Monday, May 11, 2015

[Recap]Chicago YA Book Fest 2015

Hey all! Saturday marked Chicago's first ever young adult book fest! It was an awesome day full of interesting panel, nice swag, and a book signing afterwards. Now I know plenty is going around about this on the blogosphere, but I wanted to offer a more complete idea of what the day entailed!

10 AM marked the beginning of the day. I dragged my husband along with me (because why not) and we were greeted at the door with the program and a livestrong bracelet advertising the event. C YA Book Fest took place at my local library in one of the auditoriums, there was a spot for free swag (bookmarks, posters etc), a place to buy the books buy the featured authors and the chairs were set up to accommodate about 40-50 people. I made a beeline to the books for sell and purchased An Ember in the Ashes because I have all but given up on the audiobook ( After introductions and a brief history of how Chicago Young Adult Book Fest came to be (T.M Goeglein - author of the Cold Fury series - had approached the owner of the Book Cellar about putting Chicago on the map when it comes to YA events), we got started with the first panel.

Video Killed the Radio Star

This panel was about how social media, bloggers and fanfiction influence authors alike. To be honest, it was a pretty heavy topic for 10AM and I didn't feel comfortable for the majority of it.

The authors talked about their interaction on social media and their opinion on Good Reads. I was happy to hear that a lot of authors steer clear of Good Reads because honestly, it does more harm than good for authors. Then we got into the nitty gritty: how do bloggers affect you?

Opinions of bloggers varied with some authors not having a lot of interaction with bloggers, others loving bloggers for being personal cheerleaders, and those who have had some pretty terrible experience with bloggers.

Joelle Charboneau mentioned that she had received death threats from bloggers and other terrible things in negative reviews. I was upset to have heard that quite a few authors had had negative interactions with bloggers.

The question of ARCs came up and the panel was asked their opinion on handing out free novels. Onec again, opinions varied with some authors hating the idea that their work is given out for free while authors were more comfortable giving out ARCs.

The one topic that I was a bit uneasy about was the idea of professional reviewers and bloggers. A comment was made that professional reviewers (Publisher Weekly, Kirkus etc) were a lot more consistent in their review where blogger reviews were all over the place which personally, I find to be better. I trust my friends opinions over someone who is being paid to publish an opinion. Once again, opinions differed, but it was a bit awkward when one of the panelist asked for a show of bloggers in the audience after such a conversation.

I made a comment to my husband that you could definitely tell which authors had been burned in the past by bloggers, be it sales or popularity.

Five minutes were set aside to hear authors' opinions on fanfiction. All of the authors were fans of fanfiction and were fine with fans writing their own endings. I learned that JK Rowling was not a fan of fanfiction and even goes as far as to follow up on fanfiction writers with legal action. Yikes.

Let's Talk About Sex

This was by far the most interesting panel I had the privilege of attending. A new set of authors took to the stage and were asked a variety of questions about sex in YA and their opinions of it. It was interesting to hear people's opinions on Clean YA and it made me think about the subgenre a bit more. 

"Being a virgin is not a personality trait."

There was a good conversation on how to handle topics like masturbation in books and what were some annoying romantic traits, ie the two broken characters who fall in love and magically fix each other (hello NA). It was interesting because there were a handful of teens in the room and the authors made sure to point our that sex wasn't as magical as it appeared in YA (romance for that matter as well).

A Whole New World

The third panel was geared moreso the more dystopian/atypical books and the process of building worlds. I love questions that deal with world building because it's interesting to see where the author found inspiration. For example, Sabaa Tahir found inspiration for An Ember in the Ashes from writing international news at her day job, and Joelle Charbonneau found inspiration for her Testing series from her time as a high school teacher and seeing her students freak out about tests that decided how successful they were in the future. By this time, it was lunch time and the husband and I decided to duck out and have a quick bite.

 So What

The second to last panel focused on making characters that the reader could connect with and it seemed like a lot of authors preferred to write damaged and unlikable characters even through their agents and editors warned that these characters wouldn't sell as well. I don't know about you guys, but I like a good flawed character.

"the most fun characters to write are the unlikable ones."

This seemed to be catered more so towards future authors and a lot of the questions were about the writing process, but I still found the topic to be very interesting and eye opening, especially when it came to the panelist describing how they made sure that their secondary characters had depth as well.


The last panel of the day was the most brutally honest, and once again this topic was geared towards potential authors. The authors spoke about the not so glamorous side of being an author and I learned that a lot of them wake up at ungodly hours to be able to get some writing down. I can't imagine waking up at 3AM and starting my day, no thank and much respect to those who do! I was a bit afraid of this panel as well because I thought that it would be reminscent of the first panel wich left me feeling a bit uneasy.

Luckily, the moderator was good at mixing the good with the bad and I didn't think that this panel had a negative tone whatsoever. Once again, there was discussion of receiving extreme hate mail from parents and readers and I'm still in shock that people can say such hurtful things to authors. There were also a lot of happy stories, Andrew Smith actually brought a tear to my eye when he recounted meeting a teen reader who told him that his book gave him the courage to come out to his parents.

At 5PM on the dot, we were thanked for our time and were moved to the The Book Cellar for a book signing and other such things. I was able to meet Erica O'Rouke and Sabaa Tahir which was a nice end to the evening.

And that was the first ever Chicago Book Fest! I had a lot of fun and I can't wait to see what next year brings!


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