Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Closer to the Truth

I spent an interesting morning at the State Library of Victoria last week. The Centre for Youth Literature had organised 3 fantastic authors to talk about the topic "Closer to the Truth". Melina Marchetta, John Heffernan and Randa Abdel-Fattah discussed their individual approaches to writing, and finding inspiration in the reality of world events. Each author talk was preceded by dramatisation of a short section of the author's book. This was a great way to introduce the books.

Randa talked about her new book Where The Streets Had A Name. This book tells the story of thirteen year old Hayaat who is on a mission for her dying Grandmother. Hayatt believes a handful of soil from her grandmother's ancestral home in Jerusalem will save her grandmother's life. The only problem is the wall that divides the West Bank, as well as the check points, the curfews, the permit system and Hayaat's best friend Samy, who is mainly interested in football and the latest elimination on X-Factor, but always manages to attract trouble.
Randa gave us an overview of the division of Palestine after World War Two and the struggles of Palestinians separated from loved ones and their homeland. This helps us to relate to Hayaat's journey which although short in distance is fraught with danger.

John Heffernan talked about his book Marty's Shadow. John gave us insight into the main character of Marty, a troubled sixteen year old who cares for his younger brother while his father is away. Marty has recurring nightmares and visions which are memories of something terrible that has happened in his past. Marty has to piece these snippets together to solve the mystery and discover what he has blocked from his mind, and face the reality of his past.

Melina introduced us to her new book Finnikin of the Rock which is a fantasy book set in a world of turmoil where an impostor king has taken the throne after the slaughter of the royal family. A curse is put on Lumatere, which traps those caught inside and forces thousands of others to roam the land as exiles, dying of fever and persecution in foreign camps. It tells the story of Finnikin and Evanjalin and their journey to return to Lumatere.

Although a fantasy novel Melina compares this book to her other books Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, and On Jellicoe Road. She describes the mutual themes of a sense of belonging to a community and the search for identity as themes that are identifiable in all her books.

Question time brought out some interesting differences in the authors and their writing style. John clearly plans out his stories from beginning to end on whiteboards, however Randa and Melina write without plans and let their characters come to life during the writing process. This means that characters often travel in a direction that may be unexpected even to the writer.

It was a great morning. Look out for the Australian Centre for Youth Literature's program in 2009.


Anonymous said...

Great post, 'Where The Streets Had A Name' looks especially interesting!!!
I might have a squiz at it some time.


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