Spilling the Tea from Melbourne: Author Privilege & the Online Community [Video]

May 11, 2018 by Jeann @ Happy Indulgence | Books, Chatterbox, Features, Videos

I’m back from my whirlwind trip in Melbourne (which left me with a sore throat and a cold, as always), where I had amazing food, coffee, and catchups with blogging friends! I flew down to Melbourne to see Patrick Ness, whose Chaos Walking series I adore and had so many fun adventures along the way.

Although I missed Toby and my husband terribly, so many of you came out to see me and spend time with me and it was amazing finally meeting – and seeing bloggers who I’ve interacted with for years! Every single catch up left me with a lasting impression – from those who I’ve only seen online but never talked to, to those I’ve grown close to after blogging with online, to those I interact with on a regular basis but have never met. It just really brought home the fact that blogging and meeting book friends definitely does extend beyond the online realm – some of whom have grown to be my very close friends.

Some highlights from my trip include:

  • Doing our live #OzYAY show on air in the ABC Melbourne studio
  • Going to the Alice in Wonderland exhibition at ACMI
  • Meeting Patrick Ness and getting my books signed, also seeing his panel with Jesse Andrews & C.S. Pacat
  • All the amazing brunch, lunch and dinner catch ups (and the shopping of course)

Thank you to Aentee, Tamsien, Jess, Chami, Alex & Sarah for spending time with me! 


Patrick Ness & Jesse Andrews Panel

Being my first Melbourne book event which was also held on a Monday night, I really didn’t know what to expect, but it turns out the Melbourne book community really does show up! Hosted by C.S. Pacat, whose Fence comics I love, it was such a fascinating discussion. Patrick and Jesse talked about screenwriting, which they’ve recently ventured into, writing for the YA audience, and also writing their recent books. While the panel was enlightening, engaging and definitely funny, a lot of us were pretty offended by some of the jokes that were made.

Jesse Andrews joked about wanting to write a “White Panther” screenplay which made a lot of us really uncomfortable. At the peak of white male privilege, this comment is just so ignorant and demonstrates the micro-aggressions against POC. So many POC work tirelessly to get into these jobs, and here you have someone who just happened to “fall into it” despite being a self-proclaimed crappy writer rubbing it in their faces. No matter how talented you are, or how hard you work, sometimes you will never get a look in just because of your name or your skin colour, and having someone like Jesse joking about this didn’t sit well with me. Saying that you want to write a White Panther screenplay, erases all the important representation that the movie Black Panther and writers such as Angie Thomas and Tomi Adeyemi have worked tirelessly to offer. It made me glad that I haven’t read any of his books, one of which Jenna rated 2 stars.

Now let’s talk about Patrick Ness. I’ve read and loved many of his books, but after witnessing some blow ups online on social media, I actually unfollowed him a while ago.  It was great hearing from him talking about his book and his craft and I ended up being pleasantly surprised. Until the audience Q&A, where he said he maintains writing inspiration with “a good wank and a hot water bottle”. Other than that, I was really excited to meet him and get my books signed.

The authors were asked a question by a person with a disability in the audience, which I highlight below. Both of the authors told the audience member to write a book herself – because it doesn’t matter what they, as abled people wrote about disabled people. It mattered that more #ownvoices readers were empowered to write their own stories. Unfortunately, being at the peak of white author privilege, it actually does matter what they write about a book and if they included disabled characters, that both authors would address this in a non-harmful way. Not everyone is gifted with the writing craft, and most of the time, the system is working against the marginalised. While I can see their intent behind what they said, I think more should be done by all authors, especially those who are already successful to make sure the marginalised are well represented.


Thoughts on the online community

If there’s one thing my recent trip left me with – it’s that what you see online is never the truth. Whether that’s with the authors that I saw and have idolised through their writing – or the many blogger friendships that we see cultivated online. Through carefully curated tweets and social media, we never really see the true story aside from what people want you to see. People who I thought I would spend more time with happened to just past by, whereas others who I didn’t expect to be having deep & meaningful conversations with really surprised me.

