Yesterday, May 14th, 2011 was the sixth annual Teen Book Festival! Check out the official website here: http://www.teenbookfestival.org/ I found the website to be extremely organized, useful, and user-friendly. Props to those who planned the event. From my perspective it was perfection!
When I first arrived, I was very much encouraged to see a large number of teens overflowing a gymnasium, dance to techno music with characters in goofy costumes and crowd tables to purchase books. The writers entered the gym, one at a time after a funny introduction and answered questions to help the audience get to know them. I found this part very useful as there were many authors who I was unfamiliar with, but at the same time I sometimes found it difficult to maintain focused attention. I know that many volunteers were holding signs and trying to maintain order, but perhaps there was just something about the gymnasium environment, the large number of people, and the tables in the back that led me to find it difficult to remain still and focused. I found myself alternating between wandering around and listening carefully to the introductions. It was a really great idea to have televisions around outside the gym so that people who did not prefer the pep-rally type environment that was going on could find a peaceful spot to sit and listen. I took advantage of this...
Later, I very much enjoyed listening to Terry Truman, Jon Skovron, Torrey Maldonado, Josh Berk, and Charles Benoit speak about creative processes and writings. They each also read a sample from their books. I was most struck by Torrey Moldonado. What a hottie (!) and he just wrote a great quality urban fiction novel called Secret Saturdays. I was most inspired as he drew his teen audience in with dynamic storytelling and an engaging speaking voice that aimed to empower the kids to work toward achieving their dreams of writing while overcoming difficult obstacles, just like he himself has done in his very first novel!!!! I must read it. As soon as I am done writing this blog entry I am headed to the library to check it out.
I was also very interested by Terry Truman. I had never read anything of his, but a few people suggested I see him as he is quite funny. He writes books about disabled people and does an outstanding job humanizing them using first person and common themes that relate to all teens. I am looking forward to reading some of his books as well.
As an up-in-coming librarian, I am embarrassed to say that this was the first book festival I have ever attended. I wish this event happened when I was of middle school age. It might have saved my fragile pre-teen self-image from over the top acting out in an effort to prove that I really was friend worthy. It was awesome to observe the authors engaging the teens and relating to them by sharing details of their lives as teenagers, and how that helped inform their writing. The kids just loved it. I just loved it. And, I will even reluctantly admit I was jealous of the librarian who dyed her hair pink and wore a tiara after losing a bet with the kids over how much money they could raise.
I wanted to add one more thing I noticed. I really like the Feedback Form. It was really cool that they asked attendees which logo they prefer. All questions were phrased using very positive word choices. There was one question that I would like to use on my own feedback forms: "Tell us, what happened today that made you want to read these books?"