We spoke to YA author and zine maker Alison Evans about genre fiction, book recommendations and the importance of ongoing learning as a writer.
Tell us about your first appearance at EWF.
My first appearance at EWF was in 2017 after my first book Ida came out. I was a part of the all-day YA Masterclass. I got to meet my co-panellists Fiona Wood and Demet Divaroren, two authors I really admire. It felt so strange to be sitting up there and telling people how to write, when I wasn’t very sure of myself at all! But afterward a few people came up to me and said how helpful the panel had been, and that was really nice as well as affirming.
Can you tell us about the events you are appearing in at EWF19?
I’ll be at the YA Masterclass again, this time with Eleni Hale and Nicole Hayes. Again, two writers I admire! Our panel is The Dark Side, where we talk about some heavier themes in YA, and how we write these themes for a younger audience.
I’ll also be on a panel at the National Writers’ Conference, discussing writing trans and gender diverse characters with Rae White and Krishna Istha. I’ve been friends with Rae for a while so I’m excited just to hang out with them, and I haven’t met Krishna but I’m really excited to.
I like writing YA because I get to write the books I never got when I was a teenager. I would have loved to have read some speculative fiction with queer characters in it, and it’s utterly amazing that I get to provide those books for teenagers these days.
I’ve always been drawn to genre fiction, in school I was always reading fantasy or sci-fi, and I love anything set in space or in the future or some kind of alternate reality. I honestly just think it’s really fun to write. I enjoy things that take themselves seriously, but still manage to have fun and be accessible, and I think genre fiction is the way for me to write something like that.
You’re an award-winning YA author and also the co-editor of the zine Concrete Queers. What do you like the most about writing in these two different forms?
I like writing YA because I get to write the books I never got when I was a teenager. I would have loved to have read some speculative fiction with queer characters in it, and it’s utterly amazing that I get to provide those books for teenagers these days. I like how through the publishing process I’m pushed to be a better writer by working with editors.
With zines, I like them because the audience is very small and they’re away from the internet, so it’s a much quieter way of expressing myself. It’s also really fun just making zines, photocopying them and stapling them together. They don’t have to be good or marketable, they just have to exist.
What are some of your recent favourite books?
The last three books I read were amazing: Growing up African in Australia, eds Maxine Beneba Clark, Magan Magan and Ahmed Yussuf, The Lost Arabs by Omar Sakr, and After the Lights Go Out by Lili Wilkinson.
What impact has EWF had on you as an artist?
I’ve made a lot of new friends and met heaps of people I wouldn’t have otherwise. EWF has a really nice, welcoming atmosphere that I love.
I’ve also learnt heaps. I’ve been attending events since around 2012, I’ve gone to talks and workshops and intensives. Listening to other people speak about their craft is one of the best ways for me to learn I think. After a panel last year at the National Writers’ Conference about worldbuilding, I was just filled with so much excitement that I just wanted to go home immediately and write.
EWF is great for me because I feel like as a writer, I don’t want to ever reach a point where I think “okay, this is it, I know how to write now”, and not try to get better. I want to constantly try to evolve. EWF is great for that because the environment is very conducive to inspiring people, to keep them learning.
You can hear more from Alison at Masterclass: YA on Tuesday 25 June as part of Emerging Writers’ Festival (19–29 June).
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