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 gifts...one 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.