CYL: Story Camp

group of teenagers all holding books up in front of the camera

I hated being a teenager. Honestly, it was not a good time for me. Which, considering how much I work with young people, is pretty funny. My time at Express Media meant working alongside teens and designing programs for them to increase their skills as writers. Now at the Centre for Youth Literature I get to connect with those bookish teens that most resemble me; more comfortable with their heads in books than out in the wider world.

At the moment we’re running a program for teenagers who want to take their love of reading and try their hand at writing. Story Camp takes place on school holidays over three days at State Library Victoria. A group of teens come together and learn from industry leaders how to tell stories in a variety of formats. The workshop leaders are exceptional. Thus far we’ve had people such as Penni Russon, Emilie Zoe Baker and Candy Bowers. It’s the kind of program that you dream of putting together when you’re at a smaller organisation and money is tight. I’m so looking forward to these intensives during the January school holidays.

If you know any teens who have a passion for words you can register your interest any time throughout the year and we’ll be in touch when the next camp is coming up.

2017 Reading Roundup

front cover image of The Book of Dust, two figures rowing in a boat over rough seas in the dark
Worth the wait

It was a relatively slow reading year. Lots of audio books, lots of re-reads, but a few stand out titles too. Of the 50 books I managed to get through, here are my highlights.

The Book of Dust was my favourite fiction book of the year. It felt so good to delve into Lyra’s world again, and to have this exploration of the period before His Dark Materials. I was bracing myself for disappointment, worried that it wouldn’t live up to the depth of love I feel for the HDM trilogy but was relieved to find it a great accompaniment to the previous works. I’m already hanging out for the next one.

My top non-fiction pick of the year has to be the audiobook of Magda Szubanski reading her debut novel Reckoning, A Memoir. I’m sure it was great to read on the page, but listening to her emotions crackle in your ear made this an extra special experience. It’s not just that she has an engaging story to tell, it was also a pleasure to discover Magda is a beautiful writer. From her descriptions of growing up in Australian suburbia to her ability to capture the experience of visiting places rich with history, she has a beautiful way of describing both setting and emotion.

Honorable mentions:

Lynda LaPlante’s Tennison novels (I watched Prime Suspect when it aired originally in the early 90s, I can’t overstate how central it was to developing my love of British crime). I really enjoyed coming back to this character and getting a sense of how she evolved into the tough-as-nails female detective.

Ida was definitely a standout; this YA-scifi title is deftly constructed and keeps you turning pages long past bedtime.

Songs that Sound like Blood was a great YA read this year. Jared Thomas excels at telling the story of a young person at a pivotal point in their life, capturing the pressure and uncertainty accurately.

Birds Art Life was also a really lovely short read. I’ve long loved Kyo Maclear’s kids books and being asked to facilitate an in-conversation session at MWF with her and Shaun Tan was a great excuse to delve into her work for adults.

Lastly, I did a lot of re-reading this year and particularly enjoyed listening to Phryne Fisher in audiobook format. She sparkles when being read aloud, I thoroughly recommend listening to whole series.

2017 Wrap Up

low light picture taken of a full auditorium from the stage at Melbourne Writers Festival
Packed MWF session I chaired with Danielle Binks and Diem Nguyen: probably the most fun panel of the year

This year was supposed to be my maternity leave year… how did I do keeping to my goal of not taking on any major projects? Well, let’s say I failed, but I failed well.

Linus was born November 2016, and I did manage to have almost a full 12 months without a major project. I did, however, take the opportunity to be a guest at the International Literature Showcase in Norwich, City of Literature. And then I accidentally (on purpose) fell into the perfect part-time role at the Centre for Youth Literature (CYL) at State Library Victoria.

So why did I knowingly divert from my 2017 goal? Because these two opportunities were worth it. Visiting Norwich and meeting literary programmers, producers and artists from all over the world was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I felt so fortunate to be the only Australian in attendance and learned so much in my week in Norwich. Joining CYL has been a career goal for me for as long as I can remember. It’s one of the few workplaces I see doing youth-driven, engaging programming for YA lovers. The chance to deepen my YA knowledge (I’m a huge YA reader) and learn from this experienced team of programmers and producers was one I couldn’t pass up. Not to mention it happens to be the perfect part-time fit for my current life with two children.

