Monday, May 31, 2010

15 The Scoop from BookExpo America 2010

If you haven't heard about the recent event BookExpo America, you must be living under a rock. BEA has been blowing up in the blogosphere in recent weeks. Our fantastic follower Leah Odze Epstein was in attendance, and generously offered to share her experience at the Children's Book and Author Breakfast. Her copious notes were so fun to read through that we could hardly wait to share them! Not only are there tips on writing and trends, there are some awesome upcoming books included below. If you have attended, or plan to attend a conference, please let us know. We'd love you to guest blog for us!

Notes from the Children’s Book and Author Breakfast:

From Corey Doctorow, author of the YA novel, Little Brother, and the forthcoming, For the Game, co-editor of the site Boing Boing:

--“Being a reader and a writer are the same thing.”
--A writer reads a story or hears a story, then makes the story his/her own to communicate with a reader. (For example, after seeing Star Wars, Doctorow wrote the story out again and again in his own words).
--It’s important to know when to leave kids alone to learn. His teacher let him sit and read Alice in Wonderland for a few days, without bothering him.
--Doctorow started sending out his work at age 16-17. He sold his first story at age 26.
--“Surgeons don’t have surgeon’s block, garbagemen don’t have garbagemen’s block. If you’re a writer, you just write.”
-When an adolescent says she doesn’t like your work, that’s good—it means she wants to talk about it.
--“YA lit is the most serious literature, because it’s written for readers who want to do something, who want to make something, who want to make books part of their identity.”
--Doctorow wanted to write YA lit that would “inspire kids to live as if it were the first day of the world.”

Mitali Perkins, author of many books for children, including Rickshaw Girl and the upcoming Bamboo People:

--The theme of her talk was how books can be mirrors of our own lives, or windows into other worlds. We read both to see ourselves and to see others.
--When she was a child, she read and read, with no adult hand to guide her. The library was her favorite place.
--“If life is a narrative, seventh grade is when the plot thickens.”
--As a child, she read books with all white characters (Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, A Little Princess, Betsy Tacey). She loved those books—they were windows into other worlds--but she also desperately needed stories as mirrors. At home, she lived in “Village Bengal,” but at school, it was “Charlie’s Angels.”
--She started out by writing books about the hyphenated life (i.e. Indian-American)
--Her books are often windows into other worlds (she writes about India and Burma, etc.), but many kids in America have related to her books as mirrors of their own lives (a poor girl in New York area relates to a poor girl in India).

Richard Peck, author of many books for young adults. His upcoming book is called Three Quarters Dead, and he describes it as “Twilight meets Six Feet Under with Botox”:

 --“Nobody but a reader ever became a writer.”
--“Childhood is a jungle, not a garden.”
--In Peck’s book, the crocodile and the walrus are the peer group leaders.
--“The English may have invented childhood, but we Americans invented adolescence.”
--Coming of Age is the great American theme (starting with two boys on a raft, on a river of no return (Huckleberry Finn)).
--“We never write about anyone who can move back home after college.”
--“The young are a huge economic force, snapping whole publishers from off the brink.”
--“It’s a dark time to be young”—they need stories.
--“The only way you can write is by the light of the bridges burning behind you.”
--Seminal book: 1973: The Chocolate War: adults/authority failed the children. That’s the date the balance tipped and power passed from the adults to the children.
--“Real life is too extreme for fiction.” In fiction, there has to be some hope at the end.
--“Nobody ever grows up in a group. People grow up one at a time.”

Each editor on the panel pitched an upcoming book on their list that has generated lots of buzz. Most of the books had fantasy or dystopian elements—witches, dragons, dystopian matchmaking--with one realistic book in the bunch.

Arthur Levine, VP & Editorial Dir., Arthur A. Levine Books (editor of the Harry Potter series, last year he pitched Laini Taylor’s Lips Touch Three Times)
--He pitched Erin Bow’s Plain Kate
--The book uses the language of fantasy to tell a story about growing up
--Bow is a poet from Canada, her language is lyrical
--Reminds Levine of Philip Pullman
--Immediate sympathy for the character: After a girl loses her father, she is subjected to rumors that she’s a witch (she’s not). She makes a deal with a dangerous man (Rumplestiltskin-esque).

Jennifer Weis, Executive Editor, St. Martin’s Press
--She pitched Infinite Days by Rebecca Maisel
--Why does the marketplace need yet another vampire story? Glut of vampire stories, but this one is different. The story felt new, with a unique hook: It’s a vampire story flipped on its head: the vampire chooses humanity, and goes to a boarding school. Will her fellow vampires track her down?
--Sometimes, the audience for a book is broader than you think. She edited PC Cast’s House of Night series. Originally, she imaged audience to be 13-16 year olds, but it turns out the audience is more like 13-25 year olds.

Julie Strauss-Gabel, Associate Director, Dutton
--She pitched Ally Condie’s Matched, a dystopian love story
--Cassie lives in a near-future society where everything is near perfect. Everyone in this society gets the perfect mate for their 17th birthday. Cassie’s best guy friend appears on the matching screen, and she’s certain he’s the one, but then another face flashes up on the screen- a dangerous guy, who she’s strangely drawn to. The society starts to come apart at the seams.

