Explore the 2024 Program

Take Me Away Q&A with Samera Kamaleddine

As May rapidly approaches, we are so excited to welcome you to the Festival and to introduce you to the writers who make it all worthwhile. To awaken your Festival spirit, we're got a series of Q&As to introduce some of the 2024 participants. Get to know them as we discuss their reading, their writing practice and the Festival theme, Take Me Away.

Samera Kamaleddine began writing as a magazine journalist before publishing her first young adult novel, Half My Luck, which won the Matilda Prize in 2020. Now she has a new middle grade novel, The Sideways Orbit of Evie Hart.

What kind of books do you get lost in while reading?

I’m a really eclectic reader – I can go from humorous middle grade to adult crime fiction in the same week! But something that has a guessing game element really sucks me in… I like to be kept on my toes when reading.

Is there a book you wish you could read for the first time again?

The Great Gatsby. I first read it as a prescribed text in high school English which in that context was all about pulling it apart and analysing Fitzgerald’s symbolism. Somehow it ended up being my favourite book. I wish I could have my “first time” with Gatsby again without the dissecting.

The Sideways Orbit of Evie Hart has been shortlisted for the 2024 CBCA Book of the Year Award, congratulations! Tell us about Evie Hart.

Evie Hart is anxious, curious, observant, rule-following – much like I was when I was in primary school. She also doesn’t like change… and, of course, as writers we punish our protagonists with the very thing they don’t like! To help Evie along on her journey – one that ultimately helps her identify that change just has to happen sometimes – she is learning about the changes that happen every second in our big and wonderful universe, so there’s lots of fun facts about space. I wanted to write a character who was likeable, authentic and relatable so to have Evie and this book received so warmly and acknowledged by CBCA is such a win even if I don’t win!

What do you love about writing for young people?

Enabling them to be seen in books. I wrote my first book, Half My Luck, to feel seen from a cultural perspective; writing Evie Hart was another way to show young people that their voices are heard, their concerns are acknowledged, their feelings are legitimate. I get to be open and truthful without judgement and possibly alter someone’s life with a story… what a gig!

What do you hope readers take away from your work?

That they too have a story to tell.

What events are looking forward to attending at the Festival?

To fuel my newfound love of mystery, Aussie Crime All-Stars with Sulari Gentill, Dinuka McKenzie and Benjamin Stevenson. Also, there’s a special place in my heart for YA and this year’s All-Day YA looks stellar – in particular Murder They Wrote with Amy Doak, Meg Gatland-Veness and Jack Heath. There’s a bit of a theme going on for me here isn’t there…

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