It was Saturday afternoon and I was having a wonderful lazy time in my bed because come on, I’m not going to actually do anything outside when it’s 103 degrees out! I was on the phone with my mom, as is our Saturday custom, and I was also scrolling through book Twitter. (Whoops, sorry, mom.) I saw a tweet from Anica Mrose Rissi that there was an event happening at my library! In 30 minutes! An author panel! I was like, “Sorry mom, gotta go, there are bookish things happening downtown.” Luckily for me, my mother is one of the main reasons I love reading so much and she totally understood. She told me to go get dressed (even from a thousand miles away, she knew that I was in my pajamas at 4:00 in the afternoon) and go have fun.
I got to the library and there were only like three people in the community room! I would’ve thought I was in the wrong place if not for all the book posters on the walls. I thought to myself, wow, I’m 28 and I’m basically the only person at this event for teenagers, awkward. But people slowly started filtering in. I was definitely the oldest person there until this middle-aged couple noisily burst in halfway through and the woman yelled at me to move over so she could sit down even though there were at least thirty other empty seats in the room. But okay, sure, welcome to New Jersey. She also gave me a dirty look every time I pulled out my phone, but excuse me for forgetting paper and a pen when I rushed out of the house. I just wanted to take some notes!
Now, I’d read exactly zero books by any of the featured authors, but as we all know, The Astonishing Color of After has been on my nightstand for literally forever (well, since March, but still). I also have a copy of Always Forever Maybe somewhere in the mail system, so hopefully I’ll be reading it soon. Really, though, I’m not going to turn down the chance to hear people talk about books.
Behold, the extent of my photos. I should’ve sat closer to the front,
but I wanted to save those seats for the actual Young Adults that the event was for. 🙂
Anyway, it was so much fun! I mean, I wish I would’ve been there with someone who likes books as much as me, but still. I had fun. The authors who attended were…
- This well-known author is actually the librarian at my public library? The one I lived right down the street from for five years? The very same library that I have patronized since 2013? EXCUSE ME?
- I loved that she addressed one of the main criticisms of her books: the unlikable female narrators. She explained that this was a conscious decision after The Year of Shadows was heavily criticized for its protagonist being too angry, too unfriendly, too sarcastic. Claire feels that her protagonist responded really realistically to her circumstances, but society has a problem with girls who don’t smile and nod and go with the flow. Basically, this just made me want to read her books even more.
- Her first draft of Furyborn was 347k words and as she says, “no book should be that long.”
- Two of her writing influences are A Wrinkle in Time and His Dark Materials.
• Emily X.R. Pan, author of The Astonishing Color of After.
- She told an amazing story about her grandmother’s life, which I could not even begin to do justice.
- She was worried about including a lot of Buddhist references in her book but was pleasantly surprised by all of the positive feedback she got.
- She used to write Harry Potter fanfiction, but we’re not allowed to go looking for it!
- In middle school, she was really interested in non-fiction books about the Holocaust, to the point that her teacher asked her if she was okay.
- Two of her writing influences are Celeste Ng and Kelly Loy Gilbert.
• Anica Mrose Rissi, author of Always Forever Maybe.
- Anica talked about how the idea for the book came about based on her understanding of popular media when she was younger versus her understanding of it as an adult. (I can definitely relate to this.) Some male leads that were seen as swoony and romantic back in the day are, looking back, kind of terrifying and definitely stalkers. She wanted to expand upon that in her novel and I can’t really tell you if she did because I haven’t read it yet, but I am so excited to pick it up.
- She also talked about the idea of “millennial lit” as opposed to “YA,” and I have to say that it’s an interesting concept. The idea is that these days, YA is being marketed more toward people my age than it is to people who are actual Young Adults. Publishers aren’t courting the teenagers they say the books are for, but the twenty-somethings who review them. This is something I definitely want to look into and learn more about.
- Two of her writing influences are Tiffany Jackson and Maureen Johnson.
• Nisha Sharma, author of My So-Called Bollywood Life.
- I want to be best friends with Nisha, who keeps the drafts of her books that will never see the light of day in a box under her bed. Why does this sound like something I would do?
- Her book is set in a fictionalized version of my town!
- She talked about how she was encouraged to change her love interest from South Asian to white because it would be more “relatable” for white readers, who might not understand or see themselves in a romance between two South Asian leads. I love her response to that, which was something along the lines of, “South Asia has an overpopulation problem. Do we not deserve our own love stories?”
- She also wrote a dissertation which I would totally like to read about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice as the blueprint for the modern alpha male.
- Two of her writing influences are Pride and Prejudice and Nancy Drew.
• Laurie Harrison, co-author of Every Shiny Thing.
- She talked about middle-grade books and the distinction between middle-grade and YA. As a former teacher, she noticed that her students were more likely to “read up” and were hesitant to pick up a MG book with a childish cover. She considers this book to be “upper middle grade” and suitable for ages 12-14.
- I don’t read a lot of MG, but I do want to read this book because of the little excerpt that Laurie read!
- Two of her writing influences are Goodbye Stranger and Just As Long As We’re Together.
- Cordelia talked about co-writing a book and how it works. The whole process sounds like so much fun, but I am not a writer!
- Two of her writing influences are The Prince of Tides and I’ll Give You the Sun.
The panel was also moderated by Megan McCafferty, who was one of my favorite authors when I was in high school, so my sixteen-year-old self might’ve been fangirling just a bit from being in the same room with her.
- Have I really been lamenting the fact that there’s no music in New Jersey while simultaneously ignoring the fact that a million authors are my neighbors? What’s the matter with me? Why didn’t I know that all these amazing people lived here until right now?
- I can’t believe that my newspaper didn’t put this event in the Friday edition! So rude!
- I was too old (infinite tears) for the author selfie station and the meet and greet, but I will acknowledge the fact that I am definitely not a Young Adult anymore.
- From what I could tell based on the panel, all of the authors are absolutely delightful. I want to be friends with all of them and also read all of their books.
- I want to go to every author event ever now.
Have you attended any panels or author events? Which one has been your favorite?
Do you want to go to the next one with me? Let’s talk in the comments!