Let’s Get Lost on a Starry Night as we are on a Conversion to Tease us into Falling into Place: Books of Wonder event

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On Sunday, September 14, 2014 I had the pleasure of going to Books of Wonder bookstore in Manhattan for the first time for their Debut YA Author panel event where I met the authors of, you guessed it, Let’s Get Lost, Starry Night, Conversion, Tease, and Falling into Place. What a panel! If you live in the NY Metro area, and haven’t been to Books of Wonder yet, my are you missing out! Books of Wonder specializes in Children, Middle Grade, and YA books. I came home with SEVEN books, all signed. Wait, you say, there were only five authors present. That’s correct. Books of Wonder carry an extensive collection of signed books that they do not charge extra for. I got two books signed by two of the authors present there that day (I’ll talk more about that soon) so I walked out with FIVE pre-signed books. I almost bought more, but this little piggy could only walk home with so many books.

The event, unfortunately, was rather small. Not too many people showed up to support these authors.  My friend Christine and I were still able to make friends with some great people, though. A crowd started to gather closer to the time the event was about to start.  I sat in the second row, so I was mostly able to see all the authors seated for the panel. Directly in front of me was Adi Alsaid, author of Let’s Get Lost– a road trip novel told in varying perspectives. It was one of the novels I got signed. I was very happy to meet him.  We’ll get to that later, though.

As the event started, the moderator immediately opened it up to questions.  The first question was “What inspired your novel?” Alsaid started first, as he was closest to the mic.  He spoke about being inspired by his own cross country road trip he took, from LA to Boston. Alsaid told a funny story where, on his travels, he met a homeless man he tried to give a glass of water to. The man proceeded to throw the glass of water at a tree, stating: “I have two rules: Never finish a drink. And never finish a cigarette.  He then continued to tell Alsaid that he was in the Guinness Book of World Records for Thumb Push-ups. As that isn’t really a thing, no one believed him. Construction workers now joining in on the fun. Eventually the man was paid over $2.00 to do said push-ups. He actually did ten thumb push-ups. Alsaid joked he has since tried and failed to do any.

He continued to talk about why he chose to have varying perspectives in his story, and none of them be that of his heroine, Leila. He said how you can’t get a complete grasp of a character if it is just his/her view. But, if it other people are giving multiple views on said character, you can truly understand her better. I really liked that idea, concept, and reasoning. I can’t wait to read the book when I’m not back logged with ARCs. His inspiration for Leila, which I loved, came from Amelie, the title character in the French movie of the same name. If you haven’t seen that amazing movie, you should!

Next up, was Isabel Gilles turn to speak. Unfortunately I have no interest in reading her book so I kind of tuned her out. Known for her memoir writing, Starry Night is her first foray into fiction writing, and young adult writing.  She talked about the difficulty she had writing it. She kept only writing two characters. Her editor kept telling her to write again. She also had parents appear in her novel often, joking, “I never realized parents are never in YA novels.” She said she wasn’t too familiar with reading them. For the male character, her inspiration came from singer Paolo Nutini, known for his hit song “New Shoes”.

Katherine Howe’s inspiration for her novel was one of the more interesting one’s as it came from an unlikely place– Meineke where she was getting her car repaired. There, she saw on the TV a news segment on a group of teenagers in Leroy, NY that were suffering from Conversion disorder, better known as hysteria caused on by too much stress. She couldn’t believe, even in today’s time with what seems like less things to stress about, Howe was saying, these teenagers were so stressed that they got hysteria. Hysteria! Something you rarely see happening.  This is the second book I bought and got signed. I am, again, completely looking forward to this. I loved her debut novel The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, which is also about witches. Howe told me she even makes an appearance! I’m super excited.

Tease author Amanda Maciel talked about the real life incident that inspired her story. Her friend actually worked at the school at the time that the suicide happened. What really inspired Maciel to write the story, was the comment the friend made about everyone knowing the girl. That the suicide affects everyone. Maciel then wanted to write about not just the bullying, but how the loss of a student can be devastating to all, no matter how close you were to the student. Although I doubt I will read the book, I found what she said to be very interesting.

