In a recent blog entry when I was giving a brief description of how I became a judge, I rather flippantly said that “I’m not anything really”. So who am I? Existential angst aside, I work in what is broadly called the financial industry. How I came across the Centre for Youth Literature is no little story and one of my most serendipitous discoveries. It needs its own post, rather than hijacking the previous posts about the Inky Awards.
As long as I can remember, I have loved reading. Even now though, I wouldn’t call myself a great reader. There are so many gaps, nay chasms, in my reading that I want to fill. As I’ve grown older, I have never seen the need or had the desire to stop reading children’s and young adult literature. My parents might say that it’s a sign that I’ve never really grown up! These are the books that I loved first, so why should I ever stop reading them? Of course, I read books for adults too, but children’s and young adult literature are and (most likely) always will be a large part of my reading.
Working outside the book/library industry, and not having any particular connections to it, apart from reading, I wasn’t otherwise all that well informed about what was going on in the children/young adult literature world. In late 2007, I came across, perhaps while reading the newspaper, a mention of Agnes Nieuwenhuizen’s book Right Book, Right Time. It was a comprehensive guide to the great books of young adult literature – just the thing I was after. Agnes is one of the great driving forces behind youth literature in
, and was paramount in establishing the Centre for Youth Literature. While I was googling for some reviews on Agnes’s book I came across the following link. Exploring the Read Alert blog further, I saw this event advertised: a discussion on fantasy books following the end of the Harry Potter series. I emailed the Centre for Youth Literature for details, and Mike Shuttleworth, the then Program Co-ordinator replied. Australia
The next week, I attended the event, had a ball, met Mike Shuttleworth, and heard some marvellous authors such as Carole Wilkinson, Penni Russon and Michael Pryor speak. Over the next few years, I regularly attended the Centre for Youth Literature events and attended their Reading Matters conferences. To put it mildly, I’m not a natural networker or extrovert, so when I attended first these events I was just happy to be there learning about books, and taking as much in as I could. Although I wasn’t involved in the industry and knew nobody at the start, throughout my time, I’ve been made to feel welcome at the CYL events by the great staff over the years. These include Mike Shuttleworth, Lili Wilkinson, Paula Kelly, Susan McLaine, Erin Ritchie, Cordelia Rice, Pam Saunders and Adele Walsh (apologies if I’ve missed anyone). As well as the CYL staff, the various attendees at CYL events have also made me feel at home. Saying thank you doesn’t begin to describe the gratitude I feel.
As a result, the range and variety of my reading improved immensely. I got to meet librarians and authors at CYL events, I went to book launches and talks by authors, and I started following blogs on children’s and young adult literature. Of the latter, one of the many I read was Adele Walsh’s blog. Before she became Program Co-ordinator, she was known as a prolific and highly regarded reviewer and writer on YA literature. However, in a matter of weeks, she went from being a teacher/blogger/review to running the CYL. So after reading so many of her thoughts on YA literature, I was able to meet her when she started at the CYL this year. Most recently she asked me to be an Inky Awards judge, which forms the latest chapter in how the CYL has enriched my reading life beyond measure.