Friday, October 6, 2017

Boston Teen Author Festival 2017 Recap

I was fortunate to attend the Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF) located in Cambridge, MA on Saturday, September 23rd. This was my fourth time attending BTAF and all I can say is that I had so much fun! Not only did I meet amazing authors and attended fantastic panels but I was able to meet a good amount of new friends that all love reading. Some are big Potterheads too! This year I managed to only attend two panels because I wanted to have a more relaxed approach compared to previous years. I wanted to spend more time catching up with old friends and learning more about my new friends.

I got up a little bit before six and got ready to head to the blue line to venture to Cambridge. Jess was on a bus from New Hampshire and I met her in Harvard Square at a Starbucks. We both then met up with my friends Marci and Rachel at the Tealuxe down the street and chit chatted before walking to the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School for the start of BTAF. I decided to purchase my books during the beginning of day so I could avoid long lines closer to the signing. I bumped into Ellie when she was volunteering and assisting guests to the auditorium. Because it was so hot inside the auditorium, I ended up hanging outside for awhile.

Marci found me outside and we proceeded to the Teen Room in the Cambridge Public Library for the Fantastical Four panel. Marci and I met April, who was sitting in front of us. We were talking about how April and I were wearing the same shirt and April showed us her collection of Harry Potter items that she had on her. Maddi met up with us too. Rachel pretty much introduced us to Maddi and a few other people during the day. Maddi also had a When in Doubt, Go to the Library shirt.

Adam Silvera, Lana Popović, Stacey Lee and Ibi Zoboi all spoke at Fantastical Four panel. The panel focused on novels that include magical elements but they are not fantasy and honed on the magical realism genre. Adam was fortunate enough to moderate since there was no formal moderator. Because I read books by three of the authors, I was super excited to hear what they had to say about their books. The panel was engaging, insightful and it was well-paced. Adam was hilarious throughout the whole panel and he really set the mood. Adam's first experience with queer characters included Cassandra Clare's City of Bones. The novel has a cool cover and a shirtless guy. He was 19-years-old when he first read about queer characters. "I want to do that for other readers. I want to show others there is diversity," when he explained about the books he wrote. Adam wanted other readers to share his experience about reading a book that they can relate to. He was excited to see his novel, They Both Die at the End, being shelved under realistic teen fiction and not under sci-fi.

Ibi mentioned how her first manuscripts she wrote about were Vodou mythology based but Vodou is hard to sell. However, she incorporated Vodou mythology in American Street. She loves how people come to our country with their own views, voices and cultures. I enjoyed hearing Stacey speak about how scents are made out of different pitches and how most scents hover around a middle to high C music note. She spoke about the complexity of scents. English words for scents don't exist. Scents are associated with emotions. Stacey also read a lot of wine labels when writing The Secret of a Heart Note. She also talked about the role of the aromateur and how she purposely had Mim have a makeup of multiple ethnicities and races since an aromateur does not identify with a specific race. Lana talks about how she wants to see the world through a magical lens and how it is easy to create a contemporary world with magic in Wicked Like Wildfire.

One of the questions that the authors answered included what books and authors introduced you to the genre?

Lana mentioned Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater and Francesca Lia Block are influences. She loves Neil Gaiman's American Gods and mentions that divine influences in YA is important. Stacey seconded on Magie Stiefvater. Her favorite Maggie book is The Scorpio Races. She is also a big fan of Wizard of Oz. Ibi loves Toni Morison and Daniel José Older. She claims trauma is a magical element and claims Gods are living amongst us.

Another fascinating question was what elements of magic would you like to see today?

Lana mentioned how there is no visual way to perceive magic. Leisure time magic of tarot cards, herbs and crystals would be nice to see. Adam talked about how cool it would it be to translate magic to a visual medium. Ibi would like to see auras. She claims they would be like walking mood rings. Stacey claimed there are a lot of bad things happening in the world and she would like to see positive auras.

Of course at the end of the panel, Maddi, April and I had to get a picture of the three of us with our matching shirts! Thanks Marci for taking the photo!

