Hello everyone! This past Saturday was the sixth annual Ontario Teen Book Fest and my fourth year in a row attending. I say every single year that it is my favorite event of the year to attend, and I completely mean that. When I first discovered this fest back in 2013, I was chasing down Jessica Brody, Stephen Chbosky and Marie Lu. I was a brand new blogger, still sort of getting my experience with it, and I bravely asked my dear friend Courtney, librarian extraordinaire and brain child of TBF, if I could come and interview the authors attending.
The rest is sort of history. That fest completely changed my life! I met authors like Andrew Smith and Leigh Bardugo and Gretchen McNeil and made connections, and sort of bonded myself to this event. I’d like to think I’m a part of the team, like the rest. Check out my recaps from 2013, 2014, and 2015.
But this year was something bigger, and different. Last year, Courtney asked me if I could come back and be a moderator for a couple panels, and I accepted immediately. At the time, I had no idea that I would be published by this point, that The Awakened would be a real and tangible thing! So not only did I attend this event as Sara, the official TBF blogger, but also as Sara, the moderator, and Sara Elizabeth Santana, the author of The Awakened.
Which made it an entirely new but amazing experience for me.
I showed up early for the event, as per usual, ready for a very busy day. I’ve been attending the author breakfast portion of the event every single year that I’ve attended, but this year definitely felt different. I wasn’t just the blogger anymore, I had made it, I was an author, and I definitely felt that. And let me tell you something, guys, it felt AMAZING. These authors have become friends to me over the years and it felt so good to have Andrew and Jessica and Brad and Michelle coming up to me, hugging me, saying hello, congratulating me on the release of The Awakened. And it felt good, as always, to make new friends, and be treated as a colleague with the authors I wasn’t as familiar with.
I even got my own special guide for the day, and she was SUCH a rock star.
I was able to talk SO much about The Awakened, and I loved every minute of it. The Awakened has been sort of the center of my life the past 2 1/2 years, so its sort of like my baby and I love bragging about her. I thought it was SO awesome that Courtney gave the moderators (myself, Robin Reul, and E. Katherine Kottaras) the opportunity to stand up in front of everyone, during the opening keynotes, and talk about our books.
I was SO incredibly nervous getting up in front of everyone to talk about my book, and I hadn’t really prepared anything because I figured I would just wing it, but it went really well! I felt so supported up stage, after Courtney introduced me, saying she was proud of me, and gave me a big hug. AND I got a fair amount of cheers, both from the audience and the authors in the front row. I made a few people laugh too, which always is a good thing, right?
So much sass in one picture. Thanks Kathy Kottaras for the picture haha.
After that were the keynote speakers: Jay Asher, Marissa Meyer and Andrew Smith, all who had SUCH great speeches, made us laugh and made us think. Seriously, jus tbeing in the same room as them, felt so so so cool.
After that, was my first panel. The first panel ever that I’d be moderating. OH, I was so nervous. I have never moderated a panel before and I am not the biggest fan of public speaking, but I was excited and hopeful that it would go super well. My first panel was all about sci-fi and fantasy books and the world building that went into it, and it included Andrew Smith, Stephanie Diaz, Nicole Maggi and Mary Weber.
And it went really well! I think. I hope. The authors were all super supportive and encouraging and had such great answers, and it was awesome discussing all of the fun of world building with them, and people in the audience were SO engaged and asked great questions and I felt SO much more confident after this panel.
After this, we had our lunch break, and you know, when authors get together and eat Panera, silly stuff tends to happen…
Love these guys haha.
After lunch was the Author Speed Dating. After Courtney introduced it a couple years ago, its become my favorite part of the fest. It gives everyone a chance to mingle with an author for five minutes…and you really get the chance to mingle with most of them! This year I was one of the table hopping authors and let me tell you: it is both incredibly fun and incredibly intense. I thought I would lose my voice by the end of it! But it was also so much to be able to talk to so many readers and answer their questions about The Awakened and about writing and all of that. I handed out about a million bookmarks and I think some of them really were excited about my book!
Then came my second panel. I honestly thought I was going to be more nervous for this one because Marissa Meyer was on the panel and she wrote the Lunar Chronicles, which I LOVE, but it was just so much fun. The panel was all about writing series, and myself, Jessica Brody, Marissa Meyer, Stephanie Diaz and Nicole Maggi, talked and laughed and our room was full to the max and it was SO great. I really enjoyed it and several people came up to me to tell me that it had went well and I did a good job!
Eek, they’re all looking at me!
Lastly, there was the signing for the day. I was so lucky to be able to attend the signing as an AUTHOR this year. I intended to have WAY more books available but due to shipping issues (isn’t that the way…), I only had SIX books available for sale and they went SO SO fast. According to all the awesome people at Once Upon A Time, people kept coming up and asking for The Awakened and I really have to credit being able to talk about it during the opening stuff, and during speed dating for that happening. I felt so so bad that I didn’t have any books for anyone but I ran out of bookmarks, signed books for some people, and talked to a TON of other people about my book and it was SO awesome. It felt surreal and bizarre and WONDERFUL.
Even better…I walked into the room, and was looking for my table. Each table had two authors, and when I spotted mine, I was so surprised and slightly intimidated by the fact that I was at the same table as my idol, Andrew Smith. We are good friends, so it was awesome, but I really felt like I made it, sandwiched in between Andrew and Jay Asher!
I seriously love everything about this picture. Not just that we all look like we’re having a great time, but also that I am a part of it.
Afterwards, I enjoyed dinner and drinks with some of the authors and volunteers and it was a perfect end to such a great day.
Me and my awesome friend Mina
With my awesome friend Krystal, who was also a beta for The Awakened!
With the awesome, Kathy Kottaras
The lovely Marissa Meyer
The super awesome Nicole Maggi, who I’m so stoked to have as a new friend!
Two of my favorite people in the entire world: Jessica Brody and Brad Gottfred. Two incredibly awesome people, and two big supporters of mine. LOVE them both so much.
At the end of the day, it was another amazing TBF. I loved being there, surrounded by people as passionate about reading and writing as I am. I loved being a moderator for the first time, and being able to do so with old friends and new friends. And I loved being able to talk to people about my book. I’m so proud of it, and it felt good to have people talk about it and wanting to buy it and asking me about it and telling me that it sounded so good. Things like that will literally keep me happy for days on end.
Thank you to everyone who makes this such a great event…all the authors and volunteers and Once Upon a Time and all the bloggers that helped on the tour…everyone for making this another great year. This still remains my favorite event of the year and I already can’t wait for next year!