Tag Archives: Maureen McCarthy

Listing

Coming up to Christmas the media fills up with list articles. Top Tens of this and that. Bests and Worsts. Most memorable. The Season/Year/Decade/Century in Review and so on. It will be even more rife this year as we’re ending a decade.

Why do so many of these get published? Because they’re easy to write. Because people like them and argue over them. And because they’re usually a great filler at a time of year when less newsworthy stuff happens.

I indulged in lists here last year. This year I’m so befuddled I’m listing sideways myself. Better to be listing than listless, I guess. Here be some recommendations from me:

Favourite things I read in 2009, (old or new)

A Beginner’s Guide to Living – Lia Hills
The Big Sleep – Raymond Chandler
The Faceless Ones – Derek Landy
Henrietta – Martine Murray
Little Brother – Cory Doctorow
Paper Towns – John Green
Somebody’s Crying – Maureen McCarthy
Ten Mile River – Paul Griffin

Picture books:
Mannie & The Long Brave Day – Martine Murray & Sally Rippin
Isabella’s Garden – Glenda Millard

2009 favourite listens

It’s been an odd year for my iPod. Normally I buy albums. This year I purchased individual tracks and largely sat with favourite albums from 2008 – or delved into the past to discover Tom Waits, John Coltrane and retro Wilco.

Of the few new albums that have had regular rotations, my favourites have been Smoking Gun from Lady of the Sunshine, Wilco from Wilco and White Lies for Dark Times from Ben Harper & Relentless7.

2009 favourite films

Man, there were so many flicks I wanted to see this year but didn’t get to in time (District 9, Samson & Delilah, Balibo, Blessed, The Changeling, Coraline). I’ll catch some of these on video over the silly season. Of those I did get to, I really enjoyed Ponyo, Watchmen, The Reader and The Hangover. I saw the latter with a bunch of mates on a boys’ night out. Laughed until my jaw hurt.

Given my aforementioned befuddlement, I know there will be things I’ve forgotten.

Personal highlights from the year have included finding a passionate publisher for Five Parts Dead, some of the workshops I conducted with students around the state and getting to know several other authors … and then realising we all struggle with the same stuff.

Every year has its tough times too. My thoughts are with those whose lives were altered forever by the February 7 inferno, along with those confronted by cancer or mental illness. Hang tough.

Wishing you a jolly Christmas

My brain has gone into summer shutdown mode so I’m not sure I’ll have any meaningful insights into the writing life today. However, I would like to thank everyone who has purchased Game as Ned, borrowed it from a library or even borrowed it from a friend to read. If you liked it, please spread the word.

Thanks too, to those fearless folk who have been willing to read drafts of my current manuscript, to those who invited me to speak at your school and to anyone who has come along and checked out this blog or my book trailer. I wish you all a laughter-soaked Christmas and adventurous, fun-filled 2009.

Here are a few random musings on the year that is fading into memory:

Music 08
Album of the year as far as my ears go, was Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’. Others I’ve listened to a lot include Angus & Julia Stone’s ‘A Book Like This’, Goldfrapp’s ‘Seventh Tree’, the John Butler Trio’s ‘Grand National’, Josh Pyke’s ‘Chimney’s Afire’ and Arcade Fire’s ‘Neon Bible’. At present I’m chortling to CW Stoneking’s ‘Jungle Blues’ and about to dive into the highly acclaimed Fleet Foxes.

Movies 08
Not a great year for cinema in my opinion. I enjoyed ‘Juno’ and ‘Iron Man’, but ‘The Dark Knight’ is the only flick that stands tall in my memory. I had high hopes for the new Indiana Jones but it couldn’t live up to my teen memories.

Books 08
I’ve just finished Maureen McCarthy’s ‘Somebody’s Crying’, which I really enjoyed. It’s not often these days that I dream about book characters but the lead trio in this murder mystery clearly made a big impression on me. I’m now plunging into the much-praised ‘Before I Die’ by Jenny Downham … not very festive, I know.

As to other favourite YA books I read in 08, I’d pick John Green’s ‘Looking for Alaska’, James Moloney’s ‘Kill the Possum’, and ‘Joel and Cat Set the Story Straight’ by Nick Earls and Rebecca Sparrow. My son and I are also loving the junior fiction ‘Samurai Kids’ series by Sandy Fussell.

Titles I want to get to over the break are Tim Winton’s ‘Breath’, Richard Flanagan’s ‘The Unknown Terrorist’ and Alan Moore’s ‘Watchmen’.

