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Inspiring A New Generation of Writers: The Teen Book Con

Clarise Reichley

Tattered Cover Bookstore’s, annual Teen Book Con, was alive with excited teens and smiling authors. This year, there were 24 authors from around the country, each writing wholly different genres from romance to adventure stories. Yet each of these authors has one thing in common: their passion for writing and their happiness to discuss all the trials, tribulations and joys of being a writer.

The Teen Book Con began with a keynote introduction led by David Levithan, author of You Know Me Well, Billy Merrell author of Vanilla, and Bill Konigsberg author of Honestly Ben. These three authors discussed the metamorphosing literary scene, especially in regard to queer literature. Both Levithan, Merrell, and Konigsberg write extensively about being queer and have seen much change take place over the last decades in reference to how gay people are seen and heard in society.

“So much has changed since 2008,” recalled Levithan, who published his first novel nearly 14 years ago when writing about being gay was just emerging into the literary scene.

Merrell also remembered, “I spent a lot of my childhood practicing how to be ‘normal’. And now, I find it very encouraging that you don't have to fit into a category, you can just be who you are.” Merrell published his first poem memoir at age 21 as a reflection of coming out.

Throughout the day there were four largely different panels that discussed topics such as love and loss, off the beaten path, have your gut wrenched, and adventure. Each panel was full of stories, advice, and inspiration. At one panel in particular, the authors went around discussing the oddest jobs that they had worked at and Donna Cooner, author of Worthy, said she had once written several episodes of Barney and Friends, the acclaimed children’s television series. On another panel, authors discussed how they created and named characters speaking about the creative process of imagining a protagonist or antagonist for their books. Jessica Brody, the author of In Some Other Life, spoke about how she has made it a habit of collecting names to use for her characters.

To end the day, the award-winning author of The Wolves of Mercy Falls and The Raven Cycle, Maggie Stiefvater told theatrical stories of the inspiration behind her newest novel, All The Crooked Saints. She spoke of her love of cars and widespread travel, as well as her years of competitive bagpiping. As the finale of the Con, she grabbed one of her traveling bagpipes and serenaded the audience in the tale-weaving mourn of the bagpipe.

The Teen Book Con was plagued with the prospect of opportunity and full to the brim with inspiration, riveting the new generation of writers to pick up the pen and tell the stories inside their heads.