Chicago Reads: Party Like a Librarian at ALA 2017

“When you absolutely positively have to know, ask a librarian.”                                                               – American Library Association

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We couldn’t agree more. And that’s why all of us at ChiYA are thrilled that the American Library Association’s Annual Conference will be coming to our fair city this week, June 22-27.

This year’s conference theme,  “Transforming our libraries, ourselves,” will highlight the tools librarians and libraries need to adapt and flourish in our changing times and with shrinking budgets. The annual conference allows attendees to network, problem solve, meet authors, and get an early look at books that might soon be on library shelves.

Highlighted speakers include Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, focusing on his Reading Without Walls program, which encourages kids and adults to read a “book about a character who doesn’t look like them or live like them… a book about a topic they don’t know much about…or a book in a format they don’t usually choose.” Reading is a vital part of our lives and reading diversely and widely enriches us. Mr. Yang will speak on Saturday, June 24th at 8:30a.m.

Another speaker getting a lot of buzz, and understandably so, is Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will close out the conference on June 27th at 10a.m. Secretary Clinton has spoken often about her lifelong love of reading and is the author of multiple bestselling books. An all-new, full-color picture book of her bestseller It Takes a Village, illustrated by two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Marla Frazee, will be published in September.

And in a shameless self-plug, I will be signing Advance Reader Copies of my debut, LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS, on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. in the SoHo Press Booth #3729.

Want to learn why Sarah Jessica Parker never leaves home without a book or hobnob with Carnegie and Pulitzer Prize winners? You can still attend, even if you’re not a librarian. While the conference is geared toward ALA members, the general public can purchase floor passes onsite for the Exhibit Hall, where you can meet authors, take in cooking demonstrations, and hear poetry readings, live podcasts, and musical acts.

ChiYA will be out in force on the floor and at the parties, and we’ll be tweeting via the official conference tag #alaac17. Hope to see some of you at the conference or on Twitter!

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This post is brought to you by Samira Ahmed at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: Upcoming YA Book Events (May/June 2017)

Chicago is lucky to be home to many independent bookstores that host authors for a wide variety of readings, signings, and other events. Check out these upcoming Chicago-area events with YA authors, and if you notice any are missing, add them in the comments!

THE PEARL THIEF
Elizabeth Wein
Thursday, May 4 at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

 


ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN
and WINDFALL
Jenny Han
Jennifer E. Smith
Monday, May 8 at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (La Grange)


ALWAYS AND FOREVER, LARA JEAN
and WINDFALL
Jenny Han
Jennifer E. Smith
Tuesday, May 9 at 6:30 PM
The Book Stall (Winnetka)


THE BEST KIND OF MAGIC
Crystal Cestari
Friday, May 19 at 7:00 PM
The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square)

 


AND WE’RE O
FF
Dana Schwartz
Tuesday, May 23 at 6:30 PM
The Book Stall (Winnetka)

 


EPIC READS MEET-UP TOUR
Joelle Charbonneau
Kimberly McCreight
Julie Murphy
Evelyn Skye
Thursday, June 8 at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

 

Anderson’s Bookshop in Downers Grove also hosts a monthly GenYA Book Group, which will be discussing Adam Silvera’s MORE HAPPY THAN NOT in May. And don’t forget about the many conferences happening this summer, including ALA Annual right here in Chicago!

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This post is brought to you by Lizzie Cooke at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: #FAMOUS

About #famous:

Debut author Jilly Gagnon bursts onto the scene with a story equal parts bite and romance, perfect for fans of Jenny Han and Jennifer E. Smith, about falling for someone in front of everyone. 25116429

In this modern-day love story: Girl likes boy. Girl snaps photo and posts it online. Boy becomes insta-famous. And what starts out as an innocent photo turns into a whirlwind adventure that forces them both to question whether fame—and love—are worth the price . . . and changes both of their lives forever.

Told from alternating points of view, #famous captures the sometimes-crazy thrill ride of social media and the equally messy but wonderful moments of liking someone in real life.

On February 24th, Lizzie and I had the pleasure of attending Jilly Gagnon‘s reading at The Book Cellar for the launch of her debut, #famous!

The Book Cellar is a fantastic venue—they have coffee, wine, and snacks available to enjoy during book events and book club meetings, or just while browsing. For Jilly’s event, there was punch and chocolates available, as well as a gorgeous and extremely delicious cake that looked exactly like the book cover. Jilly wore her prom dress—her actual prom dress from high school!—to pay tribute to the prom scene in her book. Lizzie brought a tiara, which Jilly wore during her reading.

Jilly chose several passages to read. The first established her adorkable characters and fabulous voice, and we gradually moved on to explore more serious topics—how social media can lead to bullying, and how it affects boys and girls differently. We had some wonderful discussion about Jilly’s inspiration for the book—Alex from Target—and how she decided to explore more serious themes in the midst of a super cute romance.

