31 March 2010

Auf wiedersehen, adieu

Today there will be hot cross buns and weeping, for it is the last day in the office of our best-beloved Publishing Operations Manager, Jenni Walker.

We will miss her firm hand on the tiller.
We will miss her patience and her expertise.
We will miss her thoroughness and her unflappability. (Or should that be her lack of flap?)
We will miss her competitive edge and her vast store of trivia knowledge - particularly the geography.
We will miss her gentle reminders,
her strappy shoes jingling on the stairs,
her enthusiasm for Excel,
and her yellow plastic sandwich containers.

Jenni - thank you so much for everything; most of all we'll just miss you!

Best best best luck with all your exciting new adventures, and GO DOGGIES!

With love,
The whole bunch of grateful Onions.
(*sniff, sniffle, sob*)

30 March 2010

CBCA Shortlist 2010 - 10 million cheers!

Big big big congratulations to the Allen & Unwin authors shortlisted for the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards 2010.

We are running around the House of Onion squealing like real guinea pigs. One Onion is using the news to propel herself up vast mountains*.

Because look look look:

Older Readers

The Winds of Heaven by Judith Clarke

Liar by Justine Larbalestier

A Small Free Kiss in the Dark by Glenda Millard

Younger Readers

Darius Bell and the Glitter Pool by Odo Hirsch

Picture Book of the Year

Mr Chicken Goes to Paris by Leigh Hobbs

To the Top End by Roland Harvey

The Hero of Little Street by Gregory Rogers

Eve Pownall Award

Maralinga - the Anangu Story by Yalata and Oak Valley Communities with Christobel Mattingley

Congratulations to all the other wonderful authors on the shortlist. Our books are in very fine company.

And more more more cheering for our authors on the list of Notable Books for 2010.

Little Bird by Penni Russon
Winter of Grace by Kate Constable
Worldshaker by Richard Harland
Cicada Summer by Kate Constable
10 Little Hermit Crabs by Lee Fox and Shane McG
Scarygirl by Nathan Jurevicius
Riding the Black Cockatoo by John Danalis

What a bumper crop - we are very pleased and proud.

* You can do it! You can do it! You can! Just channel the bravery of this man.

29 March 2010

Sing Ho for an Australian Poet Laureate [^^UPDATED^^]

When Odysseus came,
with an athlete's build, a sword and a shield,
he followed him to the battlefield,
the crowd's roar,
and it was sport, not war,
his charmed foot on the ball ...
but then his heel, his heel, his heel ...

That is Britain's poet laureate, Carol Ann Duffy^^, on David Beckham's probably career-ending, certainly World-Cup-hopes-dashing Achilles tendon injury. You can read the whole poem here.

Why doesn't Australia have a poet laureate?

Given that we borrow Queen Elizabeth's face for our coins, we're probably supposed to borrow her poet too. But that doesn't seem fair. Carol Ann Duffy - wonderful though she is - is never going to write about the fallout if Gary Ablett moves to the Gold Coast. (For instance.)

How good would it be to have an Australian poet writing about Australian stuff and items?

Penni Russon has the right idea. She has her own poet-in-residence.

If the House of Onion had its own poet-in-residence, her (or his) recent works might have included:

  • Patricia Wrightson: an elegy
  • The Western Bulldogs: a lament
  • Ode on a missing pencil*
  • To the editors, to make much of time
  • Stopping by the bar on a Friday evening
  • I wandered lonely as the only editor left on my floor because all the others were away**
  • Of The Awefull Battle Of The Commas And The Semicolons Together With Some Account Of The Participation Of the Endash and the Emdash , And The Intervention Of The Full Stop
  • The Ballad of the Typo ***
  • Unconstant emayle mannagemynt systemmes and complaynt been but lyte asonder****

What would your poet-in-residence be writing about?

OOO look look at this beautiful thing. And that is only one of the many collections of Carol Ann Duffy that we that we distribute for your (and our!) buying needs. Thanks for the heads up, LB! Now, which to choose...

*Just as an aside, at least one Onion was puzzled for quite some time as to how the whole of Keats's 'Ode on a Grecian Urn' fitted on the Grecian urn.
** Alternative title: The Waste Land
*** Alternative title: Howl
****or, The IT Wrech's Lament

25 March 2010

Guinea-pig Thursday*

Not this kind:

This kind:
Guinea-pig Thursday - when the Cake-maker in Chief experiments with a cake she's never made before and tries it out on us.
We are the guinea-pigs.
Best. Gig. Ever.

