Young Adult Fiction Panel at Waterstones, Leeds: “An Inspirational Evening”
The YA Panel at Waterstones Leeds featured four wonderful Young Adult fiction authors, with Martyn Bedford, Annabel Pitcher, Zoe Marriott and Kim Slater discussing ‘Issues of Identity: Mental Illness & Diversity in YA’.
The authors were all incredibly open, and shared so much of their personal lives and experience with us. I had expected the authors to be more reserved, but the way they really connected with the audience was fantastic.
Though the authors did touch upon how they tackle writing about mental health issues, the audience learned so much more than that. We found out about each author’s writing process, how they create strong, likeable characters – and what does a ‘strong character’ really mean, anyway?
Martyn Bedford is a successful novelist and Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing. His YA novel, Flip (which is absolutely brilliant by the way – go read it!) was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards. His second YA novel, Never Ending (another great read) tackles the effects of grief and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During the panel discussion, Martyn’s humble demeanour and great sense of humour really shone through, and he offered some extremely insightful points.
Annabel Pitcher is another fantastic YA novelist. Her third book, Silence is Goldfish (I’m around halfway through now and absolutely hooked) is out now! The book follows a girl as she goes through selective mutism. The panel discussed how Annabel tackled writing a book where the main protagonist doesn’t speak for most of the book, which was incredibly interesting and made me want to take out the book then and there to read on! Annabel Pitcher has such a lovely presence and she offered so many great stories and inspirational thoughts – I will certainly keep an eye out for other events she’s involved with, as I’d love to see her discuss her work in more detail.
Zoe Marriott dominated a lot of the discussion, and at times I did find this distracting. However, her bubbly personality and funny stories were well received by all. Author of The Swan Kingdom and many other fantasy novels for children and young adults, Marriott offered insight into the fantasy world of YA fiction. I learnt a lot from her, especially when she discussed writing processes such as how to get over writers’ block.
Kim Slater, whose debut book Smart came out earlier this year, was the quietest of the panel. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as the points she did make were very insightful and she engaged well with the other panellists. Newest of the four to the ‘writing scene’, I believe that Slater is one to watch, as her writing style is great and she has a wealth of writing experience.
It was a shame there wasn’t time for the panellists to read out extracts of their work, but luckily the Q&A session went ahead. Martyn gave a young aspiring writer in the audience some wonderful advice on the first steps to finding a literary agent, and offered nothing but encouragement. I really enjoyed seeing this kind of engagement with the audience.
The overall vibe of the evening was very casual and chit-chatty, which I really enjoyed. I don’t personally like writing events where questions are fired at the panellists with no room to go off at a tangent. Natural conversation evolves from questions, and it’s nice to be able to witness this dynamic kind of discussion.
I’d definitely recommend all four authors’ books, and also any live event they are involved with. We often see film/TV stars bring in crowds of people, and writers’ get very little credit for all their hard work. People often take the attitude that their books are the most important thing, but this isn’t the case. There is always a voice behind the book – and it was a treat to be able to hear these authors talk about their experiences.
by Sophie Joelle