On the opposite spectrum, author of Falling into Place, Amy Zhang talked about her novel where her character, the school bully, tries to kill herself because of the fact. I read an ARC of this novel back in June and loved it! I also met her in June at BEA, so it was nice to see her again. She even remembered me! She talked about how her inspiration came about, with initially writing the novel as a short story with a love story with Isaac Newton (there is a lot of odes to him in the novel!).

As the questions went on, the panel grew more livelier. Topics covered were bullying, whether or not they would be friends with their protagonists, and writing in general. Finally the signings arrived! It was so great to finally talk to Amy Zhang, Katherine Howe, and Adi Alsaid. The three of them were super nice, friendly, and very good talkers. As I had been a fan of Howe’s for over three years now, it was great to finally meet her. I did a little fangirling. I did. I’ll admit.

 

Happy reading and thanks for stopping by!

*Stay tuned for more  event summaries coming soon. Next up is a Literary Scavenger hunt!*

It’s a Wonder! Wonder Event with author R. J. Palacio

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On September 10, this past Wednesday, I had the pleasure to meet R.J. Palacio for the second time. However, this time she did a reading  and took questions, whereas last time she was just a panel member about bullying. As she stepped on the stage, she opened up about the origination of Wonder, her inspirations, and even why the title. As she spoke, she revealed that her inspiration came from a real life Auggie of sorts. A few years ago, while her eldest son was sent in to get ice cream for the family, Palacio and her three year old sat next to a little girl who, without Palacio noticing at first, who had facial deformities. Palacio immediately thought about how her son would react; she thought maybe to move somewhere else. As she predicted, her young son cried when he looked at the girl. Palacio then walked away. Embarrassed by her reaction and behavior, Palacio set out to right her wrong.  Another interesting fact we learned, the title, Wonder, comes from the song Wonder by Natalie Merchant that talks about being different. With lyrics such as And laughed as my body she lifted/”Know this child will be gifted/With love, with patience and with faith/She’ll make her way, make her way”

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R.J. Palacio as she is talking about the creation of wonder.

Picture this, thirty or so chairs filled with children and their parents, and me and my friend, plus one other adult on her own. The audience wasn’t that varied. Yet, we were all alike in how captivated we were once Palacio opened her new book, 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts we were all hooked. She read the section, “Your Actions are Noted”  about a bunch of mean girls who mock a girl during her stage debut while her mother tries to watch proud, holding back tears because of the bullies. It was a powerful chapter that demonstrated that what we do is constantly on display. We should be on our best behavior, respect our peers, and behave in a way we would like to be treated.

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R.J. Palacio reading from 365 Days of Wonder: Mr. Browne’s Book of Precepts

Palacio’s reading voice was captivating. Although I did not buy the book, at the time or now, I am seriously considering it after her reading. It’s not a traditional book with chapters or plot, but there are mini life lessons thrown in for each month. It does have me interested. Palacio said she had gotten the idea from the thousands of fans that had submitted their own precepts. As she had been a fan of collecting her own when she was younger, so came the idea for 365 Days.

After a somewhat long Q and A, with spoilers!, I was finally able to get my book signed. She was so nice. But, let me tell you, there was dra-ma! There was a woman who wanted a bunch of books signed, but not just signed with the author’s signature, no that was not good enough. With close to ten or more books, she dictated what Palacio should write in the books! The whole event, pre until the end, this woman was a pain. I think Palacio was relived not to have to write a long, personalized inscription once she got to me, as I was after the woman.

Overall, it was a great event. Although I still haven’t read Wonder, I definitely will now in the close future. It was great seeing her again. Hearing her read was fantastic. The event was a great success. I am so glad I went. I was up in the air with whether or not I wanted to go; I’m so glad I did.

Happy reading and thanks for stopping by!

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