A morning with Maureen Johnson, David Levithan and Sarah J Maas

This weekend has been very busy, I’ve spent very little of it at home. Saturday, my friend, Stacey, and I went on a road trip to Birmingham to visit one of our school friends who lives there now. While we were there we popped into the brand new library which is amazing, it has a Shakespear memorial at the top which is all old school and set out like an Elizabethan library. I had a bit of a book boner when in there. The new library has NINE floors! It’s got escalators and lifts like the ones in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! It’s amazing! We also popped into the Waterstones, which is in the most amazing building, it used to be a bank so if you’re ever in the Birmingham area, you should head to the shopping bit and have a look at it! While inside, the school friend in question made the comment that YA books didn’t have as much merit as other fiction because they’re aimed at teenagers (I made them go to the YA section because I was looking for a copy of How I Live Now). Which was kind of ironic, because that was one of the discussion points at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, where I was today listening to Maureen Johnson, David Levithan and Sarah Maas.

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Two of my favourite authors talking about some of my favourite things in a hall in Cheltenham.

The topics of conversation ranged from publishing and how various people got into publishing, Sarah Maas had the most interesting publishing success story by getting recognised and building a fan base purely online. It was great to have the opposing sides of people like David Levithan who got into it from working as an editor and then Sarah Maas who got to where she is now because of things like twitter and fanfic.net. So that was really interesting. We also got to hear about the merit of YA, which made me smile because that was a debate that I had the previous day, we heard about Maureen Johnson’s cover flip project, we heard about how people are using things like twitter to promote their work and, most interestingly, heard about banned books (we don’t really do that here in England) and representing niche areas of the audience.
I have to be honest, two things that I find endlessly fascinating are the ideas that society has on gender and sexuality. Science has already proven that both are fluid, society is well behind. David Levithan is known for writing books that make LGBTQ teens feel more included in YA in general, so hearing him talk about inclusion was really fascinating and we (as in the whole room) had a great discussion about the importance of inclusion and the questions that books such as Every Day, where the lead character doesn’t have a physical body, raise about what’s really important – the inner self or the outer self. There was also a couple of great comments about the fact that the majority of books feature white people on the cover regardless of the content and how problematic that is. This was something that the cover flip project covered. Another of my favourite subjects is feminism, and well, the poor treatment of women in general to be honest, and we got to hear how women in the publishing industry are portrayed which lead to more interesting conversation.

It’s a shame that the event didn’t go on longer because they could have gone on forever and I would have still hung on their every word. After the keynote, some lovely people from HotKeyBooks gave out vouchers so you could win copies Maureen’s new book and they all did a signing.

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I took my copy of Boy Meets Boy and Bermudez Triangle for the signing because they were the first two books I got and loved by David and Maureen. I am intrigued about the new copies of Boy Meets Boy, they’re much thicker than mine! My friend and I had a lovely chat with both David and Maureen about Maureen’s dog, which we also got to see photos of and the fact that apparently Bermudez Triangle is really rare in the UK and Maureen hadn’t met anyone who actually had a UK copy before. So that was nice!
I felt bad that I didn’t have anything for Sarah Maas to sign, they were selling copies of her books there but I didn’t have eight quid upon my person to spare. But I am going to track down a copy because it sounds amazing! Has anyone read it? Is it good?

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