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September 24, 2014

Brooklyn Book Festival - Post 1

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Last weekend, Teenreads.com intern Rebecca Czochor got the chance to go to one of the most exciting book fairs in the country --- The Brooklyn Book Festival. In her post, she breaks down the three YA panels she saw, which focused on love, gender and fantasy. Read below to hear more about her experience, and be sure to check out our other post about the Festival from Teen Board member Maya B.!


This past weekend I had the chance to visit the Brooklyn Book Festival. I pretty much made a beeline for the Youth Pavilion where some of my favorite YA authors were giving some great panels. I managed to see three full panels and got to hear authors talk about their books, writing, romance, world-building, gender, mythology, and almost every other topic under the sun!

The first panel was called "I Love You. The End." and was moderated by one of my all time favorites, Ann Brashares! She talked to Bennett Madison who wrote SEPTEMBER GIRLS, and Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, who wrote BURN FOR BURN together. Since the panel was all about love, Ann asked a few love-related questions, like "What's your favorite love story?" For Jenny it's GONE WITH THE WIND. Siobhan picked ANNE OF GREEN GABLES, and Bennett picked the Weetzie Bat series. We also learned whether anything was considered off limits to write about. Bennett said that nothing was off limits and that teens deserved honest books. Jenny and Siobhan agreed, but said that what they chose to put in and leave out of their books depends of what's right for a character rather than something being off-limits. We also got to hear about their process of writing a book series together and how it changed from book to book.

The second panel was called "I'll Make My Own Identity." This one was all about gender and breaking stereotypes. Liz Prince, author of TOMBOY, and Susan Kuklin, author of BEYOND MAGENTA, had a really great and in depth discussion on gender identity and how each of their books came to be. Susan talked about some of the transgender teens in her non-fiction book and how they came from a variety of backgrounds and families. She also talked about using the correct pronouns to refer to each teen based on what they were most comfortable with. Liz talked about how her book is just one story, and she wasn't trying to speak for a larger group of people. The panel was definitely eye-opening and made me want to read each of these books.

The last panel I saw was called "Welcome to Fantasy Island," and was about as much fun as it sounded! Seth Fishman (THE WELL'S END) moderated C. J. Farley (GAME WORLD), Cara Lynn Shultz (THE DARK WORLD), and Scott Westerfeld, who brought along his newest book, AFTERWORLDS. After telling us all their favorite ice cream flavors (Scott and Cara are both into chocolate flavored anything), we got to hear snippets from each author's book. Then they had a really interesting discussion on fantasy worlds and world building. Scott had some of the best advice for aspiring writers. He said as long as your characters are believable, everything else in your story can be crazy, and the best way to make a character believable is to have them make a choice of some kind. C. J. ended with probably the best advice of all: make up your own rules because those are the stories that stand out. I was definitely feeling inspired to write the next great fantasy novel after this panel!

All the panels I attended were a lot of fun. But one of the coolest parts about the Festival was being surrounded by hundreds of other book fans as I walked through the stalls and pop-up shops. It was great getting to talk to the people running small journals and presses because I could tell that we were all crazy passionate about books. I had a great time and even came home with a few new books and a bookish tote bag I've been using for three days straight!


Rebecca Czochor is an intern at Teenreads.com and Kidsreads.com.