NSW Writer's Centre Kids & YA Literature Festival

Monday, July 6, 2009

Note: Sorry it’s taken me a while to get around to posting about this. I’ve been really busy. And if you’ve emailed me, I’m not deliberately ignoring you. I’ve just got several million emails to get through.

As you know, I went to Sydney. It was very nice. I stayed at The Hughenden Hotel in Paddington, and it was absolutely lovely (and great because my dog was allowed in our room). If you’re considering a trip to Sydney, I’d recommend The Hughenden, because as well as being a lovely place (with fantastic food, which is of utmost importance, to me at least), it’s central to just about everything. You can catch a bus down to Circular Quay and check out the Opera House and take a ferry somewhere. Sadly, I didn't take any photos of the hotel, but go and check it out on their website.

On the Friday evening I went to the launch of Road To Camelot, a book of short stories by well-known Australian authors that take characters from Arthurian legend and explores their childhood and adolescence. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read it, but it sounds great. It was edited by Sophie Masson. You can see photos of that on Susanne Gervay's blog.

I've organised the rest of this post under headings (bold headings) - the names of each panel - to stop myself from rambling endlessly. However, this probably won't work.

Festival launch

From left to right: Sue Boaden, Penguin’s Laura Harris, best-selling author Melina Marchetta, and festival Director Susanne Gervay.

Melina Marchetta is the author of the phenomenal Looking For Alibrandi, as well as Saving Fancesca, On the Jellicoe Road and, most recently, Finnikin of the Rock (On The Jellicoe Road is my favourite, though I haven't yet read Finnikin of the Rock). She spoke beautifully, and I really wish I had have recorded her speech or written it down, because it really was wonderful.

I think that was a really great start to the festival.

Authors and their publishers: How do you get published

From left to right: James Roy, Leonie Tyle, Susan Hayes, Zoe Walton and Deb Abela.

I really enjoyed this panel; they spoke about the process towards publication, as well as the importance of the relationships between publishers and their authors (I'm sorry, that was so awkwardly worded. It sounds as if publishers own the authors, and they're sleeping in a kennel out the back).

(I have to say, it was really cool to meet Deborah Abela, because I've been reading the Max Remy series since I was ten. Just thought I'd mention that.)

Near the end of this panel, a lady in the audience asked a long question about kids not reading because of the internet, Myspace, Satanism, etc. I wasn’t really listening because it’s kind of hard to hear the questions people ask, and also I’m just a naughty kid and I was whispering to my mum. Okay, so my mum was whispering to me and I was just telling her to be quiet.

Then Leonie Tyle pointed at me in the second row and said that Steph Bowe could answer that. She only guessed that I could answer it, but I couldn’t really. Also, I briefly considered the possibility that there was a young blogger getting about whose name was also Steph Bowe and who was sitting in the row behind me.

There’s this line in a song by The Killers called This River Is Wild which goes ‘Sometimes I’m nervous, when I talk I shake a little.’ It’s not exactly amazing lyric, but I quite like the song and it also sums up very neatly how I felt at that point.

I recall blubbering something that involved Twilight and the internet letting teenagers talk about books and of course kids are still reading.

According to my mother – who tends to make every story she tells a little more fantastic each time she recounts it to someone – I said, I don’t know where do you get the idea kids aren’t reading books! In that slightly aggressive voice I adopt when a room full of adults are looking at me and I’m already nervous.

So I don’t know, I hope I didn’t scare that lady or make an idiot of myself (okay, so idiocy is inevitable, but, thank God, excusable because of my age.)

Okay, I'm going to stop talking about myself now.

I’m not sure whether it was before or after that question when someone asked about parallel imports, and since at the moment I don’t have much of an understanding of what it involves, I’m going to be doing a bit of research into that. I’ll be blogging about that shortly, because I know enough to know that it deserves a post of its own.

Taking story into scripts, film and web

From left to right: Melina Marchetta, William Kostakis, Susanne Gervay, Caleb Lewis, W "Chewie' Chan.

The next panel I went to (okay, so I stayed in the same room) was ‘Taking story into scripts, film and the web’. I missed out on ‘How authors can write for awards, entertainment, education and sales’ with Laurine Croasdale, Gabrielle Lord and Chris Cheng. I was a bit disappointed about that. I wish I could be in two places at once. Or at least in two adjacent rooms at once.

