Boston Teen Author Festival

Saturday September 26th I went to the Boston Teen Author Festival. This annual, full day event was held at the Cambridge Public Library and Porter Square Books was the local bookstore selling books at the event.

I was super excited to attend this event because they had an all-star list of author participating at the event with some pretty cool panel topics.

This was my first time ever visiting Harvard Square and the Cambridge Public Library. I was really impressed with how large the library was and how cool its Stone/Glass structure was. I also really loved how this was clearly a community space, there were people lounging, meditating, and playing on the grass out front.

So, here is my recap of the event, I apologize in advance, but this is going to be a really long post.

The doors opened at 10:00 AM, I am so glad I got there early! I started by purchasing the books I knew I wanted. At 10:30 AM there was an Intro Panel with all of the authors. There was a sort of rapid fire Q&A during which I learned a few fun things:

  • Leigh Bardugo is an official member of the George RR Martin fan club and is knighted.
  • Renee would ship Shahrzad with with the Darkling.
  • Leigh would ship Alina with Edward Cullen.
  • Melissa would ship Echo with Kaz (6 of Crows) and Kell from A DArker Shade of Magic.

I chose to attend the Inspired By Panel in the morning featuring: Renee Ahdieh, Zoraida Cordova, Kody Keplinger, Mackenzi Lee, Kekla Magoon, Diana Renn, and Cindy L Rodriguez. The room was PACKED, the seats quickly filled up and then there was standing room only, I ended up sitting on the floor near the front.

This panel was super inspiring! I loved listening to the authors. Renee Ahdieh's book, The Wrath and the Dawn, was obviously inspired by Arabian Nights, but I had no idea that she also drew inspiration from Beauty and the Beast and the Count of Monte Cristo. When asked about taking liberties while writing, she mentioned that a great loophole is having magic or writing fantasy.

I had never heard of Cindy L Rodriguez, but her book, When Reason Breaks, was inspired by Emily Dickinson. I thought it was really interesting to listen to her talk about a course she took on Dickinson and how there are a few characters inspired by Dickinson (each one with the initials ED). I also really loved that she wanted to write a YA book that dealt with depression and showed a character who survives attempted suicide.

Mackenzi Lee is another author  had never heard of and she quickly caught my attention when she described her book, This Monstrous Thing, as steampunk Frankenstein. I loved hearing the passion in her voice while she was speaking about her book. She told us that part of her inspiration for this story was from the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley and that writing a book set in a very specific year was extremely challenging. Listening to her talk about the book, piqued my interest so much that I purchased her book during the break.

I think my favorite quotes from the session came with the last question: What makes your retelling different from others?

  • Zoraida Cordova, author of The Vicious Deep, started out my stating the obvious: that she had a merman instead of a mermaid. But then she started talking about the two theories of mermaid (are they fish or mammals?) and she said that she personally believes mermaids are mammals "otherwise Ariel's seashells are kinda pointless".
  • Renee Ahdieh started out by talking about how if every person in the room was given a prompt for a story we would all write something different and then she summed it up by saying "because it was written by me".

In the afternoon, I attended The Craft panel featuring: Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, Leigh Bardugo, AC Gaughen, Melissa Grey, Kendell Kulper, Kim Liggett, and Sara Raasch. Seriously, how do they get so many authors to sit on a panel together?! I took pages of notes, so I am just going to select some of my favorite bits from the session to share with you.

1. How do you create character voice?
KL: Likes to play with inner voice vs outer voice
MG: Think o your characters as people. admitted to daydreaming as her characters
KK: Writes practice scenes because she needs to find the voice before writing
LB: In the first draft most characters don't have strong voices, she develops that in the following drafts. She also uses music to help channel a character when writing different point of views.

2. How do you create a magic system and what is your preference between soft magic and hard magic? How do you write exposition without boring your reader?
LB: Asked herself "What happens when you bring a gun to a magic fight?" which is how the magic system in the Grisha Triology was developed. She also wanted to know "Why don't we just shoot Voldermort?!"
SR: Her editor made her write an essay outlining and defining the magic system of her series
KL: "I like it soft, my editor likes it hard"

3. How do you write exposition without boring your reader?
LB: Uses a screenwriting test and asks herself "how would I show this on the screen?"
ACG: Limits herself to the characters' perspective and focuses on what is important to her characters
AAR: Relies on her beta readers and editor, she starts with a lot and then pars it down 

4. What is it like to work in a pre-established world and magic system?
LB: It is a tricky balance to refresh the memory of the reader, you don't always realize the challenges you've created for yourself
ACG: Loves returning to characters and settings, but it's also a labor of love
MG: it's comfortable, but the challenge is that you need to raise the stakes
KL: it's not easy because if you did your job then you blew everything up and your characters have changed

After the sessions, there was a signing with all of the authors. I purchased Shadow and Bone and Lion Hear even though I have the e-books because I really wanted to meet AC Gaughen and Leigh Bardugo. I also pre-ordered Six of Crows and got a poster and bookplate.

AC Gaughen was super sweet and easy to talk to.
Leigh Bardugo was also really nice. She asked who my favorite character was and when I said the Darkling she added "Make me your villain" to the left page!
Amelia was so down to earth, when I mentioned that this was my first venture in her 17 book world, she added "Welcome to my world".

Renee Ahdieh was really nice and she had her own copy of The Wrath and the Dawn that she was asking readers to sign.
Mackenzi Lee had a really fun energy, she was really easy to talk to and she also had a copy of her book for readers to sign.

By the time I was finished getting my books signed I was crazy tired. It was an amazing day and I am so happy I went and got to chat with some really cool authors.


  1. I can't believe you went to the Boston Teen Author Festival! Everytime I see this I think, darn, why am I not in Boston anymore. But anyways, it looks like a lot of really well known authors were there! I actually knew of Mackenzi Lee because of This Monstrous Thing! But I haven't read it yet!

    Also that plate for Six of Crows looks gorgeous!

    1. It was so much fun, but a little overwhelming because there were a TON of people there. I couldn't believe how many stellar authors there were.

      I got my copy of Six of Crows this week! It is SO pretty

  2. So jealous! I love things like that. Wish I could say I had one for sure planned in the near future. But I'm hoping to save money to go to the big annual ALA convention in Orlando next summer, so hopefully that will work out! Looks like a great time, and lots of great authors!

    1. I totally understand! What is ALA? I am totally going to google it! lol

    2. ALAMW is going to be in Boston this year if you are interested in attending.

  3. Ahh this event looks amazing -- really wish I could have gone. Also, super jealous that you got to meet Renee Ahdieh and A.C. Gaughen!

  4. So while it's true that the people make an event (and the people definitely made any event!) this space definitely adds a different dimension to it. Went to party halls in Bay area for evening events and I was really impressed.

  5. I wanted to go to this!!! But I had an exam at the same time, so unfortunately had to skip. :( Would've loved to see Renee and Leigh though. Great recap - I really liked Leigh's responses to the questions!


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