Joy in Books by Joy Lawn
During the thirty years that I’ve been an advocate for Australian children’s literature I’ve concluded my bio with the words,
“I am fascinated by ideas and images and how authors and illustrators express these with truth and originality.”
This reflects my approach to discovering and sharing literature. I’m always on the look-out for high-quality, fresh (possibly with a surreal or lateral tilt) works with a truthful spirit.
This has led me to seek out the best of the new and to help keep alive the best of the old.
I’ve always actively supported the work of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, often through Magabala Books, the flagship of Aboriginal publishing.
In my role as a consultant for independent bookstores in Sydney and Brisbane (and since then as a freelancer) I believe that I’ve been at the vanguard of promoting Asian-Australian book creators – as well as graphic novels and verse novels for young people – through my state, national and international presentations and elsewhere. Notwithstanding my eclectic tastes, I’m drawn to books about refugees and displaced children, as well as those that feature music and the visual arts.
I believe it’s essential to recognise and respect the legacy of our shining lights of Australian children’s literature, and have accordingly instigated interviews with Christobel Mattingley, Narelle Oliver, Jane Tanner and others in Magpies magazine.
In my Magpies editorials, I try to galvanise the power of our positive, encouraging children’s literature community, not least through recognition of the NCACL, IBBY and the CBCA. I’ve been on CBCA state committees, judged their awards and always promote their shortlisted books.
I write as Joy in Books on my blog, Paperbark Words. My reviews take so long to write I have also branched into interviews with authors and illustrators and guest author-posts to enable more voices to be heard. I give space to emerging authors as well as established creators and have interviewed Australian legends Paul Jennings, Jaclyn Moriarty, Matt Ottley, Karen Foxlee and Graeme Base there. I also review and interview international creators including Kate DiCamillo, David Almond, Marissa Meyer, Jennifer Niven and A.F. Harrold.
I want everyone to realise that Australian literature for young people is equal to the best in the world.
In my quest to promote great Australian YA, I reviewed it for the Australian newspaper for over ten years – usually selecting the books under review. Space for book reviews in mainstream print media is diminishing but fortunately I still have a niche there through my other lifetime love – Australian literary fiction. Emphasising my status as a reviewer and judge of literary fiction (I’m currently chairing the Adult Fiction panel in the Queensland Literary Awards) helps give credence to my work in the often-under-valued children’s literature sector.
A great children’s book is as good as a great book for adults.
Over many years I’ve synergised these two literary spheres by interviewing authors of both children’s and adult literature at Sydney, Brisbane and other writers’ festivals. I’ve been privileged to interview Nobel-prize winning and Booker Prize shortlisted authors, Newbery Medallist Linda Sue Park, John Boyne, Tony Birch, Melissa Marchetta, Jessica Au, Michael Morpurgo, Andy Griffiths and many more.
To showcase our commitment to the arts my husband and I host ‘Be Inspired’ soirees in our home with speakers from different fields. Amongst others, Shaun Tan, David Malouf and the poet Les Murray have inspired us.
I have received exciting opportunities (often unpaid) from the Australian book industry – through independent bookstores, publishers, professional and not-for-profit literature organisations, newspapers and journals, state and national awards convenors and the directors of literacy conferences and writers’ festivals. My life has been enriched, I have made wonderful friends and am truly grateful. I feel honoured and always enthused to help nurture, enliven and deepen the Australian children’s book industry.
Comment from the NCACL
Just as the NCACL aims to collect, preserve and share Australian children’s literature, freelance writer and book reviewer Joy Lawn also endeavours to advocate for and promote Australian children’s literature – though her blog, interviews and book reviews. Works by the Australian authors and illustrators mentioned in this article have been collected, documented and preserved by the NCACL. Many of these works are also featured in NCACL’s free databases, which promote over 1000 Australian books for young people.
Joy’s work in promoting current and upcoming children’s literature creators enriches and extends upon the valuable work the NCACL does in ensuring there are Australian children’s literature records available for teachers, researchers, and all those interested in Australian children’s literature – now, and for future generations.
Here, in her blog post for the NCACL, Joy shares some of the many ways she has supported and championed Australian literature for young people.
Posted by: NCACL | Published: 31 Oct 2023