Overwhelmed, Intimidated, and Inspired

YA Lit 2015

This past weekend was the Anderson’s Bookshop 2015 YA Literature Conference. I’d had such a great time last year that I had to go again this year, especially when I saw that Huntley Fitzpatrick was going to be there. I didn’t want to be driving back and forth to Naperville, especially with the conference starting so early on Saturday, so I booked a hotel room at the same hotel the conference was being held. This was a Very Good Decision. Friday night I arrived, and I saw people hanging out at the bar, but I was too tired and sick to be social. I went straight to my room, turned on America’s Next Top Model, and eventually fell asleep. I was up bright and early for the conference Saturday morning, and snagged a seat at the front and center table. This never happens. Usually I attend these things with Adam so I feel kind of obligated to sit with him, but this time I was *free*. Ha. The tables were numbered, so we had no idea which author we were getting. We ended up with Ally Carter!

Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015

I will spare you the details of the conference, but I will tell you that it was wonderful and worth the $109 price tag. There were panels, keynote speeches, breakfast and lunch, and plenty of time to get books autographed and photographs with the authors. The most value for me came after when I got to hang out with the authors, where I learned remembered what I love so much about the YA Lit community.

  1. I’m still pre-published, so I don’t consider myself an author (yet). It didn’t matter. These people took me in and treated me as one of their own. I got to hang out with some authors who are a big deal (James Dashner, Michael Grant, Marie Lu, just to name a few) and none of that mattered. It was, at its core, a bunch of people who love telling stories hanging out and having a good time together.
  2. The YA lit community is like a family. These people have each other’s backs completely. The encouragement they gave each other, the affection they showed for each other, the friendships they have run deep, and run long.
  3. I want to be part of that successful, published community. I want it so badly I can taste it. In a way, I am a part, but I want to be *official*. I think other pre-published authors will get what I’m saying. Being around the level of success I was exposed to Saturday and Sunday was inspiring and fulfilling. Why not me too, right?

Someday. I know it.

While there, I made friends, especially with two amazing women, Dawn Kurtagich and Jenny Moyer. Sometimes you just hit it off with people, and that happened with them. I’m so glad to have found my writing “tribe” that I’m kinda over the moon about it.

<Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015

Jenny, Dawn, and Me

A couple of other things I learned:

  • James Dashner is the nicest, coolest guy I have ever met. (Well, 2nd to my son, anyway.) He is funny, kind, and genuine. I’m so grateful that I got to hang out with him.
  • Michael Grant is a well-known and best-selling author, and after talking with him for hours, it’s easy to see why. The man is a master storyteller. Talking with him is easy and fascinating.
  • New York Times Best-selling authors still worry that they’re not good enough.
  • Some authors take serious charge of their careers, and it’s fascinating to see how far they’ve come because of it.

Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015
James Dashner and Me

I was on a high over this conference for days, but as always, the self-doubt kicks in. And it’s kicking in now. I was listening to a lot of these people describe their work. The books they have published, the books that are coming out, the books they have yet to write. And I wonder if I will ever measure up. I don’t write epic adventures with huge plot twists and extensive worlds. I write love stories. Simple and straightforward. I start to doubt my writing—is it any good? Will anyone believe in it enough to put it out there in the world?

Will I ever realize my dreams?

And…I get quiet. Discouraged. And intimidated as hell from being surrounded by so much sheer talent, while I wonder if I’ll ever measure up.

I know I’m not supposed to compare myself, my path, my work to others. But it’s going to happen. I am human. So I sit here processing all of this, trying to figure out where I belong anywhere in this world.

So that’s where I am now. I’m writing, still writing. Still grateful that I reclaimed that joy back in 2013 and that I haven’t lost it again. Still chasing dreams. Still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I think I know. I say “think” because I’ve been down this road before, and I got so discouraged that I quit for many years. But I’ve come back to it. That has to mean something. [1. Plus, every time I attend an event like this, at least one person asks if I’m one of *the* authors. I always answer “not yet.” Universe, you heard me. Do your thing! I’m ready, even if I sometimes try to convince myself that I am not.]

YA Literature Conference

What have I done? This is just today's haul!! #books #ya #andersonsbookshop #abyalitconf #yafandomfrenzy #noregrets

Last September, Adam was invited to Anderson’s YA Literature Conference. Now, I was trying to conserve money, so I didn’t plan to attend due to the $100+ price tag. Until I saw that Stephanie Perkins was going to be there.

STEPHANIE PERKINS you guys.

I don’t know if you know how much I love Stephanie Perkins. First of all, her books are amazing. ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS is one of my absolutely favorite books ever. Second of all, her transparency about her struggles with depression is brave and I am grateful to her for being willing to share with us what she goes through. As someone who also deals with depression, I felt like I wasn’t alone.

So I decided that I needed to go to this conference. And I am SO GLAD I did.

I met some amazing people there. I got to network, and let me tell you something. When a published author asks about your work, asks to see your work, it’s a flattering feeling. (And later, getting feedback from these successful authors–I can’t explain how much it meant to me.) Something about being around authors, and books, and watching the panels and talking to people–it’s soooo inspiring. One of the things I love about the YA Lit community is how supportive it can be. I’ve been a part of it since 2005 (10 years) and while some of my friends have gone on to be published, or become agents or whatever, I still feel like that community is my family and that I have a place there. I just need to stay diligent and keep working and keep pushing.

Anyway.

You guys, I GOT TO MEET STEPHANIE PERKINS. Not only that, but she knew who I was and hugged me more than once. She is super lovely and just amazing all around.

Me and Stephanie Perkins
me and stephanie

I don’t know if she realizes how much of an inspiration she is to me.

I also got to meet Kendare Blake. I’d loved her ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD and GIRL OF NIGHTMARES, but I didn’t put two and two together when I was reading the guest list that she was the author of those amazing books. There was Demitria Lunetta, who wrote IN THE AFTER and IN THE END, two books I really enjoyed. I got to meet T.M. Goeglin, who wrote the amazing COLD FURY series, and we chatted about Sarah Jane Rispoli, who is one of the ass-kickingest heroines I have ever read. Joan Bauer is a true gem, and I was blessed to meet her. Alaya Dawn Johnson, who was just cool and also super beautiful. I spent a pile on books (as you can see by the picture up there).

Being around all those authors makes me realize that my dream of being a published author has not gone away. It went into hiding for a long time, and I know now that I wasn’t ready to be published. I wasn’t ready to do whatever it takes to get my book out there, and I wasn’t ready to be successful OR a failure. Now I am. Now I am ready to see my name on the NYT Bestseller list. Now I’m ready to dive headfirst back into the YA Lit community I used to be so deeply involved in. Because now I’ve found a balance, and I’m not using it to escape my life, but to enhance my life.

Who knows? Maybe one day people will be coming to see ME at Anderson’s YA Lit Conference.

But first, I gotta finish writing this book!

Meeting Susane Colasanti

On May 12, 1010, I had the pleasure of meeting Susane Colasanti at Anderson’s Bookshop in Downer’s Grove.

Meeting Susane was such a treat! She’s hilarious and a lot of fun! I love how candid she is. Here are some pix from that night:

Susane Colasanti and Me
Me and Susane. Isn’t she so pretty?? Pictures don’t do this woman justice, just sayin’.

Susane loves herself some cupcakes, so when another fan brought her some, she was totally thrilled:

Susane Colasanti

AND then Susane shared them with us!!!

Cupcakes!
They were red velvet and totally yummy!

It was a fun and inspiring evening. :)