YA Lit 2015

This past weekend was the Anderson’s Bookshop 2015 YA Literature Conference. I’d had such a great time last year that I had to go again this year, especially when I saw that Huntley Fitzpatrick was going to be there. I didn’t want to be driving back and forth to Naperville, especially with the conference starting so early on Saturday, so I booked a hotel room at the same hotel the conference was being held. This was a Very Good Decision. Friday night I arrived, and I saw people hanging out at the bar, but I was too tired and sick to be social. I went straight to my room, turned on America’s Next Top Model, and eventually fell asleep. I was up bright and early for the conference Saturday morning, and snagged a seat at the front and center table. This never happens. Usually I attend these things with Adam so I feel kind of obligated to sit with him, but this time I was *free*. Ha. The tables were numbered, so we had no idea which author we were getting. We ended up with Ally Carter!

Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015

I will spare you the details of the conference, but I will tell you that it was wonderful and worth the $109 price tag. There were panels, keynote speeches, breakfast and lunch, and plenty of time to get books autographed and photographs with the authors. The most value for me came after when I got to hang out with the authors, where I learned remembered what I love so much about the YA Lit community.

  1. I’m still pre-published, so I don’t consider myself an author (yet). It didn’t matter. These people took me in and treated me as one of their own. I got to hang out with some authors who are a big deal (James Dashner, Michael Grant, Marie Lu, just to name a few) and none of that mattered. It was, at its core, a bunch of people who love telling stories hanging out and having a good time together.
  2. The YA lit community is like a family. These people have each other’s backs completely. The encouragement they gave each other, the affection they showed for each other, the friendships they have run deep, and run long.
  3. I want to be part of that successful, published community. I want it so badly I can taste it. In a way, I am a part, but I want to be *official*. I think other pre-published authors will get what I’m saying. Being around the level of success I was exposed to Saturday and Sunday was inspiring and fulfilling. Why not me too, right?

Someday. I know it.

While there, I made friends, especially with two amazing women, Dawn Kurtagich and Jenny Moyer. Sometimes you just hit it off with people, and that happened with them. I’m so glad to have found my writing “tribe” that I’m kinda over the moon about it.

<Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015

Jenny, Dawn, and Me

A couple of other things I learned:

  • James Dashner is the nicest, coolest guy I have ever met. (Well, 2nd to my son, anyway.) He is funny, kind, and genuine. I’m so grateful that I got to hang out with him.
  • Michael Grant is a well-known and best-selling author, and after talking with him for hours, it’s easy to see why. The man is a master storyteller. Talking with him is easy and fascinating.
  • New York Times Best-selling authors still worry that they’re not good enough.
  • Some authors take serious charge of their careers, and it’s fascinating to see how far they’ve come because of it.

Anderson's YA Literature Conference 2015
James Dashner and Me

I was on a high over this conference for days, but as always, the self-doubt kicks in. And it’s kicking in now. I was listening to a lot of these people describe their work. The books they have published, the books that are coming out, the books they have yet to write. And I wonder if I will ever measure up. I don’t write epic adventures with huge plot twists and extensive worlds. I write love stories. Simple and straightforward. I start to doubt my writing—is it any good? Will anyone believe in it enough to put it out there in the world?

Will I ever realize my dreams?

And…I get quiet. Discouraged. And intimidated as hell from being surrounded by so much sheer talent, while I wonder if I’ll ever measure up.

I know I’m not supposed to compare myself, my path, my work to others. But it’s going to happen. I am human. So I sit here processing all of this, trying to figure out where I belong anywhere in this world.

So that’s where I am now. I’m writing, still writing. Still grateful that I reclaimed that joy back in 2013 and that I haven’t lost it again. Still chasing dreams. Still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I think I know. I say “think” because I’ve been down this road before, and I got so discouraged that I quit for many years. But I’ve come back to it. That has to mean something. 1

  1. Plus, every time I attend an event like this, at least one person asks if I’m one of *the* authors. I always answer “not yet.” Universe, you heard me. Do your thing! I’m ready, even if I sometimes try to convince myself that I am not.
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