Young writers, strap on your boots…
Young writers aged between 14-17, check out the SA Writers’ Centre Teen Bootcamp being held during the October school holidays. You’ll find the program here and below is a quick overview of my session on Wednesday, 2nd October. Registrations are closing soon!
Plotter, pantser, necromancer
One of the questions most commonly asked of a writer is: where do you get your ideas from? Short answer: ideas are everywhere. An idea is the brilliant start to everything, a comet of the imagination, a blazing possibility that will fizzle and die if you don’t pay it some attention. The bigger question is: how can I turn an idea into a story?
You know you’re a writer if a) you write and b) you constantly shift between states of acute observation and dazed daydreaming. It’s like you can suddenly see through a filter to another dimension where the shadows of ideas are always jostling past. Everything—headlines, movies, music, overheard conversations—has the potential to become a story. If you’re a writer, finding ideas will not be the problem—the hard part is choosing, working out whether your fledgling idea has the legs to carry through to a complete short story or whole novel, pushing through disenchantment, roadblocks and indecision.
The best way to prepare for this journey is to start hoarding the elements for a story. Ideas don’t have a use-by date. You have time. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a plotter (you outline before you start to write), a pantser (you let the story lead where it will) or you channel the spirits of the dead (please show me how to do this)—essentially all writers need to nail a process to make their ideas BIGGER.
In this workshop we’ll be talking about the genesis of ideas (including some surprising ideas/beginnings from acclaimed YA books, straight from the authors’ mouths), training our minds to look for the pathways to a story and finding those elements we need to travel the whole journey. And the next time someone says, ‘Hey, I have a great idea for a story’, you’ll have perfected your response: ‘I’m looking forward to reading it once it’s written’.
Or, you know, you can just say, ‘Pffft’.
Sing it back…
So, the biennial, immersive, memorable Reading Matters 2013 conference is over. This is not a comprehensive, professional recap (see Danielle Binks’ posts here and Zac Harding’s here for that)—this is more a view from the trenches with tasteful photography. Ahem.
I prepared the shit out of this event (that’s what I have to do to head off an unsightly public meltdown—see previous posts alluding to OCD tendencies). I read eleven books in four weeks. I scribbled pages of notes for my panel sessions, hoping the act of writing my thoughts down would somehow keep them on stand-by, ready for split-second retrieval. The last thing I needed was for my mouth to get ahead of my brain (I get flippant and confessional when that happens). I boarded the plane with the niggling suspicion I’d forgotten something—my toothbrush, maybe extra socks—but of course (you’ve guessed already) I’d forgotten my NOTES. Cue: unsightly public meltdown. But it was okay because a) I got it out of my system among strangers and b) there were kind and solicitous flight attendants who brought me alcohol without judgment.
The Reading Matters experience was a little overwhelming and a lot surreal. This was my first conference as an author, not a delegate, but I went along to every session, barring one morning panel when I missed my alarm. Just a few of my most memorable moments (because my memories are subjective… and sketchy):
Keith Gray’s brilliant Connolly-esque speech: ‘Gatekeepers – the Good, the Bad and My Mother’. I hope this shows up on Read Alert soon because everybody needs to hear it.
Friday Night Fight – a hilarious showdown between emerging writers from the EWF and the ‘Dumb Adults’ represented by Libba Bray, Myke Bartlett and Garth Nix. Team Dumb Adult kicked ass against some worthy opponents, without resorting to sledging and with an invitation for EWF contestants to crash the Green Room. Classy.
A stirring discussion about the entrenched concept of ‘girl books’ and ‘boy books’: ‘Gender Less’ with Libba Bray, Myke Bartlett and Fiona Wood. (This made me realise how lucky I am to have fairly gender-neutral covers. I have never felt as if I ‘write for girls’, only that, so far, I have written from the female perspective, and this should not automatically exclude male readers from experiencing that perspective.)
Many authors were vocal about problems and imbalances within the YA book industry, which goes a long way to addressing issues rather than ignoring them for the sake of a united front. I loved that we didn’t all agree.
I did confess to stealing library books when I was young (which goes down as my most epically stupid blurt to date—in front of 300 librarians) and one lovely librarian granted me absolution after the session by squeezing my shoulder and saying, ‘It’s okay, You must have needed them’. Thank you, I did.
I was also a willing cohort in the ‘Appendage of Steel’ segue (Gabrielle Williams started it) which provided some comic relief after the serious but enlightening discussions about gendered covers and gatekeeping.
Watching from the Green Room as Melbourne put on a spectacular lightning display. Our official group author photo, taken on Saturday evening, will show a sodden bunch of exhausted but happy writers who were caught in a dumping-down as we headed back to our hotel after the conference. This is an unofficial photo (Keith Gray and I are apparently The Bogan Twins, separated at birth):
I would have taken pics of the lightning but by this stage I had misplaced my phone. It turned up later, in my room, with another inexplicable ‘haunted’ picture:
Shopping between events with Libba and Gayle who had to go undercover…
(see how casually I said that? You know, shopping with Libba and Gayle…)
Dinner with super-hot-librarians Nikki, Alison and Kat at an amazing restaurant where they served Myke Bartlett a Seuss-like dessert. Horton did a WHAT?
Wearing Cats beanies during the Geelong Regional Tour (gifts, apparently necessary for safe passage, except my family are Port Adelaide supporters—safe passage was not assured once I arrived back in Adelaide.)
Coming home to this:
The reason Young Adult books are so popular, the reason this part of the book industry is so vibrant and successful, is the community. Thank you to Anna Burkey, Adele Walsh, Jordi Kerr, Nicole Armstrong, Kelly Gardiner and the team from the SLV Centre for Youth Literature, who worked like fiends to pull this conference together and made it such a fantastic experience for all. And thank you, writers—you astound me with your words, ideas and generosity.
In which I namedrop…
It’s Reading Matters 2013 next week!
Imagine the little bumblebee-girl in Blind Melon’s ‘No Rain’ video clip (you’re lost, you dance to a different beat, nobody understands you) then, by chance (or by purchasing a ticket), you stumble into a field (or the RMIT building) and discover your people. It’s a pretty awesome lineup of YA writers (*deep breath*): Libba Bray, Gayle Forman, Fiona Wood, Raina Telgemeier, Myke Bartlett, Gabrielle Williams, Garth Nix, Ambelin Kwaymullina, Tim Sinclair, Morris Gleitzman, Alison Croggon, Paul Callaghan, John Flanagan, Andrew McGahan and Keith Gray. And me.
The main conference is on 31st May – 1st June and following on the 3rd and 4th June Gayle, Myke and I will be on the Geelong Regional Tour.
On Thursday 20th June I’ll be at the Adelaide Convention Centre for SAETA’s annual Meet the Writers convention. Keynote speakers are John Marsden and Lili Wilkinson (woo!). This is a fantastic program for students. Check out the details here.
Looking forward to meeting lots of people who read, write, publish and support YA books.