I love the dual POV in #famous and how Kyle and Rachel’s voices are so different. I also love how unique Rachel is with her snark, her maturity, and her unique view on the world. I also love that she knows who she is and embraces that, but it alienates her because, high school. I related to that a lot.

Jilly and I will be having a young adult author conversation about complicated relationships on April 23rd, 2017 at Women and Children First at 4:00 p.m. We’ll be joined by the lovely Stephanie Kate Strohm (It’s Not Me, It’s You) and NYT bestselling author Brittany Cavallaro (A Study in Charlotte; The Last of August). We’d love to see you there! Details for the event can be found here.

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This post is brought to you by Gloria Chao at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: CARAVAL

On February 11th, I had the pleasure of attending Stephanie Garber‘s event at Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville, IL.

Caraval has been on my radar since BEA 2016 when it was named a YA Editors’ Buzz book. I unfortunately didn’t get my hands on an ARC and have been waiting impatiently for it since.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Whatever you’ve heard about Caraval, it doesn’t compare to the reality. It’s more than just a game or a performance. It’s the closest you’ll ever find to magic in this world . . .

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

For this event, Stephanie was joined by Joelle Charbonneau, bestselling author of The Testing. Both Stephanie and Joelle were so charismatic, sweet, and humble, and it was so much fun listening to them talk about Caraval and writing. I love that both of them came from non-writing backgrounds, and I related to a lot of what they were saying!

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Some of my favorite tidbits revealed during the event:

  • When Stephanie picked up Marie Lu’s Legend, she had been anticipating a read about a protagonist named Legend. When that turned out to be false, she never stopped thinking about a character named Legend and eventually decided to write her own book about Legend.
  • Stephanie has persevered through many rejections, an agent leaving the business, and multiple book manuscripts to get to where she is. Her advice: don’t give up!
  • Stephanie and Joelle’s advice for debut authors: don’t worry about marketing until a few months before release. In the meantime, just write the best book you can and focus on writing the next books.
  • Other advice they had for writers: find your community and find the social media outlet that you enjoy.

The book art beautifully represents the magic and whimsy of the words:

I devoured this book within a few days of the event. Caraval was so different from anything I’d read in a long time, and I couldn’t put it down. I loved the plot twists (I didn’t see any of them coming!), the beauty and magic of the game tinged with underlying darkness, and how nothing was as it seemed. I highly recommend it. It was such a lovely escape, and it left me craving more. I can’t wait until the sequel is released!

HeadshotGoriaChao 200x200 Author Photo


This post is brought to you by Gloria Chao at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: Upcoming YA Book Events (February/March 2017)

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Chicago is lucky to be home to many independent bookstores that host authors for a wide variety of readings, signings, and other events. Check out these upcoming Chicago-area events with YA authors, and if you notice any are missing, add them in the comments!

CARAVAL
Stephanie Garber
Saturday, February 11 at 2:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

THE LAST OF AUGUST
Brittany Cavallaro
Wednesday, February 22 at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

#FAMOUS
Jilly Gagnon
Friday, February 24, 2017 at 7:00 PM
The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square)
*wear your favorite formalwear to this prom-themed book launch!

SPLINTER
Sasha Dawn
Saturday, March 4th at 2:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

FUTURE THREAT
Elizabeth Briggs
Sunday, March 5 at 3:00 PM
The Book Stall (Winnetka)

HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD
Kelly Jensen
Thursday, March 9 at 1:00 PM
The Book Stall (Winnetka)

HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD
Kelly Jensen and Mikki Kendal
Thursday, March 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Women & Children First (Andersonville)

THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Thursday, March 9 at 4:00 PM
The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square)

THE INEXPLICABLE LOGIC OF MY LIFE
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Friday, March 10th at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

NATIONAL YOUTH POET LAUREATE CONVOCATION
Jacqueline Woodson
Saturday, March 11 at 6:00 PM
The Poetry Foundation (River North)

SEVEN DAYS OF YOU
Cecilia Vinesse
Thursday, March 30th at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

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This post is brought to you by Lizzie Cooke at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: Zadie Smith

On November 30th, I went to a Zadie Smith event put on by The Seminary Co-op. Zadie packed the DuSable Museum auditorium and an overflow room to share her latest book, Swing Time.

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Two brown girls dream of being dancers–but only one,51hi92m66bl-_sy344_bo1204203200_ Tracey, has talent. The other has ideas: about rhythm and time, about black bodies and black music, about what constitutes a tribe, or makes a person truly free. It’s a close but complicated childhood friendship that ends abruptly in their early twenties, never to be revi
sited, but never quite forgotten, either.

Dazzlingly energetic and deeply human, Swing Time is a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them. Moving from northwest London to West Africa, it is an exuberant dance to the music of time.

