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Everything’s Coming Up YA: A Day at the North Texas Teen Book Festival, part 2

On Monday, I shared the experiences of Thing 2’s day at the North Texas Teen Book Festival. Today, The Teen is sharing her own experiences and recapping the various YA panels that she attended. This was the first time she went off totally on her own and it was interesting to me to see what panels she chose to attend and what she thought of them. We had great conversations on the car ride home. This is her first time writing a post for TLT from start to finish on her own.

Mary Hinson, Thing 2 and The Teen at the North Texas Teen Book Festival

At the North Texas Teen Book Festival, I attended four panels. Each of them was good in their own way.

Read the Rainbow

First, I attended Reading the Rainbow. On this panel there was George M. Jonson, David Levithan, Gabby Rivera, Marie Rutkoski, Aminah Mae Safi and Nic Stone. There was very little time in this panel since so many people wanted to attend it, so right after introductions they jumped into audience questions. Most of the questions did not pertain to books. One teen asked for advice for coming out and another asked how to deal with not feeling accepted. There was a disclaimer made at the beginning of the panel by David Levitan that the authors were not professionals when it came to this stuff, but they would answer the questions to the best of their ability. And that’s what they did. They gave advice for coming out and they told the teens how they deal with not feeling accepted. There were questions about books, like what is a trope that you wish people would move away from and what would you tell young aspiring queer writers. But, mostly the panel just felt like a place full of people seeking advice from the people they look up to. It was really amazing seeing all of these teens so excited to listen to these authors who are making it possible for them to see people who are like them in books. And with some final recommendations of books, the panel was over.

All Bodies are Beautiful

So, I moved to All Bodies Are Beautiful with Becky Albertalli, Julie Murphy, Karen Schneeman, Renee Watson and Lily Williams. The panel opened again with more introductions and a description of their newest books. These introductions were quickly followed by a question from the moderator about terminology and about what terminology that the moderator should us for them. I feel like this is something that this way a brilliant way to begin this panel, and I actually learned something from this question that I would have never known. Julie Murphy was the first to answer this question and she said that body positivity actually comes from a smaller group called fat positivity. She also said that she uses the word fat for herself because it’s not a negative word, but people have just been using it in a way that makes it seem negative. The moderator asked more questions, but there was one question that gave me some answers that made me really sad. The question was about how hard did the authors have to push for their cover art. Thankfully, the authors said that their illustrators were quick to make changes to their first attempts of the cover art, but the covers did not begin as the authors wanted. For Watch Us Rise, Renee Watson said that she had to push for her cover art because when a character is fat the illustrators make her look sad and if she’s black they make her look angry. But, thankfully, on her next book she was able to make changes to her character design very quickly. Julie Murphy followed Watson in answering the question. She said that for Dumplin’ the illustrators were ready to make her a “curvacious bombshell” and for her newest book, Faith Takes Flight, she actually gave her illustrator pictures to base the design off of. This panel really opened my eyes to how hard it has been to get fat people the proper representation they deserve. The panel closed with an audience question about if loving your body is a straight line. Renee Watson gave a quick no to that question, saying that loving your body is not a straight line. And Julie Murphy followed by saying, “the things I say and think about myself, you’re thinking those things about the people around you.” This panel really left me thinking about my body differently. It left me feeling a little teary. It was really amazing to hear these people whose books I have read essentially say that all bodies are beautiful.

Black Girl Magic

After that panel I went to Black Girl Magic with Tonya Bolden, Camryn Garrett, Tiffany D. Jackson, Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon. The panel once again opened with more introductions and a description of their latest book. These introductions were followed by some questions from their moderator, my favorite was about finding your passion which Angie Thomas gave a beautiful reply that there is no time limit on finding your passion and when you find it then you find it. After the questions were asked by the moderator, the floor was opened to the audience. There were many good questions about how to combat stereotypes in writing and how to make writing more diverse, but there was one question that made the room go silent. The question was can white people write people of color. Angie Thomas had my favorite response. Her response was to ask yourself, “am I the person to tell this story?” Which was a excellent way to end this panel with a reminder that everyone must be conscious of what they write.

Killer Vibes

With that panel over, I moved to Killer Vibes with Libba Bray, Traci Chee, Mintie Das, Maureen Johnson and Karen M. McManus. More introductions and more descriptions of their latest projects. This panel was probably the most fun for me. {Editor’s note: regular readers may recall that The Teen is hoping to become a forensic scientist so murder is one of her favorite subjects.} A lot of fun questions were asked like what was the weirdest thing that they had to google for research and which character they would want to trade lives with. These questions led to a lot of funny stories and I honestly didn’t take a lot of notes over this panel because I was laughing too much at the authors quick responses and humor. This panel was a great way to close the day.

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