Monday, 15 April 2013

Squeezing The Cat, Stroking The Guinea Pig...

“There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” - Somerset Maugham

I have been shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Book of the Year – Older Reader’s Category.  (Pause for that to sink in for me yet again).  I know I should probably be taking this maturely in my stride, writing sage words about the honour and my gratitude (both of which I obviously feel), but I’m too busy squeezing the cat and jumping up and down in secret.

Here’s the thing: I used to be a bookseller.  As a bookseller we waited for the CBCA shortlist announcements in the same way we waited for our birthdays when we were six.  How many sleeps?  Will I get to see my favourites?  This was the big thing.  The Day of the Year.  Mecca.  When I was six, my mum and dad bought me a baby doll and a pram.  The pram had big orange flowers all over it with white tassels dangling from the hood, as soft as my guinea pig.  I got up so early for that present, it was still dark outside.  When I saw my name on the CBCA shortlist I could feel those downy tassels in my hand again.  (I broke the arm off my baby doll because I got frustrated trying to dress her.)

I never imagined I’d be on the shortlist.  I’m gob smacked by the company I’m in.  I only ever wanted to write honestly, in a way that cuts through the bullshit and recognises that young people have real lives that can be fraught and dangerous and poignant and relatable.  And I wanted to write about them without judging them or their judgments about the world they’re navigating.  Don’t you remember what it was like to be teenager? Awful.  Wonderful. 

Katharine England of the Adelaide Advertiser has written that Creepy & Maud “is perhaps the bravest shortlist choice for some years.”  I love this assessment.  I love it because this boy, Creepy, and this girl, Maud, do find some bravery in each other and, as a result, within themselves.  I realize that a “brave” choice for the CBCA may allude to this novel’s ability to push certain buttons and boundaries, however I embrace the term “brave” as representative of even one young adult who reads this book and realizes they are right to feel out of whack and misunderstood, and that the pain of that marginalization will make them stronger before it dissipates.

The CBCA Shortlist - Older Readers Catagory

Neil Grant - The Ink Bridge
Margo Lanagan - Sea Hearts
Doug MacLeod - The Shiny Guys
Dianne Touchell - Creepy & Maud
Vikki Wakefield - Friday Brown
Suzy Zail - The Wrong Boy