Unleashing YA – Gayle Forman, Morris Gleitzman and Keith Gray on adult encroachment in YA
This was the final session of Reading Matters 2013, but it ended with a bang. I didn’t take many notes from this session as I was wrapped up in the discussion and being thoroughly entertained by these wonderful authors. Morris started it off with a laugh by introducing himself and Keith as members of the ‘Bald, Bespectacled and Sexy Club’ and that he was there under false pretences, he isn’t and never will be a ‘Young Adult author.’ Adele asked the question ‘Who does YA belong to?’ and Maurice immediately replied with ‘nobody and everybody.’
Keith believes that males are under-represented in YA fiction. Publishers, editors, agents and librarians are mainly females. He mentioned that that a press release for the Carnegie Medal once highlighted having a male on the judging panel. Keith writes for boys, ‘I hope I don’t alienate women but the 13 to 14 year-old boy is my ideal reader.’ Gayle pointed out that ‘there is acceptability for girl readers to enter a boy book’ but would Harry Potter have been the same with Hermione as the main character?
Both Maurice and Gayle commented on how great the blogging community is. Gayle noted that the ‘incredible conversation going on amongst young people about the books they love,’ and Maurice talked about how a UK blogger helped an author’s book to sell overseas rights.
Each of the authors were asked ‘why do you love YA?’ Keith said it’s because he thinks teenagers are ‘fascinating creatures’ who read books to ‘challenge and argue.’
When asked ‘where else does the needle of discussion need to move to?’ Keith said that he wants to see YA authors mixing with adult authors on panels. He also wants acceptance of children’s and YA authors, ‘we’re still talking about the human condition and we’re writing books to the best of our ability.’ Morris wants that needle and dial taken away completely and stop worrying about what kids are reading.