Tuesday, 29 July 2014

festival notes

I will be popping up at the Melbourne Writers Festival this year, dear reader. I am on a panel with Ellie Marney (who is ace). We will be chatting with Bec Kavanagh. I was on my very first writers panel with Bec several years ago and it was great fun — Bec is an accomplished moderator and this can make all the difference to panel discussions. This time Ellie and I will be discussing 'change'. Ellie writes YA (young adult) crime fiction, while I will be focusing on the first book of the Crystal Bay girls, Quincy Jordan. Although our books are from different genres and aimed at different age groups (Quincy Jordan is transitional fiction as opposed to Ellie's fully-fledged YA) our themes are similar. I think this will be a lively, informative session. For those who can't make it, I will report back and let you know how it goes. In the meantime here are some thoughts on Quincy that I sent to Bec prior to the panel discussion. Ellie and I both wrote brief notes about our books. It's important that the moderators not only be familiar with the books and the authors but also have some extra insights to help them formulate questions and get the ball rolling... No one wants their panel to be a fizzer! This is the writing life, dear reader, behind the scenes. By the way, if you are a teacher, a librarian or a bookseller you might also find these notes helpful. 

Some thoughts on themes in Quincy Jordan, book one, the Crystal Bay Girls, Penguin Australia.
(For Bec and Ellie)

I suppose one of the central ideas behind Quincy’s story is that one change can lead to a deluge of others. And it can happen fast. It’s that domino effect. I read somewhere that statistically marriage break-ups and divorces tend to peak for families with teenagers (as opposed to little kids), with divorce rates hitting an all time high when kids reach Year 12. These are awful stats and what timing! Just when kids need stability the most, just when they are themselves going through huge emotional and physical changes, their family life is often thrown into chaos, too.

This is the scenario that plays out for Quincy. Q is in Year Eight when her cozy world falls apart. She has to deal with multiple changes — her parents’ break-up, her mother’s fragile mental health, moving house, town and school. She is confronted with massive changes in lifestyle and family dynamics; from being a pampered only child she is forced to fit in with a large, raucous family (she even has to share her bedroom); she goes from an elite school for girls to a ramshackle co-ed ‘hippie’ school.  Moreover she has to deal with all this while trying to come to terms with her father’s betrayal. He does not only betray his wife he betrays his daughter. And his daughter is crushed. For the majority of this story Quincy is in effect grieving. There are also family secrets that reveal themselves. As I said, one change often triggers a rush of others, people under pressure tend to let down their guard and old patterns of behaviour get swept aside. During divorce and family break-ups people (ie adults) stop pretending and that can be confronting.

Ultimately though I wanted to show that change can be good. It can even be great. But it’s painful especially when, like Quincy, you aren’t seeking it. Change is so often foisted on us. Invariably our first reaction is to resist. Q uses this tactic with dogged determination. She also tries denial (which is kind of the same thing). Anger is given a good run, too. But of course none of these tactics work. As a teenager (and later as an adult) I always found enforced change to be the most difficult to come to terms with. Q’s story evolved from there.

Sometimes we need to change but we’re the last to know, the last to figure it out. This is the case for Quincy. Quincy is forced to change and in so doing she finally starts to discover who she really is.

Changing Places: Thursday August 28, 10am, Deakin Edge, Federation Square.

As part of the Melbourne Writers Festival I will also be running a session based on my Truly Tan series. This session, Magnetic Words, will be held at Art Play.  Please click the link if you would like more details.

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  1. It's too bad I can't attend your panel discussion. You are so right about having a good moderator to keep the discussion lively. I look forward to hearing back how it goes.

  2. Loved this insight into the story. It's in my 'To read' pile. Looking forward to it. x


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