(from left to right: Holly Schindler, Jenny B. Jones, Me, Brent Crawford, Brian Katcher)
On June 5th, my library hosted Teen Book Mania-our very first teen lit conference! We had a panel of four authors: Brent Crawford, Jenny B. Jones, Brian Katcher, and Holly Schindler. The event was great, the authors and teens had a great time, and I can't wait to do another author event.
All the weeks leading up to the event were not smooth and happy. May was a month full of summer reading school visits. I was very lucky to be able to visit every classroom in all three of my library districts middle schools and about eight classes at the high school. But that meant all of May I was hardly at the library because I was out at schools-I did a total of 62 class visits and spoke to over 1700 students in May! I promoted the books and mentioned Teen Book Mania everywhere I went. I passed out flyers to the librarians to have at the schools. I put out flyers and posters at my own library. But I still stressed out over the event. I had nightmares that my teens ate all the pizza before the authors got there for lunch-silly nightmare, but I woke up feeling panicked! There were some advertising mistakes made that made me stress and I was worried that no one would come.
But I shouldn't have worried. The whole event went wonderfully! I had ten teens from my Teen Library Council come early to help set up. Each author was assigned two teens as "hosts" (the other two teens worked as emcees during the Q&A session). The teens set up tables and chairs and we all made black t-shirts with silver paint pens that said "T.B.M"-many of the teens then had the authors sign their shirts during the signing. We served pizza and cookies for lunch and then the teen hosts took their authors for a library tour. We then had our authors pose for a READ poster that our community relations department is printing up to hang in our libraries. Borders provided books to sell before and after the event. We spent an hour with the authors for Q&A and asked the ultimate YA author question-"who would win in a fight, Harry Potter or Edward Cullen?" (The result was unanimous for Harry-he is a wizard after all, and as Jenny pointed out, he now has his own theme park!) After the Q&A was a book signing, and all the authors were so great and signed bookmarks, papers and t-shirts, so everyone left with something signed. We had over 40 people-teens and adults-attend and the event was a big success.
So what did I learn from my first author event?
-Don't stress-so much easier said than done! But it will all work out and if there is a bump, you can work through it.
-My teens are hyper, but willing to do what I ask, even if it's crazy, like take out all the brown M&M's from the bowl (Brian's spoof request that we just had to honor!)
-YA authors rock! I knew this before, but I was reminded again why I love YA authors. They are so nice, fun, and anyone who can handle ten hyper teens is a superhero in my book!
-My teens have the best questions! I was nervous about getting the same few questions from the audience (I've been to signings like that) but our group came up with really great questions. My favorite was "what advice would you give your teen self knowing what you know now?"
-Have questions prepared in advance and ask those first-get the "what inspired you", "how did you become a writer", "what advice do you have for young writers", questions out of the way first. If you can put a new spin on them, (someone in our audience asked "when were you first affirmed in your writing?") that's even better.
-If you have teen volunteers, find a way to honor them and make them stand out. For my Teen Library Council, I purchased black t-shirts. This worked great because they had something to take home from the event (signed even!) and it made us match and stand out so our audience members knew we could help
-Have fun!!! Author events are a lot of work, but they're also worth it-so have fun and enjoy it.