Farrin Jacobs, Executive Editor, Harper Teen
--Pitched Sophie Jordan’s Firelight
--Dragon romance, steamy but without explicit scenes.

Cindy Eagan, Editorial Director, Poppy
--Pitched The Duff by Kody Keplinger
--The Duff is the only completely realistic novel in the bunch that was pitched.
--Kody was 17 when she wrote the book. The MC is the Designated Ugly Fat Friend (DUFF) in a group of beautiful friends. Her feeling is that we are all the “DUFF”, at least that’s how we feel inside.

OTHER Upcoming YA BOOKS of interest from BEA :

--Jennifer Donnelly’s Revolution (Delacorte): From the author of A Northern Light. Donnelly weaves two girls’ stories together: Andi, an angry girl in Brooklyn whose father has left, and whose younger brother has died. She’s about to be expelled from private school when her father takes her to Paris for winter break. There, she finds the journal of Alexandrine Paradis, a girl who lived over two centuries ago.

--The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney (Little, Brown): “Some schools have honor codes. Others have handbooks. Themis Academy has the Mockingbirds.” The Mockingbirds is a secret society of students “dedicated to righting the wrongs of the student body. When Alex is date-raped during her junior year, she has two options: stay silent and hope someone helps her, or enlist the Mockingbirds.”

--Delirium by Lauren Oliver (Harper): The latest book from the author of Before I Fall. This story is set in a future society, where scientists have found a cure for love. 17-year-old Lena Haloway looks forward to turning 18 and being “cured”….until five days before her treament, she falls in love.

--The Fat Boy Chronicles by Diane Lang & Michael Buchanan (Sleeping Bear Press): Inspired by a true story and told in first-person journal entries, The Fat Boy Chronicles “reveals to readers the emotionally painful world obese teens experience in a world obsessed with outward beauty.”

Our wonderful guest blogger, Leah Odzen Epstein, recently completed her first middle grade novel, featuring a 7th grader who is the daughter of a recovered alcoholic. She is currently working on a young adult novel, about the continuing adventures of her alter ego, Carolena Gold. Her poems can be found on the website Literary Mama. In her past life, she reviewed books for BookPage and Publisher’s Weekly, among other publications. An excerpt from her adult novel-in-progress, Glen Echo, was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Family Matters competition. Follow Leah on twitter at @Leaheps. You can also find her blogging at Drinking Diaries.


  1. There's definitely some books that have just made it to my TBR pile. And one that was already there.

    Thanks for the great post!

  2. Hi - I found my way over from Wendy's blog. I missed BEA this year (attended the previous two) so this information is huge. It's interesting to learn fantasy is still so hot. Thanks!

  3. that was awesome, ladies!! a big thanks to Leah, and a greater thanks to all of you for putting this together. there are so many great books to look forward to!!

  4. Stina, the new book information Leah gave us was awesome! Hope you enjoy the new books!

    RaShelle, I wish we could get to all of these great events. Excellent point about fantasy. We need books to take us out of our daily lives. These upcoming books sound like they do that well :)

    Tahereh, aren't Leah's notes the best? I can't wait for some of these new books!


  5. Thanks for the great notes. If we can't be there, this is the next best thing!

  6. Thanks for posting about your experiences. It's great you got to go. I really want to read Plain Kate & Matched.

  7. Julie, reading Leah's notes made me feel the same way. It would have been great to go to BEA, but she made me feel like I was there.

    Natalie, Matched caught me eye, too!


  8. Wow - great notes! Thanks! Some of those books sound wonderful, I can't wait to read them.

  9. Wow, wow, wow!! Thanks for the amazing amount of information. Love the quote about childhood being a jungle not a garden.. wonder if Peck was ever a teacher :)

  10. Lisa, I wish I had Leah in my college years. My note-taking abilities are nowhere near hers!

    Jemi, as a teacher, I say amen!


  11. BRILLIANT NOTES/INFORMATION and I can SMELL the enthusiasm which oozes from ALL your posts.

    There is NO DOUBT in my mind that both of you will be BIG in the writing world. Your blog is easily one of the best in the blogosphere already.


  12. Great summary. Thanks so much for sharing your notes. Lots of valuable information and insight, as always. (Smiles) Have a super Tuesday:) P.S. Keep up the great work on your blog. Love it!

  13. Wow, Leah. Great summary. Almost feel like I was there...almost. Thanks for your hard work. And to M & both rock!

  14. Thanks Ann Marie! Right back at you :) We can't take credit for Leah's great notes, though. She's a superstar.

    Buffy, thanks for the encouragement! We love getting uplifted on your blog, too.

    S.A., Leah does put us right in the event. I am beyond excited about some of the books that come out later this year. Your site rocks, too! Everyone should check out your interview with Casey McCormick today!


  15. Hi everyone--Richard Peck was a teacher--an English teacher! So you pegged it right. It was great to be at BEA-if you get the chance, you should go! Of the books I mentioned, I've read THE DUFF, and it's lots of fun--a bodice-ripper for teens. Can't wait to read the others.


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