State Library of Queensland Young Writers Conference 2017

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I am thrilled to be appearing this Saturday (November 25) at the State Library of Queensland for their inaugural Young Writers Conference. Here's what it's all about:
Come along for a day of industry seminars and hands-on writing workshops for young writers, led by young authors and publishing professionals.
If you’re aged 15 to 25 and interested in the art of writing and the how-to of getting published in Australia, the Young Writers Conference will excite, inform and inspire you. 
With sessions designed to expand your knowledge, accelerate your craft, and provide advice and support for getting ahead in the business of writing, this is your opportunity to learn from some of Australia’s finest young creators in an inclusive and interactive environment. 
Featuring Lech Blaine, Steph Bowe, Shastra Deo, Laura Elvery, Mindy Gill, Jerath Head, Rebecca Jessen, Bri Lee, Grace Lucas-Pennington, Grace McCarter, Jackie Ryan, Kristina Schulz.
I'll be appearing on a panel and running a workshop on the day:
How to get a book published in your twenties Panel | SLQ Auditorium 2, level 2|10am
Featuring Lech Blaine, Steph Bowe, Shastra Deo, Bri Lee and Rebecca Jessen
In this inspiring session, young published authors share the journeys behind how they made it to where they are now. From why they became interested in writing, to how they got published, hear from the writers who made their dream a reality and what they plan on doing next. 
Make them real: writing complex characters Workshop | SLQ Auditorium 2, level 2 | 12.30pm
Featuring Steph Bowe
Learn how to make your characters come to life on the page with Steph Bowe, author of YA novels Night Swimming, All This Could End and Girl Saves Boy.
For further details, check out the State Library of Queensland's website.

Take Three Girls by Cath Crowley, Simmone Howell and Fiona Wood

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

To say I was looking forward to Take Three Girls would be the understatement of the year. When I found out it was being written I was at first unsure if this was real life or some sort of coma dream. Three of my favourite authors collaborating on a novel does seem very much like something my brain would invent. But luckily for me (and you!), Take Three Girls is a real (and wonderful) novel. (Either that or I'm still in the coma dream.)

Take Three Girls focuses on Ady, Clem and Kate, boarders at a prestigious private girls' school who are thrown together by a school 'wellness' program and who are dealing with a whole slew of issues - including being targeted by a sexist and disgusting website.

I found the novel a little jarring at first - it took me a while to get a sense for each of the girls' voices, and the multiple viewpoints, plus diary entries, plus wellness program sheets, plus excerpts from PSST (the website) made for a beginning that was very busy.

I'm mentioning this because if you pick up this book and struggle through the start - keep reading! Though I read the start slowly, once I was familiar with the characters (and once they had met each other), I found it much more involving and I read the rest in one sitting. The format that had seemed excessive at the start gave the novel depth and realism, and made for a more immersive experience. The character voices are distinct, but work together really well. I would love for these three authors to collaborate again. 

My personal theories, on which author wrote which character are as follows (and completely unconfirmed!): Clem definitely feels like a Simmone Howell character - she writes complex, sometimes-unlikeable girls like no one else. Kate's romance storyline and love interest - I will not give anything away! - felt very much in the style of Cath Crowley and had echoes of Words In Deep Blue. Ady's thoughts on and passion for social justice issues reminded me of the protagonist in Fiona Wood's Cloudwish. Note that it is entirely possible that I am zero for three here, but it's fun to speculate. (Other readers I have discussed this with have had very different interpretations!)

Take Three Girls is a novel I would recommend to any fan of contemporary YA novels - teenagers and adults alike. I think there can sometimes be a tendency for YA now to be aware of the size of its adult audience and (consciously or not) cater to that audience, and though Take Three Girls is a complex and thoughtful novel that engages with themes around feminism and social justice, it is still unashamedly about and for teenage girls.

While each character has a romantic plotline (and I really appreciated Ady's romance storyline and how her bisexuality was depicted in the book), themes of friendship are definitely the focus. It is both very thought-provoking and very accessible - the issues (and they are many!) are never at the expense of the enjoyability of the novel. It's engaging and sincere and uplifting and a novel I hope many, many teenagers read.

Take Three Girls on the publisher's website.

Tracks Brisbane with Express Media

Monday, September 25, 2017

I'm super excited to be presenting a workshop as part of Tracks: Brisbane on Saturday, October 21. It's an awesome all-day program of workshops and masterclasses for writers aged 14 to 25, and it promises to be amazing.

