Trading ‘Happy Meals’ for better value in YA fiction
Young Adult Paranormal Romances. That’s an actual category at many bookstores.
“Couldn’t we do better?” asks Dovie Thomason, the Centre for Creative Writing and Oral Culture’s writer-in-residence for winter 2015. “Young people are getting Happy Meals instead of good food. Can’t we infuse some values, some relevance into contemporary novels?”
Thomason spent most of her childhood in Northern Texas, where her Apache grandmother introduced her to storytelling. The stories Thomason’s grandmother told always had a point.
“Behaviour can be addressed through story,” she says, noting that her grandmother didn’t like how her parents parented, so storytelling was her way of teaching them certain values. “She taught me how to learn, taught me how to listen, taught me to make my own conclusions.”
An educator and artist, who also has Lakota and Scottish roots, Thomason infuses her culture into her own stories. She is currently working on a young adult fantasy novel. “There is very little Indigenous voice in fantasy lit. I grieved not having my language, but I can keep the values of my culture, even without the language.”
Thomason has always been drawn to oral storytelling because she can take cues from her audience, changing the direction of her story if necessary. The idea of not knowing what readers will think about her work until it’s already in print and too late to change is intimidating. So, during her time at the University of Manitoba, Thomason will be workshopping her novel. “Like an Indiegogo campaign, but creative crowdsourcing,” she says, adding that in a sense, participants will act as editors, before the story is committed to the page, and of course they would be acknowledged in the book.
Thomason is still determining a time for when the weekly workshop will take place; all are welcome once it is set. While in Winnipeg, Thomason will also be visiting classrooms, meeting with students, and participating in storytelling events.
You can meet Thomason at a welcome event on Thursday, January 22 at 10 a.m. in room 306 of the Tier Building. See more about Dovie Thomason in her storyteller-in-residence role here.