Authors I saw speak (in order of appearance):
|Teen author, Sarah Dessen|
Katherine Paterson and John Rocco
|Illustrator Jon Rocco and author Katherine Paterson|
Jack Gantos is quite a character. Very lively, humorous, and full of outrageous stories. I think several members of the audience were quite shocked to hear about how he went to jail for drug smuggling (I already knew this bit of back story). I probably wouldn't have chosen to bring it up at a national event in front of hundreds of people... but that's just me. Everything came with a dose of humor, and he got quite the round of applause.
|Middle Grade author, Gordon Korman|
Cassandra Clare was probably the biggest disappointment for me of the weekend. Her books are great fun if you are looking for an action-packed paranormal read with hints of romance. I was hoping she'd be great fun, too. She read from a script in a tired, flat voice that suggested she didn't want to be there. When teen girls flocked to the microphones for the Q&A portion and were showering her with praise... she didn't seem grateful, and didn't thank the readers for the compliments. And then there was one off-color comment. One girl asked if there was anything that was taken out of the books that Clare had wished had stayed in. And Clare responded that there were several scenes detailing the villain, Valentine, killing masses of children. And she thought that part was pretty cool and wished her editors hadn't made her take it out. Her editors didn't think people would want to read about children being murdered. I quite agree with her editors on this one.
|Author and illustrator, Brian Selznick|
I was really looking forward to hearing Rita Williams-Garcia after reading One Crazy Summer this past weekend, and she did not disappoint! (I was disappointed at the small crowd, but she was the last speaker of the day and many people were likely tired and hungry.) Rita was so excited to be at the Book Festival speaking that she literally began by hopping up and down whilst giggling and grinning ear to ear. She was so full of energy and absolutely adorable. She said that one thing she loves about storytelling is you don't need anything to tell a story. Just your brain and your voice. She described herself as a character driven writer (which doesn't surprise me because her characters were so vivid in OCS). She said she's asking questions about her characters all the time and constantly thinking about them. Rita believes that it's the strengths and failings that make real characters. She spoke about her own mother and how her mother wasn't like other mothers (echoing themes from OCS), and did a hilarious impersonation of her bombshell mother walking into a concert at her school. She was scared to write middle grade because she always wrote for teens. And when asked about her writing process, she said she writes the moments of greatest impact first, and then fills in the rest. I thought this was a really interesting method of writing, but it makes sense. By writing critical scenes and seeing how your characters react, you get to know your characters on higher level, which would make writing the less crucial scenes easier having established your character's inner workings.
This young Asian graphic novelist, creator of Scholastic's Amulet graphic novels, was such a cool speaker. I want to show his speech to my students. He spoke of how difficult it was for him to figure out what he wanted to do for a living. His parents wanted him to be a doctor. He thought he wanted to be a writer. He went to film school. Was hired by Disney, left Disney. He always denied his love of drawing. He wanted to tell stories. But when he finally discovered he could meld his love of storytelling with the love of drawing he'd been suppressing, he discovered his career as a graphic novelist. I love seeing young, positive male role models for young people, and he definitely was one!
|Graphic novelist, Kazu Kibuishi|
|Kazu drawing characters from Amulet|
Rachel Renee Russell
What I didn't realize was that the Dork Diaries series (essentially the Wimpy Kid series but for girls) is done by a mother/daughter team. Mom does the writing and daughter does the drawing. The presentation was very cute and kid-friendly. While mom talked, the daughter was drawing people in the audience in the cartoony style of the books. Kids were so thrilled to see themselves drawn as cartoons.
|Author, Rachel Renee Russell|
|Russell's daughter, Nikki, drawing a member of the audience|
As soon as the book festival was over, I started wondering who I would get to see next year! Such a great experience! I'm so lucky to live near DC!
Who do you hope to see next year? My number one hope for next year's festival: Scott Westerfeld. Fingers crossed!