Reading for Change Update

48 Hour Reading Challenge – are you excited? I’m excited!

(For details on how you can raise money for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation by sponsoring me to read until my eyes fall out of my head and roll around the floor like dried peas, check out this post.)

The books I must read thus far, pending availability:

Silver Phoenix, Cindy Pon
8th Grade Super Zero, Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich
Any one of the Twelve Kingdoms series, Fuyumi Ono
The True Meaning of Smekday, Adam Rex
Trixie Belden and the Secret of the Mansion, Julie Campbell
Day of the Dragon, Richard Knaak. (Not strictly YA, but who am I to stop Miggy from torturing me?)
People Might Hear You, Robin Klein.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson, John Green and David Levithan.
Bone Black, bell hooks

I am going to putting in an international book order tomorrow, so if you have plans to make me read something not available in Australia, NOW is the time to get your pledge on. Of course, you can sponsor me at any time! The Foundation will appreciate it muchly.

Happiness Is A Full Stomach

I have been working on a couple of deadlines (a Strange Horizons article, a paper for a seminar, revising Summerton) and thus did what I always do: massive, herculean amounts of procrastination.

On Saturday, I helped take apart a second-hand bookstore. I am very sad to see it go, but I am very happy to be paid for my efforts in second-hand books. Many many many of them.

On Saturday night, I roasted a chicken with couscous.

On Sunday, I chopped up a bunch of the roast chicken and made pot pies. Then I made a lemon-raspberry tart, including the pastry, from scratch. (Rubbing the butter into the flour really hurts my hands, and I always forget how much.) Then, what the hey, I had a bunch of egg whites left over, who’s for coconut macaroons?

This morning, it was time to make my standard editing fuel, which is a big pot of chili con carne. Of course I can’t type while I’m eating chili, so I had to break out the Gilmore Girls DVDs.

After years of berating myself for laziness, I have decided that this is actually pretty much how just how I get things done. If I have stuff due, then I need to allow for procrastination time as part of the working process. That way, everything gets done and I’m way less stressed about it.

And boy, do I eat well.

In conclusion! My upstairs housemate left for a European Grand Tour. That picture in the thumbnail is what I have done to the coffee table since.

Reading For Change

Last year I did a little something called the 48 Hour Book Challenge, where I read 15 YA books in – yes! – 48 hours, and wrote brief reviews of them as I went, and collapsed into a wrecked pile of wreckage at the end.

It looked like this:

It was awesome.

But the most awesome part was that, thanks to sponsors and donators, we raised over a thousand dollars for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation is an organisation founded by a father whose two daughters and their mother were brutally murdered. The foundation is dedicated to helping children who have suffered from or witnessed violence – often in their homes and schools, where they should be safest. Their efforts include the Refuge Therapeutic Support Program, and the National Centre Against Bullying.

It will little surprise you, internets, that I’m going to be doing the challenge again this year, from May 14 – May 16, and YOU get to decide what it is I read. It works like this:

1) You pledge either a flat donation, or sponsor an amount per book – this can be any amount. Seriously, $1 a book is money they can use.

2) You then have the option of recommending a book for me to read and report on. Any hardcopy young adult book currently in print is allowed. Recommendations for books by PoC or authors from other underrepresented groups are especially smiled upon. First come, first served!

3) I make a good faith effort to acquire the books. If I can’t find yours, I’ll give you the option of another request.

4) From whatever time I get up on May 14 until 48 hours later, I read and review like unto the wind. A sedentary, diet coke popping wind!

5) You either make your donation directly, or I can collect it via paypal on your behalf and send in a lump sum.

Sound good? Sound worthy? Want to make me read your favourite works and tell you all my increasingly-crazed thoughts? Then hit the comments at my livejournal! They are screened; no one will know how much you are pledging but me and you.

Oh, and should you have no money to spare, which is completely normal, but still want to help, then I recommend signal-boosting this post. Link, tweet, and facebook away.

Hobart and Happiness

I promised you I would have an adventure in Hobart, internets, and so it proved!

Picture the scene – a lovely hotel apartment with one bedroom and unfortunately only one queen-sized bed. In it sleep a charming lady and her intimidatingly elegant mother. Who snores.

Sorry, Mum, but all my readers know I am sworn to the noble cause of Truth*!

