Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Texas Debut Authors Panel Recap

Last night I had the honor of hosting 6 up and coming debut authors from the DFW area at my library branch in Grand Prairie, Texas.  2012 Printz and Morris winning author John Corey Whaley was our host for the evening moderating the panel, and he is a very funny guy.  In fact, everyone on the panel was informative, entertaining, and great to spend an evening with.  If you have a chance, I highly recommend inviting them to your school or library to talk.  We talked books, both writing them and reading them, fears, guilty pleasures and more.

So, let’s begin our recap shall we . . .

John Corey Whaley

  • Was once a middle school teacher, though he claims he wasn’t a very good one.
  • He absolutely does not like Faulkner. At all.
  • He just turned in his next book, which he can’t talk about.  But the theme is apparently “absurdity”.
  • Has recently moved and is getting ready to make another move and teach a class on writing.
  • Is currently reading The Shining because he wanted a book that would creep him out.
  • Is a gentleman and really wanted to make the evening about the debut authors.

Lindsay Cummings

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Murder Complex, set in a future where the murder rate is higher than the birth rate.
  • She absolutely loves Twilight and doesn’t care who knows, she says she owns it.
  • She is afraid of “those creepy men who hit on you.” And you know, that is a legitimate fear.
  • While writing she asks herself, “What would Angelina Jolie do?”
  • She says that The Hunger Games is her “guilty pleasure”. 
  • Has 3 dogs
  • Is only 21 years old and is about to get published. She wrote her book when she was in her teens.


Mary Gray

  • Is the author of the upcoming The Dollhouse Asylum, where teens are forced to reenact the lives of tragic literary couples or die.  Such an intriguing concept.
  • Although I begged, she would not say which literary couples appear in the book.  I am intrigued.  Which couples do you think have to make an appearance?
  • Mary Gray is the mother of 3, so finding writing time can be a challenge.
  • Her favorite book series is His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers, book 1 is Grave Mercy and book 2 is Dark Triumph.
  • Is also a huge fan of The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, which inspired her to write a creepy book.
  • She is afraid of strawberries.  I’m not making that part up.
  • Does not like Dickens.

Jenny Martin

  • Is the author of the upcoming book Tracked, a science fiction space race with deadly consequences.
  • Is afraid of “jerks”
  • Does not like James Joyce
  • Can write anywhere with any type of background noise
  • Is a librarian (Woohoo for librarians!)
  • Says her guilty pleasure is Supernatural (how is that a guilty pleasure I ask!) and if you visit her on Twitter, you can see a picture of her with Sam, played by Jared Padelecki.
  • Is reading House of Leaves and Eleanor and Park at the moment.

Julie Murphy

  • Is the author of the upcoming Side Effects May Vary, a story about a girl who his diagnosed with cancer, goes and gets retribution on all the people she doesn’t like or has hurt her in life, and then finds out she has gone into remission.  Again, such an interesting concept for a book.  When discussing writing Murphy said she was interested in knowing what kind of girl she would be, what would her family be like, etc.
  • Hates Jane Austen but loves Degrassi, Blue Valentine and British TV Shows.
  • Told the funniest story about being severely sunburned when she received the call that her book had been sold and how she could barely hold the phone because of the pain.
  • Is afraid of Cicadas because bugs just shouldn’t be that big, it’s scientifically incorrect.
  • Is an academic librarian.
  • Thinks the most beautiful couple ever appears in the book The God Shaped Hole 
  • Says everyone should read Eleanor and Park RIGHT NOW.



Heather L. Reid

  • Is the author of the recently released Pretty Dark Nothing from Month9Books, a story about a girl who sees demons in her sleep and doesn’t know if they are real or if there is something wrong with her.
  • She recently moved back to Texas from Scotland.
  • Is a gamer.
  • Says it took over 7 years to get her book sold and published.
  • She knew she wanted to be a writer as a kid. (Many others on the panel did not. Mary Gray was the only other panel member who said she has known for a long time, since childhood, that she wanted to be a writer.)
  • Is afraid of roaches. She said this is weird, we all assured her it was not, perfectly reasonable fear if you ask me.
  • Says the Shining is the creepiest book she ever read.

