Monday, March 09, 2015

NoVa Teen Book Fest 2015

Saturday was the second annual NoVa Teen Book Fest and I somehow left the house without my charger, therefore limiting the tweeting so here I am with a recap. 
I missed Jon Skovron's opening remarks, but he was a wonderful emcee in the main auditorium for the whole day, running a mike into the audience for folks to ask questions and generally being wonderful. 
The first panel was about books and characters operating in two worlds and had Tracy Clark, Matt de la Pena, Alethea Kontis, and Robin Talley. They talked about the challenge of writing characters straddling worlds or coming from opposite sides of things.  Matt mentioned that he had with other books had some librarians say something to the effect that they really liked his books but didn't really have students "like that" at their schools, and so he had made a conscious attempt to come up with a story that was something that still addressed the themes and such that he wrote about and yet could be spun broader.  Robin said that these days people mostly are not asking her and her book to places where they don't want to talk about such issues, but it was important to her to add to the total of books out there that included LGBTQ characters.  Tracy said the tension of writing opposites was really interesting.  And Alethea mentioned that she hadn't realized she was doing something groundbreaking by writing a YA book with a big family. 
I went to a breakout session after that with Lydia Kang and Jessica Khoury, who both wrote thrillers.  There were a lot of questions about their writing journey (I suspect the audience had quite a few aspiring writers).  Jessica also talked about her research trip to Africa for her latest book.  And both of them talked about the challenges of things like titles and covers.  The diverse books movement came up and Lydia said that people often assume that because she Asian, that she's got the diversity thing covered, but that she grew up in a town where most of the kids she went to school with weren't Asian, and reading books that primarily featured white kids, so it's easy to fall into that unless she makes an effort to really think about the world her characters are in.  Jessica talked about writing a draft without assigning ethnicity and then going back later and assigning that so she wouldn't fall into any stereotype traps.  (I don't know that that is her process every time, but it's an interesting exercise for people willing to build their characters on the back end.)
After lunch, I hit the breakout session about bravery with Sara Raasch, Morgan Rhodes, and Alethea Kontis.  They talked about building series, and what inspired them to write, and the things they love to read.  They talked about writing bad guys, and Morgan mentioned how depending on how far through the series you were you might have more thoughts on a particular character, and Alethea said she had realized that all her bad guys were women.  (I blame fairytales.) 
And then I went back to the main auditorium for Out of the Woods with Seth Fishman, Lydia Kang, Jessica Khoury, Sara Raasch, Morgan Rhodes, and Krysten Simmons.  The first question they were asked was, given the paranormal and/futuristic bent to their stories, did it given them more freedom to address certain issues.  The panel agreed yes.  Krysten (who Seth outed for making origami while she sat on the panel, something I knitting as I listened totally got) said that the idea of women being sold and traded, was sadly not even a little hard to find in our world.  They also talked about titles, Seth, Lydia, and Jessica talking about how theirs got changed.  Lydia's original title for Control was a spoiler for the book, although she did fight for Catalyst. There was one question from the audience for Seth which seemed to boil down to, why did he decide to write about a female main character when he was a male author.  (The questioner was female, so I think she wasn't against female protagonists, just wary of men writing them.) Seth said there was certainly research - like the difference between a sweater and a cardigan - that one had to do to write a character of a different gender, but all characters required research. 
Matt de la Pena wrapped things up with a wonderful keynote talking about his journey toward becoming the first college graduate in his family, and finally finishing reading his first book, (which he's talked about other places like here - this story moves me every time) and how books became the place it was okay for a tough guy to feel.
I skipped the signing (the line was intense!) but that's okay, my ereader is a little fuller now.  Can't wait to see the lineup for next year.