eisha: Remember last spring when I went to Rochester’s Teen Book Festival with Adrienne of What Adrienne Thinks About That? Well, I had such a blast that when she invited me to this year’s festival, OBVIOUSLY I had to take her up on it. Even though it meant getting up early on a Saturday, and driving through wet gloppy rain and snow, and the wind gusts were strong enough to blow my little car right into the guard rail (and very nearly did MANY TIMES - it was only by white-knuckling the steering wheel like a vice and singing very loudly along with Neko Case that I was able to assert my authority over the wayward wheels).
It was totally worth it - this year was even more fun than last.
After the festival, Adrienne and I got yummy sweet potato fries and fried-eggplant sandwiches, then crashed at her house for movie-watching and co-post-writing. So, if I seem even more nonlinear than usual here, you should know that we decided to watch the original 1975 Escape to Witch Mountain while we were writing. Those telekinetically-motivated dancing marionettes were distracting.
But this is being cross-posted on watat.com, so maybe Adrienne will clean up her version for you.
eisha: Yo! Adrienne! (I’m sorry, that’s always funny to me.)
Thanks for inviting me to TBF again this year. I think this year’s assortment of authors was even more impressive than the last one, which is saying something. Was there anyone in particular you wanted to see this time around?
adrienne: Well, ROBIN BRANDE, of course, but I was looking forward to seeing a bunch of the rest of them–Sara Zarr, Jenny Han, Kenneth Oppel. It was hard to decide who to go see at the breakout sessions. Of course, the biggest surprise of the day was meeting the creator of my beloved WordGirl (and voice of The Butcher), Jack Ferraiolo. I mean, I guess Jack has written a teen book and whatever, too. But WORDGIRL!
How about you?
eisha: ROBIN BRANDE, obviously. But yeah, Sara Zarr was a big draw for me - I’ve loved both her books so far [see the co-review/interview for proof]. And Daphne Grab - I liked Alive and Well in Prague, New York quite a bit too [see the brief co-review here]. And Sharon Flake and Matt de la Pena - dude, when I was a children’s/YA librarian in Cambridge, I could not keep their books on the shelves. And Linda Sue Park, and Jenny Han, and Kenneth Oppel, and Michael Buckley, and Catherine Murdock [alas! She couldn’t make it]…
Sadly, I couldn’t fit in individual break-out sessions with all those authors in a single day. But it was cool how they put all the “new” authors (Brande, Ferraiolo, Grab and Han) in one session together. We got a great little overview of their work and personalities, and they got to play off each other. Any chance for the authors to interact with each other was very entertaining, and those four put on a great program. Lots of bang for the buck.
I think Robin’s story of how she got kicked out of church (it’s totally different from what happens to Mena in her book) was maybe the best moment of the day for me. How about you?
adrienne: I loved how you told Sharon Flake and Matt de la Pena how their books kept getting stolen from your library. I’m not sure all authors understand what a compliment that is.
I had never heard Robin’s story about getting kicked out of her church, and it is a great story, what with all the screaming and whatnot. And I know what you’re saying about the interaction between the authors on the panels. As in past years, one of my favorite parts of the day was the opening author panel, when we got to hear ALL the authors speak. The part where they asked the authors to each come up with one word their friends would have used to describe them in high school was funny and revealing by turns. Terry Trueman was funny as always, and I really enjoyed many of the responses from the three guys that make up David Van Etten. This is also when we got to see/discuss Linda Sue Park’s seriously awesome shoes.
Of course, what today really did was add a bunch of books to my to-read pile. I’m particularly eager to read Jack Ferraiolo’s Big Splash and Sara Zarr’s Story of a Girl (I KNOW, I KNOW, I should have read Story of a Girl by now, but I’ve been so busy with post-apocalypic fiction).
eisha: OMG, the shoes! Linda totally had the best shoes of the day - these sassy black patent heels with a ribbon at the ankle. Robin had some pretty sweet black lace-up boots, too. And Jack had those great sneaks - kinda like low-top black Chucks, but with a big rounded rubber sole.
