Author Event: February 1, 2014

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Who (pictured above from left to right):
Megan Shepherd, Jessica Spotswood, Stephanie Perkins, Victoria Schwab, Ellen Oh
Where: Bethesda Library, MD
When: Saturday, February 1st at 2pm

Five YA authors results in a packed room:

Crowd 2/1/14

I was there mostly to see Stephanie Perkins, author of Lola and the Boy Next Door and Anna and the French Kiss. Perkins was on my “bucket list of authors to meet” and therefore, I was super excited!  I was also pleasantly surprised with the rest of the panel.  I was familiar with all of their books, even if I hadn’t read them.  And it is always nice to hear a variety of authors speak about their writing process.

If you’re looking for a creepy read, you may want to check out Victoria Schwab.  She was very fun to listen to and more of a veteran author than I realized.  I was only aware of her newer YA book The Archived, where the dead are stored like books on shelves, and the main character hunts down those dead that escape the library.  The premise is haunting and intriguing, and after hearing her speak, I’d trust her with my reading time if I feel like a thrills and chills kinda read.

The other author that I’m NO DOUBT CHECKING OUT is Megan Shepherd.
Megan Shepherd
She is one cool chick and a lot like myself.  Shepherd is doing gothic/sci-fi retellings of classics.  So freaking cool.  I’d already bought her first book, The Madman’s Daughter, but never got around to reading it.  The Madman’s Daughter is based off of H.G. Wells The Island of Dr. Moreau and her next two books in the series will be based off of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and Frankenstein.  She did not plan to write a trilogy, but at her editor’s suggestion, she developed this plan that incorporated other classics that were along the same “playing with science” vein.  I think that reading her books will be inspirational for my own writing, and I’m excited to check her books out!

And finally, there was the lovely Stephanie Perkins.  Upon meeting her, I’d planned to tell her that I loved how all of her characters (even the secondary ones) had their own interests and hobbies.  I found this made all her characters very endearing and lovable.  I was so pleasantly surprised when the topic of secondary characters came up in the panel discussion, and Perkins cited her inspiration for creating great secondary characters was J.K. Rowling!  I knew there was a reason I liked you Stephanie Perkins!  She talked about how she thinks it is so amazing that J.K. Rowling managed to create such a HUGE (thousands!) cast of secondary characters that are memorable in their own way.  Well, Stephanie Perkins, I believe you have successfully emulated J.K. Rowling because your secondary characters made your books stand out to me beyond the average contemporary fiction.  Kudos!

The only autograph I wanted was Perkins.  So I stood in line and had a short but lovely chat with her.  She has such a glowing, beautiful smile, as you can see in the pictures below!

Perkins 1

Perkins 2

Me and Perkins

Perkins Autograph

Love the message to be yourself, and very “Lola” appropriate!
Overall a great author event  🙂

Meeting Marissa Meyer (Scarlet Tour)

On Tuesday, February 19, I had the pleasure of meeting Marissa Meyer on her last stop of the Scarlet Tour.  I was so incredibly excited because Cinder is one of my favorite books, and I’ve heard that Marissa is a wonderful person.
(She is.  Love her.)

Marissa was a fabulous speaker.  She was charming and funny and energetic, despite a quiet and kind of mellow crowd of mostly adults and only a few teens.  I was a little sad for Marissa because the library and bookstore who hosted the event didn’t do anything for her birthday.  I have experience in event planning, and was definitely thinking of some easy ways we could have spruced up the event and made it more festive.  If only I’d been in charge of planning instead of just a guest!  I did bring Marissa a card, which I like to do for author events anyways.  But in this case it doubled as a birthday card as well!  Wish I’d brought a cupcake, too!

I’d read a smattering of interviews with Marissa and knew some of her story: her Sailor Moon fanfiction background, her NaNo participation, and her quick publishing contract.  However, these tidbits didn’t make up the whole story and it was fun to hear more about where the idea of Cinder came from.  I love how a lot of authors are able to trace back the root of their story to other things they love.  Marissa was able to talk about how her love of science fiction, Sailor Moon, and fairy tales all came together to inspire her Lunar Chronicles.

After she spoke abut the inspiration for Cinder, Marissa read a bit from Scarlet and shared the true gruesome fairy tales of Cinderella and Red Riding Hood.  Then, there was a question and answer period.

