Boston Book Fest (part 2): YA panel

As promised, here's part two of the great event. This one features the YA panel! And, a giveaway. As yesterday, things I loved are underlined. 
Photo from the AMAZING Kim Harrington, who sat beside me.

This was the thing I was most excited about all day! The panel featured: Noni Carter (Good Fortune), Kathryn Lasky (Guardians of Ga'hoole), Francisco Stork (Marcelo in Real Life, Last Summer of the Death Warriors) and Kristin Cashore (Graceling, Fire). 

"It" panel: Four YA authors discuss what's hot and what's not.

Noni Carter started writing her novel when she was 12. (She's now 19 and a student at Harvard.) The idea for her novel came from the true story her aunt told her as a child about her great-great-great grandmother Rose, who's mom was sold in slavery. Rose watched as a ship sailed away with her mother, who she never saw again. Noni knew that stories were important and she started writing. "We can't move forward in life unless we understand where we came from."

Noni Carter reading from her book.

Kathyrn Lasky was next---and she took a seat and took off her shoes. She addressed the issue of the panel discussion by jumping into "Hot or Not." Kathryn said that most stories (even fiction) are written on a deep personal level and come out with some form of that on the pages. "Writers don't write stories to start trends; they write because there is something burning inside them, a story that has to be told."

She also presented some really great ideas that trends stem from previous works of fiction. She pointed out three specific examples:  Catcher In the Rye (which was written in the 50's) and shaped many of the stories written in the 70's. The Giver, which has given way to the current influx of dystopian novels. Interview with a Vampire, which has given way to Twilight and the other vampire novels. She said that there were others and that these were just a few examples but it was impossible to deny that works of the past affect the future.

Kathryn also shared the story of her inspiration for Guardians of Ga'hoole. She has some non-fiction novels as well and her husband is a National Geographic photographer. She was really interested in owls and wanted to write a non-fiction book about them. Her husband said it was too much work. Owls were hard to find and they'd have to live in the woods. "'Just make it up,' he said. So I did!"

Francisco Stork took a seat next to Kathryn and, with a smile, said, "What's hot? I don't feel like I can answer that because it's not me." Precious! But he tackled the answer with ease. He said that there were two options for finding that answer: the best-seller list and the books that keep appearing everywhere. He specifically suggested looking at the Hot Reads tables at bookstores. "Those are the books that people are reading and they all have something in common. If you really want to figure out what's hot, read those books."

FS: The motivation with which you write a book affects the book and what comes out. That's what makes a book hot--YA especially. Teen years are full of hyper-sensitivity, hyper-awareness--hyper-everything--it's a time when you are in touch with the mysteries of the world around you and all the new things. There are a lot of firsts: loves, losses, kisses. The "hot" books embody these things and deal with ultimate concerns. "Who am I? What do I do? Why am I here? What can I do? What do I want?" These are the things that matter.

Francisco Stork. I just want to hug him.
Fransisco also suggested to ask the question, "What can I do to make sure my book is read five years from now?"

And when you are writing, find out what happens when a, b, c and play with all the concerns and outcomes. That's where the story is.  "Write with an attitude of discovery. The questions everyone asks has to be embodied and sought out." He also said to strive for that "Hot" table.

Kristin Cashore was last and immediately I was shocked by how hilarious she was! First words: "I don't feel like I should be talking about what's hot. What do I know? I spend all my time hiding in a room far away from everything else. Maybe that's hot now and I missed it..."

Kristin spoke about her revisions with Graceling and her writing process. She works with emotions and characters. (Yes, they talk to her but she doesn't talk back and she knows they are fictional! Just in case you wondered...) She figures out that and the plot comes last, which is the hardest part for her.

KC: I write in notebooks with pen. I keep my notebooks in a fire-proof water-proof trunk. Then, of course, the paranoia kicks in and I worry about meteors. They are going to land on that safe and destroy everything. So then so I make copies and keep them at a neighbor's house down the road, so I can worry about the meteor hitting the whole block.  After 20-30 pages, I use word recognition software and email it to every email account I have--just in case the meteor does hit and a computer survives.

