Allison Tait https://allisontait.com writing, whimsy ... life Thu, 21 Feb 2019 21:38:10 +0000 en-AU hourly 1 Meet me at the Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival https://allisontait.com/2019/02/meet-me-at-the-whitsunday-voices-youth-literature-festival/ https://allisontait.com/2019/02/meet-me-at-the-whitsunday-voices-youth-literature-festival/#respond Thu, 21 Feb 2019 00:49:02 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7537 The presenters for the 2019 Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival have been announced, and I’m thrilled to be one of them. Taking place this year from 17-19 July, the festival ...

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Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival | allisontait.comThe presenters for the 2019 Whitsunday Voices Youth Literature Festival have been announced, and I’m thrilled to be one of them.

Taking place this year from 17-19 July, the festival bills itself as a celebration of reading, writing and creative thinking – three of my favourite things! – for students, teachers and residents around Mackay, Qld.

I’ll be taking part in panels, presenting an author talk on Where Ideas Come From, and sharing my workshop on Finding Your Writing Superpower.

You’ll find details of the presenter line-up, which also includes amazing authors such as Tim Harris, Michael Gerard Bauer, Samantha Wheeler, Steven Herrick, Aleesah Darlison, and more, here.

Can’t wait!

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher.

 You can find out more about me here, and more about my books here.

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Industry Insider: Exploring dark themes in YA fiction https://allisontait.com/2019/02/industry-insider-exploring-dark-themes-in-ya-fiction/ https://allisontait.com/2019/02/industry-insider-exploring-dark-themes-in-ya-fiction/#respond Mon, 11 Feb 2019 00:25:18 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7493 Regular readers of this blog will know that I run an irregular series called Industry Insider, in which professionals offer their insights into some of the big questions about writing, ...

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Exploring dark themes in YA fictionRegular readers of this blog will know that I run an irregular series called Industry Insider, in which professionals offer their insights into some of the big questions about writing, editing, reading and publishing.

This week, Matt Davies, Australian author of debut YA novel This Thing Of Darkness, has popped in to talk about how to manage dark themes in YA fiction. It’s a delicate balance between exploring a difficult theme in a realistic way – and keeping the teen reading.

Here, Matt explains why he believes that challenging books should be part of every teen’s reading life. 

Take it away, Matt Davies…

Exploring dark themes in YA fiction

A big part of becoming an adult is discovering that the world can be a really dark place. Bad things happen.

Men kill women who they’re supposed to love, children die at random from terminal diseases, and young people self-harm and take their own lives.

These are harsh realities, and one of the strengths of young adult fiction is that it gives teenagers a way in to these issues in a safe place where they can explore and think about them at arm’s length.

There’s no shortage of difficult themes in modern-day YA. In fact, unashamedly feel-good new releases are in short supply.

Mental illness is being explored more and more (It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Ned Vizzini; Darius the Great Is Not Okay, Adib Khorram), and trauma, particularly the death of a loved one (The Protected, Claire Zorn; Words in Deep Blue, Cath Crowley), is well covered.

Stories about psychological disorders (Everything Everything, Nicola Yoon; Highly Illogical Behaviour, John Corey Whaley) and psychological trauma (The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky) are relatively easy to find.

But many of these stories deal with situations that are out of the protagonist’s control or, to look at it another way, not their fault. They delve into plotlines that the characters have been forced into in some way, and the books end up focusing on how the characters learn to deal with their newfound reality.

But what about books that explore dark situations of the character’s own making? Books that ask us to empathise with someone who has done something incomprehensible? There’s not so many of those.

Responsibility and consent

Chris Lynch writes a lot about boys behaving badly. His 2005 YA novel Inexcusable is told from the perspective of a twelfth-grader called Keir. Keir is a loyal friend and a devoted son and brother. He sees himself as a good guy. He loves his girlfriend and would never hurt her.

But then she accuses him of rape.

As the reader, we can clearly see that the image Keir has of himself is skewed. He lives with his lonely, widowed dad, who treats him more like a mate than a son. His dad is an enabler and part of the reason why Keir constantly justifies his own bad behaviour. His family wouldn’t love and support him if he was a monster, right?

It’s a provocative book that raises important issues about intent, responsibility and consent. Ultimately, though, it’s about the lies we tell ourselves and owning up to the choices we make. All choices have consequences – that’s a very adult concept but one that can’t be dodged.

Rage and redemption

Gail Giles’ Right Behind You (2007) is another YA novel that tackles a tough moral issue for teens. It tells the story of Kip, a 14-year-old boy living with an agonising secret – when he was nine, he set a kid on fire in a jealous rage and the kid died.

Now Kip is starting high school with a new identity after spending four years in juvenile detention. Just as he begins to form friendships, he makes a huge mistake – he talks about his past. The town turns on him and we get the sense that Kip’s life is destined to be a revolving door of secrecy and guilt.

What makes this story so thought-provoking is that Kip is not a psychopath or a faceless serial killer that society can lock up and write off. He’s a kid. In fact, he’s a likeable kid, with a good sense of humour and a huge capacity for love. But he did a horrible thing, and now he has to live with the consequences.

Right Behind You is a powerful story about rage and redemption, guilt and forgiveness. It’s about owning up to your actions and then learning how to move forward.

Balance and consequences

The idea that there are certain issues that teens can’t handle in their fiction is ridiculous. There’s no restriction on what they can access online or in films or in books marketed at adults. In fact, YA fiction is the perfect place to explore darker themes in a considered way.

But there has to be a balance and there has to be consequences. By balance, I mean exploring issues from all sides. And by consequences, I mean that the bad behaviour can’t go unchecked.

My YA novel, This Thing of Darkness, takes on a similar subject to Right Behind You. Dean is 18 and living with a secret past involving years in a youth justice facility for committing a violent crime. Now he’s out and hiding who he really is and what he did. But he soon learns that he will never truly escape his past. He can only learn to live with it, even if those around him can’t.

I work as a freelance editor, and in 2017 I edited a government report into the state of Victoria’s youth justice system. It was dire – harsher than the adult system and not enough focus on rehabilitation. This Thing of Darkness encourages readers to consider the story behind the story.

What drives a child to commit an aggravated crime? What can we do to help them before they do, while they’re incarcerated and after they get out? Without support, in too many cases the cycle of crime continues. And that’s bad for everyone.

Books that ask us to sympathise with teen rapists and child killers are not easy reads. But YA shouldn’t be easy. It should be challenging and it should spark conversations. It should provoke.

Some novels empower; others enlighten. Some do both. I love a great story that follows the hero’s journey – one that sees the protagonist achieve a massive victory against their nemesis at the end.

But the reality is that sometimes we will never be able to achieve the victory we envisage. So we have to settle for a different kind of victory – a lesser one, but something we can accept – and then carry on.

And that’s all part of growing up.

This Thing Of Darkness by Matt DaviesMatt Davies’s novel, This Thing of Darkness, was published by Scholastic Australia in November 2018. The manuscript was highly commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript.Find out more about Matt and his writing on his website or follow him on Twitter.

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Want to write for children or YA? Don’t miss this pop-up podcast https://allisontait.com/2019/02/want-to-write-for-children-or-ya-dont-miss-this-pop-up-podcast/ Thu, 07 Feb 2019 02:46:05 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7481 As the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast nears its 270th episode (and it’s one millionth download – stand by!), it has become an incredibly deep and rich ...

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New: Magic & Mayhem podcast series, all about writing for children and YA | allisontait.comAs the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast nears its 270th episode (and it’s one millionth download – stand by!), it has become an incredibly deep and rich resource of interviews, stories, anecdotes and information from published authors of all kinds from Australia and around the world.

Which gives us a LOT of great advice to play with.

Today, the amazing team at the Australian Writers’ Centre released a wonderful curated ‘pop up’ podcast series called Magic & Mayhem.

Featuring 40 incredible interviews with authors such as Andy Griffiths, Jacqueline Harvey, Tristan Bancks, Lauren Child, Wendy Orr and more, it’s a fantastic exploration of the world of children’s and YA fiction, from picture books through chapter books and middle-grade and right up to teens.

But wait, there’s more.

