For the past few years, one of my favorite events at the ALA Annual Conference has been YALSA’s YA Author Coffee Klatch. A ticketed event, the Coffee Klatch provides attendees with the opportunity to chat with fabulous young adult authors about their books, youth literature in general, and- in the case of Internet Girls author Lauren Myracle- most overused emoji. Most of the authors participating in the Coffee Klatch have had their work recognized on at least one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists and/or have been recipients of one of YALSA’s five literary awards.
Similar to speed dating, there are approximately 30+ round tables set up around the ballroom at which 8 or so people are seated. Every 5 minutes, a whistle goes off and a new author joins you at your table. To give you an idea of how memorable this event is: my husband reminded me of the 2008 Coffee Klatch we attended at ALA in Anaheim, along with our tiny infant son strapped to his chest (“Hey, that’s where we met John Green!”). This year, I brought along my sister, Nirmala, who happened to be experiencing ALA and Las Vegas for the very first time (!). She’s a writer, and getting to sit with fellow authors and commune about literature and the writing process engaged her on a whole new level. As a librarian who regularly reads and shares these authors’ works in a professional and personal capacity, the Klatch is basically my chance to fangirl them (but not in a creepy way, of course…yeaaaaah).
This year’s literary line-up included Josephine Angelini, Paolo Bacigalupi, Jessica Brody, Ally Condie, Jim Di Bartolo, Matt de la Pena, Matt Dembicki, Becca Fitzpatrick, Jonathan Friesen, Carol Goodman, Alan Gratz, Claudia Gray, Collen Gleason, Ryan Graudin, Nathan Hale, Jenny Han, PJ Hoover, Katherine Howe, Lindsey Leavitt, Marie Lu, Jonathan Maberry, Lauren Myracle, Blake Nelson, Jandy Nelson, Caragh O’Brien, Mary Pearson, Jason Reynolds, Graham Salisbury, Neal Shusterman, Jon Scieszka, Marcus Sedgwick, Clare Vanderpool, Scott Westerfeld, Cat Winters, and Meg Wolitzer.
Here are some highlights from my table:
Blinding Us with Science
Jon Scieszka’s new middle-grade Frank Einstein series is STEM-based with a lot of appeal for reluctant readers. Claudia Gray discussed A Thousand Pieces of You, the first book in her forthcoming Firebird series, featuring time-bending, parallel universes, and a healthy dose of romance.
It Gets Real
Lauren Myracle’s yolo is the latest in the popular Internet Girls series, and is set during the girls’ transformational freshman year in college.
Jandy Nelson’s I’ll Give You the Sun is a “tapestry of interwoven love stories and complex familial relationships.” Following this program, my sister pretty much ran to the exhibits hall to grab a copy of the ARC.
Having enjoyed Meg Wolitzer’s adult fiction novel, The Interestings, I was really pumped to hear about Belzhar, her first YA book. Described as “Breakfast Club meets Prep with shades of The Bell Jar,” Belzhar is an intimate read and like, as my friend, Anne put it, peeking into one’s teenaged diary.
I was super elated to hear that Scott Westerfeld’s Afterworlds takes some of its inspiration from the Hindu Vedas and features an Indian-American girl as its main character.
Jason Reynolds wrote When I Was the Greatest to show that children living in urban cities should not have to feel ashamed or fearful of where they come from.
Way Back When
Cat Winters, who was named a 2014 Morris Award finalist for her debut book In the Shadow of Blackbirds, talked about her upcoming title, The Cure for Dreaming– an atmospheric novel set during the early 1900s that combines the supernatural with radical feminism.
Alan Gratz’s steampunk fantasy middle grade novel, The League of Seven is set in an alternate 1870s America – this ain’t your mama’s history book!
Ally Condie’s new standalone novel, Atlantia, references the lost city of Atlantis, and focuses on the complex relationship between sisters. There is also plenty of mystery and romance.
Thriller in the Mountain!
Becca Fitzpatrick (Hush, Hush series) is coming out this fall with a romantic thriller about a girl who is kidnapped during a backpacking trip in the mountains of Wyoming.
These are just a small selection of the authors who presented at the Coffee Klatch – if you were there, what exciting new titles did you hear about?
-Lalitha Nataraj, currently reading The Doubt Factory by Paolo Bacigalupi