YAK Fest 2016

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I never met an author until I became one. That’s a strange concept, but one that I believe a fair number of authors my age and older–particularly those writing YA Lit–have experienced. But when I was a teen, there weren’t conventions like this past weekend’s YAK Fest pictured above. The Perks of Being a Wallflower didn’t exist, nor 33 Snowfish. Two books whose authors, Stephen Chbosky and Adam Rapp, respectively, either of whom I would have given my right arm to see. But I read them when I was in college, and still, there were no teen conventions I was aware of.

There’s a great importance in teens having the opportunity to have something like YAK Fest, or locally for me, Teen Reader Con. So many teens who are not athletes or musicians or thespians, will slog through high school without experiencing the joy of a community, of shared experiences over the things in which they love. And in this case, those things are books. When I present on Press Play, this is a topic I touch on. I ask the teen audience to raise their hands if they attended a pep rally for their fall sports teams. Every hand in the room goes up. I then ask them to do the same for the pep rally that was held for the honor students, or the book nerds 🙂 There are no hands for that because there is no pomp and circumstance for teens who like to use their minds and who like to read. Sure, there are academic decathlons and locally, Engineering competitions and Odyssey of the Mind. But I’m talking about events where all you have to do is be part of the team and people cheer for you.

Teen Book conventions fill this void, and that was driven home so distinctly at YAK Fest. That crowd in the picture above is comprised of kids who care about books. Deeply. Sure, some were athletes and musicians and thespians, but on this day, they were book lovers. And aside from them, there were straight up book lovers. And there were librarians and teachers and adults who like YA. There was community. They came to be a part of a moment and I think they got a fantastic one.

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The Contemporary, realistic panel. I have no clue what goofy thing I’m saying in this picture.

I was fortunate enough to be on a panel with authors who are writing stories that pull no punches and discuss teen life in frank and sometimes disturbing ways (from left to right: Meredith Moore, Kelsey Macke, S. E. Green, Julie Murphy, me, and moderator and librarian Rae Cheney).  The conversations we had truly underscored the need for teens to be immersed in the arts. They asked fantastic questions about why we write what we do, what we think about various topics in YA, and especially about the writing process. I still feel as if I’m finding my way through how to write, but I know that these teens gained phenomenal insight listening to our panel discuss how one goes about this writing thing. Again, to be a teen now, interested in books and writing, and to have this kind of access; how awesome.

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One other phenomenal aspect about Book conventions for teens is the underlying message. So much of YA is about struggling through to find out who you are as a person and not allowing someone else to define you–an important message for adults, too. And often, the message isn’t so subtle, as when Julie Murphy gave her keynote speech about inspirational posters. See below:

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As adorable and as super scientific as the slide show was, Julie’s own inspirational poster was the message that resonated with the teens: The Fat Girl Gets the Guy. Like I said, us contemporary, realistic authors don’t hold back. Julie is a self-proclaimed fat girl from Texas who loves Dolly Parton. And her message to the teens was to replace “Fat Girl” with whatever thing in their lives made them feel alone, and replace “the Guy” with whatever goal they desire for themselves. Boom. Instant, create your own inspiration. And inspired they were. I was fortunate enough to share a signing table with Julie at the end of the convention, and teen after teen came up and hugged her and thanked her for her message. Some cried during her speech, some after, with her. There is no more justification needed for why events like YAK Fest should occur. The need for support and validation and respect, which some teens only find in books, and if they are lucky, a real, live author, was overwhelming.

My heartfelt thanks goes out to y’all at YAK Fest. I was glad to be a part of this moment for your community, to be able to support the teens who care so deeply about stories and writing and finding themselves. It’s nice to know that for those who pursue a path in writing, the first sentence of this post will never be true for them.

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Thanks, for PRESS PLAY, and beyond

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Life has been super busy since the release of Press Play, which I like to say is a good problem to have. However, part of my schedule includes a trip at the end of this week that runs through early next week. Therefore, I wanted to take a moment to express my thanks for so many things before it’s next week and I’m too exhausted to write a blog post 🙂

Running Press, my publisher, has been pretty phenomenal to me, constantly trying to find ways for people to learn about my work. They were very supportive about the making of my trailer, its blast and the subsequent run in the theater. Trust me, as an author, I do so much that impossible to measure, and so to have the business end of books support such is invaluable.

McGreivey’s restaurant, and Art Riley, in particular, has been nothing but awesome to me. For three years Art has agreed to host my launch parties, and every year I am so impressed by his willingness to help out a local author by making my family and friends feel so thoroughly welcome.

