From the MWF program: Shifting schools smack bang in the middle of term - and in your final year of high school - is a nightmare scenario. It's bad enough fitting in with kids you already know, never mind a bunch of strangers. To make things worse, Ava may or may not be gay, and when Amelia and Riley show up, they create havoc for their new fellow students and teachers alike. Lili Wilkinson (Pink) and Jacqui Moriarty (Dreaming of Amelia) explore the pressures of conforming, sorting out who the heck you are, and trying to do it all before your 16th birthday.
This session was moved to ACMI 2 due to big ticket sales (yay) and was chaired by Chris Gordon from Readings. For some reason I didn't take as many notes on this session (I think it was because I'd written about 12 pages from the first two and my hand was le tired).
- Jaclyn Moriarty comes from a law background (which I feel like I did know, but had forgotten). She had a law degree but didn't really want to be a lawyer, so she went on to study more law overseas. Whilst in the London, she made a secret pact with herself that she would try to get a book published, and if she didn't she'd then become a lawyer. She sent out the manuscript for Feeling Sorry for Celia to London agents but without success, so she came home to be a lawyer. Later, when working as a lawyer in Sydney, she sent it to an agent here who signed her up and found a publisher (I always enjoy hearing how writers found their agent / publisher).
- Lili then spoke about Pink. I have to say I can totally see why Lili gets booked for so many school visits (14 visits at 10 schools in Book Week according to her blog), as she has a way of talking about her writing in such an entertaining and engaging way that the teen audience seemed to really respond to.
- Both authors read an excerpt from their books. Lili's was very animated and Jaclyn's passage (from Dreaming of Amelia in Emily's point of view) also got a lot of laughs from the audience.
- It was bought up that both novels have a focus on school plays and why that was. Both authors said that it was a great way to create conflict and tension (teenagers working long hours in close quarters is bound to make drama). Jaclyn spoke about the way that the play worked as an effective narrative device for her (it gave her an excuse for the characters to be at the school late at night etc) and Lili mentioned she was in stage crew herself.
- The point about school productions lead to a really interesting comment (though my silly notes don't indicate exactly who said it - sorry!) that a lot of YA authors maybe didn't have the best experiences as teenagers themselves, so when they go back and get to "do it again and do it right".
- Another excellent point of discussion was that both works centre around strong young women who are "firey, indignant, in a fury". Lili made, which I thought was an excellent comment, that there are "too many Bellas out there" and Jaclyn spoke of "angry young women who don't know how to use their anger". Chris bought up the idea that in older books angry girls were 'naughty' and would then have to be punished (like Enid Blyton's Naughtiest Girl in School series) and how refreshing it is for contemporary writers to embrace these young women.
- Also discussed was the importance of friendship in both novels and the way these friendships travels out of the schoolyard (in Dreaming of Amelia - Chris mentioned the way the girls keep their conversations going outside of school, like on Emily's blog).
- There were some great questions at the end of the session - someone asked if there was a character that the authors particularly love or hate, and how readers respond to their characters. Jaclyn mentioned how much she loves to write Emily, though some readers have commented that they find her annoying (because she's very talkative, melodramatic etc) and that this saddens her as she loves writing her voice so much (I'm definitely Team Emily, I adore her and can see why Jaclyn would enjoy writing about her).
- Jaclyn also had a really cute story about how her dad used to commission her and her siblings to write stories, as a way of earning pocket money. She then had an anecdote about how she told her sister that fairies used to fly around her hair and tell her what to write because she was a blonde and as her sister was a brunette the fairies must think she's a witch. Hahaha. As someone who used to tell similar lies to their younger, darker-haired sister I found this especially amusing.
- We ended with a cheer for angry girls!