Monday, 23 July 2012

Prime Minister's Literary Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of this year's Prime Minister's Literary Awards, which were announced in Canberra this morning. This year's winners are:

Foal's Bread by Gillian Mears 

Interferon Psalms by Luke Davies 
An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark by Mark McKenna 

Prize for Australian History
The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines Made Australia by Bill Gammage 
Young Adult Fiction
When We Were Two by Robert Newton 

Children's Fiction
Goodnight, Mice! by Frances Watts, illustrated by Judy Watson

Friday, 20 July 2012

Video Interview: Richard Ford

We were thrilled to have Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Ford take some time out from his busy Australian tour and come into Shearer's last week to sign some books and have a coffee (black) with us. He spoke to Antonia about his new book Canada, keeping the first draft of the novel in the freezer, his preoccupation with consequences and his writing routine.

In Canada, Richard Ford has created a masterpiece. A visionary novel of vast landscapes, complex identities and fragile humanity. It questions the fine line between the normal and the extraordinary, and the moments that haunt our settled view of the world.

Kylie Kwong Event at Ilve Showroom

Last week we were treated to a cooking demonstration by Kylie Kwong at the Ilve Showroom in Leichhardt. Kylie was cooking from her latest book Simple Chinese Cooking Class which is available now. If you missed out on the event and meeting Kylie, we have lots of signed copies of the book in the shop.

 Here are some of the photos from the night.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

15th Spanish Film Festival Begins!

Today the 15th Spanish Film Festival starts next door at the Palace Cinema Norton St, showcasing the very best comedies, dramas, animations and thrillers from Spain and Spanish-speaking Latin America. To celebrate all things Spanish, we're going to have a look at some of our latest bestsellers en espagnol!

To book tickets to the Spanish Film Festival, visit their website.

Review: The Onion's Great Escape

Sara Fanelli is a UK based artist born in Florence. Her work hangs in the Tate Gallery and she illustrates for The New Yorker and has won countless international awards for her stunning picture books.

Her wonderful new book The Onion’s Great Escape is part activity book, part picture book and has been dubbed as “Basic Philosophy for Kids”. It’s really too much a design masterpiece to
be called just an activity book.

There are two stories running alongside each other, the onions and your own.

Children have to to help the onion escape from the hot frying pan by responding to and filling in each of the questions that appear on each page. Then you peel back the next layer of the onion and move on to the next question.

By the end of the book you have a gorgeous 3D mini flip book that becomes completely detached from the original book and the child ends up with a collection of thoughts and ideas to keep forever.

The onion’s adventure is not one to be missed either. An onion was an interesting choice to focus an adventure story on but an onion does have many layers and the idea of peeling and layers does go hand in hand.

The book poses questions about time, memory, what makes you happy etc but there are also questions like if a chicken eats a worm and you eat the chicken, have you eaten the worm?

There’s lot of space to respond too, either by drawing pictures or writing. It’s a wonderful way to spark creativity for any age and you even end up with an extra book at the end.

Great for both and boys and girls to tackle during the holidays and also the grown-ups as
well. I think it’s suitable for ages 8 to 108!

Reviewed by Barbara on ABC 702 Sydney

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Wonderful Emily Eyefinger - new book and play!

Emily Eyefinger has to be one of the most loved characters of kids fiction!  

When Emily was born with an extra eye on her finger her parents were understandably concerned, but it turns out that having an extra more agile eye is particularly useful when solving mysteries, which is what Emily does best.

This plucky young girl is off an another adventure this year in Emily Eyefinger and the Secret from the Sea, which is just as full of thrilling fun and exploration as ever. This new Emily book comes out in August, so there's just about enough time to work your way through the other Emily books if you haven't yet, or to relive them if you have!

And to complete your total Emily immersion, the Monkey Baa Theatre Company in Darling Harbour are putting on their fantastic adaption of Emily Eyefinger this July holidays. Barbara and Tony from the Shearers shop went to see the 2011 performance by Monkey Baa and were blown away, so we're very excited that we have a second chance to go along. Click on the video below to see a preview of this stage show, which has been described as "60 minutes of pure enjoyment, silly antics and good old-fashioned fun".