While I loved hearing Zadie read from Swing Time (which I cannot wait to read), her Q&A session with Vu Tran was my favorite part of the event. She is so eloquent and her answers were so intelligent.

I especially loved her answer to a question about writing outside of your experience. The attendee wanted to know how to write “with honor” and how we could decide what experiences were meant for us to write. Misrepresentation is harmful and any writer risks criticism when they venture too far from their own experiences and without proper research. Yet…who are the “experts” who get to decide when someone has crossed over? And if no one ever wrote outside their experience, our books would be very limited. Where is the line?

I thought Zadie answered this well. She commented (and please note I am paraphrasing) that it is impossible to judge fictional characters. She has a Trinidadian professor in one of her novels, and as she said, he does not represent all Trinidadian professors. And is there a better portrayal of Trinidadian professors out there? Maybe, but who’s to say there is only one “correct” way to portray Trinidadian professors? This is a conversation, in her opinion, to be had between reader and author. Readers will always have different interpretations of a novel, and it’s their right to decide what is realistic to them and what is done poorly. However, in her opinion, if an author constantly worries about upsetting a potential reader, she will never write a single word.

Misrepresentation is a problem, but it’s a complex problem with no easy solution. Not only did I admire Zadie’s answer, but I’m glad important writers in the world are thinking about and discussing these issues.

Some other fun facts from the event:

  • The protagonist in Swing Time is never named. Zadie said she wanted to write a distant narrator (in first person) and purposely did not reveal her name.
  • The way Zadie described the beauty of dance and rhythm captured what I have always felt about dance but had difficulty conveying.
  • Zadie visited West Africa for research for this book.

HeadshotGoriaChao 200x200 Author Photo


This post is brought to you by Gloria Chao at ChiYAwriters.com.

Chicago Reads: Coming of Age at the End of Nature

On November 3rd, I attended the reading for Coming of Age at the End of Nature at the wonderful 57th Street Books in Hyde Park. Our own Lizzie Cooke was a contributor to this anthology and a speaker at the event. She was joined by James Orbesen, another contributor, and Mark Magoon as moderator.

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About the book: “Coming of Age at the End of Nature” explores a new kind of environmental writing. This powerful anthology gathers the passionate voices of young writers who have grown up in an environmentally damaged and compromised world. Each contributor has come of age since Bill McKibben foretold the doom of humanity’s ancient relationship with a pristine earth in his prescient 1988 warning of climate change, The End of Nature.

What happens to individuals and societies when their most fundamental cultural, historical, and ecological bonds weaken—or snap? In “Coming of Age at the End of Nature,” insightful millennials express their anger and love, dreams and fears, and sources of resilience for living and thriving on our shifting planet.

Twenty-two essays explore wide-ranging themes that are paramount to young generations but that resonate with everyone, including redefining materialism and environmental justice, assessing the risk and promise of technology, and celebrating place anywhere from a wild Atlantic island to the Arizona desert, to Baltimore and Bangkok. The contributors speak with authority on problems facing us all, whether railing against the errors of past generations, reveling in their own adaptability, or insisting on a collective responsibility to do better.

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I love the moderated book events I’ve attended. I love that the writers have a dialogue, giving us a chance to get to know them and their books in a natural way.

Lizzie discussed her experiences volunteering in Haiti to plant trees—the backbreaking manual labor and finding a way to water without the right equipment. In Lizzie’s essay, we go with her to Haiti, endure a hurricane that overtakes the island, and experience her journey as she discovers her purpose. Her words take us into the eye of the storm, experiencing the pounding rains, overflowing rivers, and sheer panic with her.

We see through her eyes the kind of lives that some of the locals live: young people who feel their lives are already over because of the responsibility they carry to support their parents.

During the event, Lizzie shared with us that now, instead of paying for another plane ticket, she donates to established nonprofits, such as Partners in Health, and socially conscious businesses, such as Kuli Kuli, which she thinks have a bigger impact than she could.

The pictures she brought of a flooded Haiti were heartbreaking and eye-opening—a visual representation I wish could have been included in the book. She’s agreed to share them with the ChiYA readers:

James discussed his essay, the aptly named But I’ll Still Be Here, which highlights each generations’ responsibility to protect the environment for the future generations. He asks questions of himself and others about what they are and aren’t willing to do for the environment, and whether or not it’s too late. And the bottom line he keeps coming back to is that he’ll still be here, dealing with the consequences of the decisions made by the previous generation.

The event ended on a lighter note, with Lizzie speaking Creole and James singing for us. The discussion (and book) raised important questions about our impact on the environment and what we can do to play our part.

Congratulations on the anthology, Lizzie, and thank you for sharing your experience with us!

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This post is brought to you by Gloria Chao at ChiYAwriters.com.