07 November, 2014

Sea Hearts and The Night Guest win the Barbara Jefferis Award

I'm really pleased to announce that Sea Hearts is joint winner, with Fiona McFarlane's The Night Guest, of the Barbara Jefferis Award for "the best novel written by an Australian Author that depicts women and girls in a positive way or otherwise empowers the status of women and girls in society".
     The award was given at a lovely event last night hosted by the Australian Society of Authors in the foyer of St Barnabas Church, Broadway, at which Tara Moss spoke—and isn't she a brilliant speaker! Better Read Than Dead bookshop sold many, many books, and champagne flowed and the music played and the room was full of friends and colleagues and really, I couldn't have been happier, for my selkies and my self.
     Here's my acceptance speech:
Thank you Margaret, Georgia and Dorothy for all your work and consideration as judges of this year's Barbara Jefferis Award. Amy, Tracy, Jacinta, Margaret and Drusilla, it's an honour for Sea Hearts to share a shortlist with your wonderful works. And Fiona, it's great to join you on the podium tonight. 
I remember standing in the Friends Room at the State Library when Anna Funder won this award for All that I am, saying to myself "…depicts women and girls in a positive way … empowers the status of women and girls in society—I think I am fairly safe in saying that a story about a bunch of women who spend most of their on-page time moping under seaweed blankets, ignoring the solution to their sorrows that is right under their noses, does not really have a shot at this prize."
Which goes to show you what I know.
I'm more than surprised, and thoroughly delighted, that the judges have seen fit to honour Sea Hearts. I was so pleased when this award was set up. There's an ongoing need to just keep forcibly pushing into the limelight literary works about women, as much as by women. As long as schoolboys are asking visiting authors, "Why would you write stories about … girls?"; as long as the global social and economic costs of domestic violence are outstripping the costs of civil war; and as long as women who try to raise awareness of gender-based hatred are being driven from their homes by online threats of rape and murder, we need to keep on claiming column inches and screen time, and story space and art space, for women's matters, women's minds, women's lived experiences.
Sea Hearts is a story about many different kinds of love, some of them perfectly healthy. But the core kind is an unwholesome infatuation in which both partners surrender their reason. It's a love that's based on very little more than the glamour of romantic love itself, and that insists on holding the loved one at an exoticising distance. Both men and women are afflicted by this wrong-hearted loving, but it's the women who are wrenched from their home under the sea, wrenched even out of their own natural body forms, and kept prisoner on the land because of it.
I wrote this story because there was something about that kind of well-meaning, helpless torture that land men perpetrate on their trans-species wives in Scottish selkie tales that made a mess of pity and rage in my mind a long time ago, and the time had come to poke it with a stick and see what kinds of maggots crawled out.
I couldn't say that Sea Hearts offers any solutions, but it takes a lot of problems between men and women and rather painfully turns them over and over in its hands. And if this turning over can be seen as positive and empowering of women and girls—if it can be experienced, even, as positive and empowering by women and girl readers—I'll be more than grateful.

