Here’s how the Teen Book Festival went down.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the honor and the privilege to be a part of the 9th Annual Teen Book Festival in Rochester, New York, an all-day bookstravaganza featuring over 25 YA authors, a crack squad of ninja librarians, and literally thousands of teenage book fans. Did you just poop yourself in utter joy? Because I did. Several times. It was awesome in oh so many ways (the festival, not the pooping), and I will now proceed to tell you those ways. One was breakfast pizza.

The authors arrived on Friday night and we were all treated to a fabulous dinner at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County. We got to mix and mingle with each other, the librarian volunteer organizers, and a whole bunch of kids who were either volunteering for the festival or had raised a bunch of money for the festival. They were delightful. And so were the milk and cookies. And so was the ceiling:

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But Saturday was the big day. The day that the organizers promised us would make us feel like rock stars. And I gotta say, arriving in a limo bus to a throng of screaming teenagers, walking down a red carpet, and high-fiving everyone along the way? Pretty rock star.

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Every more rock star? An actual star.

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Yet even with all of the Beatlemania surrounding me, the best part was yet to come – breakfast (pizza) with the team of teen volunteers who had been assigned to escort me from event to event and provide me with anything I needed and fan me with palm fronds and feed me peeled grapes. And they. Were. Amazeballs.

2014-05-17 09.11.52Moe, Tia, Josh Jocelyn, Amelia, and Emma

I couldn’t have been happier with Team Damico. They were charming, funny, obsessed with books, and genuinely thrilled to be there. (Oh, and super talented too; I’ll be posting some new fan art later in the week.) Basically what I’m saying is that my readers are the best. It’s official. I proved it using science.

From there, it was off to the opening ceremony, where each author was introduced to the gigaaantic crowd:

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and then asked to either tell a truth or perform a talent. I opted for the “talent”, wherein I recited all of the American presidents in less than twenty seconds, all while doing an eye-gougingly terrible dance. It was a hit? I think?

From there, all of the authors split up and did sessions across the campus. I chatted about my books, my writing process, how I came to be a writer, then answered questions–questions that were thoughtful and intelligent and a joy to answer. These kids were smartypants. And Moe, one of the kids on Team Damico, not only kept track of the growing population of the room as people arrived:

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But also continued to doodle throughout the session, virtually illustrating my entire talk. See if you can figure out what was said.

2014-05-17 14.02.58We’ve got some jellyfish, a spider, bread, death, the word “swooshily”, a dead rabbit, and a pile of poop labeled “first draft”. Sounds about right.

After the sessions, it was time for the autographing portion of the day, and holy moly, those were some long lines. I didn’t even get a photo, we were all kept so busy signing books and t-shirts and bags and posters. I was later informed that Barnes and Noble, the bookstore sponsor of the event, sold more books at this year’s festival than they ever had before–and a big chunk of that goes right back into the funds for next year’s festival. Bam.

All in all, I can’t really come up with enough words to say how fantastic the Teen Book Festival was (though I’ve certainly tried). A HUGE thank you again to all who made it possible – the teen volunteers (especially Team Damico!), the truly wonderful organizers (especially the incomparable Stephanie Squicciarini), and alllll the teens and adults who gave up their whole Saturdays to come hang out with authors and talk about reading and generally surround themselves in one big squishy book-nerd-love cocoon. It was amazing.

2014-05-17 13.12.20And I’m just now remembering that we probably didn’t erase the boards when we left the classroom. There must have been some confused faces come Monday morning.

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