Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Texas Book Festival Extravaganza of Awesome Part The Second

OK! Thanks to Emily for the exciting and envy-inducing recap of the Saturday events at last weekend's Texas Book Festival, here in lovely Austin, TX.

Now, I bring to you a quick summary of the fun times that were Sunday.

First: The Best Part

I went alone. That's right. Absolutely alone. I was free to wander the Capitol grounds, visit publisher booths, chat with friends, go to the bathroom when I wanted to go, etc. It was great.

Second: Justin Cronin is a Machine

The first event I went to was to see Justin Cronin, author of THE PASSAGE, in the Senate Chamber in the Capitol building. I got there about 30 minutes early and STILL had to wait in a huge, winding line to get in. When my part of the line finally made it to the doors, you can imagine my dismay when, at about five people in front of me, the volunteer person-wrangler was all, "Stop. The chamber is full." At any moment, fistfights were going to break out among irate librarians and booksellers behind me. (Well, not really, but that would have been kind of awesome.) Instead, the kind person-wrangler lead us all upstairs to the peanut gallery where we were able to watch the goings-on with ease.

The next 45 minutes raced by. Justin read us all an excerpt of THE PASSAGE (which you need, must, HAVE TO read if you haven't yet [the book, I mean, not the excerpt]). He explained how he created the story with his then-8-year-old daughter as they walked around their Houston neighborhood in the evenings. Now, if you've read THE PASSAGE, this may cause you to pause for a second and go, "Wait, uh..." because THE PASSAGE is a crazy epic tale of vampires and the humans who hate their undead guts.

He assured us, though, that no harm came to his daughter as they plotted out the early draft of the book, and at the time they were making up the story, he didn't even really know it was going to be a book.

Yet, a few years later, he had a 1400 page manuscript on it way to his agent, and a belly full of butterflies as he finally broke the secret that award-winning, literary fiction writer Justin Cronin, was now a literary genre writer with cadres of vampires filling 300,000 words of terror.

His agent loved it - as do we all now - and he's currently working on the next two books, as well as assisting the Ridley boys in H-town on figuring out how to make a kick ass movie version of the first book.

THIRD: There is Room for Everything in YA Fiction. Yes. Everything.

My next stop was to drop by the panel: "Is the World Ready for My Book?". Authors Matt de la Peña, April Lurie and Varian Johnson eloquently elaborated on questions posed by Jennifer Ziegler and the audience. Hard core topics like religion, teen sex, and depression were discussed with zeal. I just can't say enough about how impressed I am with everyone on this panel - not just with their books, but with the passion they bring to writing. I know that sounds ridiculously cliché, but it's true. These are the kinds of events I go to, not just to learn about authors and about their books, but to get all fired up as an author myself.

Sometimes, heck A LOT of times, being an author is isolating. You forget that there are other people like you who are out there writing everyday, trying to tell a story. And even if you don't forget you're not alone out there (ugly first half of a sentence, sorry), there's a chance that you, like me, put other authors on a pedestal of awesome. Not that they don't deserve to be on the pedestal, but it's nice to be reminded that all authors - even very successful ones - are people just like you and me. They get embarrassed and have writers' block and find themselves heckled by 8th graders just like the rest of us. It makes writing so much more approachable, when you see that we're all in it together, you know?

PART FOUR: MT Anderson eats like my son

My next stop was to listen to MT Anderson talk about the trials and tribulations of traveling when A) you have no aptitude for learning foreign languages and B) You only eat, like, four things. This culminated in a tale of Nepal during the height of the Avian Flu scare, all meat being forbidden by the government, MT Anderson nearly crumpling into a hypoglycemic pool of starving-ness, a whole bunch of cats fighting him over the last chicken in Nepal, and a decision to stop traveling and, instead, write books about the fantastical things one might see when one travels.

Thus, the PALS IN PERIL books were born, and we were all introduced to the wilds of Delaware. Anderson told us of the strongly worded letter he received from the governor of Delaware, calling him "buster" and chastising him for ostensibly ruining the reputation of a fine state. He then detailed his visit with said governor, and his escape down a Delawarian highway while a sniper was hunting people down on that same stretch of freeway.

Obviously, MT Anderson lives a very dull life.

PART FIVE: Holly Black Teaches How to be Con Artists

My final session for the day was to hunker down in an auditorium and listen to Holly Black explain the minute details of pulling off a con on an unsuspecting barista. Using a leashed octopus.


She also told us a very detailed fairly tale about a white cat, that I will not repeat here for fear that it will spoil WHITE CAT, her latest book. I'm about 50 pages into said book and I think I have it all figured out because I heard the white cat tale on Sunday. It's such a weird story, though, that I'm not sure I'm right, but if I am, I don't want to potentially spoil anything for you.

Holly was hilarious and gracious and she had a fantastic presentation including the aforementioned leashed octopus, and a tantalizing reading of WHITE CAT.

PART SIX: I Go Home and Collapse

At this point, I could have probably sat through a million more sessions, but I hadn't eaten in like 9 hours and I had abandoned my husband at home with our kids, so I had to go. It was a wonderful, wonderful day of books and authors and inspiration, and I encourage all of you who live anywhere near Austin, or Texas, or the United States, to try to make it to next year's fest. It's always free and it always, unfailingly KICKS MAJOR BUTT.

The end.


Anonymous said...

This is just to say that I LOVE MT Anderson. Millions and millions of love.

That is all.

Jessica Love said...


The song made my life. :-)

Teh Awe-Some Sauce said...

I am so jealous. That is all.

E. Kristin Anderson said...

So does everyone want to move to Austin yet? BECAUSE YOU SHOULD.

I am bummed I didn't get to go to the second day, but glad that I had eyes and ears there.

And, don't tell anyone, but I think M.T. Anderson is super cute.

(Now M.T. Anderson will totally read this blog post and be horrified at the prospect of our books someday touching on a bookstore shelf.)

Miranda said...

I think Justin Cronin is super cute. I really loved THE PASSAGE. I have no idea what the overall plot arc was supposed to be, but I loved it. :)

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