Houston Teen Book Con, Part 2

The Houston Teen Book Convention is an amazing event wherein YA authors from all over the country convene in Houston to talk, at length, to teens. About books. How awesome is that?

Early Saturday, a team of insanely helpful volunteers willingly gave up their cars, time, and hearing to drive a whole bunch of chatty, overcaffeinated authors to the conference. The first order of the day was a big intro, in which a gigantic audience that looked like this:

Gulp.

…was introduced to all of us authors, who looked like this:

I really wanted to insist on starting a kickline, but I think we were pressed for time.

Orson Scott Card then gave his keynote speech – which was great and really hammered home the idea that people should never make kids feel bad about what they like to read. This is sentiment that I absolutely love, because you know what I read when I was a teen? The Babysitter’s Club. HARDCORE. Now you can’t make me feel bad, because Orson Scott Card said so.

Then it was off to our individual panels. I was on the “What’s Death Got To Do With It?” panel with the incomparable Marlene Perez, DJ MacHale, and Holly Black.

Here’s our motley death crew, along with the fabulous student volunteers who were tasked with wrangling our wild death throes.

The panels were a blast. The kids asked smart questions, we got into some great discussions, and I think at one point I said something really dirty like, “I like to have all my characters inside me.” I think it’s safe to say I won’t be invited back.

“Question for Gina Damico: why are you so gross?”

After that we all headed to a giant signing, where I signed many things including: books, posters, mousepads, hacky sacks, and a couple of girls’ sneakers, which amused me to no end. (More amusing: the idea that anyone who sees these shoes will be like, “Who the hell is Gina Damico?”)

Overall I have to say: this event was AMAZING. Everything was organized and went smoothly, the panels were wicked fun, and I cannot say enough wonderful things about the volunteers who ran the whole thing – they were the nicest people on the planet and really made us all feel welcome and loved.

Like Alice here, whose hat should win a Nobel Prize.

And my personal favorite part of the whole thing: the kids were SO into it. None of them were forced into coming – every one of them wanted to be there, wanted to spend allll day long at a school, sitting in panels just like class, and hearing authors talk. I love that. Example: one kid came up to me at the beginning of the day and said. “I’ve already read two chapters of your book. I like it.” At the end of the day, he found me again and our conversation went like this:

Awesome Kid: “I really liked your book.”
Me, confused: “Wait, how far have you gotten?”
Awesome Kid: “I finished it.”
Me: *spit take*

And there you have it. Thanks once again to the grand poobah organizers, Lisa Stultz and Aria Tatelman, the staff at the adorable Blue Willow Bookshop, all of the amazing librarian volunteers (Texas is lucky to have you), the student volunteers, and everyone who attended. Oh, and to all of the authors I met who were just as cool as I’d imagined, and gracious enough to pretend that I belonged among their ranks.

It must be because I can jazz hand with the best of them.

***All photos courtesy of Lisa Stultz – to see more, click here.

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