ME: *am having a nightmare about TERRIBLE THINGS*
HOTEL FIRE ALARM: *goes off*
ME: *wakes* Oh, it was only a dream! Thank goodness! … wait.
HOTEL PEOPLE: Don’t panic! Please stay there while we investigate the cause of the alarm.
MUM: We should get dressed in case we have to evacuate.
ME: Good thinking! You do that, and I will check my email.
MUM: Karen Elizabeth Healey!
ME: What? Pyjamas are my work attire, totally legit.

It turned out that the alarm was false, but I think that was duly adventurous. Since we were awake, we took a bus up Mount Wellington along steep narrow roads that reminded me nostalgically of Japan and the one car crash I have been in, and from the top we saw rather a lot of Tasmania, which reminded me agreeably of home.

View From Mount Wellington by tigitogs@flickr

After that we bought things! It is a pastime which we both enjoy, and I found a little black handbag that looks sort of vaguely professional and YET is still big enough to hold a paperback. On sale! I will take it to New York City and show it the sights! (Oh yes, I am going to the USA for two months, more about that at some point).

Then my mother walked into a jewellery store that was having a half-price sale. This is pretty much like me walking into a bookstore having a half-price sale** ie, sharklike frenzy. There was no way she could be surrounded by many things so pretty so pretty and so cheap and escape without figuratively biting a boat in half.

So when she suggested buying me a charm bracelet to commemorate the publishing of my debut, I nobly acquiesced. For her own good, you understand.

The bracelet is gorgeous. I am to add a charm for every book published, which I think shows a touching faith in the longevity of my potential career.

And this is but the least of the reasons I love my mum. Even though she snores.

* This is a lie.

** Or walking into any bookstore in the US, which works out much the same money-wise. Things I laugh wearily about when Americans complain about the prices thereof: books, petrol, postage.

Launch, Chat, and Me on the Radio.

Internets, some stuff!

1) BOOK LAUNCH TODAY. I am so excited. I get to have another book launch at WisCon, so if you are in the US, all sad – why do we always miss out on the exciting literary events, we poor Americans, you might be thinking – you get a chance too. But this is my first book launch! It is very special! I have new boots!

Come chat with me, listen to the lovely Penni Russon launch my book, watch me struggle heroically against happy tears, and drink some wine.

WINE, you say, suddenly perking up. Karen, we will be there!

Readings Carlton, on Lygon St, 6pm for a 6.30 start. Free, and don’t worry about RSVPing.

2) KAREN, you say, we are the part of the internets that cannot make it to the launch with the wine. How can we chat with you?

You can hit Late Bloomer Online tomorrow! At 6.30 pm PST, which is 11.30 am Melbourne time, and something appalling for people in Western Europe. I will be chatting there about Guardian of the Dead, the writing life, and whatever else you would like to ask me, EXCEPT, and I am very clear about this, EXCEPT that thing with the beehive and the raygun.

3) I did an interview with lovely Bryan Crump from Radio NZ National, who was very nice to me. I am myself too horrified at the prospect of hearing my own voice to actually listen to it, so instead I demonstrated my fortitude and maturity and made my mum do it.

She says it’s good! So does my fabulous NZ publicist, Abba. Best name ever, y/y?

You can download or stream that here.

4) I have opened a thread on my personal journal to discussing and answering questions about Guardian of the Dead. My US editor Alvina Ling will also answer questions from an editor’s point of view! It is naturally sodden with sweet, juicy spoilers.

Internets, tomorrow afternoon I am flying to Hobart with my mum, and we are going to have an adventure. I will report back!

Land of my Bones

So I’m a New Zealander living in Australia and I wrote this book set in New Zealand that I might have mentioned once or twice or twenty million times and it was picked up Little, Brown, which is an American publisher, and by Allen and Unwin, which is Australian.

Guardian of the Dead is a very New Zealand book, and that is the part of which I am probably proudest. I had first readers from all over the place, and one of them said, “this is the kind of book I wanted growing up because it feels like home” and one of them said, “I was in the Haast Pass looking at the mist rolling over the bush and I thought of your book, and what could be waiting there” and those were some of my favourite comments.

I have talked before about the imaginative displacement of New Zealand writers, with particular reference to Margaret Mahy and Patricia Grace. It was very important to me that I write New Zealand, and write it well, that the setting be more than just a place for the action to happen. This is a book that couldn’t take place anywhere else; it is informed and defined by the stories and geography of my land. On some levels it is a story about how (white) New Zealanders can construct their identities in relation to the land and the stories that existed before their ancestors arrived.

