Ahead of our Ask... about YA Publishing seminar in November, The YA Room's Sarah Robinson-Hatch writes Why YA?
Young Adult fiction has shaped my life in so many ways – from allowing me to find some of my best friends to helping me realise the direction I want my life to take. Unlike most readers, I didn’t fall in love with reading because of ‘Harry Potter’. Yes, I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t even read that series until I was about 14. Instead, it was books like ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Hunger Games’ and ‘Hush, Hush’ that took a hold of my heart (and haven’t let go).
When I was in Year 9, I decided to start a book blog. I’d watched people on YouTube talk about books, but I was that weird, shy kid at school and I didn’t think I could ever speak in front of a camera. So, I thought I was doing something revolutionary. Something no one had ever done before. I was going to create my own website and review books on there. But then I found an existing community of readers and writers and fangirls, and I knew I’d finally found my people.
Undeniably the best thing I’ve done since starting my blog was becoming active on social media. It wasn’t just a place where I learnt about new books, it also allowed me to meet people who loved the same books as me and find out about all the incredible events and launches going on in Melbourne. Some of the most memorable bookish events of my high school era was the Penguin Teen Australia Live events, meeting Scott Westerfeld at Melbourne Writers Festival, and being in a room of crying John Green fans to watch ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ with our specially-decorated tissue boxes.
The launch of Jay Kristoff’s ‘Nevernight’ in 2016 was when everything changed. It was the first time I met many of my internet friends in real life, the first time I felt like I was really a part of the community. One of the people I met was Alexandra Panzarino, a YouTuber who also worked in a bookshop. That night we talked about how amazing it would be if there was a YA book club in Melbourne, how we wished someone would create a space for passionate book-loving young adults.
The next day, I messaged her: ‘I think we should go for it’. And that’s how it all began. From there, we started planning our meet ups and launched The YA Room at the beginning of 2017. From something that started as a way to talk books with the people we met at the ‘Nevernight' launch, The YA Room quickly grew into the biggest YA book club in Melbourne.
Starting The YA Room has allowed me to do so many incredible things that I wouldn’t have even dreamed way back in 2016 – or even at the beginning of 2017, for that matter. Last year, we hosted an event with Allen & Unwin. We’ve been lucky to host numerous launches for some incredible YA authors, and in January of this year, we ran a whole day of YA celebrations with four panels and 13 guest panelists.
To me, YA is more than just a readership; it’s a community. It helps young people realise that they aren’t alone in how they’re feeling, and that there’s so many people out there who read and relate to those same books. The act of reading itself is often such a solitary activity, but by going to book launches and participating in conversations online I’ve been lucky enough to meet so many wonderful people I’m lucky to consider my bookish family. We really do have the best, most supportive community in the world.
About Sarah Robinson-Hatch
Sarah Robinson-Hatch is a student who, when not dwelling in fantasy worlds or outer space, resides in Melbourne.
Sarah has won a number of writing awards and hopes to one day have a novel published. Her favourite things to write about are teenagers saving the human race during world-ending cataclysms and death scenes, both of which probably freak her out more than any potential readers. When she’s not writing, she can be found trying to wrangle fifteen novels onto a bookstore counter, thinking of how she can best make readers cry, or fangirling to the point of hyperventilating over fan-art, movie trailers and authors favouriting her Tweets.
She thinks every type of weather is reading weather and refuses to leave the house without two books in her bag — just in case she finishes the first one. You can find her on Twitter @SarahRHatch.