Tuesday, September 08, 2015

All the Authors

In addition to the National Book Fest there were also two panels of YA authors at Politics and Prose this week so I have a lot of things to catch up on.

First up Jennifer E. Smith not only came to Politics and Prose but had also agreed to meet up with my book club before her talk. I missed most of that due to the day job, but I hear they had a great time chatting with her. I had just finished Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between which was fun.  At the Politics and Prose chat she spoke about how sometimes her editorial background makes it that she is unable to utilize text speak or IM speak because it just hurts her too much. (I do hear now that character limits are less of a thing, text speak is somewhat less prominent with current teens, although certainly looking around the internet indicates that's not true for all).  Smith's inspiration for Hello, Goodbye and Everything In Between was the very strong memory of the night before you left for college and how it felt wonderful and scary and full of such importance as you stand on the precipice of this huge change. She also wondered what would it be like if, in addition to all of that, you were in the middle of a serious relationship with someone where the two of you were headed in literal opposite directions. Smith also talked a little bit about the MFA she had done at St Andrews. (!!!) 

On Friday there was a multi-author panel with Daniel José Older, Libba Bray, and Jon Skovron. I was part way through Older's Shadowshaper (which I have since finished and it is wonderful) and still need to catch up on the next installment in the Diviners series, as well as Skovron's latest. Older talked about how so much of fantasy and urban fantasy author takes place in a very light clean city or in the falling down projects and there just wasn't enough in between. Working as an EMT and also having grown up Brooklyn he certainly saw lots and lots of in between in the city. Also that so much of fantasy involves a character spending 75% of the book being surprised to discover that there is magic or are demons. Worldwide more cultures believe in ghosts believe in supernatural creatures than don't and if you wrote a fantasy that involves a character from one of those cultures you could save yourself chapters of this surprise. I will also say that part of my interest in Shadowshaper stemmed from a comment I saw about it's take on anthropology and the idea that the people who do the studying often treat their subjects as less than. Libba Bray talked about how sometimes she has trouble finding the source of what sparked an idea for a book since she thinks of her writing brain as a giant sticky ball rolling along and picking up stray factoids that then turn into a story. Bray said the Chinese Exclusion Act was a fascinating example of a shift in our country since it was the first policy that specifically immigration policy that specifically addressed a particular race and therefore led to things that we still see the echoes of today. Skovron talked about how being raised Catholic the Bible is full of references to angels and demons that he certainly read as literal as a child. He also talked about how in the first book Man-made Boy it was a road trip across the US that in this book he wanted to expand out to the world and take a closer look at that.

On Saturday with the National Book Fest we arrived a little late and only caught the tail end of Kwame Alexander. Again I will say this man attracts all the teachers. He read a quick poem and also talked about keeping his inner child alive.

After Alexander came the wonderful Ellen Oh who had a slideshow presentation to help discuss what spawned the We Need Diverse Books movement and also how she is starting to see that the problem is not just getting the books there, getting the authors there, and supporting all of that but that once the books are available that gatekeepers steer children away from books that don't look like them.

There was a presentation for The Book That Shaped Me where multiple children who had written essays about books of importance to them were awarded including some special prize winners who had written about Steve Jobs, Homesick, Rules,and Harry Potter. (The Harry Potter winner had an adorable Harry Potter bow in her hair.) Let me tell you these kids were all poised and amazing and wow.

Jenny Han was up next and she talked about how changes in her family with her sister getting married led her to think about the kinds of changes that teenagers experience which inspired To All the Boys since the main character is dealing with becoming the new oldest after her oldest sister goes off to college (which by the way is to St Andrews, I'm just saying). She also said the book's success proved that any character could be the every girl since the main character with an Asian American.

We then snuck out to grab some lunch but made it back to see Sabaa Tahir who had slides and a copy of her book trailer to talk about An Ember in the Ashes.  Tahir said her reporting experience led her to look at a story from two opposing sides. Also her brother is involved in the current movie production and so she expects that the adaptation will be good since she can tell on him to mom.

Not too long after that I donned the red shirt (they were really red) and did my volunteer bit. It did mean I was cross scheduled against romance which was sad but I was happy to help the wonderful festival and I hear the romance room was well packed. I was handing out programs which meant I had a lot of people asking me where things were including Metro. I also had a lot of people who showed up with no idea what this was other than it was a thing and what should they go see or do none of them had very little children in tow and arrived somewhat after most of the children's programming had to completed. Normally I would argue that it was a bit of a failure to research but given the Library of Congress is website was down much of the preceding week I could understand why people might have found pre-planning a bit of a challenge. It was a great festival I hope next year they have even more romance author in addition to all the wonderful speakers that they've been getting.

Edited for clarity.