Monday, July 25, 2011

Sarah Dessen is our Queen

In the craziness of summer reading, we never got to post about Katie's visit to the Sarah Dessen signing. This is an error we must fix RIGHT NOW! 

Once upon a time, a long time ago (nearly a month now), Sarah Dessen came to our fair bi-state plus district area on tour to promote her most recent book, What Happened to Goodbye. While here, she took time out to answer many of her reader’s questions, as I compulsively took notes in the far back of that oh so very hot room (What is it with hot rooms and YA author events, btw?). If you weren’t able to make it, this is your opportunity to live vicariously through the blog and learn a bit more about the queen of contemporary YA fiction.

Q&A With Sarah Dessen

Sarah’s Favorite Male Characters
1. Dexter of The Lullaby: as Sarah pointed out, “He’s everyone’s favorite.”
2. Wes of The Truth About Forever

On How She Started Writing
Sarah was a huge reader growing up. She had a typewriter in the back TV room of her house where she would sit and write as a kid. It wasn’t until college that she began to take her writing more seriously. She wrote one novel which she describes as “terrible” and a “doorstop.” In fact, she never considered herself the best writer in any of her classes, but she was disciplined and “good at showing up.” Early on in her career, she spent years working second jobs to support herself in hopes of becoming a writer.

On Getting Published
Sarah had been working as a waitress and writing in her spare time. One of her teachers read one of her manuscripts and encouraged her to get an agent--a process that took 2 years. She received several rejection letters, and each time she would give herself the amount of time it took to walk from her mailbox up her very long driveway to the front door to feel sorry for herself and then it was time to move on.

On Writing For Your Audience
Sarah recommends putting your audience out of your mind, especially when writing a first draft. She quoted the wisdom of Stephen King: “Write with the door closed, revise with the door open.” (Sidenote: If you have any writerly aspirations, check out Stephen King’s book On Writing.)

On Bringing Characters Back
If you’re a dedicated follower of Sarah’s books, you may notice that characters will often come back for cameo appearances in later books. Sarah’s motivation for linking her books this way is twofold: (1) She was getting lots of requests for sequels; and (2) it reflects the reality of small town life when people continue to drift in and out of the story.

On Having Your Book Turned Into a Movie
You may or may not know that two of Sarah Dessen’s books were combined to make the movie How To Deal, starring Mandy Moore. Turning books into movies is often a process that doesn’t involve the book author at all. The screenplay for How To Deal was written by a screenwriter from the television show Daria. Sarah Dessen had the opportunity to attend the movie premier and also learned the “power of having Mandy Moore on the cover of the book.”

Following the Q&A, Sarah played trivia for prizes with the audience. Tragically, at that point, my ability to take speed notes failed me. Luckily, for those of you who would like to test your Sarah Dessen knowledge, Goodreads has assembled a mega list of Dessen Trivia Goodness. It’s also worthy pointing out seeing as how we’re smack dab in the middle of July that all her books make truly excellent beach reads.

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