 I liked Marissa Meyer’s answers to two of the questions during her Q & A.  The first was in response to the question “Are you a mechanic?”  Where she answered she doesn’t, but she did a lot of research.  For my own novel, my main character is a blacksmith, and I’ve never hammered a piece of iron in my life.  But I’ve done a lot of research.  So hearing her answer this way was encouraging that I’m going about my book the right way.

 The second was in response to a question asking how she manages to write different voices for the characters. She said how some characters would just come to her and how others would take some time.  I had a similar experience when I was writing my angel short story, where it took awhile before I found my main character’s voice.  She said she had trouble finding Scarlet’s voice, but when it came to her, it worked.  I like hearing writers who have similar processes as my own.  Makes me feel not so crazy and alone in the writing process!

The event ended with book signing, and Marissa’s husband went down the line of people writing our names on Post-Its to help with personalizations.  It was fun to chat with him, and it was clear he was so proud of Marissa.

I was extremely smiley and star struck and flustered when I had my chance to talk to Marissa.  I forgot to grab any swag that they had laying out on the table.  Agh!  But I told Marissa how much I loved that she blended two seemingly unlike genres (sci-fi and fairy tales) and how it was something I was working on in my own novel.  I also told her how much I loved that Cinder was a mechanic.  Yay for women in traditionally male occupations!  She was a great listener, recommended a book for me to read, and wished me luck with my writing.

I got both my hardback copy of Cinder and my hardback of Scarlet signed.  Yay!  Hopefully, I’ll have a complete signed collection someday because I’m confident this is going to be one of my favorite book series.

I just finished re-reading Cinder this evening, and I’m going to go start Scarlet… NOW!  Watch for a review in the next week or so!

Gaithersburg Book Festival 2012

This year was the 3rd annual Gaithersburg Book Festival, and with perfect weather, there were crowds of people celebrating books.  This was my second year attending, and I was again impressed with how well-organized and professional the event was.  More people showed up this year, but you still had easy access to some really talented and amazing authors.

Below is a synopsis of each author I heard speak:

Meredith Goldstein
Author of the book, The Singles, and columnist for the Boston Globe, Goldstein was honest and funny as she spoke about the writing process for her book which is about five single people invited to a wedding.  Timed to come out during the wedding season, the book explores how five different people (3 men, two women) cope with going to a wedding alone.  Most of the authors I was familiar with were later in the day, so I stumbled upon Goldstein in the morning by chance.  I’m definitely happy I heard her speak, and will definitely be checking her book out.

John Corey Whaley

Winner of this year’s Printz award for Where Things Come Back, Whaley was sarcastic and self-deprecating.  He joked about the sweat he was mopping off his forehead with a southern boy handkerchief, and spoke of how his first year teaching at his alma mater was a terrible experience where he learned things about his former teachers he never wanted to know.  On the topic of his book, Whaley shared how a news story and his small hometown in Louisiana inspired Where Things Come Back.  While his book doesn’t sound like my typical read, I’m definitely intrigued.  I bought a copy of the book, had it autographed, and it’s now sitting in my massive to-read pile.

Michael Buckley

I’d heard Michael Buckley (author of The Sisters Grimm and N.E.R.D.S.) speak before, and as he is a former stand-up comedian, I knew I wanted to hear him again.  The beginning of his speech, I was distracted by a rapidly melting ice cream cone dripping all down my arm (and trying not to get chocolate on my white skirt).  But the second half of his speech he spent answering questions for adoring little girl fans.  He had witty responses for all of them, but my favorite was:

Q: What made you want to write for children?

 A: J.K. Rowling’s payday. 

Michelle Ray

Michelle Ray was by far my favorite author of the day.  She was a cheerful and engaging speaker.  I have not yet read her debut novel, Falling for Hamlet, but knew Ray would be one of my must see authors of the festival because Hamlet is tied with Romeo and Juliet for my favorite Shakespearean play and the idea of a YA modern retelling from Ophelia’s point-of-view is AWESOME.  Ray spoke of her love of Shakespeare and how she strives to make Shakespeare not-so-scary.  (She wore an awesome Cafe Press shirt that said “Shakespeare Sucketh Not”)  She showed us her writing notebook (which is very similar to my own crazy scribbles).  And when I got my book signed, she was so genuine and personable.  She is a teacher as well, and that makes her extra awesome because it gives me hope that the stress of teaching will not prevent me from achieving my own writing/publishing goals.  Can you tell I was impressed?  Her book is going near the top of my to-read pile (right after my mandatory grad school reading… or will I slip it in early for a break… we’ll see!)

