Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Even More Authors

I love author events. Hearing details about their process, seeing how much taller or shorter they are than I imagined, finding out the story behind the story, learning what their laugh sounds like--it's a deeply satisfying blend of celebrity fandom and a master course in writing.

This past weekend I got a double dose of this treat. On Saturday I attended a workshop put on by my state's English teacher professional organization. As part of it, they presented the Oregon Spirit Award winners with their plaques, and then the winners did an author panel as one of our workshop options.

The winners and authors were:
Picture book: Giant Pants by Mark Fearing
Graphic novel: Star Scouts by Mike Lawrence
Middle Grade: Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
YA: This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada
Debut: The Tragically True Adventures of Kit Donovan by Patricia Bailey

Not all of the authors were Oregon natives (Suvada is Australian!), but they currently make their homes here. I was VERY interested in hearing Suvada speak, since her book was chosen over Strange the Dreamer, which I love.

She mentioned that her book is, on one hand, written for people who want their science fiction to contain REAL science, and who have the background to know when the author is making up crap. She studied theoretical astrophysics at university, so...yeah. She has one of THOSE kinds of brains. But her books are also written to be thrillers, un-put-downable, with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter.

THEN she said something so remarkable I'm giving it its own paragraph and going all caps on you guys:


Isn't that nuts?  In a very, very cool and fascinating way?!?

Lawrence thinks and outlines in pictures; Fearing thought the picture are the hard part. Lawrence and Bailey like to take walks while they think. Fearing wanted to create a graphic novel featuring an Indian protagonist for his half-Indian nieces and nephews. Bailey wanted to write a middle grade novel that was set in a rural area.

They talked about tenacity trumping being more important than talent and how being an author is a job that extends far beyond "write a book, get it published." They agreed that "pursuing vigorous critique" was vital, and pointed out that by working with a critique group, they could use the errors and issues they see in others' work to improve their own. Finally, both Bailey and Suvada said they take quizzes as their characters. If you know your character's Hogwarts House, Meyers-Briggs type, and what kind of donut they are, you can be sure that the decisions they make really come from who they are.

They also asked us, as a roomful of teachers, what we most wanted to see more of, especially for our struggling readers. Immediate drop into action, I told them. More sports, another woman suggested. First person POV  feed their voyeuristic tendencies, added another. Latino boys. Snappy chapters. More graphic novels, please, please, please.

Ah, but I mentioned a double dose. I'd been unsure if I'd have time on Sunday to see Kwame Alexander, but as it turned out, I did, and I got to bring my daughter.  She was highly skeptical--little Miss "I only read books that walk a fine line between horror and thriller" did NOT think she'd be interested in an author who has written novels in verse about boy athletes. But he's amazing, so she ended up happy I'd forced her to accompany me. I was astounded to see how small the audience was, nothing like the crowd that turned up for V. E. Schwab just over a week ago. I decided it's because Schwab fans can stalk her online and drive themselves to an event, whereas Alexander fans might not even know authors go on tour.  But Alexander puts on a SHOW. I mean, the man travels with a guitar player. He reads, tells stories, makes jokes, shares his philosophy, and encourages audience participation. It was incredible.

The Crossover was turned down by 18 editors before it sold. It was something like his 22nd book, too, so it's not like he was an unknown. I don't see how anybody could have read it and not been blown away, but apparently they felt that GIRLS don't read books about BOYS, and BOYS don't read books of POETRY, so there would be no audience.

Joke's on them.

I just wish my admin had gotten his act together in time to get me a bus. I would have LOVED to show up with 30 middle schoolers. We would have been the audience Alexander (and his guitar playing friend) deserved.

Here are the books he read to us from or quoted from (that I know of!). Read them all, please.


  1. You had quite an epic weekend. I think it's awesome that they host awards for local authors. Very nice. And I love going to author readings. They know the exact right emotion to put into each word, which makes the intent of the words so clear.

  2. I just read an article by Schwab where she said that Suvada is one of her favorite new authors that you should check out!

  3. It sounds like a fun event! I would have gone to see Kwame Alexander. I guess if you write a lot of picture books, you’re going to have a small audience because three-year-olds probably don’t beg to go to author talks. That’s surprising that The Crossover was rejected so many times, especially if the author’s other books had sold well.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

  4. October was a big month for book events for me too. I also met Suvada this month, and her books sound fascinating to me. I'm very intrigued by her method of writing the final sentence of the chapter first!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction


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