Danielle Binks Author Picture

IG: @dbinks

Twitter: @danielle_binks


Publications: See a list of Danielle’s books here



Welcome to Why Write, a super short podcast that asks writers just that, why they write. Hi, I’m Noè Harsel, a writer and Chair of Writers Victoria, and I’m excited to chat to a diverse group of writers and simply ask, why write? I’m glad you’re here with me.

Today we have Danielle Binks. Danielle is a Melbourne-based writer and literary agent with Jacinta di Mase Management. In 2017, she edited and contributed to ‘Begin, End, Begin,’ an anthology of new Australian young adult writing inspired by the#LoveOzYA movement, which won the ABIA Book of the Year for Older Children (Ages 13+). The Year the Maps Changed, Danielle’s bestselling middle-grade novel, was a 2021 Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Notable Book. Her first solo YA novel The Monster of Her Age released in 2021, and won in the Young Adult category of the 2022 Indie Book Awards. Danielle is also teaching Fiction & Young Adult Writing in the Associate Degree of Professional Writing and Editing at RMIT University.

Welcome to Why Write, Danielle, you are a favourite with many kids, my own as well. So I’m very thrilled to have you with me today. And your career is one that many writers, and let’s face it, many non writers would find enviable. You’ve got so many facets to your career. So let’s get right to the big question. The reason why we are here. Tell us Danielle, why do you write?


Gosh, I knew that was coming, and still being put on the spot. Like, I gotta live up to it, now! I ask myself this a lot as a children’s author, especially. Why do I write for kids? Why do I write, period? Why do I think I should speak to teenagers and young people when they are so much cooler than me?

The thing that I get stuck on is, and I hate to quote another creative, and like use them as my as my answer, but I will. One of my favourite books that I read when I was really quite young, like a young teenager, was East of Eden, by John Steinbeck. And he has this whole passage in there, that is about the first time that children catch adults out; the first time that they realise that they are not perfect, but they make mistakes. And it ends with the most perfect encapsulation of what I think I do, where he says ‘it is an aching kind of growing.’ And I just think, I’m still aching, and I’m still growing, and I’m just doing it out loud on the page.

And that’s really why I think I write. I think I’m still growing up. I’m still processing things that happened to me when I was younger. And I’m doing that through my art. And if I happen to gather in any young people that had the same feelings that I did at the same time, that’s a bonus for me. But I think Steinbeck said it best on my behalf. And that was: it is an aching kind of growing.


I love that. That is so beautiful: it is an aching kind of growing. I think that that’s something that we can all constantly feel. I mean, it’s certainly something that I feel in my actual life, as well as my creative life. And I think that that has been so beautifully encapsulated in that. And it also leads me to ask you, you know, my next thing I’m really interested in and I think you sort of alluded to it a little bit. I mean, is there any difference in the writing for a young adult audience? I mean, you’ve written for children as well. But I know there’s, I mean, excuse me for saying it, there’s a perception of difference, in the writing for a YA, young adult, audience too, and I put this in air quotes for people can’t hear the air quotes, ‘literary writing’, as opposed to children’s or young adult writing. What do you think about that?


Well, first of all, I think the misconception about ‘oh, adult is literary,’ kind of forget that young adult is the readership. And within that readership, there’s any manner of genre, and we even have literary young adult literature. So quite high end conceptual magical realism, fantasy, but high end, high fantasy, or high concept, contemporary literary books as well, that are really complex. And I would say are heavy hitting as much with their adult contemporaries as anyone else.


Good point.


Like, the first misconception. But speaking as an author, a literary agent, and now someone who teaches creative writing, specifically in the young adult space, the thing I tell everyone, and my personal ethos is, the way that I separate them, is I think books for children, including young adults, have to still end with hope. And that’s the big thing for me. And hope is totally in the eye of the beholder. And hope doesn’t equal fluffy kittens and rainbows and neatly tied up package. Hope can be small, it can just be a little crack that lets the light in and that totally counts. But I think that’s the biggest difference.

Adult literature, you can totally end bleakly and all despair is lost, and an adult will not bat their eyelid at that they will say, ‘yeah, that sounds pretty accurate.’ But, I think when you’re writing for young people, whether it’s baby books of young adult literature, all of it, I think you have a duty of care, and our duty of care is to say to them, ‘Hey, you’re just getting started. It doesn’t all end here for you,’ you know. So you’ve got to end with hope. You’ve got to give them that little kernel of something that says keep going, ‘I promise you it gets better.’

