrical and nod sagely, when in fact all my knowledge about the book could only be attributed to a very long night of drinking with a friend who happened to be writing her honours thesis on Joyce. I picked her brains relentlessly and was spared the trauma of actually reading it myself for five years. At 23 I came clean, and have been trying to finish the damn thing ever since.

11. Pride and Prejudice (and in fact Jane Austen books generally) gets on my nerves, and always has. I suspect there might be something wrong with me.

12. In grade 3, I discovered a wonderful, wonderful book in my local library called No Flying in the House by Betty Brock, which I promptly stole. It still sits, in beloved, dog-eared glory, on my bookshelves today.

So, how 'bout you? Any literary indiscretions to own up to: lies? hoaxes? omissions?

* Liar is out in the world in October, so it's a little bit of a wait, but it will be worth it. Trust me.

28 May 2009

The sound of many hands clapping

Hear, hear! Richard Flanagan

On the dawn of our own wonderful YA festival - Reading Matters, we are delighted to be able to be able to share the transcript of Richard Flanagan's Closing Address at the Sydney Writers Festival

He tells it like it is with regard to parallel importation, the importance of territorial copyright, local publishing and independent book-selling and the threat to the Australian cultural landscape that is being promoted by Big Business. He doesn't pull his punches. Here's a snippet:
For it falls to us to once more to defend the right—our right and our deepest need—to our own stories in our own voice, which is also, historically and perhaps inevitably, that same battle between truth and power...

I cannot begin to convey to you the destructive stupidity of what is being proposed, nor the intense sadness and great anger that so many Australian writers feel about this proposal...

The American publisher laughed, saying that while Australia’s folly would profit him, why on earth was Australian government contemplating such an insane idea that would destroy an industry and damage a vibrant literary culture?

Australian independent bookstores have for decades supported the unknown Australian writers, built the audience for books for us all, from David Malouf to Christos Tsiolkas, backed the Chloe Hoopers and Joan Londons, reminded us why Helen Garner mattered and Don Watson was important, persuaded us to buy a first Australian book by a Nam Le or a Steve Toltz. They are also the path into which books from elsewhere that matter are introduced to this country, and keep our book culture from becoming gangrenous. Their future under this proposal is bleak indeed...

Thus even a hugely successful Tim Winton novel—a book that enables his publisher here, Penguin Australia, to nurture new Australian writers of talent—could end up in Australian remainder bins. A dumped US hardback of Breath would be far cheaper than an Australian paperback, but with no royalty payable to the author and no profit to their Australian publisher...

We can prostate ourselves to the abacus, tear out our tongues, and end up as a banging gong, a clanging cymbal. Or we can with love seize our language, our stories, and with them make ourselves anew...

Kevin Rudd can do more than just reject the measure to end territorial copyright. He can turn around, recognise the centrality of Australian writing to Australia, and offer something large and positive in its place. He could make explicit national support for Australian stories told in Australian voices. Is this too much? I think not...
Do read the full transcript.

We say again: hear, hear!

27 May 2009

Talkin' bout your generation*

Sophie Cunningham over at the Meanjin blog has a short yet thought-provoking post highlighting the way the media often attack young people, just because they are, well, not as aged. She's talking about the mockery in the media aimed at 20-somethings holding important and powerful positions, but it's just as common to find newspapers scolding the 'yoof' of today - who sponge off their parents, beat people up, lack loyalty, read improperly, or have loose morals of one kind or another.

The Gen Y scorn seems to be out of hand. Sing it with me: unfocussed, selfish, flighty, irresponsible, tech-obsessed and above all else ADDICTED TO SOCIAL NETWORKING. OH MY STARS, THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END. If a day goes by without the BIG paper publishing an article about Twitter I will fall through the floor in surprise. If they publish a POSITIVE article about Twitter, I will fall through the roof!
And who is doling out the derision? One can only assume it's the youth of yesterday, who weren't very impressed when it was done to them. (Stick it to the man, man.)

In our experience, it's not just the young people themselves who cop it. I doubt whether there is a person in the House of Onion working on books for young people who has not been asked by some well-meaning friend or family member when they are going to be promoted to work on adult books. As if there is something inherently better, more meaningful, more important and more fulfilling about working on books for adults. To which we say...


