CBCA Book of the Year Award winners 2012

The winners of this year’s Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year Awards were announced today, marking the official launch of Children’s Book Week.

The winning books in each of the categories are:

   
Older Readers
The Dead I Know (Scot Gardner, A&U)
Younger Readers
Crow Country
(Kate Constable, A&U)
   
Early Childhood
The Runaway Hug (Nick Bland, illus by Freya Blackwood, Scholastic)
Picture Book of the Year
A Bus Called Heaven (Bob Graham, Walker Books)
   
Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
One Small Island: The Story of Macquarie Island (Alison Lester & Coral Tulloch, Penguin)
Crichton Award for Illustration:
Ben & Duck (Sara Acton, Scholastic)

To see a list of all the winners and honour books, visit the Bookseller+Publisher website here.

Interview: Felicity Higgins on ‘The Mothers’ Group’ (A&U)

Fiona Higgins’ debut novel The Mothers’ Group (published in excellent time for Mother’s Day) follows the lives of six very different mums in Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It covers some ‘dark territory’ but is no ‘misery mumoir’, writes reviewer Felicity McLean. She spoke to the author.

The Mothers’ Group is your first novel (following your memoir, Love in the Age of Drought). How did you find the shift to fiction?
Liberating. With Love in the Age of Drought, I was constrained by the truth. It was my life I was writing about—and if I didn’t tell the truth, a bunch of witnesses (including my husband) would be holding me accountable! The Mothers Group freed me up to explore themes about parenting and relationships in a really creative way, taking my ideas and storyline in almost any direction. It was such a different and satisfying experience. That said, I think the characters in the novel are all very real. In fact, it was as if this group of real people just came and plonked themselves inside my head while I was writing! And their issues are real: they’re striving so hard to be the mothers they want to be, yet so often they fail (in their own eyes, mostly) to achieve that goal. This is the experience of many mothers I know, including me.

You cover some dark territory in The Mothers’ Group, exploring issues such as infidelity, substance abuse and birth deformities. Was any of this content based in your own experiences of motherhood?
I’ve chosen to explore some of the hardest issues about mothering that people rarely talk about, that’s true. The thing about taboos is, you’ve got to give them a decent airing before you can start tackling them. But the novel is equally about love, friendship and commitment—all of which I’ve experienced intensely since becoming a mother myself. None of the content in the novel is a direct replication of my own experience of motherhood, but certainly there’s an aspect of myself in all the characters. So, for example, there’s quite a tough, brittle character in the novel called Ginie, who is almost diametrically opposed in temperament to a gentle and generous Balinese character called Made (pronounced Mar-day). Well, on a bad day in my household, I’m Ginie. On a good day, I’m Made. And I think this is the experience of many mothers—they have good days, bad days, and everything in between. The question is—can society, and can women themselves, be generous enough to accept this reality: the imperfection of the flawed mother?

Who do you see are readers for The Mothers’ Group? Fathers not just mothers? Women beyond just those with children?
While I think the book will appeal most directly to women and men who are parenting younger children, there’s plenty in it for anyone interested in human relationships and family dynamics—dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles, or women who are childless by choice or circumstance.

What was the last book you read and loved?
The Life
by Malcolm Knox. I was hospitalised at the time, just before Christmas, so had this unexpected window to read it. I’d picked it up before but had been daunted by its style. But this time, once I was in, I was hooked. The main character—a washed-up former champion surfer, living with his mum in a retirement village—was so poignant and compelling. I found the style and language utterly engaging and, living on Sydney’s northern beaches, I felt like I’d met a few of the characters. Once I was discharged from hospital, I went out and bought copies for surfer mates of mine.  And funnily enough, it’s a book where maternal power is brought to bear with devastating force. Once again, it’s all about mum!

Andrew Wilkins: Literary awards – what are they good for?

As it’s been a while, regrettably, since Wilkins Farago published a book eligible for any of the state premiers’ awards, I don’t feel I have a vested interest in the future or otherwise of the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards, which were summarily axed this week by incoming Queensland Premier, Campbell Newman.

However, one is bound to feel regret at the passing of any government support for the literary arts, given how meagre that support is in the first place.