The AWC team has also created a fantastic FREE companion ebook that brings together the very best of the advice that each episode offers.

Oh. My.

You’ll find all the details about the podcast and how to claim your free book here.

Or you can just start listening right now here, or on iTunes here.

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Industry Insider: Writing crime thrillers for adults and teens https://allisontait.com/2019/02/industry-insider-writing-crime-thrillers-for-adults-and-teens/ Mon, 04 Feb 2019 01:48:18 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7447 Two of the best things about Twitter are the people you get to know on the platform and the things you get to learn on the platform. Those two things ...

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Industry Insider: writing crime thrillers for adults and teens | allisontait.comTwo of the best things about Twitter are the people you get to know on the platform and the things you get to learn on the platform.

Those two things came together for me perfectly recently when the fabulous Australian YA author Ellie Marney put together a Twitter thread about writing crime thrillers for teens.

You might remember Ellie from this post [6 top #LoveOzYA authors talk about writing], where I flagged the excellent podcast interview we did together, or this post [How to tell when your writing is good enough], where she shared her thoughts on this subject.

Or you might remember this review from Book Boy of the first book in her award-winning ‘Every’ series.

Anyway, the thread on Twitter was so fabulous that I reached out and asked Ellie to put it together into a blog post.

Take it away, Ellie Marney!

How to write crime thrillers for adults and teens

Crime thrillers are a lot of fun to write, but you have to know how to piece them together. It’s easy to get lost amongst the plot twists, dark alleyways and red herrings – so here are some tips to keep you on the straight and narrow…

•Before you get started, check out some of the key elements of the thriller. Make sure you read books in the genre – focus on books you’ve enjoyed, or that you think are good examples. And read this great article by Hunter Emkay.

•Begin with the threat in the story (the crime) from your very first chapter – or introduce your protagonist with some dark foreshadowing – to grab your reader from the start.

•In a thriller, your villain drives the story. Your protagonist is always chasing one step behind…until the moment they catch up in the finale.

•Different sub-genres have different types of conflict:
–In an action thriller, there’s always a physical battle, and your protagonist should be in physical danger.
–In a psychological thriller, there might still be action, but the main conflict is the mental clash between protagonist and villain. The danger is to the protagonist’s mind or intrinsic identity and your protagonist needs to outwit the villain.

A thriller isn’t like a procedural: motives and intentions can be more important than the technical aspects of the crime. Think long and hard about why your villain is so villainous.

•Always complicate things emotionally and mentally for your protagonist. Your supporting cast, for instance, should all carry some personal baggage that increases conflict.

A great way to maintain momentum is to include scenes when decisions and plans have to be made by your hero and their allies in the middle of a crisis, or while in transit.

Conflict should continually escalate (like in any good novel) and the ticking-clock element is vital.

•The story engine for a crime thriller isn’t quite like a conventional Hero’s Journey arc – you have to factor in twist endings, for instance. A great primer on crime thriller story engines comes from Matt Rees in this post.

Keep these important differences between a suspense story and a thriller in mind:
–In a Suspense Story – your reader knows something your protagonist doesn’t, and tension builds;
–In a Thriller – your reader doesn’t see the threat coming (cue jump scare!)
–In a Suspense-thriller (combination) – the reader is waiting for something to happen. Your protagonist’s job is to stop it from happening. The reader identifies with the protagonist and becomes are participant in the race against time.

Extra tips for YA thriller authors

•Remember to give your teen protagonist agency. Don’t let adults drive the narrative action!

•The best way to give teen protagonists narrative agency is to give them a connection to the crime (as a witness, suspect, trainee investigator, high school journalist…Veronica Mars, anyone?). Alternatively they could have a connection to the victim of the crime, or to the villain.

•Creating that connection is doubly important because when an adult protagonist investigates, it’s usually their job – they have external motivation, regardless of their internal motivation. But when a teen investigates, they need a major internal push to keep going when things get dangerous. And you want things to get dangerous.

Externally, teen protagonists will have adults telling them to stay out of it, parents who are worried for their safety etc. Not all teens can drive, or have a car. Juveniles don’t usually have credit cards or ready cash. They’re supposed to be in school, and keeping up with their friends and homework. They have a lot of external restrictions and pressures. You can use all that to create additional conflict.

Three additional top tips

1.Whether you’re writing for teens or adults, make sure your villain is an equal match with your protagonist. They should be as intelligent and driven and multi-dimensional as your hero. Don’t let your story down with a weak antagonist. Is your protagonist the villain themselves? Bonus points!

2.Ask yourself, ‘what would the reader expect to happen?‘ – then discard those ideas. You want to write the unexpected.

3.Above all remember what a crime story is – it’s a story of the human puzzle, the primal conflict between the good and evil in peoples’ hearts. What makes a normal person do evil things? Crime narratives are a form of morality play, in which the reader is made aware of a lesson to be learned about human nature. So think carefully: What is the reader learning in your story?

And happy writing!

Ellie Marney is an Australian teacher and author of nine YA crime titles, including the Every series, White Night and the Circus Hearts series. She is the winner of a Sisters in Crime Scarlet Stiletto Award and a Davitt Award, and been shortlisted for the ACWA Ned Kelly Award. Find out more at Ellie’s website.

 

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! You can find out more about me here, and more about The Mapmaker Chronicles and the Ateban Cipher, my epic adventure series for middle-grade readers here. Thanks for visiting!

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Celebrating my 10th anniversary: 10 favourite posts from 10 years of blogging https://allisontait.com/2019/01/celebrating-my-10th-anniversary-10-favourite-posts-from-10-years-of-blogging/ Thu, 31 Jan 2019 07:11:58 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7426 Ten years ago I started a blog. In the decade that followed my first terrible post (which disappeared in a blog clean-up some years ago), I have written hundreds and ...

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Celebrating 10 years of blogging: 10 favourite posts | allisontait.comTen years ago I started a blog.

In the decade that followed my first terrible post (which disappeared in a blog clean-up some years ago), I have written hundreds and hundreds of blog posts as this blog morphed from being a daily blog about Life In A Pink Fibro into an author blog as I shared my (then) career as a freelance writer and my journey into becoming a published author of children’s fiction.

I’ve really struggled with writing this post. In the past, I’ve celebrated my blogging anniversary with posts about things I’ve learned about blogging in that year. I’ve listed them all at the end of this post so you can follow the whole journey.

I dallied with crowdsourcing the post by posting a Facebook callout, where regular readers shared their most memorable posts with me. Here are a few:

And so I opened the suitcase

6 tips for getting back into the swing with your writing

You will never find time to write your novel

But at the end of the day, I’ve decided that I’m going to do two things to celebrate this milestone.

  1. Share the biggest thing I’ve learned about blogging in 10 years.
  2. Share MY favourite posts from 10 years of blogging.

Brace yourselves.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned about blogging in 10 years

So, the biggest lesson I’ve learned about blogging in 10 years is that blogging is about connections. The thing is, it didn’t really take me 10 years to grasp this. In fact, I blogged about it in my FIRST year. It’s called Why Blogging Is Not Writing and it also came up on the list of reader favourites.

This lesson was reinforced for me in the most painful of circumstances in January when a dear friend of mine – who I met through blogging and with whom I would never have made friends were it not for blogging – lost her beloved husband very suddenly. I think about her every day, and I make contact with her every few days, just to let her know I’m thinking of her. To connect.

If you’re not blogging to connect with people, you’re not doing it right.

Which brings me to…

My favourite posts from 10 years of blogging

These are not the most popular posts. They’re not necessarily the ones that bring the most traffic. They’re the posts that make me smile, the ones that remind me of how blogging really helped me to bring my writing voice down from ‘broadcast’ (think magazines, newspapers, writing for others) to ‘intimate’.

The ones that helped me to develop my inside voice.

Some of them are (gasp) posts I’ve written for other people’s blogs.

And here they are, in no particular order.

Growing up

Getting ready for Big School is for the birds

It seemed like a good idea at the time

Are you ignoring your best ideas?

Why I love reluctant heroes

In writing, as in life, ride your own race

Where angels fear to tread

Words no parent wants to hear: “This could be highly dangerous.”

