#LoveOzYA Spotlight: Get YA Words Out
#LoveOzYA Spotlight is a monthly series of blog posts highlighting bookish initiatives that promote Australian youth literature.
In July, the #LoveOzYA team spoke to Stacey Malacari about Get YA Words Out.
Q: Congratulations on the launch of Get YA Words Out earlier this year! Could you please tell the #LoveOzYA community a bit about the website and its aims?
A: Thanks! Get YA Words Out is a platform supporting the reading, writing and publishing of #AusQueerYA (And by Queer we mean the entire LGBTQIA+ spectrum). We provide information, advice, think-pieces and support for emerging Queer writers, as well as a directory of known #AusQueerYA titles. The ultimate aim of the site is to encourage more people to read, write and publish #AusQueerYA. There are so many stories still to be told and so many voices going unheard. We also aim to create better working conditions and representation for Queer writers and provide them with the confidence and skills to navigate such things as systematic oppression and discrimination, both personally and professionally.
Q: Why did you create Get YA Words Out specifically to support writers of queer #LoveOzYA? Did you feel #AusQueerYA writers needed a space of their own?
A: Queer persons are a historically marginalised group (and to be clear, I identify within this group). Even amongst the #AusQueerYA genre itself, Queer authors make up a minority of voices, although this has been the opposite in recent years, which is fantastic to see. I want to keep that ball rolling. I write Queer YA and I read Queer YA and I want more of it, from more voices, with a greater range of identities. I look at Get YA Words Out as part club-house, part classroom. It’s a place to make friends, support and be supported by your peers, and celebrate achievements. It’s a place to feel safe to talk about the issues that are specific to being a Queer writer and to be surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals. Being Queer and being a writer are two things that can be very isolating. This is important to address through initiatives such as Get YA Words Out.
Q: How does Get YA Words Out connect queer writers to the rest of the #LoveOzYA community?
A: We spend a lot of time researching and a lot of time networking within the greater #LoveOzYA and Queer communities. By providing Queer writers with the information for Queer-friendly publishers (as just one example), writers can make informed choices when they are ready to submit their #AusQueerYA manuscript and hopefully avoid harmful, unconstructive criticism from people who are judging based on the Queer aspect, not the quality of the story being told. We have plans in the works for workshops, mentorships and manuscript editing services, to build up confidence in the Queer community and foster relationships between writers, editors, publishers and readers. Get YA Words Out provides the tools to help bridge the privilege gap that exists between Queer and non-Queer writers.
Q: The reviews and booklists of queer #LoveOzYA on the Get YA Words Out site include notes on whether the books are #ownvoices. Why is this important?
A: Own Voices is kind of like when you have big news to share and you get home and your little sister has already told everyone, and they’re all super excited for you, but nobody actually wants to listen to you. Even though it’s your news. Its main purpose is to recognise how minority spaces are being used up by the white, hetero-normative majority and (more often than not) handsomely rewarded for doing so. There is a problem in our industry as a whole (not just YA) whereby non-Queer writers writing Queer stories are often favoured (in terms of publishing contracts, speaking events, grants and literary awards as a start) over Queer writers. Own Voices seeks to shed light on that and recognise the importance of Queer writers being able to tell their own stories. The problem lies not in non-Queer authors writing #AusQueerYA (keep doing that everyone, but just remember to research properly!), but the overall perception that there is a limit to the number of #AusQueerYA stories that can be published/successful in any given period of time, and preference being given to non-Queer authors, because they are less “controversial”. This is important, because it’s 2017 and Queer voices are still being silenced, censored and erased.
Q: It’s fantastic to see a new initiative such as Get YA Words Out supporting emerging queer writers! How can the #LoveOzYA community support this platform and #AusQueerYA?
A: Keep reading, sharing, reviewing and writing #AusQueerYA. Learn about Own Voices (further information on the website) and heterosexual privilege. Be a good ally to the Queer community as a whole and understand that sometimes being a good ally means stepping back and making room for your fellow humans. Listen when a Queer person tells you how they’d like to be treated, or if your behaviour has hurt them. Queer youth have one of the highest rates of suicide in Australia. I’m not so naive to think literature can solve this, but it can help shift the perception that being Queer is something to be ashamed of. To see ourselves within books is one of the most affirming experiences in this world. It makes you feel understood. Like you belong. We need to support (and by support, I mean pay) Queer writers for their work. We need to actively seek out marginalised voices who (due to things like homelessness or poor mental health) didn’t go to the top universities and study creative writing, or who haven’t had time to hone their craft as much as they could, due to having to work to support themselves. Most importantly, as Queer writers, we need to keep writing, no matter how hard it seems sometimes.
Thanks for your time, Stacey!