Australians write good…well, perhaps not me, but there are many YA authors that prove they can string together words into a meaningful sentence. Of late, Australians have been permeating the YA awards so much so that some American authors have suggested that the Printz be restricted to Americans. I would argue that that suggestion is ridiculous; of course Australian should be contenders…we play to win…and we plan on winning more!
Melina Marchetta was the recipient of the Printz Award this year, a worthy winner with the spectacularly vivid and complexly structured Jellicoe Road. I am anyway but impartial when it comes to The Marchetta (as I’ve enjoyed tagging her) as I have loved her work since she debuted with Looking for Alibrandi way back in 1994. Alibrandi was the first YA book that I read that really connected with the contemporary Australian experience – I understood Josie Alibrandi, I admired her and wanted to be her. Reading that book was a revelation and I have been exceedingly lucky to have had similar experiences with Saving Francesca and Jellicoe Road.
But it’s not all about Melina…we’ve got a veritable treasure chest of goodies on offer, some of which are available in your local bookstore. Simmone Howell, Lili Wilkinson, Julie Gittus, James Roy, Kate Welshman and Sue Lawson are all authors that have grabbed me with their take on contemporary Australian life. They are unflinchingly honest and unafraid to tackle the depth of pain and the tummy twirling humour that swirl throughout all of our lives. Australian authors seem to be inordinately good at making the teen experience authentic with rich dialogue, complex characters and real issues – what more can you ask for?
Of late there have been authors that have really stretched my concept of YA and I am better for having read their work. Michelle Cooper’s A Brief History of Montmaray is a fantastically adventurous novel about a tiny island kingdom facing the cold realities of poverty and World War 2. It’s an absorbing read that one could compare to Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle and guess what, it released in the US next month. Another is Into White Silence by Anthony Eaton, a gothic, creepy, vivid depiction of the desperate and horrific nature of a failed Antarctic exploration. Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels is a novel that I haven’t had the pleasure of reading yet but plan to soon. This year she was awarded a Printz Honour for this title and it has raised considerable controversy for its apparent disturbing content. Regardless, on some level YA is about pushing boundaries and all content is welcomed, especially this award winning content.
Here in Australia, the YA sales account for sixteen percent of all book sales. We’re an industry that is full of talented writers with great enthusiasm for telling Australian stories. Blogging and Twitter have increasingly become ways in which the small Australian YA community has become strengthened. As one of the few YA review bloggers from Australia I have been extremely fortunate to be supported greatly by many of the authors, the same can be said for my fellow bloggers – Steph Bowe and Rhiannon Hart. Between the three of us, we make up the more prolific YA blogger group in the blogosphere but that number is slowly rising.
Author blogging isn’t as big as it is in America either, mainly due to the fact that many YA authors are supporting themselves by working full time jobs and raising their families. Some writers are able to support themselves with their sales and public appearances (mainly school based) but most aren’t that lucky – blogging isn’t exactly a priority. But in the past few months I have seen a more concerned effort by many Australian YA authors to blog. Among some of the blogs you should check out are:
Post Teen Trauma – Simmone Howell
Musings from an Outer-Spiral-Arm – Anthony Eaton
Head vs Desk – James Roy
The Thinkings of a Lili – Lili Wilkinson
Eglantine’s Cake – Penni Russon
Stories are Light – Sandy Fussell
Doing the Compossible – Emily Gale
Magic Casements – Kirsty Murray
Among Amid Whale – Margo Lanagan
I have been very lucky to meet a handful of these authors in person, mainly by attending the bienniel Reading Matters conference which is a selection of readings, discussions and performances for young people and professionals. I was very lucky to gush over Michelle Cooper, joke around with James Roy, tease Anthony Eaton about his blue hair, hug Kirsty Murray and Mo Johnson and interview Mal Peet and MT Anderson. I was VERY fortunate for someone only six months into blogging. This past week I was able to meet Melina Marchetta for a coffee in the hour before her bookstore appearance and I died and went to book heaven. Australian authors are amazingly approachable and very giving with their time, whether in person, on twitter or via email.
Ultimately it is these fantastic people, who just happen to be talented writers that made me want to blog. I wanted to promote them amidst the international books that are being publicised on American-authored blogs. It was also a meant that I could donate all my review copies to my school’s under resourced library – blogging has been a dream come true for this English teacher. It has benefited me on a personal level as I have brought many more authors to notice and I have also been able to increase the amount of stories that my students have at hand. I have also made many more friends in many fields from American high school students to Australian publishing personnel to Lady Gaga-fixated Canadian authors. My initial plan was the blow you all away with my wit but since it’s taking a leave of absence I thought I would try sincerity. Australian authors are a talented bunch and I haven’t even broached the sheer number of them – definitely check them out and visit Steph, Rhiannon or my blogs to see what’s debuting in OZYA (Australian YA).
A big thank you to Amy for allowing me to ramble on about my talented countrymen and women, I consider it an honour to bring attention to these fantastic books (and my Melina Marchetta fixation) during this fantastic celebration of blog blogs.