Monday, 27 August 2012

When Genres Attack!: 50 Shades of Chic Lit

When Genres Attack!: 50 Shades of Chic Lit : Thursday 7pm September 13 

When Genres Attack is back and it's going to be a hot night at Shearer's. Anita Heiss, Lisa Heidke and Susan Johnson, three writers with over 25 books between them, will be talking about the books women write, the books women read and the C word - Chick Lit, Choc Lit and Chook Lit.

To get the conversation flowing for the event Lisa Heidke is guest blogging today. If you think MWF just stands for Melbourne Writers Festival, then read on.

Chick lit does not mean dumb lit.

If you believe the criticism, chick lit is light and unimportant, with storylines routinely revolving around shoes, shopping and champagne. In other words, all fluff.

But that’s too simplistic. In the main, these books have great emotional depth. They are about relationships, not just romantic relationships, but about women and how they relate to friends, parents, siblings, children...about the friendships, crises and circumstances that challenge us every day.

Perhaps chick lit is a lazy term used to lump everything written by and for women together but it seems a consistent genre novels like mine get placed in.

Generally, the themes of well-written chick lit or modern women’s fiction centre on issues real people face every day. For example, I primarily write about women in their thirties triumphing over adversity. My books deal with real life issues like infidelity, divorce, teenage sexuality, flagging careers and aging parents, honestly, but with humour, and there’s always a hopeful ending.

The ending won’t be perfect because real life never is, but it’s generally hopeful. I like to think that my characters have learned something along the way and are better placed to face the future.

Other Australian authors exploring these themes include Anita Heiss, whose novels, Not Meeting Mr Right, Avoiding Mr Right, Manhattan Dreaming and Paris Dreaming have been called ‘Koori chick lit’ or as Anita’s friends say, ‘chock lit’.

Anita says, ‘I am strategically conscious of the audience I am writing for. I want to connect with Australian women readers of commercial fiction (which is what I prefer to call it), particularly those who have never engaged with Aboriginal women, arts, culture or society generally. I want them to connect through stories about relationships and the things we have in common as women, our shared human emotions of love, heartache, fear of rejection and so on. And I want to demonstrate the strength of women’s friendships across cultures.’

Authors like Anita, Susan Johnson, Dianne Blacklock, Liane Moriarty, Ilsa Evans and myself are covering similar territory according to our backgrounds and interests, albeit with our own particular brand or style. I write about themes that interest me and hope that my readers find them interesting too. If I choose wrongly, if a reader isn’t interested, or if my writing isn’t good enough, my sales will suffer. I totally accept that. But I don’t accept that women writers should constantly have to justify what they are writing about.

Because generally, we cop a beating from the critics. These novels, like novels written by men such as Nick Hornby and Nick Earls deal with similar issues...yet do we call their books lad lit or dick lit? Occasionally, I will if I’m trying to make a point, but generally, their books are just called fiction. Nick Earls gets a lot of print reviews, media coverage...mostly positive...would he get as much attention if his name was Nicola?

Maybe publishers don’t pigeonhole male writers because there’s perceived to be less of it written...or it’s classified as action or adventure ...or just fiction, but never men’s fiction and certainly not romance.
Maybe it’s all about marketing, but there doesn’t seem to be an existing stigma against a book written by a male about a guy trying to deal with a messy breakup, career struggles etc where there is one against a book written by a woman dealing with similar issues.

And I’m not sure why...

However, I believe women’s contemporary fiction and chick lit as a genre is constantly evolving. These books are now regularly dealing with meatier, weightier issues because as writers we like to push boundaries.  Also, readers are demanding more from these stories: more depth, more intrigue, and more humanity and writers are embracing and enjoying the challenge of dealing with compelling subjects within the confines of a good story, with realistic, likeable characters.

Trends will come and go. But regardless of the label  - chick lit, hen lit, chock lit, Koori lit, farm lit – women’s contemporary fiction or plain old fiction - people will always love a good story that addresses deep, universal themes – love, loss, family, and the meaning of life.