Last year Jason Blake reviewed the play, saying “This energetic stage adaptation of Duncan Ball’s adventure series for children combines the silliness of Ripping Yarns with the wackiness of Scooby-Doo”. Definitely one to check out!

Play details:
Date: Friday 29 June 2012 - Sunday 15 July 2012
Location: Lend Lease Darling Quarter Theatre
Cost: $18 - $25
For more information: or (02) 8624 9341

When Genres Attack!

The world seems to be filled with people who 'don't like fantasy or sci-fi' but somehow love Game of Thrones, True Blood, The Hunger Games, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, the list goes on ... So what is it that allows these books to jump out from the label of speculative fiction that often prevents readers from picking other books in this genre up. Is it that the idea of belonging to a 'genre' is only stifling for books that would otherwise we judged by their writing and ideas? Do genres come weighed down with heavy preconceptions and prejudices? Do these very different books really belong within the same genre at all? And does it matter?
M.J. Hearle writes paranormal YA, Duncan Lay writes high fantasy and Claire Corbett writes literary speculative fiction - these are three very diverse writers supposedly working within the same genre - and they're coming to Shearer's later this month to lay done some home-truths about this 'genre' of speculative fiction.

SPOILER ALERT: Clare Corbett came in to the shop to speak to us about her new novel When We Have Wings, which is set in the near future when advances in surgery have allowed wealthy humans to get their own functioning wings, with which they can fly. This is a beautifully crafted novel that crosses the boundaries of crime fiction, speculative fiction and literary fiction. In the interview Clare addresses this idea of how her book was categorised in a way that really cuts to the heart of the issue:  

Do you think genre classification is important and if so, where do you see When We Have Wings fitting?

No; classification allows people to dismiss categories of interesting work wholesale. The desire to do that is understandable but I'd like to see what would happen if fiction was just shelved alphabetically in a bookstore and you had to approach every book with an open mind. Kerryn Goldsworthy said in a terrific review of Stephen M Irwin's The Broken Ones that crime is where plot went when it was kicked out of literary fiction and that sci-fi is where the ideas went. You can have it all; ideas, story and literary craft. Allen & Unwin decided When We Have Wings is literary fiction and I wrote the book with that intention; that every sentence would be as crafted and beautiful as I could make it. 

And so the discussion begins. Is genre just a marketing tool? Is it a useful guide for readers or a way to hem them into choosing the same sort of book? Can science fiction, paranormal fiction and fantasy really all be grouped together? What makes speculative fiction speculative? How will our other authors weigh in to the debate?

Come along and join M.J Hearle, Duncan Lay and Claire Corbett at 7pm on Thursday July 26th to find out!  

Tickets: $10, $8 frequent shoppers. Entry Includes refreshments. 
Bookings are essential for this event. You can purchase your tickets in store, or by calling Shearer's on (02) 9572 7766.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Review: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Rachel Joyce is an award winning English playwright and this is her first novel. Six years ago Rachel wrote The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry as a play for BBC Radio 4 and it won an award for the best radio play. The play was written with her father, who had cancer at the time, in mind.

Rachel had wanted to write a book for many years and was persuaded by her colleagues to write “Harold’s” story as a novel. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Rachel said "looking back, doing the book was about trying to keep my dad alive.”  She wanted to write a story that didn’t quite fit the rules and make the implausible, plausible … and she succeeded. Rachel wrote the novel during the six-month Writing A Novel course run by The Faber Academy in London, also attended by SJ Watson, author of Before I Go To Sleep.

Harold has retired and lives with his wife Maureen in a southern English town. Maureen’s a bit of a shrew and criticises him all the time and poor Harold wears it without a murmur.

He then receives a letter from a work colleague he hasn’t seen for 30 years. She writes that she is in a hospice and wants to thank him for his friendship many years before and to say goodbye.

