Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Author Event: Rochester Teen Book Festival

This was my first time attending the Rochester Teen Book Festival and it was amazing experience. Even though I've never been "Ma'am"d so much in my life (stinkin' polite teens!), it was completely worth it to hear kids cheer authors as they were introduced as though they were rock stars. Not just the big names, like Heather Brewer, Svetlana ChmakovaMelissa de la Cruz or Ellen Hopkins either. Everyone received a stellar reception including the new authors in attendance. Seriously, it brought tears to my eyes.

The last time I met an author I was in third grade when Margaret Goff Clark came to my elementary school to read from her book, Who Stole Kathy Young? so I was more than a little excited myself, even if this was an event targeting teens.

Passing the mic to answer Qs
The opening panel with the authors was a lightening round of questions to all the authors.  ("Describe high school in one word" - answers ranged from "sucked" to "awesome" to "over".  "What's the hardest thing about writing?"  -to which Heather Brewer's response was my favorite.  The hardest part for her is to "follow the formula,  you know, 'Butt + Chair = Writing'." Oh! And never trap Selene Castrovilla on an island with Bella Swan!)  It was nice because we got to see glimmers of the author's personalities which, if you hadn't already decided who you wanted to go see during the four upcoming author presentation sessions, helped you make up your mind.
Blathering like a fangirl
at Shannon Delany

The first session I attended was the Paranormal discussion with authors Rachel Hawkins (Hex Hall series) and Shannon Delany (13 to Life series)  both of whom were genuine and easy going and there was lots of friendly banter between them.  Ms. Hawkins discussed her love of supernatural, which developed at an early age, as well as her love of Buffy.  Ms. Delany talked about how the early loss of her own mother sowed the seeds of her protagonist, Jessie, and how her fascination with Cold War government paranormal research blossomed into her series.   Both authors discussed their reader-frustrating cliffhanger habit (Hawkins' fans will be pleased to hear book 3 wraps things up "in a big bow", while Delany fans will be frustrated with a third delicious cliffhanger.)
Rachel Hawkins

As any frequenter of Girls Just Reading knows, I'm a huge fan of Shannon Delany's 13 to Life series (my reviews, etc.) and, in actuality, she was the reason I attended TBF.  However I was I was only aware of Rachel Hawkins on a cursory level,  her Hex Hall series being on my TBR wishlist, but after hearing her speak, I immediately downloaded it onto my Nook. She was clever, witty, and one of two authors who I was completely taken with at TBF.

Heather Brewer was
continuously surrounded
My next stop was to see Heather Brewer (The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod ) who was one of three authors presenting a panel on Bullying/Body Image, Jackie Morse Kessler and A.S. King being the co-presenters. Ms. Brewer opened the discussion with her own personal story of being victimized by bullies from Kindergarten onwards and her years in her 'dark place' when she struggled with thoughts of suicide. Jackie Morse Kessler told a candid story about her battle with bulimia. Ms. King talked about her experience with an abusive relationship and how abuse can be verbal as well as physical. It was a sombre atmosphere as they poured out some of their most personal struggles. While the reader and blogger in me would have liked to hear them discuss their works, the mother in me was thankful for the message directed to the teens. The authors encouraged them to talk to someone -anyone- including contacting the authors themselves, if they felt they could talk to no one else. The message was heartfelt and I found myself tearing up to the point where I did not stay for the question and answer period after the presentation.
A.S. King, who thanked
me for blogging

Only knowing of Heather Brewer going into this session, I again found myself impressed with all three authors, but especially with Ms. King. She has a personality that fills a room without overshadowing it's occupants and her self-assured manner eased the tension in an emotionally charged atmosphere. Ms. King was the other author that impressed me the most. I immediately picked up one of her books ...and one of Ms. Kessler's too.

