Reading Matters: Everyone’s A Critic

The Conversation

Myke Bartlett, Alison Croggon and Morris Gleitzman sat down with Annabel Astbury (Head of Digital Education at the ABC) to discuss the theme ‘Everyone’s a Critic’.


The conversation began with a question regarding creative versus emotional ownership. Is your readership audience entitled to an equal share in your character? One the one hand the author wrote the character. Every action and word they utter is a product of the author’s imagination. The character wouldn’t exist without the author. However in terms of having a character ‘live on’ past the books last page… well that’s all the reader. That’s their imagination and creativity. It’s an interesting, symbiotic relationship. Myke Bartlett spoke of an experience early on in his writing career. He was writing a chapter a week, podcasting the chapter to his audience and asking for feedback and comments that would then feed in to next week’s chapter. It changed the traditional solitary novel writing experience to a community project. The novel was shaped by his creative interpretation of the readers ideas. p2 Fan Fiction feeds in to this idea of ‘attraction’ and brings up an interesting conundrum in the creative versus emotional ownership debate. The audience is taking an established character and extending the story in which they live in. Moving on from ownership debate was a question about the representation of YA in mainstream media. Sadly we were all unanimous in our agreement that YA doesn’t get much mainstream media play. What about an online presence? Does this make up for the lack of mainstream media? While blogs have allowed readers a forum to interact with books, authors and other readers like never before, it has had a detrimental effect on professional literary criticism. There’s a trend of making the professional literary critic an undervalued commodity when up against the vast and endless online reviewing sphere. p3 Alison Croggon strongly believes professional literary criticism has contributed to the ‘cultural conversation’ in Australia. p4 Morris Gleitzman would rather read a well thought out critical review of his book, rather than a polite generic sentence in the mainstream press. There was overall an agreement that criticism is necessary, but that the self-critic is the strongest and best voice to listen to.


Reading Lists

Fan Fiction Origins

  • Cassandra Clare: used to write Harry Potter fan fiction
  • Amanda Hocking: began writing Star Wards fan fiction, before moving to self-publishing and, finally, a publishing contract.
  •  R.J. Anderson: began with Harry Potter, X-Files, Alias, Doctor Who… you name it and she wrote it.
  • Meg Cabot: yes, you read that right. She started out in Star Wars fan fiction (what is it with Star Wars?!)
  • S.E. Hinton: another yes, you’re reading this right moment. She openly writes Supernatural Fan Fiction (she focuses on what fans have called ‘wincest’)
  • E.L. James: her famous trilogy originated as Twilight Fan Fiction.
  • Neil Gaiman: Chronicles of Narnia and Sherlock Holmes Fan Fiction.


Myke Bartlett

Alison Croggon

  • The Books of Pellinor series
  1. The Gift
  2. The Riddle
  3. The Crow
  4. The Singing

Morris Gleitzman

  • Once Series
  1. Once
  2. Then
  3. Now
  4. After

Morris has an extensive backlist, which can be found on the penguin website.


Join the Conversation

This winter, we’ll be revisiting the conversations that began at Reading Matters. Add your thoughts below, or join the chat on Twitter – use the tag #YAmatters.


Reading Matters is presented biennially by the Centre for Youth Literature at the State Library of Victoria – roll on 2015!

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