Listening to Your Characters, Shaved Heads, and Hamster Divination: the 2014 Boston Teen Author Festival

The raffle table, filled with bookish goodness.

The raffle table, filled with bookish goodness.

Saturday was the Boston Teen Author Festival and it was a huge success! I’m so glad I got to be part of this event. The BTAF staff did such a wonderful job bringing everything together, running thoughtful and fun panels, and sharing enthusiasm about YA. Also major thanks to the Cambridge Public Library staff and the team from Porter Square Books for their hard work at the event and bringing books to so many readers. A few highlights from the day:

  • Getting to hear my fellow authors’ most useless talents, including reciting all the states in alphabetical order, making some seriously weird faces, and telling the future via hamsters.
  • Hearing about how MT Anderson worked in the image of a shaved male head into his novel at the last minute.
  • Learning about how authors use their current concerns about technology and the future to create chilling and emotionally grounded sci-fi worlds.
  • Being on a panel with amazing authors Francisco X. Stork, Emily Franklin, Stewart Lewis,  Huntley Fitzpatrick, and Erin Dionne.
  • Talking with aforementioned amazing authors about how essential it is to create a complete web of relationships for your main character, not just romantic ones.
  • Emily Franklin saying that she knows she’s really getting into a story when she starts telling people, “So it turns out…” Love that phrase for the moment of discovery!
  • Signing books for awesome readers (seriously never gets old).
  • My mom befriending half the authors and attendees.
  • A mug full of chocolate minis from the BTAF staff, aka everything I love in one place.
  • Getting to see and talk to so many wonderful teen readers. You guys warm my heart!
Buttons and mugs, my favorite forms of swag.

Buttons and mugs, my favorite forms of swag.

Thank you again to everyone who made this event possible, and to everyone who came out and spent the day with us at the Cambridge Public Library.

Is it time for the 2015 Boston Teen Author Festival yet?

Blue Shirts, First Chapters, and Naps for Writers: the 2013 NESCBWI Conference

photo 1

My info packet–and coffee, of course.

In her keynote speech at NESCBWI, Sharon Creech mentioned, “Words generate words.” She was talking about the act of inspiration, and how ideas come to you, but I think this is also a good lens with which to look at rest of the weekend. Enthusiasm sparks more enthusiasm, creativity creates more creativity.

Which is one reason I like going to conferences like NESCBWI. When you put a bunch of writers and illustrators in a room, our excitement and dedication and talents are amplified, which is a pretty cool thing to be a part of. Writing can be a very solitary business and even though the internet has made it easier to connect with like-minded people, you can’t beat the feeling of gathering in one place for a weekend.

Last year was my first at NESCBWI, so I didn’t really know anyone and was afraid of not having anyone to talk to. This year, I felt like I kept seeing people I knew, both from real life and from social media. I wasn’t just someone at a conference; I was part of a community, a vibrant community that supports its members.

Of course, I got to experience lots of great panels and workshops and speeches from awesome writers and illustrators. A few conference highlights:

  • Great keynotes by Sharon Creech and Grace Lin. I want to take a poetry class with Creech, who quotes Rilke and Robert Frost and Walter Dean Myers in her speech. Creech also mentioned the importance of taking naps for inspiration–duly noted! And Grace Lin was so dynamic and enthusiastic. Not being an illustrator or picture book author, I didn’t expect to connect with her speech as much as I did, but she was honest and thoughtful and energetic. Between her humor, her spirit, and her talent, Lin’s one of the coolest people ever. (And she dresses snazzy, too!)
photo 3

Lauren and Julia show off our awesome shirts.

