This year, the Sydney Writer’s Festival held its annual All-Day YA events at the Riverside Theatre, Parramatta. The entire day was dedicated to the books and writers of Young Adult books. There were also a few overseas Young Adult authors as guests for some of the events. These were Sarah Crossan, Jennifer Niven, Markio Tamaki and Rupi Kaur.
Ambassador for the day was Little Book Owl also known as Catriona and as the ambassador, she hosted and held court for some of the events, and is the go to booknerd queen we all wish to be.
With a tantalisingly smell of freshly popped popcorn as you walked through the theatre doors first thing in the morning, I made a bee line to the Gleebooks stand holding court in the theatre foyer. With books from all the Young Adult authors who were guests for the day, there were a lot of books to choose from. The highly anticipated Begin End Begin #LoveOZYa Anthology was a must buy for most event goers for the day.
I attended the All-Day YA with my mother, sister and a good friend of mine. We picked the five events we wanted to go to when we booked our tickets and could wait for the fun to start.
The first event we went to was the #LoveOzYa Anthology: Begin, End, Begin panel, hosted by Danielle Binks with guests Gabrielle Tozer, Will Kostakis, Jaclyn Moriarty and Amie Kaufman. For the next hour, all five of them talked about the importance of storytelling, how more Australian Young Adult books should be turned into television shows instead of just reality television for us to watch. And although all of them are Australian, they encourage us to support Australian Young Adult novels over American Young Adult novels, because they are just as good if not even better.
With a quick hit of coffee after the first event from the cute little truck shop outside in the courtyard, I dodge the signing lines as they were way to big, and hot chocolate was definitely needed. With a photo booth wall, a DJ playing in the corner, tables with Jenga piled up high to be played and two food trucks to get food from, the courtyard was a buzz between events.
Event number two was Keeping Company; Characters Across a Series hosted by the ambassador herself, with guests James Bradley, Amie Kaufman, Garth Nix and Lynette Noni. Together they agreed that if the writer believes in the character, then the reader will also believe in the character. Garth Nix stated that ‘young adult books are for adults, just younger ones’ and that should be respected. It’s important to get to know your character according to Lynette Noni, but James Bradley likes it when he starts writing and the characters come to him. If there was one thing to take away from this panel, it would have to be one thing that James Bradley said but all the guest agreed on, ‘that books are there to make people feel something’.
With a bit of a bigger gap in-between the second and third events, everyone ate lunch. Well I did anyway. I got a sausage from the sausage food truck which made a great pork and fennel sausage with tomato sauce and provolone cheese. People still lined up for more signatures.
Event three was More Than Meets the Eye: Diversity in YA Fiction. Hosted by one of my favourite authors Sarah Ayoub she was joined on stage by Randa Abdel-Fattah, Erin Gough and Will Kostakis. They talked about everything from homosexual writers to homosexual character, politics, the burden of writing heavy topics, the stereotypes for the authors and their characters. There was an over-arching sense of hurt during this event as all the authors on stage have gone through some difficult things. But there was one thing that struck accord with me that Randa Abdel-Fattah said towards the end, that she has ‘never hated or loved as much as she did when she was a teenager’.
Event number four after having some of the popcorn we had been smelling all day long was Defying Expectation: How Do Female Writers Defy Stereotypes. Hosted by Bec Kavanagh with guests Amie Kaufman, J.C. Burke and Mariko Tamaki. Amie started the panel with a reading of two disgusting emails she has received about her writing. The emails were shocking and just the start of a heated conversation about the hard things women and girls go through in the publishing industry because they are women. They also talked about the concept of ‘emotional labour’ which Amie explained for us all.
The last event of the day was of course Teen Con 2017 and it was hosted by the one and only Will Kostakis. This guy lights up the darkest of rooms and can make even the most boring thing come to life. The event was a chance for publishing houses to stand up and tell us all the new and exciting young adult books coming out soon. There were also a few games the whole audience played for the chance of winning books. Questions were also asked at the end.
*I am going to write a whole other post specifically about the books that will be coming out*
The entire day was a combination of interesting, insightful and inspiring. The Ambassador of the day worked to make sure everyone was having an enjoyable time, which we are mighty thankful. The Sydney Writer’s Festival volunteers looked out for everyone and helped if anyone needed a hand. The food, coffee, popcorn, photo booth and books given out at Teencon were all a great big bonus.
If you have been to YA day for Sydney Writer’s Festival you know just how great the entire day is, even if you do feel like you have a bookish hangover the next day. If you haven’t then you need to get to one of these days, they will make you smile, and of course empty your bank account as there are many books on offer.
I can’t wait to see what next year’s Sydney Writer’s Festival is going to have on offer.