Latecomers can be the life of the party

Originally, Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean was only going to contain the work of eighteen writers and illustrators but in September 2012 I had a revelation at the Brisbane Writers Festival. Sometimes writers festivals do that to you. It was one of those slap yourself on the forehead moments.

I was a guest at the BWF as a member of The Bookwallah along with Australian author Benjamin Law and Indian authors Annie Zaidi and Chandrahas Choudhury. So many things Indian, and especially to do with the anthology, were  on my mind. And then I saw Justine Larbalastier speak about her work and realised we simply HAD to have one of her stories in the anthology and somehow I was going to have to figure out how to make the grant funds stretch.

I’ve tracked Justine’s career for years and have always been a big fan of her work. But all the other authors had been working on their stories for a few months so I wasn’t surprised Justine was reluctant to come on board at first but I am so grateful to her that she took the plunge. Because I love her story ‘Little Red Suit‘, a gripping futuristic retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.

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The other great thing about getting Justine on board was that it forced the editorial team to sit down and think which Indian writer would be included in the mix to balance the Australians out. And that’s when Anita Roy signed on as a contributor as well as co-editor. The book was now perfect – 10 Indian contributors, 10 Australians and all three co-editors included in the line-up.

Anita was  a little shy about coming on board as a writer although she’s written millions of words across a long career in publishing. Her short story Cooking Time was polished up while on a writing residency at Sangam House and added a fresh new flavour to the balance of stories in the collection.

Anita is a powerhouse as a stand-up comedian and story-teller so when Isobelle Carmody and I went to India last November, Anita mc’d events in Delhi where she lives and Kolkata where she was born. Perhaps it’s the fact that she is so well-travelled that made her time-travelling story so arresting. Global food crises and centuries of cuisines made Cooking Time a seriously tasty addition to Eat the Sky, Drink the Ocean.

Kirsty is an Australian author of books for children and young adults.

“Books are windows into other ways of being.”

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