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Recap: Texas Teen Book Festival 2014

In which we take a journey to YA Heaven.

Recap: Texas Teen Book Festival 2014

Last Saturday, I got to attend the Texas Teen Book Festival (previously the Austin Teen Book Festival). This year’s festival was held on the campus of St. Edward’s University in Austin. This venue reminded me of the thing I miss about college the least: everything is SO FAR apart. Along with 15 other members of the FYA Austin book club (four of whom were moderators), and bus loads of kids from around the state, we got to attend panels featuring some of of today’s hottest YA authors. If you had the patience of a saint, and a lot of sunscreen, you could also wait in lines to buy books and have them signed by your faves.

The day began with our own Posh Deluxe leading the Texas Throwdown Game Show, which pitted attending authors against each other on competing teams. A little friendly competition enlightened us as to who could kick our butt at karaoke (Joelle Charbonneau) and who is the Chubby Bunny champion (Jason Reynolds).

The first panel I attended was Come On Feel the Noise, featuring: Frank Portman (author of the King Dork series), Len Vlahos (The Scar Boys), Gayle Forman (Just One Year), and Kevin Emerson (Exile). The authors talked about how music integrates with their stories, and what it means to them personally. We learned that the song “Falling Slowly” from the movie Once, really speaks to Gayle, which explains why her books make me sob. We learned that Len used to be in a band called Woofing Cookies, Frank was in a band called the Mr. T Experience, and you can see Kevin singing in a Swedish commercial.

Len Vlahos, Gayle Forman, moderator Posh Deluxe, Kevin Emerson, and Frank Portman, post-panel.

The next panel we attended was A Conversation with A.S. King and Andrew Smith. The authors talked about their new books (Amy's Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future and Andrew's 100 Sideways Miles), as well as their close friendship. They've been known to have three hour long phone conversations, which they refer to as “playing golf,” and they’ve been wanting to write a book together for a long time. When asked about recent articles criticizing adults for reading YA, both authors admitted to not writing books specifically with the young adult genre in mind, they just write the story they need to tell. Asked to give examples of books that spoke to their inner teen selves, Andrew named Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and Amy chose Andrew’s book, The Marbury Lens.

Also, Andrew said that the best writing advice Amy has given him is, "Don't spill your whiskey."

A.S. King and Andrew Smith with moderator, Jen Bigheart.

Next up was the Stakes are High, Tensions Run Higher panel. This panel featured authors: Paolo Bacigalupi (The Doubt Factory), Becca Fitzpatrick (Black Ice), Alaya Dawn Johnson (Love is the Drug), Lauren Oliver (Rooms), and Jason Reynolds (When I Was the Greatest) discussing how they create tension and suspense within their novels. They all like to play with how societal pressures can impact their characters and sometimes cause them to make bad decisions. But Lauren claims to not actually sit around purposely planning endings that will make her readers cry or get angry. Alaya, who revealed that she is a huge Veronica Mars fangirl (PREACH), said that watching season one of Veronica Mars made her want to research how to write mysteries. I was especially fascinated when the authors talked about how they all use socio-economics in some way in their stories, because money (either having it, or not having it) is one way to drive tension.

The last panel of the day for me was From Shelf to Screen. Ransom Riggs (Hollow City) moderated a discussion with James Dashner (The Maze Runner series), Gayle Forman (If I Stay), and Kass Morgan (The Hundred series) about adapting their novels for movies and television. Right away, they let us know that they did not get to cast or direct their productions. Which seems like a total rip-off, right? In discussing the necessity for the source material to be altered somewhat, to make the transition to screen, James said that the movie studio was very good about asking him “How much would the fans hate it if we changed this?” Gayle admitted to being hot for Jamie Blackley, the actor cast as Adam in If I Stay. The character of Adam is based on her husband, but the actor is a bit younger. As Kass put it “There’s nothing creepier than your dreams coming true.” All of the authors are comfortable with the adaptations not being completely faithful to their books. James thinks that would make it boring for viewers, and as a viewer herself, Kass said she wouldn’t want to watch 22 episodes straight from her book, always knowing what was going to happen. She would also add a few more shirtless makeout scenes, if she could change anything about her adaptation. I’m sure The 100 recappers here at FYA HQ would have no complaints. Ransom asked what advice they’d give him for his own upcoming screen adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Gayle advised that he enjoy the ride, go to the premiere, and then unplug for the weekend and not let the box office news make him crazy. James agreed that that is excellent advice, but that he could never follow it himself.

The festival closed with Lauren Oliver's keynote, discussing her writing process, her inspiration, characters, and the path she took to becoming a writer.

This festival is packed with so many panels and opportunities to meet and hear authors speak. I wish I’d gotten to go to all of them! It was fascinating to learn more about the authors, their books, and their process, and this was a great chance to discover some new favorite authors. Y’all would not believe how long my to-read list has gotten.

We ended the the long, but awesome day in true FYA Austin book club fashion: more cocktails!

Just a fraction of the FYA Austin attendees. In matching book club shirts. As we do.

So, who's going to join us for next year's field trip?

Kandis Seaver's photo About the Author: Kandis read adult fiction as a teenager and now makes up for it by reading all the YA she can get her hands on. (The swoonier, the better!) She lives in Austin, where she enjoys Wonder Woman collectibles, livetweeting everything, and cocktails with her FYA book club pals. She has never stopped watching Veronica Mars.