Friday, June 24, 2011

SE Wisconsin Book Festival

Last weekend I crossed over from the Land of Traffic (Chicago) to the Land of Construction (Milwaukee), into the pleasant area of Waukesha (pronounced WAH-keh-shaw) for the Southeast Wisconsin Book Festival.

I met Barbara Vey of the Beyond Her Book blog on Publisher's Weekly:

Barbara spoke about social media and hosted a panel with several romance writers. She was incredibly friendly and encouraged me to check out some larger conferences coming to Chicago in the next year. She even said to let her know beforehand so she can meet up and introduce me to people in the industry. What an awesome contact! Her blog focuses on romance books, and although that's not what I typically read, I appreciate any contact with someone who knows publishing.

Speaking of romance books, I snapped picture of one of the books for sale because, how could I not:

What woman can pass up a hunky firefighter who snuggles with kittens?! At sunset?

There were a couple Young Adult panels, one addressing the "dark" themes in YA (how timely) with some insightful authors (including: Stephanie Kuehnert - I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Swati Avasthi - Split), and later a more general YA discussion with James Klise - Love Drugged, and Colleen Houck - Tiger's Curse among others). One of the other authors also works as an editor and she had some helpful information in response to a question on why so many YA books are romance with female protagonists. She said it doesn't mean that publishers aren't looking for young male protagonist in YA books.

I spoke to James Klise a little bit after the panel. He asked me specifically about my writing and gave me some great information. He confirmed what I already know, along with specific intel from his work as a high school librarian. He mentioned how libraries buy a lot of books which aren't necessarily what's featured at chain retailers; libraries want a variety of subjects, in in particular, YA stories with male protagonists (since the market is currently flooded with girl heroines (not a bad problem to have, I think!)), a diverse cast of characters, books about another culture woven into a contemporary theme, and issue-related books. He also said he has students specifically request books written in 1st person because they can relate more easily. I guess there's a reason so much YA is written in 1st person since it gives more of a sense of urgency. He was able to frame things in such a positive way, I feel renewed hope for someday getting published! Even if I don't, I'm still have a great time writing, reading and meeting authors.

My mom came with me to the book fair, and we made a trip of it by staying overnight. Waukesha turned out to have a lively little downtown scene, the streets closed off for free music in the streets and sidewalk sales by stores in the area. We ate at a little cafe that must cater to vegetarians because they really knew how to make a delicious veggie wrap (not like Subway toppings shoved into a pita). We ate gelato and shopped at the independent bookstore that hosted the book fest.

While this was a bit of a drive for us, it was great to be at such a community-driven event. If I find an event like this close to me I'll definitely go. I'm not sure I'm ready for the big expensive conferences just yet. Some big ones are coming to Chicago in the next year so I better prepare!

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