Well hello there. I haven’t seen you in a while….totally my fault. Man, the past month has been crazy. To further interrupt the regular rotation of posts I’d like to tell you all about the amazing time I have had in the literary world over the past five weeks.
To kick off the month of October, the Texas Teen Book Festival was held. The day long celebration of the YA genre hosted 35 authors on the Saint Edward’s University campus. As I was volunteering, my day started just before 7 am putting up parking signs and helping to make sure school bus traffic went smoothly. Mindy Kaling’s book signing was the first event of the day which was to begin at 8:30 am. When I arrived (before the sun) there was already a crazy line waiting filled with so many amazing fans. Working book signings is one of my favorite things to do because the people are always excited to see these authors. YA fans are so appreciative of the authors in this genre and vise versa. Each author is so willing to converse with readers and makes sure that their experience in those two minutes is genuine. They have the rotation of these lines down to a science and know how many signatures they can do in x amount of time. It’s amazing. Another reason that this festival is fun is because of the games! Authors play trivia games, have races and contests. In addition to the panels that are held, many of them gather in the university’s gym and by the time you leave your stomach and face hurt from laughing so hard for so long. The Texas Teen Book Festival has been in operation and in a state of growth and evolution since 2009. The TTBF “fosters a community effort to celebrate and promote reading and writing by connecting teens to local and award-winning authors, whose writing spans across genres and interest level.” It is a wonderful experience to witness this first hand. While working a signing this year I overheard a conversation with Kirkus Prize nominee Traci Chee (The Reader) and a young reader who was probably in 7th or 8th grade. She told Chee that she wanted to be a writer and asked her very earnest and well put questions. How she flushed out characters. How to create a foil. This conversation went on for probably 20 minutes or so altogether. When another fan would walk up, the girl would move to the side and then come back and continue inquiring. Seeing this exchange made me so happy and that is the whole goal of such a festival: to inspire young minds and encourage them to keep reading, keep asking questions, and keep imagining.
The next big event: the Kirkus Prize. To read the full list of nominees and articles about each, visit the Kirkus Reviews website. When I was a young reader of about 10 or 12 I fell in love with this series that was about princesses and dragons. I have since forgotten (much to my annoyance) the name of the series and instead remember that the Kirkus review that was on the back of the book had been high praise. From that book on I didn’t buy a book unless it had a review from Kirkus. Imagine, then, how amazingly, stupendously, wonderfully awesome it is that I now work for Kirkus and speak with independent authors and small presses all day every day. Being part of the team who put together the ceremony for the Kirkus Prize was an experience almost beyond words. The ceremony was held in downtown Austin, Tx with a view of the skyline and a view of the river. Six authors in fiction, six in non-fiction, and six in youth literature (YA, middle grade, and picture books) were nominated for outstanding work in their genre. Making my way in and around the crowd, I spoke with several of the nominees and people within the industry that I have admired for so long. When I found myself in the presence of Jason Reynolds (who later in the evening won the award for YA) I totally fangirled on him. I was able to speak to him about his process, his upcoming projects, and about how great his work is. Again I witnessed the wonderful generosity of authors who want to talk about books just as much as you or I. The Kirkus Prize is the largest monetary prize in the literary world and as the first award of the season, it tends to set a precedent for nominations for awards that follow. The prize is $50,000 to each winning author and is awarded to the title that the judges feel displays exceptional merit.
The following evening was the 21st annual Literary Gala which is hosted by the Texas Book Festival. The gala serves as a fundraiser and is the driving factor in keeping the large festival free and open to the public. This was the first time I had been to anything that was coined black tie. Attending the gala this year was an amazing personal accomplishment for me as it was at this exact function the year prior that I met my future boss and started my path to Kirkus. Last year I interned for the festival and was on the outside for the whole gala. This year I was sitting at the Kirkus table and got to wear a fancy dress, eat an delicious three course meal, and listen to some pretty great speeches. One of my favorite aspects of the festival is the Reading Rock Stars program which goes into underprivileged schools in South Texas. They schedule author talks at these schools, bringing in authors and illustrators to talk to kids about what it means to them to be able to write/draw for them and how they too can do it! Each child receives a book of their own to keep and a lot of the time it is the first time that they are given a brand new book of their very own. To hear this program talked about at length during the gala was heart warming and inspiring. First Lady Laura Bush started the festival in 1995 and it has grown exponentially each year in both author and public attendance.
This month has been hectic and stressful and rewarding. It has been long and involved multitasking on a whole different level. And it was so worth it. Never before have I felt so satisfied with myself. I have worked hard for many years now to become part of this world and now that I am, I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
Thank you for reading my ramblings and for visiting my site. Next week we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.