I'm a novelist, poet, critic and sometimes writer for and about the theatre. Each of these things keeps interrupting the others. My poetry and criticism have won prizes. I'm the author of the popular and critically acclaimed fantasy quartet The Books of Pellinor, the Gothic fantasy Black Spring and The River and the Book, a forthcoming speculative fiction novel. In English, my novels are published with Walker Books (UK and Australia), Candlewick (US) and Penguin Books Australia. I have self-published two novels as Kindle ebooks: the literary memoir Navigatio and Jimmy Wonderspoon, a story that I wrote for my 10-year-old daughter. Presently I'm writing The Bone Queen, a prequel to the Books of Pellinor. You can find out more at alisoncroggon.com. And you can follow me on twitter at @alisoncroggon.

Why "Reimkennar"? It's an old word for sorceress that stems from old Germanic: literally "rhyme knower". Seems like a good title for a fantasy novelist slash poet slash whatever.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Poetry reading

On Monday night, a rare event: I'll be doing a poetry reading, for the first time in ages. With Stephanie Honor Convery, I'll be part of the first of a series of new literary salons, hosted as part of the Gilgamesh Readings in South Melbourne. Monday February 4, 7.30pm, at the Evening Star, corner Cecil and York streets, South Melbourne. Details and press release below:

First Monday will feature writers Alison Croggon and Stephanie Honor Convery. A well-known novelist, poet and critic, Croggon will be reading poems. A novelist, blogger and activist, Convery will be reading work based on her in-progress book on the politics of exercise and the body. The event will be MCd by the wonderful Bo Svoronos; open session for writers following the features. Upcoming writers at the salon, to be held the first Monday of each month, include Petra White, Steve Smart, Gig Ryan, Kent MacCarter, Ali Alizadeh, Matt Hetherington, Elizabeth Campbell, Cheryl Overs, Kevin Brophy, Elizabeth Campbell and Jacinda Woodhead. The idea of the salon is to create a serious but pleasurable forum. 'Like' the Port Phillip GR Page and we will keep you updated on the future Salons. 

Alison Croggon has published several collections of poetry, which won the Anne Elder and Dame Mary Gilmore Prizes and were shortlisted for the Victorian and NSW Premier's Literary Awards. Her most recent collection is THEATRE (Salt Publishing 2008). She is the author of the best-selling fantasy quartet THE BOOKS OF PELLINOR, which has been published worldwide, shortlisted for two Aurealis Awards and named one of the Notable Books of 2003 by the Children's Book Council of Australia. The US edition of THE NAMING, was judged a Top Ten Teen Read by Amazon.com. Her new novel BLACK SPRING has just been released in Australia and the UK. From 2004-2012 she ran the review blog THEATRE NOTES for which she won the 2009 Geraldine Pascall Prize for Critic of the Year, and was formerly Melbourne theatre critic for The Australian and The Bulletin. She has written several works for theatre, including the operas THE BURROW and GAUGUIN with the composer Michael Smetanin, and MAYAKOVSKY, commissioned by Victorian Opera in 2013.

Stephanie Honor Convery is a writer of fiction, non-fiction, criticism and commentary in the fields of feminism, politics, Indigenous Australia, literature, art and travel. Her work has been published by Meanjin, the ABC Drum, Overland Literary Journal, the Melbourne Writers’ Festival blog, harvest, Voiceworks, The Wheeler Centre and The Big Issue. She has completed a first novel, BIG RIVER, a magical realist drama set in the Australian tropics. She is presently writing a non-fiction book on the politics of exercise and the body. Stephanie is also an activist and academic. She blogs regularly at www.gingerandhoney.com

MC: Bo Svoronos - who calls himself a casual neo-troubadorian and host and producer of curious things - is known to many of you as a writer and performer. He recently completed his doctorate in Indigenous Festivals and Reciprocity. He has been an independent producer and tour manager for the Global Poetics Tour and chairperson of WELL Productions inc. In his role as Indigenous Arts Officer for the City of Port Phillip, he founded, produced and programmed five Indigenous multi-disciplinary festivals, curated visual art exhibitions and established significant cultural programs. Bo re-founded, produced and co-directed two St Kilda Writers’ Festivals. He also writes and performs his own works across various disciplines and genres.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

World building, rewriting classics and more etc

It's been a full-on January for me. When I gave up writing my blog Theatre Notes, I had a vision of unbounded vistas of time. Each morning I'd gracefully arise in my boudoir, don my silk dressing gown, pick up my quill and leisurely continue the next chapter of my novel before, you know, going out to cut roses or something. The good news is that I have been writing the novel - this is the story about Cadvan in his youth, a prequel to the Pellinor stories, which now is reaching what I think is the halfway mark. But in between, I seem to have been as busy as I was before. I'm not complaining much: of course it's all my own fault. I needn't have said "yes" to all those interesting things. But I did, because I'm like that.