But politics and state premier egos aside (Stuart Glover has written a helpful background to the Queensland awards), what are such awards good for?

We have a lot of literary awards in this country. One hundred and thirty three, according to the last edition of Thorpe-Bowker’s Australian Literary Awards and Fellowships (2007). Everything from municipal poetry prizes to short story competitions. Some offer a book voucher or medal; others offer cash, ranging from enough to buy you lunch to enough to buy you a decent new car.

Apart from the big international awards like the Man Booker, local awards that actually stimulate people to go into a bookshop and buy the prize-winning book are actually few and far between. The Miles Franklin Award (the ‘longlist‘ for which was announced last week) has an impact. So too do the Children’s Book Council of Australia‘s Children’s Book of the Year Awards (the shortlists for which were released this week). Most others are scarcely noticed by the general public, and do little to sell books.

Do actual sales of books matter if an award ends up putting some money in the pocket of a deserving (and generally impoverished) writer? I think they do.

While a cash grant or an award may buy valuable time for the writer, and give them vital encouragement and validation, ultimately what will give someone a long-term career as a writer is a readership for their work. That’s people buying, reading and discussing their books.

As Heather Dyer of Fairfield Books observed in the July 2011 issue of Bookseller+Publisher Magazine

An award will help a book stand out, and it might penetrate the consciousness of the customer, but that in itself isn’t enough. A book still needs all, or some of: prominent shelf space, marketing, a ‘saleable’ author and endorsement from friends or a trusted bookseller.

Often, in the rush to bestow prestige on the recipient (and benefactor), administrators of literary awards can forget that giving out an award is only half the job; it also needs to be promoted. If an award falls to a writer and no-one notices, was it actually given?

This isn’t an argument for cutting awards, but more for funding them properly. $244,000 for the Queensland Premier’s Literary Awards sounds like a lot (not really when its divided between 14 winners), but think what could have been achieved if, alongside the prize money, an equal amount or more had been spent, with the involvement of publishers, booksellers and libraries, promoting the work of the prizewinners to the people who ultimately finance the award: Queensland’s taxpayers.

Books would have been sold and read in numbers, readerships created, communities stirred. (One could argue also that more marketing would have increased the Awards’ profile in the community, making them harder to axe.)

Actually, matters have improved since the days when, as a book publicist, both myself and an author heard through the grapevine a week after the announcement that they had won a Western Australian literary award. Some money is being directed towards marketing and I note that the current review of the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards is considering how to ‘maintain and enhance the prestige and authority of the awards’. Let’s hope the newly authoritative and prestigious NSW awards will take into account the importance of building an audience for the writer. That’s what will ensure they get publishing deals at home and overseas into the future.

Here, in no particular order, are just some of things that Australia’s literary award givers could consider doing to promote their prize winners. There are no particularly original ideas here, and some are already being employed by some awards already, but the point is to do things that develop readers, have long-term benefits and are properly resourced. I’m sure you’ll have your own ideas.

  • Author tours across the state or country
  • Wheel out the award judges for public talks, blogs and podcasts
  • Employment of a publicist to generate media interest in the award winners
  • Payment for prominent displays in bookshops (e.g. window displays)
  • Special promotional editions of the winning books to be sold at a special low price
  • Provision of stickers, bookmarks and shelf-talkers
  • Posters for display in bookshops, cafés, public transport and libraries
  • Advertising in local papers
  • Social media advertising
  • Travel, translation and promotion grants to assist with the promotion of the work overseas (this would help the development of an international audience for the authors’ work and amplify the work already being done by the under-resourced Australia Council)
  • Conditional marketing grants to publishers to encourage them to give the book another marketing push
  • Free sample ebook chapters
  • Order copies of the winning book(s) for every library in the local area/state/country
  • Pre-order copies of the author’s next book for every library in the local area/state/country

Finally, a thought on the funding for awards. Some Newman-applauding Queenslanders have helpfully suggested that if the literary community values such awards, it should finance them themselves. It’s actually the model followed by the two successful awards I mentioned at the top of this post: the CBCA awards and the Miles Franklin. After years of chasing transitory patronage and sponsorship, in the end the CBCA decided the only way to ensure its awards were sustainable was to set up a million dollar trust fund, which it built up painstakingly over many years. Of course, we owe our major literary award to the generosity and vision of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin herself. This point was obviously not lost on the founders of the new Stella Prize for women’s writing, who have been busy raising money for their award.

