This past weekend, I made my annual pilgrimage to the Perth Writers Festival. Ok it's not quite a pilgrimage given it is held at the University of Western Australia which is only about 10 minutes away from my house, but it has certainly become an annual event for me. I first attended the festival about 5 years ago, although this was in the capacity of a bookseller, as it was again for the next two years. This year however was my second year as a proper guest, having the freedom to attend any session that captured my attention, as opposed to catching 20mins of a session during my lunch break from the bookshop!
I will admit that the festival program didn't have me all that inspired at first glance, not because the calibre of the authors wasn't amazing, but for my own interests, it just didn't have quite the draw cards that there have been previously (David Levithan anyone?). That said, I still managed to find a few events to attend.
My favourite by far was Not Just For Kids which was about YA fiction and how, as the session title suggests, it is no longer written, and read, just by teenagers. Perth YA author AJ (Amanda) Betts chaired the talk which featured fellow Perth author Julia Lawrinson and Adelaide author Vikki Wakefield, each of whom talked about their latest books.
|AJ Betts, Julia Lawrinson and Vikki Wakefield
Julia read the first chapter of Losing It, which had the audience in fits of giggles as did Vikki, who spoke about how her own teenage years and how they helped her draw inspiration for her characters in All I Ever Wanted and Friday Brown.
When asked what she thought makes a great YA novel, Vikki said heart, humour, hope and horniness (4 H's unintentional!) and I think I completely agree, particularly with heart and hope. All three authors agreed that the thing that sets adult books and young adult books apart is the hope the main character has. Many adult books focus on their generally middle-aged protagonist's life and where it is now. Whereas with YA, the character hasn't lived enough to dwell on what could have been, instead they are all about what life will be.
Personally I often finish an adult book feeling quite depressed, let down, or to be honest, 'bored out of my mind'. Even though I am about to turn 26, I still connect with YA characters because I refuse to accept that 'that's the way life is'. I love how they fight for what they want, no matter what is thrown their way. Anyone who dares to give someone an earful about reading a YA novel should ask themselves if there is a better message that should be spread to the teenagers (and adults) of today? I challenge anyone to find a YA novel that will not leave a positive, inspiring...hopeful message upon its reader, whether it was the intended one or not.
It was lovely to catch up with Amanda again, who I have met several times, and it was a delight to meet Vikki, who recognised me from my picture on here (Hi Vikki! *waves*). I look forward to running into her again at the Reading Matters conference later this year. Also, I picked up signed copies of Losing It and Friday Brown which will be up for grabs sometime in March which is Aussie Author Month here at The Tales Compendium.
I also caught talks by Dianne Touchell, Ambelin Kwaymullina and Myke Bartlett, three other Perth YA authors.