Monday, March 07, 2016

NoVa Teen Book Fest 2016

It was NoVa Teen Book Fest this weekend and I was there in a tired state, (which was no one's fault but mine) which meant partway through I realized my phone charger was with me, but not the cord, so the phone went into airplane mode so I could take a few photos but posting had to wait for later.  There were more panels this year, which made some of the decision making a little tougher.  The first panel was called Creep and had Jon Skovron talking with Natalie C. Parker, Lisa Maxwell, and Holly Black about writing spooky or scary stories, and subverting expectations.  Parker said that one early reader had said that they didn't believe a girl from the south would know such big words, and she felt that was part of her job as a southerner to represent both the truth and the unfairness of some of the stereotypes.  Maxwell said that the original stories about Neverland have been sort of sanded down, in that people tend to talk of a place where people lose their memories and never grow up as magical now, rather than terrifying.  Black said that her job as a writer was to approach the stories with empathy but fully examine the truth inside.
I then moved to a breakout panel with some of the authors from the upcoming Tyranny of Petticoats anthology - Caroline T. Richmond, Robin Talley, Lindsay Smith, and Jessica Spotswood. They talked a little about the process for how they each selected their time period, and Spotswood talked about how it was important from an editorial perspective to make sure that there was a range of periods and types of stories, and that they wanted each story to feel specific to it's time and place.  (Guys, I'm so excited about this anthology.)
Then I went to one of the game panels with Jason Reynolds, Jennifer Donnelly, Sara Raasch, and Brandon Keily.  They played a variation of password and charades which was funny partly because, password was not really their strength, and partly because there was a group of teens sitting close who were very responsive audience members and who clearly had gotten most of the clues very quickly. 
After grabbing a quick lunch,I went to the History Has It's Eyes on You panel (Bonus point for the Hamilton reference) where Jennifer Donnelly, Janet B. Taylor, Kelly Zekas, Kathy MacMillan, and Eleanor Herman spoke about their process and what led them to the periods (mostly real or mostly fictional) that they made use of.  I will tell you that the moderator questions were great, the audience questions were mostly great, although we did get the stereotypical since you all are women, how did you figure out how to write men question.  And, I try to remember that every book even is someone's first book event, so they may not know how common that question is, how often it gets asked of women, how rarely male authors are asked that, and that particularly when we are talking about historical fiction, gender norms are not fixed and one would have to do just as much research into expectations for women (in fact many of the panelists had talked about their characters butting against such expectations), and that the question is quite honestly insulting. I don't think it was meant that way, but it's really tiring to see it keep getting asked.
Next up was that Do I Ever Cross Your Mind panel with Jeff Garvin, Kelly Fiore, Hannah Barnaby, Julie Murphy, and Charlotte Huang talking about contemporary fiction.  They each talked about what had led them to this latest book (or first, since these were debuts for some of them) and the research and introspection they had done. Kelly Fiore also mentioned "Intervention" and how watching that had shown her that the things she was experiencing watching her brother battle addiction were the same as what she was seeing family members in the show say, so the experience was bigger than her or them. 
And then there was the keynote with Holly Black.  Jon Skovron talked about how reading her book Valiant was what convinced him there might be a place for him as a YA fiction writer.  Black talked about how when she started writing fantasy books for kids, she was mostly talking about this with other kid lit writers or readers and so people got it.  Occasionally she would encounter someone outside the kid lit world who would wonder why she wrote for kids if she didn't have any, but that was about it.  And now she and her husband have a great kid (she showed a picture of him in a handknit sweater that she said the picture made look good because the sweater was made with love but is not entirely sweater shaped) and so she figured people would stop finding that weird.  But, as a mother one ends of talking with other parents and well, they find writing as a job a little strange, especially writing about fantasy or magic?  Why writer about that?  And it had been a while since she had been asked that.  And she realized that fantasy allows us to explore real life in unusual ways.  That her most recent story is about the difference between shared fan love for the same person, compared to actual love of the same person.  Or the idea that fan love allows you to project a lot of things onto someone that they may not be able to live up to.  And fantasy give you a way in to explore that that she finds really interesting and valuable. 
All in all it was a great time and my TBR pile got ever bigger, so thanks so much to all the wonderful people who put this together.