10 things to do while you’re waiting on your writing (I still hate waiting so I go back to this one often)

The big questions: birds and bees and … whales

So there you have it.

And here are some of those other posts about blogging I mentioned:

My top 3 tips from nine years of author blogging 

The one thing I’ve learnt in my fifth year of blogging

My #1 tip for bloggers

Blogging: inviting readers home

12 things I learned in my 2nd year of blogging

Four things I learned in my fourth year of blogging

Three things I’ve learned in my third year of blogging

To those members of my community who have been with me since the Life In A Pink Fibro days, I say thank you for your comments, your encouragement and your support. 

To those who’ve discovered the blog more recently, to visit regularly or just to pop in occasionally, I say thank you for jumping on board and sharing my journey.

If you’re new here, welcome! You can find out more about me and the various things I do here and more about my middle-grade books here. 

Here’s to another 10 years!

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NEWS: That time I received an Australia Day Award https://allisontait.com/2019/01/news-that-time-i-received-an-australia-day-award/ https://allisontait.com/2019/01/news-that-time-i-received-an-australia-day-award/#comments Fri, 25 Jan 2019 03:50:58 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7411 Last night, I was honoured (also, astonished) to receive an Australia Day Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts and Culture at the 2019 Shoalhaven City Council ceremony. Thank you to ...

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Allison Tait Australia Day AwardsLast night, I was honoured (also, astonished) to receive an Australia Day Award for Outstanding Contribution to Arts and Culture at the 2019 Shoalhaven City Council ceremony.

Thank you to Jane Sim who nominated me for the Award and to the community panel who chose me for this honour. Huge congratulations to all of the new citizens and other award winners.

Also, Procrastipup, my constant writing companion, would like it known that he was there in spirit…

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How to choose (or write) a story for beginner readers https://allisontait.com/2019/01/how-to-choose-or-write-a-story-for-beginner-readers/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 06:55:06 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7387 It’s that time of year in Australia, as the last days of the school holidays wind down and our thoughts turn to A4-sized exercise books, glue sticks and shiny new ...

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How to find (and write) stories for early readers | allisontait.comIt’s that time of year in Australia, as the last days of the school holidays wind down and our thoughts turn to A4-sized exercise books, glue sticks and shiny new school shoes.

For parents with kids in the early years of school, or even at preschool, thoughts might also turn to the best ways to help kids nail the basics of reading and become independent readers.

Writers might be thinking about how best to write stories for those kids.

The Your Kids’ Next Read Facebook group is a great source of advice when it comes to finding books for early readers. And, as it turns out, for those who might be wanting to try their hand at writing for those who are just grasping the basics.

Graeme Wilkinson is one such resource. As a parent supporting his own daughter who is taking her first steps into reading, and as a kindergarten teacher in Japan who has been teaching preschool children how to read more for than six years, he offers the following advice on what to look for in a book for early readers – and how to tailor stories to help first-time readers begin to read independently.

So, let’s turn the YKNR Author Spotlight on Graeme Wilkinson, with his five top tips for creating stories for early readers (and what to look for when you’re searching for books suitable for your new reader).

1. Try to use basic three-letter words as much as possible (words like cat, mat, rat, dog, fox, box, hop, nap, etc). Keep an open mind that there are three-letter words that don’t follow the fundamentals of basic phonics (words like ice, eat, eye, toe, day, fly, etc). Words that contain four or more letters are a challenge for first-time readers.

2. Keep your sentences short. Young children have short attention spans. For a first-time reader trying to read independently, it can take a long time to read a single word. Meaning comes only after reading a complete sentence, so keeping a sentence short allows them to combine all the words they can read and gain its meaning. This usually brings a great smile to their faces as they have conquered their first sentences as an independent reader.

3. A big text size is important. First-time readers learn best by physically touching each letter in a word on the page. If the text is too small, their fingers will touch one or two letters at the same time, letters may blend into a single-shaped word from their perspective and the result is more of a challenge for them. We should aim to set them up for reading success. So make it as easy as possible for them to succeed.

4. Try using word families in a story. Word families are words that share the same sound. If you are writing a story about a “hen” try and include words like pen, ten, den, men, Ben (perhaps the hen’s name) to emphasis the “en” sound. Once they become familiar enough with this sound, their reading speed (and enjoyment) will increase.

5. Try to avoid using too many sight words in a story. Sight words are generally regarded as high-frequency words that don’t follow the rules of phonics. Words like a, the, to, they, said, etc are words that cannot be read phonetically. These words are incredibly important for children to learn to read by sight alone. However, don’t overwhelm first-time readers with too many in a sentence or a story. This will result in a child’s frustration and their desire to have their parent read to them again.

“The aim for a book for first-time readers should be building a child’s confidence to read independently,” says Graeme. “There are a lot of good books out there for children to learn how to read, but few are basic enough for first-time readers to read without a parent’s support.”

Graeme set about creating his own stories. “Based on my experience teaching children to read, studying the research, discussing with colleagues and experts in this field, and the importance of decodable books for children who have dsylexia, I have developed my own stories pinpointing the most fundamental start to learning how to read for first-time readers,” he says.

The aim of a book for first-time readers should be building a child’s confidence and enjoyment to read.

Writing stories for early readers | allisontait.comYou can try Graeme’s story Dex, a short story about a greedy dog, here for free as a mobi and PDF file. It’s designed to help first-time readers who know their basic phonics sounds to read independently. There is also a reading guide at the back for parents who check in on their child’s comprehension.

If your kid loves Dex, please leave a review on Goodreads here.

And please join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group here.

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The Book Of Secrets + The Book Of Answers out now in the US! https://allisontait.com/2019/01/the-book-of-secrets-the-book-of-answers-out-now-in-the-us/ https://allisontait.com/2019/01/the-book-of-secrets-the-book-of-answers-out-now-in-the-us/#comments Mon, 07 Jan 2019 03:30:02 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7355 Welcome to 2019! I hope you’ve had a fantastic and very restful holiday break. I’ve spent a few weeks away from my blog and everything that goes with it, and ...

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Out now in the USA: The Ateban Cipher series by A.L. TaitWelcome to 2019! I hope you’ve had a fantastic and very restful holiday break.

I’ve spent a few weeks away from my blog and everything that goes with it, and I confess to feeling much refreshed by the virtual vacation.

But I’m back at my desk today and ready to do some serious editing (or, let’s face it, as ready as I ever am to face editing…)

While I was off at the beach, however, some exciting things have been happening.

My two Ateban Cipher novels, The Book Of Secrets and The Book of Answers, are now both available in the United States through Kane Miller, the fab people who have already brought The Mapmaker Chronicles series to US and Canadian readers.

The Book Of Secrets (Ateban Cipher 1) by A.L. Tait out now in the USA

The covers may be different  but the epic adventure story, about the secrets of the mysterious coded manuscript known as The Ateban Cipher, remains the same.

As does the dedication in The Book Of Secrets.

Dedication from The Book Of Secrets by A.L. Tait

You can find out more about the books and purchase them directly here on the publisher’s website

I hope that US readers will take Gabe, Merry, Gwyn and the rest of the gang to their hearts in the way that Australian readers have done (you can read the Goodreads reviews here and here)! Thanks for all your support.

Looking for the Australian editions of The Ateban Cipher? You’ll find them here.

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My top 10 posts for writers (2018 edition) https://allisontait.com/2018/12/my-top-10-posts-for-writers-2018-edition/ https://allisontait.com/2018/12/my-top-10-posts-for-writers-2018-edition/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2018 00:22:33 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7299 I can’t believe it’s that time of the year again! I’m taking a break from the online world for a few weeks at the end of this week, so I ...

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top 10 posts for writers (2018) | allisontait.comI can’t believe it’s that time of the year again! I’m taking a break from the online world for a few weeks at the end of this week, so I thought I’d start sharing some of my ‘new year’ posts early, starting with this one.

I’m always fascinated to see which of my ‘writing’ posts resonate the most each year, and this year is no different. So here they are, in descending order from 10-1, the 10 most popular posts about writing on this site in 2018. (Click the title to see the full post)

The one superpower that all published writers have

Industry Insider: How do you know when a story is finished?

Ask the writer: How to build your author platform

Starting Out #3: Do you need to do a course to be a writer?