And the rest

  • My writing year didn’t quite go to plan but 09 looks promising.
  • I’m blessed to have a healthy, happy family and fantastic friends who prop me up when I’m doubting myself. Thank you all.
  • I’d never have believed the election of a new US president could fill me with so much hope for our tiny planet.
  • I am head over heels besotted with South Australia’s Kangaroo Island, which basically provides the setting for my current manuscript. Because my narrator is in a dark place, he talks about the island in less than glowing terms at times. Hope the locals see beyond this if they read it!
  • I’ve covered a (personal) record number of kilometres on my trusty pushbikes and enjoyed … most of them. That included a 120km trek through the (big) hills north-east of Melbourne, after-dark rides with my buddies at Bike Club and many a Sunday morning panting along Beach Road. To all my fellow pedal-pushers, stay safe and upright and may the wind be at your back.
  • Books for boys 2

    Of all my posts so far, Books for boys has attracted the most eyeballs. Getting boys to pick up a book, open it, begin reading (often slowly and grudgingly) and then persevere right through to the finish, can be a real challenge. As a result, there are countless parents and teachers out there on a Holy Grail-style quest for titles that can engage and entertain.

    I’m no literacy expert. But I was a compulsive reader when young. Still am, really. I read to my son every night, select books for him from the local library, chat to him and his mates about what they’re reading (if they read at all), visit schools to talk about being an author and journalist, and consume a lot of books myself – many in the Young Adult category. I reckon that gives me a pretty good spider sense for what will snare male readers and what won’t.

    While I reckon almost all the titles in my earlier Books for boys post are winners, those listed below are also well worth a look. And if you want to delve even deeper, here are some themes I reckon you should watch for:

    Competition: This doesn’t have to mean sport. It could mean who farts the loudest. But boys are inherently competitive and once they get sucked into a competition, they’re more likely to stick around for the medal presentation.

    Action: This doesn’t have to mean guns and blood. It does require interesting developments every few pages. Boys are impatient. They don’t want to wait for stuff to happen. I recently read a really well written junior fiction book about two girls whose friendship was on the wane. They talked about it a lot and eventually made up BUT NOTHING ELSE HAPPENED. I guess that’s why the cover was pink.

    Short chapters: Yes, I know, this rule is broken by Tolkien and many others. But if you have a seven-year-old who is only beginning to read, they want to feel like they’re getting somewhere, not bogged in a chapter that never ends. Short chapters let them pause, take a break, absorb what they have read and, cue parent voice, turn the light out before midnight.

    Humour: Hard to write, great fun to read. Lots of boys like reading gross-out material about bums, snot and slime generally. I actually think the key to this stuff isn’t how sticky or stinky it is. I reckon it’s the story and the slapstick. Boys want to laugh at weird and wonderful things happening – mainly to adults.

    Interests: If your boy has an interest or obsession, play to it. Buy books that detail the boots worn by Beckham or the sword swung by Sir Lancelot. If you can’t find a bookstore carrying Japanese manga card game characters, look for them online. Where there’s a market, there’s a publisher.

    Comics: Don’t shy away from graphic novels – but do check the suitability for your boy’s age group. There are some fantastic graphic novel series available and, reading is reading, whether there are pictures or not.

    I’ve gone on too long and haven’t listed any books yet. I’m not great at pumping my own tyres but I’d note that my own debut novel, Game as Ned has been popular with male (and female) readers aged 13 and up. Judging by the letters I’ve received, the boys like that there’s lots of action (after a slow start), occasional humour, short chapters and a tense finish. When a 15-year-old writes to say “I don’t like reading but your book is the best book I’ve read”, it’s a mighty compliment.

    Anyway, here are some more Books for boys that are well worth a look, with suggested reader ages in brackets:

    Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy (a bit trippy and obtuse in places but funny and sassy and most boys look at the cover illustration and go “whooooa – I want to read that.”) (10+)

    Contest – Matthew Reilly (Most Reilly titles are great for boys but, of those I’ve read, this is my favourite.) (12+)

    Kill the Possum – James Moloney (Covers some heavy terrain but teen males will identify with the narrator’s emotions) (15+)

    Looking for Alaska – John Green (15+)

    Somebody’s Crying – Maureen McCarthy (14+)

    For younger readers, check out:

    The Tangshan Tigers series – Dan Lee (my son found these by himself, read them and loved them) (7+)

    The Captain Underpants series and The Dumb Bunnies – Dave Pilkey (6+)

    The OK Team – Nick Place (7+)

    Just about anything with Andy Griffiths’ name on the cover (6+)

    Ditto for Paul Jennings (7+)

    Star Wars graphic novels (7+)

    I’ll keep adding to this list as I keep on reading. To check out my personal library, click here. I have added a Books for Boys tag so you can search titles I believe boys will enjoy.