This may seem like a gloat post - but really it has a much nobler aim.**
This is a hymn of thanks to the Cake-maker in Chief who has produced the most celestial confections over the last few weeks.

Here is but a sampling.

Coconut Lemon Cake

Banoffee Pie

(The Tall Designer proclaimed this one the Best Ever. It's a big call, but it does have merit.)

Thank you, Cake-Maker in Chief! You are, as my grandfather would have said, a dab hand at baking.

Henceforth you shall be known as the Cake-Maker Virtuoso.

This may seem a subtle difference to some, but if there's one thing we know at the House of Onion, it's that subtle differences in word choice can make all the difference.

All hail the Cake-Maker Virtuoso! Long live Guinea-pig Thursday!

* Warning - this post may contain no traces of books
**Also - gloaty gloaty gloaty. (Which is not at all the same thing as goaty goaty goaty.

24 March 2010

Agent Report: Somerset Celebration of Literature

Attend the Somerset Celebration of Literature. Soak up the atmosphere. Be nice to Onion authors (and any others you happen across).

STATUS: Accepted (with alacrity).

This literary festival, organised by Somerset College on the Gold Coast, has been running for 17 years. Much beloved of authors, it is friendly, fun and extremely well-run.


Ah, the Gold Coast - California crossed with Florida, and wherever you go there's a five-lane highway between you and the beach. [With thanks to Sean Williams.]

Green, green lawns and white marquees.

Cocktail party - a balmy evening with gentle rain. [Note from HQ: agent did not notice it was raining due to balminess of evening, perhaps agent needs to work on observational skills on return to HQ.]

The Green Room - cake!! (authors only). [Note from HQ: restricting cake consumption to authors may be an illegal practice. Investigate under the Freedom of Cake (FoC) legalisation.]

Slight panic attack and flashback to schooldays at lunchtime as students start pouring out into the quad. When did schoolkids get so huge? [Note from HQ: In future, do not deploy shortest agent to deal with large students.]

Huge students actually all very friendly and welcoming, do a great job of looking after the authors, and seem genuinely keen and interested.

Speaking to the fiercely smart & witty student novella finalists is like being in a John Green novel.

Helpful staff and willing parents seem to be always on hand to ferry everyone around in buses & cars.


John Danalis: sharing his beautiful possum skin cloak and lots of sniffles in the audience
Sofie Laguna: 'Okay, she chops them up and eats them!'
Craig Silvey: being asked to choose - is it Twilight or Harry Potter? Pirates or ninjas?
Kate Constable: snorting peas through her nose [Note from HQ: This sighting is in dispute.]
Leigh Hobbs: wrangling a tent full of littlies with no paper and no pencils. Impressive.


Agent Constable's report.


Highly successful operation. Agent has asked to be deployed again. Consider her highly suited to mission if she can curb her fear of large school children and quadrangles.

23 March 2010

Animal House!

1) In this short film by Inframe.tv, Nathan Jurevicius is at the zoo - talking about Scarygirl, being close to gorillas and orangutans, drawing on books and generally being interesting and thoughtful.

2) Mr Chicken Goes to Paris GOES TO PARIS!
Look, here he is in the window of the The Red Wheelbarrow at 22 Rue Saint Paul in the Marais. Lucky Mr Chicken!

3) And for no apparent reason other than it perfectly rounds out today's theme (and is hilarious) ...

18 March 2010

Tempus certainly does fugit

Onions: Oh hai. Look over there*!
Blog readers: Oh why. What’s over there?
Onions: Well, certainly more than what’s been over here lately.

We’d like to take this moment to apologise, dear readers.

We have neglected you. We have had very much of the busyness and the pressing deadlines and the post-Bologna-preparations catch-up of everything we had to let slide while we made dummies and updated blurbs and synopses and waxed lyrical about our forthcoming books so our wonderful Publisher & Rights people had plenty of gold to draw upon when they pitch our fabulous books at short sharp meetings with eager agents and publishers from around the world. Go little books go. Storm that castle.

Deep breath. And another one.

