I was lucky enough to attend the ALA Annual Conference in San Francisco last week and attended the YALSA YA Author Coffee Klatch sponsored by BLINK on Sunday, June 28th from 9 – 10 am. Allison Tran was there too and included some great photos in her post from the event.
I had the opportunity to have coffee while I met many of YALSA’s award winning authors, many of whom have appeared on one of YALSA’s six annual selected lists or have received one of YALSA’s five literary awards. In this speed-dating-like event, we sat at the tables and every five minutes or so the authors would come to our table to talk with us.
Participating authors included: M. T. Anderson, Leigh Bardugo, Deborah Biancotti, Virginia Boecker, Erin Bow, Martha Brockenbrough, Rae Carson, Selene Castrovilla, Carey Corp, Zak Ebrahim, Jack Gantos, Gail Giles, Amalie Howard, Jenny Hubbard, Bill Konigsberg, Michael Koryta, Daniel Kraus, Stephanie Kuehn, Susan Kuklin, Margo Lanagan, Lorie Langdon, Eric Lindstrom, Sophie Maletsky, Marissa Meyer, Jandy Nelson, Patrick Ness, Mitali Perkins, Kate Racculia, Luke Reynolds, William Ritter, Ginny Rorby, John Scalzi, Neal Shusterman, Andrew Smith, Allan Stratton, Nova Ren Suma, Jillian Tamaki, Mariko Tamaki, Scott Westerfeld, Carol Lynch Williams, and Suzanne Young.
These were the YA Authors who came to my table and a little of what they said (any inaccuracies are solely my fault):
She said that publishers didn’t think young people wanted to read about teen characters from other countries but that hasn’t been the case. Perkins wants young people to read across borders. She said she’s gotten letters from kids from all over the US – like rural Kansas. They connect with her books and there’s a power that readers have over the story. She said that one of her previous books, Bamboo People (2011 YALSA Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults), is on twelve state reading lists. It has two boys as the main characters and lots of action and it’s still a popular read, even though it came out in 2010 and is set in Burma. The fact that it’s a coming of age story is universal. Perkins has drawn inspiration for her writing because she said she’s traveled a lot and lived in Thailand, Boston and in the Bay Area. Tiger Boy is a tribute to her dad. He became a talented civil engineer and traveled all over the world. She said she “writes to the boy who doesn’t think he is a reader.”
It’s a psychological mystery, set in Sonoma, CA and it has a lot of darkness to it. It features a female anti-hero. The girl was sent down from boarding school for almost killing another girl. She is cruel. She becomes reacquainted with a boy named Emerson she knew as a kid & they both have a connection with Emerson’s younger brother who sees visions of people dying. It’s told from a third person point-of-view because it’s easier to tell that way as it shifts from the different perspectives of the characters. Kuehn says her main character is a psychopath but there’s a humanity to her too. “We share common experiences – they’re human monsters.”
It’s set in an alternate England about a girl who’s a witch hunter who’s accused of being a witch herself. Boecker said she did her research in England when she was living there and if you read the book, you’ll notice she named the places for stops on the London Underground. When she was asked if there would be a sequel, Boecker said it would be a duology and she’s writing the sequel now. She said she has a contract for a third book and can do what she wants to do – make it a companion book to Witch Hunter or whatever. She’s now in the midst of launch parities for the book because it came out in the beginning of June.
He said his book is a contemporary story about a blind girl who is mainstreamed for the first time. She’s been raised by her dad but he has recently died. At school the other kids don’t know how to interact with her because of her disability. A boy she liked years ago is in her class and she struggles with that. Lindstrom said her blindness isn’t the focus; it’s about “trust issues and connecting with people.” He said, “We rely on body language so much but what if you don’t have that? ” His character, Parker Grant, took him somewhere else from where he’d planned. “She’s a fun girl. Her blindness is a magnification of what it’s like to put yourself out there.” He said it’s his first book and was a video game designer before turning to writing (worked on Lara Croft Tomb Raider, among others).
