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By: Justine Larbalestier
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On Twitter ages ago N. K. Jemisin asked “*do* white writers want only white readers?”
The immediate, obvious answer for me is: No, I don’t want only white readers. And I’m really glad I don’t have only white readers.
But I’ve not been able to stop thinking about that question. And the shadow question which is “do white writers only write for white readers” regardless of what kind of audience they might want?
In order to respond I need to break it down:
I’m white. That fact has shaped everything about me. I know the moment when I first realised I was white. I was three or four and had just returned from living on an Aboriginal settlement in the Northern Territory. My parents were anthropologists. I was on a bus with my mum in inner-city Sydney when I pointed to a man of possibly Indian heritage and said loudly, “Mummy, look it’s a black man.” My mother was embarrassed, apologised to the man, who was very gracious, and later tried to talk to me about race and racism in terms a littlie could understand.
What happened in that moment was me realising that some people were black and some people were white and that it made a difference to the lives they lived. I’d just spent many months living in the Northern Territory as the only white kid. The fact that I wasn’t black had not been made an issue. We played and fought and did all the things that kids do despite my difference. So much so that tiny me had not noticed there was a difference. Despite seeing many instances of that difference being a great deal I wasn’t able to make sense of it till I was living somewhere that was majority white, majority people with my skin colour, and then the penny dropped.
Many white Australians never have a moment of realising that they’re white. That makes sense. Whiteness is everywhere. White Australians see themselves everywhere. Our media is overwhelmingly white, our books are overwhelmingly white. In Australia whiteness is not other; it just is. Whiteness doesn’t have to be explained because it is assumed.
Because whiteness just is, like many other white people, I don’t identify as white. For me whiteness is the box I have to tick off when I fill out certain forms. While it shapes every single day of my life it doesn’t feel like it does. Because what whiteness gives me is largely positive, not negative. My whiteness is not borne home on me every single day. I don’t need to identify as white because, yes, whiteness is a privilege.
When I see a white person talking about “their people” and they mean “white people” I assume they are white supremacists. Anyone talking about saving the white race from extinction is not my people.
For many different reasons I do not think of white people as my people. As a white writer I do not write for white people.
I admit that I have used the phrase “my people.” I’ve used it jokingly to refer to other Australians. Particularly when homesick. Or when someone Australian has done something awesome like Jessica Mauboy singing at Eurovision at which point I will yell: “I love my people!” Or an Australian has done something embarrassing on the world stage: “Oh, my people, why do you fill me with such shame?”
I’ve used “my people” to refer to other passionate readers, to YA writers, to fans of women’s basketball, to Australian cricket fans who like to mock the Australian men’s cricket team and care about women’s cricket, to people who hate chocolate and coffee as much as I do etc.
All of that comes from a place of privilege. I can’t think of a single time in my life when I have been referred to as “you people.” I’ve gotten “you women” or “you feminists” or “you commies” or “you wankers” but never “you people.”
White people are rarely asked to speak for their entire race. N. K. Jemisin’s question about white writers writing for white readers is not something that gets asked very often. Meanwhile writers of colour are asked questions like that all the time. They are always assumed to have a people that they’re writing for.
When I sold my first novel I was not thinking about who would read those books. I wasn’t thinking about it when I wrote those books either. Frankly I was still over-the-moon ecstatic that they’d sold, that there were going to be novels out there that I wrote! I didn’t get as far as imagining who would read them.
I’ve written stories ever since I was able to write and before then I would tell them to whoever would listen. My first audience was my sister. And, yes, I tailored some of those stories to suit her tastes, adding lots of poo jokes. But, come on, I like(d) poo jokes too. It’s more that I got lucky that my sister liked what I liked.
All my novels are books that, if I hadn’t written them, I would want to read them. I write for myself. I am my main audience.
That all changed when I was published, when my stories found distribution beyond my sister, my parents, friends, teachers.
When I, at last, had an audience and that audience was responding to my novels is when I started thinking about that audience.
When members of my audience started writing to me and I met members of my audience is when I really started thinking about who my audience was and how they would respond to what I had written.
That’s how I know my audience isn’t all white. It’s how I know my audience isn’t all teens. How I know they’re not all women. Not all straight. Not all middle class.
As my books started to be translated I found myself with an audience that isn’t all English speaking.
Discovering how diverse my audience was changed the way I wrote which I have discussed here.
Addressing a White Audience
There is one place where I am addressing a mostly white audience. And that’s on this blog and on Twitter when I’m trying to explain these kinds of complex issues of race to people who haven’t thought much about them before. White people tend to be the people who think the least about race because it affects them the least. So sometimes that’s who I’m consciously addressing.
Writing to an Audience
But white people who are ignorant about racism is never whom I’m consciously addressing when I write my novels.
Even now when I have a better idea of who my audience is I don’t consciously write for them. When I’m writing the first draft of a novel all I’m thinking about is the characters and the story and getting it to work. If I start thinking about what other people will think of it I come to a grinding halt. So I have learned not to do that.
It is only in rewriting that I start thinking about how other people will respond to my words. That’s because when I rewrite I’m literally responding to other people’s thoughts on what I’ve written: comments from my first readers, from my agent, and editors.
My first readers are not always the same people. If I’m writing a book that touches on people/places/genres I have not written before I’ll send the novel to some folks who are knowledgeable about those in the hope that they will call me on my missteps.
