25 October 2009

YA Lit:: First Annual Austin Teen Book Festival

Yesterday's amazing Austin Teen Book Festival was truly unique. It was the first time I didn't have to pay an exorbitant conference fee to get a hold of multiple YA authors at once. Yup, that's right. It was all deliciously free (well, I did spend over a hundred dollars in books from Book People, who were warm and awesome). More importantly, it gave attendees of all ages a chance to meet both popular authors and up-and-comers.

So this thing was held at Westlake High School, which is more beautiful and high-tech than many colleges. The festival consisted of book-buying, a keynote speech, 3 panels of your choice, and time to get your stuff autographed. There were also bands playing and some middle school volunteers dressed as zombies doing the Thriller. This was pretty much a full day of YA awesomeness shared with good friend Veronica Goldbach.

The speech::
Okay, I've seen Libba Bray speak before, but she truly was in top form. There were laughs and there were almost tears. She has a very peculiar brand of humor that could rub some the wrong way, but the audience seemed to eat it all up. She had us when she forced her Gnome-tourage (dude dressed as a gnome a la Going Bovine cover) to call her a luminous supervixen. When she spoke of the car accident that almost took her life, you could almost hear contained gasps from the audience. She also gave some of the most memorable lines of the day. I'm totally paraphrasing this: "Some people ask me when I'm going to do a 'real' book, one for adults. And I just say, 'You know, I don't know if I can dumb it down enough for adults.' " HA! I got chills. People hollered. Good times.

Panel 1::
Fantasy with Libba Bray, Justine Larbalestier, Lisa McMann, and Rick Yancey
My one complaint about this panel is that it was poorly moderated. I find that the ones with more structure do a lot better. It really was not the fault of the authors. You could tell they were doing their best. They did grace us with a few thought-provoking statements, though.
  • Upon being asked how to best keep writing YA voices through adulthood, Justine Larbalestier said, "Don't grow up." Apparently many YA authors are pretty juvenile!
  • Rick Yancey talked about an experience early on with his writing. He apologized to his reader-to-be about the content, since he wasn't so confident in it. The response from his reader? "Never apologize for something you should be proud of."
  • There was talk about the process of books being turned into movies. I was pretty surprised when Lisa McMann said that only about 5% of books that are optioned actually end up as films. Libba Bray's Gemma Doyle series was optioned for 3 years but it fell through due to the expense of filming a period piece. Justine also said not to get too down if your book-turned-movie ends up sucking. It's out of your hands and she considers it a 90-minute ad for the book anyway.
Panel 2::
Real YA Voices with Matt de la Pena, Deb Caletti, and Terra Elan McVoy
This panel was probably my favorite because it felt very intimate. The moderator asked some good questions, and the audience seemed to be perfectly enthralled. Also, much of the conversation was about writing and how to be a good writer. Wonderful stuff here.
  • Deb Caletti affirmed that if being a writer is what you are meant to be, it will happen. Do not be afraid to become what you are.
  • Terra Elan McVoy said she loves teens because they're both living through the most amazing and the suckiest time ever. Tip: Don't just read what you like. If you just read vampire novels, you're just going to learn to write about vampire novels. So read stuff you don't like and analyze why you don't like it. Be an active reader and pay attention. Take it apart to see what works and what doesn't.
  • Matt de la Pena impresses with his good advice and youthfulness (he kinda looks like a high school student). Reading poetry is good for novelists because it can teach you about the sparseness of writing. Don't write books about yourself in the most flattering light. Take the worst version of yourself and run with it. When writing characters, it's not your job to diagnose them. List the symptoms and let the reader take care of the rest. Read a lot but also read the world. Learn from it.
Panel 3::
Local Authors with Jennifer Ziegler, Varian Johnson, Shana Burg, and April Lurie
This panel was conducted in the most labyrinthine part of the school, it seemed. It was not the best layout but it was a wonderfully touching panel nevertheless, and moderated particularly well by a librarian. I knew very little about these authors, and I wanted to take away something new at the end of the festival.
  • April Lurie is the only author from this panel I was familiar with, and I absolutely love what I've read of The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine. She spoke of being so painfully shy that her classmates thought she was snobby. Her first book, Brothers, Boyfriends, and Other Criminal Minds, was a re-write of her experience obsessing with a boy. Oh, how hearts fluttered while she described her feelings! And hey, that was as good an ad for writing as any. If you're crushing hard and to no avail, write your own version.
  • Speaking of high school crushes, Shana Burg won some serious cred from the audience when she recounted her memory of giving a passionate love letter to her crush. He was inevitably in love with her gorgeous best friend. I really admired her courage to tell it, because it was so embarrassing and real. She really connected with the numerous teens present. Her book A Thousand Never Evers about the Civil Rights movement sounds good, too.
  • As the only male on the panel, Varian Johnson really was the masculine point of view amidst all this romantic talk. And he used it to call boys stupid. Ha! He really wanted the mainly female audience to get the courage to just talk to the boys they want to be with. They are just as confused as girls are. His book, Life as a Rhombus, was one that he really did not want to write. It's about a high school student who tutors a pregnant classmate. I appreciate him implying that sometimes your best writing is what's most difficult to put on the page.
  • Jennifer Ziegler spoke very fondly of being on the 2009 Lone Star Reading List. She said she used that list as a teacher and now she gets to be on it! She "birthed" her novel, How Not to be Popular, and discussed popularity hierarchies in high school. She felt like she wasn't very popular in real-life, but she comes across people who think she was. The message here could very well be that no matter how you feel about your place in the system, others are looking up at you.
There were 4 panels but only time to do 3, so I skipped out on Zombies vs. Vampires with Cynthia Leitich Smith, Daniel Waters, Carrie Jones, and Heather Brewer. It seemed to have plenty of fans, though, so I'm sure they didn't miss me. After the panels were over, it was time to get books autographed. I had over a dozen books and only one hour, and some lines (like the ones for Libba Bray and Heather Brewer) were quite long. With some stealth maneuvering, and the kindness of Veronica and others, I was able to get all of them taken care of. Woot!