27 September, 2014

Conflux 10 appearances

I appear to be taking a year off from this blog. Which is long enough to have to re-learn how to get into it. Way to complicate things, Google and Blogger.
     Anyway, I'm breaking radio silence to bring you my schedule for next weekend's appearances at Conflux 10 in Canberra, where I am really pleased to be Guest of Honour, alongside Alisa Krasnostein.
     Here's what I'll be doing on the formal program, mostly in Forrest Room 2:
  • Friday 3 October, 6:45pm, Conflux Registration area Launch of Jack Dann's new e-collection Jubilee17 dazzling stories!
  • 10am Saturday, Forrest Room 2 GUEST OF HONOUR INTERVIEW Nicole Murphy will be interviewing me. Warning: There may be juvenilia.
  • 1pm Saturday, Forrest Room 2 FANTASY JOURNEYS This panel explores fantasy tropes about heroes and their journeys, discussing how hero quests can be both journeys of discovery and self-discovery. My fellow panelists are Satima Flavell, Tracy M. Joyce, Russell Kirkpatrick and Karen Simpson Nikakis.
  • 3pm Saturday, Forrest Room 2 WRITING BOOKS THAT KIDS AND YOUNG ADULTS ENJOY With Isobelle Carmody, Ingrid Jonach and possibly Janeen Webb, I'll discuss how to write books that appeal to young people. Donna Maree Hanson will chair.
  • 4pm, Saturday, Forrest Room 2 GRIEF, LOSS AND TRAUMA This one's all about narratives that include traumatic and distressing events. Maureen Flynn, Richard Harland, Kaaron Warren and I will share strategies for creating inspiring narrative that honours the character’s emotional developments.
  • 5.30, Saturday, Forrest Room 2 Launch of Alan Baxter's novel Bound, the first in the Alex Caine trilogy. Come for the bubbles, stay for the kettle scenes!
  • 11.30am Monday, Forrest Room 3 EMOTIONAL DEPTH Expressing real emotion in stories that evokes a response by the reader. Richard Harland, Rob Hood and I will discuss techniques, strategies and examples of emotionally-deep expression.

But I'll be around for the whole weekend, so if you see me, come and say hello.

23 December, 2013

2013 in review: an out-and-out skite

My four Aurealises, and my
I've been meaning to compile a list of all the Sea Hearts/ Rollrock achievements, and the end of the year provides a neat excuse, as well as the time, of course *waves cheerily to the day job*.

So here we go. Some of this is from last year, but I wanted all the glory in one place, so forgive me if it gets repetitive. Also, if anyone spots anything I've missed (but I'm not trying to list all online reviews of everything—the holidays aren't that long) please give me a nudge in the comments. By the time I got this much listed I was a bit dizzy:

Sea Hearts/The Brides of Rollrock Island's Big Year:


  • the Guardian
  • The Times
  • Sydney Morning Herald
  • NZ Listener
  • Locus
  • School Library Journal

Starred reviews:

  • Booklist
  • Kirkus Reviews
  • Publishers Weekly
  • The Horn Book
  • The Bulletin of the Centre for Children's Books


  • Publishers Weekly Best Books 2012
  • Horn Book Fanfare
  • Locus Recommended Reading
  • 2013 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • Carnegie Medal
  • International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (actually a longlisting—shortlist to be announced April 2014)
  • Stella Prize
  • NSW Premier's Awards (Ethel Turner Prize)
  • British Fantasy Awards
  • Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature (YA—winner TBA March 2014)
  • Australian Independent Booksellers Award (Children's and YA section)
  • Aurealis Award (Best YA Novel, jointly with Kaz Delaney's Dead, Actually)
  • Aurealis Award (Best Fantasy Novel)
  • Ditmar Award (Best Novel)
  • Norma K Hemming Award
  • CBCA Book of the Year: Older Readers
  • WA Premier's Literary Award (YA)
  • Winner, Meanjin Tournament of Books


My mini-collection Cracklescape from Twelfth Planet Press didn't do too shabbily this year, either:

  • Locus
  • Tor
  • SF Signal
  • Locus Recommended Reading (Collection and Novelette—"Significant Dust")
  • Shirley Jackson Award ("Bajazzle")
  • Aurealis Award (Best Fantasy Short Story—"Isles of the Sun")
  • Ditmar Award (Collected Work)
  • Ditmar Award (Novelette or Novella—"Significant Dust")
  • Aurealis Award (Best Fantasy Short Story—"Bajazzle")
  • Aurealis Award (Best Science Fiction Short Story—"Significant Dust")
  • Focus 2012: Highlights of Australian Short Fiction, compiled by Tehani Wessely, Fablecroft Publishing ("Significant Dust")
  • The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 7, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Night Shade Books ("Significant Dust")
  • Award Winning Australian Writing 2013, ed. Adolfo Aranjuez, Melbourne Books ("Bajazzle")
  • The Best Horror of the Year, vol. 5, ed. Ellen Datlow, Night Shade Books("Bajazzle")


My fourth short story collection Yellowcake came out in the US and the UK in May, and it did pretty well for itself too, being reviewed in the Guardian, in the School Library Journal, on Bookslut and on Strange Horizons, and getting starred reviews in Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, and a listing in the Scotsman's Christmas round-up by Keith Gray.


And I had four short stories published:
  • "Angels of Abstinence" in Purgatorio: Australia Today, a chapbook anthology put out for the Melbourne Writers Festival, edited by Ellen Koshland
  • "By Desecration Rock" in The Lifted Brow's Melbourne Writers Festival issue
  • "Black Swan Event", in Griffith REVIEW's "Once Upon a Time in Oz" issue
  • "We Three Kids"—This novelette will be available online during the 12 days of Christmas 2013, and a print chapbook will be published at the end of January 2014.

And Danel Olson's anthology Exotic Gothic 4, from PS Publishing (as Postscript issues #28/29), which led off with my story "Blooding the Bride" won a World Fantasy Award.

So I can't complain about not getting any attention this year.

In 2014 I have, as far as I know, only one, leetle (2500-word) short story coming out, details of which I'll pass on when I get them. I'm hoping to get a novel finished and submitted pretty early in the year, leaving most of the year free to work on, possibly, its sequel, or another couple of projects I've got cooking. It has to be a better novel-writing year than 2013 was.

03 December, 2013

Meanjin Tournament of Books...

...is all about watery themes this year, so the shortlist is very blue, except where it's green or black. And wonder of wonders, Sea Hearts (a) is on it and (b) has made it through the first round.

Sea Hearts is nominated for the IMPAC

I know, it's outlandish. But it's true. Me and Hilary. And, erm, 150 other authors/books. I am celebrating now, in the expectation of its not getting any further. We'll find out in April.

28 October, 2013

Not one, not two, but THREE reprints!

The Wagga residency was two weeks of energetic writing and leisurely exploring the very green countryside in that part of the Riverina, with Griffith Agricultural Show and Junee's Broadway Museum being highlights. Wagga's Museum of the Riverina was beautifully and professionally curated, too, but I also like a collection that's just everyone's old stuff piled into rooms with assorted labels (or not).

The reading and workshop went well, and I drafted 130 pages (about 43,000 words) of novel, which I'm now typing up in fits and starts—am about two-thirds of the way through. It would be nice to have something like a full draft by the end of January, but I've a short story to write as well before December, and a weekend away, and a competing project, and a part-time job, and there's Christmas, so we'll see.

I still have major decisions to make, in terms of the era in which this novel is set, and the country where it's all happening, and what kind of person one of the two protagonists is going to be. How much of the manuscript I'm typing will stay is anybody's guess—in fact, there are bits I'm not typing, being pretty sure they're wrongheaded—but I'm not throwing them away yet either, just in case they're not.

In the meantime, three of my stories have been reprinted in recent anthologies, which were waiting at the PO box when I got home from Wagga. From left to right, they are:
  • Ellen Datlow's Telling Tales: The Clarion West 30th Anniversary Anthology, which is a very cool production from Hydra House, containing stories from Clarion West alumni with comments on each story by CW instructors. "Mulberry Boys" (first published in Ellen's Blood and Other Cravings, is in here, with comments from the wonderful Howard Waldrop on my back-asswards approach to my career.
  • Then there's the handsome hardback The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror, edited by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene and published by Ticonderoga Publications, which is a big, solid chocolate box of stories, one of which is "Crow and Caper, Caper and Crow", which first came out in Jonathan Strahan's YA witches anthology Under My Hat.
  • Thirdly, Adolfo Aranjuez has again edited Award Winning Australian Writing for Melbourne Books, and this 2013 edition contains the Aurealis-garnering and Shirley Jackson-shortlisted "Bajazzle", my nasty sheela-na-gig story, first published in Cracklescape.
Right, back to writing something original now.