Anyway, some of those things have been writing posts on various fantasy-related topics for the Black Spring UK blog tour, and I find that I have fallen behind in logging them here. I've been doing this through January, and have just finished the final one, discussing YA and story telling, which will appear on February 1 at Narratively Speaking. Meanwhile, here are the others:

* On worldbuilding, with some handy hints from WG Sebald, at Sister Spooky

* On rewriting classics, at Book Angel Booktopia

* On adding fantasy to a classic book, at The Overflowing Library

* And, in case you missed it, On sexism in fantasy at Serendipity Reviews

Thanks so much to the bloggers who have been hosting me on my virtual tour. It's been deeply appreciated, and also, which is not unimportant, it's been fun.

Meanwhile, more Black Spring reviews have been rolling in, so here's some linkety goodness:

Buzz Words, the Australia/New Zealand emag for children's writers and illustrators, has given it a rave: "Alison Croggon has created a verbal and visual masterpiece. The sheer beauty of the magnetic prose and the outstanding descriptions of the rugged natural world won’t allow you to stop reading before the end." Woohoo!

From the UK, Michelle Moloney King also talked about the writing, finishing with: "I would heartily recommend a read, the beautiful prose alone is worth it."

On I Read Therefore I Blog, the book also gets a thumbs up. "All in all, this was a vivid, well-told book that takes elements from WUTHERING HEIGHTS but (for me) riffed on them to more entertaining effect. I look forward to reading Croggon’s other books."

And over at My Favourite Books, Essjay says: "If you've never read it and you enjoy Black Spring then possibly you'll read Wuthering Heights. If you hate the original then this may well remind you why. I find it an impressive modern retelling which captures something of the language, drama, madness, tortured love and agony of the original. Well worth reading."

Thanks again to all you hardworking bloggers, both hosts and reviewers.  Now, hugely encouraged, back to the novel...

Saturday, January 5, 2013

And so it begins!

This week Black Spring is officially out in the UK, and to celebrate I'm doing a virtual tour, guesting at some hospitable British bloggers. (Dates and topics are in the banner on the right). The first post, a brief meditation on sexism and patriarchy in fantasy writing, is now up at Serendipity Reviews. In part:

The presence of women (or of people of colour, or any other so-called minority) in fantasy narratives remains controversial, and the fantasy genre is still too prone to white them out as decorative, characterless, generic extras, if indeed they are held to exist at all. The excuses given for what is actually lack of imagination (this is fantasy, right?) or plain bad writing often come down to so-called “historical accuracy”: writing about sexist worlds means that it’s perfectly acceptable for writing to be sexist. In Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical, author Foz Meadows magisterially takes this idea down and shows it for the shabby, historically inaccurate laziness it is. 

You can read the rest here (and read Foz Meadows's zing of a post while you're at it). And there's also a nice review from Vivienne, in which she says: "Anyone who can turn my most hated read into an excellent enjoyable book is definitely an author to be explored further." There seem to be two schools of thought on Black Spring, among those readers who like it: those who love Wuthering Heights and therefore enjoy my spin on Bronte, and those who hate Wuthering Heights, and therefore enjoy my spin on Bronte. I never realised that it was such a polarising book!

From the "I love Wuthering Heights" school come two new UK reviews, which particularly pleased me because they are by people who are clearly very intimate with Bronte's original. Erin Johnson is in the second year of her DPhil in English at the University of Oxford, studying representations of masculinity in the Bronte's writing, and so may be said to know her onions. On her blog Oxford Erin, she has a look at Black Spring, and gives it a terrific thumbs up along the way.

It's a bit difficult for me to write about - because I love the source text so much, because I also have literary critical opinions about the novel and how its works, and because Croggon's take probably fits into the Neo-Victorian genre (think A.S. Byatt's Possession), a genre which often creates complex intertextual links with Victorian novels and which I have researched and written on in the past year.

That said, there are two important things you can take away from this review.

1)  This is a fantastic book.
2)  In my opinion, it is also a respectful, critical, fascinating reworking of Wuthering Heights.  If you like Bronte's novel, I suspect you will enjoy Croggon's too.
Of course, like all authors, I am delighted when someone enjoys my books; but what delights me most of all is when a reader picks what you did, and why you did it. This is one of those reviews that does exactly that. As does Beth Kemp's, on her blog Thoughts from the Hearthfire. Beth writes: "Wuthering Heights with Wizards! No, I couldn't believe it when I read that either, but I loved it. Much of the darkness and strangeness, the ethereality of Wuthering Heights is captured through the fantasy elements in this retelling, while the romance is brought more clearly into focus... this version is uncannily similar and yet still its own. All the way through, there are episodes and details which mirror the original and were an absolute delight to me."

Thanks for the lovely responses; and maybe I'll just swing a bottle of champers against a bookshelf or something and officially declare the UK Black Spring launched!