This week, TMB is excited to be highlighting a shiny new YA release. Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA anthology showcases some of the brightest stars on the Australian YA scene, and makes the perfect gift for any upper tween or teen reader, introducing them to a wide range of ideas, voices and stories. Here, Will Kostakis shares some insight into how this wonderful anthology came to be born.
Two years ago almost to the day, a movement started over a glass of wine (or several). ALIA had just released their statistics for the ten most-borrowed YA books in Australian libraries, and only TWO Australian authors made the cut. TWO.
Authors, librarians and other teen literature advocates brainstormed steps they could take to help promote Australia’s rich and diverse YA tapestry, and the result was #LoveOzYA. The hashtag quickly became a battle cry, embraced by booksellers and publishers and used to promote Australian voices.
An anthology was the next logical, and scary, step. Here, some of the authors who came together to create a wonderful anthology of Australia’s diverse and captivating YA community share the story of how it all came about – and what inspired their contributions.
This is the oral history of Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology, as shared at this year’s Sydney Writers’ Festival.
ELLIE MARNEY, contributor, #LoveOzYA founder, superhero
“When ALIA released those ranks, suddenly we had a clear picture of the reception of Australian YA stories in the local market, and it wasn’t pretty. Australian titles were (and still are) being swamped in their own market by overseas titles. Which is, y’know, fine – I read lots of American YA, too, and love it. But … we knew we had to do something, take action, or Australian YA would be lost in the wilderness, and with it the stories of Australian teenagers, in Australian landscapes, told in authentic Australian vernacular.”
DANIELLE BINKS, editor, contributor, powerhouse literary agent
“I was heavily involved in the #LoveOzYA grassroots movement, creating “Readalikes” lists and posters for schools. I was nominated to help form the inaugural #LoveOzYA committee and eventually become the Chair. I guess all my passionate shouting led HarperCollins to come calling, with the offer of helming this anthology.”
WILL KOSTAKIS, contributor, Good Greek Boy, selfie aficionado
“Danielle was halfway through her pitch when I agreed to contribute. It wasn’t a hard sell.”
MICHAEL PRYOR, contributor, spec-fic guru
“It’s always nice being asked for your writing, rather than the usual trying to convince someone to take it. Laughs.”
“Exactly! And after writing two pretty heavy young adult novels, it was freeing to try something shorter, where we had more freedom to step out of our lanes and write pieces that might surprise.
“I was juggling two ideas for my third novel, what would become The Sidekicks and an idea about a teen struggling with burgeoning psychic powers. I was having trouble stretching that second premise into a novel while maintaining tension because, as a psychic, he already knows the ending. The idea always stalled around 10,000 words, and well, that’s the ball park figure Danielle was asking for. It seemed meant to be.”
GABRIELLE TOZER, contributor, journalist, self-professed Beyoncé
“You can’t waste a single sentence in a short story, so I had to constantly strip back my idea so the main plot, characters and voice could (hopefully) shine.”
MELISSA KEIL, contributor, comic book fanatic
“I always wanted to write the equivalent of a “bottle episode” in a book – a single location over a short span of time with a small cast of characters solving a problem. It’s pretty tricky to do at novel length, but a short story is perfect for that kind of restricted narrative. ‘Sundays’ is that bottle episode I wanted to write.”
JACLYN MORIARTY, contributor, literary royalty
“I wrote ‘Competition Entry #349’ on my laptop in three different cafes. In the first cafe, they gave me a chocolate freckle with my peppermint tea. In the second, they gave me a small, ginger biscuit. At the third, they gave me a piece of raspberry-white chocolate.
“It was a good story to write. I remember feeling happy the whole time I was writing it. I liked the characters, I liked the idea, and I really, really liked the way cafes kept giving me treats.”
“I started as a short story writer, submitting to competitions and awards (the Scarlet Stiletto Awards gave me my first break), so going back to short form felt a bit like coming home.”
“… Once, I was so cheerful while writing, I swung my hand sideways and knocked over my glass of water. This was in the second cafe. The cushion on the seat got soaked. It was a warm day and I said to the owners, ‘It should dry out in the sun here, don’t you think?’ but they were distracted and didn’t really hear me. That was the only low point in the writing of this story.”
AMIE KAUFMAN, contributor, NASA’s favourite author
“I grew up fascinated by the story of Louise Brown, the first person ever to be born via IVF. She was only a couple of years older than me, and I’d see her in the newspapers – her first day of school, her graduation, her marriage, her kids, and so on. The wider world had such an interest in her, and to some degree, a sense of ownership as well.
“I wondered if we’d feel the same way about other incredible first children, like the first child born on Mars, and what it would be like if the subject of that attention didn’t want to be observed in this way. I also wanted to explore questions we see much more frequently – how you decide what to do after school, and what part the expectations of others play in that.
“So I overlapped those two questions, those who senses of ownership, and my story began to take shape.”
“‘First Casualty’ was written to explore the nature of truth in a media-saturated world. The events in it are very transparently drawn from deplorable political events in our recent history, and it breaks one of the last taboos of YA fiction … she’s taller than he is!”
ALICE PUNG, contributor, essayist
“I grew up reading Australian YA from John Marsden, Robin Klein and Morris Gleitzman. My story ‘In A Heartbeat’ was inspired by having my own kid.”
LILI WILKINSON, contributor, Inky Awards creator
“Inspired by a drain in Clifton Hill, my story is a queer magical romance set in the drains beneath Melbourne.”
“Ever since Every Breath was published, people have written and asked me why I started the book after the characters of Rachel and Mycroft became friends, and if I would ever write a ‘how they first met’ story. So I knew straight away what I wanted to write! And luckily, some of the material was already written – I had the bare bones story of how they’d met, because it was a part of the original manuscript for Every Breath that was excised before publication. So all that remained was to flesh it out.”
“I was very nervous, being the newbie “emerging voice” of the anthology. I really just wanted to keep up with all these fine storytellers, and not have my story stick out for all the wrong reasons. But, y’know, when you’re batting in the A-leagues, you’re forced to step up to the plate and hit big too. What eased my nerves was focusing on what I wanted my story to be a tribute to: beginnings and endings.”
“‘The Feeling From Over Here’ was inspired by a few things: Kate Miller-Heidke’s song ‘Caught In The Crowd’, far too many hours spent on Greyhound and Murray’s coaches in my late teens to early twenties, and the covert but damaging and sexist bullying style of boys from my high school.
“One day I asked myself, ‘How would I react if I saw the boy who gave me and some of my friends grief from Years 7 to 10 again?’ I couldn’t shake the thought, so I forced my character, Lucy, to deal with that very problem – only, because I’m an evil author, I made her face it in an enclosed space for eight hours straight. Oops!”
“This anthology is important for the same reason that #LoveOzYA is important: it gives readers a chance to discover new and exciting writers who live right in their own backyard, creating stories that satisfy the inner craving we all have for characters who feel like local friends.”
“I’m constantly asked when I’m in the US what we have in the water here. We have an incredible wealth of talent here in Australia, and for me, this anthology is a wonderful way to shine a spotlight on that.”
The perfect introduction to Australian YA Literature, Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOZYA Anthology is recommended for readers 14+.
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