And now I end with the surreal moments of the day:
  • I was wearing a Vladimir Tod shirt I got for free at Hudson News in Chicago. People kept calling me the Heather Brewer fan and asking me where I'd bought it. I mean, I read the first book and liked it, but I'd think there are plenty more HB fans in the audience than I was. I felt totally typecast.
  • Carrie Jones was a sweetheart! She seemed honestly thrilled that I loved Tips on Having a Gay (Ex) Boyfriend. I absolutely loved her dedication to me, too. Most authors of a certain popularity level are polite and nice, but detached. I understand that they have to be. Carrie seemed to transcend that and was wonderfully warm with me, even giving me a way to get in touch with her.
  • I asked a question I shouldn't have asked during one of the panels, but I did it because it scared me to death. I only regret it when I forget that I'd never spoken out loud when I get that nervous.
Yeah, this is probably enough to give you a feel for how the festival went. What I loved to hear was that this is the first festival, so hopefully there are plenty more to come!

YA Lit:: 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge Part Quatre

The premise to this book challenge is simple. Just read 12 young adult novels. I've interpreted this 2009 Young Adult Book Challenge as a means to entice me to read more YA novels, the old school way. No audio books, no downloads, nothing. Just my eyes on the page. Aw yeah.

This challenge hasn't been revisited since June, so I have a few books to add, fortunately. This brings my tally to 12 books, meaning I finished the challenge on October 8th. YAY! As usual, the new titles are in italics.

Reasons why each novel below was chosen for this challenge:
  • It was recommended.
  • I'd been meaning to read it for awhile.
  • I had an autographed copy.
  • It was a book written by a friend.
In any case, I'm really pleased to see variety of plots, but especially characters. Some of different ethnicities and sexual orientations. Some with supernatural powers and some without. Some that are horny, some that are funny, and others that have been forced into scathingly horrific situations. Some are just sweet. Many are memorable.

I'm trying to figure out if I want to do these challenges again next year. (I also did a 999 Reading Challenge and an A-Z Reading Challenge. Click on the challenge tag below for more info.) I like showing off the books I've read but this much structure can be hard put up with. Eh. I'll think about it.
  1. The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas

  2. Sucks To Be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire by Kimberly Pauley

  3. Luna by Julie Anne Peters

  4. Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach

  5. Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins

  6. Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle

  7. Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles

  8. Teach Me by R.A. Nelson

  9. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

  10. The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod: Eighth Grade Bites by Heather Brewer

  11. Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

  12. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

20 October 2009

YA Lit:: A-Z Reading Challenge Part Trois

I know signs point to me having forgotten about this challenge, where you read a book for each letter of the alphabet. I just didn't have a whole lot to report since May. The new additions are: F, G, H, N, Q, and Y.

