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TeenLIVE at the NYPL in Retrospect: Dystopias on March 28, 2012

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[The Hindenburg dirigible disaster], Digital ID 1630058, New York Public LibraryWe were lucky enough to have a game show and discussions with teen authors about dystopias and apocalypses and whether or not we would have the strength to survive them. The event was held at the Margaret Berger Forum in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building of the New York Public Library. It was hosted by Chris Shoemaker, Young Adult Programming Specialist for NYPL. Refreshments were served afterwards, and teens signed up to participate in the games ahead of time. Music entertained the audience prior to the event. Many people showed up to try their luck at a game show and hear from the teen authors.

Could you survive a Young Adult Dystopia? was the theme of the event.

Shoemaker mentioned that the event was about what it means to be a teen in New York City. He said that is where teens want to be, the Library wants to be there with them. He mentioned that dark themes would be explored during the event. He asked what makes destroying the world so much fun.

To start off a game show, he asked his assistant to call the first victims. Two teens were randomly chosen as contestants.

The first game was Wheel of Misfortune.

1. The clue in the first phrase was "same name." He asked the contestants to choose a letter. They chose E. There were two Es, which were revealed on the projected screen to the contestants and the audience. It was a four-word puzzle. Shoemaker asked for contestant and audience guesses. Eventually, someone guessed the answer: "Katniss and Primrose Everdeen." (characters in The Hunger Games)

High tides wreck beach homes, Redondo Beach, California, Digital ID 1640802, New York Public Library2. The clue in the second phrase was "food & drink." It was a six-word puzzle. Contestants chose letters, and contestants and audience members guessed. Eventually, someone guessed the answer: "fresh bread from the Mellark Bakery." (The Hunger Games)

Authors Anna Carey and Jon Skovron: Two authors were invited to join Shoemaker on the stage to read from their work and answer questions. Anna Carey, author of the Eve Trilogy and Jon Skovron, author of Misfit joined him.

Anna Carey's books

Jon Skovron's books

Carey read a passage about an all girls school. She stated that to go beyond the wall at the school is to die. However, when the girl went beyond the wall, her life took on new meaning.

Skovron read from Misfit. He stated that the world is slowly slipping into entropy.

Shoemaker asked the authors what is the hardest part about creating a plausible apocalypse.

Carey stated that she writes from her own fears. The most fun was exploring her own fears. It is fun for the reader to be scared, and he or she is not putting the book down.

Skovron said that oftentimes when someone is in a worst case scenario, it is an opportunity for him or her to shine. He mentioned that dystopia is cool when you can see the possibility of redemption. He states that when an apocalyptic situation is seen through a dramatic novel in a global way, it is gratifying and satisfying. When apocalyptic situations are seen on the micro scale in everyday situations, it can be depressing.

Shoemaker asked the authors where they draw the line about how they are going to end the world.

Carey stated that she is imagining a world where people are gone, but the world is not bleak. There would be life after people.

Skovron stated that it is not so much the destruction that is the focus, but what happens after. He mentioned that the world is evicting humanity for being lousy tenants.

Authors Sarah Beth Durst and Lissa Price: Shoemaker called the next two authors to the stage, Sarah Beth Durst, author of Drink, Slay, Love and Lissa Price, author of Starters.

Sarah Beth Durst's books

Price read from Starters without an introduction.

Durst wrote Drink, Slay, Love about a 16-year-old vampire named Pearl, who saw a sparkling unicorn in a parking lot, whose hoof beats resembled ringing bells.

Shoemaker asked the authors which comes first in their stories, the characters or the world.

Price stated that the character is written into the context of the world. For example, she wrote a story in which only the very young and the very old survive due to a type of illness.

Durst stated that she created the world first, and then she started thinking about unicorns randomly on a Saturday afternoon. She likes to build worlds and think about which person would suffer most in that world, and place that character there.

Shoemaker asked the authors if when they start with one world, if they move on to other worlds.

Price said that movie people were asking her if she could go beyond two books. They wanted three to five movies. Her answer was that she was going to have to find a way to move into other worlds, even though it would be challenging for her.

Durst said that she set novels in places that she loves, and that she destroys them with love. She thinks that the characters would be irrevocably changed if they were plucked into another world. When creating new worlds, she feels the need to create new characters to fit into those worlds.

Shoemaker stated, "Once a dystopian survivor, always a dystopian survivor."

Shoemaker asked his assistant to call the next two teen contestants to the stage, who would have the honor of playing a different game show: Jeopardy.

A. The category for the first query was "Nature's Most Destructive Events." The contestants and audience members guessed answers. Eventually, they came up with the following three most popular answers.

1. Tornado

2. A sibling's temper tantrum

3. Tidal wave Destruction Of A Dhow., Digital ID 807915, New York Public Library

B. The category for the second query was "How to Avoid a Zombie Bite." The contestants and audience members guessed answers, until the most popular three answers were revealed.

1. Wearing a torn cocktail dress — it works for Milla Jovovich.

2. Staying away from your significant other (who may have been bitten).

3. Staying on the rooftop.

Two more contestants were called. The category for this query was "You've fallen into quicksand! Remember how to survive?"

