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.
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.
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.