Letters to go: K, U, X, and Z.
Why, oh why, did I read Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston in December of last year? And has it really been that hard to find a book whose title starts with the letter K?

Anyway, here it is! As usual, new entries are in italics.


The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party
, M.T. Anderson


Batman and the Outsiders: The Chrysalis, Chuck Dixon

, Melanie Watt

Dad Runs Away with the Circus, Etgar Keret

Emiko Superstar, Mariko Tamaki

The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan

Granny's Dragon, Lisa McCourt

Have I Got a Book for You, Melanie Watt

Inubaka (vols. 6 & 7), Yukiya Sakuragi

Janes in Love, Cecil Castellucci


Love Roma (vol. 3), Minoru Toyoda

El mejor mariachi del mundo, J.D. Smith

No Regrets: The Best, Worst, & MOst #$%*ing Ridiculous Tattoos Ever, Aviva Yael

Ouran High School Host Club (vol. 1), Bisco Hatori

Plain Janes, Cecil Castellucci

Quien esta detras de esa casa?, Graciela Repun

The Rules of Survival, Nancy Werlin

Something Rotten, Alan M. Gratz

Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling


A Visitor for Bear
, Bonny Becker

Watchmen, Alan Moore


Yotsuba&!, Kiyohiko Azuma


19 October 2009

YA Lit:: 999 Reading Challenge Part Huit

Earlier this year, I took on this 999 Reading Challenge. It basically means that I'm looking to read 9 books in 9 categories in 2009. Some of the categories have changed throughout the year. Just because.

I wish I'd been more specific about some categories, and I wish I'd created more categories for graphic novels. Ha ha. Still, this isn't so great or bad, considering it's the end of the year.

As usual, new entries are in italics.
  • 9 teen books with multicultural characters
    ~The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas
    ~The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 1: The Pox Party, by M.T. Anderson
    ~Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach
    ~The Eternal Smile by Gene Luen Yang and Derek Kirk Kim
    ~Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins
    ~The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation, Vol. 2: The Kingdom on the Waves, by M.T. Anderson
    ~Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
  • 9 teen award-winners (Category finished! 10.08.09)
    ~Japan Ai: A Tall Girl's Adventures in Japan by Aimee Major Steinberger
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Life Sucks by Jessica Abel
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston
    [YALSA's 2009 Great Graphic Novels for Teens]
    ~Luna by Julie Anne Peters
    [National Book Award Finalist, 2004]
    ~Absolutely, Positively Not by David LaRochelle
    [Sid Fleischman Humor Award, 2006]

    ~Sucks to be Me: The All-True Confessions of Mina Hamilton, Teen Vampire (Maybe) by Kimberly Pauley
    [YALSA's 2009 Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers]
    ~One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones
    2005 Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association]
    ~Teach Me by R.A. Nelson
    [2006 New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age]
    ~The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
    [New York Times Notable Children's Book for 2008]
  • 9 graphic novels (Category finished! 05.01.09)
    ~The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci
    ~Janes in Love by Cecil Castellucci
    ~Skim by Mariko Tamaki
    ~Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore
    ~Watchmen by Alan Moore
    ~Awkward and Definition by Ariel Schrag
    ~Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi
    ~American Widow by Alissa Torres
    ~Blankets by Craig Thompson
  • 9 blogs & podcasts
    ~YALSA blog
    ~The YA YA YAs

    ~Stuff You Should Know podcast
    ~Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast

    ~Book Lust with Nancy Pearl podcast

    ~Sound of Young America podcast
  • 9 webcomics
    ~Cyanide and Happiness
  • 9 Overdrive audiobooks
    ~Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
    ~Something Rotten by Alan M. Gratz
    ~The Rules of Survival by Nancy Werlin
    ~True Story by Bill Maher
    ~A Brief Chapter in my Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt
    ~Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr
  • 9 picture books (Category finished! 04.08.09)
    ~Dad Runs Away with the Circus by Etgar Keret
    ~Chester by Melanie Watt
    ~Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
    ~A Visitor for Bear by Bonny Becker
    ~Bad Kitty by Nick Bruel
    ~The Cat's Tale by Doris Orgel
    ~When Randolph Turned Rotten by Charise Mericle Harper
    ~Are You Ready to Play Outside? by Mo Willems
    ~Wink! The Ninja who Wanted to be Noticed by J.C. Phillips