Ellen Hopkins was also
swamped with signings
Next for me was Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods series) who presented a panel called Author 2 Author with Elizabeth Scott, with whose work I was unfamiliar (Bloom, Living Dead Girl, Love You Hate You Miss You, Between Here and Forever) upon entering the discussion.   They interviewed each other during the forum before opening up the floor to questions. Ms. de la Cruz always wanted to be a writer, while Ms. Scott avoided creative writing like the plague. Both authors outline their books before starting, but whereas Ms. Scott needs to make sure she knows the beginning and the end of the novel before she starts, Ms. de la Cruz will flush out a 30 page outline. Blue Bloods is still on my TBR wish list, but as fascinating as I found Ms. Scott, her subject matter is a little serious than my tastes.

Ally Carter singing my book

The time had come for my only solitary author panel of the day and I had a tough decision to make. I wanted to hear Ellen Hopkins speak but considering that I find Ms. Scott's work too serious, Ms. Hopkins is way too serious for my pallate.  So I chose to see Ally Carter (Gallagher Girls series) whose Heist Society has been staring at me from one of my TBR piles for over a year ~ not to mention I've been dying to read the Gallagher Girls series too (A spy academy for girls?!?  I'm so in!).  Ms. Carter spoke a little of herself and turned the floor over to questions.  When asked why Cammie, the protagonist from Gallagher Girls, was so nondescript, Ms. Carter called her a chameleon explaining that real spies are average looking, not the James Bond types we see on the screen. Some of the questions were regarding interactions between characters that fans were displeased over and I loved her response.  "I don't work for the readers. I work for the characters, and you wouldn't want it any other way."  

Ms. Carter mentioned that Heist Society comes from her love of con movies and her interest in stolen Holocaust art.  I had to smile at this because those shared interests are the reason I picked up her book in the first place.  She also mentioned that she was supposed to be home thinking of a title for the second Heist Society book, but when I visited her website today, Uncommon Criminals was the title, so she must have done her homework on the fly.  When asked about movie rights Ms. Carter acknowledged that WB has Heist Society under option, but, though they have had many offers on the Gallagher Girls, they have yet to find the right fit.  All this talk about the Gallagher Girls definitely bumped it closer to the top of my wishlist, and I'm pretty sure you'll be seeing a review of Heist Society soon as well.

It was a long but glorious day followed by a frantic autograph session.  The line for Heather Brewer wrapped around the gym, and the line for Ellen Hopkins was out the door.  I babbled like a fangirl at Shannon Delany; the poor woman must have thought me addled.  I continued to be thoroughly impressed with A.S. King just watching her sign books and interacting with the teens as she did so.  I talked with fellow bibliophiles.  It may not have been as big as Book Expo America in New York at the end of the month, but for me, it was a wonderful day discovering new authors and watching kids be captured by the written word.  I even brought home some goodies for all of you...



Julie May 15, 2011 at 9:46 PM  

So glad you got to go. I wish they had something like that around here.

Useless May 16, 2011 at 8:15 AM  

Considering how eloquent you are here, I highly doubt that you were "blathering like a school girl" at Shannon! And it's so true--both Shannon and Rachel are so nice and easy to get along with! (By the way, the reason that I'm talking about them by their first name, is because I was one of the volunteers shepherding Rachel and Shannon around between their sessions, lunch, and the autographing session.)

Carly Reads May 16, 2011 at 3:11 PM  

I'm so glad that you enjoyed the Teen Book Festival! Be sure to check out the website throughout the next few months as we will soon be updating which authors will be coming next year, and be sure to check out the official blog of the Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival:

Jenn May 16, 2011 at 4:13 PM  

@Useless - Lucky you! Thank you for the compliment. You are too kind.

I was hoping to convey the spirit of the event without sounding like a school report on "What I Did This Weekend." ;)

@Carly Reads - I'll definitely be on the look out for updates. Thanks :)

Jenn May 16, 2011 at 4:14 PM  

@Julie - at least you hve authors come visit the Chicago area. Most of them tend to skip over the WNY area. :-/

Julie May 16, 2011 at 8:44 PM  

True, but a whole day of book love?
I'd probably go into a book induced coma. :P

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