Any remaining missteps are entirely my lookout. There are always remaining missteps. I then do what I can to avoid making the same mistakes in the next books I write. And so it goes.
I hope this goes a little of the way towards answering N. K. Jemisin’s question. At least from this one white writer. Thank you for asking it, Nora.
A few weeks back @bysshefields was being really smart on twitter about being a young adult excluded from conversations about Young Adult literature. This is something that has often annoyed me, that the go-to “experts” on the genre for the mainstream media are almost never young adults themselves, that we only rarely hear from the people at whom the category is purportedly aimed. I asked Bysshe if she would write a guest post on the subject for my blog and happily she said yes.
All the words below are hers:
My name is Bysshe and I’m a 19 year old aspiring author who lives in Brooklyn, NYC. I spend most of my time reading and writing.
Two different conversations led to my tweeting about the way YA voices are being ignored. I was talking to a friend (who is also a writer) about how no agent will want to take on my manuscript because it deviates too far from “the norm” (aka straight white girl protagonist being a badass and defeating the government). Both of us know that the audience for our stories is out there; if we and our group of friends, and THEIR groups of friends, and so on and so forth want to read about queer girls of color, then someone out there is lying about what’s actually popular in YA (particularly speculative fiction).
The second conversation occurred when my friend and I were discussing high school trauma, and how we felt that we couldn’t turn to YA because there weren’t representations of kids in our situations. Instead, we were reading books like The Godfather and Fight Club and who knows what other adult-marketed books because there was nothing heavy enough in YA to match how heavy we felt.
In what I’ve written below, I know there are misconceptions about how YA publishing works but I’ve left them in because I think they represent how little communication there is between those who market YA books and their audience. That also ties into what the idea that it’s harder to sell books about non-white/non-middle class/non-straight characters.
I truly, deeply don’t think it’s that they’re harder to sell, so much as people aren’t working as hard to sell them. Social media has taught me that the market is there. My own existence has taught me that the market is there. In my experience, the only people who truly think that diverse books might be harder to sell are people who wouldn’t buy them.
I’m certain that if Sherri L. Smith‘s Orleans got the same explosive blockbuster treatment as, say, Divergent, it would sell. Thinking that it wouldn’t is another example of young adults being underestimated because it suggests that we’re incapable of handling differences, which just isn’t true. I think that if publishers, or whoever’s in charge of properly exposing books, put the same effort into exposing diverse books, we would see a change in how they sell.
Young Adult is defined as the ages of 15 to 25. By this definition, I’m about four-ish years into young adulthood. So far, it feels like a lot of things. It’s stifling, frustrating, exhausting. Sometimes I feel like I won’t make it out of these years alive. As a young adult, a lot of my decisions have already been made for me (if not by an adult, then by circumstances that were generated under adult influences). What little freedom I have has been cut down almost to the point of nonexistence (again, if not directly by adults, then by systems that adults put in place long before I was born).
In spite of the release that reading is supposed to give me, I’ve noticed a trend in mainstream YA literature: it’s exactly the same as reality, in that I have close-to-no input with regards to what happens in it.
There are a lot of teams on the playing field of the YA lit scene. Out of everyone, I feel a lot like Frodo at the Council of Elrond as I struggle to assert my voice over the Big Folk who seem to think that only they know what’s best for Middle-earth.
Just like Middle-earth, the world has become an increasingly toxic place for people my age to navigate. And basically, the parameters for the books we turn to for empathy and escape are shaped and defined by people who have little to no idea what we’re going through; people who make laundry lists of what YA is/is not, or what YA does/does not need. People telling us what we can/can’t handle, what we are/are not ready for despite the amount of things we’ve already been through. As we write our own stories and seek publication, I’ve had my own friends go over YA parameters they disagreed with but feel the need to adhere to. They’re always something like this:
- No blatant sex, drugs, violence, or cursing.
- Nothing too complex.
- No adults.
- Stick to characters and themes that are easy to understand.
Otherwise, the book “won’t sell”. Won’t sell to whom?
I’d sure as hell buy something that went against each and every one of those points. You know how that list translates to me?
- Sex, violence, and so forth are not a part of adolescence.
- Young adults are unintelligent.
- Young adults have no adults in their lives.
- Young adults don’t have real problems—never mind the harsh and diverse realities of abuse, rape, deportation, international terrorism, identity crises, mental health, the trauma of high school, etc. Let’s dumb this down, then turn it into a blockbuster film series. The end.
Have the majority of editors in YA publishing houses ever actually spoken to a young adult? If you have, have you asked them what they needed to read? What they needed empathy for? Have you, as an adult, tried to think back on what you needed to hear when you were my age or younger? Because if yes to any of those, then it isn’t showing. None of the Big Folk seem to have ANY idea what I needed to read at the age of 16, and what I still need to read now at the age of 19.
When I was an even younger young adult than I am now, I needed to read about sex. I can already visualize a bunch of mainstream authors pulling on puppy faces and gesturing to copies of their novels: “But what about my—?”
Stop right there. As a young, queer girl of color, I needed—no, NEED to read about sex. Heroines of my race having sex in a way that isn’t hyper-sexualized. Heroines having sex that isn’t just romanticized rape. Heroines having sex with multiple partners over the course of a series, because the first-boyfriend-only-boyfriend model is a dangerous misconstruction of reality.
