Megs wanted to know why my visit to Penguin yesterday was so interesting, so here goes:
Penny Tangey, who is a comedian as well as a writer, spoke about her book, Loving Richard Feynman. Though the book is ostensibly an epistolary novel, the protagonist doesn't actually intend sending the letters to the long-deceased Richard Feynman but is really writing to herself, so the letters in fact constitute a personal diary. Penny was inspired by her own journals and diaries, which she has kept since childhood. She read out excerpts - extremely amusing. She has this really dry sense of humour, all the funnier for her dead-pan delivery.
Then came Kate McCaffrey, author of Beautiful Monster. Kate started off by saying she didn't know she'd have to follow a comedian, and wouldn't be as funny - and yet, she was. Though her books aren't funny - she's the queen of 'teen angst' - she's a really entertaining speaker.
I was next - decidedly unfunny, but hopefully interesting and informative. I spoke a bit about what my book was about, and how I hope it will be taken into the classroom. I mentioned the difference between what teachers/librarians want kids to read and what kids themselves want to read, and how I aimed to bridge this gap by writing a book that would be accessible to reluctant readers yet thematically complex enough to be thought-provoking even for the most sophisticated readers. I also spoke of how, while Dancing in the Dark is an obvious choice for girls' schools, a number of teachers in co-ed schools have said that they always put books with boy appeal on the syllabus, because "girls will read a boys' book, but boys won't read a girls' book." To me, this seems very unfair, so I suggested that teachers consider putting two books on the syllabus - one 'girls' book and one 'boys' one, and give students a choice.
Then came Gabrielle Wang who talked about the fact that the protagonist in Little Paradise was based on her own mother, and the problems she encountered in the writing process as a result. An evocative and courageous love story, it's quite a lovely one.
Last but not least, Oliver Phommavanh spoke about Thai-riffic. Like Penny, he's a comedian as well as a writer, and it's evident the minute he opens his mouth. He hopes his novel will get the reader chuckling as it explores the migrant's experience in Australia.
And on to this morning, when I met up with Amra Pajalic (The Good Daughter), who will be my co-panelist at the MWF on Tuesday 31st August, and Ruby Murray, who will chair the session. It turns out that Ruby Murray is the daughter of the well-known YA writer, Kirsty Murray. (Ruby is also a budding author, currently at work on her first YA novel.)
It was lovely meeting Amra and Ruby, and chatting about our novels (mine and Amra's), which deal with similar themes. I'm looking forward to what should be a really interesting session at the MWF. If you'd like to come along, please do. I always think the sessions in the Schools Program are the best value for money. Tix only $6.00.