On Saturday I attended the Rochester Teen Book Festival with English teachers and librarians from Albany High School, along with 45 of their students. They were kind enough to let me tag along to a fest that I wanted to be a part of, but didn’t get the invite to. And now that I’ve been, damn, do I wanted to get invited next year.
First, the lineup of authors was stellar. Seriously, there are too many New York Times bestselling authors here to list; check the site. And beyond being well-read, the authors were fabulous to the teens and all held excellent sessions for them to attend.
I had the pleasure of listening to A.G. Howard (Splintered series and Rose Blood) and Danielle Paige (Dorothy Must Die) in conversation about their paths to writing and publication and then their excellent answers and advice to budding authors in the audience.
I also had the good fortune to see Libba Bray (Beauty Queens, Going Bovine, Diviners). She read a story to the audience to prove a phenomenal point, writing improves. Her story was from her childhood and sprawled genres from Paranormal to Sci-Fi time travel, and included great plot holes, both literal and figurative. The audience loved it, and for many teens who have read her work, I can imagine it opened their eyes to the principle, “we all have to start somewhere.”
The last session I attended was with A.S. King (Ask the Passengers, Still Life with Tornado) and Zac Brewer (the Vladimir Tod series), who riffed with each other about the ills of our society and the things we are afraid to talk about, especially with teens. The librarian who attended with me said, “They’re like a walking PSA.” Which, indeed, they were, in all the right ways. Both addressed issues in their lives and how they deal with them in their own writing, and how it’s a shame that teens aren’t given the respect they deserve by adults when considering whether or not conversations should go there. So they went there, and it was glorious.
I’ve been to a number of festivals, as an author and as an attendee, and this one is truly worth putting on your calendar for next year, not solely because I’m hoping to be there as an author, but because it is everything a teen fest should be: a gathering of fabulous authors, who are there first and foremost for the teens, who deliver sessions that inspire, delight, and entertain.
I’m so glad that Albany High went and that they were kind enough to let me on board. Their book club is full of the kids who deserve a day like this, one that fosters lifelong reading in a world where attention to stories and our ever-expanding world is not only necessary, but vital.
I tip my hat to all who had a hand in making the Fest a reality. I’ll see you next year.