Last night I went to my favorite bookstore Mysterious Galaxy to attend the YA or Bust! tour that featured authors Stephanie Perkins, Gayle Forman, and Nina LaCour. We moved from Fargo a month ago, so you might imagine the excitement I felt about going to a book signing with not just one amazing author, but three (and then there is the moderator Kirsten Hubbard!).
I will admit, I haven't read a lot of contemporary YA in the past few years. I've focused mostly on the science fiction and fantasy genres since that is what I like to write. Right now there is so much of it and it takes a lot to keep up at times. Every once and a while, I do come out of my cave to read something new and out of that realm.
These authors completely blew me out of the water with their novels, and really shook up how I see my own writing. I've been working on my Japanese inspired novel (Kin) for the past three years between work and being panel coordinator, swagmaster, and social media maven for the convention CoreCon. I formed Stone Circle Writer's Group in my community, and that helped keep me motivated with all my writing. I really took on a challenge by choosing a culture that is so drastically different than my own.
The authors were asked about their setting, and Nina LaCour talked about traveling and how it helped shape her book in ways that simple research on Google Maps wouldn't have provided. It reminded me that just almost a year ago we visited Japan and some of our experiences made it into my book. The authors also talked about balancing work and life with their writing. Even though I'm now working from home thanks for my soulmate husband (with a cat cleaning himself in my lap as we speak), I'm trying to find that balance between things. I need to treat writing as a job, not just a chore on a list. I don't know why, but when I hear about author's experiences, it really gets me inspired like I can do what they did. And I know I can.
Honestly, it wasn't just seeing the authors in person that shook up my writing. Their books helped me see through the fantasy details and aspects, and to look further into the people in the story. The family is the center of my novel and each member needs to stick out. The audience needs to care for them, and then we can root for the main character's choices for her family. Gayle Forman does a breathtaking job at doing this with the family in If I Stay. When I do the next read through, I will focus on if that is the case and how I can liven it up a bit. And not only the family, but there is a romance in there too. Stephanie Perkins really knows how to write about budding relationships in ways that I don't know how to really describe, and that has me thinking a bit too.
I'm looking forward to catching up with the authors latest books in the next few weeks, and for the tour Fierce Reads to blaze on through in June. Who knows what I learn about next about myself and my writing? If you are looking for something new to read, I totally recommend picking up the books from these authors.