Andrew Wilkins is the director of independent publisher Wilkins Farago. This post first appeared on Wilkins Farago’s blog.

On tour: Meet the author Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver is the author of Pandemonium, the follow-up to Delirium, published by Hodder & Stoughton. She is touring Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in March.

What would you put on a shelf-talker for your book?
‘A world without love; a society on the brink of revolution. Read it and weep. Literally!’

What is the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?
Sometimes people ask me to sing The Little Mermaid, which is silly but also kind of fun!

And the most profound?
I’m consistently surprised and delighted by the level of profundity my books seem to elicit. I’ve been asked what my greatest values are, how I would spend my last day, whether I’ve had my heart broken …

What are you reading right now?
The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides (Fourth Estate).

What was the last book you read and loved?
The Game of Thrones (George R R Martin, HarperVoyager). I thought it was brilliant.

What was the defining book of your childhood?
Matilda by Roald Dahl (various imprints). I still read it every time I’m sick!

Which is your favourite bookstore?
I have quite a few. I love Anderson’s in Naperville, Illinois; when I was growing up, I spent loads of time in a local bookstore called Second Story, which is unfortunately now shuttered.

Facebook or Twitter?
Twitter, probably. Facebook has gotten, like, too complicated for me. Timeline? No, thank you. I feel like it’s pointing the way to my death.

If I were a literary character I’d be …
Elizabeth Bennett, so I could marry Mr Darcy, of course, or Lucy in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

In 50 years’ time books will be …
Beautiful collectibles; stories will commonly be told via interactive mediums.

On tour: Meet the author Claudia Gray

Claudia Gray is the author of Balthazar, the final book in the ‘Evernight’ series (HarperCollins). Gray is touring Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth in March and is a guest of the Somerset Celebration of Literature in Queensland. 

What would you put on a shelf-talker for your book?
It would be the tagline that appears on the Balthazar cover: ‘Finally, it’s his turn.’

What’s the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?
Honestly, I haven’t been asked very many truly silly questions. The last tour I was on, though, people asked some very personal ones! I mean, stuff I would ask my best friends but not many other people. ‘Tell me about the first time you fell in love,’ that was one. I mean, before I start spilling stuff that intimate, you have to at least buy me coffee. At a minimum.

And the most profound?
Somebody asked what made a love scene truly good, which was thought-provoking, because I’d never pulled it out quite that abstractly before. It was interesting to consider. Ultimately I decided that it was about discovery, that great love scenes are about each person simultaneously discovering something about the other and about themselves. That they’re learning who they are together.

What are you reading right now?
My Place
by Sally Morgan (Fremantle Press). I’m about two thirds of the way through, so I think I’ll finish before I leave for Australia.

What’s the last book you read and loved?
The Invisible Gorilla
by Daniel Simons (HarperCollins). While I’m in the thick of writing, which I have been recently, I read much more nonfiction than fiction. The Invisible Gorilla is all about the limits of human perception and memory; we think we know and notice a great deal more than we do. It’s an entertaining, but sobering, read.

What was the defining book of your childhood?
There’s no one single defining book—I read so much, so avidly, that there are dozens that helped to shape my imagination. If there is one, it’s probably Mysteries of the Unexplained, a Readers’ Digest compilation of highly dubious ‘news’ about werewolves, hauntings, cryogenics, and anything else that could be considered weird. My grandparents had a copy, which I absorbed as though through my skin. That fascination with the bizarre is very much a part of me to this day. (And I now possess my own copy.)

