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On the Teen Author Book Festival, Non-Gender Specific Covers, and Feminism

April 8, 2012 by Carley

So I want to do a little round-up of my time as a participant in the NYC Teen Author Book Festival.  I was honored to have been included in the “New Voices” Panel and the Books of Wonder signing!  Thanks to David Levithan for his amazing organizational skills, planning, and vision.  I didn’t get to go to everything, but I went to a couple of panels and met a lot of writers and a couple of new fans.  Yay!

Madeleine George, Ellen Hopkins, David Levithan, Jennifer Smith, and John Corey Whaley read from their new books at McNally Jackson bookstore at the beginning of the festival.  The bookstore was packed!  There were a couple of confused people there for Patti Smith, but no matter, the main vibe in the room was excitement and delight.

I caught the second half of the panel on “Being Friends with Boys” with Elizabeth Eulberg, Jenny Han, Terra Elan McVoy, and Stephanie Perkins and got some great ideas about how to create novelistic tension around boy-girl friendships that transform into romance.

I was especially intrigued and excited by the conversation among the panelists for “No Ordinary Love: How to Create a Satisfying Love Story and a Satisfying Supernatural World at the Same Time.”  Andrea Cremer, Melissa de la Cruz, Jeri Smith-Ready, Victoria Schwab, and Margaret Stohl had a great conversation about how book covers gender our readers, often keep us from getting boy readers, or even make boy feel like they have to keep their love of our books secret.  As I type this, I want to remind everyone that the cover of my book is bright pink, and although I do love my cover, I think it sends out a very clear message, like, “This book is pretty much only for girls.”  What if “women’s fiction”  or more fiction written by women had less gender-specific covers?  Here’s what novelist Meg Wolitzer had to say about it in The NY Times last week, in her awesome article, “The Second Shelf: On the Rules of Literary Fiction for Men and Women.”  And in case you haven’t looked at them yet, here are this year’s VIDA stats about women and publishing for 2011. Sobering as usual, but important to know about.

I know it’s different in Young Adult Fiction and Children’s Publishing where women rule and are hugely successful.  But I still like thinking about the ways in which gender plays out in all areas of publishing.  I also wonder what happens to young adult writers who move into adult writing?

Lastly, I had so much fun listening to my fellow authors on the “New Voice Spotlight”–Emily Danforth, Kate Ellison, Lucas Klauss, and Alecia Whitaker.  Such great writers and so inspiring!  I’m glad I read the scary Cammie garbage scene from The Stalker Chronicles and these guys inspired me to do it.

Oh, and thanks to PG Kain and Andy Marino for keeping me company during the Books of Wonder signing.

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