After the panel, Marci, Maddi and I met up with Adrienne, Shannon and Rachel to get some lunch from the local market. We bumped into Julie Dao before we headed back to the school to eat outside. I was able to grab a water bottle for Ellie and Ellie joined us for a bit during her break. Marci, Shannon and I went to save seats for the Out of Character panel in the lecture hall of the Cambridge Public Library. The panel consisted of Jason Reynolds, Leigh Bardugo, Ashley Poston and Kerri Maniscalco. I found it hilarious how Jason got their time and everyone was late. Rachel was joking around how it's the Jason Reynolds Panel.

During the panel, the audience learned more about what the authors researched for their characters. They also shared with us what their favorite things that they learned while researching.

Kerri enjoyed researching Dracula's castle which ultimately became the castle for the forensics school. Ashley learned that if you exhale, you can float for 3-4 minutes before you bloat up and explode like a balloon in space. Leigh enjoyed debunking myths when researching Helen and Troy. Jason found out that the name Miles means solider. He likes to learn what words mean and to learn the roots of words.

One of the questions that was asked included what characters in mythology would you want to write about?

Kerri would love to write about a gender-swapped Rumpelstiltskin. Ashley wants to write about Batgirl because she really loves Barbara Gordon. Leigh mentioned how she wants to write about Lex Luthor because she loves evil industrialists in sharp suits. Jason wants to write about the three bears in modern time but they obviously wouldn't be bears. He would retell the story of the three bears as the quintessential story of gentrification.

Someone in the audience had a good question about what advice would the authors give to young writers. 

Kerri: "Never give up and read everything you can get your hands on!"

Ashley: "Keep moving forward."

Leigh: "Finish a draft. Read outside your comfort zone. There is no expiration date on talent. Find critique partners you trust. That's how you tell a good story."

Jason: "Celebrate small victories but only for a moment. Write through it. Push through uncomfortably. There are no rules to writing. Process before progress. There is no shortcut. One word before the next."

Marci and I decided to skip the last panel slot and went back to the school to start lining up for the author signing outside of the cafeteria. We made a good decision since the line was long despite us getting there at least 50-60 minutes in advance. The signing didn't start until 3:15. During the time when we waited, Seoling and Kristen met up with us and Rachel and Maddi found us as well. Once the doors opened, the lines formed quickly. Marci and I went to Kerri Maniscalco's line first and gushed how much we love her books and how we're excited to meet her. Marci even gave Kerri a box of tea. Kerri is so sweet and her outfit was killer! Her necklace and her atmospheric castle skirt definitely screamed Hunting Prince Dracula. Of course, Marci and I are part of the Knights of White Chapel and it was lovely to meet Kerri, the mastermind of two twisted novels, in person. Definitely check out Stalking Jack the Ripper and Hunting Prince Dracula for October reads! Check out this tweet to win a signed copy of Hunting Prince Dracula.

Marci and I hopped into Stacey Lee's line. I was so excited to meet Stacey! I love all her books and I was super excited when she remembered me from twitter. Stacey had awesome stamps for her books and they added a special touch. Stacey actually inspired Marci and I to create a feature involving indie perfumes. More on that at a later date but I am very excited about working on a fragrance feature. The rest of the authors I visited afterwards I only had one title for each of them sign. I was able to meet Sandhya Menon, Karen McManus, Amanda Foody, Akemi Dawn Bowman and Jason Reynolds again. Akemi's novel Starfish didn't come out until the following Tuesday and I was excited to be able to purchase it early and to get it signed. Akemi signed and personalized the book with a purple sharpie. I was fortunate enough to read the ARC and I fell in love when I first read it. Also, Akemi lives in the UK so it was a treat to see her at the festival this year.

This year's author lineup was fabulous and I can't wait for next year's Boston Teen Author Festival. Thank you to all the staff, volunteers and authors who made the event possible!


  1. Great recap Nicole! So glad you had a good time! And thank you for feeding me! :D heheee

    1. Thanks! I am glad you were able to hydrate and eat with us!

  2. There were so many great authors!!! This looked like it was a lot of fun

    1. I agree! There were so many amazing and talented authors at the festival. I always look forward to the festival every year.

  3. Nicole!! You guys look so cute in your HP library t-shirts!!! This festival looks awesome, I'm glad you got to see so many cool authors!!

    1. Thanks, Michelle!! I had such a great time at the panels and the signings. I always look forward to BTAF every September.