Thursday, 12 October 2017

#BathKidsLitFest Recap #3: Love, Literature, Life with Tom Ellen, Lucy Ivison and Lauren James


On Sunday, as I mentioned in my other post, I had a day filled with YA events. It started off with the Emily Barr Creative Writing workshop and ended with a cosplay panel featuring Maggie Harcourt, Lucy Saxon and Frances Hardinge. In between those two events were the Amy Alward, Sarah Barnard and Gemma Cairney talk and the Tom Ellen, Lucy Ivison and Lauren James one...the latter is the event I'll be recapping in this post!

I was several minutes late to the talk as I had to rush immediately from the other event which was in a different area. I'm kind of sorry I missed the first several minutes as it was such a brilliant event -I had a stupid, goofy grin plastered on my face for the entire duration. I loved that Tom, Lucy and Lauren chatted to the audience as if we were all close friends. I meant to take detailed notes like I did in the "Learning to Write" event but I mostly forgot to. I was far too busy laughing too much, chortling at all the rapid fire banter between those on the panel and listening, rapt, to the anecdotal stories the authors were telling us. I got completely swept up in the conversation - it was entertaining, witty and touching. All the authors seemed so nice and genuine and I felt like I wanted to be their best friend by the time the event was over. 

Like I said, I utterly adored the talk and I had so much fun listening to all the things the authors had to say; including personal anecdotes (a few involving hair straighteners), writing strengths and weaknesses, writing realistic YA fiction, writing processes and advice they'd give to their younger selves.

One of they key things they discussed that I found very interesting was writing realistic teen fiction. I haven't read any of Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison's books (MUST CHANGE THAT) but after hearing them talk, I'm convinced I need their books in my life. Their books sound so real and I think it's so important to have realistic YA fiction. I mean, I love contemporary books featuring finding your soul mate who happens to be gorgeous (complete with abs and a jawline that is sharp enough to cut) and who simultaneously is a sensitive soul who whispers poetry in your ear. I love those books as much as the next person does, but I also think it's really important to have YA books that are realistic. 


One of the things Tom and Lucy spoke about is how rare realistic teenage boys are in YA and all I can say to that is YES, ALL THE YES. I have read a lot of books and I've known several guys (not a lot, though, my life is sadly deficient in the boy department) and not one of the guys I've met have resembled Will Herondale, Four or Jace in any way at all. Perhaps I'm looking in the wrong place, but I doubt it. Those boys are fictional (tragically) and real guys aren't. Real guys aren't all super nice, super sensitive, super gorgeous people who are constantly showering you with romantic gestures and who will stay with you for eternity. I really liked the fact that Tom and Lucy want to incorporate realistic teen guys into their books. I feel like the romanticised ideals of love interests in books can, in a way, negatively affect our relationships in real life because we go into them with completely unrealistic expectations. I really like the fact that Tom and Lucy are setting out to write contemporary books that are realistic. 

Some of the ways in which Tom and Lucy make their books realistic are by including things that have happened to them, taking a "gamble" by writing about things that people don't want to be reminded of (such as falling out of love and the everyday humdrum of real life) and dialogue that feels real. If the dialogue in their books is anything like their dialogue in real life...I VOLUNTEER AS A TRIBUTE to read all their books ever. Lucy stressed several times the importance of writing a diary throughout your life to really help preserve how you felt and thought and to remind yourself of what you did at a certain age - it could give you fodder for a book at some point! I felt really inspired after hearing that piece of advice. I've kept a journal several times throughout my life but I've never been consistent with it. Her advice reminded me how helpful it is to keep a journal and how wonderful it will be to read my old entries and see how I've grown as a person. I may even get some plot ideas in the process.  


Lauren James has written YA sci-fi books (I'm so excited to read them, they sound amazing) and she also expressed the importance of including small, every day things in her books as it makes it feel real. She spoke about how in one chapter her character experiences bad period pain and I applaud her for including that in her latest novel, as YA female characters seem to never be ailed by period cramps ever. It's these small, human experiences that can make a book that more authentic, that more relatable and that more easier to fall in love with. 

I also enjoyed listening to Lauren speak about how she studied physics and chemistry at university and how the things she learned during her course has helped her shape the sci-fi books she now writes. As an aspiring astrophysicist, it was so inspiring listening to female scientist talk about how she could meld science with YA literature. Due to it often being seen as two completely separate things, I found it really encouraging to see that you can combine writing and a science degree - and how they can benefit one another!

Another interesting thing that was discussed was including pop culture in books and how it can be quite difficult to do this. I don't know about you, but I absolutely love it when books reference musicians that are currently popular, current fashion trends, social media etc. Again, it makes the book more fun and in a sense more intimate, as the level of being able to relate to the characters' lives increases drastically. Tom, Lucy and Lauren brought up some thought-provoking points regarding the subject that I'd never considered before. One of them being that social media and pop music change at such a rapid speed.  Since writing a book can take a year or two, you could very well include artists/apps that are popular when you first start writing a book that, by the time it's published, the then-popular things you included might no longer be relevant. I never actually realised the danger of including popular trends whilst writing a book: it could make your book seem outdated when it's just been released. For an instance, I'm pretty sure less teenagers are using Facebook now than they were a few years back, Vine - something that was extremely popular - no longer exists; there are musicians that aren't that relevant anymore who were extremely well-known a few years back...the world and its interests are evolving at rapid speed. How can we keep up with that?


I also enjoyed listening to the three authors' varying writing processes. Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison write together and I found it so fascinating listening to how they write their books! With emailing each other their chapters back and forth, reading out the dialogue to one another to make sure it sounds like something people would actually say, and how with dual writing you get things done in a timely manner. 
Tom Ellen was saying that if he knew Lucy had finished her chapter and it was his turn to write, he would feel an increased sense of urgency to write and get his chapter done so that she could start writing her section. Lauren James - whose one WIP is being written with another author - said that when you're co-authoring with someone it helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses. I think that is so wonderfully helpful and can really, over time, help a person grow as a writer. Hopefully I can co-author with someone one day - I think it would be such an enriching experience!

I absolutely loved hearing about all the fascinating things that were discussed. Lucy from Queen of Contemporary (who was chairing the panel) asked such brilliant questions and I loved listening to the oftentimes hilarious - and always genuine - answers to the questions. I can't wait to read all of their books as they honestly sound incredible! It was a fabulously fun event. 

Have you read any of these authors' books? What do you think about realistic YA contemporaries? Do you think it's important to include things that we deal with on a day-to-day basis in books? Would you ever like to co-author a book?

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