Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Belated Recap: 2013 Boston Book Festival

Boston Book Festival 2013

Last weekend (well 2 weekends ago now) I had the extreme pleasure of attending the Boston Book Festival in Copley Plaza. Not only was it a lovely fall day to visit the city, but I got to attend two very different - but surprisingly complimentary - panels, and meet some favorite authors. 

A view of Copley Plaza from the steps of the Boston Public Library. You can see Trinity Church and all of the participants booths. Although, it was fun to explore the tents, the best part of the event for me was the panels. 

I adore the Boston Public Library - fountains, frescoes, statues and one of my favorite places to study.  Festival sessions were held in this building as well as others in the surrounding area. 

The first panel I attended was 

YA: Legends Revisited 

Panel Description: Everything old is new again in the hands of these gifted storytellers. Marissa Meyer gives classic fairy tales a sci-fi makeover in Cinder and ScarletMaggie Stiefvater takes her inspiration from Welsh mythology in The Dream Thieves, the sequel to The Raven BoysNancy Werlin guides readers through the land of Faerie in Unthinkable, the companion to Impossible; and in Ripped, debut novelist Shelly Dickson Carr sends her modern-day heroine back in time—and to a harrowing hunt for Jack the Ripper. Hosted by Robin Brenner, teen librarian at Brookline Public Library.

Authors above L - R: Maggie Stiefvater, Nancy Werlin, Shelly Dickson Carr, Marissa Meyer

I really liked this session's discussion on how these four authors have taken (generally) well known fairytales, myths or themes and turned them into unique tales solely of their own making.

YA: Legends Revisted Panel Recap

Below is a recap of the questions and responses from YA Legends Revisited (or at least what I wrote down.) I tried to be as accurate as possible. Please forgive me if I misrepresented anything. 

Question: What makes a story something that lasts? Why did you choose yours?

Nancy Werlin: Who based her story Impossible on the ballad of Scarborough Fair, wanted to choose a legend that leaves room for questions.

Shelly Dickson Carr: Who wrote about the infamous Jack the Ripper in her story Ripped, loves that her subject is still mysterious, with many lingering questions to explore. 

Marissa Meyer: Whose Lunar Chronicles is science fiction based fairytales, says that she chose fairytales because they are relatable. Cinderella's story is something we all dream about.  

Maggie Stiefvater: Who based her Raven Cycle on Welsh myths, found themes in the original stories that she thinks are relatable to us today. She also puts myth in contemporary setting to make true things truer.

Q: Why did you choose your setting (historical, contemporary, future).

Stiefvater: "I like contemporary settings because in the past there was gruel and now there are cars. I like cars."

Meyer: "Why have cars when you can have spaceships?"

Werlin: Wanted to explore how someone from the 17th century would react to modern freedom for women. 

Q: What did you use to cement your world to make it real /potent for this story?

Meyer: Likes to piece together many different cultures into one. Cinder takes place after World War IV, and the world has been split into 6 nations. Cinder lives in what is now known as China, but in the book it is called the Eastern Commonwealth and features a complete mix of cultures. 

Carr: Looks for the tiny details in her story. Like what did people use for toothpaste in the 19th century? She actually made the concoction and told us it is gross. She likes exploring how sensory details are different in another time period. 

Stiefvater: For The Scorpio Races she actually made butter tea, which was disgusting. When writing, she tries to make things that are true, as real as possible so that she can get away with the bigger details. To do this in The Raven Cycle, she grounds story in Virginia mountains. 

Q: For whom do you write your stories?

Stiefvater: "My books are so self indulgent now." She used to think about audience more, but now just writes for herself and thinks about others when editing. Usually this pertains to how many car related details she can get away with keeping in her story.

Werlin: Also writes for her self, but always tries to think though pacing in details. Like, as much as she might want to spend a few pages describing a ball gown, she knows it would slow down the story too much.

Carr: This is where she had a long discussion on the horrors of evisceration in the Jack the Ripper murders, and how she had to be careful about how graphically she presented the details, when writing for a YA audience. 

Meyer: Always imagined her first book would be fantasy and was surprised to find it's actually scifi. When she started writing the Lunars, they had very fantastical powers, like throwing fireballs. Meyer eventually had to rethink her story and take out those details because they had no basis in science. 

Q: Did your characters come out of setting? How did you come up with them?

Stiefvater: "I cannot write a character unless I've met them in real life. I can paint them and change it later. But not before." She went on to talk about the fact that she couldn't write The Raven Boys earlier in her life because she hadn't met enough people. Stiefvater steals every character always. She's also spent a lot of time "researching" by visiting boys boarding schools to accomplish this. 

**I asked Stiefvater to clarify this point when I talked to her at the signing. She said that all characters she writes exist in the world - looks AND personality wise. Kavinsky and Cole St. Clair. too. But, looks and personality of her characters don't always match up with the real people. Once she meets them, she will mix and match. 

Meyer: "Characters, when lucky, pop in my head." She doesn't take from others. For Cinder, Meyer had a dream and when she woke up, she knew that Cinder was a cyborg and second class citizen. Cinder sprung fully formed, but some characters take a few drafts to get to know. 

