Over the weekend, I got the chance to be in the same room as Eoin Colfer, Jonathan Stroud, Rick Riordan, and Ridley Pearson—four critically acclaimed young adult authors. I’ve had the fortune of reading at least one book by each of these authors, and after the panel, I hope to expand that to many more. I was especially eager to attend this panel because one of those four authors I count among my favorites (I won’t say who though :) ). These authors were gathered by Wellesley Books to give what they called the “Mega-Awesome Adventures” author panel. Since I want to be a young adult author myself, I leapt at the chance to see these men in person.
I spent the weeks before the event preparing myself. After all, these men were living the dream I wanted for myself. This was my chance to not only be in the same room as them, but to pick their brains for keys to success. Having come off of Anime Boston panels, which consisted of people behind microphones sharing their knowledge, I walked into this ready for a similar experience. I was ready to hear the masters give their advice. I was ready to take notes, absorb knowledge, and make myself a better writer.
I was not ready for the glowsticks.
Upon arriving at the event, it was clear that it was not going to be what I expected. Instead of other authors like myself, the line that stretched across the parking lot was full of young children and parents, eagerly pushing against one another to get inside. I got in line behind a few young girls, who eagerly discussed one of the Percy Jackson books. They spoke not of how Riordan’s style conveyed the story, but instead of how funny something was and how much they loved one of the characters.
For them, this was not about learning the writing craft. This was the chance to meet a celebrity.
Which is not a bad thing. Read on.
After getting checked in, I found myself crammed in a stuffy, sweaty auditorium filled to the brim with young, avid fans. They clutched new, autographed copies of books in one hand, glowsticks and candy in the other. As the event began and the lights dimmed, a book trailer played and the audience roared in cheers. Glowsticks swung above heads (and into mine, at least once), as everyone whooped and hollered.
Myself included. It was an infectious energy.
As the first author, Rick Riordan, spoke about his upcoming books and took questions from someone on stage, everyone listened quietly. Imagine that, a room full of children, silent, listening to a writer speak. Having not been caught up with Riordan’s work, much of what he said was lost on me, but it meant a great deal to the children gathered. One girl sitting next to me gasped loudly when Riordan talked about one of his characters.
This pattern repeated itself as Stroud, Pearson, and Colfer each took the stage, one at a time. They shared humorous tales of writing their books, which character was inspired by whom, offered sneak peaks of upcoming books, and so on. The children held on their every word, and I found myself doing the same.
It was during these opening speeches that I realized something. This event was not designed for someone like me, who wanted to be a young adult author. This was for the fans, the children who were discovering these authors’ work for the first time and falling in love with them. It was a celebration of the authors, not a discussion of writing. It was a once in a lifetime experience, one that I wished I had been able to experience when I first discovered works like Artemis Fowl.
This was about the children meeting the men who created their heroes.
After the authors were introduced, they came out in a kind of roundtable discussion, complete with photographs of the authors as children, as they related their experiences growing up and how they got where they were today. This part was fascinating, as I recognized much of myself in these tales.
After that, the authors asked each other questions, and this was good for laughs. The authors seemed to know each other, and a few asked questions relating to their writing process. I remember someone asking Pearson about dealing with writer’s block, and Pearson said that he just plows through it. “Anyone who stops writing because of writer’s block is lazy,” Pearson said. That sentence in particular stuck to me, as it echoed my own thoughts on the subject.
Lastly, there was a brief audience question and answer that had to be cut short because the panel ran late. As it ended, buckets of candy were brought on stage and the authors flung them to the audience.
I knew that I would have no chance of getting to the authors before they were whisked away, and I also knew that now was not the time to have a serious discussion of writing techniques. Like I said above, this event was for the authors’ biggest fans, the ones who were experiencing these books just as a child seeking adventure. I wasn’t about to take these authors away from that.
While the event wasn’t what I expected going in, I left with a big grin on my face. Seeing these authors in person was a true treat for me. For so long, these authors always felt like untouchable people, people who did book signings nowhere near me. But seeing them on stage, hearing their voices, laughing at their jokes, made them feel more real. And when they felt more real, so too did the goal of becoming a published author myself.
One day, I told myself as I left, that will be me up there.