Telling Tales with Bec Kavanagh
The Wheeler Centre’s Telling Tales series is a program of events for YA booklovers. From coming-of-age to fantasy, romance to horror, the series explores topics with some of your favourite #LoveOzYA authors and the teens they write for.
We recently chatted to Bec Kavanagh, Youth Programming Manager at The Wheeler Centre, about Telling Tales.
Featured image artwork by Pilgrim Hodgson.
Can you tell us a bit about you and your work with The Wheeler Centre?
I’m the Youth Programming Manager at the Wheeler Centre (which is, secretly, the best job because I get to work with teens and YA writers). I curate all of the programming for teens, and my main priority is to get teens on stage, telling their stories, and to connect them with the writers and books they love. The best thing has been watching the community of young writers grow since I started in 2019 and the amazing way they encourage each other whenever they’re in the room together. It’s pretty inspiring.
What’s your background with #LoveOzYA?
I’ve been involved in the YA community for a long time and was the inaugural chair of the LoveOzYA board. We ran the first roundtables to come together as a community and discuss next steps and were responsible for developing the LoveOzYA website. It’s pretty exciting to see how far the org has come since then – you’re all doing amazing things.
Why YA? What draws you to the stories, and what are some of your favourite Australian YA books?
YA is such a heavy lifter – it covers all genres, speaks to one of the most discerning audiences on the planet (young people), and is a hot-bed of experimentation in terms of content, style and format. The YA community in Australia is full of committed, talented writers who genuinely care about writing books about the lives of young people, and who take them and their stories seriously. It is truly impossible to pick a fave, but my touchstone is always Came Back to Show You I Could Fly by Robin Klein, because it was the first book I found myself in. I was also a big fan of Space Demons and Galax-Arena. For recent YA there’s so much on offer for all readers. We’ve got the best of the best baby! Lili Wilkinson, Penni Russon, Jared Thomas, Ellie Marney, Simmone Howell, Amie Kaufman, Cath Moore, Alice Pung – and that’s just to name a few. We are so lucky.
Tell us about the Telling Tales series! What’s it all about?
Telling Tales is a culmination of all of the things I’ve been trying to do at the Wheeler Centre – it puts teens on stage, provides mentorship and professional development opportunities, showcases new works from the best of Australian YA writers, and is a night for the whole community to come together, get to know each other, and have a good time listening to some stupendous stories. These storytelling evenings bring three established YA writers together with three teen writers to share six brand new works of short fiction around a particular theme – we’ve had the meet cute, the scary stuff, fantasy worlds, and coming up we’re leaning into the nitty gritty of reality bites. They’re so special and full of good storytelling energy.
How did past sessions go, and what are you looking forward to in the future?
Our past sessions were beyond everything I hoped for, although I shouldn’t have been surprised. I know firsthand that the YA community here always shows up – for each other, and for teens. I’ve loved hearing new stories from writers I love – it’s such a treat to get a sneaky little extra from them. And I have LOVED seeing how well the stories by teens are received by everyone – you just cannot leave these events with any doubt around the intelligence and creativity of young people.
What are you hoping the series achieves?
I want Telling Tales to bring new writers into the YA community, and to support those teens who perhaps haven’t found their writing tribe yet – it’s out there! And I want to create an event that lets audiences relax after what has, frankly, been a really rough couple of years. There’s nothing nicer than being read to, and to sit in a room of the best people hearing some incredible stories is such a thrill.