Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Teen Author Carnival: The Teen Angst Panel

Okay, so we're back to the very warm library basement and a new batch of authors has just sat down in front of us. This group is here to talk about, "Teenage Angst: Getting It Right - The Emotions, The Voice, The Drama." Again, your faithful teen librarian scribbled as fast as she could, but my hand was tired after the first panel and it was hot and... all of this whining is to say that these notes definitely aren't meant to be exact . But we hope you enjoy this wrap up as much as we enjoyed being there:


Moderator: Ellen Hopkins
David Levithan
Susane Colasanti
Melissa Walker
Kody Keplinger
Hannah Moskowitz
Gayle Forman
Torrey Maldonado
Caridad Ferrer

What a line up! David Levithan, Hannah Moscowitz, Melissa Walker, Susane Colsanti and Gayle Forman
The Fabulous Moderator (and author):
Ellen Hopkins
Q: In High School what were you most likely to be voted as?
Caridad Ferrer: I'd have been voted most likely to be a raging b**** in middle age.
Torrey Maldonado: Most likely to be on tv. 
Kody Keplinger: Most likely to be a talk show host, because I like to talk all the time.
Gayle Forman: Most likely to leave town and never come back.

Susane Colasanti: Most likely to organize your closet when you're not looking.
Melissa Walker: Most likely to write a YA novel. I was always taking notes and writing stories about my friends.
Hannah Moscowitz: Most likely to be on broadway.
Ellen Hopkins: Most likely to frequent nude beaches

 Q: How did your high school experience inform your books?
Caridad Ferrer: I was very heavily involved in music. I was part of the band, the symphonic chorus, the orchestra and more. I hung out with band nerds of all ages, including adults. For my books I grabbed that vocab. Musician speak definitely plays a major part in my books.
Torrey Maldonado: I grew up in the projects, you had to be bilingual and speak street. My characters speak these too. Also, this is my tenth year as a public school teacher. I'd say my books are 80% where I grew up and the other 20% is how things are now.
David Levithan: King of the mix tape.
Kody Keplinger: For me, I think trying to hard to sound like a teen can be dangerous. I'm 19, so just about to leave my teen years behind and I'm sad about that. But I've wanted to be a teenager since I was 10, so I kind of think that I have always imagined myself as 17 and I probably still will.
Gayle Forman: I grew up in the hellish suburbs of Los Angeles. I wanted to escape and find emotional truth. I think that's where the desire to escape fully into the story comes from.
Susane Colasanti: High School was the worst time in my life. But I kind of felt like, hey, I've already survived the worst time in my life that I'm going to have, so everything else is bonus. I think that because of that I hope that my books can help readers feel less alone.
Melissa Walker: I can hear my high school self in my head and my writing at all times. I think that it helps that I'm still in contact with friends from high school and though on the outside everyone is very put together and grown up, when we get back together we let the inner-high school voice out.

Hannah Moscowitz: I went to a tiny, weird school with 30 other people in my class. I always seem to write 15 year old boys, they're based on friends of mine and characters I've read.
David Levithan: I think really I would have been voted most likely to spend a whole week making a mixtape. That love of music and the importance that it can have in a teen's life makes its way into my novels.


Q: What's one YA book that you wish you had written?
David Levithan: I really don't think that way. I know I couldn't have written Feed by M.T. Anderson, but I am so greatful that it's in the world. I'm glad that teen lit has expanded. I think it's the Book Thief effect. I read these books and I know that I have to challenge myself as a writer.
Hannah Moscowitz: Will Grayson, Will Grayson not only do I love it, but it seems like it would have been so much fun to have written.
Melissa Walker: Like David, I'm not jealous of the book being out there, but what I love are those moments when you're reading and say, "that's me!"
Susane Colasanti: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson and The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.

Gayle Forman: When I finish a book I love, I find myself thinking, "How did they do that? I could never do that." It's not jealous, just impressed. I really think this is the golden era of YA.
Kody Keplinger: Before I Die by Jenny Downham- this is a book that is emotional and character driven and very different from what I normally write. I am not a crier, but when I finished reading this book I stayed in my room and cried all afternoon. It really has inspired me to someday write something beautiful and tragically powerful. 
Torrey Maldonado: When I read something I love, I'm happy that the book is in the world. It's like the best ice cream, it's a cool drink that you really need it. But then there's Hancock. He needs some extra powers.
Caridad Ferrer: When I was 15, the book that I loved was Heart Break Hotel. It's set in 1956 at Auburn University and it's about a young woman who knows everyone else's rules for her, but spends the summer learning what she wants her rules to be.
This is a picture from Twitter.  Thanks to @Irisheyz77 for the great photo!

Q: Who is the favorite character you've written.
Caridad Ferrer:  Soledad. My book is a retelling of the opera Carmen and there's been lots of retellings of Carmen, but they're always told from the guys perspective. Soledad gets the chance to tell her own story finally, I gave her agency. Also, she was so much fun to write.
Obligatory YA shoe post, they look awesome, no?

