This week, the communications director of LoveOzYA tells us why home-grown fiction is so important, and how the LoveOzYA movement helps local authors. From her teen years of writing and not knowing where to go -- because there aren't any Australian authors, right? -- to now being a huge part of the Australian writing community, Bianca Breen is a great ambassador for all Aussie YA authors.
I'm so happy that Bianca has kindly provided this blog post!
Bianca is an emerging YA writer. When she’s not at work at The Literature Centre in Fremantle, she’s the Communications Director of the Australian Young Adult Literature Alliance (LoveOzYA) and the host and creator of YA for WA. Bianca was the YA winner of the 2021 ASA Award Mentorship Program and is a 2022 Upcoming Writer-in-Residence at KSP Writers Centre. She holds a Bachelor of Creative Arts from La Trobe University. (Photo credit: Rachel Audino.)
I have a vivid memory of being sixteen, sitting at my desk in the rural Western Australian town I grew up in, practising what I would say to Oprah when she asked how I managed to write a bestselling novel while studying for Year 12 exams.
Not only was this just a dream because… well, come on – but because I believed that being published didn’t happen to people like me, or even to anyone in Australia, and especially not in Western Australia.
I would like to go back and shake sixteen-year-old me, too.
But it felt impossible at the time because I had never known or heard of anyone who had been published; a shallow search had told me only historical novels or memoirs came out of Australia, and not the sweeping fantasy adventures I wanted to write. Sometimes I think I just didn’t look hard enough, or pay enough attention to the books on the library shelves, but one only has to go back to 2015 to realise that maybe that wasn’t entirely the case.
After a study by the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) revealed that the most borrowed books by teenagers were by authors like John Green, Suzanne Collins, and Rick Riordan, whose stories were also dominating our silver screens, the LoveOzYA hashtag was born, helped by author Ellie Marney and agent Danielle Binks.
Our shelves are dominated by overseas titles, and Australia is always hard-pressed to compete against international numbers and funding. #LoveOzYA was, as it remains to this day, a community; a way for people to share, connect, and discover homegrown YA literature.
I didn’t actually discover #LoveOzYA as a movement until 2018. I’d just arrived in Melbourne after making the decision to pursue my writing seriously, and was googling opportunities when the call for submissions to UNDERDOG was being promoted on the #LoveOzYA website. My discovery of Australian YA books, authors, and events snowballed from there, and joining a book club (The YA Room) and attending launches and festivals also gave me a feel for what the local YA scene was. The world opened up to me.
#LoveOzYA taught me that Australia has a warm and welcoming community that not only inspires me to write, but encourages and supports me, and made me realise that I can make it one day and publish a novel. And even if I don’t, there’s no place I’d rather be than in this community, sharing a love of reading and writing.
I love reading YA for its accessibility (I struggle with those long dry fantasy books) and themes. I love the adventures they take me on, the (fictional) friends I get to meet along the way, and the lessons I learn. My teenage years were buried by depression, and I think YA stories give me that chance to relive them, to reimagine them differently.
I’ve been Communications Director at #LoveOzYA for over a year now. My role is to work with the volunteers on the Content Team to produce original content for social media that celebrates Australian YA, and share relevant industry news, events, and opportunities. Being in this role has been life-changing; not just for the skills it’s taught me, but for the chance to celebrate, promote, and share the same stories that transformed my life and way of thinking.
I love being involved in this community for so many reasons, and I love being a writer for so many more. With my platform – and eventually my books – I want to speak to the young people, like sixteen-year-old me, who think it’s an impossible dream. It’s not. We see you. Keep writing.