Carr: Sometimes characters change from what you originally intended of them. Bad guys become good, and it comes out thru writing. 

Werlin: This is where she told us how her publisher didn't like a character once, and Werlin turned the person into a cat. It worked much better for the story. 

Q: On the process of writing. Editors? Go to experts? What do you count on the most?

Meyer: Has 3 beta readers that she found thru writing Sailor Moon fan fiction. She trusts their perspective, and they always read her drafts before she sends them to formal editors. 

Carr: Strongly encouraged the audience to find a writers' group. But she also thinks you should also have a reader on hand who will think everything you write is wonderful. Her husband thinks everything she write is great (though she realizes it's not true). 

Werlin: Has several layers of groups of readers that she trusts. But her general philosophy is that, if ONE person doesn't like something, Werlin might be right. But if TWO don't agree with something, Werlin is wrong. BUT Werlin completely retains the right to change a story how she sees fit - i.e. she doesn't automatically take the readers' suggestion as valid. This is where the cat story came up again. Her editor wanted the character removed, Werlin decided the character would work best as a cat. Everyone lived happily ever after. 

Stiefvater: When she started writing, she had a lot of writers groups and didn't agree with anything they said. But when her editor gave the right kind of critiques, she realized that her writers' groups were just wrong for her. She looked hard to find critique partners who read and write similarly. If you are looking for writing partners, check Stiefvater's website, as she has a link for that. 

Werlin: Has used the same editor for many years - longer than most of us were alive, or at least reading YA. When Werlin submits pages for books, the editor sends back a 6 paged single spaced letter back that Werlin takes very seriously. 

Stiefvater: Could not believe that Werlin's editor NEVER includes curse words in her responses. Stiefvater's editor is David Levithan.

Q: What was your favorite myth and fairy tale when younger? Has it changed as an adult?

Stiefvater: Katharine Mary Briggs, Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, & Other Supernatural Creatures. Basically, everything you could know about fairy tales. That's also where she first read about cannibalistic water horses. That info did not leave her and she wrote about it in The Scorpio Races

Werlin: Andersen's Fairy Tales illustrated by Arthur Szyk. The most fascinating and horrifying was The Girl who trod on the loaf.

Carr: Always liked the macabre, especially The Little Match Girl and the story of the unicorn (where only a virgin can catch the unicorn that is eventually killed). 

Meyer: Used to love Sleeping Beauty. But then in college she took a class on the symbolism for fairy tales, where she was told that the story of Sleeping Beauty is symbolism for sexual maturity. It was rather disconcerting and she never saw the story the same way after that.

Q: Will there be a sequel or a movie for The Scorpio Races

Stiefvater: NO to a sequel. The movie rights have been purchased, but movie creation is a long process, and nothing is certain until it's in theaters.

Q: What is your opinion of nanowrimo? (National Novel Writing Month in November)

This question was specifically asked by the audience to Maggie and Marissa. 

Meyer: Supports NaNo. She thinks it's a great way to encourage deadlines and springboard writing. She's participated many years and will be again this year, when she'll be writing a prequel novella about Queen Levana. Meyer will also be hosting a contest for your own writing. Check her website for details. 

Stiefvater: Basically, doesn't support it, because she thinks that you should not need a month to start writing, or create deadlines for yourself. It should be something that you're doing all the time Stiefvater is a regimented writer all year round. 

Random statements by participants, that I can't remember where they fit in the discussion. 

Stiefvater: "I used to be an equestrian portrait artist."

Carr: Was once told by Kate DiCamillo, "you have to want a character more than sleep." If you find a character like that, than you know you're on the right track. DiCamillo also tries to write 2 pages a day, and Carr shoots for that as well. 

Stiefvater: When she writes, she asks herself "what kind of book do I want to live with for the next year?" When she began Mercy Falls, Stiefvater had just read The Time Traveler's Wife. Cried buckets at the end of that book and wanted to recreate the same feeling with her story. 
The YA panel, Legends Revisited took place in the Boston Public Library Abby, a gorgeous room. But it was too small for size of the crowd, which lined the walls. The signing line was also enormous. YAY for many people reading Young Adult books!!


There were a few other YA panels, but I did not attend them. Instead I went to a session featuring two innovative artists. 

The second panel I attended was

Art and Technology

This panel featured two artists, Clifford Ross and Abelardo Morrell, who use technology in their work. What I loved best about these artists and this panel, is how they've both used photographs as the basis of their art, creating something new and visionary in the process.  Both Mr. Ross and Mr. Morrell use photographs of the world around them to make creations all their own. Sort of like the authors above have all chosen known myths/stories/legends as the basis of their own stories. To me, these two sessions connected very well to each other. 


Federal Courthouse, Austin, Texas 

Cliff Ross talked about the stained glass wall he created for the Austin, Texas Courthouse. He used a photograph taken in Texas Hill Country as the basis for the design. Working with a company in Munich, he combined stained glass techniques that have been around for centuries, with 21st century digital technology. 


