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I spent the bank holiday weekend at the SCBWI Retreat in Dunford House in West Sussex and it was excellent fun. Organised by Sue Hyams, it had sessions by the critically acclaimed Candy Gourlay, the very entertaining Tommy Donbavand and the highly respected Janetta Otter-Barry from Frances Lincoln Books books but perhaps most importantly, it also had time for writing and I've been working hard on the current chapter.

Anyone telling you that I tried to steal Jo Wynton's suitcase is a filthy, rotten liar and you shouldn't listen to them. You definitely shouldn't listen to any suggestion that I was going to make a collage of her pants and put it up in a railway station.

The one bad thing about the retreat is that I've got a whole list of new book titles I'm interested in picking up, including:

- Tommy Donbavand's Scream Street series, which will finish in October and sounds a blast (and it's currently being developed into an animated series - how cool is that?!)

- Diary of a Wimpey Vampire by Tim Collins, which I would have bought this weekend from Waterstones because it made me giggle, but the Waterstones copy had damaged pages.

As an aside, Dunford House used to belong to Richard Cobden, a 19th century politician who was most famous for opposing the Corn Laws. The house is packed with memorabilia from his life, but I was particularly interested by the fact that they actually had his death mask - including a copy taken of his hand. It's gruesome but oddly compelling at the same time. I'm getting quite interested in death masks generally actually because I've got some ideas rattling around in my head where I think I could use them.

Anyone in the British Isles interested in checking out the SCBWI Retreat next year, check out the website in September for further information.

In other news, the Wall Street Journal decided to run an ill informed polemical piece on why dark subject matter in YA fiction is wrong. If you check out Twitter under #yasaves, you'll see countless examples of why this is bollocks.

What I find depressing about newspapers (any newspaper) running such hysterical nonsense is that so many of the so-called quality papers have ceased or greatly reduced the number of children's/YA fiction reviews they print. If they're not willing to talk about books coming out, if they're not willing to point adults and children and teen to books they hold in high regard, then they have no business complaining about what's being released.

Teens and children read the books they want to read. So called dark subject-matter has a place in expanding horizons, exposing readers to new ideas and addressing issues that many parents are reluctant to engage with. It is also no worse than opening a newspaper and reading about the rapes, murders, torture, war crimes, poverty and other misery that is out there in the real world (which, I notice, no one is suggesting censoring for younger readers).

To say that all fiction out there is dark is a gross mischaracterisation of the market and one that's easily countered by simply going down to your local store and seeing what's actually available.

To complain that YA fiction is needlessly dark is hypocritical given that the books children read in schools - those classics by people like Shakespeare and Dickens - deal with similarly dark material and often in a more horrific way.

Young adult fiction is a broad church and there are books out there in every genre for every reader. Anyone trying to categorise it as all bad and inappropriate and calling for censorship is a ninny harking back to an age that never existed.

Finally, as a head's up I'm going to be posting an interview with Steve Feasey to enchantedinkpot this Wednesday so keep an eye open for that.

Right, I need to get back to writing.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
I liked the comment from the homeschooling lady who gave her children the Xanth books as an alternative--apparently she's forgotten about Piers Anthony's leering obsession with sex, underage girls, and panties. I'd rather TC read The Hunger Games (which she did, and loved).
Jun. 5th, 2011 10:10 pm (UTC)
Oh don't get me started on the comments. The ones from people complaining that this was why they couldn't get published were the ones that really got on my girly bits.
Jun. 5th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)
Seriously, what is the matter with people? Not only do YAs read Dickens and Shakespeare, how about Lord of the Flies, and Catcher in the Rye, The Grapes of Wrath, and anything by Hemingway? When my daughter was a sophomore, we joked that they should hand out medication at the end of the semester, the stuff was so dark.
Christmas, some people are idiots.
Jun. 5th, 2011 10:12 pm (UTC)
Heh. Just realised I wrote "Dicks" instead of "Dickens". Paging Dr Freud ...

We read some really twisted stuff as a kid - I mean, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is about a false accusation of rape, racism and lynching - but it's still considered a classic.
Jun. 5th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
I did see that, but I figured you were just a fan of Philip K.
Jun. 5th, 2011 11:18 pm (UTC)
Re: "Dicks", I saw that but I thought it was just kinda funny. Yeah, "Hello Freud"...
Jun. 8th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
I'm 35 and lonely. Don't judge me. ;)
Jun. 9th, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
Honey, I was 30 and lonely, during an era when that was as stressful as being 35 and lonely is now, when I met Ray.
I don't think I generally judge people much, except if they're mean or bigoted. You're neither, I believe.

I'm being honest when I say I thought it was funny.
Jun. 9th, 2011 09:22 pm (UTC)
No, no it's cool - I was joking too!
Jun. 6th, 2011 04:36 pm (UTC)
So jealous! That SCBWI retreat sounds amazing :) Wish I was in the UK right now, I'd totally go...
And as for the WSJ article -- yeah, I'm so sure the woman who wrote that read nothing but picture books about fluffy bunnies until she was 20. And I'm sure she loved it when adults censured her reading as a teenager, telling her she couldn't read any classic novels or adult books because of the darkness and violence... Oh wait...
Jun. 8th, 2011 09:05 pm (UTC)

Yeah, we're really lucky to have Sue organise them. She gets awesome people and awesome places to hang out.

I was shocked to discover that the woman who wrote the WSJ article was one of their children's/YA reviewers - so you'd think she'd know better. Meh.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline Hooton

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