I wanted heroines who know that it’s okay to fall in love multiple times. Heroines who know that it’s okay to leave relationships. I wanted to read about queer kids having sex. Period. None of those fade-to-black sex scenes between straight characters have ever taught me anything about safe, healthy sexual relationships. Sure, I could go to Planned Parenthood for that, but that’s embarrassing and terrifying for a kid to have to do and I’d rather just access my bookshelf like I do for everything else.
You know what? Sixteen-year-old me wanted to read about sex because she wanted to read about sex. Period. Good portrayals of sex are something that sixteen-year-old me desperately needed, and that nineteen-year-old me desperately needs now. Good portrayals of sex help kids to learn the signs of abusive, coercive relationships. “But that’s too explicit” my ass. The virgin, white-girl heroine never taught me anything except that my version of adolescence was dirty and needed to be kept off the shelves.
I needed to see violence—not some sick gore fest or anything, but something that subverted the violence happening around me. I grew up in Detroit—America’s capital of violent crime and murder. If you know anything about Detroit, then you know it’s closer than any city in America to becoming a modern urban dystopia. And yet the only message I’ve managed to pull from half the dystopias on shelves is that “the government” is “after me”.
How is the government after me? Is it the devastating impact of capitalism on the working class? Is it the fucked up education system? The school-to-prison pipeline? The military industrial complex? The ever present hetero-patriarchy that many, YA writers, editors, and publishers included, are complicit in? Because after taking a long list of classes and reading a long list of essays, I’ve finally figured out that, yes, those are the problems. But somehow my books couldn’t tell me that. Interesting.
Surprisingly, I need to see adults. I’m really curious about this one. Why do adult writers of young adult books tend to write adults out of the picture? Or else portray them as flat, villainous characters?
Throughout high school, I had a very tumultuous relationship with my mother, and definitely needed to see people my age communicating effectively with their parents. After having endured many mentally and verbally abusive teachers, I learned to neither trust nor respect adults, but to fear them. Even though I was going to be an adult soon, I hated all of them and had no idea how to approach them.
Reading about abusive adults in YA lit hasn’t done anything to heal me from that. I definitely needed to see that it was possible for someone my age to have a connection with an adult that wasn’t full of miscommunications and didn’t border on abusive. At this point, I’d say that stereotyping adults as vapid villains does more harm than good.
More than anything, I need a spectrum of issues—a whole rainbow of characters and themes to match my identity, and the identities of the many people I know. This is probably more important to me than any of the above.
Adults in the publishing industry are currently responsible for the devastating and, frankly, embarrassing lack of diversity in the YA canon. Publishers and edits and basically everyone else who’s not writing what they see for a living, don’t seem to think we’re capable of handling a catalog of diverse narratives—which is complete and utter bullshit.
Don’t project your racist, sexist, transphobic, queerphobic, xenophobic, and otherwise marginalizing overview of reality onto my generation. Our realities encompass racial identity, gender identity, sexuality, religion, mental illness, disability, abusive relationships, poverty, immigration. The list goes on and on, and we need to see people with complex identities and narratives in our fiction.
We need to see people coping with racism. We need to see queer and trans people coming out of the closet. We need to see queer and trans people doing things OTHER than coming out of the closet. Seriously. There’s always been more to my life than queer angst. There is more to my queer life than the closet, than simply telling people that I’m queer.
We need to see queer kids breaking out of the established set of queer tropes. We need to see people ending unhealthy relationships and forming newer, healthy ones. We need to see all the issues that the Big Folk think they’re hiding from us because these issues are not exclusive to adults. These things are happening to us, too, and censoring in our fiction only makes us feel more alone. We need to see these things happening to people like us in the books that we’re supposed to be able to turn to. Even if the character’s problems aren’t solved, just knowing that someone with the same issues means the world to people who feel trapped in their lives.
I don’t think this is an issue with authorship. I don’t think this is an issue of editorship, either. To be honest, I’m not sure what type of issue it is. All I know is that I am very, very frustrated with the lack of complexity and diversity in the mainstream catalog of books for my age range. I think that there are plenty of authors I haven’t heard about writing just for me, but for one reason or another, I can’t access them.
Justine provided an excellent insight, which is that it isn’t that things aren’t being published, but because they’re not being promoted as heavily as the big books like Divergent. Or they’re being published by smaller publishers with a smaller reach. Or they’re not being published at all.
Is it that adult-operated publishing houses are telling adult writers what they should/shouldn’t be writing for the YA audience, without first consulting the audience itself? If so, this is blatantly disrespectful not only to authors, but to me, because a large portion of the industry that wants my support doesn’t respect my identity or my intelligence. I don’t know. All I know is that I’ve given wide berth to the young adult bookshelves while I sit back to write the series I’ve always wanted to read. If it weren’t for the fact that I eventually want to be published, I might’ve quit altogether.
But I don’t want to quit.
The books I’ve needed to read are out there. They’re just few and far in between. Orleans by Sherri L. Smith follows a young, black rape survivor navigating a hostile post-deluge New Orleans, where people are hunted for their blood. Coda by Emma Trevayne follows a diverse group of teens operating within a dystopia fuelled by music. Pointe by Brandy Colbert features a black girl protagonist with an eating disorder and deals with a multitude of heavy issues that teens in her situation might normally face. Last year’s If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan is a f/f love story set in Iran. The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina features an Aboriginal Australian protagonist in a supernatural dystopian future. These books are all immensely important, but they’re under-marketed, and even then, they’re not enough.
