Gender less – Myke Bartlett, Libba Bray and Fiona Wood unbox identity
This was the session that stuck with me the most. Each of the authors had very valid points of view and it was really interesting. The topic of ‘girl book’ vs ‘boy book’ bothers Libba Bray. There’s the connotation that if it’s a ‘girl book’ that boys don’t need to be concerned about the female experience, and if it’s a ‘boy book’ that girls don’t need to understand males. Libba suggested that ‘if story is about connection and pushing down barricades, why would we want to limit that?’ She asks teens to question the status-quot and think for themselves.
Myke says that he set out to ‘write a book that includes a strong female, but I didn’t think that would exclude male readers.’ He wanted to write a character that was more realistic, with inner strength. He would like to write a book with a male character to explore what it’s like to be a male (I’m going to keep harassing Myke about this because I want to read this story).
When the authors discussed book covers, Myke suggested that the cover for Fire in the Sea was probably telling boys that it’s OK to read, even though it has a female main character. Libba Bray hyperventilated over the cover for Beauty Queens, but calmed down when she appreciated that it was mocking the headless female cover trend. Fiona Wood wanted gender-neutral covers for her books, Six Impossible Things and Wildlife. The idea behind her Wildlife cover was ‘the selfie.’ Fiona suggested that publishers need to come up with covers that ‘present an inclusive normality.’
A quote from Libba Bray sums this session up perfectly – ‘readers need the full ROY G BIV of emotional experience. We’re stuck on what boys want and what girls want. We just want good stories.’