|Malorie Blackman: UKYA champion|
UKYA started as a hashtag on a twitter discussion about the differences between British and American books, and then I prevailed upon authors Keris Stainton and Susie Day to help me set up a UKYA blog, to serve as a showcase for UKYA, defined as books written by British authors or authors based in Britain (so we can lay claim to Meg Rosoff and Patrick Ness). Keris does 99 per cent of the work for this website, with others joining in to keep the UKYA flag flying on Twitter and elsewhere.
I've felt pleased to see the growth of UKYA awareness, noticing bloggers reviewing more books by British authors and promoting homegrown talent. But recently I've been more than pleased. UKYA is getting BIG.
First, kudos to Lucy Powrie, a fabulously creative and energetic teenage blogger,who already reviewed many British books. Then she took it a step further by arranging a UKYA chat session on Twitter. So many people joined in, that #UKYAchat was trending as one of the most popular topics on Twitter, a feat Lucy repeated with a second UKYA chat a few weeks later.
That wasn't enough for Lucy, who has now set up a second blog Project UKYA specifically to celebrate and push UKYA books. Her first project involves gathering photos from readers and writers (and pets) celebrating UKYA. I suspect that in about fifteen years time Lucy will be the CEO of one of the big publishing houses if she goes on like this.
Last week there was even more exciting UKYA news. Our Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman, one of the starriest of UKYA stars announced the first UKYA convention
which will take place at the London Film and Comic Con 2014 and will feature author events – including talks, workshops, and signings – a book sales area, and publisher stands promoting new and upcoming titles.
Malorie is also going to campaign to promote teen fiction in the UK. The press release announcing the campaign notes that 'Despite many literary prize wins for UK authors including Carnegie Medals for Sally Gardner’s Maggot Moon, Patrick Ness’ A Monster Calls and Monsters of Men and Meg Rosoff’s Just In Case, US authors continue to dominate the market, with 18 out of 20 of last year’s top YA bestsellers written by American authors,' so I am hoping that Malorie's campaign will do something to boost British books.
Why do I think UKYA matters so much? Is it complete self interest, as a writer whose books are decidedly British and definitely written for teens? Am I a Little Englander, wanting to halt the march of American influence among our teenagers? Not so. I just think it's important to celebrate our own distinct language, experience and stories alongside writers from other countries.
I like to think of UKYA as a collective marketing campaign. So often writers feel powerless in the face of hyped bestsellers, unable to get their books noticed without feeling like a very un-British show off. It's easy though to seek out reviews and interviews of other books and other writers and retweet them with the hashtag #UKYA - and know that they will do the same for you. It's fun to gather together as a community, and feel we are working together, rather than jostling and competing.
And if UKYA has come so far in less than two years....whatever will happen next?