Crazy things can happen. Sometimes I love the barrier-less world of social media. I especially love twitter where there is no fine line between the haves and the have-nots. You can follow anyone you please, in a weird voyeur kind of way perhaps, because they cannot de-friend you. They can avoid replying to your tweets. But a tweet is easily overlooked so should not offend your easily crushible-constantly-seeking-likes-pageviews-and-other-SM-positive-affirmation mentality.
So on Wednesday when, UK Children’s Laureate and author of 50+ books (mainly in the YA genre), MALORIE BLACKMAN tweeted:
@Malorieblackman If you'd like me to visit your school/library/literary festival please visit http://www.childrenslaureate.org.uk/about-us/request-an-event/ … for more info.
I cheekily, after an agonizingly long and lonely internal debate, trying to remember if I’d ever read ‘how to tweet famous people without being rude, crass or sounding like a crazy’, replied:
Then I went on about my day wasting hours of precious writing time, avoiding writing and chewing through broadband, while keeping myself up to the minute on bookish debates of the kid lit kind.
Lo and behold. Later that night…
Ms Blackman tweeted back.
I let out a shrill cry of delight probably audible in Auckland. Pa-poppycock to all those lesser, huge and important people who’ve ignored me to date. A REAL life famous person tweeted ME. With a smiley face even. Possibly only because I happen to live in a fabulous clean green squeaky clean and currently teenage sex free country called Godzone, Aotearoa, New Zealand.
Little did Ms Blackman know that I immediately suggested to the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival organizers that they might like to consider asking her to speak at their May 2014 event. I pictured a healthy panel debate with our top YA authors, our OWN newly appointed NZ Children’s Laureate and Ms Blackman discussing: The Treatment of Sex and Four Letter Words in YA literature, or similar.
I do realize, in her capacity of UK Children’s Laureate Ms Blackman will be rushed off her feet in England’s pastures green, until she hands on her tenure in 2015. But you can but ask. And the organizers had already. And her publishers said, NO, she’s tied up.
Actually, I’d been daydreaming at my computer screen (5+ tabs open waiting to be read) about Ms Blackman making a trip down under, before our tweet-fest and before the sex in Ted Dawe’s, Into the River, became hot news. She’s been outspoken already about intimate matters in YA Literature and I like her views.
Ms Blackmans believes it’s partly the responsibility of YA authors to empower teenagers through literature. To provide them with a cache of sexy bits to tuck away and carry with them on their inevitable path of intimate experimentation. Like me.
I’m okay with the darker stories being told like, Into The River. In fact, I’m looking forward to reading it and seeing it climb up the bestseller list. Move over Wonky Donkey.
I want to understand how the young Maori protagonist, smart and keen and supposedly on the right path for a great future, after winning a scholarship to an elite boy’s boarding school gets lost? How and why his isolation sends him on a path of self-loathing and self-harm? Most of all I want to know if he recovers?
But I want to see some positive heart-warming coming of age YA books in the market place too.
Ms Blackman spoke of reading about a teenage girl whose boyfriend was brutalizing her because that’s what he thought sex was from watching porn online. She said, “It made me angry and it made me sad. I thought well, this is exactly why we need not just sex education in schools but also books that tackle the subject of relationships and your first time”. “I would rather my daughter read about a loving sexual relationship in a book - whether it works or whether it doesn’t - but in that context…”
TV and Film doesn’t help. Puberty Blues, the Aussie drama set in the 70’s, for example. I watched it gob-smacked. Where on earth had the young surfer dudes got their performance ideas from? Their fathers? Older brothers? Farm animals? ‘It gets better,’ my 14 year old assured me (who’d already watched it online unbeknownst to me). Thankfully after several episodes, one high school couple did separate from the wanna-root-in-the-back-of-the-ute group. Moving away to share intimacies and conversation alone, gently flowing down their own sweet path of discovery. Who was that programme aimed at? But more scarily, what message was it sending young people (especially girls) at that all-knowledge, no-experience stage of life?
At a SCBWI conference in Sydney 2011, an LA Agent when asked what the market wanted said; YA stories with romance, real romance. I can’t remember her exact words but I’m sure she mentioned ‘loin stirring’. 50 Shades of Grey was still on the bestseller list at the time (and doing the rounds of Year 12 at high school). I sat there thinking, I really hope there isn’t going to be a new genre along the lines of some weird YA pop-corn-porn.
Luckily not. Nevertheless, I think we can expect a lot more racy, hopefully empowering YA novels.
BTW I did tweet Ms Blackman again. Hey I was on a high. I’d been asked if I had connections.
She didn’t reply. It was twelve hours after her tweet, she’d probably gone to bed. However, the seed is sown, it may be a very long gestation but you never know.
As for me, I will now crawl back into my Juliet tower, pull up my artic blonde ponytail and sit before my blank screen, disconnected from the wretched internet with my timer set for 30 minutes.
Before I climb the 136 steps I’ll leave you with this, Huff Post YA list for the beach warning: contains lust, love and tension.