Every spring, the NYC Teen Author Festival takes place at various locations around the city, including bookstores and NYPL locations. Teens, authors, librarians, and anyone interested in teen literature can attend for free and participate in the exchange of ideas about teen literature.
The NYC Teen Author Festival also includes reader's theatre. The panels are similar, but it is always great to get a chance to be exposed to new authors and different ways of thinking about teen literature. I learned about the writing process that authors of teen literature engage in. Over 90 authors participated in this year's festival. Luckily for us, David Levithan organizes the event, and he does a spectacular job.
That's So Nineteenth Century
On Friday, March 22, 2013, they had a "That's So Nineteenth Century" panel in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building about historical fiction featuring the authors Sharon Cameron, Stephanie Strohm, Leanna Hieber, Suzanne Weyn, and Sarah Beth Durst as the moderator.
One of the authors said that she went on a road trip to battlefields with her mother to research the time period for her novel. She likes to see things in person that she is writing about. Another author is also an actress, and she found it useful to wear costumes with corsets and engage in the same daily activities that people did in the era that she wrote about. She suggested that authors rent a costume from the era that they are writing about. Another author goes to London once a year to research and walk the places that her characters walked. One author wrote the majority of her novel that took place in Edinburgh, Scotland before visiting the city. She was so glad that she had one edit left after she went to Edinburgh because she changed the novel when she returned to the United States to reflect what she learned on her vacation. She now knew what the cobblestones are like and what the wind felt like. It makes such a difference to go to the places that you are writing about.
One author learned a lot for her novel about mental illness by reading the "Lunatic Laws" of England. She discovered how easy it was to get committed to an insane asylum. One author advised aspiring writers to read many books that were written in the time period that the want to write about. They are less dry than research books.
One author is writing a new book and she is making the language in her book more modern and accessible to teens.
Another author stated that using paranormal themes in her work allows her more liberties than she would otherwise have in writing historical novels. For example, having a character's soul meet the soul of a character in a painting brings new elements to the work.
Alternate World versus Imaginary World
There was an "Alternate World versus Imaginary World" panel on Friday, March 22, 2013, also in the "library with the lions," featuring authors Sarah Durst, Jeff Hirsch, E.C. Myers, Diana Peterfreund, Emmy Laybourne, Mary G. Thompson, Lauren Miller with moderator David Levithan. The authors discussed their latest books and their upcoming works.
Myers mentioned that she uses parallel universes in her works. For example, one could imagine a world where everyone goes to school on Saturdays and during the summer. Hirsch has his characters moving from one world to the next. He likes to explore the effect that society has upon individuals. Durst wrote about deserts so that she could visit one.
Peterfreund develops her works while writing them. For example, her visit to Rome changed her perspective of the city, and she consequently altered her book that was set in Rome. One author loves inventing worlds. She finds it to be such fun, and she urges other aspiring writers to try it.
Hirsch says that he invents aspects of the worlds he is writing about and the implications of such worlds. He has a repository of images and ideas from which to draw upon for the works. When you invent the constraints and rules of the world, you do not know if you will use all of the information that you create, but it is good to have it available to you just in case. It is also good to have the flexibility to change course while writing the book.
Thompson stated that one of her books emerged from a single character.
Durst mentioned that her literary exposure as a child can shape your perspective and inspire you. She will change the rules or events in the book so that the universe makes sense. The events have to abide by the universe's rules in order for it to work.
Defying Description: Tackling the Many Facets of Identity in YA - LGBTQ
On Saturday, March 23, 2013, there was another panel in the Berger Forum (Room 227) of the "library with the lions" entitled "Defying Description: Tackling the Many Facets of Identity in YA - LGBTQ" with authors Marisa Calin, A.S. King, Jacqueline Woodson, Aaron Hartzler and moderator David Levithan.
Calin mentioned that she had crushes on girls. She wanted to explore the difference between infatuation that does not develop into love and real love. She features a genderless best friend in her teen novel because she wanted the focus to be on love, not on whether the character is a boy or girl, etc.
Levithan mentioned that his novel Every Day is about a person who wakes up in the body of a different person every day. He enjoys writing from a variety of perspectives, including from male and female voices, etc. He is quite a versatile writer, and I find it extremely thought-provoking to read his works. He also is currently working on a book called Two Boys Kissing. This is about two boys who actually broke a record by kissing for 33 hours to protest the ban on same-sex kissing.
Calin never met a gay person until she was 18 years old. She mentioned that gay people are not attracted to all members of their sex; it is an individual thing, similar to heterosexuality.
Levithan said that people's identities are related to their humanity. Sex and love can be a part of this, but there are many other aspects that make up the constitution of particular individuals (their likes and dislikes, etc).
Woodson brought up that the Black community has been very accepting of LGBTQ identifying people, due to the other struggles that they have dealt with historically.
King loved reading the book Patience and Sarah when she was growing up. She does not remember much of the plot, but she recalls that many people noticed that she was reading the book.
Levithan mentioned that more voices about LGBTQ are quite welcome. No one book can cover all of the facets of LGBTQ identity.
Calin said that sexuality is just a part of people's individuality. For example, this person likes hockey, this person likes girls, etc. There is no need to make such an issue of people's sexuality if it is not heterosexual. Sexuality is simply one piece of people's identities.
Levithan sincerely hopes that society will change so completely that the books about LGBTQ that are being written in this age will become obsolete.
Calin says that she writes from her own experience and that she writes what she knows. She would love a society where people can say what is important to them without fear of retribution.