Both Barnes and Noble and Market Block Books have been great to me, hosting signings and getting the word out, and Market Block helped with sales for my launch and is on board for an event coming in December. Even though they are on opposite ends of the corporate indie spectrum of business, everyone I have met at each store has his or her heart in the right place, devoted to finding the right book for the right hands. I’m just glad they include me on that list.

WNYT is fantastic for having me on for a third time. Publicity of any kind is welcomed, and the opportunity to wake of the Capital District with Dan Bazile and my books is just damn fun.

So far, Teen Reader Con has been the highlight of my November. The other authors were awesome but the kids were unreal. I have never felt more like a rock star than I did that day. And the librarians who put so much time and energy into the event deserve a round of drinks and hearty applause. Pulling off such a wonderful event that was free and drew such a large crowd form all over the area, is astounding, as well as a testament to their dedication, professionalism, and compassion for the work they do.

And I am already thankful for this week. I will be at NCTE’s Annual convention, followed by ALAN’s Workshop. This opportunity is amazing. I get to meet thousands of English teachers and discuss my work with them, while at a convention that allows me to absorb amazing possibilities for my classroom. And at ALAN, I get to continue the conversation, as well as sit on a panel with one of my favorite authors, Andrew Smith.

And through it all has been Kate McKean, my superstar agent. Because even though I’m promoting Press Play, she’s helping me navigate the next stories, as always, with her pitch perfect sense of fiction and her absolute belief in me as an author.

Of course, it all boils down to my family, especially my wife, who is the only one to whom I can vent my frustrations and share my excitement. So much of what I do is unseen and unspoken, yet Carrie is privy to it all—for good and bad. I respect the degree to which she shoulders the burden of letting me live my dream, because without her, I would not.

My readers get last credit, but my everlasting appreciation. My work is not for everyone, but for those who enjoy it, they help spread the word, proclaiming the awesomeness of my intense and dark stories. Thank you. Authors need readers, and it is you who I always have in mind when I sit in this office and open the Word doc. It is you who I attempt to thank over and over, as I weave a bit of magic, story after story.

Thank you, and please enjoy Thanksgiving and the company of all of those for whom you are thankful.

MBB

Teen Reader Con

The article below is from Jay Asher’s blog regarding this weekend’s Teen Reader Con. I fully intended to write my own post for today, but then saw how many awesome pictures his had, that mine never would, because I can’t ever remember to take pics at events like this, and so I said to myself: Don’t be boring and redundant. So, yeah, I’m poaching his words.

I can, at least, add this text exchange with my mother (please excuse her texting errors; she was on vacation and quickly checking on me). See, kids, being a “child” never ends.

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So, as you’ll read, the event was awesome, and as Jay says, “the peak of fun as an author.” Because it was. Being in an auditorium with 300 kids all pumped about books and writing, willing to spend their Saturday with us is as good as it gets.

Also, Joe Bruchac, literally ate his own words onstage. It was kind of epic.

If you missed this event, no worries, plans are already in shape for next year. And if they invite me, I promise to take more pics 🙂

 

Jay Asher: TeenReaderCon.

TeenReaderCon

I flew out of my little hometown airport…
…took a short layover in Chicago…

…on my way to the first annual TeenReaderCon in Clifton Park, NY.

I’ve attended a few YA conferences, where a community brings in several authors to discuss their books and writing, and these events are always the peak of fun as an author. Not only does it give me a chance to hang out with and meet my peers, but the audience is made up of rabid readers!

On the way to the auditorium, the halls were lined with floor-to-ceiling paintings reproducing classics by Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, and many others. Plus, there was a beautiful piece made out of paper where the white letters turned into colorful butterflies that flew off onto the wall.

The first presentation was by Coach Rich Johns, giving his “Act with Respect Always” talk, which I’ve heard about for years and is beautifully inspiring. As part of his presentation, he discusses Thirteen Reasons Why and recites my character’s poem, Soul Alone.

Here I am with the awesome dude!

Then all of the authors took the stage for our introductions and to answer some Q & A.

I had never been on a panel with any of these authors before, but would do it again in a second. Such a fun, smart group of people! (I’m so thankful they let me join them.)

Here’s the happy bunch with photographer Marisa Geraghty. She’d been taking pics throughout the conference, so they finally made her get into one of them!

Of course, when I called home to describe the event, my son was most impressed by the excavator I passed while talking to him.