Abe Morell is well known for his use of the camera obscura, and has designed a tent that - using periscope type optics - makes it possible to project a view of a nearby landscape onto the ground under the tent. Then he uses a camera inside the tent to record what he sees. Above, you can see a photograph of the tent camera. Below are two Tent-Camera images. One is an image projected on the desert floor, the other on a rooftop in NYC.  

Note: All but the bottom four images were taken by me. The artwork discussed by Clifford Ross and Abe Morell is owned by them, and pulled from their websites. The links below each image will take you to the source. Please visit them for more images and information on these artists and their work. 

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  1. Thank you so much for the interview recap! Also...how GORGEOUS is the BPL for a setting? Love it!

  2. I really want to go for an author event someday...I think I've been saying that for two years, but hopefully something will wind up close to where I live. Anyway, I loved Maggie's responses (and thanks for clarifying about her borrowing looks and personalities). Now I kind of want to meet all the personalities she's borrowed Gansey and Ronan and Sam from!

    I'm a little worried about A Scorpio Races movie - I don't want them to ruin the book - but it'll be a long process and I doubt we'll get much news about it for another year at least. Also, I love Stiefvater's car obsession. I'm surprised it manifested itself only in her seventh book, actually, lol. Wonderful re-cap, Lauren - thanks for sharing!

  3. Two VERY cool panels! I always enjoy learning more about authors' writing processes, especially the beta reader thing. It's so hard to find readers who will be honest with you but not brutal in a mean way (I can handle brutal honesty but not meanness. And that photography/art panel sounds right up my alley, too.

  4. Ooh, Boston! I've always wanted to go (my lucky dad and brother got to go because they won World Series tickets!) and the event sounds FABULOUS. Thank you so so much for posting this, Lauren, it was really fun to read it...especially about Marissa Meyer. I've heard of the other two so it was really interesting to read their answers as well, but Marissa Meyer is the best :) Ha! at the random statements. Love it!

  5. Wow thank you so much for sharing such a great post with us Lauren! We're finally getting some author events over here, but I always love reading great recaps from other bloggers. All four authors sounded incredibly lovely and I love some of the things we were able to learn about them from your post. Also how gorgeous are those pictures, the one of Big Bend National Park and Brooklyn Bridge are definitely my favourites!

  6. What an amazing event Lauren!!!!! I so wish something as cool as this would come near me, but at least a few more tours have been coming through Ohio, so that's at least exciting. Maybe one day we'll develop an epic and brilliant event like this. Thank you so much for this amazing recap, I loved Marissa's answer about the setting - "Why have cars when you can have spaceships". Indeed, Marissa! Also? I want to live in that library. Just saying:)

  7. Those must have been absolutely amazing panels to attend, Lauren. I love my YA, but I actually think I would have enjoyed the art and technology panel most. I can't believe I've lived in Texas most of my life and still haven't visited Big Bend. That artwork is fabulous and makes me want to experience both places even more than I wanted to before. Thanks for sharing your recap with us!

  8. What a fascinating couple of panels! I love the author's panel recap because it really revealed a lot about each of those ladies--and having read books by three out of four of them--I found their ideas on borrowing from mythology and folk lore to create their own stories really cool. I want to read Ripper now--I'm one of those that has a disturbing obsession with that particular subject:)

    And the art panel--how awesome! When I was in college I had a huge fascination with the camera obscura and those pic's that Morell took are amazing! How very cool to see the connections between both panels you attended! Thanks for providing such a thorough recap, L:)

  9. Amazing recap as always, Lauren--I'm so glad you went! And shared with us! I will confess I went through and read mostly the Maggie bits,and of course you have wonderful things to share from her. I LOVE hearing that she steals her characters from real life. What I wouldn't give to meet her Sam. Or Adam. Or Ronan. Or Gansey. Or Blue. Or Noah!! Omg, mind blown.

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

  10. I don't have time to read this in full right now, but I'll bookmark it and read it when I'm home and off the train. I love that you did this, hon! I'm so jealous of you what with meeting these amazing authors, but I'm glad as well :) It's that good kind of jealousy ;) I find it funny that Marissa Meyer's idea of sci-fi fairy tales was totally stomped on when she originally put her idea out there in that contest with two entries and lol, hers was not chosen. I guess the joke is on the people who didn't choose this pot of pure gold of literature. Thanks so much for sharing, Lauren!

  11. haha :) I tried butter tea as well with my teen book group-bleh! It was terrible!
    Great post my friend-take me with you next year. Yay for November Cakes....!

  12. I've been looking forward to your recap since you posted tweets about attending the event earlier this month. Sorry I couldn't come read the post sooner, but I'm here now, and I just loved all the notes you took and how well you captured the charm of an event many of us couldn't attend.

    Maggie Stiefvater and Marissa Meyer are two of my favorites, and learning more about their creative writing process was great! Sadly, I'm not familiar with Nancy Werlin or Shelly Dickson Carr's work, but after being introduced to them, I'm intrigued by the concepts behind their books; someday, I'll have to check them out. :)

    Truly lovely post, Lauren! Thanks for sharing!

  13. This sounds amazing! Thanks for the recap!
    Jen @ YA Romantics


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