She said that libraries play prominent roles in all her books. She says, “I always have a library or bookstore in all my books – or an English teacher who’s a helper or savior.” (She’s a former English teacher). In this book girls are helping girls and she said that if anyone had heard her speak at the Michael L Printz Award reception several days before they would have heard her say that when she finished the book she missed living in that world. It’s a completely different view of a boarding school from her book Paper Covers Rock (2012 William C. Morris Award finalist). She said the book she’s working on next will take place in a day school and it’s a girls story but it “won’t be out anytime soon.” She said that when she finishes a first draft she rewrites the story from another character’s point of view. She’s rewritten her third book three times so far. She said she also wrote And We Stay three times. “It takes me 2 years to write a book.”As a former English teacher she’s very interested in structure, craft, and nuance. She said she wants to get the book as tightly woven as she can. “I will spend a whole day writing one page.”
Michael Koryta is the 2015 ALEX Award winner for Those Who Wish Me Dead.
He said that winning the ALEX Award was a moral victory for him because his book was marketed towards adults but he wanted it to appeal to teens. It’s from the point-of-view of four characters and one of them is a 14-year-old boy. Koryta said he fell in love with the landscape of Yellowstone National Park. That, and the fact that he went to survival school and was fascinated by it – it was led by an Air Force accredited survivor – influenced his book. He learned that if you’re lost in the woods, the #1 priority is to have a positive attitude. “Those who can do nothing are doomed to die.”
He said he teaches 7th grade in Boston and said he shared his book with his students. He told us it was rejected 35 times and he rewrote it 11 times. His kids said, “You must be a bad writer!” after hearing about how many rejections he received. Reynolds told them you have to rewrite it to get it right. His character Atticus (yes, from To Kill A Mockingbird) is scared to speak up (Reynolds said he never spoke up in class either) and always wants to do things right the first time because he doesn’t think he can do anything over. Atticus has an active imagination and an older new teacher takes an interest in him. Atticus learns that “heroism isn’t one big thing, it’s the small things.”
Neal said it’s a very personal story – very emotional. Neal wrote the text and Brendan did the artwork. It took four years to write but it’s inspiring. “There is hope,” Shusterman said. There’s such stigma about mental illness and he wants to remove it and say it’s okay to talk about it because 1 in 3 families suffers from it. He said the book has been a healing process. Brendan said that his artwork was inspired by the difficult time he was going through. The depth in the book is a metaphor to lose connection to your life and reality. His artwork was in color originally (not in the book, although it’s available in color on Esty). This isn’t the first book they have collaborated on. They wrote a short story together from the gun’s point of view in the upcoming anthology by Shaun David Hutchinson and other YA authors called Violent Ends about a school shooting from multiple points-of-view. Neal also contributed a story to a horror anthology called Scary Out There with Jonathan Maberry and a lot of other well-known YA authors.
Carol Lynch Williams talked about her latest book called Never Said (out August 25, 2015). Her book Chosen One was a 2010 YALSA Quick Picks selection.
She said Never Said is told from two points of view by twin sisters, one with a social anxiety disorder – she’s extremely shy – the other is a beauty pageant contestant. The shy one is trying to find her voice but her beautiful twin has begun to gain weight and her sister tries to find out why. She discovers that her sister has been sexually abused, “you should have been protecting me.” Williams based it on a real life incident and said she watched the show My 600 Pound Life for inspiration.
Patrick Ness came to my table but it ended then and we were all disappointed that he didn’t get a chance to talk about his newest book The Rest of Us Just Live Here. He did pose for a quick picture though.
It was a great time! I wish I’d had the opportunity to talk to all the authors but the hour just flew by. I’m really looking forward to reading the books they so enthusiastically recommended.
-Sharon Rawlins, currently reading the galley of Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith