Last Monday I went to East City Bookshop for their combined event with One More Page to launch Heidi Heilig's A Muse of Fire. As I told Heidi, A Girl From Everywhere ended up being a book I recommended to a ton of people - people who liked time traveling pirates, people who liked adventure, people who liked unusual fantasy. There are very few books I would give to both my sister and my mom, and this was one. There was bookish karaoke, cookies, and of course book discussion. Ellen Oh chatted with Heidi about how she re-wrote A Muse of Fire after the election, deciding the focus of the story needed to change, even if the concept of a world based on the Asian diaspora, starring a bipolar protagonist with the ability to necromance shadow puppets remained. She talked about the use of ephemera from the world, to help ground the reader.
Thursday I went to One More Page for their first romance panel. I ran into a fellow romance book group bud, as well as reader/writer friends. Angelina Lopez moderated, and the panel had Lori Ann Bailey, Mia Sosa, and Sharon Wray. Because they write very different things, it was a fun panel as they talked about writing journeys, who does and does not use their spouses to help with blocking for certain scenes, who has a playlist called woodworking so their kids will not suspect it's true nature, and how they all agreed the happily ever after was important.
Saturday I went to Baltimore Book Festival. I waved at the Maryland Romance tent before running over to the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) tent to catch the short fiction panel with Sarah Pinsker, AT Greenblatt, KJ Kabza, Sam J. Miller, Irette Y. Patterson, and Karlo Yeager Rodriguez. They talked about who did and did not write multiple short stories in the same world, touched on how it was less common these days for folks to write novels that basically combined shorts.
Then they had the YA panel with Kosoko Jackson, Justina Ireland, Zoraida Cordova, Vera Brook, and Gwendolyn Clare. They talked about writing for teens, staying current, and how the diversity push has affected (if at all) what they write.
Back at the Maryland Romance tent, there was a contemporary panel with Shelly Ellis/Stratton, Shirlee McCoy, Priscilla Oliveras, and Christi Barth. They talked about keeping things current, determining how steamy to get, and research.
I went to the Radical Bookfair Pavilion next to see William C. Anderson and Mariame Kaba (known as #prisonculture on Twitter) talking about the book William co-wrote called Black as Resistance. Kaba is notoriously picture shy, but she loves children and the children had designed a shirt that contained her likeness to sell at the festival. Anderson had the shirt display next to him for the panel.
Then I went to the Enoch Pratt Free Library tent for Nisha Sharma and Brigid Kemmerer talking about their contemporary YA's. They talked about parental pride and whether that means your mom will actually read your book, and writing fun but realistic fiction.
I went back to Maryland Romance for another contemporary panel with Stoni Alexander, Christi Barth, Andie J. Christopher, Nancy C. Weeks, and Kate Clayborn. They talked about making sure your protagonists are interesting but also believable, and how to make sure the reader believes in the happy ending. They also talked about how keeping secrets from the reader is tough in a book where you are deep in the character's head.
The final panel of the day was strong female characters and had Kini Allen, Kate Clayborn, Stoni Alexander, L. Penelope, J.L. Lora, Melinda Valentine. They talked about how strong female characters are often matched with strong love interests, who love that they are strong.
Sunday I headed back up to Baltimore. I tent hopped less, although I did hop over to the Enoch Pratt tent to see Nic Stone. She talked about how going to Israel helped her realize there are stories we just aren't hearing, and she came home and wrote a book. That book got her an agent, although it was not in good shape and she and that agent ended up parting ways. But she wrote another, got another agent, and that time, had an editor say, well, not this, but what else does she have. She did not have anything else, so sat down and wrote up a quick proposal, which that editor bought. They went through a lot of revisions, and ended up with this great book, Dear Martin.
In the Maryland Romance tent I saw writer's life, with Jamaila Brinkley, Robyn Neeley, Robin Covington, Alexa Jacobs, Lori Ann Bailey, and Jessica Ruddick . They talked about tips and tricks for squeezing writing in, and what planners people do or do not use.
And the business of publishing panel had Christi Barth, Priscilla Oliveras, Andie J Christopher, Robin Covington, and Donna Alward. They talked about how to keep it going and find a good balance.
It was a great week and whew, I am glad to get some time to read all these fun books.