The Reading Matters Conference, held in Melbourne every two years, is a celebration of youth literature. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to meet people, renew acquaintances and generally immerse yourself in books and be with book people.

International guests Cassandra Clare and Rebecca Stead shared insights about their research process. Warning: helping Cassandra Clare research has the potential to get you into BIG trouble! Others talked about landscape or setting as character; monsters and more. Karen Healey talked about pre-stressing your protagonist (so that when you deal them more strife, they’re already primed!). Brenton McKenna from Broome sees graphic novels as being like an oral story. His graphic novel ‘Ubby’s Underdogs’ is the first of a trilogy and sold out in the bookshop before lunchtime. Paula Kelly reported that although ebook uptake is increasing, Australia’s books sales in this format are at around 3 % in contrast to 25% in the US. There was speculation by other speakers that IPad v12 might well grab you by the scruff and pull you into the adventure in a very literal way! Other guests included, Ananda Braxton-Smith, Cath Crowley, Richard Newsome, Oliver Phommovanh, Denis Wright, Kirsty Eagar, Leanne Hall, Lucy Christopher and many many many more.

Cassandra Clare talked about ‘urban exploration’, looking at parts of the city no longer being frequented/used at all for settings, citing an abandoned smallpox facility just off Manhattan as an example. Others talked about the same idea, of fixing themselves in their fictional landscape by using existing landscapes, so the eventual book landscape feels very authentic. There was discussion of landscape as character. Cassandra also described writers as people with a bizarre group of interests that become obsessions. Nice.

Kate Burridge, language guru from Monash Uni, shared a great deal of bad language with us and introduced us to some new terms: verbal cuddling…eg ‘hello, you mangy old bugger’ where the words were perhaps considered swearing but the tone of delivery removes any offence. Another new term was the ‘infix’ (as apposed to suffix and prefix) eg absa-bloody-lutely, and said there are rules about it’s use…no one ever says ‘ab-bloody-salutely’!

Others talked about family cultural ‘tics’ sayings and behaviours that can cue character in meaningful ways.

There were morning teas and lunches, afternoon teas and receptions, dinners and early morning coffees. It was exhausting. My children sent me to bed early on Saturday night, because I was making no sense. I can’t promise that I’m making much more now, but the information is hopefully filtering through now and I can begin the week, impelled by the formal and informal conversations of the weekend.