So, I knew tonight was going to be great, but I didn’t know it would be this great! I got to meet one of my favorite YA authors of all time.
That is me with Laurie Halse Anderson, author of Speak, Chains, Twisted, and the brand-new (less than a week old!) novel The Impossible Knife of Memory. I’ll try to keep this brief, but it was a pretty amazing experience. Laurie has incredible enthusiasm and she is a phenomenal speaker. Some highlights of her talk before the signing:
- Her nails were painted to match the cover of her new book. As she said, her friend had to mix two nail colors to get the perfect shade!
- Her disdain for the “dead rich white guys” that are assigned in most English classrooms in middle and high school. She would prefer that students read things that actually interest them and then tackle canonical works when they get older so that they can fully appreciate them. She is also trying to fight white privilege in her historical fiction trilogy about slavery during the American Revolution (Chains, Forge, and the yet-to-be-written Ashes).
- She fights incredibly hard against the censorship that her books sometimes face due to their mature content. For every story of someone trying to take something like Speak (which deals with rape) off the shelf, there are many stories of people whose lives have been saved by her books on topics such as rape/assault, eating disorders (Wintergirls), and now PTSD (Memory).
- The advice she offered up about English education and about writing. She emphasized the use of contemporary YA in the classroom and using it to connect with classics on thematic levels. (She cited the book From Hinton to Hamlet which I want to check out!) For writing, her most important advice , geared toward teens, was “don’t worry about getting published until you’re 30.” She said how teen authors might hit it big once in a while, but they kind of fade away. An older writer will likely have more longevity in the field.
- My favorite part of her talk was about how she wants a crown with an elephant on it to become known as “the Queen of the Elephant in the Room,” referring to the heavy but important issues she tackles in her books. I love her for being someone who will write about the most painful things that need to be written about. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to make her that crown.
Well, what was supposed to be a brief post kind of dragged on. I’m just too darn excited!!! It was a phenomenal way to spend my birthday. A couple of last tidbits: when I actually got to meet her during the signing, I told her it was my birthday and so she wrote “Happy birthday!” in all of my books. 🙂 And she was extremely encouraging when I told her I was in grad school for library science and school library media (she called me a “genius!”). She told me all about a conference to check out (ALAN) and about the Reblog Book Club on Tumblr (I need to check it out!). It was such a great night and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.