Wednesday, March 18, 2009

NYC Teen Author Festival Dispatch: I Have Seen the Future...

Eeek, I know, I owe some reviews. I promise I'm going to get on it.

But not tonight. Still hyped up over the first NYC Teen Author Festival event I was able to attend: 'I Have Seen the Future...and it Sounds Like This' (The first event was 'Juvenalia Smackdown' that featured writers reading from what they'd written as teenagers. Apparently Scott Westerfeld was crowned King of Suck for his, and even got a jaunty crown to prove it. Not that he wore it tonight :-( )

Tonight I got to listen to seven authors (six were listed, but Holly Black showed up with a manuscript fresh from her editor's hands to read) read from their upcoming books, ranging from books coming out this spring to books coming out goodness knows when (Justine Larbelestier read from, not her next book, but the novel that comes after that one).

I gotta admit, it was pretty exciting.

The Mulberry Branch library was packed. I managed to get there right around six (stupid work keeping me late!) and it was standing room only. At least 100 people were there - mostly teenagers, but I was hardly the oldest in the room.

David Levithan was hosting the event and opened with a few words about the YA lit boom that we are either at the beginning or the middle of. The guest of honor for the evening was Joe Monti, who was the teen buyer at Barnes & Noble about ten years ago, which is apparently when this YA boom began. Joe was the "best and biggest advocate" for the burgeoning genre of YA lit, and was chosen to be the guest of honor for the evening because the organizers wanted to highlight someone that the general audience might not necessarily know, but was instrumental in the development of the genre nonetheless.

And then it was on to the readings!

Libba Bray began the evening as payback on David Levithan's part (she was the host at Monday's event and made David read first, so he figured payback was fair game). She presented Joe with a gift - a Captain American action figure since he's into superheroes - and read from her upcoming novel (she had the galley to read from and everything) Going Bovine. According to my hastily scribbled notes (all of my notes were hastily scribbled), the book is about Cameron, a sixteen year old boy with mad cow disease, and his best friend Gonzo, who is a highly paranoid and a video game nerd. The two are on a road trip to save the world, and hopefully find a cure for Cameron in the process. While I haven't read any of Libba Bray's other works, I've admired their covers in book stores, and this one looks like it's going to be totally different.

She read a scene from the road trip where Cameron and Gonzo accept a ride from a van-full of members of the Church of Everlasting Satisfaction and Snack 'n' Bowl. Gonzo is convinced that they have to be serial killers because the only people that own vans are soccer moms and serial killers, and these people definitely aren't soccer moms!

Next was Barry Lyga, author of The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, which I just got around to reading last fall and seriously enjoyed. He made a few comments about Joe saving his life in Vietnam, and then got to the good stuff: a Fanboy sequel!!!! Goth Girl Rising is the name of it, and he read bits and pieces from the beginning of the book. It was like a quick overview of what made Goth Girl, well, Goth Girl, with snippets of reflection on the events of the first book.

A few bits of note from the reading: one of her mom's last bits of advice: stop bitching about your cramps. Her reason was it's nothing that every other woman on the planet hasn't had to deal with. I respectfully submit that Goth Girl's mom was wrong, as my mother is one of those freakish women who hasn't had a day of cramps in her life, let alone the mind-numbing ones that kept me home from school on a semi-regular basis.

But I digress.

An aside about jocks and why Goth Girl doesn't like them: they think they are "Hand crafted by god to dispense orgasms to this world."

And an awesome thought: while the main character of Fanboy's graphic novel was essentially wankbait, she had to give him some credit because he was a fifteen year old boy at least attempting to write about women and their problems. Very sage point there.

Next up was Justine Larbalestier - I loved How to Ditch Your Fairy, and the book she read from sounds quite promising, even if the current title is a bit ridiculous (It's currently called Wild Heat, which doesn't exactly sound like a YA-friendly title ifyouknowwhatImean). Her next book is Liar, but she chose to read from this one because she thought that Joe would like it better. It's set in New York City in the 1930s and is a slightly alternate history, though there was no real sense of that in the section she read. The book is filled with letters so she read a letter from "a precocious 11 year old from a wealthy family" to her brother who is away at boarding school.

It wasn't the most exciting selection of the evening, but it was fun to listen to.

Next reader was Eireann Corrigan who had the darkest reading of the night with her upcoming "Person of Interest." It's about two high achieving girls who feel the need to find some extraordinary about themselves in order to get into good colleges. They concoct a plan for one of them to disappear and then the other one will "find" her and voila, instant extraordinary story for college applications.

Eireann read a section from near the end of the book, which she said she hoped wasn't too spoiler-y. For 99% of the reading I was wondering why on EARTH she'd want to preview THIS PART of the story because it felt like she was giving away the ending - and then it twisted at the very last second and it became clear that a lot more needed to happen before the resolution of the story.

The selection was from the scene where Chloe, the girl who "disappeared," is going to be "found" by Finn. Chloe has apparently spent the last few days isolated in the basement of Finn's grandmother's house and may or may not have gone a little stir crazy from the isolation. While she was gone her boyfriend, Dean, was arrested under suspicion of murdering her. Finn is naturally freaked out and tells Chloe they need to just go home and tell everyone the whole story so they can save Dean. Chloe then reveals that apparently she's an evil mastermind (or perhaps just stir crazy - hard to tell from just this short section) and insists they have to go along with the plan - either Dean's life is ruined or both of their lives are ruined - possibly even all three of their lives. Chloe threatens Finn, saying that if Finn tries to blow the story, Chloe will pin the whole disappearance on Finn, claiming she was weirdly obsessed and kept Chloe locked away for days.

