A week ago I was at the New York Public Library, doing a panel for the NYC Teen Author Festival. This was great and illuminating for me in so many ways. First, the NYPL. My favorite building in New York, a haven for readers and writers, its wide front steps facing Fifth Avenue and guarded by lions Patience and Fortitude. As a young writer, before having a book published, I spent countless hours in the reading room (because my apartment was too small/cold/dark, pick one or all) writing and doing research. Little did I ever suspect that one day I'd have a book published and be on a panel there, right there in the library, with wonderful writers.
But mainly it was great because of the people involved. David Levithan moderated the panel on perspectives. I sat on the stage with fellow YA novelists Francisco Stork, Beth Kephart, and Carolyn Mackler. Our discussion revolved around these questions (from David) and a few more besides:
What perspective do we, as adults, bring to our novels when we write about teenagers? How do we balance what we know and what our characters don’t? Why do we find ourselves revisiting these years, and what do we learn (even years later) by writing about them? How do you acknowledge the darkness without robbing the reader of finding any light? In this candid conversation, we’ll talk to four acclaimed authors about being an adult and writing about teenagers.
The conversation was so thoughtful and I learned a lot from and about my co-panelists. One thing that seemed clear about all of us is that we draw on experience but use our imaginations, and that we write from our hearts. I know that my heart was very full the whole time--I felt very supported by David ( fabulous writer as well as editorial director at Scholastic) and Aimee Friedman--my extraordinarily brilliant and nurturing editor who also writes gorgeous novels--sitting up close in the audience. They have shepherded me into the world of YA after my whole life spent writing general fiction, adult novels. (I never called them adult novels before, and it sounds vaguely racy, but it's necessary to differentiate my other novels from this young adult one, THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF SISTERS.)
Also in the audience was my forever literary agent Andrea Cirillo and many of her colleagues, all of whom I adore, from the Jane Rotrosen Agency. Later Andrea, Chris, Rebecca, Danielle, Amy, Julianne, Jessica and I went around the corner to the Bryant Park Grill to have a drink and debrief. We sat outside under heaters (it was very early March chilly) surrounded by trees wrapped in twinkling lights. Andrea and I have been in Bryant Park so often--with my former and beloved editors from Bantam, for literary festivals like New York is Book Country, and last spring we made a fast trip to see the Chuck-Will's-Widow, a first for that park.
It was a great day. I may be a week late in blogging about it, but I'm still thinking about last Friday, turning it over in my mind, all the marvelous moments.