See all these people in this picture? They are authors. Awesome, awesome, authors of MG and YA fiction. I promise you, if you are reading this blog, you have heard of no fewer than ten of these people; you have probably read books by at least half a dozen, possibly many more. And they all spent a whole day in Rochester, NY, talking to the world's most enthusiastic group of teen readers. (Also me. And five of my colleagues. And, I'm guessing, a bunch of other teachers.)
The bulk of the day was spent going to panel discussions where a few authors chatted about...whatever, really, although their writing was more or less the focus. There were tons and tons to pick from, and I could spend a whole other day just going to the panels I didn't fit in but wanted to see. But here are some notes from the ones I attended!
Stephanie Kate Strohm, Sara Zarr, Jennifer E. Smith, Susane Colasanti
- While I know that everyone's writing routine is different, it was cool to hear these four very accomplished writers discuss their routines with each other. They're all so different! Susane Colasanti said something like, "I mean, you can't write more than like...4-6 hours at a time, right?" and Sara Zarr looked at her like, are you kidding me, and said that she considers it a good day if she can write for ninety minutes and then do one more hour-long session later on.
- When the authors were asked how their careers would be different if they were men, Jennifer E. Smith said that working in adult publishing, she does see men get more recognition/promotion/attention, but she noted that YA tends to be much more welcoming to women writers, so she's happy to write YA.
- I've only read books by two of these ladies, but now I'm really interested in checking out the other two! Susane Colasanti spoke so passionately about her writing, noting that she feels like her purpose in life is to write stories that make teenagers feel less alone. I really admired her focus and energy. And Stephanie Kate Strohm's book, Pilgrims Don't Wear Pink, just sounds like a blast. I've always secretly dreamed of working at a living history museum (I almost convinced myself to run away and join the Ren Faire circuit one summer during college) so I think I might love this book.
- One of the first things that came up were craft books these authors recommend. Titles I jotted down were Save the Cat, Plot and Structure, and Making a Good Script Great.
- When asked for writing advice, Lauren DeStefano said that writers should ignore advice and let your writing be your writing: "You're the only voice your characters are ever going to have."
- Jessica Brody mentioned that she purposely doesn't describe her main characters so that it's easier for readers to identify with them. (Also--she's another author I saw whose books I am now dying to read!)
- Robin LaFevers talked about the idea of writerly discipline and the notion that writers have to write every. single. day. She said you do need some kind of discipline, but for her that's words-per-month; her actual writing comes in spurts, and some days she just needs to not write.
- Alexandra Bracken echoed something a few writers said throughout the day: she outlines pretty loosely at the beginning of a new project, but she has to know exactly how things end. (That makes me feel less weird for the floating, all-caps paragraph at the end of my WIP document that has two sentences devoted to the overall plot and then outlines, in great detail, the climactic scene.)
- Robin LaFevers has to figure out her characters' "emotional wounds and scars" before she starts writing, because they completely color the way those characters interact with the world.
After the panels, it was time for the autograph session! There were crazy lines to meet all the authors, and everyone there was really into it. (Music that played while we waited in line included "Gangnam Style", "The Macarena", and the theme from Firefly--so, pretty much the best possible playlist.)
I was very proud of myself for remembering to bring the business cards I had made for SCBWI and actually having the nerve to hand them to some of the authors whose books I've raved about here. Highlights included having Marissa Meyer sign the page of the Cinder paperback that has my blog name on it, and having a conversation with Sara Zarr in which I got to tell her that she writes the books I wish I could write. She asked what I meant by "beginning to be a writer" and when I explained where I'm at with my WiP and my writing routine with Jaime, she said, "Oh--then you're really doing it!" I felt so, so validated by that--it will get me through a thousand more, "You're a writer? Like, you have books published?" and "Oh, young adult? Are you ever going to try to write real books?"
Anyway, one of the authors I had the opportunity to speak with was Alexandra Bracken. As I mentioned on Sunday, I won an ARC of The Darkest Minds back in the fall, but only just got around to reading it. Besides kicking myself for waiting to read a great book, I also felt bad that I had the ARC but didn't help spread the word about the book! So, better late than never. I got Alexandra to sign an extra copy of The Darkest Minds, and when she heard I was planning to do a giveaway, she gave me an awesome tote bag with the characters' names on it. You guys, I love these characters so much that it pains me to give this away, but I'm super excited for one of you to read the book, fall in love with the characters the way I did, and then enjoy rocking this awesome swag.
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