Last week I attended the Boston Teen Author Festival 2015, an annual YA book festival held at the Cambridge Public Library here in Boston. It's my second time attending this event, and I enjoyed this year's just as much as last time!
I knew fewer authors this year - in fact, out of the 24 authors present, I'd only read books by 3 of them - Leigh Bardugo, Sara Raasch and Mackenzie Lee. But I absolutely adore Leigh's and Sara's books, so I was super excited. And I had heard of a lot of the others, like Renee Ahdieh, Melissa Grey, Anna Banks, Jessica Brody, A.C. Gaughen, and Adam Silvera. I just haven't got around to reading their books yet!
I attended the event with Rabiah @ Confessions of a Readaholic, just like last year, and also with Sarah - a fellow Tufts friend of mine, who also loves YA books. We had loads of fun at the long but amazing event.
We started off with a Meet the Authors panel, where all the authors would be asked questions either about themselves or their books. I think my favourite question from this was 'Which YA character would you ship your main character with?' There were some really good answers for this, and then some silly/funny ones. I can't remember too many, but Leigh's answer stuck in my head. She said she would ship Alina from the Grisha trilogy with Edward Cullen, since she's a Sun Summoner and he... well, sparkles in the sun. That got the entire audience laughing! It was great getting to know these authors, their quirks, and other interesting things about them.
The first panel we attended was called Inspired By, and the authors talked about people, places or stories that inspired their writing and books. The featured authors here were Renee Ahdieh, Zoraida Cordova, Kody Keplinger, Mackenzie Lee, Kekla Magoon, Diana Renn, and Cindy L. Rodriguez (in alphabetical order, not in the order they're seated in).
Though I've only read Mackenzie Lee's book, This Monstrous Thing, I was really interested in hearing how all these authors found inspiration to write the books they did. Kekla Magoon's book, for example, was inspired by Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, and the book is basically a re-imagining of his life as a teenager. The coolest thing about this? She wrote it with help from Malcolm X's daughter! I just found that really incredible. Most of the books on this panel are historical YA of some form, so there was a clear inspiration point. Like Mackenzie Lee's book being inspired by Frankenstein and Mary Shelley. It was definitely intriguing to see how the authors got to that inspiration point, though!
After a super long lunch break, we headed back in for the second panel session. This time we picked The Craft, in which the authors talked about what goes into crafting their fantasy worlds, magic, and culture. This is the one I was really excited for! I adore YA fantasy, and a panel with Leigh and Sara had me squealing inside. Authors featured here (from left to right) were Sara Raasch, Melissa Grey, Kim Liggett, Kendall Kulper, A.C. Gaughen, Leigh Bardugo, and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes.
I absolutely loved hearing what everyone had to say here! I'm sorry I can't remember specifics to write about (next time I'll take notes, I promise), but it was fantastic. Sara talked about her magic kingdom system in Snow Like Ashes, and she mentioned that she had to write an 8-page paper to her editor explaining and describing the magic system. Now that's what I call a detailed, complex magical world! Leigh talked about connecting the worlds between the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows series, and how it's difficult to make sure there's enough background in Six of Crows so that people who haven't read the Grisha books would understand, while at the same time making sure she isn't giving anything away. Also I just have to mention, Leigh is absolutely hilarious! She had all of us laughing pretty much every time she had the mic. It was great!
After this awesome panel, it was time for the signing. Of course Leigh had an incredibly long line, so long that she ended up having her own line. I only had books by her, Sara Raasch, and A.C. Gaughen to sign, so I didn't have to run all over the place getting like 20 books signed before the venue closed *cough* Rabiah *cough*.
It was pretty hectic during the signing, but I did manage to get a selfie with Sara! My selfie skills are terrible so pardon me for that. Sara is really sweet and also I just loved her hair! It's not that clear in the picture but it was basically a really cool blend of purple shades.
Since Leigh's line was so long and the venue was closing soon, I didn't get to take a picture with her this time, but I do have one with her from her Ruin and Rising tour last year, so I'm not too bummed about it.
This is where the other authors had their signings, which I didn't go to because I didn't have any of their books. It definitely seemed less crowded than inside the room, which is nice because readers probably got to talk to the authors more. I also loved seeing how excited younger teenagers were about this - yay for YA readers!
Finally, here is my haul from the event! I had brought Shadow and Bone and Seige and Storm from home to get them signed, and though I have a signed hardcover of Ruin and Rising, I just had to buy the paperback at the event because I need my series to match! I bought Snow Like Ashes, Ice Like Fire and Lady Thief to get signed. Six of Crows wasn't available at the event, but we pre-ordered the book and collected it on release day from Porter Square Books. And that's signed too! Not personalized of course, but I didn't expect it to be signed so that was a nice surprise.
I grabbed some swag too - not as much as last year, but there were some great items this time. A signed Six of Crows bookplate, a Six of Crows poster (sorry I didn't open it up, it's just very big), a Grisha button, BTAF bookmark, buttons, wristband and tote bag, Snow Like Ashes mini bookmarks, Scarlet series bookmarks, and a Fierce Reads tote bag.
And here are all the beautiful signed books! I'm so so glad I finally have all of Leigh's books signed. I had an awesome time at BTAF 2015 with Rabiah and Sarah, and I'm already looking forward to next year. I'm so grateful to the BTAF staff for organizing this great event every year! It feels good to know there are so many people as much into YA as I am, and connecting with the authors I love is awesome.