6 skills you need to make it as a copywriter

Writing for kids: How to create remarkable characters

Writing for kids: 10 top writing tips from bestselling author Jacqueline Harvey

My top 3 tips from nine years of author blogging

Industry Insider: How to tell when your writing is ‘good enough’

10 things I’ve learnt from writing my debut novel 

Want more? You’ll find all of my posts about writing here.

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m the author of two epic adventure series for kids 9+, and you can find out more about me here. Click the images below to discover more about my books.

The Ateban Cipher adventure series for kids 9-12 is out now!

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100+ gift book ideas for kids of all ages https://allisontait.com/2018/12/100-gift-book-ideas-for-kids-of-all-ages/ Tue, 11 Dec 2018 23:41:11 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7281 Today the very last of my 2018 book lists was published by Vanessa over at Style & Shenanigans, so it seems a very good time to collate them all in ...

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100+ book gift ideas for kids of all ages | allisontait.comToday the very last of my 2018 book lists was published by Vanessa over at Style & Shenanigans, so it seems a very good time to collate them all in one place for easy reference (as much for me, as for you…)

So, here it is, the ultimate list of my recent book lists. Hundreds of books for readers aged from babies to teens.

If you’re looking for a new read for your kids for Christmas, for the holidays, or at any time of year, bookmark this page for easy reference. Click the post title to visit the full list.

Your Kid’s Next Read: Recommended reading lists for kids 10+, 12+, 14+ (2018 edition)

15 more tried-and-tested books for 13/14-year-old boys (+ 13 expert choices)

5 picture book picks for Christmas

10 spooky (or scary) middle-grade books for Halloween

40 YA books for tweens (+ 25 middle-grade books that feel like YA)

23 newish books for tweens by Australian women

21 book gifts for reluctant readers they won’t be able to resist

30 books by Australian authors to give to kids this Christmas

30 (more) brilliant books for girls this Christmas

The best kids’ books for Christmas

I’m sure you’ll find the perfect book for your young reader on one of these lists!

Need more? You’ll find another 100+ book ideas for your young reader here, in my round-up on last year’s book lists (great books remain great books, no matter what year they’re published, after all…)

If you’re after specific recommendations for a very particular kind of reader, why not join my Facebook community Your Kid’s Next Read, where you’ll find 5000+ parents, teachers, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and other interested parties all ready to help with recommendations? We’d love to see you there.

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m the author of two epic adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, and you can find out more about me here.

Both The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher are great for kids aged 9+ and you can find out more about them here

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Event: Kids’ Day Out 2019 https://allisontait.com/2018/12/event-kids-day-out-2019/ Tue, 04 Dec 2018 23:24:50 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7260 Even as the year winds down, it’s time to look ahead to 2019! I’m pleased to announce that I’ll once again be taking part in the Kids’ Day Out at ...

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Kids Day Out Dapto January 2019 | allisontait.comEven as the year winds down, it’s time to look ahead to 2019!

I’m pleased to announce that I’ll once again be taking part in the Kids’ Day Out at Dapto Ribbonwood Centre and Library on 17th January, 2019. It’s a free event put on by the Illawarra-South Coast branch of the NSW Children’s Book Council Of Australia (my local chapter) and features a full program of fabulous local authors from 10am-2pm.

Here’s an overview of the authors involved, each presenting a fabulous workshop aimed at getting kids reading, writing and illustrating.

Program Kids Day Out Dapto January 2019 | allisontait.com

And here’s the full program, with something for all ages from 3-13 years.

Program Kids Day Out Dapto January 2019 | allisontait.com

As you can see, I’ll be presenting my ‘Find Your Writing Superpower’ workshop, and I’m really looking forward to helping a bunch of kids identify their writing strengths. There will also be copies of The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher series for sale, and I look forward to signing them for readers.

Hope to see you there. Tickets are free but space in some workshops is limited. Book tickets here to secure your spot in the sessions that interest you!

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Your Kid’s Next Read: recommended reading lists for kids 10+, 12+, 14+ (2018 edition) https://allisontait.com/2018/11/your-kids-next-read-recommended-reading-lists-for-kids-10-12-14-2018-edition/ https://allisontait.com/2018/11/your-kids-next-read-recommended-reading-lists-for-kids-10-12-14-2018-edition/#comments Tue, 13 Nov 2018 03:53:30 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7203 In 2016, I started a Facebook group called Your Kid’s Next Read with everyone’s favourite teacher-librarian/blogger Megan Daley from Children’s Books Daily. Our idea was to bring together a community ...

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Your Kid's Next Read: Recommended reading lists for kids 10+, 12+, 14+ (2018 edition) | allisontait.comIn 2016, I started a Facebook group called Your Kid’s Next Read with everyone’s favourite teacher-librarian/blogger Megan Daley from Children’s Books Daily.

Our idea was to bring together a community of parents, teachers, booksellers, librarians and other interested parties to recommend great children’s books to each other, ensuring that every kid – be they a reluctant reader or an advanced reader – would have a ‘perfect next book’ for their reading journey.

Not long after we started, we created a recommended reading list, which was an overview of books that were recommended over and over in the group. There are two parts to that list:

Your Kid’s Next Read: recommended reading lists for kids 3-9+

Your Kid’s Next Read: recommended reading lists for kids 10+, 12+, YA for tweens

Both of these lists are terrific and the books and authors on these lists are STILL recommended over and over within our group.

BUT, time passes, new members join and amazing new books come out all the time.

Your Kid’s Next Read (2018)

Today, our YKNR community has 5000+ members and it’s a thriving, busy place (you should join us here). So, Megan and I, and our excellent moderator Allison Rushby, decided it was time for an update of our list. So we threw it open to our membership once again.

These are the books that YKNR members thought were missing from our reading lists, along with some stellar reads that the YKNR Admin Team wouldn’t want you to miss. Click the book title* to find out more about each book to help you decide if it’s right for your kid.

Between the new list and our earlier one, we just know you’ll find an amazing next read for your kid right here!

Books for kids 10+

Storm Boy by Colin Thiele

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty, illustrated by Kelly Canby

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley

The Turnkey by Allison Rushby

The Mulberry Tree by Allison Rushby

Nevermoor (series) by Jessica Townsend

Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan (I highly recommend the audio book for this one – Heather, YKNR member)

The Penderwicks (series) by Jeanne Birdsall

His Name Was Walter by Emily Rodda

City of Orphans (series) by Catherine Jinks

Tarin Of The Mammoths by Jo Sandhu

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

York: The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby

The Ateban Cipher (series) by A.L. Tait

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

The Ratcatcher’s Daughter by Pamela Rushby

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

The YKNR Admin team would add:

Figgy In The World (series) by Tamsin Janu

Woo’s Wonderful World Of Maths by Eddie Woo

The Shop at Hooper’s Bend by Emily Rodda

Missing by Sue Whiting

Kensy and Max by Jacqueline Harvey

Lenny’s Book Of Everything by Karen Foxlee

The Boy and The Spy by Felice Arena

The War I Finally Won by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Glaser

The Endsister by Penni Russon

Lockwood & Co (series) by Jonathon Stroud

A Ghost in my Suitcase (series) by Gabrielle Wang

Greenglass House (series) by Kate Milford

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

The Snow Pony by Alison Lester

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens

Dragonfly Song by Wendy Orr

Swallow’s Dance by Wendy Orr

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Freedom Swimmer by Wai Chim

Whimsy and Woe by Rebecca McRitchie

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

How to Bee by Bren MacDibble

Natural Born Loser by Oliver Phommavanh

Books for kids 12+

A Thousand Pieces of You (Firebird series) by Claudia Gray

Frogkisser by Garth Nix

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith

Geek Girl by Holly Smale

Alanna: The First Adventure (Song Of The Lioness series) by Tamora Pierce

The YKNR Admin team would add:

The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Arkanae (The Medoran Chronicles series) by Lynette Noni

The Fall by Tristan Bancks

Liars (series) by Jack Heath

The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree by Paola Peretti

And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness

Indigo Blue by Jessica Watson

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Riders Of Thunder Realm (Paladero series) by Steven Lochran

Ice Wolves (Elementals series) by Amie Kaufman

Books for kids 14+

Divergent (series) by Veronica Roth

Carve The Mark (series) by Veronica Roth

The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Across the Nightingale Floor (series) by Lian Hearn

Chaos Walking (series) by Patrick Ness

Road to Winter (Wilder series) by Mark Smith

The YKNR Admin Team would add:

I Am Out With Lanterns by Emily Gale

White Night by Ellie Marney

Living On Hope Street by Demet Divaroren

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology (Edited by Danielle Binks)

After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson

Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Brontide by Sue McPherson

Growing Up Aboriginal In Australia (edited by Anita Heiss)

The Things That Will Not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer

Warcross (series) by Marie Lu

Bro by Helen Chebatte

Small Spaces by Sarah Epstein

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandya Menon

The Bogan Mondrian by Steven Herrick

Just Breathe by Andrew Daddo

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman

Don’t forget to check the original recommended reads list here as well. 