Okay, sorry, back to bookish things. Yes, absolutely, you really should read both of Zarr’s novels. She’s got a very good handle on the heightened intensity of teenagers’ relationships with each other and the world at large. Also, I really enjoyed her session, and was fascinated by the experiences she’s had that inform her stories. Like, being semi-obsessed with the Polly Klaas and Elizabeth Smart kidnappings, and how that plays into her forthcoming novel Once was Lost.
I also thought Jack Ferraiolo’s reading was hilarious, as was the man himself, and have got to get my hands on his book post-haste.
adrienne: Jenny is just as nice in person as you’d expect from her blog, and I loved the section she read from her new book book during the new author panel. It was totally relatable. I’m looking forward to reading the rest.
And we have to go back to the shoes, because I really, really liked Sara Zarr’s sneakers, too. Why is my life so devoid of brown sneakers? WHY?!?
Back on topic. One of the things I most enjoy about this event is watching all the teens doing their thing all day long. Some are so clearly HUGE fans of these authors and their books. One family I know from my library saw Michael Buckley speak THREE TIMES today, that’s the kind of fans they are. And I know another family that was super-crazy-excited about Kenneth Oppel. I liked watching even the teens I didn’t know bopping around dancing and asking authors to sign their shirts and eating sno-cones and whatnot. The mood was celebratory and happy, even more so than at a big conference like BookExpo. That’s really energizing. There were also lots of adults who read a lot of teen books, which is comforting in its own way, too, since that’s what I spend most of my reading time doing.
eisha: True dat. I also learned how to pronounce Kenneth Oppel’s last name (long O, like the semi-precious stone), which I’ve been doing wrong all these years.
But yeah, I had the same experience last year. It’s so inspiring to see so many teens SO VERY VERY EXCITED about meeting authors. It’s a testament to how well this program is run - schools and local libraries are all involved in exposing the kids to books by the featured authors, and teens get bussed in from all over. It’s impressive.
Did you see Sara Zarr’s watch? Also brown, also wicked cute.
adrienne: I did notice the watch. I’m glad it’s not just me paying attention to these things. (And wasn’t it Sara who said we should pay attention to things? Or maybe that was Robin? Or maybe that’s just what people tell me when I space out at work. Hm.)
Should we vote for some authors we think the committee should invite next year? I mean, we bought A LOT of raffle tickets today. I’m starting with Sara Lewis Holmes, Tanita Davis (so she’s in Scotland, but that’s why they have planes), and Carrie Ryan. You?
And yeah, I think a couple of the authors said something like that. They all gave great writing advice when asked (and they were always asked - I think maybe some of those kids were plants). Pay attention to your life, and really live it - not necessarily by bungee jumping off skyscrapers or whatever, but just enjoy yourself and don’t rush things. Other good advice for future writers included:
- Write. Often. And don’t be afraid to suck. But learn to be self-critical, and get feedback from others you trust, to practice and perfect your craft.
- Read. A lot.
- Don’t expect to get published right away, and don’t make that the ultimate goal. Write for yourself first.
- The sucky teenage crap you’re going through right now? Someday it will make for great material.
I wish I could find a way to turn my angsty teenage crap into an award-winning novel, instead of just therapy-fodder.
Anyway, use whatever influence you have with the organizers of TBF (it seems to be pretty strong, since you seemed to know EVERYONE we saw in the special TBF t-shirts today) to get some more good authors lined up for next year, and I’ll definitely come back for thirds.
adrienne: That’s a plan. I do think I need to wait maybe a week or so before mentioning our author ideas, because they’ll be all tired and cranky from all that work they did. I’ll send them thank you cards, and *then* I’ll make our suggestions.
You know, every time the authors gave writing advice, I felt like I got as much out of it as the teens are, especially the bits about being patient with the time it takes to write well. Sigh.
Well, I think my cat is trying to tell me it’s time to wrap things up. She’s giving me that isn’t-it-time-to-go-to-bed-now look. Also she’s lying down on the keyboard.
eisha: Yeah, notice she walked across mine to get to yours. Probably telling us this is way long enough already, and maybe we should wrap it up. Alrighty then. (And… scene.)