Thursday, November 4, 2010

Real World Recap: Epic Book Signings of Awesome

Five authors: David Levithan, Rachel Cohn, E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Matt de la Peña
One reaction: Squee!

These five incredible YA authors came to Children's Book World in Haverford, PA on Monday night, and Frankie and I were lucky enough to go!
Authors of Awesome (L to R): Emily, Rachel, Matt, David, Sarah
They started off the evening by reading from their latest books -- Sarah read from GIMME A CALL; David and Rachel chose passages from DASH AND LILY'S BOOK OF DARES, their third co-written novel; Matt read from I WILL SAVE YOU; and Emily chose a scene from REAL LIVE BOYFRIENDS, the upcoming fourth book in her popular Ruby Oliver series.

The excerpts covered calls from the future, surly Macy's elves, wise and sassy great aunts, the significance of scars, and crushes on guys who aren't your boyfriend.

It. Was. Amazing.

They were all so engaging and hilarious -- and in Matt's case, compelling -- that the drive to Haverford would've been worth it for the reading alone. But then they answered questions!

David (who we'd been lucky enough to meet last November) acted as moderator, keeping us entertained while answering questions from the crowd and posing some to the other authors.

Of course, we took notes! Here's a rundown, with pics interspersed*:

Q: (To David and Rachel, who've co-written three novels) What makes someone decide to write books together?
- Rachel - Ignorance. (laughs)
- David - Well, we both had DWIs, and we met doing community service together... Just kidding. That's our most frequently-asked question, so we always try to come up with a different answer. Actually, it was Rachel's idea to collaborate.
- Rachel - It was dumb luck.
- David - She wanted to write a book with a boy and girl narrating back and forth, and she needed a guy writer.
- Rachel - Previously, I'd written a book with guy characters, and even though I felt the voice was right, I knew that my guy characters' decisions, etc. were more girl wish fulfillment. That actual guys would write it differently.
David reading.
Additional Rachel and David co-writing notes:
Rachel and David felt the pressure was a lot less when you co-write. They're also Pantsers and don't really know where the story is going AT ALL. When it feels like they're finished, they're finished. They also don't edit each other's chapters.

How to Be Bad was tri-written by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle (who the FNC met last November), so Emily and Sarah weighed in on their process:
The authors had only met once (and I think two of them had never met!) before they began writing. They emailed everything back and forth, but VERY opposite David and Rachel's process, they rewrote each other's chapters back and forth in the editing stages. This worked for them because they each edited according to their individual specialties -- Sarah edited for plot, Emily for dialogue, and Lauren for heart.
Sarah reading.
Matt talked about his collaborative experiences:
In January, a picture book is coming out called A Nation's Hope: The Story of Joe Lewis. Kadir Nelson, the illustrator, came up with the idea, and Matt wrote the text. Because it was Kadir's idea, Matt had no problem leaving the illustrations in his (supremely capable) hands!

Matt's first novel, Ball Don't Lie, was also turned into a movie -- and he didn't express any difficulties in relinquishing creative control.

They all seemed to agree that collaborating on projects makes it much easier to handle criticism from the outside world, because it's not just your novel baby. For this reason, David and Rachel found it easy to handle changes to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist when the movie was made.
Rachel reading.
Where did the five of you meet?
Not all of them met at once, but most of them met about 6 years ago. David realized that he often saw other YA authors in random cities at conferences and such -- but they never met in NYC, though many lived there! So he began a monthly NYC gathering of published YA authors, which continues to this day.
Matt reading.
Q: How do you manage to keep teen voices fresh?
- Rachel - She remembers being 16 like it was yesterday. (26 is much more fuzzy.) She writes to entertain her 16-year-old self and finds it easy to tap into that voice.
- Emily - She works on the slang a lot. Checks through UrbanDictionary, even makes up some slang. As she revises, she replaces the adult voice/80s slang throughout.
- Matt - He keeps up to date by talking with teens at various signings/events.
- David - He feels that, thanks to technology, teen culture and adult culture have conflated. The divide isn't nearly as big as it used to be. Also, his "day job" as an editor forces him to edit teen voice/slang in other authors' work, so he instinctively does it for his own work.
- Sarah - She emphasized that, while she does keep current, she also makes a point to not include too much slang, so as not to date her work.

Emily reading.
So that's it for the notes I took! Afterward, the authors spent plenty of time signing books and chatting with the crowd in the bookstore. The bookstore staff even had soft pretzels, apple cider, and baked goods for everyone! (LOVE indies!)

Also, check out Frankie's blog, she took photos of all the signatures she got on her books -- aka Reader Porn!

So now you might be thinking, "Hey Donna, I thought you said "book SIGNINGS of awesome." This was only one signing." You're right! On Tuesday night, Frankie and Sara returned to Children's Book World to see the beyond-incredible Laurie Halse Anderson! (We have a total author-crush on her.) Frankie recapped it on her blog, so go check it out!

* Interspersed! That has to be worth some points.

Your turn! Which author do you most want to meet? Any fave or TBR-listed books here? And can't you just squee over the total level of awesome of this signing?!


  1. Wow, this is certainly one heck of an epic book signing! It looks like everyone had a blast and the pictures are wonderful (including Frankie's Reader Porn!).

    I think I need to move, just so I can go to more awesome book signings like this one. Not too many authors come to Boston on a regular basis, but I was lucky enough to go see Laurie Halse Anderson last week and I went to see Suzanne Collins over the summer.

  2. Amazing! Sounds incredible to see all those authors in one place!

    I agree with Nikki, I need to move somewhere with awesome book signings too.

  3. Very thorough recap, as always, Donna. Thanks. Sounds like an exciting night.

    One question: in the future, when everyone is reading books on e-readers, what will authors sign? T-shirts?

  4. This sounds like so much fun! I took a writing workshop and Matt was my instructor. He's such a great writer and mentor!

  5. Wow, what an amazing signing? I would love to see these authors.


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