We have a few authors who live in Nashville and we have a few come for signings. Since I don’t live in Nashville proper though, getting to these events on weeknights just doesn’t happen (at least, not for any of the authors who have come so far. I would make an exception for Marissa Meyer FOR SURE and probably for Brandon Sanderson as well). But to have a huge event with so many authors so much closer to home in SE YA Fest was just a thrill! It was a non-stop day of panels and signings (not to mention I still had a lot going on after it was all over)! It was the first time we had this event here, and it seemed to be a hit, so I hope it’s not the last!
First I’ll recap my experience, and then I’ll share some things you should know before going to a book festival like SE-YA Fest!
The way this worked was that there were multiples panels happening starting from 9 going into the afternoon, with signings happening at the same time and in between. There were three different panels at 9, and I actually didn’t have a super strong interest in any of them so I initially thought I might not try too hard to make it to one of them, but something came up and I wanted to leave the event a little earlier than I originally planned, so I decided to make the most of my day and go first thing. So the first panel I decided to go to was with Helene Dunbar, Bethany Griffin, Katie McGarry, and CJ Redwine. I haven’t read any of their books but some of them sound interesting to me, and I thought it was about time I see CJ Redwine since she lives in Nashville. I had also actually seen Bethany Griffin and Katie McGarry on a panel before at the SCBWI Midsouth conference.
- When asked to describe their books in one word, Helene Dunbar chose intense, Bethany Griffin chose dark, Katie McGarry chose raw, and CJ Redwine had no idea, but someone suggested real and she seemed satisfied with that.
- CJ mentioned that she actually got her agent with an adult manuscript and they tried for two years to sell to that market. When that wasn’t working, she thought of how much she loved YA and wrote for it instead.
- Katie lives out her research. She has done mixed martial arts and hung out with motorcycle clubs just to get a feel of the culture in her books.
- Katie also said she is quite the planner and will have her entire book mapped out, but her characters always kidnap her and do their own thing with the story.
- Each shared stories about the author experiences that meant the most to them, and they all were along the lines of someone being touched by their story or someone getting into reading because of them.
After that panel I got my book signed by Sharon Cameron, and wandered around a little bit.
The next panel I went to was Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. All three of these ladies were funny, but Maggie truly had us all laughing, plus she’s fascinating!
Highlights of this panel:
- We learned a lot about Maggie: She loves really fast cars, she played bagpipes in college, and she has a lot of goats and other animals on her land in Virginia.
- All of Tessa’s writing is born out of her anger.
- Brenna loves pink, but also monsters.
- The three of them are critique partners and have two books with a novella from each of them with commentary about the writing called The Curiosities.
- Stiefvater is Maggie’s husband’s last name that she took.
- Maggie said it’s hard for her to say for sure which her favorite of her books is because she loves everything about The Dream Thieves, but it doesn’t stand alone, and she also absolutely loves The Scorpio Races.
- While Maggie does not usually cry over books and movies, reading The Time Traveler’s Wife for the second time made her ugly-snot-cry, and from that she decided her goal in life was to write a book that made other people ugly-snot-cry.
I went back to the signing lines and then I hit up a panel with Sharon Cameron, Linda Sue Park, and Tracy Barrett.
All three have written some variation of historical fiction, so much of the panel focused on that.
- Linda Sue insisted that if you find the right historical fiction, anyone can come to love the genre.
- All three, but especially Linda Sue, insisted the importance of writing what you loved and are passionate about. Tracy and Linda Sue have written about periods in history that aren’t very popular or well-known, but their stories have sold and resonated with readers.
- Sharon talked about the writing process that has worked for her when she doesn’t always have a set, consistent schedule to devote to writing is to steal every moment available for writing.
- All three ladies said that historical fiction is important because history repeats itself, and we should be aware to try to not make all the same mistakes again. Plus, people hundreds of years ago lived similarly to how we do now in terms of desires and such.
Then I had a quick lunch before I headed out to my last panel for the day, which I had to leave a little early, but I still got some good info from, with Victoria Schwab, Gwenda Bond, Beth Revis, and Kristin O’Donnell Tubb.
They went through a lightning round of silly questions before they got to audience questions. From these we learned…
- If they had to choose between still having cheese as an option for the rest of their lives but not chocolate, choosing chocolate over cheese, or allowing someone to die, Victoria and Beth would let someone die. Gwenda said cheese and Kristin said chocolate.
- Victoria just got a Master’s degree in Edinburgh that is basically in Monsters (she explained what it actually was but I don’t remember the exacts).
- When asked about the one super power they would like to have… Victoria said time, but she has no desire to meddle with the past, she just wishes she could control the timing of the future. Gwenda wanted teleportation. Beth wants to be a Time Lord so she can time travel and have teleportation. Kristin wanted invisibility, and Gwenda said only sneaks want that.
- Gwenda has a fasicnation with the circus, which is why she wrote Girl on a Wire.
- When asked about their self-care routines, they all laughed and Victoria actually face-planted onto the table.
Now, things you should know before you go to a book festival like this one:
- Bring lots of water! I was smart enough to bring one bottle of water, but I really should have brought two, or tried to find a water fountain instead of buying another overpriced bottle. As long as you can figure out how to keep it with you without it being a burden, something like a Nalgene would also be great.
- Bring snacks! This is one I didn’t do and wish I had! I ended up buying a snack at the bookstore to help carry me over when I ended up with a late lunch. Which brings me to…
- EAT SOMETHING. Due to the craziness of me trying to leave a little early, I pushed back my lunch until about 1:30 and that was tough. The snack I bought helped but I would definitely recommend eating closer to your normal time if you can (which for me would have been noon). This is really a good rule for life in general, but when you’re doing something like this you don’t want a screwy blood-sugar level.
- Have a plan but be flexible. I had a game plan of what I wanted to do which kept me on task, but things didn’t always move as quickly as I anticipated (some of those signing lines are long!), and had I been more flexible by keeping the afternoon open, I could have probably enjoyed myself a little more by spacing out my signings and eating earlier (though don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy myself!).
- Dress for comfort, not style. I wore tennis shoes, jeans, and a casual shirt and I’m so glad I did. It was a pain to haul around the rain jacket I ended up not needing, but with a 50% chance of rain I felt I couldn’t be too careful (side note: it was nearly perfect during the event, but later in the day it was pouring, so we were fortunate!). Also, Victoria Schwab actually commented that she liked my shirt, a totally unexpected compliment that made me happy!
- Have something to say to the authors. I’m completely the worst at this, and thankfully they were pretty good at keep the conversation flowing themselves since do this on the regular. But the best conversation I ended up having with an author during the day was with with Sharon Cameron, because when I told her I had seen her at SCBWI conferences, we immediately had something in common to talk about outside of the normal “I like your books.”
- Get to know the area if possible. This wasn’t something I didn’t even have to think of because the venue was at my Alma Mater so I was very familiar with it, but after having to help out someone from out of state, I understood why it might be best to try your best to familiarize yourself with the venue beforehand. It would have been difficult to do at this festival, apart from the map and maybe scoping out the buildings before everything began.
- Have fun! That’s the whole point of the event, of course!
The books I got signed!:
Have you been to an event like this one? What did you learn from it? Which fact about these authors that I shared surprised you most?