Wednesday 27 May 2015

Can you feel the #LoveOzYA tonight?

Something exciting happened.

Every Breath was listed as one of Australia’s most-borrowed YA library books.  YAY!  I’m incredibly honoured to be included on the ALIA list – thank you to everyone who borrowed Every Breath, you’re all awesome!

One thing that stood out, though, was that Every Breath and The Book Thief (by Markus Zusak) were the only two YA titles in the Top Ten list.  The other eight spots were taken by blockbuster American titles, almost all of them with movie tie-ins.

My first question is: wow, what made my book so attractive to readers, and how can I duplicate it?? Because I would totally bottle that, in a heartbeat. I mean, I just write the books mainly to entertain myself (or my 15 year old self, anyway) – the kind of books I would love to curl up with in a hammock at the beach, or on a couch by the fire on a rainy holiday afternoon, the kind of books that transport me into something exciting and moving, full of thrills and feels and adventure.  I guess it seems that other people like those books as well, so…yay!

My second question is: why are there so few Aussie authors on the list?  To answer this question, I did what I often do – I asked the hive-mind (mainly other authors and booksellers, and library and publishing peeps).  And the answers that I agreed with were things like – a) because the market here is smaller, we don’t have the budget to push local voices as much as they deserve; b) the North American market is bigger, in every way, including budgets – that means that overseas books have a larger market/distribution/promotion capacity, which impacts on us Aussies a lot; c) when the market is saturated – so when a book is promoted online, on screens, in films, in print ads and bookstores and toy stores and fast-food outlets and etc etc etc ad infinitum – it’s kinda hard to ignore, and more people buy it.

Here’s another important point – if you want to see local content, you need to invest in local cultural capital.  The Australian government has just ripped $100 million bucks out of the Australia Council, which directly supports local artists and art producers (including authors) to create new work.  A lot of those arts grants go towards supporting and developing small individual writers – me included.  I mean, I was gonna apply for a grant in June, to support myself while I wrote a new book – but in the wake of the budget cuts, that funding round has been cancelled.

So how exactly can you publish and promote local authors if they haven’t been given the opportunity to write new books and get signed by publishers? Good question.  Maybe we should be thinking a bit more about investing in our cultural and arts sector, in the same way we invest in the business and mining sectors.

Anyway, in the light of the lack of Aussie YA on the lists, and in the interests of promoting AusYA, a new hashtag has been born!  To show support and help spread the love for Australian YA, I encourage you to use the #LoveOzYA tag in your tweets, FB updates, Instagram and other social media posts about Aussie YA books – and if you follow the tag, it’ll lead you down a wonderful rabbit hole filled with awesome OzYA recs.  A lot of folks out there are already doing it, so I urge you to go for it! 

And this weekend in particular is a great weekend for following #LoveOzYA – because it’s Reading Matters weekend!!  If you love YA, and you happen to be in Melbourne, this AMAZING conference is being run by the State Library and the Centre for Youth Lit, right in the heart of town at the Arts Centre.  Here’s the link – go check it out.  I will most definitely be there from Friday to Saturday, not as a panellist but in the audience (which is just as good, because I can dress daggy down and drink wine at lunchtime).  Use the #YAMatters tag to follow along.  And if you’re a reader, a teacher, a librarian, a bookseller, a publishing friend, a friendly author, or you’re just around the traps at Reading Matters and you spy me from across a crowded room, please come and say hi :)

Some other good news - I’m going to be the InsideADog writer-in-residence blogger for the month of June, which is awesome!  So if you’re a regular lurker at InsideADog (the Centre for Youth Lit book blog), or even if you’re a regular reader/commenter, please make sure you give me a wave and say hi next month.

On top of that, I’m going to be visiting a bunch of libraries soon, and my first visit will be at Ashburton Library on Monday 1 June at 7pm.  If that’s your local and you’re free, come on down and listen to me ramble on, and grab me for some questions or to have a chat afterwards. Here's the link!

And I have some exciting news about Continuum soon too…so keep your ears to the ground about that.

Okay, I’m not going to write much more, because June will be a mega-blog period at InsideADog – my blog updates will be posted there, although I’ll still check back in here if anything noteworthy comes up, or there’s an event on.  Hope you’re going well, a quick shout-out to the girls from Presentation College, who did a workshop with me last week (Hi girls!  You were awesome!) and catch you again soon!

Xx Ellie 

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