So when people mention my use of Australian mythology in my book about Australia, I sometimes feel like I’m going to throw up.

New Zealand and Australia are relatively close to each other (although I believe that Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Indonesia, New Caledonia, the Philippines and Brunei are all closer to Australia than New Zealand). We nominally share the same head of state in Elizabeth II, though she has absolutely no real say in the governance of either nation. The ANZACs have fought together, in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. We have close personal ties, and close economic relations, and English is the main language spoken in both countries.

New Zealand was settled (most say) around AD 1000.

Australia was settled (most say) about 40 000 years before that.

That is clearly already a substantial difference in the history of both nations, but it is just one of very, very many. Our flora and fauna are different. Our modes of government are different. The achievements of our nations are different. Our Creme Egg flavours are different, and don’t think I’m not sad about that.

Australian author Justine Larbalestier wondered about this misidentification, and solicited comments on her blog. A lot of people replied; the comments make for some fascinating reading, and there are some very good theories about why this mistake happens.

And, you know, I get it, I really do.

I understand that it might be confusing that I live in Australia, and that the publisher is Australian, that it’s easy to mistake New Zealanders for Australians* when we’re abroad because of our similar accents, that people have this picture of New Zealand as being just off the coast of Australia. Or, that they apparently think of it as part of the *continent* of Australia (which it is not. New Zealand is on the largely submerged continent Zealandia).

But the fact that there are justifiable reasons for outsider ignorance does not actually help a lot. I lived two years in Japan, and I’ve travelled a lot in the US and when people mistake me for an Australian, I politely explain that I’m a New Zealander. When people ask me where I’m from, I always say, “I’m a New Zealander living in Australia,” or, “I live in Melbourne, but I’m actually from New Zealand.”

Most people then smile and nod and maybe they knew before that these are two different countries or maybe they didn’t. Either way, they accept what I say about myself and move on, and everyone is happy.

The people I get annoyed with are the ones who say, joking or not, “Oh, right. Well, almost the same thing, isn’t it?” Like they expect me to shrug and say, “Well, yeah, it doesn’t really matter.”

Screw that! It totally matters.

My national identity is not a joke. It is vital to who I am as a person. When people dismiss my national identity, or imply that I shouldn’t be upset that people mistake it for that of another nation, or think that correcting them is somehow making a big fuss out of nothing, they are dismissing me. They are dismissing all the myriad ways that my experience of being a New Zealander informs my experience of being me. They are dismissing what I say about myself, as if they know better, as if I am not the authority on being me!

It makes me angry, and when it comes from friends or people I respect, it makes me hurt.

I don’t care if people are ignorant – ignorance can be corrected. I care if they’re stupid; I care if they don’t see or care that they’re hurting me by dismissing such a big part of myself. It’s okay to make a mistake about where I come from; there are lots of reasons why that could happen. But don’t try to tell me that it’s not really a mistake, or that it doesn’t really matter.

I am a New Zealander. It matters a lot.

In conclusion!

Comments screened.

* I wonder if it happens mostly to visibly Pākehā (white European) New Zealanders? Are New Zealanders of visibly Asian or African descent considered “Asian” or “African”**? Are New Zealanders of visibly Polynesian descent identified as Māori, regardless of whether they are or not? I do not know!

** Do not even get me started on “Africa is a country, right?”

The Haps, My Friends

News, reviews and interviews, v. exciting!

Want to chat with me and ask me questions of vital importance, like whether I will ever write a novel without physically injuring the main characters? You can! I will be joining the Late Bloomers for live chat at 11.30am, April 14th, Melbourne time. That is this time for wherever you live!

Other recent events of note:

1) On my final day as Writer in Residence at Inside A Dog, I answered many reader questions, including how I pick character names, why so many books have loyal dogs that die, and what I’m wearing to my launch party.

2) The fabulous Book Smugglers interviewed me about Guardian of the Dead and then gave it one of their awesome and entertaining joint reviews. Minor spoilers.

3) Lena Castle of conducted an interview where I talk about cheating on the setting and why I think cultural consultancy is vital.

Also I was interviewed for Radio New Zealand today, where I said “um” about nine million times and I think mispronounced “metaphorical”. Oh, talking, I am so bad at it.

Top Six Declarations of Familial Love.

I’m totally awesomed by the response to the love declarations post! Alla y’all have excellent taste.

