This past Saturday I was fortunate enough to attend a stop on the Spring 2014 Fierce Reads tour.
I’ve been blogging now for just over two years, and this is actually the first big author signing I’ve attended. To be fair, I did get to see Lois Lowry this past winter, but the event she was at was more focused on her work The Giver and its various adaptations over the years. The Fierce Reads event was more promotional, more current, and - dare I say it? - more fun.
The authors in attendance for my leg of the tour were Emmy Laybourne (author of the Monument 14 trilogy), Ava Dellaira (author of Love Letters to the Dead), Jennifer Mathieu (author of The Truth About Alice), and Leigh Bardugo (author of The Grisha trilogy).
I’m already a big fan of The Grisha trilogy, and I had received an advance copy of Love Letters to the Dead before I knew that the tour would be stopping near the Milwaukee area. I also was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of The Truth About Alice, so I was 3 for 4 in terms of my familiarity with the authors and their works, which definitely increased my enjoyment overall.
The entire event was conducted in a question and answer format. First a proctor led the discussion and asked questions to the four authors. After she moderated the event for a while, the floor was opened up to viewer questions.
I took some notes, and thought I’d share some of the better moments that were more unique to my tour stop. (Disclaimer: these are paraphrased. I’m not that fast a writer.)
What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Leigh Bardugo said that for the past few years all she’s primarily done has been writing and promoting her works. If she had free time, she said she’d “wallow in [her] misery.” After receiving some laughs, she became a little more serious and revealed her addiction to craft fairs and how some sometimes goes on writing retreats.
Jennifer Mathieu said that right now “[her] life is teaching, writing, and [her] family.” She’s a high school English teacher and has a husband and young son. She told us that she loves her life this way.
Ava Dellaira gave us a list of things she enjoyed doing, from reading, binge-watching television series, and long walks on the beach. Her response prompted the others to ask if she was writing up an online dating site profile.
Emmy Laybourne told us that she and her husband are really into playing board games. She listed Settlers of Catan, Pandemic, and the DC Deck Building Game in particular. She then questioned whether the term “gamer” also applies to people who enjoy non-video games (it was agreed upon that it does).
What were your favorite books growing up?
Emmy Laybourne said: the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder; My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George; The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White
Ava Dellaira said: also the Little House series; L. Frank Baum’s Oz books; The Babysitters Club series by Ann M. Martin; Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
Jennifer Mathieu said: also the Little House series and The Babysitters Club series; Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White; The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton; While in college, Jennifer enjoyed reading the works of novelist/literary journalist Joan Didion.
Leigh Bardugo said: she was very into the original Grimms’ fairy tales; Many Moons by James Thurber; A Wrinkle in Time and A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle; the Dragonlance series by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman; Stephen King’s works; Dune by Frank Herbert while in high school.
Which of your characters is most like you?
Leigh Bardugo feels like all of her characters are a bit like her, but referred to Zoya as her spirit animal.
Jennifer Mathieu picked two of her novel’s narrators: Kurt and Kelcie. She likes how Kurt is “the one sort of bright light for Alice.” She also found a lot of her teenage self in Kelcie because, like Kelcie, Jennifer was really insecure in high school and had a hard time fitting in.
Ava Dellaira went with her story’s protagonist, Laurel. She then became poetically profound and told us how, for her, writing this book was a way of figuring out how to be the author of her own life. It mirrors a line of Laurel’s from the novel.
Emmy Laybourne also went with her novel’s protagonist, Dean.
What is the best part about writing for teens?
All authors said that the teen readers themselves are the best aspect of their jobs.
Emmy Laybourne told us how she loves connecting with her readers through social media and hearing of them connecting with her stories.
Ava Dellaira thinks that the teen years are such an important time in one’s life, where you have the opportunity to look back towards childhood and ahead towards adulthood. She said the teenage years are that moment of being on the brink.
Jennifer Mathieu said that adolescence leaves its mark on all of us, for better or for worse.
Leigh Bardugo told us how books were personally so important for her as a teen and she liked to re-read her favorites. She hopes her books can have a similar influence on even one teen reader.
What advice would you give to aspiring YA authors?
Emmy Laybourne believes that writers shouldn’t simultaneously try to create and judge their works. She explained how doing that is “like putting your foot on the pedal and the brake at the same time.” She’s an advocate of getting your story written down first.
Ava Dellaira thinks that writers should “try to protect [their stories] from the outside world for as long as possible.” She explained that’s what she did with Love Letters, and that’s how she knew she was serious about this novel.
Jennifer Mathieu advised that anyone who wants to be a writer also has to be a reader. She also advocated putting away our phones and really absorbing the world around us.
Leigh Bardugo said that “there’s no expiration date on your talent.” She explained how we tend to put so much weight on our first books, but none of us just has one story within ourselves. And, at the end of the day, it’s all about your story - your age doesn’t matter.
|Meeting Leigh Bardugo!|
Leigh Bardugo gave an impassioned argument in defense of reading (and writing) for teens. It was very reminiscent of the article “In Defense of Young-Adult Fiction” that she posted to Refinery 29 the day before, so I didn’t take notes on it. But do read Leigh’s post - it’s really well-articulated and I completely agree.
She also recommended reading Gwenda Bond’s piece in response to Graham’s article.
Emmy Laybourne added that people who simply judge and critique the works of others are themselves cut off from their own creativity. It was definitely some food for thought.
While discussing the benefits of reading and writing books marketed for teens, Jennifer Mathieu said what has become my favorite quote of the entire event: “Everybody has a story inside of them and if you heard it, it would break your heart.”
No hearts were broken at this event, but it was amazing to see so many people gathered together to celebrate the YA literary community.
To show my own appreciation of the amazing community of YA readers and writers, I put together a giveaway for one lucky reader. Included in this prize pack are:
- a signed hardcover edition of The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu
- a Fierce Reads tour poster signed by all four authors in attendance
- a Fierce Reads tote bag
- assorted swag
This giveaway is for readers with a valid U.S. address (sorry, international friends!). The winner has 48 hours to respond to my email before I pick another.
To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter below. Good luck!a Rafflecopter giveaway
If you’ve stuck with me the entire time: congratulations! You’re awesome. I hoped you enjoyed reading this!