Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I went to Books by the Banks, a local book festival, this year. It was the first I've gone without any of the other WHYA girls. Sarah moved to England or some such nonsense, Ingrid is up a Rocky Mountain somewhere, and Kristan was off on some silly honeymoon or whatever. So I went with my (very) bearded boyfriend. One of the panels I went to featured Middle Grade authors Emma Carlson Berne, Andrea Cheng, Jasper Fford, and Alan Gratz.

In the interest of not writing a blog post that is forever long, I'm going to share just a few of the answers that I found amusing and inspring.

Why do you think adults read children’s books?

Alan: Immature adults?

[Everyone laughs]

Jasper: I’ll start. I don’t know! I write what amuses me, and I leave it up to the publishers who’s going to buy it or read it. The difference between my books for grownups and my books for children is not quite such a difference, because I kind of write for the child in the adult. I always figured that if you can enjoy the Muppet Show, you can enjoy my books. So it really doesn’t matter if it’s a grown up or if it’s a middle grade book.

Alan: I think one of the reasons that Middle grade is also appealing to adults is that they’re action packed. Kids don’t have the patience. I’ve picked up an adult book before and I’ve read 200 pages in, and my wife will say, “What do you think?” and I’m like, “Weeeell, I don’t know, the story hasn’t gotten going, and I’m not sure I like the characters, and…” No kid has ever said that. They’re not going to say, “I’m going to give it another hundred pages and see if it picks up.” If you don’t get them quickly, they’re not going to stay with you. In the same way, I think many of us as adults think, “I want a book that gets on with it.”

Jasper: We could also say that books for adults are actually a bit boring.

Did you know you wanted to be writers when you were kids? Can you tell us about an unusual or unexpected experience that impacted your career path?

Alan: I grew up in a very sports oriented family. My father was the high school football coach, and my uncle had played football for the University of Tennessee. My extended family expected me to grow up and be the star quarterback for the high school football team. But I was terrible, no matter what sport I tried, and I’m an absolute klutz. And my dad – I will love forever for this – he realized at a young age that I was not good at sports, and he said “You’ve really started to show some talent at writing. Why don’t you keep writing and not worry about playing sports." So many parents who are coaches are so ready to guide their children into the sports life, but my dad didn’t. That was a huge thing for me. I felt the pressure from the rest of my family to be an athlete, but my dad was always there saying, “No no no, do what it is that you’re good at, not what everyone else expects you to do.” That was how I became a writer.

Andrea: I was a storyteller before I was a story writer. I would tell a story, and my sister would say, “No no, it didn’t happen that way you’re making it up.” Then one day she got really frustrated and said, “The only way you can lie and it’s okay is if you write stories.”


Kristan said...

LOL fave quotes:
- "I kind of write for the child in the adult."
- "The only way you can lie and it’s okay is if you write stories."

I do wish that there weren't a need to disparage adult books in order to elevate kid books... but I understand that they're (mostly) joking.

Thanks so much for the highlights! I was SO bummed that I couldn't be there. Silly getting married. :P

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Stephanie, Ingrid, Sarah & Kristan — we read, write, discuss and celebrate Young Adult lit.



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The Bitter Kingdom
Wild Awake
The Raven Boys
Mind Games
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Days of Blood & Starlight
Every Day
Jellicoe Road
Finnikin of the Rock
Guitar Notes
The Dead-Tossed Waves
The Crown of Embers
New House 5: How A Dorm Becomes A Home
The Fault in Our Stars

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