YA lit is too important to be given up on, and instead needs to be worked on. Many of the criticisms of YA are baseless and frivolous, such as the notion that adults should be embarrassed to read YA because, according to Slate, it’s all “written for children.” Bullshit.
If after the age of 25, I can only read the Adult Literary Canon™ for the rest of my life, I may as well just sign out now. It’s easy enough to address all these problems: cut down on the Big Folk vs. Hobbit mentality. Publishers need to start treating their young adult audiences like growing, developing human beings, or else the industry runs the risk of ending up as dystopic as half the books on the shelves. Stop telling us what we need and ask us instead.
We are more than just a market. This should be a partnership.
In the much-discussed, so-called resurgence of contemporary realism there are several recurring themes. One of them is how wonderful it is that teens are finally being provided with books they can truly relate to, books that are “real.”
The mostly unstated corollary is that fantasy and science fiction and all those non-realism genres aren’t real and can’t be related to in that soul-searing, I-recognise-my-life way that contemporary realism provides. They are merely escapism.
I call bullshit on several different fronts:
Firstly, many readers do, in fact, relate to fantasy, science fiction etc.
They recognise themselves in the characters. They recognise the experiences and the emotions. Because no matter what genre, or where a book is set, or whether the characters are talking animals or alien creatures from a different planet, the stories are all about people, about us. If they weren’t we wouldn’t be able to make sense of them and we certainly wouldn’t enjoy them.
The most vivid, “real” depictions of my high school years I’ve ever read were in Holly Black’s Modern Faery Tale books, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside. Yes, as I read them I recognised my own teenage life. Holly captured the angst and depression and love and friendship I experienced back then more closely than any other books I’ve read, realist or fantasy. Those books feels so emotionally real that when I read them my teen years come flooding back and along with them tears, buckets of tears.
Secondly, what exactly is wrong with escapism?
I don’t know about you but I have zero interest in reading any novel, no matter it’s genre, that isn’t going to open a window onto a different world; a book that doesn’t give me a few hours away from my own life. Because even if a book is set where I live, with a character my race, class, and roughly my age—they’re still not me. Their life is still not my life. Reading about them is still an escape.
Thirdly, how exactly does contemporary realism not provide escapism?
I mean, come on, you can call it “realism” till the cows come home but most people’s lives do not fit into the arc of a novel with all the right beats, with no boring bits, and a climax that leads to the neat ending.
Novels have a structure; life doesn’t. Reading contemporary realism, or a memoir for that matter, is a total escape from most of our lives. When I was a teen books were a wonderful escape even when they were contemporary realism written by the likes of S. E. Hinton.
Fourthly, whose reality are we talking about?
Many of these acclaimed YA contemporary realist novels are set in all-white worlds, where everyone is heterosexual, and speaks English. My world is not all-white, not all-straight, and every day I hear languages other than English spoken.
In most of these YA contemporary realist novels people rarely have discussions about politics, or their favourite tv shows, or who to follow on twitter, or any of the things that most of the people living in my particular contemporary reality talk about every day. How is not writing about any of that realistic?
Way back when I was reading S. E. Hinton in Sydney, Australia, her books might as well have been science fiction. Nobody I knew talked like those teens or acted much like them either. It was a whole other world she was describing. I had no idea what a “greaser” or a “soc” was except from the context of the book. Yet I still loved those books. I still related. Much as I related to Pride and Prejudice, Go Tell it on the Mountain and The Nargun and the Stars. Three books that had almost nothing in common with my everyday life as a white teenager in Sydney, Australia.
I have nothing against contemporary realism. Why, I even wrote one and am currently writing another. But give me a break. They are no more “real” than any other genre. They’re fiction. They’re definitionally full of stuff we writers made up. That’s our job! It’s pretty insulting to writers of realist novels to imply that they’re just holding up a mirror and writing down what they see, that they have no imagination unlike those crazy writers of fantasy and science fiction. We’re all in the story telling business no matter what modes and genres we choose to tell particular stories.
Besides which sometimes dragons and vampires and zombies are as emotionally real as the supposed reality of those books that are classified as realism.
Trust me, readers can relate to dragons and vampires and zombies every bit as much as they can to teens with dysfunctional families. Shockingly such teens appear in both fantastical and realistic novels.
TL;DR: Your reality may not be other people’s reality. All stories, no matter their genre, are about people. People relate to other people even when they’re disguised as dragons. Contemporary realism does not have a monopoly on what is real. Nor do fantasy or science fiction or any other genre have a monopoly on imagination.
Welcome to the Janus Silang blog tour! Si Janus Silang at ang Tiyanak ng Tabon
is a new Filipino young adult novel written by Edgar Calabia Samar
and published by Adarna House
. We're kicking off the blog tour with a cover reveal and first chapter preview.
Check out the cover below!
Here is a blurb about the novel:
Sa tournament ng TALA Online sa bayan ng Balanga, namatay ang lahat ng manlalaro maliban kay Janus. Sunod-sunod pa ang naging kaso ng pagkamatay ng mga kabataan sa computer shops sai ba’t ibang panig ng bansa. Kinontak si Janus ng nagpakilalang Joey, isa rin umano sa mga nakaligtas sa paglalaro ng TALA na gaya niya. Hindi inasahan ni Janus ang mga matutuklasan niya mula rito na mag-uugnay sa kanya sa misteryo ng kinahuhumalingan niyang RPG—at sa alamat ng Tiyanak mula sa Tábon!
