Sunday, October 7, 2012

Book Festival Fun-Part 4 (and the last I promise)

The last event at the teen tent and the one I was looking the most forward to was a discussion panel entitled "Reaching Out to Young Adult Readers."  There were five authors on the panel.

Ellen Jensen Abbott writes Young Adult fantasy.  I looked her books up when I got home and at some point I'd like to get around to reading one.

Charlotte Bennardo writes tween/teen novels which seem to be a cross between Sex and the City and Percy Jackson.  They seem to involve shopping...a lot.

Barbara Dee writes books for the female tween crowd.  They look sweet, cute and sincere and seem to deal with relationships with friends, siblings and parents.

Elisa Ludwig stated that her work was inspired by her love for the Sweet Valley High series.  Her book looks to be a cross between something like Gossip Girl (though I can't really say since I've never seen it) and Robin Hood.

Aaron Starmer had me at, "people describe my work as being weird and just a little bit creepy." Since that is what people often say about my writing he instantly became my favorite.  His first book is about a group of kids who must escape their school's basement after getting locked down there by their crazy vice principal and his second book is about a boy who thinks he may be the last person on earth.

Surprisingly not a lot of people showed up to the panel discussion.  It was me and one other woman who asked most of the questions.

I asked about how to write young adult characters without making them sound too cliche. 

My favorite responses...

Barbara Dee- Ask someone who is the age of your character to read parts of your novel out loud so you can hear how it sounds.  You'll know if it doesn't sound right.

Aaron Starmer- Don't write how you think your characters should sound.  Write how your audience thinks they, the audience sound.  He said that when adults reviewed his books they complained that his characters sounded too mature for their age (something both John Green and Orson Scott Card have been accused of) but his intended audience loves the characters because they feel that they do sound mature.  Don't dumb down what you write just because it's for tweens/teens.  They will appreciate not being talked down to.

I also asked if they could share a mistake that they had made as a new author and what they learned from it.

Barbara Dee- I wanted everyone to like me in the beginning so I agreed to all of the changes that the publisher and editor wanted even though I knew some things didn't make sense for the characters.  She said she had to learn to balance saying no with listening and taking their suggestions.  She and the other authors agreed that once you make it to the publishing stage, your book is a team effort and you have to learn to be part of the team.

Elisa Ludwig-said she was surprised at how long the process could take between writing a first draft and finally getting your book published.  Everyone agreed that it isn't how good of a writer you are but rather the talent is in the editing.

Some of the other points of advice I found interesting

Aaron Starmer-As a new not yet famous author, don't make your main characters 13 or 14.  He had a 13 year old character and his publisher asked him to change the age to 12.  Apparently, book sellers have a difficult time selling books that have 13 or 14 year old characters because tweens tend to favor their own age and teens like to read about characters older than themselves.  I found this to be both interesting and helpful. Aaron also stated that his best piece of advice though he knew it sounded cliche was to write the book that you would want to read because if you try to write something just so you can be popular and published it probably won't turn out to be any good because it's not what you love and are passionate about.  I really wanted at this point to ask if he would take me under his wing and mentor me because if he can write weird and a little bit creepy books and get published there may be hope for me.

Barbara Dee-agreed with Aaron about writing the book you want to read and advised not trying to jump on a genre/trendy band wagon.  She said that writing/publishing is a lengthy process and if you try to hitch your star to a specific trend, sparkly vampires, for example, by the time you are done your novel, everyone will have already moved on to the next big thing.  You never know what's going to catch on so just write what you want to write.

Ellen Jensen Abbott discussed world building and talked about making maps of both her world and even the buildings she uses/describes.  She stated that she wants to make sure that when her character is walking through her house to go to her bedroom she makes a left every time so there is continuity.  I never thought about drawing plans for buildings. It was a great idea.

I did end up purchasing one of Aaron Starmer's books and I won't lie about the fact that the cover art had a strong influence on my decision. Since I purchased it at the festival he also signed it which was pretty cool (I hope it turns out to be good because he was my favorite author of the day).

Altogether it was a fantastic day and hopefully next year I'll put a little time into being prepared.  They post which authors are going to be at the festival well ahead of time so I will try to actually read some of their books so I can feel more involved in the discussions.

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