Okay, sounds totally spoiler-tastic and like it ruins the suspense, right? Well, it does, until at the last moment Finn picks up the wooden plank that had been part of this scheme all along and wallops Chloe upside the head with it. I need to know what happens next!!!!!!!!!!!

Apparently I zoned out a bit during Holly Black's reading, since the only note I have is the last line of her reading, which was the main character saying that if he were going to jump off a building to kill himself, he'd have put pants on first. I remember laughing...and that's it.

My hastily scribbled notes have failed me.

For the next reading of the evening, I decided both David Levithan and Rachel Cohn need to take a basic speech class, because neither of them enunciated the title of Rachel's next book. I have the title written down several times in various permutations based on what I was hearing at the time. The most common one seemed to be "Very La Freak" which really doesn't make much sense. I caught that the character's name is Veronica but she prefers to be called Very. And her last name is La Freak? Or she is a freak? I have no idea. Seriously, basic rule of speech, people: when you're introducing an unfamiliar phrase, err on the side of caution and over-enunciate so your audience can familiarize themselves with the new term.

Other than that, though, I was very entertained by Rachel's reading, and apparently I have a psychic connection as TWICE I predicted what was going to happen.

The story is about a girl (Very, or whatever) who is addicted to technology, like her iPhone. And the funny story connected with that was while she was working on the book, Rachel took a vacation to Australia where she was determined to write the book (perhaps on her iPhone?). Instead she spent all of her time taking pictures with the phone and uploading them to Facebook. Allegedly she had signed up for a plan that would let her use the phone unlimited while in Australia...except it didn't and she got a text message one night saying her bill was over $700.

ANYWAY, Very has a problem with technology, so she has been checked into rehab at Emergency Services for Computer Addicted Persons Everywhere, or ESCAPE. At one point Very is describing the check-in process to ESCAPE where of course you have to undergo a full body search to make sure you aren't smuggling electronics in. Patients are allowed one bag full of clothes and another filled with cosmetics and toiletries, which are all, of course, manually checked for more contraband. Here was my first psychic moment, thinking that in the toiletries bag is where I would try to smuggle in a vibrator (if I were addicted to technology of course, lol) - especially since they have the ones that look like lipstick and everything! Sure enough, the protagonist mentions that in the contraband room they are sure to have a stash of "naughty toys" as well.

My second call of the night was when the counselor was interviewing Very and asked her about what sort of exercise she liked. I thought of course the only thing she'd be up to is Wii Bowling...which she is. Two for two, go me!

The final reader of the evening was, honestly, the whole reason that I came: to hear Scott Westefeld read from Leviathan.

Before he started reading though, he was presented with a pair of steam punk goggles (which made me giggle because when we went to a gaming convention this summer, Billy picked up the exact same pair, for no reason other than he thought they were incredibly entertaining). And then he said he was going to be the first author of the night who was smart enough to turn the mic stand the correct way. Of course, as soon as he tried to turn it "the correct way," it swung around to the previous position. He tried two or three times before declaring that he has been chastened.

The steam punk goggles were appropriate because Leviathan is a bit of a steam punk novel, though Diesel-punk may be more appropriate. It's another alternate universe book, where Darwin discovered DNA while in the Galapagos and since then Britain has been fabricating creatures of Natural Philosophy and relies on various animal hybrids for all of its manufacturing needs, while the rest of the world developed the way it did in our own history. The book is set in 1914, as the first world war is starting. One of the main characters is Darren, a cross dressing Scottish girl who is cross dressing so she can be in the living air navy. The scene Scott read from is the girl's first day (or at least early on) in her time with the air navy where she's going to have her first taste at flight.

The first taste we got of the crazy animals in this world is an illustration of the tigeresques, half-wolf, half-tiger crazy awesome creatures.

The next creature we were introduced to was called a couple of names, and I'm not sure what one referred to the species of creature, or the type, or this particular one, but it was called an airbeast, a medusa and a huxley. It was the first hydrogen-breather created and the illustration showed a giant balloon-like jelly fish with long tentacles with Darren strapped in and hanging from the bag, a bit like a parachute.

The illustrations are awesome - I loved how they didn't fit perfectly into a square border - on the two illustrations we saw, there was always at least one part of the illustration that stuck out beyond the frame, giving a real feeling of movement to the image.

And then it was question and answer time. I didn't get to stay for the whole thing since I had to meet my husband (it's been almost a month and I still love dropping that into conversations) when he got out of school (the reading wasn't too far away from where he has classes). I got to listen to a couple of questions though - first was about if Uglies was ever going to be a movie. Apparently it's been optioned by Jim Davis - not the creator of Garfield, but the producer of Aliens vs. Predator. According to Scott, every time a producer (since it sounds like Davis isn't the first to have the rights to this) goes to a studio and says "Hey, give me $70 million for this movie" the studio goes "... you want to make a movie about ugly people?!?!?!?!" So who knows if it will ever happen.

What is happening however, is a Midnighters manga that is going to tell more stories about the Midnighters after they leave Bixby. I would have loved to hear more about that, but I didn't have a chance to ask.

Then I forget the question that sparked this response, but I made a special note of this part of Barry Lyga's response about writing Goth Girl - he had to get past the idea of writing about all women and realize he had to focus on telling the story of one woman. I am VERY excited to see how this book turns out.

Oh, man, I'm worn out just from writing this post- it's taken almost an hour! Now it's time to sleep and rest up for tomorrow night's event - the TIGER BEAT concert at Books of Wonder!
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