Opening Ceremony

Sorry it took me so long to finally blog about my experiences at the first annual YAK Fest 2012 (Young Adult Keller Book Festival). Honestly, it has taken me this long to stop floating from the experience and somehow gather my thoughts cohesively enough to write them down! Ha. If it’s possible to be a fangirl reader and a professional writer all at once, then this event combined the two experiences! I’m sure this blog still won’t do it justice… But here goes.

I was one of 13 authors brought in for the event and one of five who participated on the Speculative Fiction panel. My comrades in “speculation” were Cory Putman Oakes (author of The Veil), Jeff Hirsch (author of The Eleventh Plague), Samantha Cook (author of Darkness Has Fallen), and J.M. Richardson (author of The Twenty Nine). I felt like I got to know these four people the most and especially loved hearing their responses to the panel and crowd questions. I am a Team Player by nature and thrive when I get to corroborate with others, but I have found that being an author is sometimes a lonely business. So when I got to engage with other authors for an entire weekend and hear about their unique experiences with writing, publishing, reading, etc., it was like water for a very thirsty soul barely surviving an often dry industry. I needed that interaction and encouragement more than some of them knew! I was particularly thankful to be with four people who didn’t mind joking and laughing with each other in front of a crowd. (You just can’t take yourself TOO seriously, you know. Not in front of teenagers.) I highly respect all four of these people and would gladly “panel” with them again. They have my unwavering support in their author careers!

Speculative Fiction Panel

That being said, I was REALLY sad I didn’t get to listen in on the other panels! However, I heard a lot about them from my students. The Realistic Fiction panel was made up of Ellen Hopkins (author of Crank,, Charles Benoit (author of You), Kelly Milner Halls (author of Girl Meets Boy, In Search of Sasquatch,, Beth Fehlbaum (author of Courage in Patience, et. al.), and Lori Aurelia Williams (author of When Kambia Elaine Flew in from Neptune). Though I didn’t get to hear them speak publicly, I did get to spend time with them away from the crowds during meals and break times. I greatly admire the way each of them so openly tackle in their books the difficult issues that teens face today. Among them are some courageous and talented writers! I am looking forward to digging into their books very soon.

Friday Night Dinner – at The Book Carriage

Tim Tingle and Greg Rodgers were Choctaw storytellers/authors and I heard that I really missed out on that session! I LOVE the experience of good storytelling, as I really believe that’s a gift. Yes, I can write. But to orally tell a good story without a bunch of “um” “like” “okay” is not easy for me. Ha. I got to chat a bit with Tim and Greg on Friday night at dinner and they seemed like fascinating gentlemen. Likewise, I missed Colin Gilbert’s slam poetry session, and the teacher in me was super disappointed about that. However, my students who went couldn’t stop gushing about it, so that made my little teacher heart happy too. 🙂 Again…what a unique gift to share with students!

Jeff Hirsch
Charles Benoit
Stacy & Nancy from Girls In The Stacks

I have to say that I was so impressed with the librarians who put on the event (Lucy Kubo and the Gang) and our moderators (Nancy and Stacy from Girls In the Stacks). It takes a great deal of work to pull something like that off, yet none of them ever showed their stress. The event ran very smoothly from my perspective! Snaps to Keller High School and their amazing staff!

Moments at YAK Fest I will NEVER forget:

Ellen Hopkins

1. Spending a good 45 minutes on Saturday night chatting leisurely with Cory and Ellen about the publishing industry and personal experiences. Seriously. If you ever get the chance to talk to a veteran author like ELLEN-freakin’-HOPKINS, you just need to soak up all you can. That woman has a lot of experience and wisdom and it is a priceless gift for someone like me at the beginning of my career to get to chat honestly with someone like her… I think Cory and I really enjoyed hearing her perspective on things. I, for one, took several things Ellen shared to heart. And that’s where they will stay.

2. The awesome feeling of walking into a panel room and seeing my own students’ (past and present) smiling back at me.Really. I will NEVER forget their support and love and faces and energy and… yeah. They’re the BEST.

My kiddos


New Kiddos

3. The absolute coolness of meeting new teenagers and readers and getting to hear their questions and aspirations. So many of the people who came to YAK were genuinely enthusiastic about reading and writing. It is so refreshing to engage people like that! It’s exciting to think a whole new generation of authors and writers were sitting with me in those rooms.

4. Finding another author friend my age who I could really relate to… Cory Putman Oakes. I fell in love with The Veil when I read it and have enjoyed sharing and discussing the book with my girl students. But meeting Cory in person was totally fun, and I look forward to doing more events with her in the future!

Cory Putman Oakes

5. The first time I walked through the auditorium and someone I didn’t know called out my name from the front row. *sheepish grin* I admit it. I like being cheered for. Haha.

Long live YAK Fest!! I would gladly do it again. Thanks to those of you who came out for it! (And a special shout out to author Jason Henderson who I hope to meet someday… I only got in because he had to cancel. I owe you one, Jason! Ha.)