by Kiirsi Hellewell
My family and I attended the Provo Children's Book Festival on Saturday at the Provo library. It was absolutely BRILLIANT!! I took pages and pages of notes and I realize I can't write everything here, so if you'd like to read more, check out my personal blog throughout the week. I will get the posts up as soon as I can; also some pictures. (Trust me, you don't want to miss the *pictures of Shannon and Dean Hale's interpretive dance...I wouldn't have missed that for anything!)
The first event we attended was the keynote speaker: Laura Vaccaro Seeger. Laura is an award-winning picture book author/illustrator. Her presentation was amazing! Even my three kids were spellbound. Some highlights from her talk:
* My books give the reader the opportunity to look at things in a different way than they've done before.
* I start a story around a cool concept and build the rest of the book around it.
* A lot of times my stories begin in the "middle" of the story. I don't tell you why Dog is running away, or why Bear is stuck up high at the beginning of the book.
* Some of my favorite experiences with readers are when older children and adults pick up my books and say "Oh, COOL!" I believe picture books are not just for kids. They're for everyone. They're just books with pictures.
The best part of her presentation was her fascinating pictures/animated videos that showed how her books start out as ideas in her journal pages and progress through concepts shown to the editor all the way to the finished book. Her books are amazing. I loved hearing my kids whisper in my ears, "I read that book! Oh cool, I love that book! I read that one, too!"
The next event I went to was the Fantasy Panel: "Weapons, Magic, and Trolls, (Oh My)!" This panel was made up of 6 awesome authors: Shannon Hale, Jessica Day George, James Dashner, Brandon Mull, J. Scott Savage, and Brandon Sanderson, who served as the moderator. Unfortunately someone set off the (very loud) fire alarm halfway through, but the authors still got to answer some good questions. Highlights:
Question 1: Why do you choose to write fantasy?
James Dashner: Because the chicks dig it. Seriously, fantasy is crazy, whacky stuff that we can't do in the real world.
Brandon Sanderson: Fantasy books can do anything from any other genre PLUS magic. Why not write fantasy??
Jessica Day George: It's what I like to read, so I like to write it, too. I like the escape, being able to go somewhere completely different.
Question 2: What's the most important element to you in your fantasy writing?
Brandon Mull: To me, it's figuring out how I'm going to break the rules of reality--to make my new rules seem real and keep the novel held together.
J. Scott Savage: I love the fact that, in fantasy, heroes--and even bad guys and minor characters--can be so much bigger than in other genres.
Question 3: Where do you think fantasy is going and/or what exciting things are happening in the genre now?
James Dashner: It's really exciting how the teen market has exploded lately. It's selling really well and people want more.
Brandon Sanderson: I like to watch the genres and see what they're doing. I'm seeing fantasy moving toward Harry Potter for adults--lots and lots of epic fantasy novels. I also see fantasy with mainstream crossovers like urban fantasy and historical fantasy. Some people think YA will go more and more to Sci-Fi, as with the case of Scott Westerfeld's hugely popular Uglies series.
Brandon Mull: There's a great space/need for YA and middle grade books. Lots of room to grow.
J. Scott Savage: I love that all ages are reading fantasy now, not just kids. I get as many e-mails from grandparents who love my books as I do kids.
Shannon Hale: Paranormal romance is really big right now.
Question 4: Why specifically do you choose to write children's fantasy?
James Dashner: You can get away with more. You can be as crazy, weird, psycho as you want and no one cares.
Shannon Hale: When you read realistic fiction, it's about the issues. Fantasy possibilities are wide open and the reader can take away whatever they want from the story--it's not my job to decide what it's about.
Jessica Day George: Fantasy is timeless. Fashions never go out of style. It's full of classic themes that everyone cares about. It's never dated.
J. Scott Savage: As kids, we use our imaginations all the time; but when we get older, we're told "You can't do that anymore. You have to be in the real world." Fantasy lets your imagination run wild.
Brandon Mull: I write books that I would like, and make them accessible to kids. Adults are drawn to kids' fantasy because they want something light and fun, not big and imposing. Some premises won't work for adult books but they work wonderfully for children and adults will like them, too.
A really fun part of the festival (besides the awesome author signings) was Shannon and Dean Hale's reading/presentation. They read from and discussed Rapunzel's Revenge, their graphic novel. They began by saying "We're going to show you how our collaboration works by doing an interpretive dance." Words can't describe how hilarious it was as they performed ridiculous--ahh, I meant lovely and inspiring [wouldn't want them to hunt me down with a lasso]--slow dance poses to Enigma's song Return to Innocence. They tried to get their illustrator, Nate Hale, to join them at the end, but he fled the room in panic.
Questions for Shannon and Dean:
Q: Why did you choose The Goose Girl as your first fairy tale novel?
A: My favorite fairy tales are not really my favorites...the ones I like the most are those that bother me the most--the ones with the most questions. [Dean interjected: That's the same reason she married me. I wasn't her favorite, but I bothered her the most.]
Q: Was River Secrets hard to write from the perspective of a male protagonist?
A: I swore as a kid that I would never write from a boy's point of view, but by the time I was writing River Secrets I knew the character so well that it just came naturally.
Q: How much do you write every day/week? How do you balance it?
A: Dean: I allocate time as possible. I still have a full-time job, so it's whenever I can.
Shannon: My daily goal right now is 1,000 words per day Monday-Friday. I used to write during my first baby's nap, but with two kids that isn't possible now. I do have a sitter a few hours a week and I also write in the evenings sometimes if I haven't reached my goal.
Q: Do you ever get burned out/run out of ideas to write?
A: I never run out of ideas, but to keep from getting burned out on writing, I make sure I have time to keep reading for fun.
Q: Dean, what can you tell us about your upcoming picture book?
A: It was originally called Scapegoat. I thought the title was perfect--a little boy blames everything he does on the family goat. One night Shannon was writing so I thought "I'll write, too," and I wrote down the text of this picture book. I showed it to Shannon's agent while Shannon was in a meeting one day in New York at her publisher, and they liked it!
Well, there was more, but I've already used up a lot of space. I will get the rest of the festival goodness up on my blog this week: http://crosscountryadventures.wordpress.com/
I think the Provo Children's Book Festival--now in its second year--is now an annual event. I will definitely go every year! It was truly wonderful. My kids had a blast choosing a free book, coloring, making bookmarks, and meeting the 30+ authors. I think the highest compliment came from my husband, who is not a "book person" and doesn't enjoy reading very much. On Laura Seeger's presentation, he said "That was really cool, seeing how she made those books" and he enjoyed Shannon and Dean's presentation so much that he went down to the bookshop, bought a copy of Rapunzel's Revenge (not something I would've ever thought he'd do), and was thrilled to have them sign it to him personally. :) Good times!
*I would post some pictures today but I can't figure out how to get them out of my cell phone. :) My computer-genius husband will get them out tonight.
About me: I'm a mother of 3 and live in the Salt Lake valley. Besides writing and reading, I love music and fiber arts. I will be posting here on the first and third Mondays of each month.