Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Austin Teen Book Festival - part un

I had a lovely book-filled Saturday this weekend, kicked off by a book release party for one of my critique partners at Book People here in Austin. She is the illustrator of a new children's book, and it was so fun to see all of the children reacting to the story when she read aloud. It was a Halloween-themed book, so of course they had a costume contest. There was a girl that didn't even come up to my waist dressed as a witch, and she accidentally swept my feet with her straw broom at least twice. All in all, a successful morning.

Then we headed over to the Austin Teen Book Festival for the afternoon. I've actually never been to a book event outside of BEA (and that was for work, so it almost doesn't count), so I was curious to see how this one would go. I only heard about it through my critique partner, who only heard about it through a book reviewer friend of hers, so I was worried there wouldn't be much of a crowd to support the authors who would be speaking there. Scott Westerfeld was the keynote speaker, but we got there late in the afternoon so we missed the keynote. I was most excited to hear from Simone Elkeles, since I have a mad agent crush on her agent, and Jackson Pearce because I have a mad crush on anything she does.

I was happy about how many names I recognized on the panels - Simone Elkeles, Scott Westerfeld, Melissa Walker, David Levithan, Jackson Pearce, Stephanie Perkins, and a host of other fantastic authors and speakers (see them all here). The Festival also had a great idea to host all four of the panels at the same time, four times over the course of the day, so you didn't miss a panel if you wanted to see them all. We had time enough for two panels, so I picked the I Heart Love Stories panel and the Alternaworlds panel. I originally wanted the Supernatural Suspense for my Jackson Pearce lady crush, but because of sound issues they couldn't host that panel at the end of the day.

I Heart Love Stories included Cristina Garcia, Simone Elkeles, Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer Ziegler, and Christina Mandelski. Simone and Stephanie were definitely the big names on the panel, and most of the questions were directed at them. I had heard of Anna and the French Kiss, but that's not typically my type of book. However, after seeing Stephanie on the panel I definitely want to pick up her books. She was cute, fashionable, young, and funny. And Simone was exactly what I expected her to be - funny, sassy, irreverent, and charming. I'd like to think she and I had a moment when I pretended that I might want a vampire boyfriend in space (don't ask).

The audience asked some great questions, so I got a lot of takeaways from this panel:

  • One girl asked how she could make her love story less predictable. Simone countered that love stories are predictable - in fact, in a romance novel it's what you rely on. You know they're going to get together. The tension comes from the obstacles they have to overcome to be together. It's about how much crap can you throw at them, how insurmountable can you make the odds? If they're good enough and believable enough, then even the expected ending is still satisfying.
  • Cristina Garcia said that typically romance novels have happy endings and love stories have tragic endings (apparently this is a standard knowledge thing of which I'm only just now aware). The panel discussed at large what this meant in their writing, and most of the women agreed that a good story has a healthy blending of both. Apparently Romeo and Juliet are NOT the standard in storytelling today (and thank goodness for that).
  • Another audience member asked about the reality of these overwhelming love stories. Both Stephanie and Simone said they met their husbands when they were teenagers, and that they wrote from a place of experience. I think Simone said it best: "Falling in love as a teenager was the best thing that ever happened to me. And the worst." (Cue the lady crush)
  • The panel overwhelmingly agreed that you can't write to the market. You have to write the story that you want to write, and then make a market for yourself.
  • There were A. LOT. of young writers there. Most of the questions came from young people - boys and girls - and were about stories they're writing. It was amazing to see hundreds of kids willing to spend a Saturday talking about books and writing. Warmed the cold, dead cockles of my heart.
The overall feeling of this panel was sweet and encouraging, and made me want to get out there and write about cute boys and school dances. The Alternaworlds panel also had some great advice, but I'll save that for another day.

What did you do this weekend? Anything fun and/or writing related?


Lola Sharp said...

Oh, it warms my heart to hear there were so many young writers spending their weekend at the book festival, too! :)

What a delightful re-cap. Thank you.
(I love how organized and list-y you are. :)

I really adore Steph Perkins new book, Lola and the Boy Next Door (no, not just because the MC has my name ;), but I thought the characters were interesting and her writing has grown. I liked Anna, too, but more because of the setting (PARIS!!!), which she did a delightful job of making it its own character. (my daughter prefers Anna to Lola and has read it SO many times the book is falling apart...partly because of the setting--daughter is in her 4th yr. of French--but also she likes Anna the MC more. She didn't like Lola the MC very much.) Anyway, I like both of her books but I can see a lot of growth, craft-wise, in Lola. Plus, I did like Lola as an MC, her arc/growth was part of what I liked about her. And, she's quirkier. :)

Also, I love Jenny Han's series. I think she's a talented writer.

I can't wait to hear all about the Alternaworld panel!


Jamie Burch said...

Oooh...thank you so much for sharing this! Glad you had such an amazing time. I'm jealous in a good way!

I hosted a psychic party for my birthday on Saturday. It was a good time!

Looking forward to your next post.

Christina Lee said...

Sounds so awesome!! I think you'll like Anna if you liked Simone's books--they both do swoony swoon swoon very WELL!!!