It’s easy to feel envious of online friendships, or feel isolated from the blogging community, especially when everyone is tweeting each other and sharing in their mutual experiences. While connecting with different book lovers online and meeting them in person can be the best thing ever, it made me realise that sometimes, I’ve let some of my real life friendships slip by because of the online community. There’s a certain comfort in not having to introduce yourself or even to prove yourself again – and I should appreciate everyone in my life. It was a great reminder to me, which is why I reached out to a high school friend and caught up with her in Melbourne.

My latest video talks about my love/hate relationship with the bookish community – particularly the one on social media. Check it out on my channel or directly below!


Let’s chat! Have you attended any bookish events in person? What are your thoughts on author privilege and the blogging community? 

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Jeann is an Aussie blogger, gamer, reader who loves to read, write, fangirl, geek out and eat food. You can find me glued to one of my many mobile devices 24/7, or fangirling over the latest YA book, TV show, movie or game. Chat with me on Twitter @happyindulgence

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18 responses to “Spilling the Tea from Melbourne: Author Privilege & the Online Community [Video]

  1. I’m glad you had an overall good time in Melbourne, Jeann! It’s such a shame about the answers and comments that the authors gave. It’s such a shame, especially when it comes from an author you’re a fan of. I often wonder what festivals could do to reduce the harm that patrons experience… but I guess you never really know what someone is going to say on the day :/ Though I think the chairperson (or whatever they’re called) should be able to derail a conversation like the one about “White Panther”. I don’t think the chairperson should only be there to curate the questions. They should be there to assist in how the overall panel goes, and that includes halting problematic and harmful discussions. Sigh.
    Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity recently posted…Review: LIKFEL1K3 by Jay KristoffMy Profile

    • I know, it would’ve been such a tough position to be in to try and keep the authors talking about the topics that matter but then not navigate into problematic territory. It’s funny how many festivals we’ve been to when we only notice the problematic behaviour isn’t it? It just goes to show that you never really know who you are supporting until you hear from them in person (or from others who share that experience)!

  2. I’ve followed and unfollowed him over the years too, I love his writing but it becomes harder to separate artist from his art doesn’t it. I’m not even sure what he means by the wank and hot water bottle. I’ve been sick and zonked out on medication for the last few weeks so out of the loop a bit in terms of social media. Just listening to you as I type and sitting and nodding fervently at your observations. Twitter especially is great for online communities to connect via quickfire interactions, it’s the only social media I’ve actually stuck with. For my first two years of blogging, I didn’t interact either, it was Dre and yourself who actually brought me out of my social shell and helped me integrate into a community that I assumed wasn’t for me, that didn’t want me. The thing with social media is that it’s very much real life, or small snippets of real life. We form real connections with others and open ourselves up to others and their opinions of us. I think it also allows people without the best of attentions access to us and people can play on those feelings of vulnerability when we put ourselves out there. I tend to stick to my circles for that reason. People I can connect with about not only books but people I can talk to or offer a friendly ear when they need to talk. It’s a comfort to know we have each other and that’s a person you can rely on for support as well. I have all of my notifications apart from private messages turned off as well and limit my Twitter for very much the same reason. It can be so exhausting and it’s so important to have time to yourself without the added stress of social media lurking. Such an important message Jeann, I couldn’t agree more. I’m thrilled you had a great time down here, sorry the weather was so shitty though. Great discussion and one I hope others will listen to and also adopt ♥♥♥
    Kelly recently posted…Middle Grade Mini ReviewsMy Profile

    • Oh Kelly, thanks for reading and listening to my video! I’m so glad to hear that we’ve helped to bring you out of your shell – you’re such a valued and important part of this community Kelly, especially the Aussie YA one. I love social media because it helps us connect with others, but yeah sometimes it can get so overwhelming and mentally exhausting. I haven’t been in the best state emotionally lately due to a few things so I have to remind myself to stay off social media – especially the toxicity of Twitter.