  • My critique group got matching t-shirts to celebrate member Tara Sullivan’s upcoming publication of Golden Boy. We rocked the guerrilla marketing.
  • Very cool panel about the review process. Leila Roy of bookshelves of doom represented, which made me go all fangirl. Her blog has been a favorite since back before I knew I wanted to focus solely on writing YA. Also, very glad to hear that professional reviews really want to love every book they start, and that they want to find ways to connect books with potential readers.
  • Workshopping first chapter/pages with Nova Ren Suma. She led a great session, and the other workshop attendees were all thoughtful critiquers. (Lots of us are trying to keep in touch online; can’t wait to see how all those first pages end up!)
  • Great session on writing characters outside of your culture. It’s something several future novel ideas of mine involve, but I want to make sure I represent these characters and their backgrounds accurately and thoughtfully. One suggestion I liked was not to be afraid to go beyond the “romantic” parts of a culture, like holidays and folk traditions–get into the messiness of real life.
  • On the social media side, one session about connecting with book bloggers (something I need to prepare for in the debut process) and making videos (something I should be doing now). My goal is to start a regular video feature here, so get ready for some visual aid.
  • Getting to spend a weekend with my awesome critique group members, getting to see other friends and making new ones.

My critique group! Including one very new member who charms us with his smiles and tiny kicks. Image by Lauren M. Barrett.

Thanks so much to this year’s organizers for putting on a great conference. I’m already thinking of next year when might book might be out, too. Eee!

For more conference recap goodness, check out these other posts. If you went to NESCBWI this year and have a recap post/thoughts about the conference, please share in the comments.

NESCBWI: A Gif Interpretation, Part II

NESCBWI has so much conference awesomeness, I needed two posts to get in all the gifs. (If you missed yesterday’s post, check out Part I here.) More gif-ery below!

Going to the bookstore:

Getting your books signed:

The line for the ladies room:

When someone (especially an agent/editor/famous writer) thinks your book sounds cool:

When someone says they think social media is a waste of time:

Hearing about how even really successful writers still deal with lots of rejection:

When you find someone who also likes historical YA/sci-fi MG/picture books about otters:

Trying to find a place for dinner on Saturday night:

Talking to the person who doesn’t know how to stop trying to network:

Getting to vent with people who understand:

What it feels like to be around so many awesome people for the weekend:

What you feel like doing once you go home:

What you feel like on Monday morning:

But then you remember the good conference vibes and:

So are you going to NESCBWI ’14?

See you in Springfield, fellow NESCBWI-ers!

NESCBWI: A Gif Interpretation, Part I

Ways you can tell it’s spring in New England–the trees are in bloom; you’ve sent your wool coat to the back of your closet; and you’re headed to Springfield, MA for the annual NESCBWI conference!

Last year was my first NESCBWI conference, and it went super well. I listened to awesome speeches, took part in cool workshops, and (best of all) met my amazing critique group. I’m excited to go back this year, knowing a bunch more people from real life and the online kidlit universe.

I’ve done some “conference advice” posts before, so instead of rehashing that advice, let’s go through the emotional scope of NESCBWI via my favorite method of communication–the gif.

How you feel as a newbie:

How you also feel as a newbie:

How you feel going your second/third/forty-fifth year:

Trying to figure out which room you need to be in for your first session:

When a totally famous author makes eye contact with you during the keynote:

When someone asks a question that is only related to their very specific experience and benefits no one else:

When someone asks a good, thoughtful question that will benefit everyone:

Getting retweeted by other conference attendees:

Your attitude towards coffee:

During a query/manuscript critique with your dream agent:

Meeting a someone you know from #kidlit/#yalit in person:

When you see an illustrator’s business card:

When someone gives a really moving and inspiring keynote/workshop/panel:

When we all talk about how wonderful and important it is to create books for children and teens:

More conference gif fun continues with Part II tomorrow!

Links Galore

Rounding out the afternoon with some linkage:

 

Links Galore

A few more links to get you through the day:

A Caustic Keynote

The kids’ keynote speaker at this year’s Boston Book Festival: Lemony Snicket! From the BBF website:

“2012’s BBF kids’ keynote will be delivered by the elusive and mysterious Lemony Snicket, author of the wildly popular Series of Unfortunate Events. This October, he’ll be publishing Who Could That Be At This Hour? the first volume of his autobiography, an account that shouldn’t be published, in four volumes that should never be read. .”

Notice that the use of Lemony Snicket, not Daniel Handler. So excited for this one! Hoping to see more events for the festival posted soon.