I went to the 12th Annual YA Lit Conference hosted by Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville IL. The conference is a two day event that features 39 YA authors including Leigh Bardugo; Marie Lu; James Dashner; and Michael Grant. The two days are filled with panels, speakers, speed dating, and games.
Here are ten things I learned after attending the YA Lit Conference
1. James Dashner is a hoot! In his pictures he seems like a serious 40-something-year-old gent but he was the life of the party. He’s also very humble at the success of The Maze Runner and he’s very appreciative of all his readers. He also keeps a spreadsheet of all the TV shows he watches to help him remember the last episode he watched.
2. Marie Lu listens to movie soundtracks with villains and dark scores before she writes Adeline from the Young Elites Series. Adelina is a super-villain, the antithesis of the chosen one and Lu uses music to find her dark place. Other Lu fun facts: she learned English through writing; The Young Elites began with a male protagonist/chosen one; She was once bitten on her eye lid by a rat. Her next project is top secret.
3. Adam Silvera doesn’t know how to write a “w” in bubble letters. I actually met Adam 2 days prior at a Julie Murphy visit. He was in town and he stopped by. Because I LOVE More Happy Than Not, I had to introduce myself and Adam was pleasantly personable. I was just going to say hi, say how much I loved his book, and told him I’d see him this weekend. You never know how authors are going to be so I just wanted to keep it short but Adam talked me my coworker and me for 10 minutes. Adam has a tattoo that says HGO (happiness Goes on) and I liked this message so I had him write it in my book. Adam is a lot of fun and very humble and if you get a chance to meet him, do so. Also, read his book because I think it will be a Printz nominee.
4. Leigh Bardugo doesn’t have a copy of her poster. One day two, if you arrive early, you can pick which author you want to sit with. I was lucky enough to score a seat at Leigh’s table. We sat with her the whole day and I almost forgot it was Leigh Bardugo. She’s really cool and funny and nice. She also remembered me! She noted that I was one of the first bloggers who reviewed her book-YaY! Nathalie is one of my teen patrons who got to the venue very early and scored a prime seat next to Leigh. I also sat next to “Mary” not sure what her title was-agent/publicist, and she said she was going to ask about the mailings of the posters.
5. Mirrors and windows. David Levithan was a keynote speaker and he talked about Every Day and Another Day. He also talked about mirrors and windows. When a teen reads a book that they see themselves in, it is called a mirror. When a teen reads a book that gives them insight into someone else’s life, it is called a window. As a YA librarian, I found this compelling and he changed the way I see YA contemporary in relation to teen readers.
6. Morgan Rhodes had to reread books one and two in her Falling Kingdoms Series and took notes before she could write book three. That makes me feel better because although I love The Falling Kingdoms Series, there’s a lot going on. I also asked her to write Magnus and Cleo forever in my book and expressed how much I love them but she wouldn’t confirm their impending happily ever after.
7. #WeNeedDiverseLibrarians. Professionals in the book field, librarians; bloggers; etc, were present for day one of the conference and among the approx. 250; there were only about five black people in attendance. As a black person, I tend to seek out people who look like me in a crowded room and this was a bit disheartening. If you are a librarian of color, be a role model to your teens of color because maybe one day they will want to be a librarian too.
8. Publishers still think teens won’t read books if they can’t relate to the protagonist. In other words, white teens won’t read about teens of color. Authors on the Navigating Today’s Issues Through Literature Panel called BS on this and one author made a great point. If this were the case, there shouldn’t be books about wizards.
9. Maisie Williams to play the lead character in In The Forest of Hands and Teeth. That’s all that needs to be said.
10. Anderson’s Bookshop puts on a great event. Even though I live by a major metropolitan city, Chicago, there are no YallFests, YallWests, or Austin Teens. Although this is a paid event, this is the closest thing we have to fest and it was a good time. Thank you Anderson’s for the great event.