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April 23, 2014

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Teen Authors Take Over Big Apple

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David Levithan, Alaya Johnson, Holly Black, Robin Wasserman, and Lev Grosman at the NYPL.

You know spring has come to New York City when authors of books for teens start to pop up all around the Big Apple. This year was no exception—close to fifty authors gathered last week for a series of interactive events known as the NYC Teen Author Festival. Now in its fifth year, the festival is the brainchild of author and Scholastic editor David Levithan, whose latest book is Every Day (Random House, 2012).

Levithan coordinates the authors to appear in libraries, schools, and bookstores around the city to read from their books and discuss such topics as “Alternate and Imaginary Worlds,” “Engaging Truth through YA Literature,” and “Nature, Nurture, and Paranormalcy” in a series of innovative panel discussions.

A highlight of the festival this year was “Imagination: A Conversation,” at the iconic New York Public Library on 42nd street, a discussion between authors Holly Black, Lev Grossman, Michelle Hodkins, Alaya Johnson, and Robin Wasserman, who revealed that such activities as driving, showers, and a Korean sauna were aids that helped them in their various creative processes.

Teen Author 2998 s1 300x225 Teen Authors Take Over Big AppleFantasy author Holly Black—whose latest novel Doll Bones (S&S) comes out in May—also said that she has to corner a friend during the writing of her books to talk out plot and character issues. Michelle Hodkins told how she discarded five drafts before completing her first book, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer (S&S, 2011). And Lev Grossman confessed that he “cannot write without the crutch of another writer,” noting that he needs to read other authors while he is writing his own books.

When answering a question on creating and developing characters, Robin Wasserman, author of The Book of Blood and Shadow (Random House, 2012) amused the audience by describing how her friend, Holly Black, develops characters as Black sat by quietly. (Watch the embedded clip below.)

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Alissa Grosso and Jacquelyn Mitchard at the NYPL.

Another highlight of the week was a gender-related panel on Friday afternoon called “He Said, She Said.” During the Levithan-moderated discussion—which included Ted Goeglein, Lucas Klauss, Gordon Korman, E. Lockhart, Carolyn Mackler, Sarah Mlynowski, Michael Northrop, and Leila Sales—the even mix of male and female authors were challenged to rewrite well-known “boy” books to be “girl” books, and vice-versa.

Ted Goeglein’s rewrite of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (Delacorte, 2001) became The Brohood of the Traveling Condoms, with entertaining scenarios of why condoms went unused, while Leila Sales suggested a female version of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet (Antheneum, 1987), a story about lady problems while in the wilderness.

Later on Friday, getting pregnant, dealing drugs, and flipping off the whole school from the auditorium stage were some of the bad choices the authors discussed in a panel entitled “YA Characters Dealing with Bad and Unexpected Choices.” The six authors—Caela Carter, Eireann Corrigan, Alissa Grosso, Terra Elan McVoy, Jacquelyn Mitchard, and K.M. Walton—attempted to answer how they made their characters make the wrong choices.

Corrigan, author of the Believing Game (Scholastic, 2012), explained that in her day job as a dean in a private school, she sees students make the wrong choices all the time. Mitchard, author of What we Saw at Night (SoHo Teen, 2013) and mother of two teen girls, explained that “the emotional geography is smaller for teens” and that short-term rewards take precedent over long-term consequences.

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K.M. Walton, Eireann Corrigan, Terra Elan McVoy, Caela Carter, Alissa Grosso, and Jacquelyn Mitchard.

The events attract all sorts of fans last week, with some attending several of the week’s events and others picking and choosing.

Shoshana Seid-Green, 25, who has been a fan of Gordon Korman and E. Lockhart since she was a teen, made sure to catch the “He Said, She Said” panel on Friday, she told School Library Journal.

Five years ago at the first NYC Teen Author Festival, Tiffany Schmidt brought her high school students from Pennsylvania to attend; this year she joined the programming as a member of Saturday’s “New Voices Spotlight” talking about her debut book, Send Me a Sign (Walker, 2012), a story about a girl dealing with a bout with cancer. The week concluded with a mega-signing at the Books of Wonder bookstore with 47 authors.

Robin Wasserman discusses Holly Black’s character development:

Alaya Johnson discusses character development:

Rocco Staino About Rocco Staino

Rocco Staino @RoccoA is the retired director of the Keefe Library of the North Salem School District in New York. He is now a contributing editor for School Library Journal and also writes for the Huffington Post.

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