We’re not ashamed to say we totally stan books: reading them, touching them, crying over them, obsessing and smelling them… (Yeah, weird.). To celebrate Book Lovers’ Day, we asked Aussie book fans Gabrielle Tozer and Kate Eltham to tell us why they love all things book!
Gabrielle Tozer is an award-winning and internationally published author and freelance writer based in Sydney, Australia. She’s published five books, including the young adult novels Remind Me How This Ends
(listed on the Children's Book Council of Australia’s 2018 Notable list), Faking It
and The Intern
, which won the 2015 Gold Inky Award. Not too shabby!
Book lover and awesome author Gabrielle Tozer.
Her first picture book, Peas and Quiet
(illustrated by Sue deGennaro), was published in 2017, as was her YA contemporary short story ‘The Feeling From Over Here’ (featured in Begin, End, Begin: A #LoveOzYA Anthology
). Her first children’s novel, Melody Trumpet
, hit shelves this year. She’s currently working on her next YA novel, This Week Is Yours
(out 2021). Say hi to her via @gabrielletozer
How did you become a reader in the first place?
My parents are voracious readers and have always nurtured my love of books and stories. Every childhood birthday, Christmas, even Easter included a little book as a present! I still have those books and read them to my toddler. Like many Australians my age, I grew up reading the likes of Paul Jennings, Morris Gleitzman, Margaret Clark, Melina Marchetta, Roald Dahl… and I was mad for The Baby-Sitters Club, Goosebumps
and Sweet Valley High
What inspired you to become an author – and of YA and children’s books?
My love of reading quickly evolved into a love of writing – not that I was any good at it then! But I was blindly enthusiastic and passionate and continued to write for the pure love of it. That’s the way it should be. Plus, a few YA and children’s authors visited my old hometown of Wagga Wagga during primary and high school and that cemented it.
“Author Morris Gleitzman told us that eavesdropping is a fantastic way to find inspiration and I’ve never forgotten it!”
What is usually the main message of the books you write?
I have written for children and young adults aged 3 to 18 so cover a variety of themes and messages, but some of them include accepting your true self flaws and all, the power of friendship and creativity, owning up to the consequences of mistakes, and knowing it’s okay and completely normal to feel lost in life. My protagonists are often underdogs, so there’s usually a transformative journey for them to go on with plenty of emotional challenges – I am an evil author!
Do you have any advice for aspiring young writers?
It sounds obvious but write something you want
to write – something you’d actually want to read. I often write books that I wish existed for me as a child or teenager. And forget trying to write something that you think would be on-trend – there are no guarantees on that front anyway. Oh, and if a book doesn’t exist that excites you yet, that’s okay… now you can write it!
How would you convince someone who doesn’t like reading to give it a try?
I genuinely believe there are books out there for everyone – they just haven’t been introduced to the right ones yet.
I would find out what TV, movies and video games they like and see if there’s a way in there – not everyone realises how much media is based on book adaptations, e.g. 13 Reasons Why, To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before
etc. Or perhaps there is a show or movie they like, and there’s a similar book out there that a teacher-librarian or bookseller can hook them up with.
I was once giving an author talk at a high school in Victoria and, during it, a girl put her hand up and flat-out told me she hated reading. As a change of direction, we got to chatting about the type of TV shows we liked (which were fairly similar!).
Later on, after hearing me talk about some of my novels (which are 1000 per cent written with a 14-year-old reader in mind), she asked to take a look at the blurb of my book Remind Me How This Ends… then a few moments later blurted out, “Actually this sounds pretty good!”
It made my day to cut through to a self-described non-reader. It’s why getting out there and talking with young adults – and hearing from them directly – is so powerful. They get a chance to have their voices heard and have agency in what they want and get to read. Otherwise reading just becomes about what they “have” to read for school, which can be an instant turn-off.
If a young adult is also into sport, then introducing them to non-fiction via athletes’ memoirs is another way in. Graphic novels and comics are also a brilliant way to get resistant readers invested in storytelling.
Last but not least, I’ve recently become hooked on audiobooks – so if someone doesn’t feel up to reading a novel, experiment with listening to a novel. It’s a great way to absorb stories on the go!
Kate Eltham has mad book skills. She’s been the CEO of Queensland Writers Centre, Manager of Reading and Writing at the State Library of Queensland and Festival Director of Brisbane Writers Festival, where she established LoveYA!, a free all-day celebration of YA fiction. Kate is currently Business Development Manager for the Creative Industries Faculty at QUT, AND chairperson of LoveOzYA! LoveOzYA is a collective of readers, writers and teachers who celebrate all things Australian youth literature. Check them out on Instagram @loveozya
, Facebook @LoveOzYAbooks
and the LoveOzYA website
Why do you love books?
Stephen King said it best. “Books are uniquely portable magic.”
What are the benefits of reading?
Quite apart from the well-researched learning benefits – literacy, communication skills, concentration and even maths! – for me, the benefit of reading is its capacity for building empathy. In an age when it seems more important than ever for humans to be able to empathise with each other and understand the differences among us, reading (fiction) is one of the most powerful weapons we have against intolerance and apathy.
How would you encourage people who don’t like reading to give it a try?
There’s no magic trick here. Research shows both parents and teachers often pull back on their encouragement of kids to read once they have acquired basic literacy. Continuing to encourage reading, being enthusiastic readers ourselves and demonstrating our love of books, showing interest and support for young people’s passions – these are all part of fostering a reading culture in our families and communities.
What are the three main life skills you’ve learned from reading books?
Empathy, critical thinking, and the power of a good story to communicate ideas.
What is the goal of the #LoveOzYA collective?
At its heart, LoveOzYA exists to draw the attention of Australian teens to Australian books that speak to their diverse experience. We promote awareness of Australian YA books and authors and encourage readers of all ages to explore the national treasury of Australian youth literature.
Who can join LoveOzYA?
Anyone can participate in LoveOzYA, whether it’s using the #loveozya hashtag at events and online conversations or sharing and talking about favourite OzYA books with your friends and community. The Australian YA community is brimming with passionate writers, readers, booksellers and publishers.
Who are three great Aussie YA authors?
There are so many great ones! Stay tuned to our website or social media accounts for a constant supply of announcements about Australian YA authors and books. For a place to start, try three recent debut authors who’ve published their first YA books: Poppy Nwosu
(Making Friends With Alice Dyson
), Jannali Jones
) and Nina Kenwood
(It Sounded Better In My Head
Which three books would you recommend to a teen reader?
The books a teen might enjoy always depend on their interests, that’s why it’s hard to go wrong recommending diverse anthologies which cater to all tastes. Here are three that are outstanding:
- Begin End Begin, edited by Danielle Binks
- Underdog, edited by Tobias Madden
- Kindred: 12 Queer #LoveOzYA stories, edited by Michael Earp
The best book-to-film adaptation?
Looking for Alibrandi
, Jasper Jones
and The Book Thief
are all wonderful adaptations of Australian YA novels. And look, it’s not Australian, but I loved the recent Netflix adaptation of Jenny Han’s YA hit To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
And the worst?
As a died-in-the-wool Ursula K. Le Guin fan, I cried actual tears at the Sci-Fi channel adaptation of The Wizard of Earthsea.
Does working with words sound like something you want to do? Discover if it’s the career for you by using the Skillsroad Job Fit Test: a free job test that let’s you test yourself against over 300 specific careers to see how well your skills, interests and qualifications stack up.