Monday, 18 August 2014

A Tale of Two Outlanders*

dianagabaldon.com
My friend has been excited over the television adaptation of Outlander for what seems to be forever. It came up in conversation, her Twitter feed was swamped with mentions, she was trying to speak Gaelic from the Starz videos, and I learnt that she’d named her dog after a minor character in a later book. She's WAY into it. When it was announced that this well-known romantic, time traveling tale was being re-imagined, I failed to understand the reference. I had never heard of the series. Not once. And I read considerable quantities of historic romance. I seem to have fallen in the Outlander void.

Now my friend, Danielle, has been asking me to read it. I considered it. And then I discovered it was eight hundred pages long and really who has time to read a book that is that long? Seriously, that’s 3-4 YA books, or a really, really long saga that I actually want to read. But for an obligation read….no.

And then I folded like a cheap suit.

You’ll notice she favourited it. I believe she’s collecting evidence so that when I fall in love with the series she can hold it before me and yell ‘told you so’. I am not entirely sure this is going to happen. Danielle is very sure.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

ATX Festival: my ramblin' recap

ATX Festival is a three day festival celebrating television in Austin, Texas.  While young adult fiction is my passion and my career, television has its own slice of my heart. The festival was a beautiful combination of popular and critical darlings, a laid back feel and an intimate approach.

I fell in love with this festival.

Attendees were unbelievably friendly (I have new FB friends a-plenty) and the embracing of heightened TV enjoyment was a joy to behold.  Attendees asked thoughtful questions, industry people meshed with viewers, and everyone was relaxed. Not simply a fandom event, this festival has committed itself to exploring the creatives behind the stories we watch and some of the actors that help bring it to life. It does feel as though it's on the cusp of being bigger, the presence of some autograph hounds and vulture-like fans, alluded to a more fan-ish future.

But what panels did I see?:


Orange is the New Black
The crowd was treated to the first episode of season 2 a few hours after the entire season had been accessible on Netflix.  It was such an incredible feeling being seated in the State Theater surrounded by so many people being moved, and laughing at a show we all felt passionate about.  Soon after the moderator (Todd van der Wolf - AV Club) introduced Uzo Aduba (Crazy Eyes), Danielle Brooks (Taystee) and Lea DeLaria (Big Boo). The panel was sustained by the amazing charisma and chemistry of the actresses as the moderation was (to be kind) underwhelming.

Beyond Bullying: What's Next for TV's LGBT teens?
A late addition to the program, this GLAAD supported event featured Wilson Cruz (MSCL's Ricky) as its chair alongside Faking It's Carter Covington (creator) and Michael Willett (Shane). I was enormously excited to this panel because the representation of LGBT teens, and any diverse teens, is a rare feat in TV.  Cruz began the panel with a list of openly gay characters on television and then lead a discussion about the representation, characterisation and expectation of gay teens on our screens. OINTB's Lea DeLaria attended the session as an audience member but was included in the discussion as well.  It was a thought provoking panel and I'll refer those interested to this post by a fellow attendee. The generosity, kindness and thoughtfulness of each of these panel members was inspiring.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

That time Adele met FNL...


Source
Having just returned from an awesome three week holiday in the US, I should have started blogging immediately upon my return.  I sadly did not.

Though I spent more of my time in NYC (and there will be a post about this), I made a quick visit to Austin for the ATX Festival (also another post.)  I immediately fell in love with Texas and its people...and the margaritas.

On the shuttle ride to my hotel I saw field lights from a sports field  in the distance.  The strains of Explosions in the Sky started weaving their way through my brain and sure enough I started getting a little teary eyed.  I love Friday Night Lights. I reference it way too often, watch it continually and gift it to many.  A few years back I even asked a series of YA authors to write about it for this blog. I have a love affair with the show, its cast and creatives, and Texas in general. Football, however....

The ATX Festival is a celebration of television, new and old, and it was the perfect kind of event for me.  Attendees were passionate and lovely. The program was diverse featuring in depth industry panels alongside screenings and reunions that tugged on our viewing nostalgia. But one of the most special experiences for me was attending the FNL tail gate screening. Basically a parking lot was taken over, a large screen brought in, live music played, beer drunk and several members of the cast available to the adoring (but v chill) public.

