Teen Book Festival 2009

h1 April 8th, 2009 by eisha

TBF Live!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.)

WordGirl and Captain Huggy-FaceThanks 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]…

Almost all the authors - photo from Sara Zarr’s blog.

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.

Robin BrandeI 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.

Linda’s shoes looked sorta like this, but even cuter. COVET.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.

Story of a Girl. Seriously, this is an amazing book.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.

How freaking awesome is it that Jenny Han’s publisher Simon & Schuster got her new book The Summer I Turned Pretty printed early just for this festival? And that we scored copies? SQUEE!

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.

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel (pronounced Opal)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?

eisha: YES! I love all your choices, and would add Mary E. Pearson to the list – remember how much we liked The Adoration of Jenna Fox? And how about some guys, like Adam Rex and M.T. Anderson?

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.

Big Splash by Jack Ferriaolo - the excerpt he read was hilarious. Must read.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.)

16 comments to “Teen Book Festival 2009”

  1. Great report, shoe-and-book-and-teen-loving intrepid duo. But you made me crave sweet potato fries and seeing Robin. Waaah!

    P.S. If I could sit on a panel with Tanita, Carrie Ryan, Mary Pearson, M.T. Anderson and Adam Rex, I would turn into a jiggly mess of fan-girl Jello. You couldn’t expect me to SPEAK. (But I would try. Yes, I would wear my cutest shoes and try VERY HARD.)

  2. I loved reading this! Because I was so strung out on laughing too hard and sleeping too little, this is now my official report of the festival and I will not only post a link to it, but I will send it to my mother who keeps asking, “So how was it?” and I can only say, “Great!” because I’m such a wordsmith.

    Let’s talk about Linda Sue Park’s shoes. Because I got to ride in the limo with her, and of course I noticed them right away and may have actually shouted. She said they were specially made by this engineer woman who’s a ballroom dancer, who noticed that all her ballroom dancing shoes are comfortable, whereas regular high heels make her want to kill something. So she quit engineering to make shoes, and Linda searched forever on the web until she saw a pair on sale ($200 something instead of $500 something), and she loves them more than she loves her own mother.

    Wish I could tell you the name of the shoe company, but that would require memory. Write to Linda Sue.

    Other than that, want to say thank you to both of you for planting your bright shiny faces right where I could see them (again causing shouting), and thank you, Eisha, for the white-knuckle drive to get there–I had no idea.

    Whew. One more thing: Love your list of who should get invited next. Hope it happens! And of course I hope I get invited back because this time I might remember to take pictures and notes so I’ll know it wasn’t a dream.

    Thanks for this! It’s going on my blog now.

  3. What fun! But what’s Robin’s story about getting kicked out of her church? Can we get a summary?

    (I love Word Girl and any other show that doesn’t underestimate the intelligence of children. Word UP.)

    P.S. Have Neko Case, will travel. Her music, I mean, though I’d take a road trip with her, too.

  4. […] Thank heavens for Adrienne and Eisha. Because they were at the Rochester Teen Book Festival last weekend, and actually had the strength to write a post about it. Which I’m totally stealing now. […]

  5. Word Girl!! Books! Shoes!
    YAY! You DO have pictures! (OH, my word, I would pay CASH MONEY to buy shoes made by an engineer who ballroom dances. Somebody FIND THAT COMPANY, please, pretty-please!? I don’t wear heels because homicide is a bad idea…) I’m with Sara — there would be fangirl overload, and possible flustered perspiration and a lot of head-in-collar ducking. But great joy. It would be SO much fun.

  6. Kitteh sez “wrap it up”. Too funny.

    Great post, ladies.

  7. Oh the festival sounds like a blast! And I echo the plea above. Please post a link to Robin Brande’s story about getting kicked out of her church. I’m dying of curiosity!!

  8. Jenny, there will never be a link like that. I hope. The only people who will ever know that story are the ones who come to my talks.

    Bwwa-ha-ha . . .

  9. Sara, you could totally hold your own on that panel. Second best would be if you could just go be in the audience with Adrienne and me, and then we could all go out for sweet potato fries together.

    Robin, I just tried to leave a comment on Linda Sue Park’s blog asking about her shoes, but LiveJournal hates me and it didn’t happen. If you have any sudden memory flashes please share. And you read just fine thank-you-very-much, don’t sell yourself short.

    jules, Robin’s story is really one that doesn’t translate as well in print – you will just have to wait until you can hear her tell it live. And yeah, singing “You said I was your blue, blue baby, and you were riiiiiight…” at the top of my lungs all by myself in a car that’s about to be carried off by a hurricane is super-satisfying.

    Tanita, you too would rock the house at TBF. Stop with all this modesty and shyness already! Maybe we just need to get you some of those shoes…

    Kelly, HAH! She totally did. Thanks!

    Jenny, sorry, but like I told Jules, you have to hear it in person. There’s screaming, see.

    Also, Robin just did that evil-laugh thing that makes me think she’ll cut me if I try to tell it here.

  10. Okay, I think I figured out the shoe designer who made Linda Sue’s awesome shoes: Anyi Lu. Sometimes it’s good to be a librarian.

  11. Yes! That’s her! I remember the name now that I see it! Good detective work, E!!!!

  12. Seething with jealousy here! Seethe, seethe. I’m kidding, Eisha, I’m happy for you and Adrienne that you got to hang out with each other and meet so many cool people. I would have liked to have heard Robin’s story in person.

  13. I wish that ALL of you had been there with us. It really is an amazing event, and each year they keep making it better. The committee that puts it together is just full-to-bursting with talent and dedication.

  14. OK, I’ll admit it: I am THRILLED that my shoes have attracted such attention. 😉 The full story: I have been on a lifelong quest for comfortable high heels. (I’m 5′-2″ when I try really hard…) I read about Anyi Lu shoes online somewhere, and found the website and was aghast at the prices. But I really wanted to try them out. So I kept googling and eventually found those shoes ON SALE at piperlime.com. They were something like $235, which still seemed a terrifying amount, but I could always return them, right? So I ordered them, tried them on, and fell utterly in love: They are *really* comfortable, not just sort-of-maybe-if-I-don’t-have-to-stand-up-for-too-long. It was mid-December. I showed them to my husband, and said, “This is what I want you to give me for Christmas.” The box went under the tree. Best Christmas present ever.

    Now I’m saving up for another pair…but they’ll still have to be on sale!

    Thanks, Eisha and Adrienne, and everyone else who came to TBF and who helped make it such a fantastic day–I feel so lucky to have been a part of it!

  15. Linda Sue, thank YOU for being part of TBF and helping to make it so awesome. And thank you also for the story of the shoes. Did I mention how much I LOVE THEM? Keep saving! And hey, there’s always next Christmas.

  16. My favorite part of this festival is watching hundreds of teens buy books and stand in line to have them signed!

    My favorite comment is, perhaps, David Levithan (a.k.a. Van Etten) saying that he wrote Boy Meets Boy to sever the link between dead dogs and homosexuality.

    I’ve posted two videos to my web site that show much of the “5 Thing About Me” introduction that Stephanie did.

    Great event! I will probably be there again next year. I live in Michigan and my daughter is a student at the University of Rochester. The festival coincides with my Spring Break.



    PS I very much enjoy your blog.

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