I was so impressed with how many amazing young writers entered my Mars Awakens Short Story competition!
It takes guts and commitment to write something and send it through, and I’m really proud of everyone who entered their work.
I had so many awesome takes on Martian moons and aliens, friendships and battles, magic and science. Congratulations to you all! Obviously, I had to pick one winner – and this was seriously hard, and required several re-reads of my favourite stories – but I managed it!
And the winner is …
Alice W. (11) for her clever and thought-provoking story ‘The Moons of Mars: Fear of Law, Dread of Anarchy’.
This story really got to me. It’s a “grass is greener on the other side” kind of tale of law-heavy Deimos and lawless Phobos, and I thought it was excellent. Clever reveals of the world and the (alien) characters, and a nifty circular storyline. Well done Alice! Your name will be gifted to a character in the Mars Awakens sequel, out May 2023.
Special mentions go to Amelia, Feiying, Grayson, Maïwenn, Matthew, Oliver, Reif and Troy for writing stories that I really loved as well. And well done again to everyone who submitted their work.
Keep writing all of you, the future of stories is safe in your hands 🙂
Mars Awakens is out in Australian stores on May 3rd, and I am well on my way to finishing the second book in the duology! (Yay me!) So it’s time for a story challenge.
But first, some background … There are a lot of connections to the Martian moons, Deimos and Phobos, in the books (Dee, one of the main characters, is named after Deimos). And they’re pretty interesting moons. Much smaller than our own, not very round at all. Phobos is really close to Mars and orbits it four times every sol! Whereas Deimos is so small and far away that it’s more like a big star.
There have been a few attempts to send missions to the Martian moons, but either they’ve failed on the way or the idea hasn’t even got off the ground. I love being inspired by real science to think up weird and wonderful ideas. So it’s makes me imagine – What if there was something on the moons stopping us from getting there? Wouldn’t that be cool?
So here’s the challenge:
Write a short story that has something to do with the Martian moons or draws inspiration from them. I don’t really mind about the length :), I’m more about the story idea and your world-building.
Email your story to me (hmwaughwriter at gmail dot com) or have someone tag my instagram or facebook account with a post of your story.
I will choose the best story to have a character from the second book named after the writer!
Stories due to me by 31st May 2022, kids only 9 – 14 years 🙂
I’m so proud of this book, and I love that the judges connected with Eva and her race across a continent. There were so many brilliant Australian YA novels published in 2021, and I’m honoured – right into the heart of me – that Evacuation Road was selected as a Notable.
It took a while to sink in
Imposter syndrome is totally a thing. Sure, I was waiting excitedly for the Notables List to be published. But not for myself, no.
I wanted to see if my writing friends got selected.
Imagine my shock when I opened the download and my name jumped out at me. My first thought? I must have downloaded the list of entries. Of course. So I went back to the website.
And there was my cover staring out at me.
I didn’t trust what I was seeing until I’d verified it through someone else!
(And my writing buddies? They all got listed too. Best. Feeling. Ever!)
Three weeks to go until Evacuation Road comes out! I’m so excited, and I’m loving how many early reviewers are really connecting with Eva and her story!
This week I’ll be looking at one of the important foundations for the book. Resilience. Getting back up when you’ve been knocked down. Making new plans when your original plans die a terrible death. And then devising even more cunning plans when your back up plans fail as well.
And, sometimes, throwing all your plans in the proverbial bin and coming up with a entirely new aim that at least gets you out of there.
I did a lot of this sort of thing as I travelled around South America, and one of the best (and most enjoyable) examples involved a train called Death, somewhat monotonous food, and a few phantom buses. It was my first blockade (of many) and it went like this …
Firstly, follow your dreams. Always. No matter how hard.
And a dream I had? One that had grown and flourished for years? It was to take the so-called Death Train, which ran from Quijarro in the very east of Bolivia to Santa Cruz, kind of in the middle. It could take anything from sixteen hours to days and days, apparently. Traversing amazing countryside. I really wanted to experience it.
(And that wasn’t a death wish or anything. It wasn’t the Death Train because it was super dangerous to ride in. More because either lots of workers died laying the line, or because it had once been used to transport people sick with Yellow Fever and/or the bodies of those that died in the outbreak.)
