Writers On Writing / Wai Chim

‘Reading YA as a young person empowered me with the language to talk about things that I didn’t know how to talk about. I found a library of reference for my many emotions and experiences.’

Writers on Writing is our regular conversation with a writer or industry professional about the writing craft, industry insights, and their own practice. This week, we spoke to Wai Chim about what she values in writing and reading YA fiction, ahead of her Writing Fiction for Young Adults workshop.

What do you think is unique about YA books? And why did you choose to write in this genre?

For teens, YA books are where you can read deeply and immerse yourself in the topics and conversations that are relevant to your everyday. Good YA writers are always listening and finding out about the world that matters to them right now; just like you, they are reflecting on these discoveries and writing into them.

As an adult, I’ve always loved YA and writing for teens because these stories of growing up and ‘coming-of-age’ are so powerful and important. When we think back to our own origin stories, a lot of adults will point to their teen years and recognise how much these relationships, understandings and realisations have come to shape them.

Has reading YA impacted you in any way?

Reading YA as a young person empowered me with the language to talk about things that I didn’t know how to talk about. I found a library of reference for my many emotions and experiences, be it anger, frustration, deep love, so-much-joy, and sometimes rolling sadness. Meanwhile, reading YA as an adult means I am constantly learning and broadening my world, that my views don’t stay defined and rigid within my own narrow outlook.

When writing for a younger readership, is there anything you think authors should be conscious of?

We need to really listen to young people without judgement or preconceived notions. We sometimes are too quick to overlay our own wisdom and experiences on top of them, and while this is done with the very best of intentions, good intentions are not enough.

Last, is there anything you’ve read recently that you’ve enjoyed?

We Could Be Something by Will Kostakis absolutely blew me away!

Wai Chim is the Chinese-American-Australian author of a number of children’s and YA titles, including The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling, which was a Kirkus Prize Finalist in the US and was Shortlisted for the Prime Minister Literary Awards in 2020. She appeared as a contestant on Australian Survivor: Brains vs BrawnLast-Place Lin, her first picture book, is inspired by her time on the show and will be released in 2023. She regularly presents at schools and festivals and was part of the panel of judges for the NSW Premier Literary Awards for 2023.

Join Wai’s workshop Writing Fiction for Young Adults at Writing NSW on Saturday 17 June 2023, 10am-4pm


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