Sunday, 3 November 2013

YAF and contentious issues...again

I am writing this evening with one eye shut - the joys of yet another migraine but it is something I wanted to write. My good friend Nicky Schmidt wrote a fascinating blog post the other day entitled YA Fiction - a safe haven for teens. Those who know me are aware that this is a bit of a soap box for me. There is always going to be a need for books that deal with contentious issues. Places for teens to escape and explore as I have previously spoken about (some might argue ad nauseum).

There are two things I would like to say here. Firstly, it is important to also understand that not EVERY teen book has to deal with issues such as sex, drugs and alcohol  (Twilight for example is a prime example of that) - not that Nicky is suggesting that. But sometimes teens don't want to be faced with those issues, or equally see so much of it they don't want to read about it. YAF should be all about the story and not about the issues it deals with. In the same way if you are an aspiring writer and you don't want to write realist, gritty, teen fiction that deals with lots of issues. You don't have to, as long as your story is good enough. We all just need to write lots of different stories, gritty or otherwise, that teens can escape into when they need to.

The other idea I wanted to briefly highlight with regard though not specific to YAF is a cultural one. This is something we sometimes seem to forget and also something I have discussed with Nicky quite extensively as she is from South Africa and is currently writing a story based there. It was highlighted to me recently the cultural implications of where a story is written. I have reviewed some Canadian books which contain drugs themes. Often the drug of use portrayed within has been crystal meth. This is not something I ever really came across when I was doing my research into British contemporary YAF. When I explored this further I realised it came down to culture. Canada has a slightly greater issue with crystal meth than we do in the UK (currently that is - who knows what the Breaking Bad influence will have, if any). I could no more tell the Canadian authors not to write about crystal meth than they could ask us not to write about cannabis or cocaine in the way we do. Obviously there are a lot of generic themes which cause no cultural problems but it is just sometimes worth taking a breath and thinking about how your story might be perceived elsewhere.

So many things to think about here and all things I am mulling over for the commissioned book. I have just briefly touched on both of the ideas really.

Those who follow this blog know I am an academic. I have just had a article published which has taken me down a different route. It is a critical/creative combination and was co-authored with Prof Jen Webb of the University of Canberra. If you are interested you can find it here

Also some of you may know that my PhD was a creative writing one. If you are interested in the creative arts and doctoral studies you will find this Special Edition of Text a fascinating read.

And here is a bit of Jane Taylor with All Things Change because let's be honest they do...Thanks IC for the intro to Jane


  1. I think the reality is just as there is a diverse range of topics and genres for adults, the same applies to YAF. And yes, authors must write the stories they want and need to write - fantasy, sci fi, gritty, comedy, romance. No one wants to read the same type of story all the time.
    And the point about the cultural influences is so spot on - thanks for highlighting it, Ness.

    1. You are so right, no one wants to read the same type of story all the time. Glad you liked the cultural influences point too. Thanks Nicky