While we are wailing and gnashing our teeth, perhaps you could read Kirsty Murray's musing on this topic from the point of view of the author. Her post is thoughtful, erudite and funny - probably because she lives in a house full of the YOUTH OF TODAY.

* sadly, this post contains no traces of Shaun Micallef

26 May 2009

Not that we need an excuse,

but we'll give you four anyway...

1) We were feeling a little nostalgia for the excitement that the release of a new Harry book (especially Deathly Hallows) whipped up in the House of Onion. Then we remembered that the Half-blood Prince movie is mere weeks away from release, so we got excited all over again. There will be KISSING. And SAD THINGS. And RON WEASLEY. Bring it ON.

2) John Green is coming to town for the Reading Matters conference later this week (along with a host of other fabulous authors), a perfect excuse to revisit our favourite bits of his and his brother Hank's made-of-awesome Brotherhood 2.0 .

3) 'Hermione' belongs on our list of surprisingly pronunciated (new word for the occasion) words.

4) As does 'accio', apparently - as Hank Green discovered.

So without further ado or excuse here is Hank Green's 'Accio, Deathly Hallows' which appeared on the interwebs on 18 July 2007, just days before the (embargoed) release date of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows on 21 July 2007.

22 May 2009

Words that are just about impossible to pronounce properly if you've only ever seen them written, never heard them

  • demesne
  • gorgeous
  • slough
  • synecdoche (and even worse synecdochical)
  • colonel
  • mayor
  • clerk
  • melancholy
  • naive
  • hyperbole
  • diaspora
  • Worcestershire
  • Melbourne (apparently... if you are USian. Think Melb'n or, if you must, Melburn.)

Any others?

20 May 2009

Trixie Belden v Nancy Drew (and a tangent)

Who doesn't love a girl sleuth or two?

Lili Wilkinson reckons that Trixie would belt Nancy in a fight.
At least one Onion disagrees.

Here are the stats:
  • 13-year-old freckled tomboy who lives on a farm, has many chores and is teased by brothers or;
  • 18-year old wealthy, attractive 'strawberry blonde' sophisticate who effortlessly knows how to do stuff (and has a boyfriend called Ned Nickerson!)?
It's apples and oranges, really. I find it hard to accept that it's an either/or option. I loved them both. Though Nancy probably edged out Trixie in the end, because reading is often about losing yourself in the fantasy of another world, another life, and, when it came down to it, I was a 13-year-old freckled tomboy who lived on a farm, had many chores and was teased by my brother... all that was missing was the opportunity for sleuthing. Sigh. Nancy's life was far more removed and glamorous - and therefore held lasting allure.

Browsing the internet for Nancy/Trixie* info we got totally distracted had an epiphany: redheads are popular:
Trixie Belden
Nancy Drew
Anne Shirley
Pippi Longstocking
The Weasleys
Ginger Megs
Cameron Ling**
Who do you think would win the battle of the redheaded super sleuths?

*Gee whilikers that would be some interesting fanfic.
** OK - not fictional, but beloved by many.

15 May 2009

Friday stuff

The serious stuff first
On the teev: Maralinga - The Anangu Story on the 7.30 Report! It includes interviews with Christobel Mattingley, Mima Smart - the head of the Yalata Council - and the other women from Yalata and Oak Valley communities who were involved in writing and illustrating the book. It's a moving, interesting and sometimes enraging story about a dark chapter of Australian history. Well worth watching - now showing on ABC iView or here on the 7.30 Report website.

Then the fun stuff
Over at the Meanjin blog: they are talking about Twitter lit. A very amusing cousin of the SMS novel.

In libraries around the world: Book quilts! Check out this Flickr pool of library quilts. We were particularly impressed by the one from the Boise Public Library. It has a dragon!

Finally, the sad stuff
In the House: Today is the cake-maker extraordinaire's last day in the House of Onion. Andrea McNamara is going on to bigger, bolder, brighter, more Penguin-shaped things. And we are very pleased. For her. But not for us. We will miss her terribly. Because she's not only extraordinaire at cakes, but at all sorts of other things too, not least making books. Oh, and making everything look good - and making football a part of our lives in ways we could never have imagined. There will be a large hole in the House of Onion on Monday morning.

