Choices – Nine Days by Toni Jordan

nine daysWe are all connected to our past; to our relatives and to choices – sometimes choices and determinations made by someone else.

‘Nine Days’ opens with the voice of Kip as a young boy, dealing with a grieving mother and the family situation which has resulted from his father’s untimely death. Kip is accepting, but seems unfairly dealt with; he is the younger twin sent out to work, while his spoilt, 7-minutes older brother is able to remain at school.

In his ‘day’ we learn much about the Westaway family, whose history unrolls as further chapters unfold. The days that follow deal with other members of Kip’s family and across four different generations, with many questions along the way…

How was his older sister, Connie trapped/ affected by the attitudes of the times? Did the favouritism offered to his twin brother, Frank, lead to a prosperous and happy lifestyle?

For Toni Jordan, this is her third novel; though it differs from her past books. Inspiration began with a photo – shown on the front cover of the book. From this, Jordan has magically woven and interwoven her tales of the Westaway family, each chapter dealing with a defining day in the life of one of the family members.

‘Nine Days’ feels like a bit of a jigsaw puzzle to me. Since the chapters focus on one individual in the extended Westaway family, then jump across time and back again. As a reader you have to join the pieces together to see how they fit. It raises a number of different issues, and makes you wonder how things might have turned out differently with slight changes to choices made by some of the characters. Indeed, some chapters leave you with a sense that more could be told. In many ways, this is a sign of a good book –  it shows the reader is hooked and wants to know more.

Many people have commented favourably on this book – particularly online at GoodReads (a great site to share everything about great reading!). For a longer review, see For an interview with Toni Jordan about writing ‘Nine Days’, see the video below:

# ‘Nine Days’ was a winner recently in the Indie Awards for Best Fiction 2013 –

Read to write

At a recent gathering of the Writers’ Group, we discussed the many things needed to inspire one’s writing, and one thing which came through strongly was the need to read. Indeed, this was one of the many things emphasised by this week’s major winner of the Australian Book Industry Awards for 2011, Ahn Do.

‘The Happiest Refugee’ is Anh’s memoir – his journey from Vietnam as a young child, to a far away country. It reflects the struggles, torments and challenges faced by a refugee child.

For someone who had trouble reading and writing at school, to win not one, but three awards is a major achievement. In his acceptance of the awards, he credits much of his success to developing a love for reading; which was well supported by his mother (including buying second hand books from Vinnies). This must have been a vital step to learn his second language, English.

In an interview transcribed on the ABC’s AM site, Anh Do spoke about rising above early problems he had in school, and the determination to do well in his new homeland, encouraged by his family. Now, he is also encouraged by people who have enjoyed his book, which is a mixture of happy and sad events. It seems his story of rising above life’s many challenges speaks to many.

While it has been suggested by some that Anh had a ghost writer, he explains that he did have help recording and organising his thoughts and experiences for the early drafts of his book. Credit has been given to journalist and writer, Michael Visontay, who has been acknowledged in the book. However, Do and his publishers state that the final manuscript is his work.

In view of the ABIA accolades and past awards* received for ‘the Happiest Refugee’, the final word remains with the author, Anh Do:

“(So) to win Book of the Year after being a kid who had issues with reading and writing it means that maybe I’m not so bad at it.”

# Think about it, why is it important to read as a writer? What sort of books do you read that influence your writing?

* other awards include the Indie Book of the Year Award 2011 and being shortlisted for the 2011 NSW Premier’s Literary Awards.

Postscript – I just came across another blog which talked about the importance of reading for your writing – see those ideas here.

Australian Book Industry Awards 2010

ABIA-Logo-2010There was a mix of the familiar and the new in the recent ABIA (Australian Book Industry Awards) in Sydney this year, as several well-known authors were acknowledged alongside a few newbies.

In the Younger Children category, one of our all-time favourites, Jackie French and illustrator Bruce Whatley won – with Baby Wombat’s Week – a story Jackie says was based on the real life story of her son’s friendship with a wombat when he was a young boy (and we all know how Jackie’s life has been vastly impacted by rogue wombats in, and near, her home). Myfanwy Jones and Spiri Tsintziras won Book of the Year for Older Children for Parlour Games for Modern Families.

While Jackie French has 132 books under her belt, the new(er) comer to these awards is  Craig Silvey whose second novel, Jasper Jones, has won the acclaimed The Book of the Year and Literary Fiction Book of the Year at these awards. In his short career, Silvey’s writing has already received many accolades and Jasper Jones  has been honoured at least 4 times in the last year.

For more details on the awards, see: you can also download the awards list for 2010 and the shortlist from which it was judged at: to see if you agree with the judges.

Australian Book Industry Awards

While we await the announcement of the Children’s Book Council of Australia Awards for 2009 in August, it is interesting to see several of the nominated titles inlcuded in other awards.

While the focus of the Australian Book Industry awards may also be on publishers, distributors and booksellers, awards are also given for Illustrated Book of the Year, Biography of the Year and categories exist for Younger Children (0-8 years) and  Older Chidren (8-14 years old). This year’s ABIA Shortlist can be viewed at:

Several notable inclusions (because they are also in the CBCA awards) are: 

A Rose for the ANZAC Boys, by Jackie French 
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox
Finnikin of the Rock, by Melina Marchetta
Home and Away, by John Marsden, illustrated by Matt Ottley
Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan

In the ABIA awards Finnikin Of The Rock by Melina Marchetta won book of the year for older children. Mem Fox won book of the year for younger children with Ten Little Fingers Ten Little Toes, and Shaun Tan was awarded Illustrated Book of the Year for Tales from Outer Suburbia. Details of other award winners, such as publishers and book of the year can be viewed here.