My last day in Sydney! (Insert cries of disbelief).
What a fantastic four days and today, some might argue, was the best.
Well, only for the mere fact that finally there was a YA panel! Hooray!
And what a brilliant panel at that.
The YA panel was the first of the day for me, and I went over there, dodging the rain (boo!) after I checked out *sob* Why can’t I stay in this literary festival bubble forever?
Before the panel started, as I was lining up outside, I spied a very glamourous woman walk past me, in these beautiful black boots and a gorgeous deep blue dress.
It didn’t take long for me to register that it was Anita Heiss!
Of course, then I couldn’t help but stare in a total non-stalkerish kind of way (okay, it was totally stalkerish!) and wrote on Twitter that I’d seen her.
Anita then, very nicely, invited me to show myself – of course I couldn’t do that!
Stalking from afar is more fun (and slightly more creepy!) plus I wanted to keep the illusion that I could string a sentence together. And that wouldn’t've happened if I was standing in front of her.
A few Tweets exchanged later – including Anita guessing who I was! – and alas, by the end of the session we missed each other.
The session was on dark themes in YA, featuring the below writers, and Hardie Grant Egmont publisher/editor Hilary as chair.
Hilary also chaired the other panel that I’ll speak about in a moment, and what a chair she was! She had clearly researched, spoke with such passion and asked interesting questions, and kept both the panels running smoothly. Obviously a seasoned pro.
Notes I took:
- Hilary opened by talking about YA, the recentish debates over the darkness of it, citing YA Saves
- Margo says she plants warnings for bad things to come in her novels, so you get clues and it doesn’t strike you out of the blue
- She also says she isn’t writing for shock, she’s just writing
- Speaking about her first novel Raw Blue, Kirsty says there was a few things that made her write it: the high sexual assaults reported in the media, that fact that there was never an account reported of the victims being angry about what had happened to them, and Kirsty knew what it was like to be angry (note: not angry because of sexual assault, just angry in general) and have it over-bare your life in such a descrtuive way – and then coming out the other side
- She didn’t see it as YA at first, and didn’t write it intentionally to be YA
- Kirsty read us a scene that didn’t make the final cut; Carly (MC) was walking down the street, reflecting on what had happened and fantasizing about grabbing a gun and shooting her attackers ‘in the dick’. It didn’t make the final cut as Kirsty felt Carly wasn’t at that point yet, that wanting a gun would come many years down the track. It was a beautiful scene, haunting, wonderfully written, and I almost wish for that reason alone it made the final cut!
- She also felt it important to point out that these things can happen *to* you, but they’re not *you*
- Lucy said she started Stolen as a part of a phD in Creative Writing
- She said the book changed when she realised it was YA
- She’d always wanted to write about the desert
- The book was always in second person, it just seemed natural and she didn’t give it much thought
- She purposefully drew parallels between the desert and the captor; they’re both beautiful and harsh at the same time
- Kirsty saw the positive sex scene in Raw Blue as necessary given the awfulness and harshness of the unseen, but over looming rape, as Carly reclaims herself, her body, and her sexuality
- She found it curious that people had problems with the good sex scene but not the rape! So it’s okay for rape to happen, but not for two consenting adults to have sex in a safe environment? Right…
- She didn’t spell out the rape as she feels that the specific details should be ‘copyrighted’ to the victim, and not splashed all over the media – or the book in this case – for the world to see
It was a really interesting and could have gone on for hours.
Between this session and the next, I bumped into Mike Shuttleworth – yay for fellow Melbourians!
The next session was on ‘cracking the children’s market’ and was every bit as interesting as the first.
Some notes I took:
- Three main markets for books to go into: the Big W’s/K-mart/Target etc, the large bookstores ie Borders/Angus and Robertson and the indies, such as Readings. Hilary thinks the void of the big bookstores is still there, and Dymocks hasn’t stepped up to the mark yet
- Hilary also made a comment that I think speaks the extreme truth: ‘What we can learn from these three [panel members] is you have to work damn hard’
- Emily started writing by telling stories to her children
- She also spent many years in publishing, and has what she calls a pretty standard publishing career, starting at the bottom and working her way up
- This taught her two main things, firstly about length that books should be, and secondly that there was a lot of stuff being published that she could write better! (Isn’t that what they say, you should keep two books on your desk: one that you love, one that you hate. The loved one is for motivation and the hated one is a ‘if this can get published then I can too!’ Hellllllo Twilight!)
- She never believed her work was good, and still doesn’t, needing the approval of others to realise it’s good
- She recommends authors keep their day jobs!! ‘Start writing as the most wonderful hobby,’ she says.
- Sue also works in publishing for Walker Books, and said she never saw herself writing until a university assignment required her to write a book and she realised that’s what she wanted to do
- She started writing ‘novelty’ pop-up books for kids, and wracked up over 25 books in three years
- Hilary thinks it’s important to focus on being a writer, and not on being published
- Chris got his start in writing from Rowan McAuley, a Hardie Grant Egmont author whom he knows from church. Rowan mentioned that HGE were looking for authors for the Zac Power books, and Chris went away and wrote one, gave it to Rowan who passed it on to HGE
- Hilary spoke about the importance of accepting feedback, and says in some cases it can be a deal-breaker as to whether you’re published again with that house
- Emily said the Deltora Quest books had no editing, only a copy-edit.
- Originally, Emily sent her first work to her own publishing house, but under a pen-name
- Sue’s books are published by Walker who, as I mentioned before, she also works for. She says the two are kept separate: when they discuss her books she leaves the room, and all emails are sent to her own home email
- Finally, they offered some tips: Chris says write what you love and not what you think the market/publishers need. He also says you need to continue to write, even if it’s not fun
- Sue named the four P’s of publishing: passion, persistence, practice and patience
- Emily said don’t worry about being perfect on the first go. She also followed on from Chris and said don’t worry about the audience; write for yourself
After that session, I went to another session which was on privacy and internet security.
I didn’t take any photos or make notes, I was too busy being scared out of my brains!!
Privacy laws, specific internet company policies, information, data miners and everything in between was covered and it’s pretty clear about one thing: we’re all screwed and nothing is private anymore.
Thank you, internet!
After that, I decided to head back to Circular Quay, and I wandered around The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
There was a Zine Fair happening which was a part of SWF, and I wondered around that for a while and purchased three art prints which are just gorgeous. I can’t wait to get them home and frame them.
After that, I went to one of the exhibitions and wondered around that.
I had about another hour to spend before I had to get ready to go to the airport, so I got a ferry from the Quay to Toronga Zoo, and straight back again.