Melina Marchetta spoke about writing the script for a film based on her own novel, Looking For Alibrandi. I’ll probably badly misquote her here, but she said that in order to write the film script, she had to completely destroy the novel, and then pick up all the pieces. Caleb Lewis, a playwright who spoke about turning novels into plays (He adapted Susanne Gervay’s novel I Am Jack for the stage) said something similar was involved in the making of a play. William Kostakis spoke about the importance of authors promoting themselves and their books online through blogs and Twitter, which I assume that everyone reading this blog would know about. Comic book artist W. "Chewie" Chan spoke about graphic novels (among his examples was the excellent Maus, as well as another memoir in graphic novel form, Fun Home).

Then there was lunch. Sadly, I did not photograph the rice paper roll or brownie I had to eat, as I said I would. They were both very nice. I also had two hot chocolates.

Fantasy: creating new worlds to explore our own

From left to right: Richard Harland, Jenny Hale, Kate Forsyth, Garth Nix and Angie Schiavone (chair).

Next was the panel about writing fantasy. Even though I don’t write fantasy, I really like the authors who were at that one (not to say that the picture book authors weren't equally awesome). Jenny Hale spoke about her latest book, Jatta, a story about a werewolf princess. Richard Harland has a great website of writing tips, and I just finished reading his novel, Worldshaker. Kate Forsyth, fantasy author of novels for both adults and children, gave a very good description of what fantasy is, which I really should have written down. They all spoke about writing fantasy, including how their fictional worlds are reflective of our own.

At one point, they mentioned bizarre sub-genre names, like 'new weird' and 'steampunk' which I thought sounded hilarious.

Stars of youth literature reveal their secrets

James Roy and Garth Nix.

Following that (I’m kind of trying to avoid saying ‘and then’ at the risk of sounding like I’m quoting Dude, Where’s My Car?) was ‘Stars of youth literature reveal their secrets’ with Garth Nix, James Roy and Gabrielle Lord, chaired by Mylee Joseph, who works as a librarian.

Gabrielle Lord is a very successful author of crime fiction, who has also written a novel for children, Monkey Undercover. Garth Nix is an immensely popular author of fantasy novels, including series The Keys to The Kingdom, The Seventh Tower and The Old Kingdom. James Roy is the author of numerous novels for teenagers and children, most recently Hunting Elephants.

First page panel (2)

From left to right: Leonie Tyle, Margaret Hamilton, William Kostakis and James Roy.

The last panel of the day was the first page panel, where authors and editors commented on selected first pages that people had submitted earlier in the day. I attended the panel where Leonie Tyle, Margaret Hamilton, James Roy and William Kostakis commented.

Mine was read out (even though a lot of people I know and some people I don’t have read that novel, it was the first time I’d listened to someone else read a page out loud). James Roy said it sounded like Stephenie Meyer writing The Book Thief. I haven’t read The Book Thief, but I thought it was funny more than anything, considering how I feel about Twilight.

Room To Read launch

After that was the launch of Room To Read. Now, I won’t say much about it here because I’m planning another post where I can go into much more detail about the organisation, but in short, Room To Read is a not for profit organisation that works towards educating children across the world. Since 2000 they’ve supported over 3 million children, established 700 schools and built 7,000 bilingual libraries. Pretty awesome. Further details later on.

Some other interesting, funny things:
Ursula Dubosarsky, the author of many excellent books for young people, has a multitude of stamps she uses when she signs books. And I think they all have specific places and order. It’s pretty cool. I think I’ll become a picture book author just so I can bring back out all those stamps I had when I was little (I’ve got a really awesome ‘The Wiggles’ stamp set).

All of the authors and panellists had name tags, and my mum and I did as well. People who weren’t authors kept on asking my mum what books she’d written, and she kept on telling them she wasn’t an author. No-one asked me if I was an author, though I did meet someone who reads this blog (Which made me go: Oh my God, people actually read this? The pressure to actually write coherent posts is kind of kicking in now. No more vampire rants).

All the authors I met were infinitely lovely. I think this was just because they were really nice people, though there is a very slight possibility some people heard the word ‘blogger’ and decided not to say or do anything bad because they were worried I might pull a Perez Hilton on them.

I’m incredibly grateful to Susanne Gervay for inviting me to the festival and introducing me to everyone. Susanne is an infinitely wonderful lady, and the author of many fabulous novels for children and teenagers (She’s going to America next year, because her novel I Am Jack is to be published there).

Melina Marchetta and William Kostakis. Not sure who that is on the far left.

Melina Marchetta, me, William Kostakis.

James Roy (he's the one on the left, in case you were wondering).

Laura Harris, Libby Gleeson, Susanne Gervay and Melina Marchetta.

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