One Dark, Happy Night in Belmont

Leah Cypess and Caragh M. O'Brien at the Belmont Library, November 19, 2012

Last night at the Belmont Public Library, librarian Ellen Girouard provided inviting baskets of oranges for all of us to share, and the happiness expanded from there.  I love it when kids show up at a reading and come right to the table with their curiosity and big eyes.  (Waves to two charming sisters, M. and S.!)  I love when a library event turns into a free-range conversation among the librarian, the readers, and the writers, so we can hardly tell anymore who is who.  We’re all so clearly overlapping in our mutual love of stories.

I was especially excited about last night’s event because it gave me the chance to have a public discussion with my friend Leah Cypess about writing Young Adult fiction.  Leah (author of Mistwood and Nightspell) and I have been online friends since we both joined the Tenners, a group of YA and MG writers whose books debuted in 2010, and we’ve met up in person a couple of times, too.  Last night, for starters, we each read very briefly from our latest books.  Then we talked about how writing a series is different from writing a companion novel, which Leah has done. We had familiar questions about where ideas come from, why we write for young adults, and how to get a book published.  Leah had a great/awful rejection letter she read aloud.  A reader/writer asked a cool question about how to give constructive criticism, which pertains to her writing on  This led us to compare our editor’s editing styles, and our use of Beta readers, and we all considered what support and questioning we need, as writers.  Another question brought up teens who offer a service where they pay to give feedback on YA manuscripts.  That was new to me.

Leah Cypess, Caragh M. O'Brien, Kate Burak, and Diana Renn

It was super fun, and then, afterward, Leah and I lingered in the library for another hour with two of our other writer friends, Diana Renn (author of Tokyo Heist) and Kate Burak (author of Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things), talking shop.  A couple of students were browsing the stacks around us.  The next thing I knew, they were joining us, too, talking about their latest YA reads and manga, and Ellen was handing over more books.

Happy times.  I’ve been thinking about it all day: little things, like how the kids I met have been reading the Birthmarked trilogy with their mom, and how a ten-year-old writes bad stuff in her stories and then erases it, just like I do.  I’ve been thinking about how a reader who loves YA (waves to Cindy!) introduced my books to Ellen, and how Ellen contacted me months ago about a visit, and then persevered after the first date was cancelled for Sandy.  I’ve been thinking about how nice it is to have writer friends I’ve now finally met in real life.

Thanks to Ellen Girouard for organizing the event, and special thanks to my friend Leah Cypess for sharing her brilliant perspectives.


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