Wednesday, July 22, 2015

BFYR Symposium 2015 Report (Or What It's Like to Host an Author)

Last week I was able to participate in a symposium at the local university as an author host. (The official name is BYU's Symposium on Books for Young Readers, in case you wondered.) Now, I've never done anything like this before and I was a little nervous (okay, probably a lot) to be the person totally (mostly) in charge of an author! I mean, I'd have to talk and everything. I'd have to be social and all. Not only that, but I'd have to drive the author around, and make sure he/she had everything he/she needed, and I'd help at the signings (two of them) and most scary of all, I'd have to introduce said author at their Q and A sessions with conference attendees.


But I jumped in and said sure and felt much better about it all when I was assigned local author Sara Zarr, who I was a little bit familiar with and who was a little bit familiar with me and the area and the whole shindig.

Well, as it turned out, it turned out to be tons of fun! Exhausting, but fun! I picked Sara up at the train station and took her to her hotel. I picked her up for lunch the next day (she took the morning off) and we joined the other authors and their hosts for a pretty fancy lunch. At one point I realized I was in the company of a Newbery winner, a National Book award finalist, a Printz Honor winner, a Caldecott winner and later (he wasn't at the lunch) a Printz winner. And tons of other awards that I know nothing about. CRAZY I tell you! It was awesome.

Each author gave a presentation/speech to the attendees and after lunch it was Sara's turn. She gave an awesome talk on what does it REALLY mean to be a writer? Lots of deep things and inspiring things to think about. I loved it. Then we went to a dinner where we heard another awesome presentation on the history of Little Golden Books, and after that was the first signing.

The next day was two more speeches, the Q and A sessions (which both Sara and I survived. Let's just say she did a much better job answering questions for two and half hours than I did at my four meager introduction moments. Gah. Not my thing!) and another signing. The authors then got to go up to Sundance for another fancy dinner and I went home.

Anyway, many of the other authors I wasn't as familiar with, but now I feel like I totally know them. Let me show you:

First up was Jon Klassen, who is an amazing illustrator and writer of picture books. He shared those books with us along with the stories of how they came to be. Seriously, the illustrations are amazing. There's two books about a hat, and one about a tree and another about boys digging a hole and then one about the dark that Lemony Snicket wrote. (Well, there's more, but these are the ones that jumped out at me.) Do you know these books? If not, keep your eye out!

When he started the speech, we all put on hats that were provided. Fun! He tweeted this:

Then, Marilyn Singer had a turn. She was a bundle of vivaciousness and energy! Wow. And has she written a lot or what? TONS of poetry books for kids, fun ones, silly ones, learning ones. Plus tons of other stuff. She made ten different points about the process of creativity, or at least her process. Anyway, the amount of stuff she's done and is doing and has yet to do blows me away.

The dinner presentation was by Leonard Marcus, who is known for his biographies on some of the famous people in children's lit, like Margret Wise Brown and Madeleine L'Engle, etc. He told us all about the history of Little Golden Books and it was fascinating. I think the whole room was glued to him. It made me worry and wonder where all the Little Golden Books from my childhood have ended up. Probably the thrift store.

The next morning the talk was by Gene Yang. I wasn't familiar with him since I'm new to and not that much into graphic novels, but Sara had been raving about him and so I was excited to see what he was all about. Well. Let's just say he knows how to tell a story. His presentation was amazing, both the stories and his lovely power point (he is a computer geek AND a graphic artist after all!) He told his story, about how it all came to be and then I was like... oh, right! I've heard of his book... American Born Chinese! Yeah, it took me long enough. But in the end, I bought it and was the last person in his huge long line to get a book signed:

And here's a taste for what it's like to listen to him talk:

Up next was Clare Vanderpool, who has written two books... one won the Newbery and one got a the Printz Honor. Hello. And you know what? She's "just" a mom. She lives in Kansas and has kids the same age as mine and writes books and wins awards. I mean. Seriously.

(P.S. Once was Lost was re-named What We Lost, just so you know.
And I needed to fill in another space, so I added it here.)

And then of course there was "my" author, Sara Zarr. It was awesome was to sit by her at the signings and hear what people had to say: "I am so impressed with your humility." "You are so genuine. I love that." "Your talk spoke right to me. It was exactly what I needed to hear." "Your book [fill in the blank] is just what my student who is suffering with [fill in the problem] needed. Thanks so much." And on and on. One comment people made over and over again... "Your characters are so real! How do you DO that?" I think that would be the best thing to hear people say about your writing.

Anyway, it was a blast and so much fun to get to know Sara better and I can't wait to read the one book of hers that I haven't read yet! I bought it and she signed it and I'll be reading it for Utah Book Month!

I was good and only bought four books! :)


  1. Sounds like you were an awesome host! I love Zarr's HOW TO SAVE A LIFE. It's one of my all-time faves :)

  2. Looks like you had a great time even if it was exhausting and scary at first. I'm glad you had the chance to do it! :D

  3. I would have been a nervous wreck. Looks like you had tons of fun.

  4. It sounds like you did great as a host! I really liked American-Born Chinese!



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