As you probably know from reading our numerous posts on the genre, we are all HUGE YA fans, so we were super stoked when we heard that this year LeakyCon would be holding its first Lit Day. Hopefully it won’t be the last! It was run/moderated by YA author Maureen Johnson and featured herself and fellow authors like Scott Westerfeld, John Green, Stephanie Perkins, Robin Wasserman, David Levithan, and Libba Bray, as well as publishers and agents such as Barry Goldblatt, Jennifer Laughran, and Julie Strauss-Gabel.
Best day ever, right?? Yes. But surprisingly enough, the day started off rather poorly. We rolled down to the convention floor at 7:30am, fully costumed as hipster wizards (complete with Harry Potter themed PBR cans), but even our disaffected hipster sneers couldn’t handle the complete chaos that was registration. We waited in line for roughly 90 minutes and moved forward about five feet. A “this is poorly organized” chant was needed, but it was far too early and there was far too little caffeine in our blood. The day was looking bleak. It began to look bleaker when the staffers decided to dissemble the lines and call out everyone’s names instead, especially because they seemed to misplace large chunks of the alphabet.
Finally, after another half an hour of yelling out the same names over and over (“Proudfoot” being particularly amusing, and possibly a hobbit name) everyone was given their Lit Day badges. Except Cassie-wa, who had to wait in the “conflict resolution” line. This was an extremely popular line. We would end up standing in this line a minimum of 6 times altogether. Thankfully, we were all allowed to see Lit Day in its entirety, although Cassie-wa and our newly acquired friend Bex missed Maureen Johnson warming up/entertaining the crowd with her usual antics and her sparkly silver Converse.
(Eventually we did get registered, although we never got that free ice cream we were promised!)
The first panel dealt mainly with how books allowed the authors and editors to survive their teenage years, their struggles to fit in, and how literature gave them a sense of belonging. Both Libba Bray and John Green identified strongly with Catcher in the Rye (despite the fact that Holden Caulfield himself is nothing more than a giant phony!) ((Check out John’s Catcher in the Rye videos.))
Everyone cheered for the various books mentioned. We all took a moment to appreciate that in no other place would people cheer loudly when they heard authors being name dropped.
Sadly, at the time the authors were on a non-raised platform and it was hard to see them, so our memories are the fuzziest in this panel. Or perhaps it was because the other panels were filled with more laughs and less painful introspection at our own young adulthood.
Thankfully Maureen was there to say, “Does anyone have questions? Don’t make me come beat you with sticks” to ease the tension. The scary part being she actually had a stick.
Let’s talk about vampires. Because somebody has to.
When this panel began we were told by Maureen that she had assembled a “panel of vampire experts.” This was apparent, especially when John Green promptly introduced himself by saying, “My name is John Green and I’m a Young Adult author who doesn’t write about vampires”. He was, however, corrected later by Scott Westerfeld, who informed us that “JOHN GREEN WRITES PEEPS FANFICTION”. Even Jennifer Laughran seemed confused as to why she was there, explaining that she didn’t even read much vampire fiction. So with our “experts” ready to weigh in on the vampire situation, the panel began!
It quickly became apparent that most Harry Potter fans (and a lot of authors, with the exception of John Green, a Twilight Defender) do not like Twilight. Robin Wasserman expressed the view that, “Stephenie Meyer did a fantastic job of writing 900 pages of foreplay,” in regards to her belief that Twilight is a safe (i.e. 900 pages of safe) way for a young person to explore sexuality. Stephanie is of the opinion that while teenagers certainly don’t need to be encouraged to sleep around, forcing the “sex is only for married people” thing down kids’ throats is detrimental. Sex and sexuality does NOT have to be a bad thing that is done only when Jesus decides it’s okay. It’s normal and it’s human. See also – discussion of Chronicles of Narnia where Susan is left out of magical Narnia Heaven for wearing lipstick and nylons and accepting invitations to parties where there will be boys. Also – it is unrealistic for girls to expect guys to save their virginity for a hundred years. Really?
Some argued that anything that gets people reading is a good thing. Kelly sarcastically pointed out that if someone were to read Mein Kampf and it got them reading that wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing. Not that we’re comparing Twilight to Hitler.
The most interesting theory on vampires was Scott Westerfeld’s, which he called, appropriately, the Scott Westerfeld Theory. Rather than viewing vampirism as a metaphor for STDs or sexuality, he views it as a metaphor for fame and how fame is in itself a sort of immortality. For example, “Marilyn may be physically dead, but it is her fame that gives her eternal life.” People are attracted to vampires and vampirism because we’re all looking for that moment where we can become special and be remembered (or “live”) forever. We want to chosen and picked out as special by someone who already is and wants to share it with us. We’ll certainly keep that in mind when we read Peeps for our Bibliomantic Book Club.
By far the most informative and enlightening panel of Lit Day was the one in which Scott Westerfeld talked about how illustrations work with the modern day novel and his work with Keith Thompson to create the Leviathan series. Through various research we have discovered that this is the same talk he will be giving at San Diego Comic Con later this week. Finally, we get to know something first! Sadly, we were sworn to secrecy about some of the more exciting announcements he made… MUAHAHAHA! ::twirls handlebar mustache::
Regardless, his explanation of how he and his illustrator work together was incredibly insightful. He discussed the ways in which illustrations inform text (for example, nowhere is it written that Sherlock Holmes wears a deerstalker cap, but it is what people identify him with due to the illustrator) and the ways in which the two compliment each other. We definitely wouldn’t mind other illustrated texts arising in response to the popularity of this series.
The whole thing was a joy to listen to, and Scott’s speaking style kept the experience lively and entertaining. “I like me some giant flying whale,” he quipped. We do too, Mr. Westerfeld, we do too.