And ohohoho you can read the first chapter here
Edgar Calabia Samar will be at National Book Store SM North on May 10 at 3 p.m. Please join us for the book signing and book discussion!
Links:Janus Silang blog tour scheduleJanus Silang on Facebook Janus Silang on Wattpad
The Philippine Boardon Books for Young People (PBBY) formally launches the KABANATA Young Adult Writer’s Workshop with a call for fellowship applications. Slated to begin in October 2014 in Quezon City, KABANATA aims to provide a venue and support system to writers who share in PBBY’s commitment to the promotion of a culture of reading among Filipino youth by providing this growing population with books that recognize their culture, aspirations, and sense of maturity.
For a period of at least six months, fellows accepted to KABANATA will meet monthly for learning sessions with industry experts, and progress discussions with their co-fellows. Upon novel completion, PBBY will help fellows with publication by inviting publishers to bid on the finished works. With this, KABANATA hopes to produce chapter books and young adult novels that will set the bar for similar endeavors to aspire to, and be the growth spurt of what will hopefully become a thriving, diverse, and quality Filipino literature inventory for kids and teens.
Applicants are asked to submit, among other requirements, a novel-in-progress represented by three chapters and a chapter outline. Novels-in-progress should be aimed towards children within the age of 9 to 16. Those interested may visit pbby.org.ph or bit.ly/kabanata to see the application guidelines, fellowship requirements, and complete workshop details. For further inquiries, contact KABANATA via firstname.lastname@example.org or (02) 352-6765 local 119.
The Philippine Board on Books for Young People (PBBY) is a private, non-stock, non-profit organization committed to the development and promotion of children’s literature in the Philippines and is the lead agency in the annual celebration of National Children’s Book Day (NCBD), which falls on the third Tuesday of July.
By: Jen Robinson
Blog: Jen Robinson
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Twitter Links
, book awards
, book lists
, children's literacy
, growing bookworms
, young adult literature
, Add a tag
By: Jen Robinson
Blog: Jen Robinson
(Login to Add to MyJacketFlap
, Twitter Links
, book awards
, book lists
, children's literature
, fly guy
, growing bookworms
, young adult literature
, Add a tag
Here are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. As we near the end of the year, there are lots and lots of lists! Also several posts with book and literacy-themed gift ideas. Of course any of the book lists could be a fertile source for gift ideas, too. (And don't miss MotherReader's 150 Ways to Give a Book, updated for 2013.)
Book Lists and Awards
The 2013 @HornBook Fanfare list is here, #picturebooks, fiction, and nonfiction http://ow.ly/rsgkK via @tashrow #kidlit
The finalists for the 2014 William C. Morris Award... in #yalit, from @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/rsbw5
Favourite reads of 2013 as chosen by 25 (children’s) authors and illustrators (and @playbythebook ) http://ow.ly/rqn64 #kidlit
The Stacked #yalit genre of the month is Humor http://ow.ly/rqigr
Two thumbs up for the ALSC Tween Book List from Stacy Dillon. I like it too, and I love tween books http://ow.ly/rqgqe #kidlit
The #kidlit + #yalit Categories for the 2013 GoodReads Choice Awards, reported by @tashrow http://ow.ly/rqh4t
Children's Literature at the SSHE Library: Winter Wonderland: Books About Snow and Cold http://ow.ly/rnp5b #kidlit
A varied list: Best Teen Books of 2013 from @KirkusReviews http://ow.ly/rnnSI via @bkshelvesofdoom #yalit
20 Magical Children's Christmas Books To Read Aloud from @buzzfeed http://ow.ly/ruY0K via @PWKidsBookshelf #kidlit
Top Ten Hanukkah Picture Books for Elementary Classroom Read-Alouds | Raising Great Readers with Great Books http://ow.ly/rl0RH
Our 2nd Nerdversary and The 2013 Nerdy Award Finalists | @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/rl0kf
Better late than never! Shop #Cybils for Black Friday (or CyberMonday, or anytime) http://ow.ly/rl1br
Looking for unique gifts? “Lunch Lady” Author @StudioJJK Hosts Scholarship Auction for Art Education | @sljournal http://ow.ly/ruQnT
Another #YAlit subscription service, this one from @soho_press + why @bkshelvesofdoom loves subscriptions! http://ow.ly/rqfrA
Why You Should Give a Book and Help Raise a Reader, from @SheilaRuth with links to book ideas like @MotherReader http://ow.ly/rqf94
Fun stuff! Top 10 #Literacy Stocking Stuffers for Kids from @growingbbb http://ow.ly/rl0XV
Great idea from @LiteracyLaunch | Have kids help hunt for books by call no. at the library http://ow.ly/ruV1w
YES! Mo Willems @The_Pigeon on how parents can create readers: "Just make it fun" http://ow.ly/ruXb0 @OnParenting via @PWKidsBookshelf
#Literacy Ideas + Book Recommendations for the Christmas Season from @ReadingTub http://ow.ly/rqhbN
Expanding Our Ideas About What it Mean to Be a Reader (with audiobooks) | @clareandtammy @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/rffTm
I could relate to @StaceyLoscalzo's daughter asking for "Books With a Story, Please"http://ow.ly/ruWgM #literacy
#Kidlit fans, check out the November Carnival of Children’s Literature Roundup | Lindsey McDivitt http://ow.ly/rkZjv
On Reading and Writing
Happily Ever After? — @lizb muses on #yalit romance and whether readers require a happy ending http://ow.ly/rnoFT
Wherefore Art Thou Fly Guy Read Alikes? asks @100scopenotes (early readers w/ attention-grabbing characters) http://ow.ly/ruWzw #kidlit
Programs, Events, and Research
JK Rowling + Henry Winkler among top 10 #literacy heroes named by charity http://ow.ly/ruXw7 @BBCNews via @PWKidsBookshelf
Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day Returns December 7th http://ow.ly/rdq6z via @PublishersWkly
