I left my heart at BEA.
As a writer who mostly connects with others through the internet, Book Expo America was a new and exhilarating experience. For the first time, I was surrounded by other writers, readers, bloggers, agents, and editors who love books as much as I do. It’s a community I’ve been proud to be a part of, and after this week, I’m even prouder (which I hadn’t believed was possible).
I met so many talented writers—both published and unpublished—who couldn’t have been nicer or more humble.
Cannot wait to dive into Zoraida Córdova’s Labyrinth Lost!
I met Sara Shepard!
Anna-Marie McLemore was so sweet, and I can’t wait to read her acclaimed YA, Weight of Feathers!
I attended panels throughout the week, and my favorite part was hearing the authors’ passion. They love their craft and their readers, and they write to show readers they are not alone. I felt so at home this entire week.
One of my favorite questions was asked in the Reality Bites, YA Contemporary panel with Jennifer Niven, David Arnold, John Corey Whaley, David Levithan, and Nicola Yoon.
Q: “Why YA?”
“Because everyone has to be teenagers and few have the perfect adolescence.”
“When you’re young, you’re allowed to be vulnerable and explore. You get to decide who you’re going to be, which is relatable for all because in reality it takes much longer.”
“Some of the bravest writing in the world is YA.”
“I want to show my readers it’s okay to grapple…sometimes just acknowledging the struggle is important. The most intense romantic move is not kissing, it’s looking in each other’s eyes—it’s being seen.”
And as for why contemporary:
“I want to deconstruct this world before another world.”
I was so excited that there were several diversity panels. They said everything I had been thinking and more I hadn’t known I’d been thinking. To hear my worries and hopes expressed by authors I admired was a relief and inspiration. Because there isn’t enough Asian-American YA in the world, sometimes I fear that if I’m lucky to get a book sale, there will be pressure to represent every Asian-American experience. As the panels said so eloquently this week, the answer is to have more diverse books, which is a solution I’m excited about!
Turnout for the diversity in romance panel:
And speaking of diversity, I was so excited to see this on display at Sourcebooks:
And another diverse book from Sourcebooks coming out September 6th that I’m dying to read:
The synopsis for Fashion is Freedom:
The inspiring true story of how courage, a dream, and some needle and thread can change a life forever…
Since she was young, Tala Raassi knew her fate lay in fashion. But growing up in her beloved homeland of Iran, a woman can be punished for exposing her hair in public, let alone wearing the newest trends. Despite strict regulations, Tala developed a keen sense of style in backroom cafes and secret parties. She never imagined her behavior would land her in prison, or bring the cruel sting of a whip for the crime of wearing a mini-skirt.
Tala’s forty lashes didn’t keep her down – they fanned the flames of individuality and inspired her to embrace a new freedom in the United States. As she developed her own clothing label, her exploration into the creative, cut throat community of Western fashion opened her eyes to the ups and downs of hard work, hard decisions, and hard truths.
Fashion is Freedom takes us on a journey that crosses the globe, from Colombia to Miss Universe, and inspires women everywhere to be fearless…
In the Book-Hooked panel with Laini Taylor, Sarah J Maas, and Victoria Aveyard, it was an hour of laughing and fangirling. I loved hearing the authors describe their process, and it only emphasized how every writer’s journey is different. Sarah prefers to write 10K words a day in a binge writing sprint, then crash for a week or two in which she can’t write. Laini prefers to edit as she writes and her first draft is more like a third draft.
In the #IReadYA Book Besties panel, Maggie Stiefvater, Francisco Stork, Aimee Friedman, Jeffrey Self, and David Levithan gave their YA must reads:
When You Reach Me, Rebecca Stead
Before I Fall, Lauren Oliver
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson
Monster, Walter Dean Myers
Make Lemonade, Virginia Euwer Wolff
Feed, M. T. Anderson
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You, Peter Cameron
Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys
Places No One Knows, Brenna Yovanoff
Better Nate Than Ever, Tim Federle
The Great American Whatever, Tim Federle
Beauty Queens, Libba Bray
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie
I read Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver series before I started writing, and it was instant love. I devoured the first two books and couldn’t wait for Forever to be released (yes, it felt like forever). When I first started writing, Andrea Brown Literary Agency was my dream agency because of Maggie (and the other books they represent). When I signed with Kathleen, I couldn’t believe I had found my dream agent and that she was at my dream agency.
I still can’t believe I’m technically agency sisters with Maggie. When I met her this weekend, my heart was pounding. She was so lovely, so charismatic, and so kind. Some say to never meet your heroes, but for me, it was all I imagined and more.
Talented authors + free books + churros = best week ever!
*Special thank you to Claribel for making this all happen!