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.’
You can’t say that! – Parental guidance recommended with Libba Bray, Vikki Wakefield and Gabrielle Williams
This session was a great way to end the first day of Reading Matters as it was absolutely hilarious! I haven’t read any of Libba Bray’s books but I will have to remedy this immediately. I’m a huge fan of Vikki Wakefield and Gabrielle Williams so I was really looking forward to hearing all about their books. Each of the authors were asked if they had been asked to cut something out of a book or not write about a subject. Libba said that she had never been told not to do something in a book, but she had been asked to ‘cut the talking penis scene in Going Bovine.’ Gabrielle’s latest book, The Reluctant Hallelujah (an amazing book about finding Jesus in the basement) hit some roadblocks in the publication process. Her publisher was reluctant to publish it in Australia and her US publisher suggested changing the body of Jesus to the body of Elvis. Gabrielle writes comedy because she likes it, and this is one of the things I like most about her books. She doesn’t approach issues in her books, instead she likes to make her characters three-dimensional so that the issues come to the characters.
Vikki Wakefield goes full-on with her stories and keeps going until it makes her laugh or cry. Someone needs to tell her when she’s gone too far. She set out to be subversive with her first novel, but it wasn’t. She pushed further emotionally with Friday Brown (and if you’ve read Friday Brown I think Vikki hit the nail on the head!). Vikki suggested that there is a fear in white writers of writing indigenous characters, which means they’re disappearing. She believes that writers need to be taking more of a risk when it comes to this.
The next books they’re working on are:
- Libba Bray – sequel to The Diviners
- Vikki Wakefield – a love story from a duel point of view
- Gabrielle Williams – a story set in 1986 with four characters, two aged 17 and two aged 23.
Me and Vikki Wakefield (author of Friday Brown)