So to say a little bit of thank you - here is a cake for you, Andrea. Sadly, we won't be eating it because it lives in another hemisphere*, but we feel that it's appropriate because by the end of the day we will all be roaring our terrible roars and rolling our terrible eyes and gnashing our terrible teeth ... and we may just not let you leave.

*Apparently this was made by Alison B at Town Lake Cakes, but we found it on Cake Wrecks , which is one of our all-time favourite blogs. If you haven't yet had the pleasure, it will make your Friday.

12 May 2009

Calling all aliens

It's always illuminating to see the range of search terms that draw people to our blog. We're not certain these searchers would have found what they were looking for:
  • alien cake
  • alien fireworks
  • cool things about aliens
  • famous alian illustrators
  • alien christmas stockings
  • how does an alien breathe
  • publishers to publish an alien book
  • rolling alien
  • a good alien saying
  • what is and isn't an alien
  • spell to contact aliens

  • And our favourite: how to spell marshion

08 May 2009

Warning: this list may contain traces of vampires

1) This piece of awesome speaks for itself really.

Fabulous work AB, AY and JY. We love it (and the boy next door).*

2) Speaking of vampires, Cathy Jinks realised that some of those vampires were keen to not harm the peoples and that, to cope with their sacrifice, they would need a support group:

Check out Cathy's interview with Booktopia:

3) On Lateline last night, our very own Garth Nix and the CEO of Dymocks, Don Grover, debated the merits (or lack thereof!) of abolishing territorial copyright and parallel importation laws. If you didn't see it, you can catch it here. Scroll down through the segments until you reach 'Dymocks CEO joins author to debate book imports'.

4) The lovely and very clever Elise Hurst on the challenging process of designing all three Moorehawke covers at once.

5) And for all you Michael Ende fans (and/or you children of the 80s), we just thought we'd revisit this favourite lolcat:

*(And the vampires. And the werewolves.)

07 May 2009

A few more open letters

Dear 4-colour process printing,

You are very clever. I love the way you make all those millions of rich and beautiful hues from just four little colours. I also like how most of your colours are dressed up in fancy names - Cyan, Magenta, Key - but Yellow is just plain old Yellow. I want you to know that I value and appreciate you... so I hope you won't be offended to hear that I'm using PMS 806 on the cover of a book I'm sending to the printer today. It's just that it needs to be really PINK - you know?

with warm wishes for our future relationship,

Yeah... it's not really working out between us.

keep it real,
Dear Staccato Short Sentences,

I love you. I truly do. Less is more. For sure. Most of the time. I am also enamoured of variety. Allow me to introduce you to my friend, the comma.

Yours in anticipation,
Dear Quark,

It's not you, it's me.

Design team
Dearest, most cherished and most beloved Coffee Machine,

We miss you in the morning; we miss you in the evening; we miss you at supper time.

Please come back soon.

Eternal love,

04 May 2009

Every good editor deserves fruit-cake

We just wanted to share the exciting news that Kim Kane and the House of Onion's very own Elise Jones have won the Barbara Ramsden Award for Excellence in Editing for their work on Kim's book Pip: the Story of Olive.

'The Ramsden is a major literary award for a book of quality writing in any field of literature. Awarded jointly to author and publisher’s editor, it recognises the combined effort of both parties to achieve the final result. Editors who have won it include John Bangsund, Sue Ebury, Shirley Purchase, Lee White, Janet Mackenzie, Wendy Sutherland.'

Excellent work, Elise and Kim!!

In celebration we had a delicious cake made by the cake-maker-in-waiting:

Sadly, EJ was not here to participate in her own celebration, so, out of the goodness of our hearts, we ate her piece.

NB Any of you who are feeling a strange sense of deja-vu about this post will be interested to know that Kim and Elise collected their award on Friday night, so we can now trumpet the news all over town.

Suburbia in the UK

Psst. The Guardian has taken quite a liking to Shaun Tan's Tales From Outer Suburbia. Hooray!