This past Saturday was NoVaTeen Book Fest and well, I can't tell you which event had my side of the metro packed, but I ended up having to wait for a second train, and as such got there a little later than planned. But, I made it to the Stranger in the Strange Land panel with Natalie C. Andersen, Leslie Livingston, Lindsay Smith, and Ibi Zoboi. They talked about their characters straddling worlds and cultures. Andersen's story is about a refugee, Livingston's a young woman who is kidnapped and enslaved, Smith a Japanese American young woman sent to Japan for the summer, and Zoboi's a young woman who has just immigrated from Haiti to Detroit.
The (Don't Fear) the Reaper Panel had Zoraida Cordova, Brendan Kiely, Nina LaCour, and Lance Rubin talking about how death featured in their books. Cordova's features a Death Day for each bruja, Kiely's was looking at the love that you remember at the end of your life, LaCour's story is about grief, and Rubin's is about a world where we get death dates in advance. The death date idea led to soem really intersting discussion on the panel and in the audience.
For the mini panel segment, I went to the Q&A with Jaye Robin Brown and Katie McGarry who both talked about their books and their process to publication. McGarry also mentioned that she had written Pushing the Limits as a standalone, but the publisher wanted it to become a series and had proposed two characters they thought would be the next couple. (These two characters did not fall in love in the series. As a huge fan of the series, I would say that this works out fine for us all.)
The Love of the Rocks panel had Julie Buxbaum, Katie McGarry, Rafi Mittlefehldt, and Caleb Roehrig. There was discussion of who was into mushy, smoochy stuff, and who wasn't - Buxbaum really is. Roehrig came into this more from a thrille rbackground. I confess I have grown wary of audience questions, but the teens in this panel (and others throughout the day) had good stuff. One asked if the authors with queer characters had worried about that. They had not, and Roehrig and Mittlefehldt both said they found writing stuff that was meaningful to them worked better and was easier to write. Another audience member asked McGarry what inspired her to write female characters that were confident in their sexuality. She thanked them for noticing and said it was important to present female sexuality as a normal thing and that people are ready to explore it at different rates and times, and that she also wrote male characters who respected that.
The Reflection panel had Jaye Robin Brown, M-E Girard, Tiffany D. Jackson, and Will Walton, talking about the role of the perception of others in each of their books. Brown's book has a teen moving to a small town her dad warns her will not be as accepting of her out lesbian self, Girard's book is about a genderqueer teen finding that she's hit the point where everyone around her wants her to stop being who she is, Jackson's book is about a teen who was convicted of murder at age nine, and Walton's is about a teen working on coming out as gay to his family.
And Nina Lacour did the keynote about seeing yourself reflected in fiction, about how Walter Dean Myers' Hoops had spoken to her in ways she hadn't necessarily expected and that reading widely and learning about many different kinds of people makes us all better people, people who know that we need to stand up and fight for others.
It really is an amazing event, and I appreciate the works of the volunteers who make it happen and keep bringing authors I knew about and authors I didn't know to have on my radar but now are new faves.