Reading Matters 2013 – Highlights #9


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.


Reading Matters 2013 – Highlights #8


Outsider, outside – Garth Nix, Tim Sinclair and Vikki Wakefield navigate the outside perimeters

Garth Nix thinks that all of his characters are outsiders in one way or another, but ‘you can be an insider/outsider, depending on context.’  Vikki says that her characters are exploring their own worlds from the inside, ‘she’s not outside – it’s her story, she lives there.’  She believes that books are open to our own ideals.

‘We’re attracted to flaws because we know we’re not perfect. It’s a nice feeling to open a book and see someone more screwed up than us.’

Garth says that the attraction of outsiders is that ‘everyone feels like an outsider in some way.’ He also points out that you ‘can be an outsider for three minutes and it can affect you.’  Vikki found her Welsh roots and discovered that finding out ‘something that happened centuries ago to your family, affects how you see yourself.  Suddenly my life seemed bigger.’  For Vikki, it was a moment of reckoning with a snake in her house and The Drover’s Wife that influenced Friday Brown.

Vikki says that she writes for teens like her who didn’t have books as a kid and didn’t have parents who were readers. When Vikki found books ‘the world was bigger.’ Vikki mentioned that she was surprised by the readers of her books.  She told the story of a teenage boy who loved Friday Brown and how she was surprised by this.  Vikki was also surprised when her books were shortlisted for prizes, as she never imagined they would be.  She believes that it’s important though that ‘age and sex do not define a reader.’

Reading Matters 2013 – Highlights #6

What’s yours is mine – Alison Croggon, Andrew McGahan and Gabrielle Williams explore creation through adaptation

Hopefully you can forgive me for two things with this session – I forgot to take photos and was so interested in hearing what Gabrielle Williams had to say that I didn’t take notes about Alison and Andrew. For a more detailed account of this session you should definitely check out Danielle Binks’ report on her blog,

I loved Gabrielle’s book, The Reluctant Hallelujah, so I was really interested to find out more about how the story came to be.  The starting point for the story was the Deltora Quest series and her son arguing for a 14-year-old going on a quest.  She thought it would be interesting to write a book that’s about a ‘real life’ quest.  What better time to send a group of teenagers on a quest than just before exams, when the stress levels are high.  Gabrielle then had to think why they would be going on a quest; money’s boring, nuclear war has been done.  She wanted it to be something really massive and important, so she chose the body of Christ (although it could have been any iconic religious figure).  She thought that a lot of the story had to be ‘how come the body of Christ was in their house?’  Gabrielle is Catholic, so she felt confident ‘treading on a few toes, but not breaking them.’

Gabrielle deliberately kept the Jesus element quite minimal, it was more about the kids’ relationship to him.  There’s no magic in the story, apart from the fact that Jesus is perfectly preserved.  Gabrielle says ‘It is more a story about faith and the importance of doing something that is bigger than yourself. Sometimes you can go on an adventure that’s not about you, but something much bigger.’

If you haven’t read The Reluctant Hallelujah, grab a copy straight away.  You won’t be disappointed!


The post in which I gush over Reading Matters 2013

It’s 2 days after the end of Reading Matters 2013 and I still can’t stop thinking about it.  It was unbelievably awesome and  the best conference I’ve been to by far.  I’ve never had so much fun at a conference or come away so excited and motivated.  The Centre for Youth Literature team put together a great programme, with a lineup of some of the best young adult authors from Australia and overseas.  You could tell how much time, effort and passion that the team put into making the conference so engaging, thought provoking, and entertaining.  I already thought they were pretty damn awesome beforehand but I’ll be singing their praises to anyone who wants to listen.

At every other book conference I’ve been to I’ve bunked a couple of the sessions, but the Reading Matters sessions were so good that I didn’t want to miss a minute of them.  The authors, volunteers and the Centre for Youth Literature team kept the energy up the whole time and I was constantly buzzing with excitement. They all must have been pretty worn out by the last session, but it never showed.  They were all incredibly interesting sessions and we all learnt a lot more about the authors than we had bargained for.  I had no idea that some of them had such dirty mouths, but they had us almost falling off our seats with laughter.

I love Australian young adult literature and some of my favourite authors were there, including Vikki Wakefield (All I Ever Wanted, Friday Brown), Gabrielle Williams (Beatle Meets Destiny, The Reluctant Hallelujah), Morris Gleitzman (the Once quartet), and Myke Bartlett (Fire in the Sea).  I also enjoyed meeting and listening to the international authors, especially Raina Telgemeier (Smile, Drama), Keith Gray (Ostrich Boys) and Libba Bray (Beauty Queens, The Diviners).  I have to admit I hadn’t read anything by the international authors prior to the conference but I certainly will be now.  They were all really wonderful people who wrote some lovely dedications in my books.  I’ll be writing some more posts throughout the week about some of the sessions.

I also got the chance to meet some of my awesome fellow bloggers/Tweeters in person.  I was so glad I got to meet Danielle ( and @danielle_binks ) and Jess ( and @TalesCompendium )  whose blogs and Tweets I follow, and I could have chatted to them for ages.  Danielle is a super speedy Tweeter so she kept up with everything the authors were saying.  I, on the other hand, was very slow and decided to just retweet Danielle’s.  Between all of the Tweeters there and those who couldn’t be, we even managed to get the official hashtag, #yamatters, trending WORLDWIDE!

To all the authors and the organisers, especially Adele, Nicole, Anna and Jordi from the Centre for Youth Literature, thanks for making Reading Matters an event that I’ll never forget.  The next Reading Matters conference is in Melbourne in 2015 so make sure you get there (I know I’ll be there come hell or high water!).

If you want to catch up on all the #yamatters tweets, check out the hashtag on Twitter.

Awesome Author Line-up for Reading Matters

I’m still on a high after the announcement of all the awesome YA authors who are coming to the Reading Matters Conference in Melbourne from 30 May-1 June.  Reading Matters is a conference that I’ve wanted to go to for years because they always have a great line-up of authors and everyone raves about it.  I’m incredibly excited that I get to experience it this year, especially since the author line-up is totally awesome!

The very cool Adele Walsh and the rest of the wonderful team at the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria announced the first few guest authors late last year, including Myke Bartlett, Libba Bray, Gayle Forman and Alison Croggon.  The rest of the authors were announced on Friday and they’re even more exciting because they include some of my favourite Aussie authors, including:

  • Morris Gleitzman (Once, Now, Then, After)
  • Garth Nix (Sabriel, A Confusion of Princes, Trouble Twisters)
  • Vikki Wakefield (All I Ever Wanted, Friday Brown)
  • Gabrielle Williams (Beatle Meets Destiny, Reluctant Hallelujah)

They’ve also got some great international authors coming too, including Keith Gray and Raina Telgemeier.

I can’t wait to hear all of these authors talk about their books and have my favourite books become even more special by having the author’s signature in them.

To find out more about Reading Matters, to book, and to view the full list of authors and their bios, check out