Where are the writers for children?

Adelaide Writers’ Week 2010

Last week I attended three days of the week long Adelaide Writers Week. This biennial event is an integral part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts here in South Australia, one of the leading such festivals of its kind in the world. The list of guest speakers is often a who’s who of the writing world. This time was no exception and the impressive parade of talented writers throughout the week was very inspiring. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

But where were the writers for children?

They were conspicuous by their almost total absence.


Only Markus Zusak could be said to be a writer for children – a debatable point as his audience is best described as Young Adult.

Australia has an impressive number of world class writers for children. They lead the world in their chosen field. They are acknowledged around the globe for their talent and many outsell their adult counterparts. Why, then are they totally ignored festival after festival?

Is this a case of literary snobbery on the part of the organising committee? Or ignorance?

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Adelaide Writers' Week 2010

Salisbury Writers’ Festival 2009

Salisbury Writers’ Festival

Today I attended the Salisbury Writers’ Festival in Adelaide. This was my first time at this festival, now in its fifth year. I wasn’t able to attend last night’s session, nor will I be able to attend tomorrow and Tuesday. Although it involved 3 hours of travel today it was certainly well worth the effort.

The keynote speaker in the morning was Tom Keneally. Probably his best known book is Schindler’s Ark, the inspiration for the well known movie Schindler’s List. Tom said that it was always hard to get published, even when he was starting out as a young man over 40 years ago. He went on to say that in those days fiction was king, whereas today non fiction is predominant in the publishing world. Despite that, the novel survives, and he was confident it will continue to survive.

He also made the interesting observation that men mostly read non fiction. I wasn’t aware of that. It would be interesting to see statistics to back up his claim.

An interesting observation I made was even before the proceedings began for the day. The attendance was about 100-120 people, a fair figure for the community from which it was drawing attendees. Of those attending, the average age was in excess of 55 with only a sprinkling of those in their 20s and 30s. Furthermore, about 80% of attendees were female. I’m not sure what these facts are saying; it’s just an interesting observation on my part. Being a Saturday, were all the men at sporting events? (It is nearing the end of the football season.)

Good writing.