Monday, October 18, 2010

The Texas Book Festival (PS, teens totally get it.)

So this past Saturday I went to the Texas Book Festival, an annual event, that for book fanatics and writers is like Christmas wrapped in bacon with a cherry on top. I mean, famous authors from all over, converging on my hometown like flies to honey. Flies who write and make awesome books and say cool things and inspire us.

Damn, I am just so eloquent today. DISCLAIMER: my allergies are flaring up super horribly and I may or may not have taken cold medicine. Wheeeeeee! I was going to call in sick to this blog, but, like, whoa. The idea of calling in sick to a BLOG exploded my brain and decided to tell you about Saturday instead.

Back to your regular transmission.

So anyway, I went to a bunch of panels featuring lots of authors whom I love and admire. I saw Laurie Halse Anderson who talked about all the different types of books she writes -- from issues books for teens like SPEAK to historical fiction like CHAINS and FORGE to picture book biographies. She mentioned a lot of interesting things on the topic of writing historicals -- she thinks that we try too hard as a country to bury our past, that in Germany they are still very very aware of the Nazi regime, and that was ONE generation. For several generations Americans OWNED OTHER PEOPLE, and yet we continue to ignore it, gloss over it in history books and move on. While I don't know how I feel about all the points Laurie made -- and maybe, like she said, it's just very uncomfortable for young white people to think about these things -- it definitely raised an awareness in me. And that is one thing that I love when I read about books from other points of view -- be it historical or even a contemporary book where the characters are from a different background. Reading opens doors for us to experience and share things that we might otherwise never feel or know.

Also, Laurie remembered me from the last time we met. SQUEEEEEEEE.

One of my favorite panels of the day was called "True Grit," moderated by Austin author Bethany Hegedus and featuring Sara Pennypacker, Carolyn Cohagan, and fellow Austinite Lisa Railsback. All of these authors write middle grade books about girls who tell it like it is, who are unabashedly themselves. As a reader and a writer, these are the sort of characters I cling to. All of the authors said that it wasn't so important for them to write strong girls so much as it was important to write authentic characters. And I think that's cool. I'm really excited to read Lisa's book, NOONIE'S MASTERPIECE, which I picked up at the festival. Noonie sounds a lot like me when I was a little girl -- she is sure she is a genius that no one understands yet. And, um, maybe she's a lot like me as an adult, too.

I also really enjoyed a panel with Heather Brewer, Andrea Cremer, and Kirsten Miller, moderated by Austin author Mari Mancusi. They talked all about their various paranormal themes, and one thing that really resonated throughout their talk was how the paranormal is just another reflection of our reality. I think it was Andrea who said something along the lines of how these themes allow us to explore very human feelings and realities through the lens of magic and fantasy. Heather also touched on bullying and how important it is that we stay on top of this problem. All of the authors said that they were either bullied or afraid of being bullied in school. Kirsten said her revenge is being able to rewrite history -- sometimes she bases her villains on her bullies, and portrays them in a less than flattering light.

Of course I'm still thinking about the JANIS JOPLIN: RISE UP SINGING talk that author Ann Angel gave after being introduced by Austinite P.J. Hoover. I loved how Ann talked about Janis, how real this rock star was to her as a teen, and how she thoroughly researched the singer's personal and professional life to bring her to today's readers. What got me, though, was how many adults in the audience asked her if she really expected teens to be interested in Janis, or whether or not/why she wrote about Janis' sexuality and the drugs, sex and rock & roll of the 60's in a book for teens. Um, hello? Teens know more than you think! I was in high school in the late 90's and my best friend listened to Janis and the Beatles and the Stones. And there are so many kids today who do, too. Not only that, but, like Ann said, Janis is a figure that so many teenage girls can relate to, who serves both as an idol and a cautionary tale. I think that teens are going to love this book, whether they pick it up on their own or are gifted it by someone who grew up in the 60s.

Oooh, and I finally got to meet the fabulous Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, who are so lovely and gracious and asked to take a picture with me which made me feel so special! If you haven't read their books yet, get on that!

I could write an entire post on the Zombies vs. Unicorns panel. It was a blast. I was there so so late, and it was so fun to see friends and local authors like April Lurie, Brian Yansky, and Varian Johnson shine alongside fantasy writers from out of town like Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier. Perhaps the best thing I took from this panel was Justine's argument for team zombie. Justine says that zombies could make a huge impact on green energy. All we have to do is put them on treadmills, hook them up to a generator, and dangle some meat in front of them. They'll shamble for eternity while powering our cities. Brilliant!

I'm pretty psyched to read ZOMBIES VS. UNICORNS. And I'll give props to Scott Westerfeld, Dana Reinhardt, Matt de la Peña, Meg Cabot and the whole crew, who made me laugh really, super hard.

So anyway, I had a pretty awesome time at the festival! I heard a rumor that K.A. Holt is going to tell you all about Day Two of TBF on Thursday, but she might also get eaten by a pack of wild children or, like, el chupacabra between now and then, so anything is possible!


MissAttitude said...

Wow sounds like a blast! I really want to read Zombies vs. Unicorns. I was totally Team Unicorn simply from reading Rampant but hmm I like Justine's arguement :) And Would have loved to hear from Varian Johnson too.

I have to disagree with Laurie Halse Anderson though. If I see one more book about slavery I might scream. As a Black teenager, I'm tired of that being the only representation I seem to get in literature. Not exactly a proud moment in history for either of us and while I'm sure Chains is fabulous (haven't read it yet but I have read and really liked other Anderson books), I don't agree with the idea that we shouldn't just move on. It shouldn't be glossed over, but (at least in literature) it can be talked about less frequently.

Pk Hrezo said...

Wow! Great recap! Wish I could've been there. I love that someone wrote a book about Janis for today's teens! I discovered her when I was in my early twenties and I was floored by how amazing she was. Coolness has a way of finding every generation (just like good music) and Janis is an American icon. Can't wait to read it!

Anonymous said...

Hi, E,

So glad to see you at the True Grit panel and to hear your excellent question! You are a brilliant artist and you will be recognized.

Miranda said...

Of course teens know who Janis is!! That is all. :)

Anonymous said...

Why, ye gods, did I not know about the Janis book?? Excuse me while I run to the bookstore....

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