How do you figure out who you are when everyone around you has already made up their mind? Clayton Zane Comber (100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze), Sophie Gonzales (If This Gets Out) and Kay Kerr (Social Queue) have created protagonists grappling with the complexities of life, love and fame on the confusing road to adulthood. When it comes to the messier corners of the teen experience, what comfort and solace can be found in books? And how much can stories help us in starting the next chapter of our lives? In conversation with Sydney Writers’ Festival Youth Curator Madeline Grabowski.

Clayton Zane Comber (Australian)

Clayton Zane Comber

Clayton Zane Comber is a writer from the South Coast of NSW who has held many varied roles, including a lawyer, optical dispenser, club DJ, creative writing tutor and saxophonist in a Chinese restaurant. He received his MA from Sydney University, before studying in the UK and graduating from Oxford University with distinction for his Master's in Creative Writing. In 2017, Clayton opened Bouquiniste Bookstore Cafe Wine Bar. His most recent novel, 100 Remarkable Feats of Xander Maze was released in 2021.

Sophie Gonzales (Australian)

Sophie Gonzales

Sophie Gonzales writes young adult queer contemporary fiction with memorable characters, biting wit and endless heart. She is the author of The Law of Inertia, Only Mostly Devastated, Perfect on Paper and If this Gets Out (co-written with Cale Dietrich). When she isn’t writing, Sophie can be found ice skating, performing in musical theatre, and practising the piano.

Kay Kerr (Australian)

Kay Kerr

From the Sunshine Coast, Kay Kerr is a former journalist and community newspaper editor, and is now a freelance writer. Kay was writing her first novel, Please Don’t Hug Me, when she received her autism diagnosis. Please Don’t Hug Me was shortlisted for the Australian Book Industry Awards’ Book of the Year for Older Children and was a 2021 CBCA Notable Book for Older Readers. Social Queue is her second YA novel.

Madeline Grabowski (Australian)

Madeline Grabowski

Madeline Grabowski is a year 10 student at Macarthur Anglican School. She loves music (especially performing and listening to musical theatre, as well as playing clarinet), baking and reading anything and everything. She is a current Sydney Writers’ Festival Youth Curator.