While I had a ball meeting so many actors who have a special place in my heart, watching an episode (Ch-ch-changes) with so many other fans in the Austin heat was an unique and very special event. In fact, having attended many screenings over that weekend, I think we should all be watching television as communities. 

Anyway - I met people.  I spoke with people. FNL people. And I hugged the people. I think my face says it all.

Yes - I met Grandma Saracen (aka Louanne Stephens)...
When she heard I was there from Australia she bowed down.
She also hugged the stuffin' out of me. She also had the longest line.
I think in some way people came to check that she was okay and in the end she made
everyone else feel looked after.

Stacey Oristano (aka Mindy) - super lovely.  

Derek Phillips (aka Billy Riggins) may have been the only person in attendance who was redder than I. He was so open and enthusiastic to all the fans.

Tyra-freaking-Collete. Actually Adrianne Palicki, who is the most beautiul person alive. She hugged me when she heard I was there from Oz too. 

Jason Katims - he who makes awesome TV (FNL, MSCL, Roswell, Parenthood etc).
I thanked him for making me cry weekly.

I had a blast...and soon there will a post about all the other programming I enjoyed at ATX.  But for now, let's remember how awesome this show was.

Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Teen Author Carnival 2014

It has been four years since I was last in the New York City in which I visited blogging pals, survived the hellish-ness of the subway in August and revelled in the beauty of the city.

This year I shall be returning to attend BEA for the very first time....and chair a session at the fifth annual Teen Author Carnival. I am so excited as one of those people that I spent time with many years back was Mitali who organises TAC. I've always wanted to experience the event she created alongside the very fetching Devyn and Korianne, and now I get to see it in action AND chair a session. Mind blown.

 So what will I be chairing...

I’ll Be There For You 
1. Ann Stampler – Afterparty
2. Rebecca Serle – The Edge of Falling, Famous In Love 
3. Kara Taylor – Wicked Little Secrets 
4. Elizabeth Eulberg – Better Off Friends 
5. Sarah Mlynowski – Don’t Even Think About It

This panel will be taking place at 6pm alongside three other smashing panel line ups. However, I am rather partial to my lovely crew of lovelies.  So please come along, ask questions and try to decrypt the mysteries of my Australian accent.



#TAC14

Monday, 19 May 2014

Review: The Fault in Our Stars (FILM)

Source: US Weekly
Last week I was very fortunate to be invited to a preview screening of The Fault in Our Stars. Penguin Teen Australia extended an invitation and I grabbed at it with two grubby hands.  But what did I think?

SPOILERS ABOUND - BEWARE

If you're reading a YA blog, of which this is, and haven't heard of (or read) this novel then I have no words.  I won't be retelling the plot as 1) I shouldn't have to, and 2) I am too lazy.

The Story
Admission - I think TFioS is a good book and have often remarked that the first ten pages are as close to YA perfection as I can conceive. However, I don't think it is the masterpiece that it is often touted as, and I have always had concerns with the Gus character, the whole Amsterdam segue and the narrative arc.  Basically I found Gus to be insufferable and would have prefered for John Green to concentrate on a girl, her view on life and death, and her parents.  The romance was never the part that grabbed me, Hazel's voice was.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

2013 YA Romance highlights

*Note: This first appeared in the Australian Romance Readers Association members newsletter - Issue 55.

In a publishing industry that is going through tremendous change, there are two areas that continue to thrive; romance and young adult (YA). It just so happens that I love both tremendously and have this opportunity to bring to your attention the 2013 YA titles that show what can be done when you bring these two worlds together.

YA is fiction that explores that period of adolescence in which everything changes and a whole heap of ‘firsts’ take place. Romance does underpin a majority of YA so I have chosen titles that explore first love, disappointment and occasionally sex, with aplomb.

Rainbow Rowell has made an enormous impact in the youth literature sphere this past year and with good reason. Eleanor and Park (Hachette) explores the journey that takes place when two misfits meet on the school bus, connect over music and comics, and fall in love. Eleanor is a big, brassy, nonconformist; she’s also the new kid at school with a horrible home life. Park, unlike Eleanor, manages to blend in despite being half-Korean. His family, while safer, is just as much of a mess. It’s about connection, family and finding a light in another person. Beautiful writing featuring duel perspective loveliness.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

The Future of YA

A few months back I was interviewed for a major Australian media outlet on the future of young adult literature.  They sent me the following questions. I have a tendency to respond long but in the end they only used lines that 1) referenced John Green, and 2) a tiny Twilight pun.  

