Saturday, November 08, 2008

I am sitting in a totally packed room of YA literature folks balancing breakfast goodies, juice bottles, and/or cups of coffee in their lap, hip to hip with the person next to us. YALSA's first annual Young Adult Literature Symposium is clearly a hit!

Yesterday we had the opportunity to listen to Gene Luen Yang, author of Printz winner American Born Chinese Everything he had to say was interesting but the most interesting piece was about readers who thought cousin Chin-Kee was cute and wanted a T-shirt with him on it. Gene meant Chin-Kee to be disturbingly stereotypically. He said he'd be even more stereotypical the next time around! I did not realize Gene was a Catholic and has written a middle grades graphic novel about this faith - Rosary Comic Book He has also done some math related comics. Check out his web site: Lots of cool stuff.

Patrick Jones just said he thinks R.L. Stine should win the Margaret A. Edwards award. I almost swallowed my tongue with that one! My first thought was - "Not a chance!" but that is just me. I know Stine's books are very popular but I see him as an author of horror "fluff" for children.

Margaret Peters Haddix is now speaking - one of her favorites reads by another YA author is Susan Collins' Hunger Games. I love this book and can't wait for the sequel. My favorite of Haddix is not her Hidden series, starting with Among the Hidden - It is one of her older ones - Don't You Dare Read this Mrs. Dunfrey - This book cam out in the mid 90s and addresses an older sibling taking care of her little brother after their mother disappears. She writes her fears in her English journal and marks all the entries - Don't You Daire Read this Mrs. Dunfrey. This one transcends the decades as more teens today are the primary care taker of their younger siblings than the 90s.

Patrick is talking about teens asking him how he read their journal - in other words, it is so real. The theme of this session is books that are thrilling. The beginning has to catch teen. He quotes Will Weaver, another YA author, who said the beginning sentence of a book is as important to a reader as a kiss is to a new relationship. I might have that worded wrong - but you get the idea.

My favorite book of Patrick Jones is Chasing Tail Lights about a teenage girl who is being abused by a stepbrother and remembers her truck driver father telling her that following the tail lights may well get you where you need to be. His newest one is Stolen Car Need to find a copy! He just admitted he had never read an HP book and only the first 60 pages of Twilight. Now I know why I love this guy!! He has a vampire book coming out in the Fall - "the teen character just happens to be a girl who is vampire like". Character is most important to him.

Pace of books is important in YA books. Two words - James Patterson - out of PJ's mouth. He is making fun of the speed of Patterson's output of books! He's says Stine knows pace - move quicker as they don't bother with description as kids know what everything looks like. So they focus on dialog. For example, Ellen Hopkinss' Crank 500 pages but reads quickly because of the format - free verse poetry. All of her books are a quick read and on subjects that get you involved - drug abuse, rape. etc.

Haddix says you can't equate quick paced and short go hand in hand. That is certainly true - look at the free verse novels as well as graphic novels.

Trends - fantasy trend came from adult first so teens went to adult collections first. For example, Hamilton books on vampires - very much adult in content. Hit before the YA books on vampires did. Adults are now reading the teen vampire titles, like Twilight.

All teens are shape shifters - what a great comment by Deborah Noyes Wayshak, author of The Ghost of Kefol. Haven't read this one yet - a set of 5 short stories.

Patrick loves Coe Booth - Tyrell If girls want to know how guys react to them sexually, this is a bit disconcerting, but very real. Her new book is Kendra Haven't read it yet but it looks good. Kendra's mother is back in her life and both mother and daughter are adjusting to the change.

Everything big thing you experience in life will happen in these 4 years - PJ's words. First time you fall in love, experience sexual awakening, etc. Part of why he writes for teens. He has the whole audience laughing. He only reads teen fiction and about wrestling - no wonder his inner teen is alive and well. :) Like him - for me booktalking is a way to introduce books that aren't in the "news" - like HP and Twilight. I could have stood up and cheered! Booktalk what they don't find on their own.

PJ mentioned the value of author visits. He noted a teenage girl in a detention center who was telling everyone how cool it was to have met Jaqueline Woodson in school. I love Woodson's writing! My favorite of hers is If You Come Softly so beautifully poignant - a Jewish girl and a black guy so much in love, but their relationship ends violently. My favorite MS/JH book about a poor white girl who is being abused and confides this to her wealthy black friend - I Hadn't Meant to Tell You That She has also written a beautiful picture book - The Other Side two little girls, white & black, who aren't allowed over the fence, but develop a wonderful friendship while sitting on the fence. Jackie writes beautifully about inter-racial friendships and relationships.

PJ is talking about how he has actual teen comments/writing in his books because of Face Book and MySpace pages. He asks them permission to use their work.

Awards - as important as YA input?
Deb - from publishing standpoint (at Candlewick) awards are important. A way to market lesser know literary writers. She looks for manuscripts where popularity and literary merit overlap.

PJ - his award is getting emails from kids who loved his book. He doesn't think his books will ever win an award. He said he used to care but doesn't anymore. Perhaps he doth protest too much, after all, he is human. :-) He said the awards stickers turns teens off - "EWWW - Johnny Tremain had one of those!" I think he is dead on the money from the teen perspective. They could care less about what books win an award. That is an adult thing - besides, we are the ones who are on the committees who choose the award. One of the reasons I strongly disagree with putting any kind of labels on spines, even genres. We also de-select reading options due to the categories someone else put them on. As a teen I would have ignored any books that had SF stickers on them. - Patrick Jones link to his other sites. Vere cool playlist to go along with Nailed on the main page. Can link to his other resources from there.

I need to post this in fear I am going to lose it. Please excuse my typos. It is so darn hot in this room I am about to melt! I am going find a Diet Coke during the break. It is cold outside - maybe I need to go stand out there for a bit.