What is your favourite bookstore?
What a cruel question to ask a book lover! During my childhood, the answer would definitely be Square Books of Oxford, Mississippi, near where I grew up. My dad would take me there to buy the occasional book as a treat; at the time, it was only on the second floor, and all the stairs were painted red with different genres lettered on each step. While I lived in New York City—specifically, during the heyday of Harry Potter madness—I developed a soft spot for Books of Wonder, which always had a big midnight bash for the books, to which they invited live owls. Yes, while waiting in line for your Harry Potter book, you got to see these beautiful owls, talk to their trainers, and donate to the conservation society. And, of course, because it was near midnight, the owls were wide awake! Spectacular.

Facebook or Twitter?
Both! And Instagram. And Tumblr.

If I were a literary character, I’d be …
… oh, dear, I think I’m Marianne Dashwood.

In 50 years’ time, books will be …
… around, for sure. I think we’ll see format changes that are hard to predict now, but we’ll never lose touch with the fundamentals of story.

Adaptations at the 84th Acadamy Awards 2012

Four book-to-film adaptations won Oscars at the 84th Academy Awards after a slew of nominations for 13 adaptations. Hugo was the big winner, which was nominated for 11 Oscars and won five.

Oscar winners

Hugo based on The Invention of Hugo Cabretby Brian Selznick (Scholastic) won Academy Awards in several categories. Awards included Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing , Best Sound Mixing, Best Art Direction and Best Visual Effects.Nominations included Best Picture, Best Director (Martin Scorsese), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Music Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Descendants,based on the novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings (Vintage), won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The screenplay was written by Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.The film was also nominated for Best picture, Best Actor (George Clooney, who played Matt King), Best Director and Best Film Editing.

The Help based on the novel of the same name by Kathryn Stockett (Penguin)was awarded Best Supporting Actress to Octavia Spencer for her role as Minny Jackson.Nominations included Best Picture, Best Actress (Viola Davis as Aibileen Clark), Best Supporting Actress (Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote).

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the US film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Stieg Larsson (Quercus), won the award for Best Film Editing.Nominations for the film included Best Actress (Rooney Mara as Lisbeth Salander), Best Cinematography, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Other nominations
War Horse
, based both on the novel of the same name by Michael Morpurgo (HarperCollins) and the stage adaptation, was nominated for Best Picture (Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy), Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Original Score (John Williams), Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing.

Moneyball, based on Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis (W W Norton) was nominated for Best Picture (Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt), Best Actor (Brad Pitt as Billy Beane), Best Supporting Actor (Jonah Hill as Peter Brand), Best Film Editing, Sound Mixing and  Best Adapted Screenplay.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, based on the novel by Jonathan Safran Foer (Penguin), was nominated for Best Picture (Scott Rudin) and Best Supporting Actor (Max von Sydow as The Renter)

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, based on the novel by John le Carré (Hodder), was nominated for Best Actor (Gary Oldman as George Smiley), Best Original Score and Best Adapted Screenplay.

Albert Nobbs, based on the novel by George Moore (Penguin US), was nominated for Best Actress (Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs), Best Supporting Actress (Janet McTeer as Hubert Page) and Best Makeup.

My Week with Marilyn, based on The Prince, The Showgirl and Me and My Week with Marilyn by Colin Clark (Perseus), was nominated for Best Actress (Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe) and Best Supporting Actor (Kenneth Brangah as Laurence Olivier).

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2, based on the novel by J K Rowling (Bloomsbury), was nominated for Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup.

Jane Eyre based on the novel by Charlotte Brontë (various imprints), was nominated  for Best Costume Design. Drive based on the novel by James Sallis (No Exit Press), was nominated for Best Sound Editing.

Sanna Nyblad is an intern at Bookseller+Publisher.

On tour: Meet the author Jo Nesbø

Norwegian crime novelist Jo Nesbø is currently touring Australia and New Zealand. His latest book is Phantom (Harvill Secker) starring police detective Harry Hole. (Warning: this interview contains some colourful language.)

What is the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?
Well, this one nearly qualifies.

And the most profound?
‘How do I get to f**k Harry Hole?’ Or ‘Is the name Harry Hole an in-joke, referring to hairy hole?’

What are you reading right now?
A history about Taiwan [Nesbo was recently a guest at the Taipei International Book Exhibition]. And a play based on Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot.

What was the last book you read and loved?
I re-read Ibsen’s plays. This may not be breaking news, but he is great.