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! I’m Allison Tait, aka A.L. Tait, and I’m the author of two epic adventure series for kids 9+ – The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher (click the titles to find out more about my books).

 

*NB: This site uses affiliate links. You’ll find more information here. Most of the books on the lists are also available at your local independent bookshop, on Amazon, or at your preferred online bookseller.

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Come and say hello at Wollongong Writers’ Festival https://allisontait.com/2018/11/come-and-say-hello-at-wollongong-writers-festival/ Fri, 02 Nov 2018 01:35:34 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7183 I’m gearing up for my last official public appearance of the year and I hope you’ll come along to cheer me on! I’m part of the children’s program for Wollongong ...

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A. L. Tait at Wollongong Writers' Festival2018I’m gearing up for my last official public appearance of the year and I hope you’ll come along to cheer me on!

I’m part of the children’s program for Wollongong Writers’ Festival, which is being held as part of Viva La Gong on 10 November, 2018, at McCabe Park in Wollongong.

It’s going to be a really fun day out, and the children’s program includes:

•the fabulous Sue Whiting, whose latest picture book In The Deep Dark Forest is proving a hit with young readers
Dale Newman, illustrator of KidGlovz, one of Book Boy’s fave graphic novels a few years back, and
Gabrielle ‘Journey’ Jones, whose spoken word poetry is a joy to behold.

My one-hour slot starts at 1.40pm, and I’ll be talking to kids about inspiration, ideas, and tips for writing great stories, as well as reading from The Book Of Secrets (Ateban Cipher #1).

I’ll have copies The Mapmaker Chronicles and Ateban Cipher series for sale, so come along and pick up signed copies for Christmas!

More information here.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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5 picture book picks for Christmas gifts https://allisontait.com/2018/10/5-picture-book-picks-for-christmas-gifts/ Tue, 30 Oct 2018 01:55:45 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7157 One of the best things about being an author with a blog is that you can call in the experts when you need to do so. Take Christmas for instance. ...

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5 PICTURE BOOK PICKS FOR CHRISTMAS | allisontait.comOne of the best things about being an author with a blog is that you can call in the experts when you need to do so. Take Christmas for instance. I have a gorgeous, smiley little 18-month-old niece and, because I am The Aunty Of The Book, I’m looking for just the right picture book for her.

But how do I choose between one lavishly illustrated picture book and another?

Well, I call in Sue Whiting, of course.

Sue Whiting is an award-winning children’s and YA author and editor. Years before I ever met Sue, I knew her work very, very well – her picture book The Firefighters (Illustrated by Donna Rawlins) was in high rotation at our house, a BIG favourite of my youngest son who went through a ‘fireman’ stage that seemed to last about 18 years. In fact, I could probably recite The Firefighters to this day.

And I am quite, quite sure that Sue’s latest book – Beware The Deep Dark Forest (illustrated by Annie White) – will be a firm favourite in many Australian households (and duly memorised by many Australian parents after countless reads…).

But I digress.

I asked Sue to come up with a list of her top picture book picks for Christmas 2018 and, being an obliging soul, she did.

Take it away Sue Whiting.

FIVE PICTURE BOOK PICKS FOR CHRISTMAS 2018

Since my children were tiny babes, I always popped a special book into their Christmas parcel each year. It, happily, became a Family Christmas Tradition of the Best Kind – so much so that said children, who are no longer children, are quite indignant if there isn’t a book in their parcels even now.

So with Christmas galloping towards us, I took on the challenge of creating a list of five fab picture books for presents this Christmas. This is not an easy task though! Without a doubt, there are many hundreds of wonderful picture books out in the marketplace, so in order to whittle my list down to five only, I set myself some rigorous guidelines.

  1. It had to be a new release – October/November, 2018, so it would be readily available in bookstores and online.
  2. It had to be by Australian creators.
  3. And to give a shout out to the girls, it had to be written and illustrated by Aussie female creators. Here’s to Aussie Girl Power!

So without further ado, here are my picks (in no particular order).

5 picture book picks for Christmas: There's a Baddie Running Through This Book by Shelly Unwin and Vivienne To | Allison TaitThere’s a Baddie Running Through this Book by Shelly Unwin and Vivienne To

This interactive book is so much fun! With simple rhyming text and lively illustrations, the book has a pantomime feel, which encourages reader participation as they follow the exploits of very wicked thief!

Ages 3-6 Allen and Unwin 9781760630614

5 picture book picks for Christmas 2018: When You're Going To The Moon by Sasha Beekman and Vivienne To | allisontait.comWhen You’re Going to the Moon by Sasha Beekman and Vivienne To

This heartfelt story about chasing one’s dreams, taps into that wonderful childhood belief that anything’s possible. With gorgeous illustrations from Vivienne To, the story follows one young girl as she prepares for her trip to the moon. Dreamy!

Ages 3-6 Affirm Press 9781925584936

5 picture book picks for Christmas: Under The Southern Cross by Frane Lessac | allisontait.comUnder the Southern Cross by Frané Lessac

Award-winning and best-selling, author/illustrator Frané Lessac takes us on an evocative tour of Australia under the cover of darkness in this beautiful picture book packed full of fun facts for the curious reader.

5+ Walker Books Australia 978192538101

5 picture book picks for Christmas: All The Ways To Be Smart by Davina Bell + Alison Colpoys | allisontait.comAll the Ways to be Smart by Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys

This book celebrates all the many ways one can be “smart”, from the practical, to the emotional, to the creative. A stunning combination of lively, pitch perfect rhyming text and vivid illustrations makes this book a delight to share.

2+ Scribe 9781925713435

5 picture book picks for Christmas: Beware The Deep Dark Forest by Sue Whiting + Annie WhiteBeware the Deep Dark Forest by Sue Whiting and Annie White

Well, what do you know, my own new release picture book fits the criteria! This a quest story that sees feisty Rosie set off into the deep dark forest to rescue her dog Tinky from the dangers within. With stunning illustrations from Annie White this fairytale-style adventure is for courageous young readers.

4 + Walker Books Australia 9781742032344

Here’s to Girl Power!

Happy Christmas shopping!

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! You can find out more about me here, and more about my two epic middle-grade adventure series – The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher – by clicking on the links to the titles.

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Industry Insider: How do you know when a story is ‘finished’? https://allisontait.com/2018/10/industry-insider-how-do-you-know-when-a-story-is-finished/ https://allisontait.com/2018/10/industry-insider-how-do-you-know-when-a-story-is-finished/#comments Mon, 22 Oct 2018 07:55:42 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7128 One of the most interesting aspects of any author workshop is the Q&A section at the end. You might remember this post, wherein I advised authors to be prepared for ...

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Industry Insider: How to know when your story is 'finished' | allisontait.comOne of the most interesting aspects of any author workshop is the Q&A section at the end. You might remember this post, wherein I advised authors to be prepared for ‘anything’ when it comes to this particular aspect of a talk. But I confess I was caught short during my recent visit to the Burdekin Readers’ & Writers’ Festival.

In my defence, it was the end of a very long, hot Friday, in a (mostly) year 9 workshop, when a year 11 student put up his hand and asked me this question:

How do you know when a story is finished?

I was focused on structure, so I blathered on about getting to The End, about three acts, about reading a lot of books so that you have an innate sense of story structure.

