Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Climbing out of the ghetto...

Sigh - oh, look, somebody is complaining about YA literature again. How original...and refreshing...and, OFGS.

If we talked more about children's and young adults literature in the wider media maybe people would have a better understanding of it and we could spend less time having to defend it. Sigh. This article argues for greater media coverage on behalf of Australian literature but we need to be doing this in New Zealand too. If media attention was apportioned according to market share, children's and YA literature would be featuring a lot more than it does now.  And as Danielle Binks says, the YA and Children's lit crowd are having way more interesting and complex discussions while the adult critics bang on about their cringe over adults reading YA. Our envelope is being pushed, the boundaries challenged and the bar raised, while their record appears broken...

Sure, there are some children's and YA books that are not well written, are formulaic and break no new ground either thematically or in literary terms. But there are many that are and do. Can we please discuss each book on its merits and accept that the term children's or Young Adult does not make a book some inferior entity? No category of book is automatically inferior or superior. New Zealand SFF author Helen Lowe argues the point well on her blog here. The divisiveness harms all of us. Folk need to grow up and talk about each book on the quality of its content, including Children's and YA.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Brain still under repair. Meanwhile...

Now that the election is over here in New Zealand it seems like a good time to revisit the question - Why should we bother supporting the Arts? To some, the arts are an indulgence, a luxury that should only be fostered in times of plenty. To some, people should have 'real' jobs that make things people need or provide a service people want, rather than pursuing speculative endeavours that just aren't important and don't sell well. And they believe we shouldn't rely on government support or encouragement.

I think folk working in the creative arts do have real jobs making things people need and/or providing a service people want. It is easy to forget that a positive can-do attitude that encourages us to be motivated and innovative, and to succeed in competition around the world in business, commercial and scientific fields, sports and other areas, is born out of a belief in who we are as members of a great and unique society. Our New Zealandness is special and part of what makes us punch above our weight. We're the plucky little country that the rest of the world views as friendly and socially progressive, and yet edgy and different.

The Arts contribute to our sense of who we are and our confidence in our identity. They hold up a mirror, reflecting back at us our society's values, mores, and culture. We can't just exist on a diet of books, art, dance, film and music from other countries. We need to see ourselves and value what we have and what we can offer. We need to see that being a New Zealander is worth something. From birth to old age. The Arts foster our country's self esteem and consequently the self esteem of the individuals within it. If we only ever experience the arts of other countries, it chips away at our self confidence. And it's not enough that we enable the arts, we need to celebrate them too. If we are embarrassed about them and always look to overseas critics to endorse us and tell us we're good enough we will always be waiting for the approval of others. We make good art. Lets not lose that or we might lose ourselves.

Oh, and by the way, our books, and art, and music, and films, and dance, do sell, and win awards, both onshore and off. And supporting the arts supports the growth and well being of our nation.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Home on the strange...

Did you miss me? I missed you. No, don't shake your head - it's true!

Well, the family survived without me (phew) and are still even talking to me. Yay!! And luckily they didn't save all their dishes and laundry for me either. I am truly lucky with how supportive they have been of my adventure down south. I loves them. I think maybe they loves me too.

My final hurrah was a fantastic opportunity - the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival. I got to take part in the Schools programme (which you can see here and here and here), several read aloud sessions and a panel discussion. The venues were buzzing, and the crowds big and enthusiastic. I'd learnt my lesson at the Auckland Festival and took every opportunity to attend sessions once mine were done. Major personal highlights included the Great Crime Debate, the Margaret Mahy lecture by Elizabeth Knox, and the discussion on Margaret Mahy's novel The Changeover. And of course being in Christchurch itself. It is heartbreaking to see so much destruction still in evidence but heartening to see the wonderful things being done to bring the city back to life.

Best of all for me though was the chance to talk with writers and illustrators, both local and international, children's and adult. I had an amazing time. I feel like I am still processing everything I heard and saw and learned. I am grateful for the chance to be a part of this terrific event and my congratulations to the organising team, especially Literary Director Rachael King and Executive Director Marianne Hargreaves, for making magic. Wow! Check out the very cool blog of award winning slam poet Anis Mojgani who was one of the featured speakers, here. Scroll down for his poignant impressions of Christchurch.

And now I'm home I am realising I left it all out there. If you ask me what I'm writing right now I would have to say nothing. Te brain is fried. Not just crispy round the edges but deep fried on a high heat. I guess it's a little like cyclist Sarah Ulmer's inability to draw breath and respond to the reporter after her winning ride at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. She gave that ride everything. Anything less would have been a disappointment. I sucked the marrow out of the last six months folks. It may take me a little while to get my breath back :)