So here's what I answered, many months ago, when asked the following questions:  

What are the reading trends you are seeing with teenagers and YA fiction? Has supernatural romance run its course? Is it still strong? Are there any clues to what the next wave might be?
Supernatural has always been popular but the sparkle is definitely rubbing off a little.  Dystopian is the current trend that has exploded off the back of series like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games and Patrick Ness’ Chaos Walking.  Neither supernatural, paranormal or dystopian are new to readers but their increasing relevance in pop culture is making a greater impact.  All of these genres within YA have commonalities -  romance, adventure, empowerment and often mix of all genres to make new breeds of story.  Sci-fi has had a small resurgence, with a bent towards romance, and contemporary/realist YA is always present on the bestseller lists. 

There is growth in the New Adult category which can be seen as a part of YA but is more fittingly aligned with commercial adult fiction.  New Adult was coined by St Martin’s Press in 2009 for narratives that detail the time after high school and before working life – YA collegiate in a sense.  However, its success can be attributed to the romance and erotica elements of what is being written and a decidedly adult audience. 

Sunday, 30 March 2014

2014 US Adventure: BEA, TAC & ATX

In just under two months I'll be journeying to the United States for my annual leave.  It will be relatively quick - 2.5 weeks - but completely jammed packed.

The last time I was in New York was four years ago and I was able to meet with a host of authors and bloggers.  It was completely life changing in many ways but specifically a meeting in Penguin US HQ made me realise that I wanted a career in YA books.  I knew I had to move to Melbourne and redefine my career and soon after I found myself at the Centre for Youth Literature that fulfilled both those requirements in a beautiful way.

So what's my plan?

I arrived in NYC just in time for...

Unplugging from John Green & Rob Thomas

youthopia
I am a self-confessed online junkie.  I spend an inordinate amount of time online in professional and personal capacities.  I like being a keystroke away from any information, news, or person.  But events over the past year have made me realise one thing - I don't need to know how the sausage is made.

Some context...

I am a rampant media consumer.  I am active in young adult literature, library, teaching, pop culture and romance communities.  I have equal numbers of real life and online friends, and they are all great people.

For all the benefits the internet has given me (email, shopping, Skype, a new career), there is one notable downside.

I can't escape.

I can't escape from being inflicted with every detail of every process of some creator's work.

This wasn't so much of an issue until this year and two creators;

  • John Green, and 
  • Rob Thomas

Monday, 24 March 2014

Review: Total Surrender

Cheryl Holt
St Martin’s Paperbacks (2007)
Historical romance

With the last of her family possessions gambled away by her dissolute brother, Lady Sarah Compton has traveled to a country house gala for one last moment of grace and beauty. But she is unaware that the occasion is actually a notorious trysting event, where members of the aristocracy can indulge in their every sensual fantasy and erotic whim. Nor does she realize that the striking man who has stolen into her bedroom is none other than Michael Stevens—a rake who gives and takes his pleasures boldly… 
The bastard son of an earl, Michael Stevens relishes his reputation as London’s most notorious seducer. But he has no idea what to make of the auburn-haired beauty he’s nearly mistaken for new conquest or how such an innocent could possibly have been invited to a gather where London’s bored elite caters to each other’s carnal desires. When the lady refuses to heed Michael’s warning—to leave the house for her own protection—a powerful attraction grows, and soon, he longs to tutor the very proper Lady Sarah Compton in the art of passion…

Tag Line:

“It was a game with only one rule – ultimate pleasure.”

I am only hoping that tag lines become a running joke as I can’t imagine them getting worse than this…but I hope they do.

The Heroine:

While Sarah does fall into the ‘country mouse’ cliché that seems to permeate the genre, she’s got more than enough curiosity to keep the plot interesting and moving. She knows nothing about attraction and hasn’t ever thought to marry after an unsuccessful Season that hinted at Mean Girls circa 1810. This naiveté is frustrating as a contemporary reader but is in line with the awareness most females had about themselves, the opposite gender and sex in general. It is equally frustrating witnessing her efforts to deal with her brother as she’s full of moxie, just never when necessary. You see, Sarah’s contented herself by cleaning up the messes of her lout of a brother and keeping the home fires burning. Yes, she’s the self-sacrificial sort. But in attending her friend’s house party (or sex romp holiday – not kidding) she meets …