These two things are my clear work highlights of 2017. As I wrote about earlier this year, it wasn’t a stellar year for reading. I finished up reading 50 books, which is far less than I’ve managed for quite a while. That’s what having a baby does to your hobbies! I also facilitated some really great panels at Reading Matters, Melbourne Writers’ Festival and the inaugural Feminist Writers Festival: I always feel so lucky to speak with writers whose work I love such as AS King, Lili Wilkinson, Shaun Tan, Penny Modra and Kyo Maclear.

I’m looking forward to 2018. When I joined CYL it was on a short contract until the end of the year but I’m incredibly happy to have extended that until mid 2018. I’m really enjoying the role and working with some great people. It does mean that I am unlikely to get much writing done, but as always producing brings a different kind of work pride and enjoyment. I’d like to read more books next year, too. I think that’s my only firm goal for the year professionally: read more. Always nice to set a goal you enjoy.

MWF 2017

Tomorrow is my first day presenting at MWF 2017. As per my earlier post, I have six excellent sessions to host. Day one kicks off with two sessions in the schools program (Oliver Phommavanh doing writing exercises with students and Leena Van Deventer talking about writing video games). Did you know that the schools program is exclusively for young people? That’s right, no adults allowed. It’s one of the things I admire about the festival as especially in the YA space there can be a sense that adult fans are edging out young people. So no, if you’re over 18 you can’t come along and enjoy those sessions as much as you might want to.

My public session tomorrow is one I am so looking forward to. Sexism as a Mental Health Crisis will be held at QVWC, which is a gorgeous venue and they always make such lovely hosts. In preparing with the writers, it’s clear this session could easily run for double the time allotted and we still wouldn’t be covering everything. It’s a topic rife for deep analysis and I can’t wait to hear what these women have to say.

FFS Update

After much soul-searching, FFS has decided to postpone our FFS: Whose Conception is it Anyway event which was scheduled for this Saturday 26 August.

As most of you know, the event clashes with the Equal Love Rally. We were disappointed when it was announced as being on the same date as our latest panel, but hoped that people might be able to go to the rally and still attend the panel later in the day. As the rally information has become more available it’s clear this will be difficult for most people to manage.

Ultimately, we don’t want to be a deterrent to anyone attending the march. We are passionate about LGBTIQ+ rights, and believe that this rally is a priority for our community and us. It doesn’t sit right to be hoping people will rush off after marching to attend an event.

We will be offering a refund to all ticket holders, or you can hold on to your ticket and use it at the rescheduled event. We will be working with our speakers and venue to find another date to present the panel in the near future.

Thanks for understanding, and our apologies to anyone who is inconvenienced by this decision. It’s not one we have come to lightly. We look forward to marching with you all on Saturday!

Details for the Equal Love Rally can be found here.

Image by Jen Clark. If you would like a free downloadable version of the poster in the image Jen Clark has generously provided a downloadable version for you to print.

FFS: Whose Conception is it Anyway?


Feminist Family Salon (FFS) returns with a conversation about making families in new ways. Our panel will explore conception, pregnancy, birth and our bodies. How do we navigate the many different ways we can bring babies into the world when our family doesn’t fit the nuclear mould? Is how we conceive, grow and birth our child political? Does the ‘how’ of how our babies come into the world matter?

For more details see our Facebook event page. Tickets can be purchased via TryBooking.

2.30pm Saturday 26 August 2017

Farouk’s Olive

711 High Street Thornbury

Melbourne Writers Festival 2017

Every year when I’m asked to facilitate panels at Melbourne Writers Festival I pinch myself. The festival, particularly in the last five years under Lisa Dempster’s helm, is such a joy. I have found myself chairing sessions with writers I admire or talking about topics I’m passionate about. I love the opportunity to immerse myself in their work and explore what they write. This year I am hosting the following panels:


Write Here, Write Now

10am Tuesday 29 August

Budding writers, join author and stand-up comedian Oliver Phommavanh in this rapid-fire writing skills session! Learn exercises designed to beat writer’s block and finesse your writing skills to get you on your way to being a true wordsmith.


