Saturday, 28 April 2012

Writing YA fiction with issues - Part 1 Intro

On Tuesday evening I went to the British SCBWI Professional Series talk by Miriam Halahmy, Bali Rai and Sara Grant.  They were on panel about writing YA fiction with issues.  Miriam writes about immigration, asylum seekers in her Hidden cycle, Bali writes about racial issues and Sara writes Dystopian issues.  This is the first post all about the introduction part where they talked about why and how they write their books.

Miriam said that she has always been interested in social justice and issues so that is what she writes.  She said that with YA, you need to keep things moving.  She has been amazed at her talks that 11-12 y-os know so much about immigration.  Said that if characters don't stand out, then readers won't be interested.
Bali doesn't plan, anything.  He currently is in an argument with another author about issue novels.  The other authors says why not kill issue novels?  He later went on to say that teenagers are interested in today's issues, and if you don't write about these issues, then how are teenagers going to know about them.  Said that YA is more diverse now.  He wants everyone to be a reader, and feel that if YA isn't written then there won't be so many readers.  He feels that teenagers/YA should be let to read about the world they know.  He has found that teenagers are different.  For instance, a 13yo wanted to read what they wanted but an 18 yo wasn't bothered so much.  He thinks that YA authors are better storytellers than adult ones.  He likes to write about people around him and put them in a situation.

Sara: when she was writing her first book, she was pushed to write uncomfortable scenes, and now knows that it felt right to do so.  In the UK, her books are marketed at schools so her sexual scenes in the book were pulled back, but in the US, it wasn't so much so.  She says that if you write a topic or culture, then you have to be with it all the way and know where your boundaries are.  You have to stick with it even when you are challanged by others about it. Says than teens know a lot more than we think.  When you write YA with issues, you have to know what's at the heart of the story and ask yourself, why am I writing it?  Why is it important to me? 
    She writes bullet points about her novels, inc issues, when she plans it.  Then she can see what she can and can't write about.    She likes books that have layers, and not interested in levels that readers won't be interested in .

That was the introduction part.  It was interesting to hear what they write and why.  Next week will be part 2 Q&A.

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