This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the Decatur Book Festival (outside of Atlanta). In addition to walking around and checking out the vendors, I also had the opportunity to attend two panels: “Past and Future Loves” with Beth Revis and Myra McEntire, and “A Real Girl Conversation About Writing Real Girl Books” with Stephanie Perkins, Jennifer Jabaley, Terra McVoy and Elizabeth Eulberg.
Both panels were entertaining and illuminating. My friend Laura and I both have an interest in YA fiction, so these were the panels we were most excited about, and they didn’t disappoint. Beth and Myra (authors of Across the Universe and Hourglass, respectively), both wrote teen novels with a sci-fi spin. Their talk focused on how to blend romance with action, how they developed new ways to plot time travel and how to organize a story as it’s being written. They also talked extensively about kissing (Myra) and murder and explosions (Beth).
The second panel was completely different. It seems as though YA literature has been completely hijacked by the paranormal (thanks a lot, Twilight). And while there are some really great paranormal teen books out there, after a while you just need to step away from the vampires/werewolves/zombies/whatever and cleanse your palate. So the discussion about Real Girl Books was very refreshing for me. The panelists all talked about their paths to getting published, how to deal with self-doubt when writing and how much of their own lives are present in their books.
I wish that I could tell you what the writers said in more detail, but it would be impossible for me to accurately quote/paraphrase the information (although Laura actually did this pretty well, so head over to her blog for details). Both panels were set up in a loose, conversational style, and essentially turned into chats about each author’s individual process. There’s no way I can recreate the conversations and do them justice. So my suggestion is this:
If you are remotely interested in books or writing (and I assume you are; otherwise, why are you reading this blog?), then I highly recommend attending book and writing festivals in your area. You can learn so much about the industry and the process of writing, and festivals provide wonderful networking opportunities to meet authors, editors, publishing professionals and agents.
At the very least, writers should look into WriteOnCon, a free online writing conference that occurs once a year. The conference is geared toward writers of children’s/YA books (in which the protagonist is under 18), but even if that’s not your area of interest, there are interesting and useful tidbits to be gleaned. For instance, this vlog on failure and success by Beth Revis came from this year’s conference: