Winner of the Book of the Year (Older Readers) Award 2015, Claire Zorn, talked about the emphasis on rankings in our education system, and the importance of creativity, in the thank you speech she gave at the Awards Ceremony at Melbourne Town Hall on Friday 21 August…
I often say that I write for my seventeen year-old-self, right now my seventeen year-old-self is standing here saying ‘What the frig? How did this happen?’. I’m the kid who had a panic attack in the middle of her first HSC English exam and left. I’m not here because of the wonders of our education system, I am a glitch in the system. I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of high schools recently and I’m not sure all that much has changed. When it comes to education we are very concerned with rankings and bell curves. It’s worth noting that I was discouraged from taking on what was then called three unit related English because my ranking wasn’t high enough. We want our kids to perform. We teach them to play Tchaikovsky by rote, but disable their ability to write their own music. I had teachers who fought against the obsession with marks and rankings and focused on nurturing my creativity, but I think that is like trying to light a candle in a cyclone, if you will allow me to get a bit Elton John.
I must thank my darling dad who told me over and over again that creativity was immeasurably valuable and must be held on to. I must thank my mum who gave the me stubbornness and determination required to pursue an artistic path.
Creative minds are vulnerable and mine has caused it’s fair share of problems, I would not have survived, much less written any books without the love and support of my husband, Nathan. Of course my thanks also go to my Publisher Kristina Schultz at UQP and my editor and co-conspirator Kristy Bushnell.
I will finish by saying that this wonderful award does not qualify me to go into schools and give students the formula for a good piece of writing. I have no interest in improving their rankings. It does qualify me to visit high schools, look those kids in the eye — the off-beat ones, the weird ones, the ones who haven’t done that Biology assignment but have written 67,000 words, sometimes on their phones — and tell them that they will be okay. To the Children’s Book Council: thank you for this award, I can not tell you how much this means to me, especially seventeen year old me.