Tonight was the YA panel at EWF and after hearing the running almost-rivalry between that session and the spec fiction session in terms of ticket sales, I was expecting a lot more people than what turned up. Half of The Wheeler Centre was block off, and the front half was maybe two-thirds full?
Despite a mediocre turn out, the panel definitely was not mediocre, with a great lineup and fantastic conversation.
Fiona Wood, Tim Pegler and Adele Walsh, led by Andrew McDonald, talked about all things YA for an hour.
Both Tim and Fiona said they ‘stumbled’ into writing YA by ‘accident’.
Adele said she likes to escape into another world, and enjoys reading about adventures and everything the characters in the books gets up to as Adele says her own teenage hood was uninteresting!
Adele also said – which I agree with – is she appreciates that fastness of YA, how it isn’t self-indulgent and won’t go on for pages and pages about feelings or staring into an ocean. We live in a busy world and want to get into it!
It was mentioned at the beginning that YA sales make up a total of 13-15% of book sales in Australia – if you consider all the different types/genres of books (fiction, children’s, cooking, non-fiction etc) I think that’s a huge amount!
Fiona said that she wasn’t a ‘hoarder’ of good ideas: it was asked if she kept good ideas for later projects but she said she didn’t.
First person, present tense was identified as a common trait for YA, as well as getting on with the action as soon as the book opens, as you’ll loose teen readers if it takes chapters and chapters. This is most true, I think, in Lili Wilkinson’s book A Pocketful of Eyes. I’ve just started reading it and in mere pages, the main character is already getting it on with the new guy at her work and her boss turns up dead! That’s seriously in the first like twenty pages!
The topic of YA itself was brought up, as in the name and definition of it. It was suggested that YA was mostly a marketing term, a convenient title as it more describes the readership rather than the genre. Especially as it covers many sub genres: romance, paranormal, GLBT, contemporary, spec fiction etc.
Then it was suggested that YA has turned from a marketing term into an actual genre. “It’s hit a niche that deserves a genre,” Tim suggested.
There are common traits that define YA, such as those explored above.
Adele said that out of 200 books that publishers send to various media outlets (newspapers, magazines etc) they can expect a 10% mention back: as in, not even a review or a photo, it might be a small as listing the name of the book. How awful is that! And how expensive it must be to send them out and receive little to nothing in return.
Fiona said there is ‘far less interest and respect’ of YA in Australia than in America. I agree, and think it’s an incredibly sad thing.
It was mentioned at Reading Matters that American readers often travel to Australia to think they’ll see YA authors in every corner; an incredible hot-bed of Australia YA authors and books. Why can’t Australia see all the awesomeness that’s right under their eyes?
In terms of advise for budding YA writers, they suggest writing the truth. Being honest, write from the heart, don’t be precious and FINISH IT!!
They also briefly touched on controversy in YA – ie heavy violence or sex – and said it shouldn’t be censored. Adele said that, “Kids will put it down if they’re uncomfortable, but if we rob them off that chance…” She also spoke about troubles putting together her class selections from her teacher days, in conservative schools.
As a sub-set of that, if books are heavy in controversial content, they probably won’t get a nod in award nominations, and schools may not be that welcoming towards them.
All in all, it was a really fascinating discussion.
Something I’ve noticed at all EWF events I’ve been to is the lack of recording – which is why I didn’t take photos. It’s a shame that people can’t record the events as I’m sure they could be of use to those who can’t attend. And you know me: I like records of things and I think they’d make a great podcast or whatnot.
Have you been going to EWF?