What was the defining book of your childhood?
William Golding’s Lord of the Flies (I thought it was a children’s book because of the cover) and Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer.

Which is your favourite bookstore?
Actually, I loved some of the book stores in Sydney when I was there 15 years ago. Don’t remember the names though. There is one mystery books store in Southern Manhattan. Name … ah, no.

Facebook or Twitter?
Nope. I hear somebody is borrowing my name on Facebook though, so hopefully he or she is doing the job for me.

If I were a literary character I’d be …
Harry Hole, I guess. All writers are in some way or the other writing about themselves.

In 50 years’ time books will be …
… read, I think. Or more precise, stories will be read. The book is—after all—just a medium.

On tour: Meet the author Alain De Botton

Alain de Botton is touring Sydney and Brisbane during February. His most recent book, Religion for Atheists, is published by Hamish Hamilton.

What would you put on a shelf-talker for your book?

The perfect book for those who are bored both by militant atheists and the fundamentalist religious—but who are still really curious about religion and want to find ways that it might help them in their own lives.

What is the silliest question you’ve ever been asked on a book tour?

Anyone who shows up to listen to me discuss my work is immediately a friend: so I tend never to mind the ‘odd question’ bit of the evening.

And the most profound?

‘Isn’t all your work basically trying to help people to live and to die?’ I had to agree.

What are you reading right now?

My friend Geoff Dyer’s new book, Zona (Text).

What was the last book you read and loved?

John Armstrong’s The Secret Power of Beauty (Allen Lane), a lovely book about our relationship to art.

What was the defining book of your childhood?

I loved the adventures of Babar when I was five.

Which is your favourite bookstore?

A beautiful independent chain in London called Daunt Books.

Daunt Books Marylebone

Facebook or Twitter?

Twitter, where I have 160,000 followers. At Facebook, just 18,000.

If I were a literary character I’d be …

The narrator of In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust (various imprints).

In 50 years’ time books will be …

Much as they are today, though the hardbacks will be yet more beautiful and a bit more expensive. Ebooks won’t ruin everything.

 

Jon Page: On ebooks, the agency model and ‘predatory pricing’

Crikey posted an interesting article last week on the subject of agency pricing for ebooks and the sudden increase in some ebook’s prices. The article makes some very good points but it also overlooks a couple of issues.

The first one that ‘An international agreement between publishers has driven massive increases in the price of ebooks for Australian readers’ is not exactly accurate. Yes agency agreements have seen the price readers pay for some ebooks go up but the price of the ebook has not necessarily increased. Under the agency model retailers must sell the ebook at the price set by the publisher. Under the traditional wholesale model the publisher sets a list price (suggested retail price) and retailers can discount off that. Whether an ebook is sold under agency or wholesale the list price stays the same. To say an agency agreement has driven prices up is incorrect, the agency agreement just means the ebook is sold at is originally set price and cannot be discounted by the retailer. But it can be discounted by the publisher. You will not see flat pricing under agency (not if the publisher has half a retail mind). There will be days, weeks or even months when the price will drop, quite considerably in some instances, before going back up again.

The agency model is not new. Everything Apple sells is under the agency model from apps to music from Macs to iPads. In fact many electrical goods and kitchen appliances are sold in Australia under a similar agency model. Yes Apple instigated the agency model for ebooks when they launched iBooks in 2010 but it was not ‘a deliberate attempt by Apple to destroy Amazon’s dominance of ebook sales’. They achieved that just by entering the ebook market as did Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google and every ebook retailer.

Apple does everything by agency. The reason the big major publishers jumped on board was because Amazon’s ebook pricing was destroying their business model. And yes there is a business model for book publishing both print and digital. There are costs that need to be recouped. Just because a book is in a digital format does not mean it cost 3 cents to make. An ebook does not exist in a separate world to the print book. They share the same costs of production as well as marketing.

