Verity Sparks is about to have a very big adventure. She’s on the Children’s Book Council shortlist. The awards will be announced in Adelaide on August 17th, and she’s going to be there.
She? I have to admit that by now I think of Verity as a real person. I don’t feel as if I made her up. Perhaps she’s my alter ego – though she’s a lot braver and more sensible than I was at 13.
I’ve just finished the sequel. It’s called ‘The Trouble with Verity Sparks’, and I sent it off to my editor at Walker Books on Friday. I always have very mixed feelings when I finish a book. In this case, I’m relieved that I got it done on time. What with one thing and another, I only had about five months to write it in, so the house is full of cobwebs and dust; my garden is full of weeds and feeling neglected; and my friends have just about given up on inviting me out for a coffee. On the other hand, I’m also feeling a bit sad. I miss Verity. And reading about and researching Verity’s world – which in this novel is Melbourne in the late 1870’s – was fascinating and full of surprises. I got the initial idea for ‘The Truth About Verity Sparks’ when walking around in Melbourne looking at all the Victorian (as in reign of Queen Victoria, not State of Victoria – confusing!) buildings and imagining what it might have felt like to be a young girl, running about the streets on errands, with these massive columns and stone walls looming over you. As it turned out, I ended up setting ‘The Truth About Verity Sparks’ in London, and now that she’s in Melbourne, she’s no longer an apprentice milliner running here and there delivering hats. She and Papa Savinov live in a rented mansion on the Esplanade in St Kilda… But I can’t say too much. Soon I won’t be missing Verity, I’ll be working hard with the editor polishing bits, changing bits, tightening it up and fixing all those little clunky sentences and tiny (I hope they’re tiny!) mistakes that have crept in to the manuscript.
And in the meantime, I’m reading some of the books that are on the CBC shortlist. I just finished Kate Constable’s ‘Crow Country’. It’s a time-shift novel with a mystery at its heart. I’m not going to give an spoilers, but the way Kate Constable weaves past and present and myth together is moving, clever and very absorbing. Now I’m part way through Jackie French’s ‘Nanbery: Black Brother White’. Jackie French is amazing. I don’t know how she writes so many good books. History is obviously her passion, and she brings to life how mystifying the first English settlers must have seemed to the original inhabitants of our country. She is especially good with smells, and I loved the description of the English sailors as as ‘poor strange creatures, small and hunched over, with pale pinched faces’.
I’ve still got Emily Rodda’s ‘The Silver Door’ and John Flanagan’s ‘Brotherband; The Outcasts’ to go. Verity is in good company. I really do feel as if I’ve won already, by being shortlisted. But it’s sobering to work in a bookshop, as I do, and see that there are just so many good books being published all the time. So many books are published, and even really good ones can sink without making much a splash, so I know how lucky I am that Verity has been noticed, read and enjoyed.
And speaking of enjoyment, I was the lunch guest of the Ballarat High School Junior Book Club on Friday. It was without a doubt the nicest school visit I have ever done. The students prepared for my visit by setting the scene with posters, a special chair, a lamp with a fancy fringed shade and a bunch of violets (my favourite – who knew?) on a small table piled with copies of my book.
I was so impressed with my hosts. Not only were they lovely young people, they were smart, funny, interested, articulate – and they made this writer feel very pampered and appreciated. Many thanks to the Book Clubbers and the librarians for the special efforts that made my visit so enjoyable.
It was great having you come to our school. I really enjoyed listening to you talk about how you write and about verity sparks. I was thinking later that we write in a completely different way. The first thing I figure out is the title then the scene and then the chacters. Last I think, would this be a good movie? if not, scrap that idea.
1 question: what advice could you give to me with my short story writing?
Thanks Perri. Yes, I think everyone writes in a different way because our minds all work a bit differently. Advice to help with short story writing? Read a whole lot of short stories. I think that’s how I learned to write – by reading a lot (and of course then writing a lot). You can even model a story on one that you like, as a kind of learning exercise. Good luck and keep on writing. Susan
You gave heaps of advices about how to design story’s detail tp me. I was really enjoy the meeting and it’s really good if you enjoyed it too. Verity sparks is really unique and special book, and there are so many interesting details and explanations about stuff-food, clothes, atnosphere are really realistic. (And now I know how.) Thanks for coming to our school, and I can’t wait for your next book!! 🙂
Thanks for your comments and glad you found my talk useful. Doing some research can really add to the whole story – and it can be fun, too. Susan
My 10yo daughter loved the book and for her homework made a video review of it, hope you enjoy it: http://youtu.be/WVtub51y8kA
Thankyou so much for sending this link to me – I loved Tuesday’s book review – and how tactful not to reveal the ending! I sent the link to my editor at Walker Books and she also thought it was delightful. Good work!
Congratulations on having ‘Verity’ on the shortlist of the CBC’s awards this year! I am looking forward to your next publication, regards, Jane.
Congratulations again for your well deserved award from the CBC! Best wishes, Jane.
A well deserved award from the CBC! Congratulations! Best wishes, Jane.
Thanks so much Jane. Kate Contstable, who was awarded the Younger Readers Book of the Year, gave a short speech and she said something that I do agree with. She congratulated everyone whose books were on both the long and short lists for the CBC awards, and went on to say that there are many fine books are out there on bookshop shelves, and not all of them get noticed. writers need
Congratulations Susan on the success of Verity Sparks – having your book named as an Honour Book this year must be so exciting for you – and so well deserved. Our Book Clubbers were thrilled to hear of your success yesterday when the awards were announced (many of them had chosen your book as their personal favourite of the shortlisted novels in the Younger Readers section).
By the way, we have created a small video celebrating your recent visit to our school and placed it on our school blog: http://readingroom.global2.vic.edu.au/susan-green-visit/
Looking forward to the sequel in Verity Sparks’ adventures.
Thankyou. Yes, it was wonderful, but one of the best bits was having CBC members, passionate lovers of children’s literature (and mostly librarians, I think), come up to me and tell me what they loved about my book. That felt really special, especially when I heard about the judging process, and how seriously the judges take it and how (here’s that word again) passionate they are about the books they are championing.
I just finished The Truth About Verity Sparks. I absolutely loved it. I couldn’t put it down. I am dying to read the sequel could I please have an idea when it is being released.
Thank-you so much; it’s great to hear from a happy reader…and especially when they couldn’t put the book down. I am still finishing editing the second Verity – The Trouble with Verity Sparks – and at this stage it looks like it will come out in January or February 2013. Without giving anything away, there are lots of twists and turns in the plot, and I hope it will satisfy you. Thanks again, Susan