Serena Takes Ontario Teen Book Fest (for the Second Time!)

5:38 PM Serena 0 Comments

*As always, book titles are linked to Goodreads.*

Hi, guys! It's been months and months since I've been to a book event, so it's been just as long since Reading Over Sleeping has seen a wrap-up post. But it's book fest season in SoCal (with YALLWest and LA Times Festival of Books coming up), and I've found that there's no better way to start off festival season than with the Ontario Teen Book Fest

I went to Teen Book Fest for the first time last year, and I fell in love with it. It's a small but mighty festival that has definitely grown in size since last year. The staff is very helpful and welcoming, and the fest is well-run. Also, TBF is sponsored by Panera, so, YAY, free lunch! 

This year's poster with the exciting line-up. 
Like last year, I attended TBF with Becca, one of my best friends and my usual book event buddy. We were a little later than we wanted to be, but we had a couple minor mishaps because I don't know how freeways work. But we got there safely, and that's all that matters. 
Myself and Becca, my book event/general life partner in crime, in front of the cute TBF backdrop. 
When we got there, we got "checked in" at the front of the library and got raffle tickets, programs, and wrist bands for lunch. Then we made it inside the theater for introductions. The theater at Colony High School is gorgeous. As a theatre nerd, I flipped out a little. Courtney, the wonderful lady in charge, went through introductions and festival rules, and she raffled off a bunch of book bundles. Then she let the moderators, E. Katherine Kotarras, Sara Santana, and Robin Reul, introduce themselves. 
Sara Santana introducing herself as a moderator/author. 
If you don't know Sara, she's a 2015 debut author, as well as a blogger at What A Nerd Girl Says. I admire her as a blogger, so it was cool to see her as an author. I like it when good things happen to good people. 

Keynotes were next! The three keynote speakers for this year were Jay Asher, Marissa Meyer, and Andrew Smith. 

Jay Asher giving his keynote. 
Jay talked about his entrance into writing (he tried to write kids books first, but he realized he wasn't that great at it) and rejection letters he received for 13 Reasons Why. His thirteenth letter was actually his acceptance. He also talked about the process of co-writing The Future of Us with Carolyn Mackler. 
Marissa Meyer giving her keynote. 
Marissa went next, and her presentation was titled "Fanfiction and Fairy Tales". She recounted her early writing days as a Sailor Moon fanfic writer, her attempt to win an extra role on Star Trek, and her first attempts at original novels. 

Andrew Smith giving her keynote. 
Andrew talked about his teaching life and his author life and how one of his students from a few years ago, a Syrian refugee, inspired The Alex Crow. "Human beings are meaning making story machines," he said. 

After the keynotes, the crowd dispersed for breakout sessions. Becca and I chose to attend the Novel Landscapes: A Science Fiction/Fantasy Mashup session with Stephanie Diaz, Nicole Maggi, Mary Weber, Andrew Smith, and Sara as the moderator. 

The Novel Landscapes panel. 
Question: Is it harder to create a whole new world or set sic-fi/fantasy in this world? 
Stephanie: Contemporary worlds don't make sense to me writing wise because there are so many rules. 
Mary: I like the freedom of not being constrained by the real world. 
Andrew: With sci-fi, you have to work within the boundaries of the real world. Things can be fantastical, but they still have to make sense and be plausible by today's standards. 

Question: What advice would you give for authors who want to start writing fantasy?
S: Pinterest is a good place to start. 
A: The big mistake in genre writing is when the author attempts to explain everything about the world right off the bat. 
N: Build worlds around characters. Make the characters believable first. 
M: I also use Pinterest for inspiration. 

Question: Something along the lines of who or what is your inspiration for writing?
N: Tamora Pierce books. 
S: Susanne Collins, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings. 
M: Marissa Meyer. Mary got her start as a blogger, and she actually interviewed Marissa. They became Internet friends when Mary got published. 
A: Salman Rushdie and Kurt Vonnegut. No one does weird like them. 

Question: What are your best or worst teenage memories? 
A: I was fourteen in the eleventh grade. I had no chance with the girls. 
S: I recorded and produced an album for my senior project in high school, and I performed it at the Battle of the Bands. I was the only solo act, but it was fun. 
N: I was on a trip in Bangkok with my school when I was sixteen. My friend and I ordered cocktails at the bar by the pool and charged them to the band director, and no one ever suspected us. 
M: She told a story about how her now-husband wore a blue morph suit/chicken costume type thing and ran around the school, and he was written up for it. They dated afterwards. 

And then there was a bonus round with audience questions that I didn't take notes for.

Next, we broke for lunch. Panera sandwiches are some of my favorite foods ever, so i was very happy. 

After lunch, it was time for the second breakout session. We went to The State of YA: Veteran and Debut Authors Weigh In panel, with Jay Asher, B.T. Gottfred, Michelle Levy, and Andrew Smith. E. Katherine Kottaras moderated. 
The State of YA panel.
Question: What do you think YA is?
Andrew: YA is not an age group, it's a genre. There are no boy books or girl books. "I just write books for readers," he said. 
Jay: I feel like a very specifically write for teens, especially with 13 Reasons Why. 
Michelle: I write to service the character, no matter the age group. I think we should stop calling YA a genre because it adds to the stigma. 
Brad: I write as if there's a teen inside of me. I would never look at YA like a separate thing for different age groups. 

There were some very good questions about girl books and boy books, diversity, and the stigma surrounding YA fiction asked by both Kathy and members of the audience that created an insightful discussion. I was eating it all up, so I didn't take notes. My favorite quote of the day came from this session, though, when Andrew plainly stated, "I would rather my kids watch porn than go on Goodreads myself." 

After the panel, it was finally time to line up for the giant signing. Attendance was amazing this year, so the lines were longer than last year. 

The line to get into the signing area was super long this year. Exciting!
Sara signing. 
I went to see Sara first. I was lucky enough to grab one of the six copies copies of The Awakened that she was selling, She signed it for me, and she told me how crazy it had been for her to be an actual author at the fest. 

Andrew signing. 
Andrew signed my new copy of Winger for me. I haven't read it yet, so I had nothing to discuss with him. He was very kind though. 

Michelle signing. 
I left Marissa Meyer's line for a bit so Michelle could sign Not After Everything for me. She had ARCs last year, and I knew that I needed to get a copy. 

Me and Marissa.
While Becca got our Jay Asher books signed, I got in Marissa's line, which was the longest at the fest. I met Paige @ The Paige-Turner and her mom in line, and they were both so nice. I loved talking to them. If you don't know Paige, check her blog out. 

We waited in line for about a half hour (which is nowhere near the longest I've ever waited for an author, so it was fine by me) until it was my turn to meet Marissa. We talked about the new Wizarding World of Harry Potter that's opening at Universal Studios, and she is so sweet. She really took her time talking to the readers even though the line was long, which I appreciated. 

It was time to go home (with a quick pit-stop at In-N-Out) after that. It was another fun-filled day at Teen Book Fest, and I can't wait until next year. 

Stay tuned for a giving up soon, with books and TBF swag! Thanks for reading!