I have just spent a week up in Sydney, having a wonderful time. My book "Farm Kid" received the NSW Premier's Literary Award for children's books (called the Patricia Wrightson Prize) and I attended the dinner on Monday night. It was a great experience, very nervewracking and seeing Gough Whitlam in the audience didn't help. I sat at Table 9 (good omen - my birth date) with Julie and Laura from Penguin, and also Julie Gibbs, along with Donna Rawlins and Simon French. As the night went on, my shaking got worse. However at the crucial moment I did manage to get up on the dais and receive the award without falling over!
The following is my speech, and the note at the end explains why I'm putting it on my blog.
***Farm Kid began in 2002, at a summer school in Fresno, California, where I wrote two poems about my childhood on our farm. Over the next 12 months it grew into a story that I cared very deeply about, but I was never convinced that it would be published. After all, it was about a farm and it was poetry.
My thanks must go first of all to my writing group, Western Women Writers, to whom I now owe an enormous chocolate cake, and to fellow poet, Kristin Henry, who was a very experienced and understanding sounding board.
Special thanks to Julie Watts at Penguin who, much to my astonishment, said yes, we’ll publish it, and Christine Alesich, my editor, who worked so hard with me on shaping the final book. Thanks also to the illustrator, Christina Meissen, for her wonderful cows.
And thank you to my husband, Brian, who is now very used to waving his hand in front of my face to bring me back from wherever I’ve “gone” this time.
I hope that Farm Kid resonates with everyone who reads it, and I hope lots of people do, not only kids. The problems caused by drought are not going to go away and the losses that come with it reach far deeper than money. When someone tells me the book has made them cry, then I know it’s working.
Recently in an article in the magazine, The Monthly, Malcolm Knox talked about book sales, and prizes as consolations: I quote: “So and so won the Premier’s Award, which is nice for her but the book sank.”
All I can say to that is “Not if I have anything to do with it”.
Now, I actually met Malcolm Knox at the opening night party of the Writers' Festival, and thanked him for the quote, and the article, which was very interesting. He said, "You realise that that wasn't a quote from me, it was from a book publisher."
I said, Yes, I did realise that but it was hard to make that clear in the speech. He wouldn't reveal which publisher had actually said it; however, I did promise that I would explain my use of the quote to listeners or readers, so here it is. If you want to read the full article (it's about the effect of Bookscan on literary publishing in Australia) see the new magazine "The Monthly".
The festival itself looked interesting, similar to the Melbourne one but many more political sessions, and little on writing itself. I would have loved to go to one of Alice Sebold's sessions, but had to fly back home Thursday afternoon. I did a reading with other Premier's Awards winners on Thursday morning, and then was really disappointed to discover that the bookshop had no copies of my book in stock!! As there were several people who came up to me after the reading and said they wanted to buy "Farm Kid", I was even more disappointed. If you're reading this and would like a copy, please do order it (this is the desperate author speaking who wants to cry when people say they can't find my books in the shop).
I met many interesting and lovely authors and publishers during the week, including Sharyn November (Penguin US/Firebird) and Marion Lloyd (UK publisher who now has her own imprint with Scholastic). Also Ursula Dubosarsky, Margo Lanagan and Sam Wagan Watson. And at the dinner I got to shake hands and talk to Tim Winton!