I always get the warm & fuzzies when someone says they enjoy my blog, particularly when it’s someone I admire. The fact that they read my meandering musings at all makes for happiness. So I was absolutely thrilled that when I finally met Fiona Snyckers after years of “knowing” her via social media, and she told me she likes my blog.
Fiona is one of the few (all great) authors I have met, and I’m always in awe of these people who have done what I keep making excuse for not to do.
But back to the book launch.
The launch also featured a discussion panel on the topic “who decides what teenagers should be reading?” Prior to the launch teenagers were invited to participate in a flash fiction competition on the theme of controlling relationships – something that features prominently in the third Trinity book. The three winning stories were read to the audience (two by their authors).
The authors agreed that swearing in books is sometimes used to create characters that readers can relate to, but that it can become lazy and lose impact; there are other ways to express anger or humour.
One of the more interesting discussions was about whether teens emulate behaviour from books, and how can they (or should they?) be protected from the influence of fiction. Fiona responded that adults often underestimate teens and their ability to process information, but that it would be reckless to say books have no influence – “Why should we read if we’re not affected by the words in books?” She continued to say that books give readers a safe space to explore certain behaviours through characters they can relate to.
It was also mentioned that authors are not putting ideas in readers’ heads; the topics they write about are already the reality people, including teens, deal with. Joanne Macgregor said authors need to write responsibly and accurately, research thoroughly, don’t be flippant about sensitive topics. Fiona responded that the only responsibility of an author is to tell a good story, and that teens will pick up quickly on a story that’s trying to preach, and you’ll lose that reader. Sino agreed that teens don’t like obvious morals and that whatever the author writes, s/he should not sugar-coat the issues it might raise, but consider how it will affect the reader.
Fiona again said fiction is the best place to deal with hard issues, the things teens are going through; fiction owes it to them to help them understand, and deal with the things they are going through.
Considering all the gatekeepers between authors and their teen audience: the publishers, booksellers, and most importantly, school librarians – should author self-censor?
It seems that once again the best advice is to write about what you know, even if it is something that could be considered controversial. Kids will find a way to get what they want even if they’re prevented access through conventional channels. Often people allow their children to watch the most horrendous movies and television shows, but act a lot more prim with regards to books – perhaps because they rely on public opinion, rather than read the “controversial” books themselves, and make up their own minds. After all, who knows better how your child’s personality and ability to deal with matter better – the parent, or society?
I think the most important thing is that children should be encouraged to read, and that we should trust them to know what kind of books they will enjoy and relate to, and which they’d rather give a skip. But parents should at least know what their child is reading, and be prepared to give guidance on sensitive issues if necessary.
I’ve found myself currently not enjoying Young Adult books – perhaps I’ve just been picking the wrong ones – but I have a HUGE pile of books (mostly local authors) that I want to read NOW! I might have to take leave to get to it 🙂
- Competition closes at midnight on Friday 14 June.
- One entry per person
- Winners of SITC competitions from the last six months are not eligible for this competition
- This competition is only open to South African residents