And then I thought about it all weekend. Because, of course, he wasn’t asking me about how to get to The End of a story, he was asking me how you know it’s time to Let Go of a story.

Which is a really, really good question.

Such a good question, in fact, that I decided to get some help to answer it. So I asked a few author mates for their perspective and they all gasped in horror – because the answer is at once simple and complicated.

But then they – in all their award-winning, bestselling glory – gave me their answers, which you’ll find below. They write across a whole range of genres, demographics, and styles. They write novels, novellas, short stories, and essays. Some have 30+ books to their names. In short, they know their way around a story.

Click their names to find out more about that award-winning, bestselling stuff on their websites, and the title of their latest book (in brackets) to find out more about it.

Ready?

11 top Australian authors share how they know a story is ‘finished’

“It’s never finished! I had to re-read The Paris Seamstress for the eleventy-billionth time to proofread it for the US market after it had been published here in Australia and I made changes to it yet again! So I prefer to think of a manuscript as “as good as I can make it at the time” rather than finished. Finished is obviously much shorter and punchier to say though!

So the moment when I submit a manuscript is when it really is as good as I can make it right then. I’ll always leave a manuscript to sit for at least a couple of weeks before I send it anywhere, have another look at it and then, if I’m just tinkering rather than really editing or redrafting, it’s reached the stage when it’s ready to go.

For interest’s sake, I did 13 drafts of my very first novel before it was accepted for publication; I now do around 5 or 6 drafts. I know they’re not perfect – that even the published book isn’t perfect – but it’s my best work at that moment.

Which is a good test – can you say, hand on heart, that you’ve done everything possible and given it your all and made it your best possible work? If so, then it’s ‘finished” – for now!”

Jack Heath (Liars #1: The Truth App)

“You know you’ve finished the plot when the reader can guess the rest. You know you’ve finished the first draft when you can’t think of any other things to change, and you can’t stand the thought of looking at it again. But you’ll have to read it at least four more times to implemented everyone else’s suggestions – that’s when the book is finished.

Melina Marchetta (Tell The Truth, Shame The Devil)

“I find that if I can read a hard copy without scribbling notes on the page, then that’s it.”

Anna Spargo-Ryan (The Gulf)

  1. When you write something, you know what’s supposed to be in it, all the background information and research. You have all this context that a new reader won’t have. In that sense, I think it’s very difficult to know when your own work is finished. Writing a book is a team effort. I rely on other people – not to tell me whether or not the story is finished, but to help me see why it isn’t.
  2. I also think you get to know your weaknesses as a finisher. I write rushed, terrible endings. I know that the first time I write an ending, it’s not finished, and probably still isn’t finished until I’ve rewritten it four or five times. I always think it’s finished, but I’ve come to know better.
  3. “Finished” always comes sooner than I expected. I’ll be writing and writing and then, suddenly, it will be done. That happens to me at first draft stage, and at final proofreading stage. It’s like a magic trick (the only magic trick that exists in writing).
  4. Lastly, most writers – and other artists – will tell you that nothing is ever truly finished. There’s a point at which you just have to abandon it. I sometimes read over my published writing and think, oh yeah, I would change all of these things. But you could honestly keep on doing that forever, and I think often you wouldn’t even necessarily make it a better work on the whole. Would this sentence be better written a different way? Maybe. Will it make the whole book so much better? Probably not. I read once that the painter John Olsen (I think) would take a brush to exhibitions and touch up his work while it was hanging on the gallery walls. There’s a point at which you have to recognise you’ve done as much as a project needs and that’s not the same as doing everything you wanted to do, but it doesn’t make it any less finished. Let it go.

Pamela Freeman/Pamela Hart (The Desert Nurse)

“I know it’s finished when the characters/plots etc don’t bug me when I’m waiting in line, or at the traffic lights – if my mind is disengaged and the book doesn’t appear in it, it’s probably done.”

Krissy Kneen (Wintering)

“I know I am about to be finished when a new book starts to knock on my brain. I get the urge to move on because the new book feels so much more interesting. I start to read and collect material that relate to the next book. This is how I know I am about to finish a project. Pretty soon after this I can put the final sentence in, read over the book and just feel the urge to submit it. Moving on is a sure sign it is done.”

Alan Baxter (Devouring Dark (coming 6 November, 2018)

“I know it’s finished when I’ve had it read by a couple of people I trust and addressed their concerns, and it subsequently doesn’t keep knocking on my brain for more. I never trust that feeling unless others have read it, too.”

Cat Sparks (Lotus Blue)

“When it comes to judging my own work on this score, I am almost always wrong when I initially decide a story is done. Everything I write needs to be composted for at least three months, enough time for glaring errors of style and judgement to become visible to my own eyes. Sometimes longer.”

Ian Irvine (The Fatal Gate (The Gates Of Good And Evil #2)

“I don’t show my work to anyone for an opinion, I judge it myself. And I like to meet my deadlines, so I normally submit on the day or a few days later. Occasionally, well in advance, I might ask for an extra month, in which case I treat that as a firm deadline.”

Dmetri Kakmi (Mother Land, plus essays, short stories and novellas)

“For me a piece is never really finished. You can always do better. But I do recognise when I’ve done the best I can for the time being. I stop and send it to my trusted editor, who then pushes me beyond whatever barriers I might have. Ultimately though I know when a story is ready to go into the world, flawed or not. It’s a gut feeling.”

Jacqueline Harvey (Disappearing Act (Kensy and Max #2)

“I know it’s finished when I feel like I’ve brought together the loose ends and untangled the mysteries – the last line really needs to give me a feeling of ‘ahh, it’s done’ (either that or I’m crying tears of joy for my characters).”

I hope you found this helpful! Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! You can find out more about me here, and more about my two epic middle-grade adventure series, The Mapmaker Chronicles and The Ateban Cipher, here

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10 spooky (or scary) middle-grade books for Halloween https://allisontait.com/2018/10/10-spooky-or-scary-middle-grade-books-for-halloween/ Thu, 18 Oct 2018 03:28:43 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7119 Whether you love it or loathe it, Halloween is more and more of a thing in Australia. With that in mind, fabulous Australian writer (and lover of all things spooky) ...

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10 spook/scary middle-grade books for Halloween! | allisontait.comWhether you love it or loathe it, Halloween is more and more of a thing in Australia.

With that in mind, fabulous Australian writer (and lover of all things spooky) Allison Rushby, author of two fabulous ‘spooky, not scary’ books for middle-grade readers, had come up with a list of books to suit. 

Boo! How do you take your scares? Ten scary/spooky Middle Grade reads for Halloween.

How scary is scary? Well, it’s hard to say. Some readers are more than happy to romp through a literary graveyard before bedtime and go straight to sleep, while others will need to keep the lights on for weeks after reading about things that go bump in the night.

I’ve now released two books with supernatural elements – The Turnkey and The Mulberry Tree. With ghosts and graveyards galore and evil trees that steal away little girls on the eve of their eleventh birthday, both books certainly have their fair share of creep.

Surprisingly, however, the top comment I receive from teacher librarians is that they love that my books are “spooky, not scary” and that they’re happy to hand them over to Middle Grade readers looking for a safe bedtime thrill.

While it’s good to know I’m not sending small children to bed scared witless, there are also those other readers. The ones who love nothing more than to scare themselves wide-eyed silly. The more ghoulish and gruesome the tale, the better these readers will like it.

So, with Halloween on the horizon, I thought it might be a great time to offer both sorts of readers five book suggestions each.

Five sweet and spooky reads

  1. The Endsister by Penni Russon
    A ghostly tale of an old house with resident ghosts, but one wrapped up in a warm and loving family that kids will feel safe in.
  2. A Ghost in my Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang
    Celeste takes a trip to China to visit her grandmother, Por Por, and finds out she comes from a family of ghosthunters. Lots of exciting action distracts from the scary (but not too scary!) ghosts.
  3. Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
    Serafina is a girl with a secret that not even she knows. With a super-interesting mansion to investigate and new friends to make, this is a story that has just the right amount of thrills.
  4. Magrit by Lee Battersby
    Living in an abandoned cemetery, lonely Magrit has only Master Puppet (fashioned from rubbish) for a friend. Magrit is definitely creepy, but also full of light, heart and hope.
  5. Ghosts Of Greenglass House by Kate Milford
    A chilly winter mystery set in a haunted smuggler’s inn.

