Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Carson City Lit Fest Recap: Or, Ellen Hopkins is made of Awesome

This post is far overdue but there's been thing called copy edits for FINDING PARIS (which are safely turned in to my lovely Balzer and Bray editor now) and this other thing called the first draft of IT WASN'T ALWAYS LIKE THIS (sample pages of which are now with my ever dapper Soho Press editor) and other things like the mess that had been shoved into drawers and closets around here for the past year and needed dealing with and the dog's UTI, which is now dealt with and a million other things that constitute LIFE. Not to mention some projects in the works that are as yet secret stuff.

But what I really want to talk about is Carson City Lit Fest, which took place in Carson City, NV earlier this month, in tandem with a weekend of writing workshops, the profits of which went to help support Ventana Sierra, which was founded by New York Times bestselling author and all around amazing human being, Ellen Hopkins to help young women who have aged out of the foster care system.  You can find out more about this important organization here:

I've been privileged to know Ellen for awhile now, proud to call her both a friend and a mentor, and have been a fan of her books for even longer than that. I get to meet a lot of authors these days and trust me when I say that while the kid lit community is one of the most amazingly generous and fabulous of any career I've had, not all of them reach out a hand in the kind of friendship and mentorship that Ellen has. She is just that kind of hugely special person.

 CRANK was the novel in verse that sent her career rocketing, a powerful and moving book rooted in her own daughter's terrible journey into drug addiction. It began its life as a small book, then took off in large part through Ellen's own untiring efforts to let people know how important this story was. The rest is bestselling history, but with that history comes a continued dedication to helping those (women in particular) who need someone to pull them out of situations that are swallowing them alive. CRANK was performed over the festival weekend, by the way: It's become a stage play called FLIRTING WITH THE MONSTER and I hope it too has a long and fruitful life in the theater.

The Lit Fest itself took place over a Friday - Sunday. Probably somewhere around 1500 in attendance, possibly more. Food booths and a story telling stage and a main stage amid the cottonwood trees in the perfectly dry and mostly cool Reno weather, where we authors got our 30 minutes or so to talk and entertain and read and answer questions. We came to meet our readers. We came to meet each other (more on that in a bit). And we came because Ellen asked us to. Because she had a vision and a cause and she called her community to rally. I know that we would all come again in a heartbeat. Not just because it was awesome fun - which it was. But because this woman not only talks the talk but walks the walk and it is often a difficult one because she writes about difficult issues, about people on the fringes and those people need her in ways that must be daunting some days. (My ANASTASIA and SWEET DEAD LIFE readers like my work. I do get email and letters saying that what I wrote made a difference. But let's face it: I have not been writing dark contemporary fiction. Although this will change with next year's FINDING PARIS, a book I am very, very proud of.) When I was teaching full time, more than once a student came up to me and said, "If you see Ellen Hopkins, tell her that she saved my life." And they meant it.

In any case -- it was great fun. I got to meet and appear with the very talented Jim Averbeck -- somehow we even sang a brief off key duet (don't ask; I think it was when the cottonwood trees exploded in a huge wind and pelted us with cotton balls) and I chatted (about Olive Garden and other oddities) with the very brilliant and also very talented Aaron Hartzler, who wrote a funny and wry and very thoughtful memoir called RAPTURE PRACTICE. (Jenna and Casey of THE SWEET DEAD LIFE would love this book, let me assure you!) And finally got to meet Corey Whaley and get a copy of NOGGIN, which I think Jenna
and Casey would also love, because it too tells a tale of someone who comes back different that he left and the shenanigans and heartbreaks that occur after that. And the delightful Terri Farley, whose SEVEN TEARS INTO THE SEA selkie story I'm reading right now! And many, many others including but not limited to the brilliant poet Nikki Grimes and the amazing picture book author Patricia Newman and the multi-talented Michelle Parker Rock and of course my friend Andrew Smith, who I hadn't seen since YAK FEST, which was before
GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE arrived and blew everyone, myself included, out of their seats! I adore this book so much. It deserves every award it is winning. And then some. Plus Geoff Herbach was there! My fellow Sourcebooks author and his new FAT BOY AND THE CHEERLEADERS! Herbach makes me laugh. A bunch.

This is only the tip of the author iceberg. Ellen asked. So A.S. King came. And so did Ceci Castellucci. And Veronica Rossi. And Eric Elfman. And many, many more, including Ellen's editor, the very brilliant Emma Dryden.

Plus my lovely hostess, the delightful Reno author Suzy Morgan Williams, (BULL RIDER) a fellow Class of 2k9 member and the fascinating Joanna Marple, with whom I fed April the goat each morning, followed by bacon and eggs. Because Suzy cooks! Which is great, you know.

I've missed a million names. But you get the picture.

Thank you Ellen Hopkins for creating this weekend and founding Ventana Sierra. And being the awesome human being you are.

1 comment:

lady reader said...

Great wrap up post, Joy. It was great to finally meet you in person. I am already eagerly waiting for next years event. I hope to see you back then! xx