I just got back from a glorious five days in Charleston, South Carolina where I visited friends, basked in the friendliness of the south, and had the BEST TIME EVER at Yallfest–a free festival held every year in Charleston, organized in part by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia.
I’ve not been to many book festivals aside from the bookish panels at SDCC and all its attending craziness, so I was pleasantly surprised by the smaller scope of Yallfest. The panels felt so intimate and unhurried, and gave an insight into the authors and their stories I hadn’t seen in person before.
Plus, with signings on such a smaller scale than typical, it gave the authors an opportunity to give each person a moment of personal attention, instead of having to hurry through the line like usual. (Though the lines were very long in some cases.)
I was so pleasantly surprised to have both Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins remember me from previous signings. I’ve only seen them once before, but it meant so much to know the brief conversations we’d had had been memorable to them as well. I think we tend to see authors as bigger than life celebrities, but it was nice to see them in such a laid back setting, fangirling over their readers as much as we were over them.
Keep reading for more Yallfest memories, and a chance to win three signed books!
The Keynote conversation between Veronica Roth and Rae Carson on gender roles in YA fiction may have been the highlight of the entire day for me. I’m pretty sure I spent the entire thing nodding my head and murmuring PREACH.
They discussed how the compliment of “strong female character” is actually rather insulting–to both women and men–because strength is almost always used in the physical sense; like a man. But women can be strong in any number of ways while being physically weak–and so can men. Veronica Roth defines strength as a character with agency, and Rae Carson sees strength in characters who experience moments of weakness and overcome.
Veronica said she sees the traditional gender roles flipped for Tris and Four in the Divergent series; though they were both very physical, Tris was more guarded, emoting through action, whereas Four’s arc was one of redemption and healing, and he was much more emotionally available than Tris.
Perhaps my favorite question, and certainly answer, of the panel was when Veronica asked Rae why her character Elisa in the Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy didn’t get to end up with her first love.
— tonya. (@awkwordly) November 9, 2013
Though Elisa’s first love interest was a very nice person in the end, at the root of it he’d kidnapped her and Rae didn’t Elisa’s feelings to be seen as Stockholm Syndrome. I don’t know that I’ve ever clapped so hard for anything.
At the end, Rae and Veronica recommended some YA that demonstrate strong characters:
LEGEND series by Marie Lu for opposite gender roles/dynamics
BEAUTY QUEENS by Libba Bray for complicated characters
SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo for power dynamics
THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST by Emily M. Danforth for strong, unique characters
They discussed the way their stories are sometimes described as Sad Books, but don’t see them that way. Rainbow Rowell and Stephanie Perkins especially believe they write happy books (tell that to my tears, Rainbow!).
Stephanie said high stakes about small things is the most honest way she knows how to write. She writes about love because she believes it’s the only real magic we have in this world, and falling in love was the most profound experience of her life. She tries to recreate it with every book she writes.
Rainbow Rowell and Ellen Hopkins discussed the banning of their books. Ellen said that if you’re a responsible parent, so-called Dark YA can be the conversation starter for the hard issues. “The books open the conversation. You can’t close the books.”
Rainbow talked about how she feels that every experience gets stored away and becomes your palette while writing, even if you don’t really know it. She said she sometimes writes to herself through her characters–if someone asked her about her stepdad, she would probably cry, but when she talks about it through Eleanor’s character, it’s easier.
Gayle Forman: “Why do we write? Because it’s cheaper than therapy.”
These were such interesting and eye opening discussions, I hope someone recorded it for the masses. For now, you can check out my live tweeting on @awkwordly.
Because I love you, I brought you back some signed goodies from Yallfest.
- Signed ALLEGIANT hardcover
- Signed LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR paperback with the new cover
- Signed JUST ONE DAY hardcover
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