Real Life is Messy Geoff Herbach, David Levithan, Corey Whaley, Melissa Walker and Coe Booth @ 02:21 pm
Author Varian Johnson moderated the Life is Messy panel with gentle control and grace as the authors brought to the audience a comfortable rapport with each other and gentle ribbing. The writer's discussed their inspirations for books, their writing techniques and gave tips and guidelines for would be writers all while keeping a light atmosphere sprinkled with sharp witted commentary.
(Varian Johnson and Melissa Walker)
- When asked "How do you know when to end a book?" Melissa answered "I look at word count and deadline." After the laughs died down she said "No, really, I'm looking for a thematic and emotional pause, a winding down, and word count and deadline."
- On editing, "You don't have the luxury of time to separate yourself as a reader." You must have excellent editors.
- Melissa's goal is to write 1,000 words a day and she only allows herself to review/re-read those 1,000 words and the 1,000 words from the day before. Otherwise the writing would never be done.
- Melissa's recent book Small Town Sinners is about a girl that dreams of playing the role of the abortion girl in a Hell House. Melissa went to a Hell House and was fascinated by the culture surrounding it which led her to write Small Town Sinners.
- Melissa listens to her characters and they tell her what they will say and what will happen next. She lives in the bubble of her character's thoughts and tries not to let her own thoughts and opinions enter into that bubble.
- On the importance of truth in writing, "If we set up false existence and reality, then how are we adding to life?''
- Corey is attracted to coming of age stories. His first book Where Things Come Back is about second chances and fate. It also questions faith, "Everyone struggles with faith, its a natural thing in life."
- Corey's main character in Where Things Come Back, Cullen, sometimes surprised him. "Some of his actions started to surprise me. Your character grows with the story."
- One theme of the book, "Try to grow up when the world doesn't want to let you."
- Writing the book was a way for Corey to deal with small town existence. He was sub consciously trying to work through life experiences.
- When talking about the sex and make-out scenes in the book, Corey was visibly uncomfortable and said, "I make the scenes awkward and funny and really fast. Just like real life, at least for me." Which brought the room to a huge peal of laughter.
- When asked how she wrote from a teen boy's perspective Coe said: "I have an inner boy somewhere inside of me."
- On censoring what goes into a YA book: "I think that everything should be on the table. The only rule is to tell the truth."
- Coe discussed how influential and crucial her editor is to her work. Her editor is David Levithan who was sitting right next to her on the panel.
- Coe shared that she completes her entire novel before back tracking and making revisions. She explains that her main character in her book Tyrell, originally had a sister which ended up not feeling right and was switched to brother named Troy. Coe then had to go back and change the entire first half of the book.
- On how long it takes her to write a book Coe once again referred to the support and encouragement of her editor David Levithan as a defining factor.
- On his book Boy Meets Boy, "I set out to write a dippy happy gay love story because there weren't any out there." This is also the only of his books that Levithan never wants to see made into a film because he feels that the thrill of motorcycle cheerleaders just wouldn't translate to film.
- David is a notoriously quick writer. When asked how long it takes to write a novel he said "I've actually written three books in the hour that we've been in this room."
- On editing David says, "...either bring the ax or the magnifying glass. Don't tear something down. Ask questions but don't always answer them."
- When asked about what is appropriate to include in a YA novel David said,"Your only responsibility is to a write a damn fine story."
- "Hatred comes from a twisted side of love."
- On writing Stupid Fast, "I wanted to write a book that looks at the darkness but has hope at the end."
- Geoff got big laughs when describing his journey to writing YA books, "I started as an adult novelist which sounds really gross..."
- The biggest struggle for Geoff in writing Stupid Fast was making the football scenes exciting and realistic. He struggled to put what he knew of and had seen in football games into words.
- On the goal of writing YA books, "If we can teach teens to have empathy for others that are suffering then we are doing our jobs."
- One thing that inspired Geoff to write the book is his belief that even though there are strongly estabished cliques and often those outside of the cliques imagine that members of the cliques feel loved, needed and important, often those firmly established in the cliques feel alienated. Everyone feels like an outsider.