The November/December Nutshell
A.L. Tait, a cover reveal, and a Christmas Special
The Christmas Stocking Edition
The Christmas stockings of my youth contained scratch n sniff stickers, pom-pom socks, a mini Etch-a-Sketch, scented markers, a Strawberry Shortcake doll, Body Shop kiwi fruit lip gloss (why did we want everything to smell of fruit in the eighties?), a Pez dispenser, an auto-return yo-yo, and a squashed mandarin shoved down to the toe. I wish I could offer you such simple joy, dear reader. I will do my best.
I’ve unlocked the two most popular posts on Voracious since I began 12 months ago.
Bibliophiles R Us: My great-grandfather shows me how it’s done is a peek into my great-grandfather’s beautifully kept book catalogue and home library
5 Mistakes I’ve Made as a Writer #1: I subbed before I was ready is the first in my mistakes series, which is now complete.
If that gift looks like a squashed mandarin because you’ve been here since the beginning and you’ve already read them, here’s something else. There’s a lot to learn about Substack (the newsletter platform) and Stripe (the financial software) but I finally figured out how to offer an annual discount. This special offer makes the annual fee $30 (Aus) a year down from $50.
When I started Voracious, I didn’t know how long I’d last. I’ve nearly quit many times and the best way to explain that is to show you something I wrote on Notes (Substack’s short-form area).
But I’m heading into next year with a renewed commitment. In the archive you’ll find about 60 posts, including 7 podcast episodes and 3 guest posts. I’ll still be posting one free newsletter per month, and the other posts will be for paid subscribers. You can read my Subscription Philosophy on my About page. Thanks for just being here. There are hundreds of you now. Why? I can’t say. But thank you.
NB. If you’ve recently signed up for a paid subscription and are miffed that you didn’t have the opportunity to get this discount, I’m offering you a signed copy of The Goodbye Year to compensate. Please email to take up this offer (email@example.com).
You are the first to see the cover of my new novel before its official reveal next week.
Outlaw Girls is my second collaboration with Nova Weetman, the first being Elsewhere Girls. It’s another time-slip for 10-14 year olds featuring a modern teenager and a real teenager from history: Ned Kelly’s sister, Kate. Most people in Australia know about Ned but they don’t know that his three sisters, Maggie, Kate and Grace, played a huge role in his life as an outlaw. They were outstanding riders and incredibly loyal, but of course had dreams of their own — and this is Kate’s story, along with the story of her friend from the future, Ruby.
This beautiful cover was designed by Imogen Stubbs, the artwork is by Malgosia Piatkowska, and the book will be out in March 2024.
A.L. Tait. I mean it, Allison Tait is a gift. In Australia, Allison is one third of Your Kids Next Read, which is now: a Facebook group with over 30,000 members, a podcast with over 100 episodes, and a Substack newsletter. Given the scarcity of media coverage of children’s literature, YKNR must be the most valuable resource in Australia.
But today I want to tell you about Allison’s latest novel, The First Summer of Callie McGee. As children finish a school year on this side of the planet and head into the long summer holiday, some of them with high school around the corner, I’ve been thinking about the best books for those with a taste for realism. I can’t think of anything more perfect than Callie McGee, a mystery with a beach setting combined with an early coming-of-age story.
Writing a novel for children that keeps its heart light and takes its reader seriously is so difficult, and that’s what I admire about this book. Cleverly restrained while addressing what it’s like to have an overly anxious parent, the story generously navigates Callie’s disquiet about forming an identity that feels like a good fit. It has great clarity on the relationships we have with our parents, ourselves, and those who’ve known us for such a long time that they find any changes in us hard to process. This book doesn’t over-reach and there is great comfort to be found here, as well as a classic small town mystery to solve.
I’m adding it to a collection that in my head I’m calling The Girls of Summer, alongside All the Little Tricky Things, in which Bertie tries to prepare herself for high school, and The Secrets We Share, in which Clem has an adventurous summer and starts high school halfway through the novel. There are great boy characters in all of these stories, by the way.
For all subscribers
I wrote about the very different reading journeys of my now-teenage kids: Two Children, Two Reading Journeys / Observations of a parent and bibliophile.
In some people’s minds we were a long way off creating the ideal conditions for starting a family, but I didn’t care — I was digging out my old copy of Frog & Toad, thinking about the ideal conditions for raising a reader. All I needed, I assumed, was books and good intentions.
A guest post by author Penny Tangey on why she’s set up a group for anyone in Australian children’s publishing who wants to do more about climate action: Kid Lit 4 Climate Action by Penny Tangey. Follow her at:
For paid subscribers
I concluded my mistakes series: 5 Mistakes I’ve Made as a Writer #5: I said “no”.
And in case you missed these:
Coming soon: Reading notes on Huda Was Here by H. Hayek and a podcast interview with the author; my list of Year-Changing Books; and a Pep Talk for Writers as we enter the festive mayhem.
I’ve read and listened and watched many good things in the past few weeks but my final gift to you is to stop here. With all the Best Of lists swirling, I’ll save it for another time.