Guys Lit Wire: Spread Some Holiday Good Cheer With Ballou High School & Pledge To Read 5 Books With the Students http://ow.ly/rffHF
Timely! The 2014 National Latino Children’s Literature Conference is coming reports @fuseeight http://ow.ly/ruWoN #kidlit
Schools and Libraries
Questions Matter! Helping Children (& Teachers) to Ask Good Ones by @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/rsbje #literacy
For those looking to hold great storytines, @lochwouters links to a Storytime Brain Trust http://ow.ly/rsa5t #literacy #libraries
Does your library offer a Winter Reading Club for kids? @abbylibrarian describes hers at @alscblog http://ow.ly/rs8Do
A great idea for building family #literacy: Bedtime Reading at School by Jenny Orr @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/rqhWr
author, author! | Advice from @himissjulie on arranging author visits at libraries http://ow.ly/rqg3U
Sad. Thoughts from @himissjulie on being suspect as a childless woman who works with kids in a professional capacity http://ow.ly/rl0xu
On sharing your reading life with students, to get them hooked on reading | @DebKrygeris@KirbyLarson http://ow.ly/ruVUq
© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
Nominations for the 2013 Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards (the Cybils), open tomorrow, October 1st, and run through October 15th. Now is your chance to show a bit of love for the children's and YA books that you've loved over the past year. The link to the nomination form will be live at Cybils.com at 12:00 a.m. PST on October 1 (late tonight, for any West Coast night owls).
You can find all of the details at the Cybils FAQ page. Here are a few highlights:
- Anyone may nominate one book per genre during the public nomination period. We ask authors, publishers and publicists to wait until after the public nomination period ends to submit their own books. [Authors and publishers may use the public form to nominate books other than their own during the regular nomination period.]
- For 2013, only books released between Oct. 16, 2012 and Oct. 15, 2013 are eligible. Books that were eligible or nominated in previous years are not eligible for nomination this year unless significantly revised (at least 20% of the book is changed.) The Cybils only accepts titles published specifically for the youth market.
- Multiple nominations of the same book do not help that book's chances. In fact, the nomination form is designed to only accept the first nomination of a book.
- The nominated titles will be displayed as quickly as possible on the Cybils blog, in the following categories:
Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction
Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Middle Grade Fiction
Elementary & Middle-Grade Nonfiction
Young Adult Nonfiction
Young Adult Fiction
It's Cybils season, folks. Spend some time tonight thinking about your favorite recent, well-written, kid-friendly titles in the above categories. Then come back tomorrow and start nominating! This is your chance to show your appreciation to the authors and publishers who create wonderful books, and to help kids all over the English-speaking world find great titles.
* promote the creation of Malaysian stories for children and teenagers,
* reward excellence of Malaysian content in fiction for children and teenagers,
* and support Malaysians writing for children and teenagers.
The Calistro Prize 2013 is now open for entries! To be eligible for the prize, stories should be original and unpublished works of at least 6,000 words, written in English, set in Malaysia, and Malaysian in content. Translations of original unpublished works are also welcome.
Only one entry per writer is allowed and the closing date for entries is September 30, 2013. The results will be announced on December 31, 2013.
The winning story will receive RM8,000 in cash, a medal, and a certificate. Two stories may win merit awards, each with a cash prize of RM1,000, a medal, and a certificate.
for all the rules and regulations of the Calistro Prize 2013!
In early March I will be at the Adelaide Writers Week. Which is the oldest and most prestigey writers festival in all of Australia.
I’ve never been before. Indeed, I’ve never done any events in Adelaide unless you count going to a friend’s wedding.
Here are my events:
SEXUAL POLITICS: JUSTINE LARBALESTIER, BRYONY LAVERY, CHIKA UNIGWE
ADELAIDE WRITERS’ WEEK – MONDAY, MARCH 4 2013
West Stage, 3.45pm
As the debate about what it means to be a feminist is ongoing, this session brings together three writers, all of whom identify as feminists. Justine Larbalestier is a YA and fantasy writer, playwright Bryony Lavery is the author of iconic works including Thursday, and Chika Unigwe is the author of the novel On Black Sister’s Street, about a group of African women in the sex trade.
This panel marks the first time I’ve ever been on a panel with writers for grown ups (i.e. whose audience is presumed to be primarily adults, as opposed to mine which is presumed to be mostly teens) at a literary festival. I think it’s wonderful that there’s a festival in the world that is actively breaking down boundaries between genres and writers and readers. Honestly, I was so surprised when I saw this I thought they’d made a mistake. Then I looked at the whole programme. And, lo, it’s full of such inter-genre cross over panels. Way to go, AWF, way to go!
My other event is:
GIRL POWER: ISOBELLE CARMODY, JUSTINE LARBALESTIER, VIKKI WAKEFIELD
ADELAIDE WRITERS’ WEEK – SUNDAY, MARCH 3 2013
West Stage, 2.30pm
The readership for YA fiction continues to grow and grow. Yet for young women today questions of identity, sexuality and friendship remain as problematic as ever. This session asks – how do women write for girls? Join Isobelle Carmody, author of the Obernewtyn Chronicles, Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar, and Vikki Wakefield, author of Friday Brown for a spirited conversation about women and words.
