Danielle Binks, literary agent and author of The Year the Maps Changed, was kind enough to share with us her advice for the next generation of young writers. Here’s what she had to say:
Speaking as an agent, I do hear of many emerging writers who either try and present a homogenous, anywhere-in-the-world type story in the anticipation it’ll be sold internationally and a more specific location can be slotted in later, or else try and write into American markets specifically by setting stories in Indiana, Ohio, Virginia or wherever … even though they themselves have never been there, and live in Parramatta. I’m generally talking of contemporary storytellers here. And I just want to say … you don’t have to do that.
I give this talk to schools, teachers, emerging writers, readers – everyone. It’s called ‘The Books of Your Own Backyard’ and it’s a history of YA and Australian YA specifically, delving into the beginnings #LoveOzYA as it sits against other grassroot movements like #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #OwnVoices. And there’s this moment in my talk where I say; Art changes people, and people change the world.
Because it’s true.
Look at any political protest and march of the last four years and see the abundance of protest signs held aloft that reference Harry Potter (Dumbledore’s Army) or The Hunger Games (‘Down with the Capitol’) – and tell me it’s not true.
Art changes people, and people change the world.
And the thing is; Australia has very unique social and political problems – some of our issues are of course global (hello climate change, we are in this fight together!) but we don’t have the same problem with gun-violence or a lack of universal healthcare as they do in, say, America. So if you want to see changes to the Australian landscape in little and big ways, I say one way to do that is through our art.
And I don’t just mean the stories in books. I mean staking out a claim for Australian voices to address Australian culture, and explore ourselves across media and communications, art and society generally.
It’s why we should be furious that the Australian Associated Press (AAP) has closed its doors – that loss of newswires, subediting and photography will be huge and deeply felt in the coming years, and will result in less Australian stories being covered and told.
It’s why we should keep ABC in the hands of the Australian public – and fund it generously, lavishly even.
We should hold free-to-air channels to their content quota obligations for telling Australian dramas and children’s stories (rather than letting them just repackage American reality-TV with Australian contestants).
It’s why we should be really angry when our Government eliminates any mention of the word ‘Art’ and instead rolls us into the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
Make no mistake, they do that because; Art changes people, and people change the world.
Don’t forget that when you’re writing your own stories too.
Danielle Binks is a writer, reviewer, agent and book blogger who lives on the Mornington Peninsula. In 2017, she edited and contributed to Begin, End, Begin, an anthology of new Australian young adult writing inspired by the #LoveOzYA movement, which won the ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children (Ages 13+) and was shortlisted in the 2018 Gold Inky Awards.
Want to keep up to date with the latest LoveOzYA new releases, resources, events and news? SUBSCRIBE to our monthly newsletter.
Tags: Australian Literature, Australian stories, Australian YA, Danielle Binks, writing tips, YA writing advice