Young adults fans crowded to the School Library Journal’s website on July 24th for their free Summer Teen: Hot Books for Young Adults day-long livestream extravaganza. Featuring loads of best-selling authors, publisher’s booths, and panels to explore, the purely digital SummerTeen livestream event allowed an open forum for authors and the audience to interact.
The keynote speaker was famed high fantasy author Tamora Pierce, winner of the 2013 Margaret A. Edwards award. Pierce spoke of her experience writing fantasy novels that promoted a large cast of diverse and strong characters.
“Many see fantasy as something non-controversial and non-threatening. It’s all made up. Yet there has to be something in it’s appeal for readers, particularly for young readers who don’t tolerate much in the way of nonsense. A successful literature succeeds because we see ourselves in it. Because we can look at the world without feeling preached at. Fantasy gives us a chance to stand back and think about powerful ideas without interference. We get to view hard issues at arms length. Our books spark cool thoughts on hard dilemmas,” said Pierce.
After this, the event branched off into 5 different panels: Mysteries & Thrillers, Humor, Historical Fantasy, Technology in YA, and Embracing Diversity. All panels lasted an hour and opened the chat to questions during the last ten to twenty minutes.
The Historical Fantasy panel focused mainly on why the authors were so drawn to this flavor of genre blending. Authors included Robin LaFevers, author of Dark Triumph, and Elizabeth Wein, author of bestselling Code Name Verity and the upcoming Rose Under Fire.
“It’s very important that the time period we chose to write in ties into the thematic issue and the issues that our characters are struggling with. And I think it’s very important that the character’s story really couldn’t have happened at any other point in time. It has to be that thoroughly tied in,” said LaFevers when asked why she writes historical fantasy.
The Summer Teen event allowed dozens of authors an opportunity to connect with readers without having the expenses that comes with book touring and traveling. When asked about her Technology In YA panel, Sara Grant (Half Lives) said that “it demonstrated as well as discussed the power of technology from our homes around the US – and me sitting in my apartment in London, England.”
The Embracing Diversity was dedicated to the importance of including multiple cultures and ethnicities in fiction. Considering the severe lack of diversity in both YA literature and media in general, the panel did a great job showcasing not only the importance of diverse sexual orientation or race, but different religions, classes, and cultures.
Amanda Sun (Ink) enjoyed having the opportunity to speak on the panel.
“It was wonderful to have a platform in which to discuss and answer questions regarding how we as readers, writers, and members of the publishing community can continue to positively move forward to an inclusive world of fiction where diversity is not only celebrated but normalized,” said Sun.
When it came to exporting the virtual booths, big names publishers like Penguin, Scholastic, and Little Brown were as ready as small presses like Candlewick, Harmony Ink, and Open Road to answer questions and talk about forthcoming titles. Chats were open constantly with representatives from the publishing companies. Catalogs were available to browse with upcoming 2013 and 2014 titles, with giveaways being held at many of the booths. Exclusive content, such as books trailers, chapter excerpts, author videos, and lesson plans for school and librarians were also made available.
To check out the the archive of the event, visit SLJ’s website.