Harold immediately writes to her and sets out to post the letter. He contemplates at the post box and decides to move on to the post office. When he reaches the post office he makes the amazing decision to just deliver it in person. The problem is that he lives in southern England and the hospice is in the north of the country 627 miles away!

And so his pilgrimage begins. Sounds implausible I know but the people he meets along the way, even the television crews makes this a quirky story with many surprising dimensions. I’ve had readers who didn’t want it to end as they loved it so much.

Erica Wagner from The Times said “From the moment I met Harold Fry I didn’t want to leave him. It’s impossible to put down”.

Faber Academy in Sydney at Allen and Unwin have lots of upcoming writing courses, have a look at their website for more details. You could be the next Rachel Joyce or SJ Watson!

The Faber Academy at Allen and Unwin

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Author Interview: Anne Korkeakivi

Like Virginia Woolf did in Mrs. Dalloway, Anne Korkeakivi brilliantly weaves the complexities of an age into an act as deceptively simple as hosting a dinner party in An Unexpected Guest.

On a lovely spring day in Paris – post-9/11 and several months after the London Underground bombings — Clare Moorhouse, the Irish-American wife of a high-ranking British diplomat, is arranging an official dinner crucial to her husband’s career. As she shops for fresh stalks of asparagus and works out the menu and seating arrangements, her day is complicated by the abrupt arrival of her son from boarding school in England and a random encounter with a man on the street, who may be a suspected terrorist. More unnerving still is a recurring face in the crowd, one that belonged to another, darker era of her life. But it can’t be him…

An Unexpected Guest has been compared to Virginia Woolf's classic Mrs Dalloway because of the way both novels elegantly weave complex themes into simple settings.  Is this a style you were conscious of adopting? Are you a fan of Virginia Woolf's writing?
An Unexpected Guest is about a woman asked to put on an elegant last-minute dinner in Paris, a task - as a cool accomplished diplomat's wife - that should not be impossible for her. Except that everything starts to go wrong in the course of the day, all stemming back to this secret she's been harboring about a choice she made in her youth, thrown into relief against the climate of the mid-2000s when the novel takes place. This post-9/11 period of widespread unease, secrets, and revelations not only provides the backdrop for the story, it fundamentally informs the story.

I am, indeed, an admirer of Virginia Woolf's work. At some point early on, I recognized the similarity between what I wanted to do and the manner by which Woolf talks about the discomfort of the post-WWI generation in Mrs. Dalloway
An Unexpected Guest is set around one day in the life of a diplomat's wife and with a beautiful attention to the details of that day.  How much research went into the development of this character and how much was instinctual?

One of the first things I did in beginning work on An Unexpected Guest was to interview a life-long member of the foreign service on all questions of protocol, etc. I also spent hours reading about the lives and professional responsibilities of diplomats and their spouses, as well as conducting other types of pertinent research. But, above all, I asked myself: Who would be this person be? Who would have done what Clare Moorhouse did when she was twenty and would now be doing what she is doing at forty-five? I thought about Clare for over a year before writing the first chapter. By then, I knew her really well!
You've spent a great deal of time in France.  Do you think that it is important for writers of fiction to base their works around places they know?
I wouldn't want to presume as to what is right or isn't right for other authors. This may seem off the point, but John Fogerty, who wrote the all-time mega-hits "Proud Mary" and "Born on the Bayou," was from the San Francisco area and, apparently, had never even been to New Orleans! Numerous sci-fi books take place on Mars or in distant galaxies, and that seems to work for both those writers and their readers.

But, yes, I did live in eastern France for ten years and have spent a great deal of time in Paris, and this was with me every minute of writing An Unexpected Guest, as were every raindrop I've felt or slice of brown bread I've eaten in Dublin, Washington, DC, and the Boston area - other places that appear in the book. I loved walking along the Rue de Varenne, crossing the Seine, visiting the gardens of the Rodin Museum in my imagination as I wrote. I appeared to be sitting at a desk in front of a computer, but I was really miles away re-living springtime in Paris.