All Day YA: My Top 5 #SWF Picks!

Across the 2017 Festival, some of the world’s most curious and compassionate, irreverent but respectful, intelligent and argumentative writers will be offering up their brilliant works as temporary respite, and interrogating the forces that compel us to come together and find sanctuary.

Michaela McGuire
Sydny Writers’ Festival Artistic Director

It’s that time of year again! That time of year when you’re frantically flicking through your diary and the Sydney Writers’ Festival Guide in the hope that nothing that you desparately want to see clashes. There is one day, however, where I know nothing I want to see will clash (phew, that’s a releif!)

You guessed it! All Day YA is back for the 2017 Sydney Writers’ Festival. This time it makes its home at Riverside Theatres in Paramatta instead of the wharf, but the line-up is so incredible it’ll be worth the trip away from the glorious literary hustle and bustle of the piers for sure!


Here are my Top 5 picks for the All Day YA program:

1. Love Oz YA Anthology: Begin, End, Begin

I love that Aussie YA is becoming more popular and widespread (which has a lot to do with the incredible #LoveOzYA online movement). It’s important to have authentic, young, and contemporary Australian voices heard, especially because of their diversity! The release of the Love Oz YA anthology Begin, End, Begin is the YA event of the year for me so far and I look forward to hearing what these talented, successful, and passionate Aussie YA authors have to say about their writing and why it’s important to support Australian books and Australian authors. I’m certain it will be an uplifting and celebratory panel about how much there truly is to love about Oz YA!

2. Defying Expectations: How Female Writers Defy Stereotypes

This is a topic that I hold particularly close to my heart. Being a young woman, and trying to make it as a writer, I am excited to hear what four incredibly successful female YA writers have to say about defying the expectations of gender stereotypes. All four writers on the panel are such inspirations to me! Their writing is raw and genuine and full of life. I am most interested in hearing Amie Kaufman speak about being a female writer who writes female characters that defy stereotypes within the science-fiction and fantasy genres, which are still genres that are overly dominated and defined by male writers, male characters, and gender stereotypes.

3. Keeping Company: Characters Across a Series

I am looking forward to this panel mainly for Garth Nix! His books have immersed me and challenged me over the years, and I take great inspiration from the ways in which he constructs his characters. James Bradley is a master storyteller of future worlds, and I am a fiend for post-apocalyptic YA (especially when it is done well!), so I’m hoping this panel will include a discussion on characters within dystopian novels. I’m also interested in this panel for my own writing as I am intrigued as to how writers can keep characters interesting and dynamic across multiple novels, and have them leave a special place in our hearts.

4. More Than Meets the Eye: Diversity in YA Fiction

This is a topic that sparks my interest, especially in YA novels because I believe it’s important to represent diversity to teenagers and young adults in an authentic way. I hope this panel discusses how they each create diverse characters that are not tokenistic, artificial, or stereotypical. I can’t even decide which author I’m most looking forward to seeing from this panel — Sarah Ayoub, Randa Abdel-Fattah, Erin Gough or Will Kostakis. It’s just too hard! Each writer on the panel is a groundbreaking and inspirational figure to me, as I’m sure they are to many other fans out there! These four Australian YA writers are sure to provide an inspiring, funny, and diverse discussion!

5. Talking Tough Topics with Jennifer Niven

Jennifer Niven is renowned for writing fiction that draws on her own personal struggles and life-altering experiences of growing up. This is what makes her writing so raw and so real for many teens and young adults. I am fascinated by her boldness and her ability to write fictionally about things that she holds so close to her, especially things that might be deemed controversial in some way. There is lots of discussion in the media at the moment about including tough topics in YA literature so I think it will be interesting to hear from a writer who writes about these ‘tough topics’ for teens and what her opinion is about some of the contentious backlash. I look forward to hearing what Jennifer has to say about adapting her experiences and how it feels for her to let them out into the world to be read, interpreted, and discussed.

A big thank you Sydney Writers’ Festival for giving me the opportunity to write for them. You can view the original post by them and see the rest of their amazing line-up here.



Fave Reads of 2016

As my first book post, I want to throw back to 2016 and some of the amazing books that came out! According to my two favourites, I’m into obsessive characters and unreliable narrators, haunting plots and dark twists…

The Graces by Laure Eve

It’s about obsession and desire, and how raw those feelings are when they first envelop you, how they shape everything. It’s about how dangerous our love of glamour can be…

And more simply, it’s about a girl whose most desperate, secret desire is to belong.

Laure Eve on The Graces 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was no question when I read The Graces that it was going to be my pick of the year! From the very first haunting sentence I was intensely seduced by this Young Adult thriller; the world of River, and her obsession with the mysterious and magnetic Grace family, who are rumoured to have the ability to weave magic. This book is a maze of unnerving twists and turns; I reached the end and immediately wanted to go back and reread it to scramble for the clues I’d missed! Reminiscent of Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts and Michelle Hodkin’s The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, Laure Eve writes with mesmeric and precise prose that seeps under your skin and creates an ominous atmosphere that makes you shudder.

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Girls had to believe in anything but their own power, because if girls knew what they could do, imagine what they might.

Girls on Fire, Robin Wasserman

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaving previously devoured all of Robin Wasserman’s Young Adult fiction, I picked up Girls on Fire – Wasserman’s first dive into contemporary fiction – with high expectations. I was completely blown away! Part crime thriller, part love story, part coming-of-age, there are undertones of True Detective’s Southern Gothic and The Virgin Suicides’ intoxication of female friendship in this haunting and captivating read. At times I was so much part of the words on the page that I myself was caught up in the obsessive intensity of Dex and Lacey’s friendship; I wanted to shake them and hug them close at the same time. Wasserman has the rare power to cast a spell over the reader with her beautifully harrowing prose. But be warned, once you pick this book up, you’ll be sucked into its harrowing world, you won’t want to put it back down, and you certainly won’t forget it.

Other 2016 Releases I Loved