I just finished rereading Clive Barker’s Weaveworld, the 1987 fantasy which sees a world of magic, concealed for a century in an enchanted carpet, unleashed on contemporary Britain. It’s timely: I’ve been writing about the borderland between adult and YA literature lately, and I read the book when I was just starting high school.
As I write this, the rain is streaming down on an August bank holiday in the UK — but I think I’ve just had the best summer of my adult life. One of those childhood summers that seem to go on forever. As if these months of 2014 had opened a gateway from adult mundanity into the eternal Dream Summer.
For me, that summer’s epicentre lay somewhere around 1989 or 1990. I was about ten years old. It’s not precise because events, details, things I imagined and things I later learned, have all since run together. They slip beneath the calendar’s boundaries in both directions.
My friend, the children’s writer and editor Louie Stowell, was having Big Thoughts about Young Adult (YA) Literature on Twitter this week…
Theory re the popularity of YA with adults; everyone else's adolescences sound more appealing. Their pain is novelty, borrowed memories.—
Louie Stowell (@Louiestowell) August 20, 2014
Trying to respond to Louie, I find I’m a terrible critic. I lack perspective. I can’t formulate a consistent position, although I’m curious about the trend for adults to read YA literature. I feel like there’s something going on right now with adulthood and youth that’s fascinating – that really matters, even more than usual. The best I can do is wander around the borderlands between those categories. Maybe Louie’s right: maybe it’s some kind of strange intergenerational schadenfreude.
Ruth Graham tried to question adults reading YA at Salon.com earlier this year, but her piece fell into genre shaming – making readers feel bad for picking up a YA book as they might have once been for reading science fiction or romance. (Graham states: “Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.”). I don’t have a lot of time for people who demean YA literature as simplistic or unsophisticated, unworthy of serious attention.
And yet…I’m fascinated, and bemused, by this vogue among adult readers for a genre defined by its position as adulthood’s other. Louie’s Twitter correspondents expressed boredom with an adult literature obsessed with middle class neuroses, contrasted with the hope and opportunity represented by adolescence. YA then got compared to superheroes, sci-fi, and fantasy, those other great genres of freedom and possibility. All this chimed with the things that have been troubling me about “adult” and “YA” literature.
Adventures on the Front Lines of Modern Librarianship – Guest Post from Adrienne Hannan of Wellington City Libraries
Over the past couple of years I’ve run a number of projects testing the limits of the 21st century library – from online interactive storytelling to retail partnerships, live roleplay, and play-based learning for all ages.
With many community libraries in crisis, facing cuts and ignorance about their vital role in public life, the aim of these projects was to swiftly and dramatically push the boundaries of contemporary librarianship, setting precedents that could be exploited and developed after the first flowering.
One of my favourite places to visit during these adventures has been Wellington, New Zealand. Aotearoa’s capital city is small but lively. Its library ranks include the formidable Adrienne Hannan.
NZ Army reservist Adrienne invented the notion of the “Strategic Librarian” – a doctrine which sidesteps old-school leadership thinking to encourage innovation and accomplishment at all levels of a library organisation. Such an attitude is sorely needed if Australasian libraries, sometimes worryingly centralised, are going to avoid the fate of their kin in the UK.
In this guest post, Adrienne discusses some of Wellington City Libraries’ recent adventures on the front line of modern librarianship.
Getting back to human basics with our school holiday activities
At Wellington City Libraries we are intent on bringing stories alive for children and creating interactive experiences with them, so have embarked on a different way of running our school holiday activities recently.
We recognise that books, long seen as the bread and butter of libraries, are just a conduit to literacy, and children may require some kind of stimulating experience with the book to give it memorable context.
Often, this blog is full of libraries and literacy and museums and comics, and in recent weeks I’ve also been using the site to point out a few of the books I’ve been working on – but it’s not all work, work, work!
One of the reasons I walked across Spain earlier this year was to commemorate ten years since my friend Jules killed himself in London. Still hard to make sense either of my experiences on the walk or what Jules did, though I wrote about it once before on this site. I’m probably thinking about it again because of the latest celebrity death in the news.
Blimey, between this and the pre-orders for the 2015 Library Innovation Toolkit, it’s getting to be like the Home Shopping Channel over here.
Earlier this year, I was a consultant on the new Write and Draw Your Own Comics, created by the talented Louie Stowell and a range of brilliant artists for the children’s publisher Usborne.
Some of the activities in the book got field-tested by the kids and teens of Auckland, New Zealand, during my stint there last year and I can vouch for the finished work as being pretty freakin’ awesome.
Write and Draw Your Own Comics is out this October, but you can pre-order the book via the Forbidden Planet website now – looks like they’ve dropped the price by a couple of quid for early birds too.
The Library Innovation Toolkit from ALA Editions, the publishing arm of the American Library Association, is now available for pre-order online. I co-wrote the chapter on youth outreach, “Monsters, Rockets, and Baby Racers”, with my colleague Tracie Mauro from Parkes Shire, New South Wales.
From zombie sieges to boxcar races, gaming, art, and immersive storytelling, we offer practical tips on how libraries and other organisations can deliver inspirational, unconventional, and locally relevant cultural programming for kids and teens.
Just a quick post from London, where I saw this poster at Turnham Green tube station:
Richard Wentworth’s When You Look You May Not See takes a postcard written by First World War soldier Herbert Wilson and simply reverses the original lettering.
The postcard comes from the University of Oxford Poetry Archive and is presented as part of Art on the Underground’s contribution to London’s commemoration of the 1914-18 war.
To me it’s a perfect piece of public art. It uses genuine everyday communication from the archives; presents it in a simple, yet challenging, way; and it’s not bound within the walls of a museum or a prestigious city-centre location – it’s flung out to the platforms of public transport in the commuter suburbs.
It’s really important to think about where we physically place arts and culture programming – you can read more on that, in an Australasian context, in my VALA keynote from earlier this year. And in their own small way, my friends in the Australian town of Parkes have also been exploring the pleasures of ‘locative literature’ in 2014.
Huge congratulations to all involved in the London project and you can read more about When You Look You May Not See at the Art on the Underground website.
Over in the US, Library Journal has just published my piece on last year’s Dark Night burlesque season at Auckland Libraries in New Zealand.
The festival for over-18s aimed to “question, celebrate, and challenge sex and sexuality on page, stage, and screen” – and it led to exciting new projects such as this year’s award-winning XXUnmasked media literacy event.
As part of my Researcher in Residence project, coffee cups in the cafes of Parkes, New South Wales have been printed with stories and poems written by local writers.
Queensland librarian Alison Miles wrote about our cup project, and the wider trend of “locative literature”, for her website reading360. Go read her blog post on the power of ephemeral words!