Event Recap: Ontario Teen Book Fest 2016!

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, patient 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!

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Announcement! Ontario Teen Book Fest Authors!

Yay! Its almost that time again! Time for my favorite event of the year, try the Ontario Teen Book Fest. The first time I attended it was nearly three years ago and each and every year, I’ve become more involved and more connected and attached to this event. Courtney, the youth services librarian, and the rest of her crew, always put on an amazing event. I’m incredibly excited about the lineup for this event, especially since I’m in it this year!

Where Teens and Books Meet!

When: March 12, 2016
9 am to 5 pm

Where: Colony High Branch Library
3850 East Riverside Drive
Ontario, CA

More information will be coming! Check out the official blog tour, starting February 22nd, kicking off on THIS blog, for more information, including giveaways. You can also visit the official TBF website here, to find out more about sponsors, how to purchase books, all about the panels and more!

For now, let’s meet this year’s line up! Click the authors’ names to check out their websites and learn more!

Authors: 

*****

Elana K Arnold

Jay Asher

Alexis Bass

Virginia Boecker

Jessica Brody

Stephanie Diaz

Brad Gottfred

Kristin Halbrook

Michelle Levy

Nicole Maggi

Mary McCoy

Marissa Meyer

Alexandra Monir

Andrew Smith

April Genevieve Tucholke

*****

Moderators

*****

E. Katherine Kottaras

Robin Reul 

Sara Elizabeth Santana

*****

Who are you most excited about? I hope to see you all there, and make sure to come back on February 22nd for the blog tour kick off!

Stop Picking on YA Literature!

Today in my children’s literature class, ailment we had a lecture on young adult literature.

And it was really super interesting.

We all know how much I love YA literature. This is beyond obvious.

So the class today was really informative and one that I definitely am glad that I didn’t miss.

I mean, what is ed did you know that S.E. Hinton was sixteen when she wrote The Outsiders? Now, I’m not a #1 fan of the Outsiders but that is seriously badass. As an aspiring writer, I must admit that I am quite impressed.

But it really got me thinking about young adult literature in general. I remember when I was younger and there wasn’t much of a young adult section in the bookstore. I remember having to special order books because bookstores would never have them.

But now that’s definitely changed. Young adult literature has exploded in the last ten years. Exploded.

And let’s think about that for a moment. Kids and teenagers are reading more than ever. I think a lot of it stems from Harry Potter. Harry Potter opened up a lot-it opened up the doors to new ideas and it opened up the doors of a new approach on writing and reading. J.K.R. showed that kids and teens WILL read and they’ll read long books too (I mean, Order of the Phoenix is HUGE!)

And think of everything that has come since then: The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson, Mortal Instruments, Twilight series, the Fallen series, the Gemma Doyle series, the Inheritance series, etc. There are authors like Meg Cabot, Sarah Dessen, John Green, Maureen Johnson, Jay Asher, Deb Caletti and so on and so on.

Young adult literature is HUGE!

And it helps so much that so many of the movies that have been hitting the theaters in the past few years have been coming from popular YA novels (notice that I said popular, not good. Though I think most of these are good).

Harry Potter.

Twilight.

Percy Jackson.

Perks of Being a Wallflower.

City of Bones.

Hunger Games.

The Fault in Our Stars (John Green) is optioned to be a movie, same with Fallen (Lauren Kate), Divergent (Veronica Roth), Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher) and so many more. Delirium and Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver.

Don’t forget that The Vampire Diaries is a ridiculously popular TV series.

I literally could keep going. I won’t though…

There is also the fact that most authors nowadays are on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, instagram, Youtube and so on. Authors are so accessible nowadays. I’ve been tweeted by Libba Bray, Meg Cabot, Cassandra Clare, Jen Calonita. I’ve had Facebook conversations with Meg Cabot, Jen Calonita and Cinda Williams Chima.

But let’s make this very clear:

Not all of young adult literature is good. In fact, there is a good amount that is fairly bad.

Now, I liked the Twilight series. I kind of liked the Fallen series. They are entertaining and they keep me reading. They are also not the best written books around. There are books like The House of Night series (ugh) and Hush, Hush, Gossip Girl, etc. I can’t sit here and attack these books (I mean, those guys have a publishing deal and I don’t…) but I do think that the bad YA books can be the ones that bring such negative view to the young adult genre.

Because the fact is, there is a lot of fantastic young adult literature. People like John Green, Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, Jen Calonita, Jay Asher, Suzanne Collins, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Meg Cabot. These people are genuinely talented writers. They tell great stories.

But there’s more to it than that. They capture the young adult essence. They capture what its like to be a teenager and they capture the sort of things that they’re dealing with, from things like friendships and relationships and family issues to sex and sexuality and drugs and abuse. There are books that touch on so many teen issues and its amazing, especially since they’re usually so on touch with it and since the stories are so good.

Don’t deny it. We all remember the teen years. We all remember how hard they were. They weren’t easy and I don’t care how old you are, you remember how it felt. Why do you think young adult literature is also read by adults too? (Do I qualify as a young adult anymore…)

I also think that young adult literature gets a really bad reputation, because of more than just the good books vs. bad books (Sorry, Twilight, I’m looking at you). I think a lot of parents are really uncomfortable with some of the issues that are brought up in these books.

For instance, sex. There is a lot of sex in young adult novels. I’m not talking Fifty Shades of Grey here (UGH) but they’re teenagers! For the most part, these characters are from the ages of 15 to 19. They’re hormonal and thinking about sex. So of course sex is going to be discussesd, maybe more than that.

To parents, I say this: GET OVER IT. If you have talked to your teen about sex, then you have nothing to worry about. They will make the right decision, either way. If you haven’t talked to them about, then let them read it. You don’t have the cajones to talk to them about it and someone should!

I further think that parents have issue with the portrayal of adults in a lot of these novels. Parents can often times be the bad guy (Mortal Instruments, Delirium), they can be defied or disobeyed (Divergent), or neglectful (Hunger Games) or even addicts (Gemma Doyle). And here’s my answer to that: GET OVER IT. They are parents like that, wehther you like or not. If you’re a good parent, you’re okay. And yeah, parents aren’t perfect and that’s okay too. Maybe they’ll appreciate you more after reading about these parents.

My point is, (and believe me, my point has changed at least four times), young adult literature should be treated the same way as any other literature or form of writing whether it’s children literature or biography or fiction or nonfiction or whatever. Some of it is going to be bad (really, really bad). Some of it is going to be good (really, really good).

But just think of the impact that it can have.

Because of YA, I want to be a writer. Because of YA, I have learned so much about life and I have learned different morals and values. Because of YA, I have learned so much about myself. Because of YA, I am the avid reader that I am. Because of YA, I have this blog.

And come on, young adult literature is awesome. And its there for everyone no matter what age or gender you are. It’s made for PEOPLE.

And if you ever need a recommendation, trust me, I got your back :)

What’s your favorite young adult novel???? As always, share in the comments.

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