Writing YA Fiction

w/ Simmone Howell with guests Bec Kavanagh and Dr. Penni Russon

Are you working on a young adult novel? How do you know it is YA? A quick test is: Is about teenagers? Do they have teenage concerns? Questions of love, friendship, belonging, ideology and identity all find a home in YA, whether they’re happening on a space station or an island at the end of the world. Is it more important to you that teenagers read your book than adults? If you’ve answered yes and yes then this course will be useful to you.

6 x Thursday nights  – 6.30–8.30pm

5 May – 9 June 2022

$ 620/ $ 527 alumni

This is a past course.

Writing YA Fiction is six-week course for writers at at any stage. It’s probably most helpful if you already have a work-in-progress or a solid idea of what you want to write about. Each session will focus on a different aspect of craft using a YA sensibility. We’ll look at character, setting, world-building, structure, and form. Participants will write from prompts, share work and discuss ideas. Each week there will be readings that explore aspects of YA, in literary theory and in the current marketplace. Good writing is good writing no matter what the category, but if you’re writing YA it helps to know what else is out there.

The main challenge for adult writers of YA lies in finding an authentic voice, writing from a place of astonishment, and meeting the young reader where they are. Writers of YA understand that their work is for developing selves – that it has the potential to be formative.


Writers you'll be working with:

Simmone Howell

Simmone Howell is the author of Notes from the Teenage Underground, Everything Beautiful, Girl Defective and the CBCA- award winning collaborative novel Take Three Girls (w/Cath Crowley and Fiona Wood). She is a PhD candidate at LaTrobe University where she is researching life-writing about the teenage experience. Her non-fiction is published in The Age Spectrum,…

Bec Kavanagh

Bec Kavanagh is a PhD candidate at La Trobe University. Her research explores the homogenisation of the adolescent female body in coming of age narratives. Bec is a recognised expert in youth literature and has worked extensively in feminist literary spaces. She was the inaugural chair of #LoveOzYA and currently manages the Schools Program at…

Dr. Penni Russon

Dr. Penni Russon is a young adult author who writes books that hover on the border of realism and fantasy, interrogating so-called reality and attending closely to the realms of the imaginary. She has recently completed a PhD in the theory and application of comics in youth mental health.

Course outline

6 x Thursday evening sessions (6.30pm – 8.30pm)

Session 1: Thursday 5 May – YOU & YOUR CHARACTER

Session 1: In session 1 we’ll be introducing ourselves and our stories, exploring connections between the two. What do you want to write and why do you want to write it? What issues or themes drive your story? Who is your character/characters? Who supports them or thwarts them? How can we give them agency, and why is it important?

Session 2: Thursday 12 May – THE STATE OF YA w/ guest Bec Kavanagh

This week we get into the nitty gritty of contemporary Australian YA and coming of age narratives. We look at trends, tropes, audience, rules (are there rules?) and rulebreakers. We look at the need for diversity and Own Voices in YA and consider ethical ways to write the other. With guest speaker Bec Kavanagh.

Session 3: Thursday 19 May – HAPPENINGS

In session 3 we’re talking about what actually happens in our stories – we’ll explore plot, outlining, scenes and story beats, and consider how the emotional story functions with external action. We’ll consider form and structure and work towards creating a workable outline.

Session 4: Thursday 26 May – PLACE & SPACE w/ guest Penni Russon

No matter your genre, you need to spend some time to understand the limits and possibilities of your characters’ inner and outer worlds. In adolescence all worlds pulse with both enchantment and risk. This week we look at setting and world-building. Where in space and time is your story set? How will place inform narrative? With guest speaker Penni Russon.

Session 5: Thursday 2 June – THE BACK AND FORTH

In this session we’ll share and workshop pain points in our works in progress. We’ll look at the internal logic of our story – Is it there? What’s missing? What are the questions that arise organically and how can we best answer them? We’ll consider all the tools the writer can employ, and explore ways we can make a scene or passage or moment do what we want it to do.

Session 6: Thursday 9 June– HOW TO KEEP GOING

In our last class we’ll make a plan that goes beyond the course. We will think about the best ways forward. What stands between us and our finished manuscript? What tips or tricks or routines might serve us? What does publication actually look like – and what opportunities are out there.

The content listed is comprehensive but is a guide only. The exact course content could be adjusted according to the experience and concerns of the group and availability of guest writers. The detail of the course is at the discretion of the course director and Faber Writing Academy at Allen & Unwin.

Praise for this course

‘Simmone is a very generous teacher! I liked how she talked a lot about her own practice and was honest with her process.’  2021

‘Simmone was really generous with her time, very approachable, knowledgeable and friendly. I felt she was supportive of my submitted pieces and provided incisive feedback, helping
me to get more out of my work.’  2021

‘Simmone was an excellent tutor – established a lovely welcoming vibe… and was very generous with her knowledge and experience.’  2020

How to Book

This is a past course.