The most hilarious panel was hands down the last one of the day, in which authors read work from their teenage years. And by most hilarious, we mean we were actually CRYING and GASPING for breath we were laughing so hard. The panel certainly did its job and made us feel better about our own writing.
Scott Westerfeld read a ridiculous science fiction story, David Levithan read a bizarre teen (love?) story in which it was frequently mentioned that it was October, and yet also 10 days before Christmas break… Libba Bray read about a girl kidnapped by robbers (“There are meals. And there is misery and regret”), John Green read a painfully awkward nerd-makes-a-friend story, Robin Wasserman read some morbid poetry (don’t ask about the smell emanating from the basement), and Stephenie Perkins read from her diary. (We know she’s a good writer now, but back in high school she sure loved expressing her emotions with happy/sad faces.)
John’s story is one that stuck out, most notably because of the following dialogue: “You wanna play?” one character asks a kid he doesn’t know. “Sure, let’s get a ball!” the other replies. Because that’s how you make friends. Maureen Johnson decided that this exchange should become a call and response to be used at any given time. The other saying she wanted to make *happen* was, “like they do in Twilight.” We’ve been using both fairly frequently ever since.
Libba’s may have gotten the biggest laughs with her characters constantly eating meals and the incredibly large amount of time that passed between a mention of a bank being robbed and anything actually happening. Well, they were eating a lot. “Where are the bank robbers??” Scott yelled out at one point, to much laughter. Finally, a girl did get kidnapped and was fed at least three times a day – and was finally asked by her captor, “Are you hungry?” Libba couldn’t even make it through this line from laughing so hard, but luckily John took over so we could all enjoy it.
Really, we weren’t laughing so much because the writing was just bad, but because we legitimately loved it. We love these authors and their works are so phenomenal now that we even dedicate ourselves to enjoying their rejected teenage works. It was seriously a joy to hear and we are so glad these authors were willing to share with us, especially knowing how difficult it must have been to do so.
After this set of panels we headed to the signing room, where we managed to get one autograph each since not enough time was allotted to get to more than one author. In the words of Stephanie Perkins, sad face.
Libba Bray. Is. Hilarious. We had a few brief interactions with her and found ourselves laughing with each one. At the signing, Kelly and Cassie-wa chatted with her for a few minutes about how much we loved Beauty Queens and she signed Kelly’s book and Cassie-wa’s Kindle cover. She also signed our friend Bex’s Hello Kitty notebook. She wrote, “This cat frightens me.” No joke.
Scott Westerfeld was one of the faster authors, signing Stephanie’s Kindle cover and Cassie-la’s copy of Zombies vs. Unicorns. Surprisingly enough, he recognized Cassie-la from Twitter, which was crazy. You don’t really expect one of your favorite authors to be all like, “Oh hey, I know YOU.”
After the signings, we were ushered into a room to hear the keynote from Arthur A. Levine, who brought Harry Potter and J.K. Rowling to an American audience.
Seeing Arthur speak was a real reminder of who we were and what we were doing there. His speech chronicled his working relationship and friendship with J.K. Rowling, interspersed with interpretations of the various meals described in the Harry Potter series (there are many, although perhaps not as many as there are in Libba’s story). It was at times funny and at times extremely moving. It was kind of strange to listen to this man, who effectively and profoundly changed all of our lives, cracking jokes about Hagrid. He occasionally referred to certain passages from the books, and everyone in the audience chuckled knowingly even before he started reading. It was a shining moment for us, as movie-naysayers, to be reminded that the books were really the reason we were all there. There was an immense feeling that everyone in that room, including Mr. Levine, was on exactly the same page.
We also thoroughly enjoyed learning that on her first trip to visit Arthur, before the books had taken off, J.K. Rowling and her daughter were treated to dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. “That’s right,” Arthur said solemnly. “I. Took J.K. Rowling. To Bubba. Gumps.”
Following the keynote was a reception for all adult Lit Day registrants, complete with appetizers and even an open bar (the only one we ever found at LeakyCon). It was a very quiet affair and gave everyone an opportunity to mingle with the authors and editors.
Since Stephanie was not able to get Libba’s autograph at the signing earlier, she approached her eagerly as soon as possible. We talked more about loving Beauty Queens despite being 24 years old which Libba seemed happy about. We had to bring up her short story again – since her’s was cut off due to timing, we really wanted to know what happened in the end – if our young heroine escaped the eager-to-feed bank robbers! Turns out she did by knocking out a woman with a tray of food! Also, it ended with a meal. Amazing. We loved laughing with Libba – she really is a joy to talk to! We also learned that Libba has never read Harry Potter – which we totally understand given her explanation that at the same time she was writing her own excellent series about magic and boarding school. However, we did offer to read it along with her whenever she is ready! Hashtag #hpangels!
After talking to Libba Bray, Scott Westerfeld wandered over and talked to us ladies for twenty minutes or so. Consequently we learned something important: it is really fun hanging out with Scott Westerfeld. We discussed even more secrets, his penchant for characters leaping off of tall objects, and his wife, fellow YA author Justine Larbalestier. He allowed us to take ridiculous photos with him and gave us some really amazing memories. He even tweeted a photo of our Hipster Wizard sign (see main photo at the top of the page).
Lit Day was so amazing we quickly forgot our morning crankies about the clusterfuck that was Lit Day registration. Maureen’s disclaimer: “Sorry guys, we put Ron Weasley in charge…” It was well worth waiting in lines (or in clumps, as the case often was) to hear some of our favorite authors and book industry people speak about themselves, their work, and their own favorite books. Also vampires. We are so grateful for the experience.
Honestly, we would have flown to Florida for this event alone. But that night we went to Hogwarts…