At teen press conference, kids grilled finalists on their research, their inspirations, and their editors
The day prior to the award ceremony, 200 secondary school students had the opportunity to grill Alexander, along with the four other finalists in his category, at the NBA Teen Press Conference, probing them on topics ranging from character development to their relationships with their editors.
Now in its 15th year, the press conference, which was held at the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library, is a key event leading up to the NBA ceremony. Alexander, along with Carrie Arcos, Patricia McCormick, Eliot Schrefer, and Steve Sheinkin, took center stage to face their young audience, which had prepped for the event by reading all of the finalists’ books. The event was moderated by Coe Booth, author of Tyrell (2006) and Bronxwood (2011, both Scholastic).
Students from New York City area schools had done their homework before the conference. High schoolers from Brooklyn’s Kamit Preparatory Institute had read Arcos’s debut novel Out of Reach (S&S, 2012), a story of addiction and self-discovery, along with McCormick’s Never Fall Down (HarperCollins 2012), a harrowing tale of the reign of terror in Cambodia by the Khmer Rouge.
Kids from Tompkins Square Middle School were versed in other titles including Sheinkin’s Bomb: The Race to Build―and Steal―the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon (Flash Point/Roaring Brook, 2012) and Schrefer’s Endangered (Scholastic, 2012), a story set in the Congo.
After reading selections from their books aloud, the panel fielded questions. Kids asked Alexander if his drama school experience helped him as a writer. Yes, he said, because actors, like goblins, are superstitious. Responding to the question about how long it takes to write a book, Sheinkin described the amount of research that goes into a nonfiction study such as his.
The inquiry that received the most chuckles from the panel was whether they ever get annoyed with their editors, many of whom were in the audience. The authors, unsurprisingly, danced around the topic.
Schrefer, whose book tells the story of a girl who must save a group of bonobos—pygmy chimpanzees—and herself from a violent coup in the Congo, was impressed by how engaged the students were. McCormick was struck by the depth of the students’ questions, and Arcos was generally thrilled to be in a room of young adult readers.
Each participating student received a press kit featuring biographical information on each author, book summaries, and materials related to the National Book Awards. Following the conference, the finalists autographed books for audience.
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