Victoria Scott

  • Is the author of The Dante Walker series, a book about a teenage boy who dies, becomes a soul collector for the devil, and is then given 10 days to collect the soul of a girl named Charlie.Book 1 is The Collector, already out.  Book 2 is The Liberator, coming out in August I believe.
  • Is terribly afraid of monkeys. Animals should not have thumbs – she believes this strongly.
  • Watches Teen Mom as her guilty pleasure.
  • Listens to hard rock like Korn.
  • Is more organized than others on the panel in her writing process. She has outlines, character profiles, etc. in a series of folders and subfolders on her computer. Most of the other panel members said they did not outline and wished they were more organized.
  • Is reading and recommends Scorched by Mari Mancusi, she says her excellent writing makes her feel so inadequate as a writer.
  • Says The Hot Zone freaked her out and then tried to freak us all out about the Ebola virus.  Corey Whaley talked about the movie Contagion, which I am actually obsessed with and watch almost nightly in the background when I read (something about it makes good background noise).  I was very upset when I accidentally erased it – and everything else – off of my DVR.

I want to give a heartfelt thanks to everyone on the panel for their time and such a wonderful library program and discussion. Everyone in attendance gave lots of compliments on the night.  I was encouraged to hear how all the various writers came to write ya books and that they had both an appreciation for teens and teen literature.  One of the panel members said they actually liked being a teenager.  I think that means they were doing it wrong. I am loo kingforward to reading all the books, they sound so good.

Texas Debut Authors: Meet Jenny Martin, author of Tracked


Today, we’re talking to Jenny Martin, the author of TRACKED, a YA Sci Fi novel debuting 2014 from Dial, an imprint of Penguin. 

How did you become a writer?
When I was little, you could find me in the basement of my hometown Carnegie library, scoping out the children’s section and asking Mrs. Bell, the librarian, if she had any more books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder (weirdly, I think I listened to the audiobook of The Headless Cupid at least a dozen times.)
I wrote bad poetry as a teen, and a few short stories, too, but mostly I read. And read. And read…Fast forward to adulthood, when I started work on my Masters in Library Science. Going back to school sucked up all my time, and instead of reading novels for the joy of it, I spent hours every day reading scholarly articles and churning out term papers on things like intellectual property and authority control. When I finally graduated, I think I was so starved for storytelling—it’s like some kind of fictive brain fever took hold, and I remember thinking….I don’t want to write papers anymore. I want to write for me.
So I did. And eventually, TRACKED came to life on my laptop.  
What’s your debut about? Can you share any cool details with us? 

Long(ish) answer:
TRACKEDis about a girl who starts out street racing, on another planet, two hundred years in the future.  But soon enough, Phee Van Zant transforms from rebel to revolutionary after a taking a no-win deal to race the corporate rally circuit, where she’s catapulted between the boy who’s been running alongside her all her life and the intense, castoff rogue who prepares her all too well for the road. Can one street rat dare to compete against an empire? 
Short(ish) answer:
What if Han Solo was a seventeen-year-old girl, and she raced a fast car instead of piloting the Millennium Falcon?  
As for cool details… 
Fun fact #1: My villain is somewhat inspired by Peter Weyland of Weyland Corp, the company developing other planets in the Alien movies. Guy Pearce played Weyland in Prometheus, and I enjoyed the CEO’s fake TEDtalk (a viral teaser clip on youtube) a million times more than the actual movie. 
Fun Fact #2: The idea for TRACKED came to me after watching two things in quick succession: Death Race with Jason Statham and the documentary, Hot Coffee, an eye-opening look at forced arbitration, the legalese of corporate contracts, and the slow erosion of civil rights.  A lifetime of devouring epic sagas like Star Wars and The Godfather probably didn’t hurt, either. 😉 
What cool facts might readers not know about you? 
I don’t know if I have any cool facts, but maybe weird ones? I’m a left-handed librarian who plays electric guitar. I hate to cook, but love to bake. I have irrational fear of potluck dinners. I’m an anglophile who loves Shakespeare and The Beatles in equal measures. I daydream that someday Hermione Granger will run for president. Oh wait…I hugged Neil Gaiman. Okay, I sobbed all over him, and that part was more embarrassing than cool, but still. When was the last time you hugged Neil Gaiman and kept it together? 
Jenny is a librarian, a book monster, and a certified electric-guitar-rawking Beatle-maniac. She lives in Dallas with her husband and son, where she hoards books and regularly blisses out over all kinds of live and recorded rock. Her debut YA novel, TRACKED, will be released in 2014 by Dial, an imprint of Penguin.
Check Jenny out online: