Sunday, April 13, 2008

Writers & Readers -- Jay

From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., I spent this past Saturday with two different sides of this crazy business...first with writers, then with readers.

At the Los Angeles SCBWI Writer's Day, I sat in a packed gym, listening to other authors share their tips and experiences. Cecil Castelluci, as usual, was hilarious (making me slightly nervous about speaking on a panel with her at the upcoming L.A. Times Festival of Books). I also bought a couple Gail Carson Levine books and had them autographed as being for me!

Most importantly, I discovered the theme for this summer's SCBWI national conference theme party. (Past parties are where we earned the nickname The Disco Mermaids.) Ready to hear it? Paint the Town Red. And yes, we've already started brainstorming costume ideas.

After Writer's Day, I sat in on a meeting of the Vroman's Bookstore teen galley group. The group meets monthly to discuss new and upcoming books, giving Vroman's a good idea of which books to really push. A lot of indie bookstores have teen galley groups, and I recommend that every YA writer attend at least one...for two reasons.

First, you'll get some great insight into what bugs teens about a lot of YA lit.: freshmen characters who are too cool for freshmen, the overuse of prophecies in fantasy, storylines that can easily be defined as "one of those books on divorce", present-tense narration...unless it's done really well, the overuse of sex as a plot device, and misleading covers and summaries.

And second, you'll get some good tips on which books you should read. Here are some books this group loved: Not Like I'm Jealous or Anything, My Most Excellent Year, Project 17, Life as it Comes, Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Stuart Little, The White Giraffe, Theodosia and the Serpents of Chaos, Fancy White Trash, and Thank You, Lucky Stars.

By the way, in the photo above, most of the group members are flashing the Awkward Turtle sign...but it's kind of difficult to describe the complex rules of its use. Just be aware that there are also signs for the Awkward Moose, the Awkward Ostrich, and a few other animals. Unfortunately, my head got chopped off in this photo. Just assume that I'm doing my own interpretation of the Awkward Turtle.

After several in the group had to leave, some stayed behind and...Wow! For about an hour, I listened to them discuss Thirteen Reasons Why in extremely fine detail. They talked about character motivation, discussed the ideas of blame, guilt, innocence, and revenge, quoted passages to prove points, and made me feel so inspired.

And then someone mentioned a rumor that the book originally had a different ending. I confirmed that rumor, and they asked me to tell them about it. I hesitated. But then, they started begging. I mean, really begging...

So did I tell them? Of course!

But when they asked what my next book is about, I told them it's a pop-up book about bunnies going through a divorce...written in the present-tense.

- Jay


Clair said...

Hi Jay! (And other Mermaids. But mostly Jay. No offense.) Talking to you yesterday was absolutely amazing. Still can't believe I was actually there. I just wanted to thank you again for coming to talk with us... it REALLY added to our meeting.
-Clair (1st bower from left)

Disco Mermaids said...

Holy Crap, dude!

What a great day. Wish I could have been there with you. Sounds like you did just fine without your extra flippers supporting you. But we missed out!

The galley group idea is fascinating. I'm going to start attending those monthly. Seriously, there's no better way to get to know your audience.

Present tense, huh? But I love present tense. No? Not cool? Good to know!


Janelle said...

haha thats brilliant.

i wish i had stayed longer...

hmm im that one awkward asian on the farthest left in the group picture

i feel so special that my divorce book opinions in it!!
haha :]

thank you osooo much for comingg!!
hope to see you again?!


genekellylova823 said...

Hi Everyone!!

Yestersay seems like dream. I can't believe that Jay was actually there, and talking notes on what we were saying an everything.

Discussing Thirteen Reasons Why was PURE heaven. Talking and laughing with Clair, Lummy, Vesta and Jay was the most fun I've ever had. And doing it with my closest friends made it even more fun. I hope you can come back! I'll be sure to bring the Rent Bible next time. Haha.

Robin, Eve, you guys are more than welcome to attend our meetings as well. Our next one is May 10.


Clair said...

Yes, having all or any of the group at a meeting again would be amazing (but only if you REALLY feel like roadtripping it to be there, because I'm assuming you all live in the same general vicinity as Jay)

Disco Mermaids said...

I've been talking about your galley group since I got back. Honestly, it was one of the highlights on my journey as a published author.

Thank you for letting me sit in on your meeting!

- Jay

Mac McCool said...

Add a giant rolling boulder in the funny bunnies going through a divorce book, Jay, and you've got pure gold! Haha!

Great to see you at Writer's Day, and you've got all my best vibes for book 2, mate. You'll rock, I know it!

Paige & CJ said...

You so make me laugh!!!!! I love reading the blogs....!!!!!


Yee-Lum said...

It be Lummy (the one with the striped shirt and weird expression who was too embarassed to bow to Jay Almighty)!

Let me tell you, that was the AWESOMEST THING EVER. To be able to discuss one of the best books ever with the person who wrote it was seriously cool.

So seriously cool, in fact, that I had a fledgling-journalist compulsion to record all one hour and 12 minutes of it. We had our share of awkward turtle moments, didn't we? =]

Best. Day. Ever. Thanks so much for coming and talking to us, Jay.

And to the other (and equally awesome) Disco Mermaids: Please do visit us if you ever find yourselves in the area on meeting days. You wouldn't believe how much we'd love to have you.


Rita said...

I am intrigued by this awkward turtle. Must learn more.

I am also going to look up every one of those recommended books that I haven't read already. Sweet!

Great to see you at Writer's Day, as usual, Jay! (Good thing Greg clued me in, in advance, for Robin and Eve's absence, or I might have fallen to pieces.) Writer's Day pics are up now, by the way. :)

I saw you and Cecil Castelluci on the lineup for the LA Book Fest. Chances are, I will see you there! :D