This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend the second annual NoVa Teen Book Festival, and guys, let me tell you, this was totally awesome and incredibly diverse. There were men, women, contemporary fiction writers, paranormal fantasy writers, people who wrote both–I mean this group was one of the more diverse one’s I’ve seen. I attended the event last year when I was new to blogging and I enjoyed it but I don’t think I was as interested in the line-up as I was this year. (No offense to anyone) This year was an entirely different experience for me. I took one of my students who loves books and read several of the authors attending and seeing the panels through her eyes brought a new enjoyment.
What I liked: THE AUTHORS. The lineup was amazing. I mean Marie Rutkoski, Martina Boone, Melissa Marr–just to name a few. There were so many wonderful authors on the panels that I struggled with which ones to attend. I wanted to be exposed to new authors I’d never heard of but also hear my favorites talk about their books. I attended the panels by Marie Rutkoski, Morgan Rhodes, Maggie Hall, Sara Raash, Seth Fishman, Lydia Kang, Jessica Khoury, and Kristen Simmons–the last four of whose books I have not read but did pick up. They were all funny, welcoming, and crazy smart.
Speaking of THE PANELS. Wow. There were so many options that you couldn’t get bored. I had a teen with me through most the day and I kind of expected her to slag, but she was totally into everything. Sometimes I think she was more energized than I was–I was up at 6am and in desperate need of coffee. The moderators were engaged enough to keep the conversations flowing, but not so engaged that the panels began to feel repetitive. The smaller panels were the real gems, the first one with Martina Boone and Rachel Hawkins was by far my fav. Rachel Hawkins is the funniest person I’ve ever talked to, in my life, and her and Martina (who I already love) were hysterical. That was the standout panel of my day. Funny enough to be engage but they still answered great questions.
STAND OUT MOMENTS: There were a couple really strong moments for me. Moments I don’t think would have happened at another festival.
- Meeting Melissa Marr and hearing her talk about why she wrote “Wicked Lovely.” Background: I’m 25. I read “Wicked Lovely,” when I was an actual teen going through a really strong goth thing (well as strong as my mom allowed since I could not wear make-up or pierce anything but my ears, and no tattoos till I was old enough to realize they were permanent (THANKS MOM!)). Anyway, I felt a deep connection to the heroines in Marr’s books. They were alternative to the standard brown haired, mousy, green eyes, weak willed girls I was seeing. To listen to her talk about how she wrote those books for her daughter literally made me cry. She changed the way I approached literature and those books helped me through some really awkward phases. I got to speak with her for a few minutes during the signings and she was so wonderful and gracious. I wish I could have expressed how strong of a connection I felt with her writing.
- Meeting Martina Boone. I love Martina and “Compulsion.” I have made this very well known. I was SO EXCITED to meet her in person. We talked wine and Supernatural and I tried not to fangirl super hard.
- Hearing Marie Rutkoski speak. Holly heavens is that woman smart, which makes sense seeing as how she’s a Professor. I want to move to NYC and take a class with her. She completely enraptured me. Plus, when she said “I think smart is sexy,” I wanted to give that girl a standing ovation. YES.
- Matt de la Pena’s keynote address. He was incredibly inspiring, funny, and just all around awesome. He CRUSHED that keynote address. As a listener I was enrapture, as an educator I couldn’t stop thinking about how I could use his words, and as a reader I totally wanted to buy all his books–and I’m not really a contemporary fiction reader.
What I didn’t like: Really, really small things. Almost minute but I gotta do it, good feedback comes with some critique. My biggest annoyance was that at the end of all the panels and keynote I couldn’t buy anymore books. I’d met some really cool authors that day, authors I had not been previously exposed to and I wanted to buy their books. Only, I couldn’t. Sad face. We had to leave the rooms even though different panels were in each one. A minor annoyance and while I get they were trying to give everyone a fair chance to see who they wanted, it kind of bummed me out. It especially bummed me out to see teens getting denied entry for something they really wanted to see. Food trucks. There was one with actual sustenance not hot coco/donuts. One for hundreds of people. We waited an hour/ they ran out of stuff, etc.
Overall, I had a great time and I’m already looking forward to next year. If you didn’t get a chance to attend this year or were on the fence, I HIGHLY recommend it. The event is small enough that you get some real personal time with the authors, but big enough to draw a nice variety. 5/5 🙂