September 11, 2011

YA Rockstars!

A Skippyjon Jones parade? Mad libs with Libba Bray? A reading from Ten, by Lauren Myracle? A witchy panel? A real panel with writer’s of realistic YA? 

All in a weekend at the Decatur Book Festival 2011!

I spent Labor Day weekend not grilling out and shopping the sales at my local mall. Instead, I chose to spend it hearing some of the hottest YA authors speak. I'm not going to blog about every last detail of the weekend, but I will fill you in on a few highlights.

Who I heard speak:

Judy Schachner, Lisa McMann, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Adam Gidwitz, Vicky Alvear Shecter, Beth Revis, and Stephanie Perkins

Who I heard speak and met:

Libba Bray, Lauren Myracle, Myra McEntire, Rachel Hawkins, Jackson Pearce, Victoria Schwab, Elizabeth Eulberg, and Jennifer Jabaley

Friday night adventure

First, let me just say that I am a bit on the stalkerish side when it comes to Victoria Schwab. Once I arrived in Decatur that Friday night, the fam and I went for a walk to check out the scene. I walked right past Schwab having dinner with her parents. I was so excited that I elbowed my favorite bookseller and just about knocked her into an umbrella. I immediately began tweeting my adventure, so excited to have spotted one of the author’s I was in Decatur to meet. 

Bring on the YA rockstars!


And so a great start to a great festival – I spent my Saturday with Judy Schachner, Myra McEntire, Beth Revis, Libba Bray, Lisa McMann, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Adam Gidwitz, and Lauren Myracle. Not too shabby, is it?

The 2011 DBF got a great kick off on Saturday with Judy Schachner’s Skippyjon Jones leading a parade to the children’s stage. After a lot of excited children calmed down, the audience was treated to Schachner reading from her latest installment of the famous cat – and she did an impromptu drawing as well. She even signed it and gave it to a young fellow in the audience that asked for it. What a generous heart (and an awesome souvenir).

The first panel was with Myra McEntire and Beth Revis. I read Hourglass the week it came out and fell in love with it, so I considered myself a McEntire groupie. She was as funny on stage as her tweets allude, and it is clear that she plans on staying in the world of writing (thank goodness). I have not read Revis' book, but let's just say she knows where she wants to take her writing…she wants to blow people up. A lot. McEntire wants more kissing, but Revis wants more explosions. Don't the two usually go together? Just a thought. 
Myra McEntire, Beth Revis
Ah, Libba Bray – one of the many reasons I came to Decatur, GA in the first place. She was AMAZING! Actually, that word does not even fit. But let’s just say that if you’ve ever read her books, she really is that awesome in person. No really, she is. She is so awesome that I could barely get a clear picture of her because she was all over the place. It was quite clear that she loves her job and she loves to meet those who read her work. She is a true inspiration. If you ever have a chance to hear her speak, you should.

Hard to capture on camera b/c she moved around so much!
While discussing her latest novel, Beauty Queens, she explained to us that she really does not like to summarize her books for others. Instead, she played Mad Libs with us. She asked for so many adjectives that I felt like the audience was nothing more than a thesaurus, but leave it up to Lauren Myracle to scream out “penis” when Bray needed a noun. Before anyone knew what hit them, we were greeted with a quite amazing summary of Bray's latest novel that included "maxi pad cupcakes." Hilarious! One of the best panels I’ve ever seen.

I was bummed because I really wanted to take my pic with Bray when she signed my book, but I heard the handlers saying she only had about twenty more minutes. Her line was a lot longer than twenty minutes, and I didn't want to take time from someone else getting a chance to meet her, so she was the only author I did not take my pic with :-( Meeting her was enough.

While I was in line waiting to meet Bray, I missed Lauren Myracle’s discussion on Shine, so I immediately trekked over to the children’s stage where she was going to discuss her Winnie series. I was treated to Adam Godwitz (author of A Tale Dark and Grimm, which I’ve read and loved), Lisa McMann and Margaret Peterson Haddix. It was interesting to watch the younger audience interact with the authors, especially since I just spent my morning at the YA arena (aka Decatur Library). Children ask fascinating questions – and the gleam of “rock stardom” in their eyes as they gaze on their favorite writers cannot be beat – hands down.
Margaret Peterson Haddix, Lisa McMann
 Lauren Myracle read to us from Ten, the prequel to her Winnie series. I discovered Winnie years ago and have always sworn that if I had a daughter, I was going to name her after this character. I absolutely love the creation Myracle has given us. Who am I kidding – I’ve read every single one of Myracle’s books and have loved every single one of them. THE Judy Blume of this generation, you bet.

And Myracle was awesome - I spoke to her about the importance of writers speaking on our youths behalf because too often their voices are silenced for a plethora of reasons. She has a gift with words and storytelling, and her YA novels take on tough issues with a heart and soul that I think many young readers can connect to.
I'm such a fangirl - but I heart Myracle!

Rachel Hawkins, Jackson Pearce, and Victoria Schwab were on stage together, and to say that there was more than a little hilarity would not do this panel justice. These aren’t your mama’s witchy writers – these ladies have spunk, a way with words, and a way with the audience. Of the three, Hawkins was by far the funniest. Of course, I taught with her for a few years. Can I tell you a secret? That is how she is all the time (in case you were wondering).

I loved hearing these three root for witches within writing. If you follow my blog then you know I LOVE a great witchy tale. I read Hawkins’ books the week they came out and I read Schwab’s novel as a galley; now I must make Pearce’s witchy tale a priority. I mean, October is coming up, right? That’s my excuse – sorry papers, I cannot grade you right now. I must read this witchy tale in order to prepare my heart and soul for the upcoming holiday.

In case you are wondering. These ladies were asked, “If your witches got into a fight, who would win?” They all agreed that Victoria Schwab’s witches would take the crown. Smart ladies. 

But really, I felt their panel was just as hilarious as Bray’s, which is a high compliment. Bray is such a fantastic speaker and really knows how to interact with her audience, but these ladies could give her a run for her money. I’ve got it – next year, let’s put Libba Bray and Rachel Hawkins on the stage together and see what happens! 
Rachel Hawkins, Jackson Pearce, Victoria Schwab

While awaiting for the final YA panel of the festival I was treated to Vicky Alvear Shecter. When I came into the room she was just finishing up discussing her inspiration for her novel, Cleopatra’s Moon. She then treated us to a reading from the book, and I realized that I must add this novel to my “to read” pile. I love historical fiction, and I am interested in Cleopatra.

The final panel of the festival – Elizabeth Eulberg, Stephanie Perkins, and Jennifer Jabaley! The moderator for this panel was Terra Elan McVoy, author of Pure, and it was a nice treat. These ladies had great chemistry; they had true camaraderie for one another as writers and as people. While it was clear that most of the audience was there for Perkins, who is adorable in person FYI, I was there for Eulberg.

At the end of the panel, Eulberg was the one I was there to meet. She loved my “I heart Jane Austen” shirt (which I promise I did not wear on purpose for when I met her, it just worked out that way) so much that she took a pic for her blog and gave me the “best shirt” award. (Squee!) The proof is here.

Elizabeth Eulberg, Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer Jabaley

Perkins signing - me with Elizabeth
My thoughts
This was a weekend full of YA awesomesauce! There, I said it. There is no other word. The author panels were interesting and fun, standing in line with fellow fans brought warmth to my heart, and getting to meet the authors was amazing.

From the authors I saw true camaraderie for one another. They attended each others panels, they hung out together, they showed true celebration in being a writer. None of them were arrogant or too good to be there. 


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