Here are some more details, from the Express Media website:
Express Media is delighted to present Tracks, a travelling pop-up program for young writers that brings the best of Express Media’s workshops, masterclasses, networking opportunities and special events to communities across Australia. 
In 2017 we’re bringing the Tracks program to Brisbane, partnering with Queensland Writers Centre and Backbone Youth Arts to take the best of Express Media right to your backyard. 
If you’re aged 14 to 25 and have a love of writing and storytelling, Tracks: Brisbane is an exciting weekend event just for you. Across the day, you’ll learn from some of the best writers in Queensland, and expand your skills to develop and crafting captivating stories, find out what opportunities there are for you in Brisbane and beyond, and discover what happens when you’ve been selected for publication.
Tracks is free for Express Media members to participate in and attend. If you’re not a member already, Tracks: Brisbane costs $25 and includes joint membership to Express Media and Queensland Writers Centre (normally $55).
Here's what my workshop is all about:
Crafting Character & Representing Real Life with Steph Bowe 
9:30am – 11:00am 
Character is a key element of successful writing. What makes a memorable character in fiction and do you represent real-life people ethically? Do we have to be able to relate to all characters as a reader? How can you get inside your characters’ heads – when they came from yours? Explore strategies for creating believable, fleshed-out figures in your own work.
Tracks is on at the East Brisbane Bowls Club on Saturday October 21, and runs from 9am to 5pm. It's an awesome opportunity for young writers, especially considering it's free for Express Media members and only $25 for non-members. To find out more, and to book, head to the Express Media website.

Girls Write Up Brisbane!

Monday, September 18, 2017

I'm thrilled to be running a character workshop as part of Girls Write Up in Brisbane! The event is being held on Friday 24 November from 8.45am to 3.45pm at the State Library of Queensland, and there's an awesome line up of presenters.
Girls Write Up is for anyone who has felt limited by their gender and wants to understand how language can not only constrain but also be used to liberate and empower. It is an inclusive event open to all teens aged 12–18. 
Over the day, authors,  journalists, activists, artists, poets and other creative thinkers will share the ways they have used their writing to define their identities and shape the world around them. The program of panels and practical workshops explores the relationship between language, gender and power, and the effects of unconscious bias on our sense of self. It unpacks the ways that the female voice has been devalued in literary and popular culture, and gives participants the opportunity to discover their own creative voice, equipping them with the skills and the confidence to use it.
For more details, and to buy tickets ($35), check out The Stella Prize website.

Come along to the National Young Writers Festival!

Monday, September 11, 2017

I'm excited to be attending the National Young Writers Festival in Newcastle later this month. The festival runs from September 28 to October 1 and I'm looking forward to attending lots of events! I'll be appearing on two panels and a roundtable (all free!) so do come along and say hi if you live nearby!

YYWP Session C: Advanced fiction
Friday, September 29, 2017 at 1:15 pm

1.30pm | PANEL: Diverse fiction
Do we write fiction to represent or to escape? Why not both? What does it look like when we include a spectrum of characters in our fiction? And how do we practise diversity responsibly? With Elizabeth DeLoria and Steph Bowe.

Creative Wordshop, 170/164 Hunter St, Newcastle NSW 2300

Writing for Kids and Young People
Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 10:00 am
What makes young readers tick? Four writers talk about what sets it apart, the challenges, and the practice of writing for younger readers.

#children #youngadult

Vinyl Cafe, 4 Perkins St, Newcastle NSW 2300

(Care)ering for Yourself
Saturday, September 30, 2017 at 12:00 pm
Care about your career but also care about your person? Do you want to? This roundtable is a place to share tips and tricks on how to survive the pressures and travails of this writing life and keep your mental and physical health while you’re at it!

The Royal Exchange, 34 Bolton St, Newcastle NSW 2300

YA Bookmeet at Sydney Dymocks this Saturday!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Sydney friends! I'll be appearing at the YA Bookmeet at Dymocks Sydney this Saturday (September 2) at 2.30pm, to chat about Night Swimming!

Full details below! I'm super excited to be visiting Sydney and would love it if you came along! RSVP to eventscoordinator@dymocks.com.au.


Interview with Pip Harry, author of Because of You

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I know I never stop talking about the sheer wonderfulness of Australian contemporary YA, but I am genuinely astounded at the number of truly gorgeous novels written in this country for teenagers. Because of You by Pip Harry is one of them. It's a novel that focuses on the difficult and important topic of homelessness, and characters in terrible circumstances, but it's written in an incredibly thoughtful and uplifting and accessible way - I would highly recommend it to literally anyone aged twelve and over, and think it would be a terrific novel to study in schools. It's both really important and beautifully heartwarming, and puts friendship to the forefront, which I think we need more of in YA. If you would like to read some reviews that are far more articulate than I could ever be, you should check out the glowing reviews on Books+Publishing and the Readings website!

It was wonderful to have a chance to chat with Pip about her real-life inspiration and research that led to writing Because of You, her writing process, favourite novels and upcoming projects!

Steph: Because of You explores homelessness in a very thoughtful and humanising way, and focuses both on characters who are homeless and characters who work with homeless people. What motivated you to write a novel focusing on homelessness, and what sort of research did you undertake? 

Pip: I was motivated to write a novel about homelessness as I spent three years as a volunteer with a creative writing program in a homeless shelter in Darlinghurst, Sydney. I would go each week to the shelter and meet all kinds of people in the homeless community – both people who were homeless or in government housing, or those volunteering or working with them to rebuild their lives. When the time came to write a novel that fictionalised my experiences, I knew I didn’t want to preach or be heavy handed in my depiction of what it’s like to be homeless, so I’m very happy to hear you found my exploration of the subject thoughtful! As further research, I also spent time at the Rough Edges drop in cafĂ© in Darlinghurst. I met so many funny, interesting and intelligent homeless people during my volunteering and research, so I wanted to do them justice on the page.

Steph: I loved both of your previous novels (I’ll Tell You Mine and Head of the River) but Because of You is definitely my new favourite – one of those books you have to sit with for a few minutes after having finished it, because you’re still half in that world with those characters. I went through the emotional wringer reading it – was writing it an emotional process? (I found Tiny talking about her baby so heart-wrenching and tender and beautiful.) 

Pip: Thank you! It was a very emotional process to write Because of You. I found myself in tears while writing many scenes, having to go to places that were so bleak and tough for my characters. As I suffered from post-natal depression myself after the birth of my daughter, I could really relate to Tiny’s feelings of isolation and despair around new motherhood. To be honest, writing this book was so difficult that at the halfway point, I nearly abandoned the manuscript because I wasn’t sure I had what it took to finish the story. I’m so glad I didn’t!

Steph: I interviewed you after Head of the River was released, and asked you about how the experience of writing a second novel differed from the first, so naturally now I have to ask what your experience was like writing Because of You! Was Book Three easier? How has your writing process changed and evolved? Do you feel like you’ve hit your stride? 

Pip: No! I wish Book Three was easier, but it was the same hard slog, with feelings of uncertainty and imposter syndrome throughout. Of my three books, Head of the River was the easiest to write, and Because of You was the hardest. Having said that, I think my writing process is now more experimental. I’m less afraid to try new things (like poetry, who knew?!) and stretch myself as a writer. I also found the structural editing easier and I could slash, chop and kill my darlings with much more certainty and confidence.

Steph: The novel is told from the first-person perspective of two characters, Tiny (who is living on the streets in the city, far away from her family) and Nola (who is volunteering so she can pass Year 12 at her private school). How did you establish distinct character voices? Do you have any advice for writers writing from multiple points-of-view? 

Pip: Although in some ways I wanted Tiny and Nola to sound similar (they are both 18-year-old girls after all) I also wanted there to be a distinction between their voices. Tiny speaks in a simpler language, with more slang. “Nah” instead of “No” for example and “get a feed” instead of “go out for dinner”. Nola is more formal and sophisticated. Writing from multiple POV’s it’s important to really know your characters inside out and to establish early on their individual speech patterns, slang, vocab and dialogues. This helps he reader switch between voices more easily.

Steph: Something wonderful about Because of You is that it explores relevant real-world issues and contains beautiful messages about empathy without being didactic or talking down to teenage readers. Were you conscious of avoiding writing a moralistic or educational novel? Do you have any particular reader or audience in mind as you write? 

Pip: I was absolutely conscious of not talking down to my young adult readers. The issues contained in the book are complicated, confronting and multi-layered, but they’re more than capable of absorbing and exploring them. I try not to moralise or “educate” my readers. Instead, I present difficult issues from different angles, and allow the reader to make up their own minds as to how they feel as a result. I do think about my audience being aged from around 12 years, and keep that in mind in terms of language and content, but I also know adults find my work, too.

Steph: I love the back cover quote: ‘Books can save anyone. If they’re the right ones.’ Meredith, who speaks the line in the novel, runs a street library for the benefit of people like her son, who has passed away. Despite only appearing in a couple of scenes, she, like many other minor characters in the novel, is deftly and realistically drawn. How did you approach creating these characters, many of whom are affected by trauma and grief, and fleshing them out so authentically? 

Pip: I love that line too and I believe it with all my heart! Books are life-changing. Along with Meredith the book lady, there are lots of minor characters who make a big difference in Because of You, so each one had to be real and make an impression on readers. Fleshing out the smaller characters took time – to begin with they didn’t have backstories or depth, but in later drafting, I dug deeper to find out why they were important to the story.

Steph: The transformative power of books is a major theme in the novel, and one that I (obviously!) very sincerely believe in. What were the books that were the most significant to you, as a teenager? And what do you read – and love – now? 

Pip: I read tons of Judy Blume, who influenced my honesty in my writing (she wasn’t afraid to really go there!) I also loved Playing Beatie Bow by Ruth Park, Homecoming by Cynthia Voight, Bridge to Terabithia by Catherine Paterson. Now, I voraciously read contemporary Australian YA, including your own funny and heartwarming Night Swimming and Cath Crowley’s gorgeous bookstore love story Words in Deep Blue. I’ve also fallen madly in love with verse novels, especially The Weight of Water and One by Sarah Crossan and Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai.

Steph: Having now read Because of You, I am looking forward to the next Pip Harry novel (no pressure!) – are you working on anything new at the moment? You’re currently based in Singapore – is that influencing your writing? 

Pip: Lately I’ve been thinking about a story set in the steamy city of Singapore, but that’s just in my head! On the page, I have completed a verse novel for middle grade readers with the working title The Little Wave. I’m still negotiating a deal, but hope to have more news on its release soon!

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To find out more about Pip Harry, Because of You and her previous novels, visit Pip's website.

If you live in Melbourne, you should attend the book launch for Because of You! It's on September 2, as part of Melbourne Writers Festival. Find all the details here.
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