Anyway I planned it out and I got there. Quijarro. Nice and early in the morning on a Friday. Went straight to the train station. Butterflies in the stomach. This was it.
In four weeks my next book ‘Evacuation Road’ will be out in the world, and that calls for a super celebration countdown! So every week I’ll be bringing you some of the actual events that inspired some of the story.
Let’s start it off with a bang. One of the big mantras that Eva and my other characters learn to live by as they race for the last flight home, is “Stick together”.
It’s something I learned the hard way. How? Glad you asked …
Getting kidnapped is not recommended
I don’t think anybody is out there just aching to be kidnapped (though thinking about this has me coming up with some great story ideas!). And I was no different.
Every book has a set of milestones, and sending it to the printers is definitely a great (and mildly terrifying) one for me!
After all the months and years of writing and editing, the submissions, the rejections, the happy acceptance, the final edits and the typesets… now ‘Evacuation Road’ is becoming an actual book. One I can hold in my hands. I’m so excited!
Think end-of-the-world road trip. Think danger and humour, friendship and fear. All against a ticking clock.
Eva is far from home when everything goes wrong. And it only gets worse after her evacuation bus leaves her behind, stranded with classmates she barely knows. The chase is on. But South America is big, and the old rules are changing quickly.
My debut book’s first birthday month is almost over.
The two are actually linked, because ‘The Lost Stone of SkyCity’ was written during NaNoWriMo 2016. I had heaps of fun writing it, but I had no idea it would be the first of my MSs to be published.
I certainly never dreamed it would be shortlisted for an Aurealis Award (OMG!!!). Or that it would get such a positive response from readers. The past year has been full of new experiences for me, from first writers festivals to first COVID-19 cancellations, crash-courses in online presenting and then – just last week – first CBCA Children’s Book Week as an actual author!
I’ve been really lucky that my state (Western Australia) has finally turned having the world’s most isolated capital city into a real bonus for everyone: our kids are back at school and I was doing in-person presentations every day. I loved that I could meet so many awesome students, filled to overflowing with so much epic imagination and inspiration!
So, as a thank you to my TLSSC baby and a thumbs up to NaNo, here’s a short history and me and NaNoWriMo 🙂
Mate. There are no decent maps to show the path you’ll take to your debut and beyond!*
My middle-grade fantasy adventure ‘The Lost Stone of SkyCity’ came out this month. As my debut, it’s been a whirlwind of preparation and editing and excitement and <eeep> stressing about the unknowns. Which there were a lot of.
Still are, actually.
My book was originally scheduled for publishing Q1 2020, until one sunny day in February I got a phone call from my publisher. A spot had opened up for October. Could I get everything done in time?
To which I replied, ‘I have no idea what “everything” is, but yes.’
(Note to self: awesome on-the-spot thinking! This was totally the correct answer!)
I’m still learning at this game, but for what it’s worth here are five lessons I’ve learnt on my way to getting published:
*Note: this post probably isn’t a good map either!!! If you feel like you’re stuck in a forest, and my path sounds like I was up a mountain, relax … I think that’s how most of us feel! 🙂
Lesson 1. Find the writing process that works for you (a.k.a. NaNoWriMo rocks)
There is a happy place where the reader and the scientist in me combine to devour both books and chocolate, all with a smile on my face. Only found amid the pages of truly fab books, I found that happy place reading ‘Tarin of the Mammoths: The Exile’ by Jo Sandhu.
Hey if your kids (or you!) love history and science and all things Stone Age, then this is the book to read. It’s got danger, adventure, friendship and a diverse set of characters.
It’s got mammoths, too.
The things that work so well in this book are the basic building blocks of any great read: world-building, narrative and character.
World-building so epic you forget how to use a zip
I loved how Sandhu built the world for her book, with historical gems like reindeer hide and flints and boots with stuffing, and then added magic. Look, I’m no expert on Stone Age life, but I get the strong feeling Sandhu might be close. Her writing is alive, her world works. And no one slips up and lights a fire with matches or zips up their jacket or anything 🙂
Brilliant. The authenticity of the world is what really drew me into this story. Like I was learning at the same time as I was enjoying the read. Continue reading →