Monday, April 16, 2018

Local Authors and Great Discussions: #ChiYABookFest2018


I haven't been to Chicago YA Book Fest since its first year, but I was excited for this year's panels; I can confidently say that Chicago Young Adult Book Fest is getting better and better with each year. 
This year, Chicago YA Book Fest took place at a Chicago Elementary School and that was probably the perfect venue for this event. The organizers were able to have multiple panels in different rooms and give the audience the option to choose which topics they wanted to hear. I had to adult in the morning so I only attended the afternoon sessions which was made up of three panels and an opportunity for author signings. 

The first panel I attended was about sci-fi and fantasy and starred Wendy Brant, Audrey Coulthurst, Julia Ember, Lydia Kang, and moderated by Christa Desir. Below are some highlights I took away from that panel: 

  • Audrey writes her characters first, the scenes/plot come later
  • Julia Ember studied vikings for school and that inspired The Seafarer's Kiss
  • Lydia said that history research is the hardest type of history 
  • According to Audrey, YA advances are a lot higher than other categories (hence the competition)
  • In Julia and Audrey's opinions, LGBTQIA+ YA novels tend to have more adult fans
  • Julia and Wendy wrote fanfiction before turning to their original works
  • Julia originally wrote The Seafarer's Kiss as adult but was urged to make it YA
  • LGBTQIA+ YA is harder to sell internationally

After that, I attended the panel I was most excited for: Dark Themes! This panel featured Amelia Brunksill, Michelle Falkoff, Joelle Charbonneau, Tiffany Jackson, Ted Goeglein, and was moderated by Brandy Colbert. This panel of authors was hilairous and had some pretty good insight about how to mentally write dark books. Below are some takeaways from that panel of laughs: 
  • The original name for Allegedly was Baby Killer 
  • In Joelle's opinion, the cover art for a book is more important than trigger warnings
  • Editors/publishers told each of the authors to go darker
  • Joelle said, "YA books go darker than adult books"
  • Tiffany wrote Allegedly when she was going through a bad break-up
  • Tiffany received a scathing review about the treatment of a cat her book and it has been her most memorable review
  • All authors agree that GoodReads is NOT for authors, but Tiffany has a GR buddy that give her the round-up of reivews 
And the last panel of the event I attended involved family themes in Young Adult novels. The authors on this panel were Tiffany Jackson, Samira Ahmed, Erika Sanchez, Gloria Chao, Kristin Cronn-Mills, Paula Carner, and was moderated by Crystal Cestari. That was a really interesting panel and I've included my favorite tidbits below: 
  • Samira believes that when you write YA, you write hope 
  • Erika Sanchez doesn't believe in wrapping up books nicely, she doesn't believe that's realistic
  • Tiffany finds names for her characters from Facebook
  • Samira believes that POC authors are often asked if they wrote themselves in their characters. She, Gloria, and Erika all agreed that people assume their stories are based on their lives 
  • Gloria's family was a bit upset when American Panda came out because of certain scenes 
  • Tiffany highlighted the importance of doing your research when writing about experiences that aren't your own
And that brings us to the end of the event! I sought out Joelle and Tiffany for pictures and book signings and I need to stay this right now: I have an absurd crush on Tiffany Jackson. She is so pretty, hilarious, and just real. I can't wait for her next book to come out and break my heart accordingly. 


Overall I had a lot of fun and I'm kind of bummed that I missed out on so many other panels, but I really enjoyed the ones I attended. Fabulous job to the Book Cellar for putting on this event, I can't wait until next year's festival!

Have you read from any of the mentioned authors? 
What local book festivals do you love attending? 
HAVE I CONVINCED YOU TO VISIT ME IN CHICAGO YET?

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