New York City Teen Author Festival Recap: Part 1

During the last week of March, I depended on Lara Bars for dinner sustenance and headed downtown for a bunch of New York City Teen Author Festival events! Of course, I made sure to make an appearance because a) there were so many authors participating that I have grown to love b) I wanted to discover some new writers and c) I wanted to listen to authors talk about writing. It feels like forever since I’ve graduated college as a writing major, and it’s always nice to feel a surge of inspiration coursing through your veins.

I attended four events during the week so I thought I would split this up into two parts. Like a geek, I took some notes. Okay, a lot of notes. So I hope you find my recap enjoyable and maybe discover a few new books along the way as well.

Day 1: Plotting Dangerously (Doing What It Takes to Find the Story)
A.K.A. The day I met the sweet & enthusatic Ghenet (who is a budding YA author herself) and an author I know (Morgan Matson)

Moderated by David Levithan (Every You, Every Me). The panel included:
Coe Booth (Bronxwood)
Jen Calonita (Secrets of My Hollywood Life)
Paul Griffin (Stay with Me)
Deborah Heiligman (Intentions)
Melissa Kantor (The Darlings in Love)
Morgan Matson (Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour)
Kieran Scott (She’s So Dead to Us)
Melissa Walker (Small Town Sinners)

Whew! What a crew, right? For about an hour, the authors answered questions posed by David and also read a bit from their current (and yet-to-be-released novels), and took some time to do a Q&A with the audience.

The highlights:

  • It made me feel a bit relieved that many of these writers did not plan out their stories ahead of time. Many began their books with just an idea, a feeling, or a character and went from there.
  • Just like us readers, authors fall in love with their characters and don’t want their relationship with them to be over. “Endings are hard.”
  • Coe Booth on the voices in her head: “If I wasn’t a writer, I’d be institutionalized.” She hears the voice of these characters and figures out how to “screw up their life.”
  • Kieran Scott is a Jersey girl! I had no idea. (I am,  too.) She mentioned her trilogy, “He’s So/She’s So”, and how she wrote it so that if a person picked up a book out of order they wouldn’t be lost. (I found this amusing because Magan did this very thing so obviously Scott’s plan worked!)
  • Morgan Matson on Amy & Roger’s: She knew the book would be a road trip from California to Connecticut but wasn’t sure of the in-between. She actually had to cut about 150 pages because she kept the trip going too long.
  • Melissa Kantor talked about how she would take an intense feeling from when she was a teenager and start writing from that. Admittedly terrible with plot, Kantor likes to focus on the characters talking.
  • Morgan Matson on her writing process: “Write your character into a corner on purpose and try to get them out.”
  • Books I was most excited about afterwards: Second Chance Summer (Morgan Matson), Small Town Sinners (Melissa Walker), Intentions (Deborah Heiligman). Keep in mind these were the standouts. I added books from every author to my TBR list that evening.

Tip: This started at 6pm, and I came from midtown on the subway. We just made it about 10 minutes before it started and there were still chairs to spare. (I know I was worried about crowds before attending these events so just something to keep in mind.)

Day 2: The Mutual Admiration Society Reading
A.K.A. The day I felt like a huge stalker.

Moderated again by David Levithan (Every You, Every Me), this group included:
Madeleine George (The Difference Between You and Me)
Jennifer E. Smith (The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight)
Ellen Hopkins (Crank)
John Corey Whaley (Where Things Come Back)

This event was more of a reading but there was a Q&A at the end.

Did you know?

  • David Levithan edited The Hunger Games. I had no clue.

The highlights:

  • Hearing Madeleine George read a passage from The Difference Between You and Me. I had such an emotional response to that book so to hear her take on the stuffy character and make everyone in the room laugh and laugh just amazed me. Not because I didn’t think the book was funny. It was! But because it makes such a difference to hear a book read out loud like that, and even more so, I was impressed with the strength of her characters.
  • When asked about the YA community: Madeleine George said it was “nice to participate [in a community] that was rah rah reading, literacy, and art!”
  • On STAT: Jennifer E. Smith said it was a “logisitical challenge” — writing a book that takes place over a span of 24 hours makes you realize just how long 24 hours is. (It’s long.)
  • On Where Things Come Back: It was about finding “a balance between small town absurd commedy and sincerity of a teenager losing his borther” and also “tragic moments can be funny.”
  • For David Levithan, place is “not in the top 10” of his story priorities. Mostly, his stories take place in suburbia, so they can be anywhere. “It’s all about words, place isn’t important.”
  • Jennifer E. Smith told a story about how she handed in a piece of writing told in the first person and her teacher came to her all worried about her subject, thinking it was true. This is how she ended up writing in the third person exclusively. She sort of stuck with it.
  • Carley Moore of The Stalker Chronicles was sitting in front of me at the reading, and I surprised myself by tapping her on the shoulder afterwards and congratulating her on the release of her book that day. Yes, I know what she looks like because I had been on her website & twitter account the day or two before setting up my review. So ha. My own stalker moment. (She was very gracious and super nice!)
  • Books I most want to read afterwards: Every You, Every Me (David Levithan), Where Things Come Back (John Corey Whaley), and anything by Ellen Hopkins.

Tip: This particular event was held on one of the floors at McNally Jackson Bookstore at 52 Prince Street and it was CROWDED. It started at 7 so I was half hour early and in the end, it turned out to be standing room. This was also a great bookstore. If you are in the area, I would check it out.

Okay! Part 1 complete! Next week I continue with the remainder of the festival!

7 thoughts on “New York City Teen Author Festival Recap: Part 1

  1. Ginger @ GReads! says:

    Ok I seriously want to read those 150 pages that Morgan Matson cut out of Amy & Roger! Gah! and there’s no way that trip could ever be too long.

    Sounds like you had an amazing time Estelle! Wish I could have been there, too.

  2. elena says:

    eeep I would love to read those 150 pages Morgan Matson cut out, especially if it meant more Amy and Roger scenes. I didn’t know David Levithan edited The Hunger Games, what a cool fact! These events sound like so much fun, thank you for sharing. Can’t wait to read your next part!

    • Estelle says:

      Hi Pat! There’s a huge signing at the end of the weekend and you can go to that and get your books signed. I’m sure at the smaller events authors would oblige but some of these events are held at libraries so unless you already have the book… there’s no purchasing being done. Hope that helps!

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