      Thank you so much for your lovely message <3

  3. This was such an insightful read, after going to the SWF I was super interested to see how you guys do it in Melbourne! The “White Panther” comment makes my skin crawl, it is privilege personified. Also eww, way to share way too much Patrick Ness! Sounds like you learnt a lot! Hopefully not all of it was disappointing. Come down to Sydney soon so that we can finally meet!
    Sunny @ A Sunny Spot recently posted…The inescapable whiteness of the Sydney Writers FestivalMy Profile

    • Haha I am actually from Brisbane but travelled to Melbourne for the event. I know, I saw your post come up about the things that made you uncomfortable too at SWF, I’ll definitely have to come over and read it! I definitely need to visit Sydney soon hehe!

  4. I am glad that I don’t spend enough time on Twitter to know when my faves are being crappy hah. I haven’t even seen this Patrick Ness stuff, but it is certainly disappointing to hear. The Jesse Andrews comment is definitely not cool. It goes to show how people really don’t understand their privilege. But still, such an awesome opportunity to see so many bloggers and authors and such!

    Your video is really great! I think there are SO many positives and negatives about Book Twitter. It really IS exhausting. This is why I mostly hide in my DMs. There’s not drama, there’s not spoilers, there’s not rudeness, or controversy. It’s pleasant in my DMs. I agree with your “just do you”- why is it that people police everyone’s opinions on literally everything? Again, exhausting. Dude. We have devolved into Chaos Walking hahahha. Love it! I find that half of us are trying to keep their thoughts to themselves out of fear, and the other half are just dying to shout about every single thought they ever have, no matter if it hurts other people or whatever.

    And if it causes you anxiety, that is NOT good- I have had that happen too, and it’s so much better to cut back. Cait’s plan is great- no notifications is a good idea. Glad that you adopted it and that it works for you! (My plan is again, just sticking to DMs and then scrolling through Twitter only if I have the energy for it. So yes- choosing when to engage is a very good call!)
    Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight recently posted…The 100 Episode 5×03: Sleeping GiantsMy Profile

    • Yeah, I felt it important to share because I know as a reader, I want to know who I am supporting. Often you don’t get to know unless you hear from others what they are like in real life.

      Thank you so much for watching my video! Yeah, it can be such a combative experience (but also wonderfully positive sometimes) but I have to remind myself not to go on there when I’m feeling emotionally spent.

  5. Ahh I LOVED reading this! I think it would be really really cool to meet some authors someday but I’m also horribly shy so. Probably will not happen for a while. And it is always disenchanting to see heroes IRL turn out to say some really awful/problematic stuff ugh. I really do NOT like Jesse Andrews books so I’m not surprised, but like how can you have your head so stuck in the sand to make comments like that?! I also love Patrick Ness’ books but I’m not a huge fan of a lot of the stuff he says on twitter.

    But I’m still so glad you had a great trip!!!
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…Books To Read While You’re Waiting For A Thousand Perfect Notes!My Profile

    • Awww I totally know why you would love to, but wouldn’t Cait! It’s 100% the case that our expectation is often different from the reality. Yeah I think we’re capable to separate the art from the book, but not when the author intentionally says/does problematic things.

    • I know, having been on the other side now, it’s definitely hard to predict what will come up especially question wise, but sometimes it just shows what people are really thinking if you know what I mean. It was a wonderful trip!

    • Yeah, sometimes it’s just a lot nicer to stay off it especially when you’re not feeling like getting into arguments or letting things affect you. I was super excited to meet Patrick Ness!

  6. I’m barely on social media. The most amount of interacting I have is done through Instagram. I do lurk, though but yeah. I see the viciousness from time to time.

    You always have the best bookish affairs, Jeann. So jealous you get to interact with so many Aussie bloggers, and authors alike.
    Joy // Joyousreads recently posted…[741]: I Have Lost My Way by Gayle FormanMy Profile

  7. I think I missed the White Panther thing…I have a tendency to drop off to sleep, wake up and drop off again. If I had heard it, I wouldn’t have bought his book afterwards… I was hoping to get some time to have a cuppa with you afterwards, but it was a long queue and you seemed to be deep in another conversation when Kevin and I approached you. Perhaps next time!