I actually went and did a little "Professional Development" the other day, dragging myself into the city to attend a Teacher/Librarian do that Readings Hawthorn hosted. The evening consisted of four fabulous Australian YA authors talking on their latest middle years and YA offerings (and there was also wine!).
I didn't really know what to expect, but I certainly didn't expect to walk out of there feeling as inspired as I did. It was awesome, and really quite uplifting.
Emily Gale and Leanne Hall tackled the difficulties of writing for those odd middle years - not really a kid, but not quite a teenager. If you can cast your minds back (I found it hard) it's a time when your folks are expecting you to act more mature, and you're feeling more mature, but no one is really giving you any credit or independence. How do you reach that readership, and as an adult write something that doesn't sound either too simple, or like you're talking down to them? A fine balance indeed. They also tackled the topic of diversity in middle fiction, is there enough? Or are we still walking down the tired path of middle-class anglo? I talked about this in a post a while back, so I won't cover it again, but I remember when I started high school - my group of friends were from Sri Lanka, what was then Czechoslovakia, England and China (as well as Australia, of course). We all read books, but I would say my mates from Sri Lanka, Czech and China probably weren't represented in what we were reading. That was 25 years ago people. We should have made some progress by now!
The most excellent Lili Wilkinson and Jay Kristoff discussed their latest offerings to YA, and talked a lot about the representation of strong female protagonists in their books. The discussion focused on the pleasure of writing strong, positive and optimistic characters, even when they are faced with overwhelming difficulties. The ongoing popularity of the dystopian genre was covered, and it was pointed out that despite the doom and gloom settings, the backdrop of misery acts as a canvas to allow the positive traits of the characters to shine - showing that one person does have the power to change the world.
My colleague and I walked out of there with renewed inspiration for spreading the message of how important and fulfilling reading can be. We were walking on air (albeit weighed down by a ton of books that we bought for the library), and we certainly had a renewed appreciation of why our schools should get to #loveozya (http://loveozya.com.au)