Because there is also this:

One Onion is on the eve of a rather intrepid outing. There will be mountains. There will be trekking. There will be much in the manner of new and exciting experiences.

And so, there has been much tidying of matters, meeting of pre-departure deadlines, peoples to contact, books to keep on track, lists to tick off, hiking boots to wear in.**

So, dear reader, we ask that you forgive us for our radio silence. We will recover our stride. Yes we will.

Yours faithfully,


*And over there you will find that Spike is discussing something dear to our hearts indeed - Tender Morsels (in its new Shaun Tan finery) and dark YA.
** And a certain amount of delegating to be done, too, we can't help but notice, mutters a stay-at-home colleague.

12 March 2010

Up, Up and Away!

Has it really been a whole week since we last posted?
How time flies when you're busy making books and preparing to send your publisher and rights team to an overseas book fair.

Sometimes when you've had your head down and your blinkers on you need to take a break and look at things from a different angle; you need a new perspective, a new horizon.

Herewith, a photo essay from an airborn Onion:

Ladies and gentleman... hot-air balloon is the only way to travel.

The House of Onion from above.
If you compare this with our blog banner, you'll see it's basically the reverse view (only with fewer giraffes, elephants and punctuation-mark deliveries).

The MCG! The MCG! The Hallowed Turf. And the new soccer stadium in progress. You can just see St Pat's Cathedral, but not quite The House, on the far far right edge of the picture, just above the edge of the basket.


Back on the ground again:
Me - 'I'm back from ballooning.'
Colleague E - 'Ooo how was it. Did you think about Lee Scoresby?'

And that conversational gambit right there is one of the main reasons it's such a pleasure to come to work at the House of Onion.

  • Lee Scoresby
  • Phileas Fogg
  • Derryn Sharp
  • (Perhaps best not to mention Ian McEwen's Enduring Love at this juncture, as that particular ballooning expedition ended rather badly.)

Who are other great aeronauts in literature?*

* and how many of you learned the word aeronaut from Charlotte's Web?

05 March 2010

Friday stuff and items

Inspiration. We could use some around here. Who couldn't on a muggy Friday afternoon?

Go here for a lovely, uplifting and intriguing post by Kate Constable about seven things that have inspired her writing.

Go here for a collection of TED talks on language, grammar and dictionaries. It's worth watching the Erin McKean one just to hear her say 'lexicographical'. (Thanks for the link to the round up, @macqdictionary) We highly recommend noodling around the TED website for all kinds of inspiration.

Go here for the new OK Go video clip that everyone is talking about. It's really and truly worth it.

Go here for an interesting comparison of US and UK book covers, which might well inspire us to post some more of our international editions soon.

Go here for an XKCD cartoon that we are finding amusing.

03 March 2010

The State Library of Victoria is Where It's At

I believe we *ahem* mentioned how Shaun Tan won the Premier's Award and the Children's Literature Award last week at Adelaide Writers' Week. Well now, thanks to Read Alert, you can read his lovely acceptance speech. Go forth and be amused and moved.

But that's not all, the good people at the SLV have also done something else: they have put Karen Healey Inside a Dog.

Karen is the writer in residence for this month. She promises that she will be writing about all sorts of high-minded topics like Roxette, Creme Eggs and adverbs. Go forth and let her entertain you.

The two writers who preceded Karen in the residence were our very own Celine Kiernan and Garth Nix. You can scroll back to read Garth's and Celine's posts as well. It's like a three-for-one deal!

What's that you say? Oh yes, now that you mention it, that is a picture of real live copies of Guardian of the Dead in the wilds of the House of Onion. Pardon? When is it available for buying? April. That's next month. NEXT MONTH!

01 March 2010

Heart-burstingly proud

So Adelaide Writers' Week is in full swing and there's plenty of swanning about and graceful fanning happening under the plane trees at this wonderful festival.

And yesterday one Onion was fortunate enough to be there to see Shaun Tan collect the Children's Literature Award (woohoo!) AND the Premier's Award (woohoot!) for Tales from Outer Suburbia.

It is the first time the winner of the Children's Literature prize has won the Premier's Award.

Oh my, you should have heard how hard I clapped!

Congratulations to all the short-listed authors and the winners in other categories and THREE MILLION CHEERS to Shaun.

*does delighted Onion dance*