The Year of the Bobcat. That’s what 2015 was at the Tucson Festival of Books. Our fourth year attending the festival was our best yet!
This year was also the first year the festival has offered tickets for the most popular panels. We attended one (Longmire and Me) and it was a very smooth process. However, we will be writing more about that in a later post.
The rest of this post is full of highlights and nuggets from MG and YA authors who generously shared their time and expertise with festival attendees.
“Story Interrupted: Moving In and Out of Time and Space in YA”
E. Lockhart, Jo Knowles, Andrew Smith
1. Jo Knowles emphasized the importance of writing from the heart and writing what speaks to you. (So true!!!) She also discussed how she frequently writes (much to her chagrin) a “discovery draft” in which she writes the story in a different tense and point of view from what the story eventually ends up being.
2. Andrew Smith usually wakes at three in the morning to write. He can do this because he does not watch television. (How is this possible?) He writes from beginning to end and then presses send (All in one draft! Wow!).
3. E. Lockhart often writes fifteen to twenty full drafts with “global changes” (big plot or character additions or deletions) before she gets to the story she wants to tell. She also said my favorite quote of the panel, “I only have the weirdness in my own head to work with.” (That’s true for everyone!)
“I only have the weirdness in my own head to work with.” -E. Lockhart
“Memoirs Matter: Our Lives as Story”
Jacqueline Woodson, Marilyn Nelson, Katherine Paterson
1. All three panelists stressed that when writing a memoir, there are many ways to tell the story of your life.
2. You have the power to leave things out. It is your truth to tell.
3. Also remember to “talk to the old folks,” because they won’t be around forever.
On Jacqueline Woodson:
The main reason we attended this panel was to see Ms. Jacqueline Woodson. We first discovered Ms. Woodson’s work while perusing audiobooks at the local library. Miracle’s Boys looked interesting and was read by Dulé Hill. That book made me cry several times! Highly recommend it. I am currently reading After Tupac and D Foster and find it just as captivating and insightful. Ms. Woodson has a gift!
Here are two points Ms. Woodson made during the panel that we found particularly insightful.
1. In fiction, you write characters from the outside-in. As you write, you get to know them better. In memoir, you already know the characters, so you need to write them inside-out. (Brilliant way of describing it!)
2. Ms. Woodson also said in her writing, she always tries to provide the reader mirrors to see themselves, as well as windows to see others. (That is so spot on! Even though I am a twenty something woman, I felt all of Lafayette’s pain and confusion in Miracle’s Boys. Laf, Ty’ree and Charlie were all mirrors and windows for me as a reader.)
“Girl Power: Stand Up! Take Charge!”
Ally Carter, Jenny Han, Sarah Mlynowski
1. Ally Carter: Always ask yourself “How can things go wrong?” and “What’s the worst that can happen?”
2. Jenny Han: Be honest and truthful to the characters and the story. Always ask yourself what feels realistic to the character? Won’t work if it sounds contrived
3. Sarah Mlynowski: It’s ok to mess up. It may even end up being a better situation. (This applies in Whatever After series and in real life). Also, she said that she writes a full outline of the book. Whenever she gets stuck, she moves to a different part of the outline.
“Art2-D2: An Origami Yoda Folding Workshop”
We are huge Origami Yoda fans. We first saw Mr. Angleberger at the Los Angeles Festival of Books in 2013. It was a pleasure to see him again this past weekend.
I have no idea how many times we walked straight past his books at Costco and Barnes and Noble, but I now regret that lost time- especially since the series has ended with Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus. The books capture the exact essence of my middle school experience. Just amazing!
Here are some pictures from the session: