So for the part of this week that I haven’t been fighting off a particularly savage cold, I have been at the Melbourne Writers Festival and at Aussie Con 4. I will talk about these two things separately, because even as I divide them down the middle I know that there will still be far to much for me to really recap.

The panels that I was on for Auscon4 were as follows:

Thu 1500 “Border crossing: YA authors writing for adults and vice versa”
                 (Alison Goodman, Marianne de Pierres, and Cory Doctorow with myself as chair)
And we’re off! This panel was in the first timeslot of the con after the opening presentation. I wasn’t sure what kind of crowd to expect or really what to expect from the session at all. It was, as were all of the sessions that I saw and participated in, lively and informative. Books that have a crossover appeal have come up frequently this week and it was fascinating to gain perspective on the matter from three such different authors.

I have met Alison before, and was very excited to hear that her sequel to Eon is not far away. Cory’s bookLittle Brother, had me spellbound last year, with his edgy ideas of a government controlled reality far too close for comfort. Marianne de Pierre’s first crossover novel Burn Bright is due out in March 2011.

So, things to note from this discussion; that spec fic is one of the best genre’s to crossover in because the audience is more likely to read based on a quality story and less likely to typecast the book or author; cover’s and marketing matter; the primary elements that a writer should be more aware of when writing for young adults are sex and violence, and even then it is skillful handling rather than avoidance that matters; the assumption that young adult fiction is somehow of a lower standard than adult fiction is foolish and outdated and; when describing sex in a young adult forum use nouns not appendages (Alison Goodman)

Thu 1600 “Wrought from the very living rock: Worldbuilding in YA spec fic”
                 (D. M. Cornish, Lara Morgan and Juliet Marillier with myself as chair)

This was a fascinating panel looking at the way that these three spec fic authors approach the creation of the worlds that their novels take place in. With three authors coming from such varied positions it was bound to be an interesting discussion.

D. M. Cornish is the author of the bestselling, CBCA award winning series Monster Blood Tattoo. His books take place in a very detailed world, that comes entirely from David’s imagination. In a Tolkien-esque way, the world of Monster Blood Tattoo was created long before the stories were. When they were turned into the trilogy that we now all know and love (Factotum is coming so so soon!). He works with maps and contradictions, but is strangely precise about small details, for example there are no dragons in his novels, so there are no dragonflies. I loved that little detail. The world of Monster Blood Tattoo is totally imaginary, and so even though David is still exploring it, piece by piece, the landscape fully exists within his imagination.

On the other hand, the lovely Juliet Marillier works largely within our world. Her fantasy is created in real times throughout history but with a touch of extra magic and myth, the hint of the supernatural. Like David, Juliet (and Lara, who I will get to shortly) is quite fanatical about details. Juliet’s details are historical, and it is certainly true that while readers are willing to accept a strange beastie walking alongside them, they will be instantly expelled from the spell of reading if they are faced with a technology that they know is from another time.

And in another way entirely, Lara Morgan (who is the author of the upcoming YA series The Rose Black Chronicles) is inspired to create a world that is in many ways a futuristic version of our own. She takes issues that she is passionate about, like the climate change crisis, merges them with places that have stuck in her memory and imagination, and then adds a dash of magic.

Such different creative paths, with such wonderful results.

Fri 1100  “We’re all connected, all the time: Blogs and social networking in the world of YA spec fic.”
                 (Lili Wilkinson, Megan Burke, Bec Kavanagh, Mif Farquharson (chair))

I have to admit that I was a little nervous going into this panel. Although I know books like the back of my hand, and I am quite capable of using a computer and the big social networking sites, blogging and tweeting are still fairly new to me. I get the basics, but I’m still a bit hazy on the finer details.

What I do know, is readers, how they have grown, how they communicate, and most of all, what they read. And so, directed by the wonderful Mif Farquharson, and inspired by the comments from the lovely Lili Wilkinson and Megan Burke, we talked about what blogging and tweeting can do for readers.

And what can it do for readers? The key points that I believe came out of this discussion were these

1. Social networking creates community.Communities which read and then discuss books.
2. Tweeting allows us to remotely access our authors and for authors, our fans. What could be better than a virtual tour to a convention that you can’t attend (Neil Gaiman at MWF) or being able to participate in an event if you are a regional school or library who cannot actually attend.
3. Like attracts like, readers will blog about what they like, other readers will be connected based on shared likes and suddenly we have a whole audience sharing their interests and favourite titles.
4. Social networking allows readers to participate in the act of reading. How great is that? Gone are the days of sitting in the corner, reading alone, now we read together!

Sun 1000 “YA speculative fiction: industry overview and insights”
                  (Zoe Walton, Kate Forsyth, Bec Kavanagh, Helen Merrick (chair))

Oh what a wonderful final panel to be on. I felt so at home in this panel that I think we could have gone on for hours and hours.

The fact that this panel was a general industry overview gave us quite a bit of free reign to just talk about why we all love books so much and the ways that we can maintain that strength within YA lit. Thanks to Helen Merrick for being a great chair, and creating such a casual, open atmosphere, and thanks for Kate and Zoe for being so warm and open with their passion for books and the industry.

The audience for this session (and kudos to you all for making it in at 10am on a Sunday morning) were so attentive, and incredibly engaged. We talked about everything from our favourite authors to blogging, community, trends and more and I came out feeling alive and inspired by a shared love of books.

One more day tomorrow, and I can just relax and watch a few sessions and then on to getting my book out there. I have no doubt that next year’s round of book type events will come all too soon, and I don’t want to waste a single second in the meantime!

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