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5th Annual Boston Teen Author Festival recap

btaf logoMy, how the Boston Teen Author Festival has grown.

The fifth annual celebration was held at the Cambridge Public Library and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School on Saturday, September 24th. The day began with an opening panel to introduce the thirty-five — count ’em, thirty-five — YA authors via quick, playful questions, some of which were surprisingly difficult. The first row of authors had to come up with theme songs for their novels. The second had to describe their writing process in one word (Rebecca Podos: “Is anal-retentive one word?”). The third row had to name their own “odd talents,” which is how I learned that Kate Scelsa reads tarot, and Francisco X. Stork has a knack for the Mexican game balero.

After we’d learned all that (and more), the tough choice of which panels to attend began. There were ten panel discussions this year, each repeating twice, on topics ranging from speculative fiction to identity to mental health to mystery. I started with two somewhat related panels: “Who Run the World? (Flawed) Girls” and “Female Friendships: Does Growing Up Mean Growing Apart?” Several of the first panel’s authors (Rahul Kanakia, Emily Martin, Kate McGovern, and Lauren Morrill) said that they set out to create realistic characters, so their characters’ flaws occurred naturally. The second panel’s authors (Lauren Gibaldi, Cindy Pon, Marie Rutkoski, and Destiny Soria) talked about power dynamics, the effect of new romantic relationships on existing friendships, and the Bechdel Test.

a sneaky photo of the

a sneaky photo of the”Female Friendships” panelists, l–r: Lauren Gibaldi, Marie Rutkoski, Cindy Pon, and Destiny Soria

Over a (Bechdel Test-approved) lunch with some writing friends, I heard raves about the “Magic Beyond the Grave” panel, so I decided to attend its repeat performance during the last timeslot. The panel, featuring fantasy authors Roshani Chokshi, Zoraida Córdova, and Daniel José Older, started out as a romp through mythologies about the afterlife and discussion of how they operate in the authors’ books, but ended up encompassing a variety of questions about diversity in publishing.

the "Magic Beyond the Grave" panelists:

the “Magic Beyond the Grave” panelists, l–r: Roshani Chokshi, Zoraida Córdova, and Daniel José Older

The event was a great way to introduce readers to a whole slew of authors, including many who are just starting out. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some reading to do.

Shoshana Flax About Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor for The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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