Authors aren’t usually given the big showbiz treatment but the cheers were loud and long when John Marsden took the stage at the Byron Bay Literary Festival.
Appearing before a very enthusiastic youthful audience he said the welcome made him feel like Justin Bieber.
Judging by the cheers we had been hearing all afternoon I’m guessing Andy Griffiths, Morris Gleitzman and Isobelle Carmody, all superstars in the world of books aimed at young people, got the same treatment when they had appeared earlier as part of a series of Meet The Authors.
At a time when a lot of parents are worried about their children not reading at all or spending too much time exchanging banalities on social media like Facbook it was encouraging to see so many young people so engaged in the power of the written word, in particular, fiction.
Marsden is a terrific communicator. Looming very large on the stage, even more so because he stood the whole way through, he hammered home the message that everyone, however young, has to find his or her own voice.
And he had some scary anecdotes about parents, probably well-intentioned, who forget that their children aren’t them and shouldn’t be “moulded” in their likeness. Back off, said Marsden. They are unique individuals with a unique voice and that should be respected and encouraged.
The expression on the faces of some of the kids present showed clearly that he hit the nail on the head.