For me, writing chick lit is about keeping a balance between what I want to write, what readers want to read and what publishers believe will sell a novel. (Given the current popularity of rural romance and erotic fiction, I probably should be writing rural cliterature – it’s a thought!)

So, no. I don’t believe chick lit is an inferior form of fiction, nor is it dumb or unimportant. The majority of it is well-written, relevant and engaging, with storylines and characters that stay with me long after I have finished the last page.

When Genres Attack!: 50 Shades of Chic Lit : Thursday 7pm September 13 at Shearer's Bookshop, 99 Norton St, Leichhart

Tickets: $10 adults, $8 frequent shoppers. Bookings are essential for this event. Purchase your tickets in store, or by calling Shearer's on (02) 9572 7766.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

National Bookshop Day 2012

Saturday August 11th was National Bookshop Day 2012, a day that celebrates bookshops all across Australia and their important place in our communities. Shearer’s celebrated with a day of childhood nostalgia, and kid’s classic stories. The decorations in shop were inspired by children’s stories The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. Throughout the day authors, customer and staff read out loud from the classic story The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

Australian authors Deb Abela, Michelle Cooper, L. A. Larkin, Chris Morphew and Frances Watts all be visited the shop, signed books and read to the kids.

During National Bookshop Day Shearer’s planned lots of games, activities, and a dress up competition.

The shop and National Bookshop Day were featured in the Sydney Morning Herald here:

Check out some photos from National Bookshop Day 2012!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Brief Chat With Nigel Marsh

'His 2010 speech on life, the universe and everything at Sydney's 2010 TED Conference had an instant global impact and remains Australia's most watched TED talk with well over a million hits. He is the co-founder of Earth Hour and past CEO of a number of high profile advertising agencies.'  Proclaims Nigel Marsh's biography on his publisher's website. He is a man of many talents and writing is certainly one of them.

We were lucky to have the energetic and entertaining Nigel drop by the store last week, shortly following the release of
Fit, Fifty and Fired-Up, the autobiographical sequel to the bestselling Fat, Forty and Fired - just in time to be the perfect gift for Father's Day.

"If Lara Bingle can have a tv show about her life," he told us with a cheeky smile, shortly before agreeing to answer some of our questions, "Then I can release one book every ten years."

Your latest book Fit, Fifty and Fired-Up finds you at quite a different point of your life from where you were for your last book, Fat, Forty and Fired. What was the main difference for you between theses two decades?
Chekov once said "any fool can face a crisis, its day to day living that’s the real challenge”. Fat, Forty and Fired was about a year. Fit, Fifty and Fired-Up is about the rest of my life...

Why do you think we as a society seem to be moving further away from maintaining a good work/life balance?

Its so easy to unwittingly get addicted to being busy - especially with today’s technology. Unfortunately it usually takes a major event like a bereavement, illness, divorce or redundancy to force us to pause and reflect on the lives we’re living.

What advice would you give to people who are thinking of following you off the hamster wheel to chase their dreams?
Don’t! Well not because I did anyway. And not until you’ve properly thought through all the implications of taking such a decision. I’m not saying anyone else should do it. Fit, Fifty and Fired-Up is just my story.
For many people leaving their job would be the very worst thing they could do. I’m a huge believer in implementing small changes. Over time they tend to have a far greater and more beneficial effect than the unrealistic grand gestures.

Signed copies of Fit, Fifty and Fired-Up are available in-store now for $29.99.
You can also listen to Nigel's TED Talk on the Allen & Unwin website.

Friday, 17 August 2012

CBCA Winners 2012

Congratulations to this years Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year winners!

