I’m super lucky for a lot of reasons. I have a great family, including a wonderful husband and two kids. I have a great job that allows me to read lots of YA and share it with my students. And I live within an hour’s drive to one of the best family owned book stores around, Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL.
I don’t live close enough to Anderson’s to shop there regularly and attend all of their events. Frankly, if I did, I would need a second job simply because every week, and sometimes multiple days per week, Anderson’s hosts a visiting author that I want to meet. But, it’s precisely because of how involved Anderson’s is with the world of literature and bringing that world to its patrons that I’m happy to support the store whenever I’m in the area.
Last Saturday I made a special trip to the Hotel Arista in Naperville to attend Anderson’s 9th Annual Young Adult Literature conference. See that logo below? How jealous are you that I got to see all of those authors, together, on the same day?
And guess what? Not even all the names of the conference participants are on the advertisement!
This was my first time attending Anderson’s YA conference, and I can guarantee that I will be a regular attendee for years to come!
The morning began at round tables in a ball room where we sipped coffee and ate our breakfast with the authors! Each visiting author sat at a table with attendees. I had the pleasure of meeting Donna Cooner, author of the debut, Skinny. And in the afternoon, Paul Griffin, author of Stay With Me, joined our table.
The morning’s opening words came from Harlan Coben. He wasn’t up there just to get us to read his books. In fact, with millions in print, he doesn’t really need to. If anything, he was there to inspire those of us who want to be writers to get off our butts and write if we weren’t already. His three tenets of writing:
Perspiration: only writing is writing
Desperation :I’m not meant to do anything else, like get a real job!
Coben’s answer to what he’d be doing if he wasn’t a writer: I’d be a duvet cover.
As someone who’s been trying to balance family, work, grad school, and trying to complete a work-in-progress, Coben not only made me want to read, but he made me want to write even more. He legitimized that voice in my head that keeps saying (when I should be grading), “You should be writing.” It keeps saying (when I should separate and wash those mountains of laundry), “You should be writing.” It keeps saying (when I really want to finish my current book), “You should be writing.”
In fact, most of the break-out sessions I attended, as well as the other key-note addresses, prompted the same inspiration. In a session with fantasy writers Wendy Delsol, Heather Brewer, Tonya Hurley, and my current writerly crush, Maggie Stiefvater (seriously, have you read The Raven Boys yet?), all four were not only so humble about their own success but also encouraging to other writers to keep at it, especially Wendy Delsol who after a health scare decided she was finally going to do what she wanted to do. She published her first novel at 40.
A panel of Chicago authors included Chris Rylander (Thanks for the talking mustache!); Julie Halpern (That’s right, I’m in her acknowledgements!); S.J. Kincaid (One of my students read her debut, Insignia, in a day!); Nancy Grossman (It is possible to be mom, wife, teacher, and writer); and Lisa Jenn Bigelow (Yes! A youth librarian and novelist too!). All four writers shared everything from their roads to publication to what a YA author likes to read.
Both sessions were, for me, akin to back stage passes at a (insert favorite band here) concert. Authors are my rock stars, and getting to spend this pocket of intimate time with them is beyond fabulous (and I like the word fabulous).
After lunch Anderson’s very own Jan Dundon and Kathleen March headed up a great session about what’s new in YA lit, further lengthening my TBR pile. Heather Brewer, Tonya Hurley, David Levithan, and Maggie Stiefvater gave the afternoon addresses, and the day ended with all authors heading back outside the ballroom for a second signing.
I could and would talk your ear off (blog your eyes off?) about the enormity of the day, but there just isn’t enough room or time to do it justice. If ever there was a reason to support your local book store, it’s events like this that show what true book lovers aim to do–extend the experience of enjoying literature beyond just the book. If ever one needed proof of the special community created by writers and readers and educators (some of us may be all three!), spend a day like I did last weekend. Thank you, Anderson’s. If and when I move to Naperville, it will be your doing!