I had the most amazing opportunity to meet and greet and get to know a couple of authors and listened to the Keynote Speaker at the Austin Teen Book Festival in Austin, Texas. The festival in its fifth year of existence is held every year in downtown Austin where teens from nearby cities like San Antonio and Fredricksburg pile in and teens from Texas as far away as El Paso (like my daughter Shelby) and from out of state come to hear the latest from panels of exciting YA voices.
Panels this year included: "Powers Strange and Perilous" featuring Maggie Stiefvater, Melinda de la Cruz, Lisa Mcmann and others, "Into Hearts of Darkness" with Holly Black, Victoria Scott and Robin Wasserman, "Truth and Consequences" with authors Rob Thomas, Jenny Han, and Sean Beaudoin and panels "I Made You a Mixtape," "Tales of Tomorrow," "Fierce Reads," and "Dark Days." Over 250 authors vied for 42 coveted spots in the festival.
Keynote speaker Maggie Stiefvater opened the event. She was self-deprecating and funny when describing herself as a young girl. Stiefvater told the crowd that she always wanted to be a writer and her dad's reaction to her choice of was, "Oh, and you want to be poor?" (Laughter throughout the audience). She admits, "I was a fearful child...nothing was impossible."
She said, "I have fears...it's just that they are not important." Authors have to play the "What if?" game according to Stiefvater. If you can think of it or dream it, it is possible. She believes as a creative person, "You can imagine all things, both dreadful and creative."
She joked about naming the third book in her series, "Shiver....(long pause), Linger....(another longer pause) Bieber!"
Panels met with teens throughout the day with a lunch with authors Sarah Dessen and Rob Thomas in the Exhibit Hall.
I met up with writer Lisa McMann (Crash and Bang) in the morning. She gave me the scoop on the third book in her series. She said, "I don't think I've told anyone...you're the first to know. It's titled Gasp!" I asked Lisa about her novels. She has written about fantasy, paranormal, visions, dream stealers in novels and short stories. I asked what type of book she would like to do. She said, "I don't think I can write a romance..." She would like to write something with a mystery or a detective type of book.
I asked "What do teen readers tell you/write you/tweet you, that makes you a better writer?" She replied," It inspires me to hear from a teen who says that I wrote a character who has a lot of problems at home. They tell me it makes me feel like I'm not alone...like I belong...I'm not a bad person." With this as inspiration, it's easy to see why Lisa is so successful.
I asked Lisa's opinion why paranormal and dystopian fiction is so popular, and she replied that if a book is about vampires but it still "wows," it will sell. Dystopian fiction is popular because, "...it's a little normal...it's relatable."
I asked Lisa, "Besides writing, what is your next adventure?" She admits her love of cooking shows and she has seriously thought it would be fun to be on a competitive food show like "Master Chef." Lisa's television secret vice is "Survivor" (I guess it's no secret now).
Lisa was charming and gracious. This is one YA writer with personality plus! No wonder teen readers are drawn to her.
Later in the day, I met with S.A. Bodeen (Compound, The Raft, Fallout). S.A. are her initials; she introduced herself as Stephanie. I asked Stephanie why she hadn't written a trilogy or series (like so many others). The sequel to The Compound, Fallout, is just out. Stephanie admitted that she never had planned to write a sequel, but everywhere she went, readers would ask her the same thing, "What happens next?" Stphanie wondered, too. The result is Fallout. She is currently working on a book that is a bit Swiss Family Robinson mixed with "Survivor." I asked her what her next adventure would be, and she said she has a couple of things in the works and will be writing for at least two years.
Three fascinating YA authors--talent to spare--a number of great YA books and many more in the works, what could be better?