  • 9 non-fiction books
    ~Obama: The Historic Journey by The New York Times
    ~The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein
    ~Barack Obama is Your New Bicycle by Matthew Honan
    ~Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's Firefly by Jane Espenson
    ~The Big Skinny: How I Changed my Fattitude by Carol Lay
    ~The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman
    ~The Impostor's Daughter by Laurie Sandell
  • 9 titles I never thought I'd read
    ~The Coffee Trader by David Liss
    ~The Arrival by Shaun Tan

03 August 2009

YA Lit:: Twitter chats on Tuesdays

Sometimes people love young adult literature so much that they want to gobble it up like No Face in the Hayao Miyazaki film 千と千尋の神隠し (or, as it's known here, Spirited Away). Nom nom nom.

Are you a writer or "writer-to-be" of teen fiction? Then invigorate yourself with the #kidlitchat conversation on Twitter. According to the very follow-able Inkygirl (@inkyelbows), every Tuesday you can join in on a conversation on literature that ranges from board books all the way up to YA lit. It is a moderated chat with actual topics of conversation and everything. All you have to do is show up-- even if it's in your 10-year-old jammies that have been washed so much they're practically see-through.

If you are curious after the conversations are over, you're in luck because you can easily get a transcript of the whole thing, thanks to Monsieur @gregpincus.

I have not yet taken part in this but it doesn't seem like it's too late to start!

Every Tuesday starting July 21st

  • PST: 6 pm
  • MST: 7 pm
  • CST: 8 pm
  • EST: 9 pm
Thanks to nausicaa.net for this wonderful pic of Chihiro and No Face.

26 July 2009

YA Lit:: Barry Lyga's Goth Girl Rising

The comics!
The obsessions!
The insanity!

If you enjoyed Barry Lyga's The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and you have a thing for getting your creative freak on, then you should seriously consider entering this awesome contest that may just get you a signed copy of its sequel Goth Girl Rising.

From what I understand, the sequel will really bring to light exactly why Goth Girl is as effed up as she is.

So bust out your... well, whatever you need to make a book trailer. Or if you're just interested in seeing the trailers that have already been done, feel free to click on the link to "this awesome contest."

25 July 2009

Jumpin' Friday:: Marfa, Fort Davis, and Balmorhea, TX

Welcome to Jumpin' Friday. For those of you not in the know, here is a pretty loose description of what I call a jumpy:

A librarian (me) + a road trip + a library + a camera = a jumpy, or a picture in mid-jump

This road trip was for a destination wedding, and the following pictures show the trip back to San Antonio from Marfa, Texas. Alas, this was on a Sunday so all the libraries we came across were closed.

a) Marfa Public Library
Marfa, TX (06.07.09)

I know, you don't see a library sign here. I swear to you that this is the town library. I know that the locals (there are a little over 2,000 of them) know that this is the library, but I still think there should be more than just a book return in front of the building denoting it as such.

b) Jeff Davis County Library
Fort Davis, TX (06.07.09)

A friend of mine from college was from Ft. Davis and I never, ever thought I'd someday find myself there. Not for lack of wanting to go-- it is absolutely gorgeous-- but it's just so far from home.
I was not disappointed, and there was something lovely about the library there. Maybe it's the fact that it helped produce one of the funniest and most intelligent men I ever met at school. I couldn't help but be thrilled to see this ode to mind travel. YEAH!

And then... there was this...

I'm all about the Boys and Girls Club, and I am all about diversity, even when it's forced. Still, I have to say that the expression on the girl on the far left left me a tad traumatized.

I told my husband, "I think she's going to EAT ME" and... um... uh... yeah. That bat isn't too inviting, either.

I'm totally going to hell for making fun of this.

c) Balmorhea Public Library
Balmorhea, TX (06.07.09)

I have a soft spot for this library even though I've never been inside and I don't have any connection to it. It wasn't in our GPS. I simply happened to see it on the main road, and I had my husband pull a drastic (yet completely responsible) James Bond maneuver. This is one of those cases where a clear library sign led the way.

And because Michael is so amazing every time he captures me in mid-air, I wanted to post this pic I took of him outside the Balmorhea Public Library.

Thank you, my luv!