Lillehammer Literature Festival: Part 1


Back in May, Line attended one of the biggest literary festivals in the Nordic countries, Norsk Litteraturfestival – Sigrid Undset dagene. In this first recap Line writes about a panel debating the label young adult and three Norwegian author’s talking about why they write YA.

This year marked the 22nd anniversary for the Norwegian literature festival at Lillehammer, Norway. The festival lasts for six days and has than 200 posts on the program. More than 300 authors and contributors are involved. There are four people arranging the entire festival, with excellent help from 200 volunteers. This year the festival took place from May 24 to May 29. Unfortunately, I could not attend all of the days, so I had to choose which day had the most relevant program for me. I ended up travelling five hours by car, during night, so I arrived early Thursday morning, and I went home again on Friday afternoon. Even though the stay was short, I managed to attend seven of the program posts, do some shopping and eating.

«Crossover, young adult, unge voksne … Hva er det egentlig vi prater om?»
The first program post I attended was a two part, two hour long seminar. In the first part, three authors talked about writing books for mature young readers and they each did a reading from one of their novels. Second part was a debate between four people, a literature critic, an editor, an author and a bookstore employee. They were debating what position young adult books have in the Norwegian book market. During this seminar, more chairs had to be pull up to fit everyone in the audience inside the little gallery room.

Heidi Sævareid was the first author to introduce herself. She has studied Nordic literature and children’s/YA literature. When researching and writing Heidi likes using from her own experiences. In 2013, she had her author debut with the book Spranget and later on in 2015, she published the book Slipp hold. Both of her novels earned Sævareid a nomination to the Norwegian Brageprisen, and for Spranget Sævareid won the Norwegian Ministry of Culture’s debutant of the year award. Slipp hold is among the nominees to the Norwegian book blogger award this year. Heidi will be out with a new book this fall, called Slagside. Heidi likes calling her books young adult books, instead of youth books, as we use in Norway. She feels like there is no limitations when writing for a younger audience, and they do not have to be sheltered the details. She explained that she writes for young adult because she finds that time of life, is an interesting time, where there is many new experiences. Though she feels like many youths in Norway might be missing out on the YA-literature, because the YA titles are put in a box with the children’s literature.

Next up was Taran L. Bjørnstad that had her debut in 2002 with Nettsvermerne, she has written several titles since then, among them she wrote a crossover novel called Picassokvinnen in 2012. Taran likes writing for a young audience since it`s a time where you can make a difference in a person’s life and she enjoys addressing subjects about being different. She also talked about how fantasy usually goes automatic from crossover to YA literature. While Taran feels like a 16-year-old can read everything, not only YA, but also adult books, and therefor the line is more blurred.


Last, we heard from Harald Rosenløw Eeg, which also attended the panel debate later on. He debuted in 1995 with the book Glasskår, which is the only YA book that has ever won the Norwegian Tarjei Vessas debutant prize. Glasskår was adapted into a movie in 2002. Harald is quite proud of debuting back in in 1995, which he feels was an amazing time with many great authors, like for example Jostein Gaarder who wrote the infamous Sophie’s World. Since that time Harald feels like the youth books has changed. YA is now wider and freer and has more genres involved. Harald feels like it is his job is to figure out the correct youth language. However, he writes to find himself and often finds himself thinking “Who am I right now.” while writing.

The second part of the debate seminar included Hilde Strandberg (Ibby, Ubok), Ingrid Greaker Myhren (publisher, at Gyldendal), Christin Kramprud (works in a bookstore) and Harald Rosenløw Eeg (author). They talked about how if you translate YA into Norwegian you get the the label ung voksen. When you talk about the audience for YA books in USA it`s normally the 12-18 year olds, while ung voksen in Norway is more like the 18-30 year olds. The bookstores find it difficult to catalog books, since publishers use the age of the readers in different ways. Youth, down to the age of 10, read YA books and as well do adults, so wherever you catalog these books, you will always end up losing part of the audience. It`s easier to get older teens to read something from the adult department, then adults to read something from the youth department. Also important to remember that youth is not all the same, they are all different, which makes for more freedom when writing. They also brought up the issue about how youth books quite often are stowed away in the back of the stores. Young adult novels ought to have a more centered position and to very visible in the stores, so more people would notice them. They are much better at this in for example the USA and the UK. In Denmark, they have just introduced new categories; they are now using tweens for the age group 10-13 and YA for the older age group.

The panel also mentioned how YA audience gets older, since it takes more time to establish in life, with studies, family etc. While before you were a grown up when you become confirmed.
Things are still changing and the panelists feel like the youth books maybe haven`t found their own place yet in the system, since it`s such a new category compared to novels and children’s books.
This was such an interesting panel.

If you want to know more of what happened on Lillehammer Literature Festival stay tuned, I will be back with a part two, with more interesting panels.

What do you think about the genre YA? Does it have a future in the Nordic countries? How is the categories cataloged in bookstores in your country?


About the blogger:

Line has a passion for young adult litterature and has been blogging in Norwegian since 2011 on MoonStar`s Bokverden. In addition to her addiction to books Line leds a versitile life. She attends a Bachelor study in Ecology and Nature Management at University College of Southeast Norway, where she also works as a librarian. When Line isn’t working, studying, reading or blogging, she hones her archery skills!

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