Isobelle is one of Australia’s most popular YA fantasy writers. Her fans span generations and all clutch her books to their chests like they are precious babies. She’s wonderful and funny and genuinely does not think like anyone else I have ever met. I did a panel with her at last year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival and it truly was awesome. Mostly because of Isobelle. So if you’re in Adelaide you want to see this.
I’m looking forward to meeting Vikki Wakefield. I’ve heard good things about her debut novel All I Ever Wanted. Yes, it’s true, not all Australian YA authors know each other. But we’ll fix that after a few more festival appearances.
I like that they list all the panellists’ nationalities. I was excited when I saw there was a USian on both my panels. But a little bewildered when I looked the other panellists up and discovered none of them were from the USA. I’d been looking forward to asking where they were from, and if they knew NYC or any of the other cities I know, we could compare notes. Which is when I realised that I am the USian on those panels.
In my defense I’ve only been a US citizen for a year. It’s easy to forget.
TL;DR: I will be in Adelaide in early March. Come to my panels!
When I tell people outside of the publishing world that I write middle grade fiction I usually get a blank stare. When I say I write children's books, even children's novels, people's minds go straight to picture books.
So, needless to say, it was with great interest that I saw the NY Times' announcement that they will be splitting the children's bestseller list into middle grade and young adult
. Whew! Hopefully this will raise awareness for the wonders of middle grade, which, if you aren't familiar with the term, is for children roughly 8-12 years old.
What do you think of the change?
Within every story there are stories, and this morning I am deeply blessed by the chance, in Shelf Awareness
, to remember my grandmother and to reflect on the passion I have for creating young adult stories in which time works differently. Jennifer Brown, the children's book review editor for Shelf Awareness
, opened this door to me. Her kindness toward me and Small Damages
has been remarkable.
Pictured above is my beautiful grandmother, whom I lost on Mischief Night when I was nine. She sits beside my grandfather, who holds my brother on his lap. I am sitting with my beloved Uncle Danny. My mother's family. Sweet memories.
Thank you, Jenny Brown and Shelf Awareness
. These are the opening words of my Inklings essay. The rest can be found here
My books for young adults are frequently shaped by relationships between those who have so much wanting yet ahead and those looking back, with pain and wonder. Time works differently in books like these, and so does memory.
NPR recently released a list of Readers' Top 100 YA Novels
, and The Atlantic wasn't the only one to notice how female authors dominated the field
More than 75,000 votes were cast to cull the list of 235 finalists to the top 100. Also notable: Of those 235 titles, 147 (or 63 percent) were written by women—a parity that would seem like a minor miracle in some other genres. Female authors took the top three slots, and an approximately equal share of the top 100. As a comparison, you'd have to scroll all the way to number 20 on last summer's Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy list to find a woman's name (Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley).
First off, I don't want anyone to read concern into this post. I don't think this is a problem. It's just interesting. It's also not a rout -- in the top 100 it's still 50/50, though when you remove classics the trend is more stark.
I can think of any number of reasons why women might dominate young adult fiction, everything from institutional explanations (children's publishers are overwhelmingly staffed by women) to genre (teen romance) to psychology (more on that in a minute), but I'm not sure any of them feel like a totally satisfactory explanation.
I think it's equally curious when you consider that middle grade (for 8-12 year olds) is a place where male writers still have some of the most popular series: Wimpy Kid, Series of Unfortunate Events, Rangers Apprentice, Fablehaven.
The only explanation I can come up for that, back to the psychology, is that middle grade is a time when men have their formative taste-creation time (take it from me: what guys like at age 12 is pretty much what they like at age 32), whereas for women maybe high school is more formative? So maybe men are more likely to gravitate to middle grade?
What do you think? Why are there so many more female YA writers?
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More than any other writers we YA writers get grief over our subject matter. We are frequently told that we should not be writing about subjects such as sex, drugs, cutting, suicide, anorexia nervosa, etc. because our audience is vulnerable and easily swayed and it is our duty of care not to lead them down such scary paths.
Now, there are a tonne of smart, cogent ripostes to this argument. But I just want to say that we YA authors do not have a duty of care. It is not the job of YA writers to teach or guide teenagers. That is their parents’ and guardians’ job. Their teachers’ and coaches’ job.
Our only duty is to write the best and most truthful stories we can.
Which is, frankly, hard enough without taking on responsibility for the world’s teenagers. Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. I salute all you parents! It’s way harder than writing YA books. So imagine how hard it would be if we YA writers really were responsible for all the teenagers who read our books? We would all die.
Too often those adults with the duty of care look to us to not write things they consider inappropriate for the teenagers they are looking out for. How on Earth can we YA writers be the judge of that? I don’t know your teenager. I don’t know what will freak them out. Frankly, the teenagers I do know are not freaked out by what I write. I’m freaked out by more stuff than they are.
Sometimes I don’t think parents know what will freak out their teenagers either. And I say this because parents I know have told me they have no idea what goes on in their teenagers’ minds. Somehow they think that because I write for teenagers I might have some helpful hints for gauging the mysteries of the teenage mind.
Sorry. Teenagers are as varied as adults. Half the time I barely know what’s in my mind, let alone anyone else’s.