She showed us one of those notebooks. #10. She said that she writes at least two pages a day and her current novel---yes! Bitterblue!!--was the longest she's done and will ever do. She started on #10 and is on notebook #16 now. Most of the pages she showed us, were completely marked out and crossed out.

Her thoughts on what's hot?

KC: You start from something you love and not what you think other people will love. It's not easy. Don't get discouraged. It can be crap. When a writer says her work is crap, she's not being humble. It actually is crap....The way to get to the right thing to say is to say the wrong thing ten times. If you know that you're a writer then you will always go back to it.

Then, the authors tackled some q&a from the audience.

What do you do when you are working on something and everything you do with the story isn't good? (This question came from a girl who is writing and revising but hates everything she does. She said she wasn't sure where to go next with her work. Basically.)

KC:  There are different kinds of writers--some have passion but no discipline to do the work. Sometimes you get tired and you just need to stop and step away. Seek out a writing group or readers. That's what I had to do. Sometimes you need it. The writing always calls me back when it's ready.

NC: You'll always want it to be better. There's a point where you need to just stop and trust yourself more.

FS: You can never trust how you feel about your writing. Sit and wait. Writing is a gift but it also takes effort and sometimes, that effort is doing nothing.

Do you share your project with young adults since it's for young adults? When does someone that age see it?

KC:  When it's published. I don't write specifically for YA but I write for whoever reads. I appreciate children's literature--I studied it--but I didn't set out to write a YA novel. Just write a good book that all will read. Don't focus so much on the audience as the story.

It was a GREAT panel--for writers and readers. And it was packed. They all signed books after and I got to talk to Kristin a little. She was really encouraging. All in all, I had a great time at BBF. I can't wait to go again next year!

Oh yea...a giveaway. How would you like a signed copy of Graceling? Sounds awesome to me! You know the deal. Fill out the form and cross your fingers!

  • US/Canada only. 
  • Must fill out form completely! 
  • Contest ends on Thursday at noon! 
  • Get extra entries by commenting, following & tweeting! (+1 each) 


  1. Wow Danielle, very useful again! I'm kind of surprised to hear Stork say we should "aim for the hot table"... that's basically the opposite of what most people say. I also feel like the "hot" table right now is pretty cliche. Also, Stork's work is AMAZING, it's really wonderful. And it does not fit on the hot table at all, it transcends the hot table!

  2. Yea! I'm glad you think so. I thought so. And I think Stork was just saying to try to achieve the things he broke down in his talk. I hope so, anyway.

  3. I think those who write their novels in a notebook are amazing. I tried doing it once just to get my eyes off the laptop for a change, and I couldn't keep up with the ideas in my head! I had to go back to the laptop.
    This is a great article, I read all the questions and I think they are great. Especially the last question "Do you share your YA with YA?" Such a great answer!
    Thanks for sharing, and great giveaway! :)

  4. This was such a great panel. So glad I got to go and get my copies of Graceling and Fire signed. =]
    You were the smarty and took notes.

  5. Thanks for the scoop! I love that Kristin brought one of her notebooks to show. I'm sure if I had work like hers, I'd keep it safely locked up too. Thanks for all the details. Wish I could have been there. It looked like a lot of fun.

  6. Wow, what a fantastic panel! I'm not a writer, but I appreciate the art of writing... and so much of that advice can somehow apply to things I do, like writing reviews! :)

  7. BBF sounds great, and like how Nashville's use to be. I would love to go to it sometime. I do the notebook thing when I write, what little I write. Very cool events, pretty! Did you get your copies of Fire and Graceling signed?

  8. I'm kind of regretting not making it to BBF this year because it sounds like you had a blast. This panel was the main thing I would have wanted to take in, so thanks for the wonderful recap.


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