29 September, 2013

Wagga Wagga Residency - reading and workshop, too

I'll be leaving on Tuesday for Wagga Wagga, where I'll be the October (i.e. 1–15 October) writer-in-residence at Booranga Writers' Centre. Booranga Writers’ Centre, in case you don't know, "links up writers across the Riverina and provides professional development, networks and resources for readers and writers in Wagga, the Riverina Region, and Albury." My visit is supported by the NSW Government (through Arts NSW), Wagga City Council, and Charles Sturt University.
As well as working on a novel, I'll be giving a reading and a workshop, and the Centre's media release says, "All are welcome to [Margo's] public appearances in Wagga, which are free of charge." The events are:
  • Reading and discussion at the Wagga Wagga City Library, Thursday 10 October, 5–7pm.
  • Writing Workshop at Booranga Writers’ Centre, McKeown Drive (CSU Wagga, opposite the winery), Saturday 12 October, 2–4pm.
Need more information? Phone the Centre's staff on 
Monday (9.00am–3.30pm), Tuesday (9.00am–11.30am), or Thursday (9.00am–2.30pm) on (02) 6933 2688, or email them at booranga@csu.edu.au

18 September, 2013

Fredericksburg Academy 9th Grade of 2013, ahoy!

It’s great to see you in my blog’s comments, encountering “Singing My Sister Down” and trying to nut out various things about it.

I won’t answer any questions that are already answered here or here, because it’s not very hard to search this blog for “Fredericksburg”, and I don’t think I should feed you when you’re perfectly good at holding a spoon yourselves. :D And I’m a bit pressed for time, so I’m afraid I can’t get over to your blogs and say hi there. However, I’ll answer the questions that are new.

rodonnell asks: What inspired you to write a story about this? A documentary about a tarpit in Africa. Watching all the things that happened around the real-life tarpit (people warming their feet, losing their cars etc. in the tar), I thought it wouldn’t be too long before people worked out a way to lose people they didn’t want around, using this handy geographical feature right here. Also, what do you think about this method of execution: is it better or worse than methods used today? Well, I’m not sure this method isn’t being used today, somewhere, with the right equipment. Certainly not everyone’s being dispatched speedily by lethal injection. Human beings aren’t always very nice to each other, you know. Quite a lot of murderers like to see their victims suffer for a long while before they die.

Photo by Fred Hoogervorst, snrched from here.
LAFA17 asked, Did you plan it all out beforehand thinking of a story to make? or making it up as you go? maybe even had an experience that made you think of this? I didn’t plan it out. I had a idea-note saying “A family is forced to watch one of its members die by sinking in a tarpit, after some misdemeanour.” I knew the victim would die in the end, and how she would die (I don’t think I knew she was a she until maybe moments before I started writing), but I didn’t know what for, or anything much else when I began. It mostly grew in the telling. And no, this story doesn’t come directly from my own experience—it's all either stolen or made up.

Christina: Where exactly is the setting? Where do you think it is? That’s where it is. What is the time period of the setting? No time and any time. It can’t be dismissed as history and it can’t be claimed as the present. What is narrating character's personality like? Now, that, I would hope, would be fairly clear from the story. Take another look for some clues.

Meagan: For starters, when did the story take place and where? A lot of times I questioned the place and time the event was taking place. See my answers to Christina. Next, what did Ikky do to deserve the punishment? I couldn’t find a clear understanding to why everything was happening. It’s all there in the story, Meagan. The clues are small, but they’re there. Finally, how old was the narrator? I could tell that he was young, but not so young that he didn’t understand what was happening to his sister. Yep, that’s about how old. He’s a bit older than Dash, a lot older than Felly, quite a bit younger than Ik. Young enough still to be picked up by his mother and carried, but nearly too big/old for that.

