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December 17, 2014

MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME --- McNally Jackson event

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Former intern Brianna Robinison is the first to admit that she's not particularly moved by the "holiday spirit," but sometimes a few ugly sweaters and a plethora of A+ YA authors is all you need to transform from Scrooge to Santa. 

Below, she talks about the recent MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME panel at the McNally Jackson bookstore in New York City on its 10th anniversary, and how editor Stephanie Perkins' story inspired her to keep writing, herself.


I’ll be the first one to admit, I’m not easily swayed by holiday spirit. I think it’s the New York winters that do it --- I’m usually tired and melancholic from December 1 to March 1. I crave my couch, On Demand TV and hot food (especially if it’s a baked good). I’m rarely cheery and in the holiday mood. Terrible, right?

However, every year, I do try chip at the ice that is my holiday spirit. I bake like a Master Chef, I blare Christmas music and watch The Holiday, Christmas Vacation andWhite Christmas on repeat.

And this year, I went to my first Ugly Christmas Sweater Party at McNally Jackson on its 10th anniversary to see the contributors of MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME, is a short story collection edited by Stephanie Perkins (ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS, ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER). The cover is perfectly inviting (the US version features an ice rink!) and the author list just as fabulous.

Like Books of Wonder, McNally isn’t without its charm. The downstairs seating area, directly adjacent to the children’s and YA titles, was packed with readers and fans, decked out in brilliantly ugly sweaters. And there were cookies! I had a glorious peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie while we mingled and waited for the authors to arrive.

And while the authors were greatly delayed and I had to leave early, this event actually succeeded in lifting my Holiday Sprit

David Levithan and Stephanie Perkins started the event by coming out and introducing themselves.

“Thank you for choosing us over Peter Pan.” David added. We also took a moment to cheer the 10th anniversary of McNally Jackson. “One of the greatest bookstores,” Stephanie Perkins told us and I think I have to agree.

Side note to share that Stephanie Perkins has the best voice and tone ever. She should totally host a radio show or something; her voice was really amazing. It carried so well. and I say this after standing in the back of a large crowd in the basement of a bookstore. Anyway, Stephanie and David introduced us to the contributors --- Stephanie called them a ‘motley crew of authors’--- all wearing festive sartorial choices.

At this point, I was starting to get nervous. I had planned to stay for most of the event --- I had to catch an early train --- and find out as much as I could about the book. I’m a huge fan of collaboration stories. I always love finding out how authors come together to work on a particular project and this one was no exception, despite my initial Scroogeness. However, time was running out.

But then Stephanie Perkins pulled me in with the origin of MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME. She started to say that the book idea began at YALLFest (a huge YA book event held in South Carolina in the fall) and was “very special” and “amazing to work with all my friends.” She went on to say that these same friends she got to work with were the writers whom ‘anyone would kill to work with.” The anthology took 11 months, which if you work in publishing at all or have an inkling about it, you know is particularly amazing. “It was like time travel!” Stephanie said.

All joking aside, Stephanie spoke bravely and seriously about the headspace she was in when she first came up with the idea of MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME. She was working through serious depression and trying to write the third book in the ANNA/LOLA/ISLA series. She found that it was very difficult to write but that she was able help other writers as a beta reader or critique partner and this was something that helped her creatively. Myra McEntire, one of the contributing authors, was going through something similar.

The two bonded over their love of Hallmark holiday movies at YALLFest. They both found it “unusual that in YA there aren’t many holiday stories.” This was something that had always bugged Stephanie and when she spoke of her desire to create a holiday anthology, Myra immediately agreed that it was something they could do.

Stephanie came up with a list of authors that she loved and admired and meanwhile, Ally Carter mentioned on twitter that she too loved Hallmark Christmas films. Stephanie and Myra knew they had found another contributor.

It began to come together shortly after that. Stephanie shared her delight at having snatched Kelly Link, ‘the best living short story writer around” for the project and in a week, they had 12 authors.

I was so impressed by the story. The camaraderie that the authors shared in this, the courage and daring to write through a depression --- all of this spoke to me. If I had walked down those stairs and not known anything about what the book was about, hearing that story definitely solidified my desire to read it. It even made me feel better about the holidays and work through my own melancholy.

Hearing authors speak about the process always makes me want to write a little bit more and a little bit better. I want to take the passion that I hear in their voices and that I know exists deep within me and transform it into words. I was extremely moved by what I heard.

Even though I had to leave early, I’m so glad I went. As usual, I got so much more out of a book panel than just information. I urge you all to pick up MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME and look for an upcoming review on the Teenreads site. It’s bound to be as magical and spirited as the title and cover suggests.