To be totally honest I mostly write for the teenager I was and the adult I am. I write stories that interest and engage me. That those stories fall into the publishing niche that is YA is a happy accident. And that some teenagers find them entertaining/useful/inspiring/whatever is an even happier accident.
I am sorry that we YA writers are not portraying the kind of world you think is suitable for your teenagers. But I have a solution. Why not write your own books?
Why not write the world the way you want it without all the bits you find objectionable, without any scary conflict, or teenagers doing things you wish they wouldn’t? And then every time the teenagers in your life pick up what you consider to be the wrong kind of book you can give them yours instead. Who knows? Maybe it will be a bestseller and start a whole new genre.
I’m not going to link to where I saw this particular bizarre notion. Mostly because it’s not something that’s found in one place. I’ve come across the same sentiment in various locations offline and on- over the last ten or so years. So it’s kind of irrelevant who said it most recently.
But here’s gist of the argument:
YA writers only do it for the money. They don’t care about the effect their [insert negative adjective] work has on children only about making money.
I’m fascinated that this argument gets made at all ever. I don’t know a single writer who became a writer to make money. Everyone I know is a writer because they can’t not be a writer. It’s a compulsion. A vocation. Something they do whether they’re paid for it or not. This is true across genres.
The idea of becoming a YA writer to make bank? Crazy.
Most of the YA writers I know don’t make enough money from writing books to do it full-time. They have other jobs. Those writers I do know who earn enough to write full-time, like myself, are not exactly rolling in the big bucks. Gina Rinehart would not bend over to pick up what I make in a year. And, frankly, most of us full-time YA writers can’t believe our good fortune. We know way too many brilliant writers who aren’t making enough to do it full-time. We are very aware of how lucky we are.
I know only a handful of writers who are earning what I consider to be big money from writing YA novels. They are the tiny minority. And the odds of them continuing to make that kind of money in a decade’s or twenty year’s time is pretty low. Look at the bestselling books of 10, 15, 20 years ago. Very few of those books are still selling now. Making good money from writing books and continuing to do so for a lifetime? Very rare.
If someone really decided to become a YA novelist solely to make big money then they’re an idiot with incredibly poor research skills. Choosing to write novels—in any genre—as a path to riches is about as smart as buying lottery tickets to achieve the same.
But for the sake of argument, let’s imagine that YA writers are all making vast bucketloads of cash. How does making lots of money for writing books automatically mean you will do it contemptously of your audience? Where does that idea come from?
I’m particularly bewildered because the vast majority of people who make this argument are from the USA. Isn’t making loads of money supposed to be a good thing in the USA? Something you should be proud of? Something that qualifies you to run for president?
It swiftly becomes apparent that it’s artists, not just writers, but any kind of artist, who shouldn’t earn money from their work. Apparently money taints art or something. I’ve never quite understood the logic of this argument. Personally, I’ve always thought that starvation puts the biggest crimp on creating art. You know, on account of how it leads to death. It is incredibly hard to create art while dead or while living in poverty. Art’s something that’s much easier to do when survival is not the biggest issue facing you every day.
The fact that there are people out there living in poverty who still manage to create art fills me with awe. People are amazing. But that does not make poverty a necessary condition
Cassandra Clare has written an important piece called Rape Myths, Rape Culture and the Damage Done. If you haven’t read it already you really should. Be warned: she discusses much which is deeply upsetting.
What I want to briefly comment on here is the notion that to write about rape or war or any other terrible thing is to automatically condone it. Cassie writes:
[T]he most important point to be made here is that to depict something is not to condone it. This is a mistake that is made all the time by people who you would think would know better. Megan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, for instance, excoriated YA books for being too dark, zoning in specifically on “Suzanne Collins’s hyper-violent, best-selling Hunger Games trilogy” and Lauren Myracle’s Shine, which depicts a hate crime against a gay teenager. Anyone paying any attention, of course, can tell that while violence is depicted in the Hunger Games, it is hardly endorsed. It is, in fact, a treatise against violence and war, just as Shine is a treatise against violence and hate crimes. Gurdon notes only the content of the books and ignores the context, which is a unfortunate mistake for a book reviewer. If the only people in the book who approve of something are the villains (nobody but the bad guys thinks the Hunger Games are anything but a moral evil) then it is a fair bet the book is about how that thing is bad.
What Cassie said. If you follow that argument through to its logical conclusion than we who write books marketed at teenagers must not write about conflict. We must only write upbeat, happy books in which no one is hurt or upset and nothing bad ever happens. But even that would not be enough because I have seen books like Maureen Johnson’s The Bermudez Triangle described as “dark.” A gentle, funny, wry book about two girls who fall in love is dark? I’ve seen other upbeat, happy books described as “dark” because the protags have (barely described at all) sex.
The complaint that YA books are too “dark” usually does not come from teenagers. Teenagers write and complain to me that there’s no sequel to my standalone books, that there should be four or five books in my trilogy, that I take too long to write books, that I’m mean about unicorns, that zombies DO NOT rule, that they hated that I don’t make it clear what really happened in Liar, that Liar made them throw the book across the room, that their name is Esmeralda/Jason/Andrew so why did I have to make the character with that name in my books so mean, that one of the Fibonacci numbers in Magic Lessons isn’t, in fact, a Fibonacci. I also get the occasional complaint that their teacher made them read my book when it SUCKED OUT LOUD. People, that is SO NOT MY FAULT! BLAME YOUR TEACHER!