The Dead I Know
By Scot Gardner
Honour Books: A Straight Line To My Heart by Bill Condon and When We Were Two by Robert Newton

Crow Country
By Kate Constable
Honour Books: Nanberry: Black Brother White by Jackie French and The Truth About Verity Sparks by Susan Green

The Runaway Hug
By Nick Bland, llustrated by Freya Blackwood 
Honour Books: Come Down, Cat! by Sonya Hartnett Illustrated by Freya Blackwood and That's Not a Daffodil! by Elizabeth Honey

A Bus Called Heaven
By Bob Graham 
Honour Books: The Dream of the Thylacine by Ron Brooks illustrated by Margaret Wild and Flood by Jackie French illustrated by Bruce Whatley

One Small Island
By Alison Lester, Illustrated by Coral Tulloch
Honour Books: The Little Refugee by Anh & Suzanne Do illustrated by Bruce Whatley and Surrealism For Kids by Queensland Art Gallery

Book Launch: The Wattle Tree

Last night Shearer's was privileged to host the launch of The Wattle Tree, a beautiful picture book on bereavement written by John Bell and illustrated by Ben Wood. The Wattle Tree was launched Margaret Hamilton, who has worked in children's books all her life and currently runs Pinerolo, a centre for children's books at Blackheath in the Blue Mountains.

John and Ben are young guys working with kids in Sydney. Both John and Ben recently lost grandparents they loved. John used to spend many happy hours with his grandfather who had an enormous frangipani tree in his front garden. He feels that trees give you hope and fond memories and so decided to write a story around a tree.
The Wattle Tree does work as a way to help kids and adults deal with the grieving process. The book is set over the course of a few months, Molly makes repeated trips to a wattle tree near her house. At first her visits are to escape the sadness in the house as her Mum is locked inside her own grief.
Gradually Molly draws strength from her visits and invites Mum to share in the experience so they can keep memories of Gran alive.

So many books for kids about the death of a loved one are animal based and it is wonderful to see a story involving people. The language is beautiful and is not patronizing or 'dumbed down' for younger readers. You can hear Molly’s voice as a little girl not sure of how she is meant to feel and the illustrations accompany the text perfectly and can feel the wind blowing.

Everyone deals differently with bereavement and from the story we see how Mum and Molly approach the situation from two angles and ultimately come together to help each other and look to the future.

The Wattle Tree
By John Bell illustrated by Ben Wood
Published by Lothian Books
Hardback - $28.99
- Rachel & Barbara

Monday, 6 August 2012

Book Review: 'After' by Morris Gleitzman

Morris Gleitzman is a writer and speaker that has the talent to engage his audience – both young and old alike. His thirty three books have been, and still are, a cherished part of many Australian childhoods. His latest release After, from the series including Once, Then and Now, promises to be yet another classic.

After adds to the story of Felix and Zelda, two children growing up amidst the horrors of Nazi Germany. It is a confronting but important story that shows Gleitzman’s ability to present children with the moral complexities of history and the everyday, and the joys and hardships experienced in life, in a way that they can understand.

Both Gleitzman and his publisher, Penguin, were nervous about Gleitzman’s decision to write a series set against the dismaying time of the Holocaust during World War II. However, when advanced copies of Once distributed throughout the book industry, Gleitzman was assured that the book would have a place in Australian children’s literature. It did, and so do the three subsequent books following Felix’s story.

After is a misleading title because it describes events that take place before Now. Gleitzman admitted that he calls the four books a group rather than a series as they do not have a linear or logical flow. Usually a well-planned author, Gleitzman discovered that his planning does not extend to ordering the sequence of his books.

Gleitzman explained that he can only write a story if he has formed a real friendship with a character. The upside of the friendship is that when the book is done and he or she is on the way to the imaginations and hearts of the readers, the goodbye is not total. All those friendships continue and those characters stay with him. Yet Felix’s presence was stronger than the other, he nagged Gleitzman until Gleitzman realised that he had neglected a very important part of Felix’s life and that it was not time to say goodbye yet.

Without giving too much away, After returns to the point in Felix’s life where the young boy takes control of his own life. As Gleitzman says, no matter how supportive our family and friends have been, the person that is going to steer us the most in our life is ourselves. Felix’s story of becoming an adult and contributing citizen was one that needed to be told. Felix realises that, to put it simply, there are people who break and people who mend and he decides that he wants to be a mending person. Although we know of Felix’s decision from, it is interesting and integral to know why that
decision was made.