1. Don't kick.

2. Try to lie down.

3. Don't worry (you will die of dehydration).

Authors Anne Heltzel and Lauren McLaughlin: Two more authors were called: Anne Heltzel, author of Circle Nine and Lauren McLaughlin, author of Scored.

Anne Heltzel's books

Lauren McLaughlin's books

McLaughlin spoke about characters in her book being identified by their gait. They could be walking and not thinking, and they are giving the computer the data it needed.

Shoemaker asked the authors how hard it is to build relationships when building a dystopian world.

McLaughlin stated that Scored was based on friends. When a friend's score is dropping, it becomes a dilemma to decide whether to keep that person as a friend. Relationships are central to the story.

Heltzel wrote a story in which two characters were isolated together in a cave. They are afraid of the outside world. They are at odds with each other, but they are not in competition with each other.

Shoemaker asked if it is easier to have characters connect in a large or small world.

McLaughlin stated that a futuristic global dystopia gives the characters the opportunity to stand up and try to change the rules. It is very interesting for her to create a personal dystopia.

Heltzel mentioned that it is difficult to maintain a small space and make it interesting for 200 plus pages. You have to have an intense psychological focus when you are constantly in contact with only two characters confined in a small space.

Authors Jeff Hirsch and Andy Marino: Shoemaker called Jeff Hirsch, author of The Eleventh Plague and Andy Marino, author of Unison Spark to the stage.

Jeff Hirsch's books

Andy Marino's books

The Eleventh Plague was set about 25 years after an apocalyptic war, where the human population was reduced to one-third of what it was before. It is the story of a 15-year-old boy and his father trying to survive. Unison Spark was a expose of a manipulative social network of the future and the two kids who are fighting it.

Shoemaker asked them when they are creating worlds, are they drawing from their childhoods, especially when they are focusing on rebels.

Marino stated that in cases of timeless rebellion, yes. Hirsch said that he can't help but draw on what he and his friends were like as teens.

Shoemaker asked if it is a teen's impulse to be drawn to dystopian worlds.

Hirsch stated that teens tend to be drawn to darkness since adolescence is such a passionate and intense time of life.

Shoemaker asked the authors if the power went out and the war became apocalyptic, would they have survived.

Marino stated that he would indeed still be here with his flannels. Hirsch said that no, he would be gone.

Shoemaker asked his assistant to call two victims for the final tribute of the evening.

The final tribute was Wheel of Misfortune.

1. The clue for the first word was "landmark." The contestants and the audience members guessed and eventually the answer was revealed: "cornucopia."

2. The clue for the second phrase was "clue." The contestants and audience members came up with the answer: "The Youngest Tribute."

Shoemaker opened the floor to audience questions.

Becoming an Author: One teen asked Carey what was her career path to become an author because the teen was interested in pursuing that career.

Carey stated that she first worked as an associate editor, and that she always knew that she wanted to be a writer. She saw how other people pursued authorship and learned from them. She eventually entered grad school and quit her job to begin the more satisfying task of working on her own books. Carey stressed that she needed to see how authorship was done before she felt comfortable embarking upon the job herself. That was a good way to learn the trade.

Are Villains Fun?: Another audience member asked who the authors most enjoy writing about: villains or protagonists.

One author said that villains are much more fun. The author of Drink, Slay, Love stated that the main character in her book is evil. She thought about things that you would never get to do in real life, and then she makes the characters do those things. Jeff stated that villains are the hardest characters to create and write about since it is not advisable to make the characters too villainous. The author of Starters stated that it is interesting to reach into the dark side of humanity and that books would be boring without villains.

Twenty human monsters in purple and in rags ...,Twenty human monsters in purple and in rags from Caligula to Landru, A.D. 12-A.D. 1922 ..., Digital ID 492699, New York Public LibrarySocial Commentary?: One teen stated that traditional dystopia includes social commentary. She asked if the authors think about that when writing their novels.

The author of Drink, Slay, Love stated that she tried hard not to think about it. Instead, when contemplating the course of events for her novels, she asks herself, "What is the most awesome thing that could happen?" and includes those events. One of the authors stated that it is not good to be moralistic when writing novels. The author of Scored stated that she attempts to seduce people into another point of view with her writing. She emphasized that she always wants to implicate the reader in the moral universe that she is creating.

This TeenLIVE at the NYPL was a spectacularly fun and unique events. The game show questions, complete with contestants, was totally terrific. Shoemaker asked thought-provoking questions like usual, and the authors had interesting replies that enabled audience members to glimpse into their inner worlds and motivations that they drew on to create the worlds that became their books. Please join us at the next TeenLIVE event to give us your thoughts and input.

Thanks to Chris Shoemaker for coordinating and moderating this awesome TeenLIVE event!

Future TeenLIVE Event

TeenLIVE Presents Young Dancemakers Company
Saturday, July 28, 2012 ( 2 p.m.- 4 p.m.)
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
Teens take to the stage and perform their own original choreography in this exciting performance at the Library for the Performing Arts. Watch the moves and see the steps before you have a chance to ask questions. After the performance, a lucky few teens will have the opportunity to create their own dance and perform it onstage with the dance experts.

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