Zeke, too, wants to know How old is the narrator who tells the story in first person? We never get much background information on him. You got quite a bit of information; I didn’t tell you outright all about him, but I showed you, by the way he acted and thought, what kind of a person he was, and how much experience he had of the world. And of course what do you believe Ik did to be executed in the tar pit? What do I believe she did? I know what she did, and I told you, too. Look a bit closer. 

Black Juice, Italian edition
Ravyn wants to know the inspiration for the characters’ names. Ravyn, I wanted names that didn’t necessarily identify people as belonging to a particular culture, but that also expressed something of the nature of their owners and their place the story. So, Ikky is the centre of her brother (the nameless narrator)’s actual “icky” feelings about what’s going on; Dash is too busy dashing about in his own mind and world to appreciate what’s going on in front of him; Felly, I don’t know, it’s a diminutive form of “fellow”, maybe? Mai, I can’t remember, but perhaps I was thinking of the name May, which is an auntly, or great-auntly name? Also, her doubtfulness about what she thought about Ikky and Ikky’s crime makes the name May/Mai seem appropriate; she may turn up or she may not. She may come round to properly mourning Ikky, or she may stay on the bank and abandon her in her last moments. 

Ravyn’s second question is: If asked to describe "Singing my Sister Down" in one sentence, what would that sentence be? Nooo, if I could encompass the story in a sentence, I wouldn’t have written out the whole story. :D 

And then Ravyn asks, When reading "Singing my Sister Down" I noticed that the story was written in 1st person, why did you personally choose to do that, then have it in 3rd person, from a narrators perspective? Because I wanted to experience Ikky’s going down as closely as possible to the way that unworldly, puzzled child, her brother, experienced it. I didn’t want to seem to be sitting outside him, judging him in any way; I just wanted to follow him through the spectating, and the change that happened to him as a result of watching his sister die in this way. 

Anonymous asks, Why is Mai not there at the start with the rest of the family? I thought Mumma and Ikky explained that pretty fully in the story. What prompted you to write this story? See my answer to rodonnell. Do you think you could watch one of your close friends or family members do what Ikky did or would you try to save them and pay the punishment? I don’t think, in this society, that the watching family can step in and save the sinking person. Part of the point is that everyone accepts that this has to be done. Part of the power of the story is that readers expect someone to come along and fix things by preventing what feels like an unjust punishment—and then nobody does. It would be a much more ordinary story, I think, if I’d found some way to rescue her. But at no point did I want to.

jwhitman asked: What exactly happened with Ikky and the husband? See my answers to Meagan and Zeke. 

mstorage asked: If you were to be executed, would you rather be executed by tar pit or the electric chair? Why would you choose that type of execution? Definitely electric chair—faster. Even a slow electric chair death would be faster than Ik’s. What gave you the idea that a tar pit could be used as a tool of execution? Did you learn about it somewhere? See my answer to rodonnell.

And as for Anna, Stephen and bafa17, thank you for dropping by and leaving your kind comments!

If any of you still have questions, ask them in the comments to this post, so everyone (including future Fredericksburg 9th-graders) can find them easily.

Keep reading, keep thinking!
Best wishes,

Sea Hearts wins a WA Premier's Book Award!

I was excited to fly to Perth on Monday to attend the Western Australian Premier's Book Awards at the State Reception Centre in King's Park.

Even more exciting was actually winning the Young Adult Fiction Award for the selkies. What a year they're having!

The awards website presents the judges' comments on each book, and says of Sea Hearts, "The orchestrated plot surges to a dramatic, shocking climax, before a dawn-like denouement which is just as powerful in its tranquillity and hope. Lanagan presents a fantasy that enthrals, in a language that sings and delights." Pretty irresistible, no?

And another book there that I want to get my hands on is Roger Averill's Exile: The Lives and Hopes of Werner Pelz. And of course Questions of Travel, I've still got to read that. It took out both the fiction and the overall Premier's Prize—go, Michelle de Kretser! If my year's been dizzying, hers must have been absolutely mind-blowing.