But much as I love romance, I think I love families EVEN MORE.

SIX:

Mopani: What happens now?

Grace: We’ll have to wait and see…

Mopani: Are you and Kupe an item now?

Grace: “An item”?

Kupe: Ae, Mopani.

Mopani: What about Dad?

Grace: I still love your dad a lot, punnet. Maybe we can all stay friends.

Mopani: I doubt it. You should hear the way Dad and Irene talk about each other.

Kupe: But that doesn’t mean you can’t stay friends with everyone, eh?

Mopani: Oh, great. Now I have three families.

Hicksville.

FIVE:

“Mama, don’t you see,” I tell her, pausing on the photograph of her graduation from Cambridge. “You were always treasured You were always Yu.”

– Syrah, Girl Overboard.

FOUR:

“I only wanted to serve Barrayar, as my father before me. When I couldn’t serve Barrayar, I wanted – I wanted to serve something. To-” he raised his eyes to his father’s, driven to a painful honesty, “to make my life an offering fit to lay at his feet.” He shrugged. “Screwed up again.”

“Clay, boy.” Count Vorkosigan’s voice was hoarse but clear. “Only clay. Not fit to receive so golden a sacrifice.”

— Miles and Aral Vorkosigan, The Warrior’s Apprentice

THREE:

“I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t like him, but I never meant to make you feel bad. I didn’t think you were paying attention.”

“Not paying attention?” she asked. “How could I not pay attention?”

“Because you think I’m an idiot,” he said, as if this was completely self-evident. “Seriously. I had no idea you cared at all about what I was saying.”

Lola was shaking her head, unable to comprehend what she was hearing.

“Spencer,” she said. “You’re my older brother.”

Suite Scarlett

TWO:

“Sleep well, don’t stir, don’t let bad dreams trouble you,” Alan said, and stooped over the bed to kiss Nick’s forehead. “I’ll see you again in the morning, til then don’t forget that I love you.”

It was the thing Alan said every night, and Nick had never understood it. He understood sleep and morning, but he had never been able to guess what love meant.

When Alan was gone, Nick looked at his hot water bottle. He would have to get used to it because Alan thought it was his favourite and that meant having it a lot, like his favourite pyjamas.

It occurred to Nick that if people were put in drawers like pyjamas and you could pick them out, that would be an excellent arrangement. He would never pick out Mum, with all her screaming and her very quiet silences. He would always pick Alan. Alan would be his favourite.

— “Nick’s First Word“.

ONE:

“This is my family. It’s little, and it’s broken… but still good. Yeah, still good.”

–Stitch, Lilo & Stitch

(It occurs to me that my romantic love choices mostly come from adult fiction, and my familial love ones mostly come from younger fiction. I am often nervous about forever-love in YA – and in fact, both YA books I quote from in the het love section acknowledge that theirs might not be forever love. I know that many people in real life do happily stay with their high school sweethearts, but its popularity as a fictional trope makes me uneasy.)

What are your favourite family love scenes?

My Top Six Declarations Of (Heterosexual) Love

Mmmmm, love scenes. One day I will write a true romance, rather than a novel with some romance in it, and there will be LOVE SCENES GALORE. Here are some of my favourite declarations of love, not all of which are entirely successful.

SIX:

BENEDICK: I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is not that strange?

BEATRICE: As strange as the thing I know not. It were as possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you: but believe me not; and yet I lie not; I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.

Much Ado About Nothing

FIVE:

I was nicely tucked up for the night
Of eternity, and, like a restless dream
Of a fool’s paradise, you, with a rainbow where
Your face is and an ignius fatuus
Worn like a rose in your girdle, come pursued
By fire, and presto! the bedclothes are on the floor
And I, the tomfool, love you.

— Thomas, The Lady’s Not For Burning

FOUR:

“I’d carry you upstairs,” Sorry said, “but you’re so bloody heavy.”

“That’s not what a hero would say,” Laura grumbled, “but it’s all right. I’d rather walk.”

The Changeover

THREE:

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

— Fitzwilliam Darcy, Pride and Prejudice

TWO:

“Janet, for God’s sake come to bed.”

“In a minute,” said Janet. “I’m writing you a poem.”

— Thomas and Janet, Tam Lin

ONE:

“Placetne, magistra?”

“Placet.”

— Peter and Harriet, Gaudy Night

It appears I tend towards the ironical. What are your favourites?