Other authors I heard:

  • Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights and his new book Father’s Day: A Journey into the Mind and Heart of My Extraordinary Son
  • Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone which is a collection of short stories about the men, women, and families of the U.S. Army. 
  • Marvin and Deborah Kalb, authors of Haunting Legacy: Vietnam and the American Presidency from Ford to Obama  This father/daughter team spoke about the impact the Vietnam war on the American Presidency from elections to foreign policy.

Meeting Kristin Cashore

Kristin Cashore has a special place in my heart.  I adore her books, but the reason she’s extra special to me is because she indirectly led me to the graduate program I’m currently in (and love).

About 3-4 years ago I was applying to Masters programs.  I knew I wanted to write fiction and specifically for teens/YA.  I applied to a nearby, prestigious school’s MFA program… and got in.  But they promptly told me I would have to write for adults, not children.

I was very discouraged and frustrated because I didn’t see the difference in writing for adults versus writing for teens.  A good story is a good story.  Good characterization is good characterization.  Good pacing is good pacing.  Good writing is good writing.  I just wanted to study writing, to grow, to learn, to hone my craft.  However, I didn’t want to be forced into writing for a particular audience.  And I certainly didn’t want to take classes with a faculty that was so elitist and narrow-minded.  I didn’t know what I was going to do because I had to take classes close to my job, and that limited the schools I could apply to.

Around this same time, I read Graceling.  I absolutely LOVED the book, and promptly went online to look up Kristin Cashore.  In her short bio, I read this:

During my stint in Boston, I got an M.A. at the Center for the Study of Children’s Literature at Simmons College. (Thank you, Simmons, for the scholarship that made this possible!) Grad school almost killed me, but I felt a lot more alive than when I was almost being killed in college. The Simmons program is stupendous. It got me thinking and breathing YA books. It got me writing.

I immediately went to Simmons’ website, began reading, and probably started glowing a little.  I requested more information about the program… but I did not end up going to Simmons.  Just two years into my teaching career, I was reluctant to leave when I had just received my tenure.  Simmons would have required that I move to Boston, and I wasn’t ready to do that.  (Though some days I do wonder what my life would be like with a degree in hand by now as a Bostonian and without the stress the past three years of teaching has brought me.)

Someone at Simmons e-mailed me and suggested I check out Hollins University (because it was closer to where I live and also because their program could be completed over 3-5 summers).  And here I am now, 24 credits into my MFA in Children’s Literature and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.

So that’s why I indirectly credit Kristin Cashore with leading me to my graduate degree.  I honestly don’t know if I would have discovered that there were Masters programs in Children’s Lit out there… had I not read her bio.

One thing I hate about book signings: you never have time to tell an author everything you want to say to them.  There’s people behind you in line and you’re being moved along.  But… if I was an author… I’d like to hear how I’ve impacted people.  Not just sign my name for an hour.

My solution to this problem: I wrote Kristin Cashore a card and handed it to her when I got my book signed.  Worked great.  My card looked like this:

And said this:

We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives. —Dan Zadra
Inside: Thanks for making a difference.

And I wrote her more-or-less the story I told you above.

Now, as to what Kristin spoke about at her talk/signing:

She read two excerpts from Bitterblue, which got me quite excited to read the book  🙂

She then had lots of pictures of her manuscripts and stressed how difficult writing is and how failure is a huge part of the writing process.  She told us how Bitterblue is the most difficult book she’s written.  She showed us pictures of handwritten pages with huge sections crossed out.  She showed us the 700 page first draft.  She showed us pictures of the piles of paper that would be the seven drafts Bitterblue went through.

Kristin then went on to answer questions from the audience.  She got all the typical questions:

  • Where do you get your names from?
  • Do you want Graceling to be a movie?
  • Would you want to have input in the movie production?
  • Who would you want cast in the movie?
You tend to hear a lot of the same questions at these things.  Probably the most interesting question was about the feminist influences in the books.  Kristin spoke a bit about how her strict upbringing and experiences with sexism probably influenced how feminist ideas have manifested themselves in her books.

She was very humble and so clearly LOVES WRITING.  I really enjoyed seeing her in person, and think she’s a very cute and inspiring young author.

My final words to Kristin were:
“I love how you write about strong women.  And men who like strong women.”