Last week the Children's Book Council Book of the Year Shortlist was announced. There were sixteen books on the Older Readers Notable list, with six books on the actual Shortlist. Of the sixteen Notables, four books have female protagonists. On the Shortlist, there's just one.
Firstly, congratulations to all the authors on the lists. Please don't think for a moment that what follows is a criticism of your work. You're all awesome and totally deserve to be there.
But where are all the girls? Where is Simmone Howell's Everything Beautiful? Or Joanne Horniman's My Candlelight Novel? Or Michelle Cooper's A Brief History of Montmaray? Or Julia Lawrinson's The Push?
If you take a look back over the years at the books that have won and been shortlisted in the past, you'll notice that there aren't many girls at all (Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi and Saving Francesca are among the handful of girl-protagonist books awarded the gong in over 60 years).
And it's happening everywhere! Today the Miles Franklin shortlist was announced. How many women writers on the shortlist? NONE. Ironic, huh? For a literary award that was named in honour of a woman who had to pretend to be a man in order to get published. A HUNDRED YEARS AGO.
What's going on? Why, as a society, do we privilege stories about boys and men? Why are their stories more Literary? Is it because people figure that girls will read books about boys, but boys won't read books about girls? Is it because girl-stories are often focussed on an emotion-based arc, rather than an action-based one?
I'm currently in the very early stages of thinking about The Next Book. And I wanted to try writing a book for girls, but with a male protagonist. But now I'm not so sure. More girl books, I say! More spunky girls being awesome! Awards be damned!
(for more on this, check out Kirsty and Adele and Judith)
16 April 2009
08 April 2009
02 April 2009
I realised the other day that, with three of the four novels I've written, a character's name gets changed during the editing stage. In fact, it's the same character, in every book. It's the "appropriate mate" character, or the character that the protagonist thinks she wants (whether or not she ends up getting him differs from story to story). And each change has been for a different reason.
In Scatterheart, the character of James was originally Jack, and he was the ship's carpenter. But it turned out it's really hard to make a humble tradesperson unlikeable, so he became new-money-aristocracy instead (much easier to dislike). Jack felt like too honest a name, and James was the logical alternative.
In The Not Quite Perfect Boyfriend, Ben was originally Steven. He was Steven because when I was thirteen and made up an imaginary British boyfriend, that's what his name was. But then I started writing Angel Fish, my book about the Children's Crusade, and one of the main characters in that is Stephan. And he really existed (well, maybe), so I couldn't change his name. Except a name-change for Steven was very complicated, because I had this whole word-play thing going on with his initials spelling out SOW and SLOW. And at first I thought I'd just replace Steven with another S name. But there was already a Sam and a Spence in PINK, and what with Stephan in Angel Fish as well it all seemed a bit much. So Steven became Ben, after the first boy I ever had a proper crush on, and I changed the initials thing to BOW and BLOW.
The name-change in PINK was much more straightforward. It turns out there is already a Spence in Penni Russon's next book, which comes out before mine. So I tried to think of another preppy-jock-name, and came up with Nathan, Ryan, Dylan, Logan, and finally Ethan. I don't know why I find -an names preppy/jocky. I just do. But Ethan he is.
PS. You want some wacky name fun? Let me introduce you to Barkevious Mingo, Calamity McEntire and Taco Vandervelde, over at Name of the Year.