Last weekend I had the amazing opportunity to cover the library’s Teen Author Fest! There I listened to author discussion panels, tried some writing workshops, and even got the chance to personally interview two YA realistic-fiction authors. Here are my highlights, and a rundown of the day!
The first thing I did was listen to the YA realistic fiction panel, with featured authors S.K Ali, Shalta Dicaire Fardin, Sarah Sahagian, Don Calame, and Alan Cumyn. Local teen moderators, (students from Nepean High School… represent!), asked the group questions that helped the audience get to know the authors on a deeper level. They talked about what it’s really like to be an author; the triumphs of getting published and the struggles in getting there, the real life experiences behind their novels, and what’s coming next! The discussion covered topics such as the powers of social media in the writing profession, (both good and evil), and the pros and cons of film adaptations. There were questions such as “why did you decide to set your book in the states and not Canada?” and “what has been harder, becoming an author or staying one?”. There were some questions you would never see coming too, such as “what is your favourite cheese?”. A big shout out to Claire and Vanessa for moderating and coming up with questions, they did an amazing job!
After the discussion panel, I snuck backstage to pester the authors with even more questions! I interviewed Alan Cumyn, author of Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend, and co-authors Shalta Dicaire Fardin and Sarah Sahagian who wrote Good Girls. The first question I asked was “What was it like when you found out your book was going to be published?”. Cumyn, who wrote for years before getting his first publishing deal, said that he had sent his manuscript for Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend to his agent and was trying not to get his hopes up. After a few rejections, Cumyns agent who had lots of faith in him, told him that “editors can be stupid” and not to give up quite yet. So when his agent finally called him to let him know that he had an offer for the book, they were both very excited. When I asked Sarah and Shalta the same question, Sarah replied that it felt “surreal”! She was at a cupcake shop, trying to cure a bad day with a mini cupcake, when she received the news. She immediately called Shalta and the two were over the moon. The next question I asked the authors was about how many endings they wrote for their novels. Cumyn said that he had been torn between two wildly different endings, but decided on the current one after reevaluating the “spirit of the book”. On why he chose to leave his book with a more open ending, he said “there are no real endings in life, why should there be in books?” and that he considered open endings “a gift to the reader” as they can take the book wherever they want from there. An interesting thing to think about next time you are furious with a book for leaving you with unanswered questions! When I asked Sarah and Shalta the same question, they replied that they knew where the book was headed when they started writing as it is planned for a series.
After my V.I.P trip backstage I went to a writing workshop with author S.K Ali, who wrote Saints & Misfits (a book that I blogged about a few weeks ago!). We did an interesting activity on tone and talked about how it differs between characters in writing. S.K also shared writing tips with us on the “rule of threes” and how to plan your book if you hate planning! She talked about writing a story being like weaving, and that the way you incorporate details, and the amount of times you mention things is important. After S.K Ali’s workshop, I popped into Sarah and Shalta’s where we worked on re-writing our favourite childhood fairytales as modern day stories with feminists twists!
Last but not least, I sat in on the fantasy author panel with authors Erin Bow (The Scorpion Rules), Kristen Ciccarelli (The Last Namsara), and Kai Cheng Thom (Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars). This panel covered such a wide variety of topics, and really got personal about the responsibility of writers in their storytelling. Kai Cheng Thom talked about how Trans characters need to appear more in all the genres, not only in autobiographies. She also talked about how she drew inspiration from “the magical places in the real world” when creating the mystical setting for her book. Kristen Ciccarelli talked about the concept of “anti-heroism”, and how in her opinion “messy” characters are more human, and more believable to read. She talked about how no one is perfect in the real world, and how she tried to stay true to that in her book regardless of the fact that it is fantasy. Erin Bow revealed that her imagination is built off of the books she read as a teen “at the intersection of Star Wars and The Last Unicorn”.
Teen Author Fest was a huge success, and the perfect event for an aspiring author or book lover. A big thank you to all the authors, and everyone who helped organize and orchestrate the day!
Bella Crysler is our Teen Blogger in residence and Teen Advisory Group member from the Carlingwood Branch