Waiting for first reviews to come in can be nerve-wracking, so getting one like this makes one's writerly heart sing.
I'm not sure about the recommended reading age - I would have thought The Flyaway Girls is definitely at the young (and younger) end of that spectrum. If you've read it, what do you think?
Reading Time's Katy Gerner said:
I found The Flyaway Girls refreshing and innovative. The vast majority of the books that I have reviewed for young people have been about romance, sex, dangerous bullies and family violence. It was a treat to read a book in which none of these played a part.
The Flyaway Girls is about life balance and also about learning to accept that although you can be very good at something you will not necessarily be the best. Other themes include nurturing relationships and making amends.
Chelsea is devoted to gymnastics and is recognised as the being the hardest worker at her club and a great performer by her coaches. She is also ambitious and hopeful for her future. This is until a new girl joins her class and, despite no previous training, quickly grasps skills that took Chelsea hours of practice to achieve. Chelsea can’t even enjoy hating her because Telia is a lovely girl and looks up to her.
The characters in the Flyaway Girls are also well-drawn, likeable and realistic: they become irritated, confused, try to be helpful and take themselves too seriously.
The environment in which the story is set is normal too: there are no long periods of suffering. Chelsea is uncomfortable with her father’s new girl friend but deals with it, her friend that makes snide remarks also has a good side and when Chelsea is snubbed by her long suffering friends, she makes new friends.
Lawrinson’s writing style is vivid, her descriptions of gymnastics interesting and her humour light. I recommend this book for girls aged 11-15.
Lawrinson has written more than ten novels including Bye, Beautiful which was a 2007 CBCA Notable Book and Chess Nuts which was a 2011 CBCA Notable Book.
I got my first two advance copies of The Flyaway Girls in the post the other day. This is my twelfth book, and the sight of the final product after years of writing, researching, editing, more editing, and even more editing never fails to delight me.
This novel almost never got written, and, after that, it almost never got finished.
And the reason it got finished was because I gave a copy to my colleague's daughter. I was so close to the novel that I'd lost any sense of whether it was any good or not, and I was so rusty after several years away from Real Writing that I felt I'd almost forgotten how. So I asked Kate. Now, I've never met Kate, but I know she's a keen reader, so I sent her mum an unfinished copy and asked if Kate would do me the honour of reading and commenting on the manuscript.
She did. She loved it, and passed it on to her friend and her sister. They loved it too, endingless or otherwise.
This week, it was fabulous to be able to pass on the novel, complete with ending, to Kate. And even more fabulous to get this response.
Many thanks to the Penguin Random House crew, past and present, for their patience, dedication, and for their cracking cover. (Which Kate and her sister also heartily approved, I might add.)
Nearly five years after its beginning, the idea I wrote about here has turned into an actual book. With an actual blurb. And it has a title.
The novel started with me musing: what do you do if you're good at what you love, but not the best? Do you give up? Do you keep going with different expectations? How do you measure success? Is success what you make yourself, or what other people think of you? What, in the end, really matters?
Nobody gets what they want in life, not all the time, anyway. There is luck and there is talent; there are the x factors of background and wealth, temperament and timeliness. Part of learning to be a human being is managing the gap between what you want and what life allows you to have. And you start learning young.
So, here is the story of Chelsea and Telia, gymnasts, friends - rivals?
It is out in September.
All praise Penguin for the gorgeous cover and the title. And all praise to Amanda Quigley of Southside Districts Gymnastics Academy for her inspiring coaching of gymnasts and invaluable and direct advice to one writer, me. Also thanks to my junior readers/writing coaches, Kate and Anna and Kate's friend, for inspiring me to get it to the finish line.
Folk don't often become writers, illustrators or editors without possessing a reasonable degree of introversion: it is necessary to get the work done. However, creators are in need of communion with their people. Often this happens informally: we meet up at festivals, or are introduced through fellow artists, or at book launches. Here in Western Australia, organisations like the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, WritingWA, the Literature Centre and the ASA also provide forums and courses where creators at all different stages of their careers can get together, exchange information, and drink a lotcomplain about contractsbemoan the state of publishing talk.
In Australia, though, there is nothing like Kindling Words.
Seventy five established writers, illustrators and editors, lucky enough to have been chosen from a lottery system, gathered at the Essex resort in snowy Vermont to discuss, over three glorious days, what we do when we make stories for children and young adults. The rules are strict: no pitching to the editors and no sharing personal information about others. The focus is on deeply contemplating the craft of what we do: no discussion of contracts or book deals, just the real stuff. Each day there was a keynote speech by a writer and then an illustrator. There were readings. There were shared meals and conversations over those meals about Everything. There was warmth and intensity and a palpable creative charge. In the afternoons you could retreat to your room to write (as I did), or join in whiteboard discussions instigated by participants in various locations around the resort.
I cannot do justice to the level of inspiration that gathering generated, nor can I adequately describe the warmth and kindness with which I was treated by all the participants, and in particular by the organisers. The weather was also an experience: minus twenty five, with snow so cold you couldn't make snowballs.