review plans

I’m starting my PhD in YA lit next month and so my plan is to read a book a month that is relevant to my topic. My thesis is focusing on non-binary gender, bisexual identities and coming out so I guess my reviews are going to mostly focus on these aspects of the books. It’s also (hopefully) going to serve as a catalogue for my own research, but it might be useful for other people so here we are.

I’m gonna read books where any MC/major character is any kind of queer though, so not all of them will have either nb or bi characters. I am also probably going to include some NA books, too.

Aaaand if you have any reccs, pls let me know either on twitter or email me at alisonevanssmith at gmail dot com. I also have a list of books I’m planning to read (or have previously read) over on goodreads.

Trimester as an arts student

First week is pretty exciting. It’s the week where you always vow to actually do the readings, read up on topics after class that sound interesting. Maybe then you could actually get over that crippling fear of public speaking and participate in class discussions. Maybe you could actually make more than one friend a year! Maybe even two friends.

It’s when you say you’ll actually buy text books this semester, even borrowing some extra books from the library on occasion, because learning is pretty fun sometimes. You like learning, right? Uni is for learning, even!

First week, you’ll attend all your classes, maybe even all the lectures. Try and remember people’s names, because they look interesting and you like interesting people.

And then second week comes around, and sleeping in that extra ten minutes is worth walking into class half an hour late, clutching terrible coffee and cursing the sun because it’s just too bright. You forgot to buy textbooks, but you’ll buy them next week as soon as your youth allowance is transferred. There was that lecture you missed too, but you can totally catch up online. Yeah.

Fifth week, and classes are starting to get in the way of your assignments. And sometimes the library is for sleeping, alright? That book is overdue, though, and you haven’t read any of it. Should probably return it on Friday when you have that class, but then you don’t go to that class. Next week.

Soon it’s week ten and you’ve got no idea what subjects you’re actually enrolled in … something to do with books, maybe. Everything is due all at once and you can’t see anymore because you’ve consumed so much caffeine you’re seeing sounds.

Then it’s week twelve, somehow even more things are due. Library books need to be returned but you have no idea where they are. The cafe staff know your name and your order. Classes, what are they? You’re pretty sure lectures aren’t actually real, anyway.

But for now, week one is ahead and the trimester looks pretty shiny from here. So good luck, young arts traveller. May your trimester be bright, for at least the first week.

(Originally published in Wordly: O-week edition, DUSA)


Writing style is something I never really worried about until this year until someone pointed it out to me. Some vague amount of time ago, I decided that I’m was going to be a YA author. I’ve always liked YA and recently I’ve been reading a lot of terrible YA for my thesis project (not all of it is terrible), and so I’ve unconsciously absorbed a lot of terrible, lazy habits.

So I go to uni and study creative writing, but I think that I don’t really have a writing style to call my own. I can kind of manage one in my short short stories, but I find this much harder when writing anything above 500 words. Sustaining that style just becomes too hard and so I get lazy. I tried to start my thesis story a while back, got to 5k words and then saw it was just a reproduction of the YA that shits me up the wall; my story was flavourless.

I think this piece, called Salt and published in Deakin University’s writers’ club’s publication (phew), Wordly, is the beginnings of what could be my own style, but I don’t know.


Right now I can’t write like that for very long, the piece above is only 300 or so words, but I want to have my own voice. So that’s a side-goal for my honours year, I guess.

(Also, what a cool font my story is in. Whoever chose that is a genius, I say!)

Adventures in honour(s)

Reasons I have not updated this in a long time include uni! So I’m doing honours at the moment and we have to write a story and an exegesis and they make up a thesis (which is a terrifying word).

Interrogating heteronormativity: pansexuality and gender variance in young adult fiction is what my project is called at the moment. It has a nice colon and many keywords in it, so I am quite happy.

(Titles are hard and I hate them. I’m fairly certain that my story will also need a title, so the week before it’s due I may just be crying in a corner somewhere because titles are hard.)

So basically what I’m researching is heteronormativity in YA fiction. Books that try and avoid it often end up perpetuating it anyway (not all of them!) and I want to know why. Because I do it myself, in ways that I don’t realise until I read through my first draft and see all these icky things in there. The way I’ve tended to go lately is just completely ignore heteronormativity because I just got sick of dealing with it. If I give my protagonists a limited pool of characters they deal with, then I can gloss over the issue.

But if I ignore it, is that somehow irresponsible? And I don’t know. And I’m not making a judgement on other authors here, this project is really just about me and my own writing. Other authors can do what they like.

Maybe after this year I’ll just go back to my old way of ignoring everything. But examining my own writing is something that I want to do, and honours is providing me a structured way to do it.