Books I Love: Day One at YALLWEST
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This past weekend, I attended the first annual YALLWEST, an amazing young adult book festival in Santa Monica, California. This sister festival of YALLFEST hosted dozens of incredible and accomplished authors. It was an awesome event and I’m so glad I decided to trek from NYC to California to enjoy it and to celebrate my love of books.
In case you wondered why a 40-something woman (I) went, here’s why: 1) I am obsessed with books, primarily young adult books (with an occasional middle grade book or two mixed in); 2) I’m currently writing my first young adult novel and love learning about the craft of fiction writing and different elements of the fiction business; 3) I welcome any opportunity to mix and mingle not only with teens and book bloggers who love books, but with other writers, not to mention authors (I’ve become a real FANGIRL), agents, editors and even filmmakers.
I attended several interesting panels and can honestly say I enjoyed each and every one and learned a lot in the process.
In the Keynote, Ransom Riggs (pictured below) shared his ideas on how to become a writer. He said it’s possible to become a writer once you figure out what you’ll write about and where your ideas will come from. He told the audience a great story about he became interested in old photographs, some that had something written on them, others that did not. He said seeing all the photos sparked stories into his head. It’s clear that whatever he’s doing is working for him because he’s the bestselling author of several books including Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.
In another session called My Name is _______ and I am a Basket Case, several authors, including one of my very favorites, Stephanie Perkins (pictured with Lauren Oliver below), shared their personal stories about dealing with ADHD, anxiety, and depression in the context of their creative and highly successful work. Other panelist including Margaret Stohl, Libba Bray, Rachel Cohn, Kami Garcia, and Richelle Mead offered some thoughts and practical advice for teens including the following:
To talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a loving friend;
To practice positive self talk;
To have compassion and empathy for yourself and for others;
To keep a feelings journal;
To realize that just because you have _____ (fill I the blank with ADHD, depression, etc.) doesn’t mean that’s your whole story; it’s just one dimension of who you are.
I admire all of these incredibly accomplished women for being honest about their struggles and for showing teens that even if you’re successful—e.g. you’re a New York Times’ bestselling author and/or have had your books sold in dozens of languages—it doesn’t mean you’re immune to struggles or having doubts about yourself and your abilities. The authors also added ideas to help teens when they’re in a funk e.g. to do yoga, call a good friend, volunteer, run, make music, have a Downton Abby marathon, or, heck, even rescue kittens.
In another session called, So You Want to Be a Writer, several top agents and editors shared advice for aspiring authors. Here were some of their tips before querying an agent or editor:
*Try to craft one great sentence that distills the important ideas in your book;
*A query shouldn’t include a ton about you; have it focus more on the main character and her conflict;
*You might want to rethink starting a query with a question; instead, include two or three sentences about the book;
*If you want to write a series of books, make the first one super strong; don’t leave things over for the second or third books.
One of the highlights of my day was meeting (and crying in front of, but more on that later) Wyck Godfrey (we are pictured below), producer of The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS) and the new film that I can’t wait to see, The Longest Ride. Seeing Godfrey on the agenda, I immediately found him on twitter and tweeted him to see if he’d be kind enough to do a short interview with me for my blog. He emailed me back right away (nice guy!) and a few hours later we met just after the session, The Hollywood Story, for which he was a panelist alongside Rob Minkoff (director, The Lion King) and several notable Hollywood storytellers.
So why did I cry when I met Wyck Godfrey? I wanted to meet him not only because I loved TFIOS, but because I wanted him to thank him for making the movie and to let him know it quite literally changed the trajectory of my career and my life in so many ways. After my mother suffered from a significant brain bleed and a 5 week hospitalization (ICU/rehab), I lost some of my mojo, both professionally and personally. At the end of the movie, when the credits rolled, I pointed to the screen, turned to my husband, and said, “That is what I want to do.” I didn’t know if “That” meant I wanted to make a movie, write a screenplay, or write a novel. But I knew in that moment I needed to do something to help people feel in a way similar to how that movie made me feel. In the ten months since, I’ve been working on my young adult novel, have read a ton of young adult books (and an occasional middle grade book), have taken a few writing classes, have gone to a writing retreat (at the amazing Vermont College of Fine Arts), have attended several book signings, and will attend as many conferences as my schedule and my family permit.
I also said hello to New York Times best selling authors, E. Lockhart and Danielle Paige, after their enjoyable panel on retelling fairytales. I also saw two other lovely authors: Jennifer Niven (All the Bright Places–see Part One and Part Two of my interviews with her) and Holly Goldberg Sloan, author of the wonderful middle grade book, Counting By 7s (stay tuned for my upcoming interview with her). Last but not least, I met the terrific John “Corey” Whaley, author of Where Things Come Back and Noggin. (Incidentally, I just ordered both of his books on Amazon and plan to interview him for my blog VERY soon).
For more about YALLWEST, click here.
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