And I really, really think that’s important. So I would never send something out by one of my authors. I would never write anything that ends in in total despair for a young person. There are books like that that exists for young adults. And I’m sure as I’m saying this, some people could reel off some examples. I won’t name them, because I don’t want to shame them. But you know, that was, that was their prerogative, I don’t agree with it. I think anything for children and teenagers has to end and hope you don’t for adults that I think to tell kids, ‘hey, this is already the end of your line’ would just be a huge ethical dilemma and disservice that I would just never do to them. So I think that is the biggest difference. And I actually think it’s harder to end in hope. I think it’s way easier to go for the meek, tragical Shakespearean… I think it’s a lot harder to look for the grace and to look for the good, then to convince young people, ‘hey, please pick up this baton and play around with it, and please let that little crack of light in. And that’s way harder.


That’s really interesting, actually, that whole notion of that, what makes this very unique space, is that ending and hope and with that light, so to speak, the light at the end of the tunnel, and I agree that whole, being able to craft the story so that there’s something positive at the end of it. Do you think that maybe that’s why, YA, maybe I’m wrong, but YA has had a resurgence? Or is more it’s increased in popularity at the moment?


Yeah, totally. I think adult readers are probably thinking, ‘I’ve had enough of despair.’ And it’s really interesting. This is a conversation that I have with my students especially. Would Hanya Yanagihara’s, A Little Life had become as big as it did during lockdown? People really were reaching for rom coms. They were reaching for romances, they were really wanting some uplift, is what we kept hearing in the industry, uplift, uplift, romance is so big, and A Little Life is still going strong, it’s still being beloved. But you know, would it have had that initial spark if it had come when we were all of our deepest depth?

Really interesting to think about. I totally do think maybe it is adults looking at the glory and the grace and hope and reaching for that and thinking, ‘Hey, young adult literature is doing that really well,’ because we really are and it doesn’t mean that we’re skirting around tough topics. Everything is up for discussion in YA. One of my favourite quotes, one of my favourite Australian children’s creators is Morris Gleitzman. Who, when he was defending himself and writing about the Holocaust for young children, he said, ‘You know what, if it’s in the world, it’s for them.’ It’s just a matter of how you tackle it, how you position it, your language that you use, and I completely believe that. The other thing that I think we have to acknowledge is a lot of adults reading YA now, are, like me, the first cohort the first generation that had young adult literature actively marketed to them from the get go. It wasn’t like, retro actively, JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye, is now considered YA. It was from the jump, here is Judy Blume. Here is RL Stein. Here is Margo Lanagan, Melina Marchetta.

And you know what, the books are still as good now as they were then. And I think as adults, we just still appreciate that we do not care if something is for children or for young adults, if it’s good. And to quote another great. Maurice Sendak. He said, you know, a good children’s story that is only a good story to be enjoyed by children, it’s not a very good children’s story. So yeah, I totally think it’s kind of twofold. It’s the probably reaching for hope. Then it’s the underlying thread that you don’t even realise that you’re reaching for because it should be quite subtle, it should be still embedded, in baked into, the story. But I also think it’s that we’re all young at heart. And we all come to appreciate how wonderful young adult literature is. And it’s just never, it’s never not good. Never. Why wouldn’t you reach for it?


Well, exactly what you’re saying: a good story, is a good story, is a good story. So if you want to read good stories, it doesn’t matter what the label is, just give us the good story.


Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, if you want that I would really love to see people more breaking down and not rejecting outright forms of art, because they don’t think that they understand it. And so I totally push people to read graphic novels, read comic books, read verse novels, read poetry. If you think there’s no good stories to be had, outside of adult literature, the capital L. I’m here to dispel you of that notion. I would beg of you to go to an independent bookstore and say to them, what’s good, what’s good, what you got what you got in the children’s section, in the graphic novel section, give me some good first novels and some good poetry. Be open and find the joy in story.


I love it. Danielle, you have expanded our minds expanding our horizons. And I throw out the challenge we’d view let’s all go out to those bookstores and read good stories. Thank you for your time.


Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.


Thanks for listening. We would love to hear why you write, tell me at whywrite.com.au

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