Anderson’s annual YA Lit Conference is a gathering of authors, educators and librarians (with some bloggers thrown in) to discuss … well, books. Then, the next day is the YA Fandom Frenzy—this day is geared toward fans and includes lots of fun games and activities. This year 33 authors were in attendance, including a few of my favorites.
This post is going to be a recap of the events AND a giveaway!
The Key Note Speakers:
Jordan Sonnenblick, author of Falling Over Sideways (and more)
- Kids’ Books = Words + Kids + Love. Jordan told us about how his passion for writing books for kids started because he knew a young girl who needed a story. Her little brother had cancer, and Jordan went to every source he could find for a book about a middle grader with a sick sibling and no one he talked to could find anything that fit the bill (this was over twelve years ago). He finally decided to write the book himself, and thus Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie (his first book) was born. He talked about how YA, MG and kids’ books are all about words + kids + love and how teachers and librarians are supporting that out of their own love for kids—and for books.
- Jordan told a funny story about how he was a bit of a troublemaker in school with a less than understanding teacher. He reminded me so much of my son and gave me hope that my son will someday carve out a place for himself in this world, even if he does always move to the beat of a slightly different drummer!
- A student told Jordan at one of his book talks that the main theme of his book was “You are not alone.” That wasn’t going to be Jordan’s answer, but he thought it summed it up better than he could have.
- The main character in Falling Over Sideways is based on Jordan’s own daughter, and there are MANY stories and circumstances from their real lives woven into it. He wanted to show his daughter that the small problems that seem so important to a middle grade girl aren’t really all that important. His book shows how the main character’s life is turned upside down—and put into perspective—when her father suffers from a stroke.
- Jordan and his daughter chose the narrator for the audiobook version of FOS together so that his daughter could find someone she was okay with portraying her. (This actually wasn’t in Jordan’s keynote, but he told me later when I mentioned that I was listening to the audiobook.)
Jennifer Niven, author of Holding Up the Universe (and more)
- Jennifer gave an inspiring speech about growing up with a mother who was a writer and how that affected her,
- She also gave several bits of advice for aspiring writers. Here are just a few of them:
- Pure economy of word—learning to write without over-writing is a tough task, one that she’s struggled with. Your book should not be a doorstop.
- If you’re bored with your writing, your audience will be bored.
- Her mother has told her, “You can’t freak out and write a book at the same time.” (Good advice that Jennifer often has to remind herself of when she’s freaking out over her latest book.)
- Learn to have the soul of an angel and the hide of an armadillo. Meaning, put your whole soul down on paper, but then be prepared for the criticism that will undoubtedly come. She gave this really funny analogy—Imagine having a baby and then people come to visit your baby and say, “That’s a stupid baby. What an ugly baby. If I had a baby it wouldn’t be like that.” (This made me laugh and I can completely understand that this must be how it often feels to an author when people rant about their work.)
- Enough people will doubt you; don’t be one of them.
Kenneth Oppel, author of Every Hidden Thing (and many, many more)
- Kenneth did a fun powerpoint presentation about his newest book that’s coming out. His speech was fun and engaging, but it’s a little harder to summarize than some of the others.
- Kenneth was inspired to write the book because he was fascinated by the idea of what it would be like to be one of the first people to discover colossal bones of creatures that we’d never even imagined before.
- The book is based on a real-life feud between two dinosaur hunters (Marsh and Cope).
- There’s a Romeo and Juliet element to the book, since Kenneth imagined what it would have been like if Marsh and Cope had a son and a daughter who fell in love.
- Kenneth went on a field expedition in order to research the book and got to see a real site where they dig for dinosaur bones! (He even did a little digging himself.)
Ellen Hopkins, author of Traffick (and many, many more)
- Ellen told us about how there is inspiration everywhere; you just have to reach out and grab it. She talked about the inspiration behind many of her books:
- Her first book, Crank, was inspired by her daughter’s meth addiction.
- The accident at the end of Burn was inspired by her boyfriend dying in a drunk driving accident when she was a teenager.
- Tricks and Traffick were based on a statistic that she saw that said that the average age of trafficked kids in the US is 12. She wondered how that could possibly be, and her research into that statistic led her to these books.
- Rumble was inspired by her son, who was an atheist, long-haired rocker dude dating a Christian. When the father forced his daughter to break up with him, her son was wrecked. She wanted to show that it’s not only girls who can be devastated by the end of a relationship.
- Ellen mentioned that since she has a faith background, faith shows up in all of her books in some small way.
- She also addressed the debate about white authors writing about minorities and reminded us that there is no single minority experience. Each individual has their own story and their own experiences. For example, not all blacks live in the inner city—or in the suburbs. Writing about either could be valid.
Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not
- Adam started out by writing Harry Potter fan fiction (also Charmed and Supernatural fan fiction).
- He said, “Harry Potter didn’t change me; it created me.”
- He says there’s still an old fanfiction site out there that he can’t delete because he lost the password. (But, of course, he won’t reveal the name it’s under!)
- Adam said that his original idea for the (sort of) story behind More Happy than Not was horrible. He was going to write a dystopian where the MC’s father was a scientist that had created a serum that would turn gay people straight. The father then sent the (gay) MC out as a sort of bounty hunter who hunted gay people with the serum. (Yep, I’m kind of glad he ditched that idea and ended up with MHtN.)
- Adam bravely shared his struggles with suicidal thoughts, even after the success of MHtN. He’s gotten three tattoos to help him remember the value of life: HGO, which stands for Happiness Goes On, a compass to remind him of the direction his life needs to be heading, and a green arrow that means Keep Moving Forward.
- Adam has two books coming out in 2017. The first is History Is All You Left Me, which sounds like a contemporary LGBTQ romance full of love and loss and maybe some mystery thrown in? His second 2017 release is called They Both Die at the End and takes place in a world where you get a phone call on the last day of your life to let you know it’s ending that day. Color me very intrigued! (This actually wasn’t discussed during the keynote panel, but I thought I’d add it here with my other Adam stuff.)
Some other fun tidbits I learned during the two day conference:
- Julie Buxbaum‘s book Tell Me Three Things was inspired by two occurrences in her own life: she lost her mom when she was fourteen, and she once got an anonymous email that changed her life.
- Geoff Herbach (author of Anything You Want) started out writing literary fiction but felt like there was too much pressure to be clever. He moved to YA fiction when his son hit puberty and stopped reading because he didn’t think that books applied to him. His main character’s endless optimism in AYW was based on Geoff’s own delusional sense of the world at that age.
- Jennifer Niven is such a huge fan of Supernatural that she moved the dates of her UK tour so that she wouldn’t miss the annual Supernatural convention.
- Frank Beddor is currently writing a musical version of The Looking Glass Wars.
- Sharon Cameron is currently working on a (standalone) companion novel to The Forgetting. It will take place in a different timespan and have different characters, but take place in the same world.
- Adriana Mather (How to Hang a Witch) has ancestors that were some of the people who hung witches at the Salem Witch Trials. She also has ancestors who survived the Titanic and found letters about their survival.
- Brendan Kiely (The Last True Love Story) has a LOT of hilariously awkward romance stories from his past (like throwing up all over the girl he had a crush on). That’s why he wanted to write a book that shows that awkward stories of love can be great love stories.
- There was a big debate between Adam Silvera and the rest of the world about which is better: Double Stuf Oreos or Golden Oreos. I am firmly on Adam’s side—Golden Oreos are the best food of ever! (One of the fans apparently brought Adam Golden Oreos, and he proceeded to pass them out to all the authors and force them to taste them. It was quite entertaining.) Sherri L. Smith later joked that we should be tweeting #DiversityofCookies and protesting Adam Silvera’s cultural misappropriation of Oreos (since she claims Golden Oreos just aren’t natural.)
- Speaking of Oreos, Jeff Zentner (The Serpent King) used to be a prosecutor and he told a hysterical story about a man who stole a Mustang and then proceeded to call the police because his sister had thrown an Oreo at him. The police were not particularly interested in his sister’s “crime,” but they were very interested in the stolen Mustang in his driveway.
- Krystal Sutherland‘s grandmother forbid her from reading Harry Potter when she was a child so she stole a copy of it when she was ten years old so she could read it. She wrote Our Chemical Hearts while her heart was being broken.
- Maggie Thrash said that because she was in the closet for a long time (after a horrible experience with first love at a Christian camp). She said that that made her look at people and think, any one of these people could have a huge secret. Anyone could be secretly gay … or a murderer. And then she wrote a murder mystery (We Know it Was You). She’s fascinated by people’s secrets, so on her website, she has a place where you can write your anonymous confessions and read other people’s.
- Kathleen Glasgow‘s book is based on her own adolescent experiences with self-harm.
- In a point about how social media has gotten out of hand, Adam Silvera talked about how his three-year-old goddaughter has a phone. Her parents reminded him to only send pictures … since she obviously can’t read.
- Traci Chee (The Reader) came up with the idea for her book with the thought, “What if reading was actual magic?” (It only feels that way to those of us in the real world.)
- Ellen Hopkins has a book coming called The You I’ve Never Known that is inspired by the fact that her daughter was kidnapped by her husband and she lost her for three years.
- Jennifer Niven is currently co-writing a book with a secret collaborator (a more-seasoned male writer is all she revealed). They are simply going back and forth and writing their parts of the book without talking about it at all—no feedback whatsoever.
- Sherri L. Smith‘s name is mispronounced all the time (it’s pronounced Shuh-ree, with the emphasis on the second syllable, not like Shari). When her audiobook for Pasadena came out she was so excited for her first audiobook—until the narrator mispronounced her name at the very beginning. She called her publisher crying.
- Sharon Cameron had a crush on Thomas Jefferson at age six and got in trouble for breaking into his home at Monticello!
I could go on and on, but this post would be two miles long (I seriously have pages of notes from this event), so I’m going to stop there. I hope you enjoyed getting learning a little bit more about this amazing group of YA authors!
I wanted to reward one of my amazing readers for … being amazing, so I bought a copy of the beautiful paperback of Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not and had him sign it. Follow the instructions on the Rafflecopter below to enter for a chance to win it! (Sorry, this one’s US only.)