Five nail-bitingly scary reads

  1. The Nest by Kenneth Oppel
    Steve has problems. His house has a wasp nest and his newborn brother is sick and his parents are worried. Then the wasp queen invades his dreams and offers him a deal … This is an intense and terrifying read that is only for the bravest of readers of any age!
  2. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
    Three words: buttons for eyes.
  3. The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Lockwood & Co #1)
    Great Britain is in the grips of something they call “the Problem” (a ghost epidemic). Lucy joins a ghost hunting agency and we’re off on a whole series of ghostly adventures.
  4. The Night Gardener by Jonathon Auxier
    A dark and disturbing tale of good and evil, expect to wake and see the Night Gardener’s muddy footsteps on your floors!
  5. The Aviary by Kathleen O’Dell
    Clara is trapped by her heart condition in a mansion complete with an aviary full of scary, squawking birds. When old secrets are revealed, Clara starts to realise the birds are trying to tell her something.

10 spooky/scary middle-grade books for HalloweenAllison Rushby is the author of more than 20 books, including four YA novels and eight Middle Grade novels. Her latest novel, The Mulberry Tree, falls firmly into the spooky, not scary, category. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 

Are you new here? Welcome to my blog! You can find out more about me here, and more about my two epic, middle-grade adventure series by clicking on these links: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher

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15 more tried-and-tested books for 13/14 year old boys (+ 13 expert choices) https://allisontait.com/2018/09/15-more-tried-and-tested-books-for-13-14-year-old-boys-13-recommended-by-an-expert/ Thu, 27 Sep 2018 05:26:32 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7066 If I had to highlight the one post that THE MOST people search for on this blog, it would be this one: 21 tried-and-tested books for 13/14 year old boys ...

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25+ tried-and-tested books for 13/14-year-old boys | allisontait.comIf I had to highlight the one post that THE MOST people search for on this blog, it would be this one:

21 tried-and-tested books for 13/14 year old boys

The post was based on books read by my own 14 year old, Book Boy, and many of the books on that list are accompanied by his reviews.

The sheer volume of traffic that post receives suggests to me that there are a LOT of people out there desperately searching for books to engage their teen readers.

Being a helpful kind of author, and given that the post is around a year old now, I thought I’d update it. I know that Book Boy is not a typical reader, so I thought it might be interesting to expand our horizons to include the reading stylings of other 13/14-year-old boys around the nation.

So I sent out the call, asking them to nominate the BEST book they’ve read this year – and why – and (inexplicably) some of them answered. (Click* the name of each book for more information about it.)

THE BEST BOOK I’VE READ THIS YEAR

One Of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus

“It’s a complex book but still relatable. The characters are people you would like to know. It’s not predictable like a lot of other books.” Max, 14, NSW

The Maze Runner series by James Dashner

“They are a good read, full of action, different to other things I’ve read, good plot twists!” Ben, 14, NSW

The Paladero series by Steven Lochran

Paladero has everything you can imagine, and lots of things you could never think of. I actually love it even more than Harry Potter.” Sam, 13, Vic

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Warcross by Marie Lu

Obsidio (Illuminae #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

In The Dark Spaces by Cally Black

“I know you said one, but I really liked all of these books, mostly because of the ideas the writers came up with and how the world all fits together. Obsidio and Dark Spaces really made you feel like you were in the characters’ world. Warcross was just plain awesome – it was an awesome concept.” Will, 13, Vic

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

“It was an extraordinary and unique premise, nothing like I’ve ever read before. Although it’s about dying, it was more about friendship and how it can transform. The writing was beautiful and the plot kept me guessing right until the end.” Hamish, 13, WA

The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima

“It’s about magic in a modern era which I find interesting. The main character Jack is a likeable person. I also like the author’s other books.” Ben, 13, NSW

Light (Gone series #6) by Michael Grant

“I love the whole Gone series – the storyline, the setting and the dialogue are all excellent. Light is no different. It’s the sort of story that drives you to read on no matter what else is going on and stays with you long after you’ve turned the final page.’ Barnaby, 13, NSW

Tales from a Tall Forest by Shaun Micallef

“I found this book hard to put down! This book weaves together your favourite fairy tales with new twists. Shaun Micallef changes the way that you think about fairy tales making them funnier, darker and a new experience for the older reader.” Josh, 14, NSW

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

“I found it hard to narrow it down, but this is definitely one of the best books I’ve read this year (see my review here). I’m really looking forward to her new book, On The Come Up, which is due out here early next year.” Book Boy, 14, NSW

Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber

“The favourite book that I have read this year is Star Wars: Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber. I like it so much because it’s an entertaining and suspenseful story that combines my 2 favourite things: Star Wars and Zombies.” Karl, 14, Qld

The Trial by Franz Kafka

“It’s really well written and a good story. But I also like the backstory – it was the last book the author wrote, and when he finished it, he threw the papers on the floor and then killed himself. The pages were all over the place, but the friend he left it to had to try to rearrange it in the right order – and sometimes when you read it you wonder if he got it right.” JD, 14, NSW

One Way by S. J. Morden

“In One Way a company is contracted to build a mars base for NASA, so to get cheap expendable astronauts so they get 8 convicts to build the base. As the building process is happening certain crew members start to die off. Frank Kitteridge has to find the killer before it’s too late. I liked this book because it delved into a new and unknown world presenting the crew with multiple hurdles and because it had me on the edge of my seat waiting for Frank to uncover the killer.” Saxon, 14, NSW

I think the varied responses here highlight just one thing – there’s no ONE 13/14-year-old boy reader, so it’s about the right book for the right kid at the right time. And so I decided I’d add in a new dimension to the list this time, and called in an expert.

THE EXPERT’S CHOICES

Trish Buckley is a teacher-librarian who blogs at Trish Talks Text, and who brings a critical perspective to YA literature. As she told Books + Publishing in 2017:  ‘I have been reading YA novels since I was a teenager, so that’s 30-odd years of context, historical reflection and knowledge … I treat them seriously. I understand that it takes all sorts of books to appeal to teenagers, so I try not to be too judgemental or cynical.’

I asked Trish to recommend some NEW books she’s read this year that she thinks will be just right for 13/14-year-old boys. She came through with two lists:

CONTEMPORARY TEEN READS

Changing Gear by Scot Gardner

A boy on a road trip on a postie bike trying to come to grips with his beloved grandfather’s sudden death. It’s full of philosophical musings, quirky interactions with strangers, and a positive representation of a male teen protagonist

The Things That Will Not Stand by Michael Gerard Bauer 

Covers one day at an open uni event when MC Sebastian meets enigmatic Frida, and the secrets they try to keep as they slowly develop a friendship. Witty and understated.

The Bogan Mondrian by Steven Herrick (spoiler alert – awful death of a lovely dog)

Luke hates school so spends most of his time recording memories on his prized possession, his camera. He is taken by the new girl at school, and bears witness to her ugly family situation. Very authentic and hopeful.

White Night by Ellie Marney

Bo’s family lives in a country town, and his world is shaken when he meets Rory, who resides in an off-the-grid community. Builds to a tense suspenseful final show down. Offers a thoughtful exploration of the meaning of ‘community’ and a realistic portrayal of teenagers.

A Song Only I can Hear Barry Jonsberg

A funny and poignant story about Rob who is just trying to find who he really is. A clever and triumphant novel.

Just Breathe by Andrew Daddo

Hendrix is an elite sprinter, controlled by his strong-willed father. While he meets and falls for Emily, he starts to question his priorities and his father’s expectations.

SPEC FICTION (FANTASY, SCI-FI, POST-APOCALYPTIC)

Ice-Wolves by Amie Kaufman 

Exciting, first in a new series, solid world building, brave but flawed main character.

Light Years by Kass Morgan

Diverse and inclusive, multiple narrators, exciting sci fi adventure.

Impostors by Scott Westerfeld

Set in the Uglies universe, new characters, suspenseful and twisty.

Jinxed by Amy McCullock

Futuristic adventure, set in an elite school where personal ‘bots are your best friend, your communication device, and your entry into privilege and power.

After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson

Post-apocalyptic survivalist story, twisty and unpredictable, courageous main character battling the ethical dilemma involving the have’s and the have-not’s.

Hive by A J Betts

Unsettling dystopia, claustrophobic and tense. Main character asks all the right questions but no one’s giving her answers.

Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw

Scary and thrilling futuristic novel exploring a post-Brexit England determined to keep its borders shut, from anyone coming in or going out.

So there we have it! I hope you find something for your teen reader here.

Are you new here? You’ll find out more about me here and more about THE MAPMAKER CHRONICLES and THE ATEBAN CIPHER, my two epic adventure series for readers 10+, HERE.

Still need more books? Join the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook community for fantastic book recommendations for kids of all ages!

 

 

*This post contains affiliate links. See contact page for details.

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NEWS: Join me at the Sydney SCBWI Conference in 2019! https://allisontait.com/2018/09/news-join-me-at-the-sydney-scbwi-conference-in-2019/ Wed, 19 Sep 2018 05:25:30 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7049 I’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the 2019 SCBWI Sydney Conference, alongside my podcast partner-in-crime Valerie Khoo. The bi-annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators ...

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Presenters at the 2019 SCBWI Sydney Conference | allisontait.comI’m very excited to announce that I’ll be speaking at the 2019 SCBWI Sydney Conference, alongside my podcast partner-in-crime Valerie Khoo.

The bi-annual Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference is a fantastic opportunity to meet and network with local and international professionals, to hear from agents, editors and publishers, to have your artwork seen by the very best in the kids’ book world.

So Val and I are looking forward to being part of a stellar line-up of speakers!

This is the blurb on our presentation:

How to make yourself more marketable as a writer – and sell more books!

At the SCBWI Biannual Conference Feb 2019, the incredible speakers and writing gurus Allison Tait and Valerie Khoo will reveal the steps you can take to build your platform as a children’s author.

The team behind the successful podcast ‘So you want to be a writer’ have interviewed hundreds of authors. They dissect what separates the authors who make their mark – and those that don’t.

It’s a highlight for all authors and illustrators at all levels of their careers!

You’ll find the whole program here, and conference bookings have just opened here.

Hope to see you there!

Are you new here? You can find out more about me here and more about my two epic middle-grade adventure series here.

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Be prepared for anything: the inside story on author talks https://allisontait.com/2018/09/be-prepared-for-anything-the-inside-story-on-author-talks/ Wed, 12 Sep 2018 02:09:06 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=7004 The life of a children’s author is a funny one. On one hand, we sit alone in our offices, talking to no-one, revelling in isolated splendour. And then term three ...

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The inside story on author talksThe life of a children’s author is a funny one. On one hand, we sit alone in our offices, talking to no-one, revelling in isolated splendour. And then term three of the school year rolls around, and suddenly we emerge, blinking, into the light, and into the wonderful chaos that is author talks and Book Week (which now seems to extend for about three months).

If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I’ve been talking. And talking. And talking. To thousands of kids. After a week of Book Week school sessions in Sydney, which looked (in part) like this…

allison tait speaker in schools | allisontait.com

 

 

 

 

 

I rolled into a week that included a school literary festival, which looked like this…

David Legge, Belinda Murrell, Louise Park and A. L. Tait | allisontait.com

With David Legge, Belinda Murrell and Louise Park.

A. L. Tait author talk Book Week 2018 | allisontait.com

Can you spot me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then straight into the amazing Word Play program at Brisbane Writers’ Festival, which looked like this…

A. L. Tait 'Find Your Writing Superpower' Brisbane Writers' Festival 2018 | allisontait.com

Full house for ‘Find Your Writing Superpower’ presentation.

Allison Rushby, Megan Daley, Allison Tait @ Brisbane Writers Festival 2018 | allisontait.com

With Allison Rushby and Megan Daley: The Your Kids’ Next Read Team at BWF

A. L. Tait Online Literature Festival Brisbane Writers' Festival | allisontait.com

My first webinar presentation as part of the Online Literature Festival at BWF

A. L. Tait Brisbane Writers' Festival | allisontait.com

The weirdness of seeing your face on a wall…

BWF Top 10 bestseller bookshelf | allisontait.com

The excitement of The Mapmaker Chronicles being in the Festival Top 10 (for a minute)…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the process of all this, I lost my voice, caught up with author friends, met new author friends, and remembered the reason

why we all do this in the first place – because kids are enthusiastic and creative and incredibly entertaining and it is an absolute honour to write a book that a 10 year old will tell you is ‘the best book ever’.

I also answered questions. Lots and lots of questions. And I am here to tell you that if I had to give an aspiring children’s author any advice about author talks and presenting to kids it would be this:

Be prepared for anything.

When you get to the Q&A section of your author talk or presentation, and you are looking out at a sea of waving hands, all desperate to find out… something… brace yourself.

Questions you are likely to be asked include, but are not limited to:

How much do you get paid? (Be ready with a short, succinct answer to this)

Where do you get your ideas?

How long does it take you to write a book?

Did you draw the picture on the cover of your book?

What’s your favourite book?

Who was your favourite author as a child?

When did you know you were going to be an author?

When did you write your first book? (I’ve always wished I could answer ‘when I was six’ like some of my author friends, but this is not me…)

But then there are the other questions…

Over the course of three weeks, I was asked everything from ‘what colour is your toothbrush?’ to ‘does your dog ever get tired of walking?’ and ‘do you have any time to spend with your own children?’. Pulling out a favourite question wasn’t easy, but in the end, I think this one wins:

Tips for author talks | allisontait.com

To show just how ready you need to be, I asked some of Australia’s favourite children’s authors to give me their favourite question from their Book Week presentations this year…

‘Do you sleep with your books under your pillow in case of burglars?’ – R.E. Devine, Jack McCool series

‘Can I have your jacket? / How was your weekend? / Can you dab? / Do you play Fortnite?’ – Mick Elliot, The Turners series 

‘Does your mother ever steal your story ideas?’ – Allison Rushby, The Mulberry Tree

‘How do you have blonde hair?’ – Jacqueline Harvey, Kensy and Max series

‘When you were at school did you use a pen or a quill?’ – Catherine Pelosi, Quark’s Academy

‘Can you take your beanie off?’ – Matt Stanton, Funny Kid series

‘What do you want more than anything else?  – Zanni Louise, Errol

And now I’m heading back into my quiet study for a few weeks, before my next appearance at Burdekin Readers’ and Writers’ Festival in October.

It’s time to get some writing done.

Are you new here? Welcome! You can find out all about me here, and all about my books here. If you’re interested in talking to me about presenting at your school or event, go here. And if you’re keen to write your own book, you’ll find a heap of posts about writing here, as well as information about my courses, and you can listen to my podcast here.

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Authors For Farmers: 100 brilliant Aussie books to be won! https://allisontait.com/2018/08/authors-for-farmers-100-brilliant-aussie-books-to-be-won/ https://allisontait.com/2018/08/authors-for-farmers-100-brilliant-aussie-books-to-be-won/#comments Mon, 27 Aug 2018 01:04:47 +0000 http://allisontait.com/?p=6946 If you received my newsletter last week, you’ll know that Aussie authors have banded together to donate 100 books for a monster raffle to benefit drought-affected Australian farmers. The aim ...

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authors for farmers: win 100 books! | allisontait.comIf you received my newsletter last week, you’ll know that Aussie authors have banded together to donate 100 books for a monster raffle to benefit drought-affected Australian farmers. The aim is to raise $100,000.

Well, the list of books is finalised (you’ll find it here) and includes books from authors such as Liane Moriarty, Josephine Moon (organiser), Nick Earls, Monica McInerney, Sally Hepworth and more. I’m very happy to have a copy of The Book Of Secrets as part of this incredible TBR pile.

First prize is 75 books.

Second prize is 15 books plus $30 Dymocks voucher.

Third prize is 10 books.

A fantastic prize for any bookworm, with a huge array of different literary styles and genres on offer.

Tickets are just $5 each and you can buy them here until 2 October 2018.

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