Libba Bray's Keynote is the first YA Keynote the Boston Book Festival has ever hosted and boy was it packed. Bray's event was located in the Emmanuel Sanctuary. Thank you to Elizabeth from Book YAbber and Marci from Reading in the Tardis for saving me a seat! Libba is hilarious as always! Robin Brenner from the Brookline Public Library moderated the keynote. According to Libba, she is not organized when it comes to research. When researching for The Diviners, she read many books about the early 1900's.
But how do you decide what to include in the book? Libba responded with "let me see, I'll have some cake and see what happens." But seriously, Libba will actually visit places to include in her books such as an asylum that will be a big part of Book 3 in The Diviners series.
So what about the diversity of the cast in The Diviners series? How do you choose what character to bring out? The series is scheduled for 4 books with maybe a 5th book in the works. Libba mentioned about "there is nothing more powerful on Earth than story." She questions things like "who controls the narrative?," "how is the narrative and history shaped for us?" and "what is our responsibility?" Certain things are particular to the time period like Harlem and the Chinese Exclusion Act. Unions were important during the era as well. Diversity "represents the world we live in." If Libba was able to bring things back from the 1920's she would bring 1920's fashion, jazz and the radio when it was exciting and new.
Libba has always been a big horror fan. Horror is routed in emotional states with grief, death and sorrow. It's a metaphor of what humans do that are monstrous.
And what is the best and worst writing advice Libba received? According to Libba's favorite author, George Sanders, "take risks and tell the story you need to tell." Taking risks and listening are very important. I will leave it to that.
When Libba Bray was talking about drafts, I laughed when she talked about drafts.
Draft #13 - Help me baby Jesus.
Draft #14 - Jesus can't help you.
Libba explained how "the reader owns the book when it's in their hands. My work is done." In terms of audio book accents, she calls upon her theater background. It comes in handy for writing too. She claims, "I do hear all the voices in my head."
How does Libba develop characters? She likes to borrow characteristics from people she knows and dresses them in fabulous outfits.
One audience member was ecstatic that Libba added a bi-racial character to The Diviners series. Libba mentioned how an "healthy escape for us is fantasy. Books let you try on different identities. It nurtures the soul and fosters empathy and lets us explore."
Kirun Kapur moderated the BBF Unbound: Why YA is for Everyone? panel with Rachel DeWoskin, Cindy Rodriguez and Carolyn Mackler. In 2010 YA purchases increased 30%. Nowadays, 50% of YA books are purchased by adults.
The panelists were asked what books they loved mattered to them when they were younger.
Cindy mentions how she has always been an avid reader and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was her favorite book when she was younger. She can identify with Ponyboy even though Ponyboy is a male. Rachel said The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison was her favorite book. It changed the landscape of the imagination and understanding. Her views on interior life, life and politics changed. Carolyn often went to different books for different reasons. She gravitated toward Judy Blume but went to Lois Lowry for deep books.
What do adult overlook about young adults and children? Cindy mentioned how adults neglect everyday things that children and young adults go through. They hear swearing and experience romance. Life shouldn't be a glorified different reality. She tells adults not to be condescending and how adults shouldn't shelter and protect their children so much. Rachel mentioned how she tries to write novel with girls being nice to each other. The betrayals are often motives that are hard to coordinate and not because someone is being bad. Writing in different perspectives helps even if you don't include it in the novel. Carolyn talks about craft. She wrote five different novels before she finished the Infinite in Between. This is helpful since she was able to capture the voices of all five high schoolers seamlessly and is able incorporate all five voices into one book. It is important to understand how the characters are affected by the same moments but see things in different perspectives.
Cindy mentioned if a character that a reader relates to dies, it sends a certain message to the reader. It is important to be selective and careful about the outcomes of characters throughout a novel. Rachel talked about coming back to what anchors you when thinking when going through dark times. Carolyn explained how it important for YA to understand what the author is going through. Dark times through life will reflect in the books. When the author is going through falling in love or having healthy friendships, happy moments shine in the novel When the author experience sickness, grief over a lost one or having any allergy scare, dark moments are seen in the novel. Cindy describes how she likes to write something different for a change of pace. Her first novel is dark and about despair but her second book is happy, fun and light.
Why write YA? Cindy explained about she can choose what she wants to read in YA instead of being assigned reading for school. Rachel said with YA you can say the truth. With Adult fiction, children in the novel are usually representing history of the past. With YA, there is no distance about the character. It happens right at the moment.
How do authors manage their days? Carolyn writes when the children are in school but social media is often a buzz kill and distraction She tries to create a white room when writing. Cindy lives for snow days and summers since she teaches and has a child.
My last panel took place at the Teen Center at the Boston Public Library. Not only is the Boston Public Library in Copley Square amazingly beautiful but it's freaking HUGE! I feel like I am walking into Hogwarts!
THANK YOU to all the authors, publishers, Boston Book Festival organizers and volunteers for making this event possible!