Video Games Writing

11.15am Tuesday 29 August

How do you write video games? Why are they such a great way of exploring narrative and consequence? Learn the tricks of the trade and explore a new form of writing with games writers Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer.


Sexism as a Mental Health Crisis

6.00pm Tuesday 29 August

Facing relentless discrimination, social stigma and violence, women are expected to succeed in a system that actively works against them. Anni Hine Moana, Zoe Morrison and Jenny Valentish explore the patriarchal structures exacerbating women’s mental ill-health.


Book Talk

12.30pm Wednesday 30 August

How do you share your love of books – blogs, Instagram, podcasts, a book club? Find out all the ways to talk about your favourite books and authors and where to get reading recommendations, with YA enthusiast Danielle Binks and podcaster Diem Nguyen.


Inside Advertising

3.15pm Wednesday 30 August

How are ads made? What are the symbols and language used to capture audiences? Graphic designer Andrea Innocent and arts aficionado Penny Modra take us behind the advertising curtain, with examples of ad images in progress.



1pm Sunday 3 September

Hear beloved children’s author Kyo Maclear (Virginia Wolf) and Australian legend Shaun Tan (The Singing Bones) share their storytelling process and how they inspire imagination in young readers.


There is no way I could pick a favourite as yet again every single one has a topic or author I love, but I must say it’s a particular thrill to be able to grill Shaun Tan about the worlds he creates. Hope to see plenty of you out and about at the festival.

City of Literature ILS Trip: Norwich

After a week of panels, readings and discussions I’m feeling simultaneously exhausted and excited. The ILS has been an invaluable experience and I expect to be digesting all of the ideas and work I have seen for quite some time.

Coming in to this experience I had a clear idea of what I was hoping to do: talk to women from all over the UK and the world about the situation for women writers in their countries. I wanted to know if we faced similar challenges, if the gender inequality we are addressing in Australia is found elsewhere, and if so what initiatives, programs or organisations are working to address this.

The short answer appears to be yes, the challenges faced by women writers in Australia are similar in many other parts of the world. Having said that, there are also countries where women face additional pressures that most women in our country do not, often related to government censorship. It’s also clear that some of our initiatives and organisations are doing work above and beyond what other countries are currently attempting, which is heartening.

I will be returning home with some surprising findings, and some excellent opportunities for international collaboration and learning. I have confidence that we can offer support to each other, and have already seen the generosity of spirit from organisations such as the Glasgow Women’s Library and WoMentoring Project who have offered resources and information to follow up on.

It’s worth noting that as always whenever I talk to women writers there is a genuine desire to help each other out in individual and institutional ways. The sheer volume of volunteer hours and unwavering support is remarkable.


City of Literature ILS Trip: Glasgow Women’s Library

A quick visit to Glasgow allowed just enough time to pop in to the Glasgow Women’s Library. This facility has recently moved to its permanent home in a gorgeous building housing a lending library, archive, craft space, gorgeous function space and offices. Around 20 staff (some part time) work on the programs run by the centre.

Imagine a place where feminism, literature, words, collectivism, politics, community and access are at the heart. The Glasgow Women’s Library is this utopia. I had a tour from one of the staff, Katie, who told me the history of the library and took me into the archive space for a behind-the-scenes tour. We pulled out a box at random, one of the many collected zines, and I poured through finding gem after gem. The collection immortalises the work of women activists and provides a record of the wonderful work women writers have contributed to Scottish society. I could have stayed for days.

My visit made me wonder what a Women’s Library would look like in Melbourne. Would we benefit from a centralised collection of feminist writing and history? Would a space for women to work and draw on these resources be valuable? I head to my next City of Literature (Nottingham) shortly, who also have a Women’s Library I plan to visit. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the two.