Teen Reader Con

Teen Reader Con

First, thank you to everyone who has made the launch of Press Play a phenomenal success. I’m having a blast, and the fun has only just begun, which brings me to this upcoming weekend and Teen Reader Con.

The one event I failed to mention in my interview on WNYT this weekend was this. I’m chalking it up to nerves and the mental countdown clock I had running in my head. Anyway, as you can see from above, the event is packed with amazing authors, and the day will unfold like this:

8:30-9:00    Arrival – Trivia games and book sale!

9:00-9:30   Rich Johns – Act with Respect Always

9:45-10:15   Kick-off!! – Welcome the Authors

10:30-11:15  Session #1

11:30-12:15  Session #2; Lunch

12:30-1:15    Session #3; Lunch

1:30-2:15      Session #4

2:30-3:15     Main Session with Authors

3:15-4:00     Autographing


I think the best part of all this, that I simply cannot underscore enough, is that it’s free. Yup, it costs nothing. To have access like this for an entire day at no cost is simply amazing. There are few teen events like this nationally, so I urge you to take part.

Each Session is a presentation from each author. So, if for nothing else, come and spend 45 minutes in a small group setting learning about all of the authors. I guarantee you will be entertained.

Any additional information can be found on the website, and I’ve added my video message from there for your enjoyment. I hope to see you this weekend.

Teen Reader Con

Shenendehowa Middle Schools
970 Route 146
Clifton Park, NY 12065

The Vibe for Press Play

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Maybe it’s the start of the school year, and the change that it brings, but there’s something different about the vibe for Press Play that I haven’t felt before.

I’ve already had students and colleagues ask, “When’s your next book coming out?” And they’re not asking in a blasé manner. There’s hunger in their eyes. They want to read what I have next in store. Therefore, it’s very awesome and very fortunate that I get to say, “The end of October.” I think they might hurt me if they had to wait longer.

Additionally, there’s been some great support and interest over Teen Reader Con. Quite frankly, I’m as excited to meet these authors as everyone else. There has never been such an event in our area devoted to Young Adult literature, and I look forward to how successful it will be, and hopefully for an invite to return next year 🙂

There’s also the fact that my trailer is due at the end of the week. It will be blasted on 9/24, and I have little doubt that it will be gripping and heart-stopping and tantalizing. The fact that I used the high school where I work as setting, along with my students as extras, and a longtime friend as the main character, just adds to the excitement. My hand even makes a cameo. And of course, the fact that it will run at the Regal theaters in Colonie from 10/24 through 10/30, only ratchets up the thrill.

Oh yeah, and then there’s all the local events scheduled (included below), along with my attendance at the ALAN workshop, which I consider quite an honor. Getting out and seeing fans and signing books is the best part of the job. And the fact that I get to do so here, as well as on a larger, industry stage is phenomenal.

And, honestly, fans like you, the people who read my novels, my posts and tweets and Facebook updates, you’ve created this. So many people still have the notion of author in office, typing away, and that’s the long and short of the job. Today, that’s only a fraction. The awesome stories are a given. All the behind-the-scenes work to get recognized is completed in concert with my publisher. And we work hard. And it’s paying off.

 So thank you for recognizing that, and for staying with me. I know Press Play is going to take you for one hell of a ride. But I also know you’ve enjoyed the rest of the ride, thus far. Awesome. Keep cheering and spreading the word, because up around the bend is going to blow your mind.

 

Local Events (as currently scheduled)

Event               Release party & Signing

Location          McGreivey’s Restaurant, 91 Broad St, Waterford, NY 12188

Date & Time   10/24, 4-7 pm

 

Event               Signing

Location          Barnes & Noble, 131 Colonie Center #355, Albany, NY 12205

Date & Time   10/25, 2-5 pm

 

Event               Teen Reader Con (Full-day convention devoted to Young Adult Lit)

Location          Shenendehowa Middle Schools, 970 Route 146, Clifton Park, NY 12065

Date & Time   11/8, 8:30 am – 4 pm

 

Event               Fundraising Book Fair (for BHBL) & Signing

Location          Barnes & Noble, 131 Colonie Center #355, Albany, NY 12205

Date & Time   11/14, 4-7 pm

 

Event               Signing

Location          Market Block Books, 290 River St, Troy, NY 12180

Date & Time   11/15, 11-1 pm

 

Event               ALAN Workshop

Location          National Harbor, MD

Date & Time   11/24-25

 

Event               Signing

Location          The Open Door Bookstore, 128 Jay St., Schenectady, N.Y. 12305

Date & Time   12/6, 1-2:30 pm