Last Saturday, I attended the first ever YA Author Fest at the Pickerington library in Columbus, OH. Twelve YA authors from the area came together to discuss their books, talk about the writing process and answer reader’s questions. The authors were Melissa Landers, Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon, Edith Pattou, Jasmine Warga, Erin McCahan, Mindy McGinnis, Emery Lord, Liz Coley, Geoffrey Girard, Natalie D. Richards, Ryan Gebhart. It was a great event for a library to host because it’s so rare to find so many published YA authors together, outside of a workshop or conference (and even then it doesn’t seem very common.) I wish other libraries would start following suit and organize more of these events for YA and middle-grade authors. It seems to be a win-win for all involved.
I had a mixture of emotions while listening to the authors speak, but I probably felt more motivation than anything else. As an aspiring writer, there’s nothing that lights a fire under me like seeing other writers achieve their dreams. I have met about half of the authors at previous events, and it’s really fantastic to hear them announcing new upcoming books and projects. It reminds me that it really is possible to live that life even if you aren’t from New York or Los Angeles, have friends or family already in publishing, or have a publishing fairy in your shirt pocket. (I’m just assuming the last part isn’t true.) That’s not to say it’s easy or common, but it does mean it’s possible and sometimes I need to be reminded of that.
I also felt so inspired (to the point of getting teary-eyed a few times—I know, total dork) to see young teen readers in awe over their favorite authors. There were multiple young girls with their mothers or grandmothers who wanted to become writers themselves. This event gave them the ability to speak face-to-face with real authors and realize (just like me) that they are flesh and blood like everyone else. At one point, a young girl I was standing behind told Natalie Richards that her book inspired her to want to be an author. Can there ever be a greater compliment than that for an author? I can’t think of one.
This brings me to my last emotion. Watching all of this gave me an enormous sense of…longing to be on the other side of the table, giving writing and publishing advice instead of receiving it. I know I still have a long way to go, but I couldn’t stop myself from dreaming about a day when I’d be sitting at a folding table, sweating in the sun, and have a young kid tell me that my writing inspired them to also write. That’s absolutely a new life goal of mine.
At first I felt a little guilty for feeling this way, but then I figured that if I attended an event like this and didn’t wish I was autographing copies of my own book than that might spell trouble. Writing is too difficult and time-consuming to continue if I don’t love it and want to be successful with every ounce of my being. No matter what the future brings, I hope I always feel the same way I did that Saturday: motivated, inspired, with just a little longing mixed in. Those are the feelings that will get me through the long slog ahead until my name is on a future Pickerington library advertisement.