Gleitzman does not have favourite characters, yet he admitted that Felix and Zelda from Once, Then, Now and After are his closest fictional friends as they have been on a journey with Gleitzman for almost fifteen years. The stories that these two face are bigger than those in most of his other books and as a result, Gleitzman has been more concerned for their welfare.

Gleitzman has always written books for the age group of 8 and above, so he know before he wrote Once that most of his readers wouldn’t have experienced or known of what Felix encounters during WWII or come close to it. Reading the book would raise important questions for his readers. That’s why Once, Then, Now and After are structured as a journey so that young readers can discover the world as Felix does. It is a challenging world that explores all that humans are capable of: good and bad.

Children get an idea that the world is a troubled and unsettling place and Gleitzman’s writing reflects that. Significantly though, his fiction also shows the other side of life and human behaviour that the news, for instance, often neglects. Mostly, After is about friendship because what better way to explore the power of friendship than by putting it amongst such unfriendly and cruel behaviour?

– Review by Nat

Friday, 3 August 2012

Top Father's Day Gift Ideas

Is dad counting down the days until Sunday September 2nd? Remember folks: Fathers Day is less than one month away! Are you scrambling for ideas? DON'T PANIC. Shearer's has you covered. Here are our favourite picks for this Father's Day.

 Books to Share with Dad
DADS: A Field Guide - Justin Ractliffe & Cathie Glassby - Hardback, $19.95.
Daddy's Cheeky Monkey - Andrew Daddo & Emma Quay - Boardbook, $12.99.My Dad Thinks He's Funny - Katrina Germein & Tom Jellett - Paperback, $16.95.My Dad's The Coolest - Rosie Smith & Bruce Whatley - Hardback, $16.99.
Some Dads... - Nick Bland - Hardback, $16.99.

 History & Biography
The Second World War - Anthony Beevor - Hardback, $49.99.
The Story of Billy Young - Anthony Hill - Trade Paperback, $29.99.
QF32 - Richard De Crespingy - Trade Paperback, $34.99.
Glenrowan - Ian W. Shaw - Trade Paperback, $34.99.
Batavia - Peter Fitzsimons - Trade Paperback, $34.95.
Antarctica - David Day - Hardback, $45.00.
Fit, Fifty and Fired Up - Nigel Marsh - Trade Paperback, $29.99.

11.22.63 - Stephen King - Paperback, $22.99.
The Australian Long Story - Mandy Sayer (Editor) - Paperback, $24.95.The Fallen Angel - Daniel Silva - Trade Paperback, $29.99.
The Truth - Michael Palin - Trade Paperback, $32.99.
Rare Earth - Paul Mason - Trade Paperback, $24.99.
The Marmalade Files - Steve Lewis & Chris Uhlmann - Trade Paperback, $29.99.

  Food & Travel
Pizza - Pete Evans - Paperback, $39.99.
The Great Aussie Barbie: Fast & Easy - Kim Terakes - Paperback, $35.00.
Extreme South - James Castrission - Trade Paperback, $35.00.
My Cool Shed - Jane Field-Lewis & Tina Hillier - Hardback, $29.99.
Explore Australia 2013 - Paperback, $59.95.Paris to the Past - Ina Caro - Paperback, $22.95.
Be The Worst You Can Be - Charles Saatchi - Hardback, $19.95.
64 Things You Need to Know for Now and Then - Ben Hammersley - Trade Paperback, $29.99.
30-Second Theories - Paul Parsons - Hardback, $19.99.
Eat My Words - Mungo MacCallum - Paperback, $24.99.
Keep Calm For Dads - Hardback, $9.99.

National Bookshop Day 2012 - Saturday August 11th

Saturday 11th August is National Bookshop Day 2012 and Shearer’s is celebrating with a day of childhood nostalgia and kid’s classics stories! There will be lots of games, activities, a dress up competition and storytelling at the shop between 10am-3pm.

Australian authors Deb Abela, Michelle Cooper, L.A. Larkin, Chris Morphew and Frances Watts and many more will be there too, and they'll be reading from Wind in the Willows along with Shearer's customers and staff.

So come celebrate National Bookshop Day at Shearer’s - your community bookshop.