Torrey Maldonado: This book is about two best friends. One who is "the man" and one who wants to be. Justin, who narrates the book is the Luke Skywalker of my book. He wakes up and realizes that there's a price to pay if he really wants to be a real man. He has to show all sides of himself.
Kody Keplinger: You're going to think I'm a bad mom because I definitely love some of my characters more than others. My actual favorite character is in the book that I have coming out in Spring 2012. But of the books that I have right now, my favorite character is Wesley in The Duff. I'm a sucker for the arrogant type of guy who once you get to know him you realize there's more to him. I know he's my favorite because once The Duff was done I missed him. It was just a lot of fun figuring out his layers.
Gayle Forman: You become aligned with the character you are writing. So of course I love Mia, but when I was writing Where She Went, I was in Adam's head and so I was so mad at Mia.So write now I'm working on a book that doesn't even have an Arc yet and so my favorite character is Maggie from it. I love that she is wonderfully, wonderfully flawed.
Susane Colasanti: I'm jealous of all of you teens out there because you have this whole teen section that just didn't used to be there. I wanted to read about boys, because I wanted to know, what does he really think? I saved up little things that guys I knew would say, and little details I would notice. Toby in When it Happens is based on a real boy and a lot of the details I'd been saving up made it in to his character.
Melissa Walker: The most fun character for me to write was the agent in the Violet on the Runway series. I kept a notebook of ridiculous things I heard people in the fashion industry say and because of that she never wanted for things to say.
Hannah Moscowitz: Noah from Invincible Summer. I wrote it before my senior year and Noah was really angry about everything, but the main thing he was angry about was college. Now that I'm in college I'm starting to see his point. 
David Levowitz: This whole time there's been a cage match in my head of all the characters I've written. First to go were those whose names I can't remember anymore. But I think that Evan, the main character in my upcoming book, Every Me, Every You is my current favorite. It has been interesting writing a genuinely messed up kid. Evan defensively sees the world and I am protective of him. I think that these types of characters mirror the more vulnerable readers. They are the stand-ins for the readers that you hear from the most.
Kody Keplinger, Torrey Maldanado, Caridad Ferrer and Ellen Hopkins
Wondering why this image looks so much clearer and more beautiful than all the others?
It's from the fabulous book blogger Rachel @ Bookshelf lust
 Q: What is one thing you would change in your books?

David Levithan: I am working on writing Tiny Cooper's musical and I really wish that I hadn't said that the second act was entirely ex-boyfriends on parade. 
Melissa Walker: When I wrote the Violet books I was really writing in a vacuum, I didn't know any other ya writers or the industry at all. Now looking back at them, I think there was too much cursing and violet drank too much.
Susane Colasanti: Truthfully? Everything. Also I am obsessed with typos, I am one of those people who wants to know where all of the typos are and I want to take a pencil and fix them. It is excruciating to know that they are out there.
Gayle Forman:  Adding those sparkly vampires at the end of If I Stay was just all wrong. Truly, in  If I Stay, I had no idea that Adam's band was going to make it big. It was just this coffee house band, so "Shooting Star" was a name that fit. But it's the wrong name for the band that it became in Where She Went! There are so many other names that I wish it had been, many of which were given to me unwittingly by my kids, like "Infinity 89."
Kody Keplinger: I had heard this comment from a blogger and I found that I really agreed, the ending of The Duff was much too tidy. But I was 17 and I gave her the happy ending that I wanted to have. Now I look back and I wish that it were more of a Dessen or Blume ending.

Torrey Maldonado:I was at a school visit and I was meeting with a group of guys before I met with the girls and they all wanted to know how come I didn't make a little something happen between Sean and Vanessa. But, what I would change is the hip hop in the book. It's not considered manly for a guy to keep journals in a book, but I wanted to show the audience what my characters were feeling. I had them have rap battles. I've had students come up to me and give me the raps back, word for word. I wish that the raps were more intricate. Readers want to know, "What beats were you listening to" I wish I had created a rap playlist and included it in the back of the book.
Caridad Ferrer: The thing that I needed to change, I ended up getting to change. The publishers wanted to have a Spanish word in the title of my book. The working title on the book had been, "Light my Fire" and they wanted to change it to, "Light my Fuego" which I hated because it didn't make sense and because people wouldn't know what it meant and no one says that. I was a new author, but they did listen to me and it got changed to Adios to my Old Life.


Q: Are there supporting characters that you wish you had more time for?
Caridad Ferrer:  I wish I had 20,000 more words to give to Raj, Soledad's sassy gay best friend. I fear that he came off as stereotypical, but there's so much more to him and I wish I had had the words to show readers that.
Torrey Maldonado: Oprah has the saying, "it takes a village" and it definitely did take a village to raise me. Librarians and bodega owners who encouraged me. Reading was associated with girls and it took a village to keep a pen in my hand. I'd put more of the village people in to the book.
Kody Keplinger: I loved Bianca's best friends. They started out as stereotypes but became these great, tough girls. I wish they had more time. In Shut Out, Chloe is the best friend, a "slut" who fights the label. She's very fun and very different from the characters that I normally write. 
Gayle Forman: The short answer is that no, I don't want to devote more time to my side characters. I love that they may have only one or two pages, or sentences but make an impact on the reader. For instance I love Willow and Teddy and the jogger in If I Stay
One last promo photo for the wonderful Caridad
Susane Colasanti: Danny from Take Me There He has so much confidence. It's so rare to do the things you want to do in high school. I used to write song lyrics on my Keds (before everyone else was, I'd like to have credit for doing this one thing first). But I gave this to Danny and he uses it as just one of many ways to get his message of peace, love and harmony across.

Melissa Walker: The thing about good supporting characters is that they may only have two pages of time, but you remember who they are and what they did. I do know what is going on with all of those characters, I figure out their whole stories. But I don't know that I want to share that with all my readers, I want them to be able to make up what they think is happening to the characters.
Hannah Moscowitz: I would spend more time writing girls. I've always found it much harder to capture the voice of a teen girl and it's something I'm definitely working on.
David Levithan: It's a tie between Infinite Darlene and Tiny Cooper. They are the characters I most want to revisit.


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