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.
Action! – Gayle Forman, Tim Sinclair and Raina Telgemeier discuss the highs and lows of teen life
The first question for the authors was why do they depict the teen experience? What is it about YA that appeals to them? I guess I’ve always just thought that it was the story they wanted to write (and this is apart of it), but they gave some great reasons. Tim said he thought grownups were boring because they slowly angst about things that they can’t change. Raina remembers every detail about her teenage years so it’s easy to write about it. Alot of these details of her teenage life makes it into her books. Gayle writes ‘about young people, but not young stories’ and she said that writing for teens was a way to relive her teenage years. Characters between the ages of 17 and 22 often invade her brain so she has to write about them.
Each of the authors felt that they had different responsibilities as a writer of books for teens. Gayle said that it’s important to ‘tell an emotionally authentic story.’ Raina believes that it’s important to write books for teens who don’t enjoy reading. It’s her responsibility to hook those teenagers who haven’t ‘found’ books yet. It was at this point that Gayle talked about the importance of librarians and came out with one of my favourite lines of the conference, ‘Librarians are crack dealers.’ It’s our job to get teenagers addicted to books and coming back to the library to get their next fix.
There was also some discussion about labels. Raina hates the way that people dismiss her books as children’s or YA, or when they say it’s ‘just a comic.’ Tim hates the ‘poet’ label. He wouldn’t want his books (which are verse novels) put in the poetry section of a bookshop because ‘that’s where books go to die.’ When they were asked if YA is a genre or a readership, Tim quickly replied that YA is ‘just awesome!’
The next books they’re working on are:
- Gayle Forman – a novel called ‘A Code Unknown’: a suicide/mystery/love-story.
- Tim Sinclair – a ‘novel-novel’ and that’s all he’ll say.
- Raina Telgemeier – a companion novel to ‘Smile’, called ‘Sisters’ coming 2014