Publishers’ sales of $US25 hardcovers were being eroded by Amazon selling the ebook a $US9.95 regardless of the price (retail and cost) that the publisher had set. The agency model allowed publishers to gain a 70/30 split (publisher/retailer) on ebook sales, much higher than the print book split which can be up to 45/55 for Discount Department Stores (usually 60/40 for bookshops). This meant an ebook at $US14.95 agency vs a $US25 hardback would be at a ‘price of indifference’ (indifference for the publisher NOT the retailer). Unfortunately there are some publishers who have not priced their ebooks at this ‘price of indifference’ and Crikey can rightly argue that they have ‘gouged the customer’ (both reader and retailer).

The real story is not one of ebook rip offs and global pricing inequality. The real story is that Amazon is actually predatory pricing (see ACCC definition). They are setting ‘prices at a sufficiently low level with the purpose of damaging or forcing a competitor to withdraw from the market’ and they are doing this with a proprietary ebook format and device. This has also made it next to impossible for new competitors to enter the market. If it wasn’t for the agency model there would be a lot less competition in the ebook market. Barnes & Noble would not have been able to claw back marketshare nor would Kobo have made the inroads it has made and I doubt there would be independent booksellers selling ebooks like you have in the US with Google or here via Booki.sh and ReadCloud.

While many consumers enjoy Amazon’s predatory pricing the end result is not good. Once competition is wiped out Amazon ‘can disregard market forces, raise prices and exploit consumers’ something that can be more easily done if you have already locked your customers in to a particular format and device. It is a complex issue and one that is far from over. But it is a lot more complicated than is being reported. What is at stake is a competitive market which ultimately is good for authors, publishers, retailers and most importantly readers.

Jon Page is president of the Australian Booksellers Association. This post first appeared on his Pages & Pages Bite the Book blog

Craig Cliff on ‘the trans-Tasman literary gulf’ and how to bridge it

In Melbourne, author Eleanor Catton and I appeared in a session called ‘New New Zealand Fiction’. If the session’s blurb in the program is anything to go by, the festival organisers envisioned us talking about our own work and its relationship to broader national themes. I don’t think they expected us to be grilled by the chair, expatriate Kiwi Sue Green, about why most New Zealand books ‘just aren’t any good’ (I did my best to disabuse her of this notion) and why Australians don’t read New Zealand writers and vice versa.

I left that session feeling as if I’d never got out of first gear. This isn’t to say there should not be discussions on either side of the Tasman about the lack of dialogue between our literatures, but that writers (however meagre their credentials) are best placed to come up with answers to broad questions when alone at their computers rather than on the fly and in front of an audience.

So what do I think about the trans-Tasman literary gulf now, secreted in my home office with several weeks to write this?

More can certainly be done to get us reading our neighbours. The internet is a woefully under-utilised tool in this regard. An Australasian version of the writing community Zoetrope.com would be a start (perhaps Peter Jackson could play the role of Francis Ford Coppola?). And  what about a trans-Tasman epublishing house that specialises in picking up all the zany manuscripts from MA and MFA students that over-cautious, overhead-burdened mainstream publishers shrink from taking on?

I also think the time has come to reconsider an overtly trans-Tasman literary journal, either in print or online, one with some real intellectual chops. Or perhaps expand the Best Australian series (Essays, Stories, Poems) to Best Australasian–though it may be easier to do a Dave Eggers and start a Best Australasians Non Required Reading.

Literature festivals can certainly play a bigger part, too. In Sydney this year, the only New Zealanders I noticed on the program were Bernard Beckett, the Goodbye Sarajevo sisters and me (and I was only there because if the Commonwealth Writers Prize). More New Zealand writers taking part in Australian festivals (preferably not cordoned off in a ‘New Zealand only’ section), and more Aussies coming here would be great. It’s great to see Kim Scott and Kate Grenville are coming to the Wellington Writers and Readers Week in March, but it’d be nice if you didn’t need to win a Miles Franklin to get an invitation. A few years of free events featuring new mid-list Australian authors (hopefully with some financial help from their Council for the Arts) should kick-start more trans-Tasman conversation and collaboration.

This article is excerpted from ‘The Festival Lowdown’ in the December/January issue of The New Zealand Author. Craig Cliff is the author of A Melting Man (Random House) and winner of the 2011 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book. He will be a guest of the Perth Writers Festival in February. For more from Cliff, visit his website or blog.