Young Adult, all grown up

Image from
Image from

At Continuum X on the June long weekend, I had the privilege of moderating a panel called “YA: all grown up”, which featured Guest of Honour Ambelin Kwaymullina, and other YA writers Amie Kaufman, Leonie Rogers and Sue Bursztynski as panellists. We had a chat by email beforehand, so kind of knew the sort of things we wanted to talk about, but of course, you never know where the conversation will go. With such intelligent and well-read panellists, it went all sorts of great places!

We talked about why YA was both important and popular, with readers of all ages, with the panel suggesting that YA is important because “the young matter more” (Ambelin), and that it’s popular for reasons such as the fact it share qualities with genre fiction, the writing is pared back, and YA stories tend to be more diverse that adult-oriented fiction. The reasons why our panellists wrote YA were discussed, and we challenged the idea that YA was “easier” than adult fiction, to write or read, although it’s often shorter and more to-the-point!

Recommendations from the panel for quality YA:

Tehani said (though it would change on any given day) that top reads for her are: Laini Taylor (the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series), Liar by Justine Larbalestier and recommends Awards lists such as the Aurealis Awards, CBCA Older Readers, Inky Awards and various Premier’s literary awards.

Amie suggests Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo and Legend by Marie Liu.

Ambelin says to pick what you love and don’t worry about where it comes from in the bookstore. Read something you wouldn’t normally read – diverse and different perspective and challenge you and make you smarter.

Sue recommends anything by Melina Marchetta and Michael Pryor’s Laws of Magic series.

Leonie seconds Ambelin’s words, and adds Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free MenBrandon Sanderson’s Rithmatist books, and Bonnie’s story, a blonde’s guide to mathematics by Janis Hill.

I’d like to thank the panellists for being so darn awesome and smart, and for making the hour-long discussion absolutely fly by!

Please note that the notes I took were definitely on the run, and my memory is always suspect. Hopefully I’ve not misrepresented or misremembered anything here – I welcome comments from audience members and the panellists if I’ve got it wrong or missed anything super important!


On indie press: Sue Bursztynski

I’ve invited a number of people who have published in indie press and are professionals in the field to write about their experiences. Today, Sue Bursztynski shares her thoughts.

I’m on the ASIM  co-op and have sold a few stories to other small presses – one to Tehani’s Worlds Next Door, of course, and one more recently to Specusphere, which is doing an anthology on the theme of myths and legends, to be published next year. I’ve decided to concentrate on my short fiction for a while and will be submitting to small indie presses, which are, right now, the best markets for short fiction.

But the one with which I have been most involved is Paul Collins’s Ford Street Publishing.

Paul, as most SF fans will know, has been writing and publishing for years. I remember when he was running the publisher Cory and Collins from his second-hand bookshop in St Kilda back in the 1970s and I was a customer, hoping to sell him a story or two for his magazine Void. It was, to the best of my knowledge, the first small press in Australia to publish SF/F novels and the first in Australia to publish heroic fantasy novels (Norstrilia Press came about six months later). Some of the Cory and Collins writers are still well-known today – Wynne Whiteford and Russell Blackford, for example. Keith Taylor was another of his writers.

These days he is running Ford Street Publishing, a small press which has published some big names as well as some new ones.   The big names often write the sort of books they couldn’t do for a big publisher.

Dianne Bates, a well-known children’s and YA writer, for example, had written a book called Crossing The Line on the theme of self-harm, which the bigger companies hesitated to take. And who else but a small press was going to publish a book like F2M, co-written by Hazel Edwards, on the theme of sex-change? It was a delightful, funny, charming book which was as much about punk rock as about a girl who has decided she’s really a boy and wants to do something about it, yet who would have bought it but an indie press?

Sean McMullen has had the chance to write YA fiction for Ford Street, something he isn’t known for but does extremely well. George Ivanoff, best-known for his short fiction and education books, has written two novels for Ford Street. There is a new novelist, Foz Meadows, doing a trilogy that’s basically “vampires meets X-Men”.

And then there was my book, Crime Time: Australians behaving badly. Paul actually commissioned that. The original idea was Fifty Infamous Australians as a companion volume to Meredith Costain’s Fifty Famous Australians, but it ended up as a lot more than that. How many over-the-top children’s books about crime are there these days? The few I have seen are meant to help with homework, not to entertain, like mine.  In fact, most of the big publishers just aren’t publishing kids’ non-fiction books right now, even though children often prefer non-fiction to fiction, because bookshops never know what to do with them.  But Ford Street gave it a go.

Like other small presses, Ford Street has published short fiction. I persuaded my school to buy several copies of  Ford Street’s Trust Me!, an anthology of multi-genre stories, because it give teachers a chance to use a story on a theme that will be useful – crime, humour, historical fiction, romance, SF… I wrote a piece of historical fiction, something I don’t often do, and loved the challenge.

Few large companies publish anthologies and when they do it’s usually by commission. Ellen Datlow said, at Swancon 2011, that her anthologies are by invitation only these days because she just doesn’t have time to read unsolicited work.

Small presses can afford to keep their submissions open, so new writers are discovered. That has to be a good thing.

Sue Bursztynski grew up in Melbourne’s beachside suburbs, where she still lives. As a child, she used to sit on the beach to write, but later learned to write anywhere she could sit down with a pen and paper. She was thrilled to get her first computer, which meant she could make changes without having to re-write or re-type the whole story. She was even more thrilled when the Internet came along and made research much easier. Sue sold her first book, Monsters and Creatures of the Night, in 1993 and has sold many more books, short stories and articles since then. Her book Potions to Pulsars: Women doing science was a CBCA Notable Book. Sue works in a school in Melbourne’s western suburbs, where she tests out her writing on the students. She reviews children’s and young adult books for January Magazine and reads story submissions for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine. When not writing, Sue enjoys reading, music, blogging, great movies and handcraft. She also loves history, but has no problem fiddling with it for her fantasy fiction.

Her most recent book, Wolfborn, was released from Random House in 2010.