Episode 3

Verse novels and accidentally writing a 'pandemic book' with Karen Comer

Karen Comer is a freelance editor and presents writing workshops to children and adults. Earlier in her career, she worked in educational publishing and was the editor for the children's art magazine BIG. She lives in Melbourne. Grace Notes, a YA verse novel, was published in February 2023 with Hachette. Her MG verse novel, Sunshine on Vinegar Street, will be published in June 2023 with Allen & Unwin.

Our interview begins at  00:12:00

We've got a Substack publication now! On the last day of the month, we share recommendations for two things we reckon you should read/watch/listen to. The beauty of Substack is you can revisit all our old editions and comment on our episode updates to share your thoughts. Come say hi!

Caitlin recommends: One Night with You by Laura Jane Williams

One Night With You has an excellent rom-com premise: Nick is new to London and needs to buy a couch. Ruby is moving to Manchester and needs to sell her couch. They meet on Facebook Marketplace and end up having a one-night stand. That should be it, but no! They keep crossing paths and stay in each other’s lives as Nick explores his new life and Ruby is working on a documentary for her masters. A brilliantly fun, classic rom-com.

Caitlin read a review copy through Harper Collins Australia.

Michelle recommends: In Case of Emergency by Poorna Bell

After a traumatic accident, Bel has to face the reality that her independence may have pushed many of her loved ones away. So she sets out to reconnect – first with a former best friend and then with her sister. A beautiful contemporary novel exploring growing up British Indian, sisterhood and friendships.

In this interview, we chat about:

  • Why Grace Notes was never meant to be about the pandemic
  • How Karen researched the art forms in the novel (graffiti and violin) and why it evolved from just Crux's perspective to a dual narrative
  • The fascinating story behind the Grace Notes cover
  • How the pandemic experience in Melbourne shaped the storyline
  • The delicate process of drafting verse and how Karen combines emotions and story in such a small space
  • Karen's MG verse novel, Sunshine on Vinegar Street
  • The journey from manuscript to two book deals – and the 13 years of hard work behind it
  • The beauty of editing and shaping our words

Books and other things mentioned:

Follow Karen @karen__comer

Grace Notes is available now! Thank you to Hachette for sending us a copy of the book in preparation for the interview.

Connect with us on Instagram: @betterwordspod

About the Podcast

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About your hosts

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Caitlin Toohey

Hi, I'm Caitlin! I've been on bookstagram since 2016, a podcaster since 2017, and worked in publishing since 2019. So books and reading are my entire life. When I'm not reading, I like listening to Taylor Swift, watching sitcoms, and generally being a theatre kid.
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Michelle Gately

Hi, I'm Michelle! I'm an Aussie living in the UK, working as a bookseller at Waterstones. I'm obsessed with storytelling in all its forms – I spend as much time watching TV or listening to podcasts as I do reading. Other hobbies include bouldering, hiking and generally obsessing about my pug Percy.