EVENT REVIEW: What is normal? With Lisa Williamson and Juno Dawson + Interview with Lisa Williamson.

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Wednesday 12th October
Durham Johnston comprehensive School
Review by Melis Anik
This event was quite unlike any of the others I have attended. For one, it was set in a school and as such, the content of the event was controlled by the teenagers who were brave enough to ask questions. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, if YA books are targeted at teenagers, why shouldn’t they get to ask the questions about them?

During the event, many important issues regarding diverse characters in books, the process of writing, and PTSE education being more considerate and open towards LGBTQ* teens were highlighted. Aside from reading extracts from their books, the overarching structure of the event leaned more towards a Q&A. From the serious answers that left me nodding my head in agreement, to the downright funny, there was something for everyone.

Due to time constraints, I was unable to interview both authors as planned. One more issue arose – again, something which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, just a testament to student Evelyn’s thorough list of questions – in that the majority of the questions I had prepared had already been answered. Nevertheless, I proceeded to make the most of the five minutes I had been given.

What advice would you give your unpublished self?

I would probably say, follow your instincts and it’s not a race. I think that young people often feel that if they don’t publish a book by the time that they’re 25 then they’re a failure. Follow your instincts because they’re often right, whether that’s in terms of the agent that’s right for you or the publisher that’s right for you.

Would both you and Juno consider co-writing a book?

We haven’t although I’d have to ask Juno. I really like the idea of co-writing a book because [writing] can be quite lonely. A lot of people I’ve spoken to who have co-written books, providing you set down ground rules, have said that it can actually be a really fun process and not so lonely. I would be very open to the possibility of co-writing.
Did you find the research process for your book difficult?

I think a lot of it I’d done without realising. So, when I was working at the job, I was probably doing research everyday but I didn’t know it because I didn’t even know I would write the book at this point. Once I decided that I think I’m going to write this book, I researched by interviewing people on their experiences, attending youth groups where transgender people were socialising, online YouTube videos and forums. My worst nightmare was somebody saying she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and she hasn’t done her homework.