Thoughts From Places: Teen Book Festival 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

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Teen Book Festival 2015

            The Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival at Nazareth College is the best book event I have ever gone to. Everyone is incredibly nice, there are door prizes, and amazing opportunities. TBF starts with an hour long panel with all of the authors. This year it was hosted by one of the authors, Charles Benoit, in disguise. They played truth or talent. Some of the highlights were Heather Brewer and AS King revealing that they are actually ninjas, G. Neri talked about his severed thumb, and Gayle Forman delegated her talent to her daughter. Ally Condie told a story about how she embarrassed herself in front of frat boys, Jessica Brody sang a Spice Girl rap, and AS King said she once shook a hand inside of a cow. Jonathan Maberry once knocked out a nun with a nunchuck, Jennifer Lynn Barnes talked about how monkeys are little fluffy balls of destruction and death, and Julie Kagawa demonstrated her awesome defense skills.

One of the greatest things about TBF is the author panels. This year I went to Michael Buckley’s, Julie Kagawa and Katie McGarry’s, and Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Charles Benoit, and April Henry’s Panels. I went to TBF with my cousin and we both adore Michael Buckley’s Sister Grimm Series so immediately after the opening panel we made our way to his panel. Alright, let’s be honest here: through this panel I gained a bit of an author crush on Michael Buckley. He is such a great guy and I could have listened to him talk for hours. He talked about many things, including his career. He said that he once entered and won a joke contest in MAD magazine with the joke: “why did the monkey fall out of the tree? Because it was dead.” What did he win? Well, technically, he won Eddie Murphy. Apparently they shipped the comedian to his house and they got to hang out for a day. They went to the local mall and mocked people because there wasn’t much else to do in his small town. Buckley said he was drawn to the “musicality of language.” He also talked about how he lives in Brooklyn and that one “could throw a rock out of a Brooklyn window and hit a kid lit author” that’s how many live in his neighborhood. He also admitted to stalking Libba Bray once (who can blame him?).

Me and Michael Buckley

Later during the signing part of the day, his line was also the first line we stood for. When I met him I told him how one of my pages at work said I was the older version of his character Daphne. He agreed that it was a huge compliment since she is very friendly and full of hope! He also mentioned that Laura is his sister’s name! I asked him for a photo and when I went behind the table for it he asked me what we should do for the picture. I replied, “Smile?” His response? “Nah, that’s what normal people do! Let’s do this!” Hence the picture above!

            The next panel Kelly and I went to was Julie Kagawa’s. She is the author of the Iron Fey series. She did a joint Q&A panel with Katie McGarry, author of the Pushing the Limits series. I have never read any of McGarry’s books but I enjoyed their panel immensely. The two authors have been friends for a while and their easy banter was amusing to witness. They talked about their writing processes and how they differed and what to do about writer’s block (skip it, talk to friends, or power through it). McGarry also said that she suffers from the “severe shiny object syndrome” in that she gets a new idea and then has to fight not to chase it when she’s in the middle of writing something else. I thought that was a very appropriate phrase!

Me and Julie Kagawa

            During the signing part of the day I met both authors. I talked to Julie Kagawa and told her how much I enjoyed her series. I also got the photo above. I honestly had no idea that she was hugging me like that until I looked at the photo on the way home! She was so cool! I didn’t have a book of Katie McGarry’s but I did have her TBF poster which she signed for me!  

            After eating a quick lunch we went to the “Crime Scene” panel hosted by Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Charles Benoit, and April Henry. I didn’t know Henry’s work, but I had recently read Barnes series The Naturals, and I had read Benoit’s You back in 2011 and met him at that year’s TBF (my first one). I was extremely interested in April Henry’s research methods. She once took a course on anti-kidnapping to research a novel. The final exam involved actually being kidnapped and then being graded on how well they escaped.

Each of the authors also talked about how they get through writer’s block. Charles Benoit’s answer was simple, but effective. He stops writing in the middle of a word. So that he already knows what he has to write next because he knows that at the very least he has to finish that word, then the sentence, then the whole thought. Both April Henry and Jennifer Lynn Barnes had three ways each to combat writer’s block. Henry would think about what she couldn’t let happen in the book and worked from there, she would pick a random line of dialogue from something and plug it in her book to see what would happen, and if that didn’t work she would go on Write or Die, a helpful website that starts deleting words if you stop writing. Barnes’ first step would be to figure out if she had written the wrong thing. She would figure out what led her to that block, go back and fix it, then try again. She also said that sometimes she would get stuck because she wasn’t being nice to herself. She would be working too much and forgetting to live a little. If that happened she would just take a night off and watch TV. Her last step was to realize once again that writing is hard and it is supposed to be. When that happened she would call her author friends and they would talk about how hard it was and she would feel better. When things got really bad she would set simple goals for the amount of words written, like after 500 words she can eat a snack or take a shower.  

Me and Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The photo above was taken of me and Jennifer Lynn Barnes before their panel started. I also met her during the signing part of the day. She asked me if I had guessed who the killer was in The Naturals and I confessed that I didn’t which is one of the reasons I loved it so much.

It is during the signing part of the day that the true wonder of the Teen Book Festival is revealed. The authors will sign as many books as you want, they will talk to you, and take pictures with you. They are treated like rock stars at TBF. I was talking to Kevin Emerson as an announcement came over the PA asking someone to report to the DJ stand and he said, “What kind of book festival has a DJ booth?! I love this place!” During this part of the day the door prizes are given away. This year each winner won 10 books, most of them old ARCs or finished copies of popular books! Between my cousin and I, we won 30 books! (I will be having a contest for some of those books later in the month!) I also met and talked with M.T. Anderson, author of Feed during the signing, as pictured below!

Me and M.T. Anderson

As I said earlier everyone at TBF was really nice. Every time Kelly or I were called over the PA the people behind us would gladly hold our spot in the signing line. The third time we won, we gave the girls who saved our spot their choice of the books we had won! Everyone there is a reader so it was like a giant nerdy party! If you ever have the chance I encourage you to make your way to Rochester to the greatest festival in the YA world.

(Authors that I met at TBF that I did not get pictures with: Charles Benoit, Kevin Emerson, April Henry, Jo Knowles, Emmy Laybourne, Katie McGarry, and Jennifer Niven.)