Can I just say that I'm so grateful to live in Houston?
We have a fabulous community of writers here, especially writers for children, and a fantastic support system through local groups, readers, and bookstores. I've known this ever since I started to dip my toe into the writing world. But this month especially, I'm feeling the love more than ever. There have been and will be so many literary events this month, and I wanted to take an opportunity to say thank you to some of the people who put in the hard work to make all this stuff possible.
Our local SCBWI Chapter is freaking fantastic. Houston is really blessed to have such a great group. The volunteers consistently put together the most amazing, inspiring events. On March 31 and April 1, I attended our chapter's Annual Conference and a special intensive workshop on voice with editor Heather Alexander. To say that I got something out of that weekend would be an understatement. The feedback from critiques was invaluable. The presentations during the main part of the conference were informative and interesting. And the intensive on voice? Priceless. It's rare that I get to attend a monthly meeting, Monday nights are usually really rough for me, but I always feel welcome and supported when I'm able to attend events. So many wonderful people put a lot of time and effort into this group, and I want to give them all big hugs!
This past weekend, April 14, was the Teen Book Con. It's an annual event at a local high school where many authors come and do panel discussions and signings. This was my first year, and I wasn't disappointed. The authors were gracious and patient and seemed genuinely interested in meeting their fans. I watched author after author interact with the kids, asking them about their favorite books, school, and what they liked about the event. My little brother, who's in high school, came with me and was blown away by how "real" the authors were in talking with him. He came away inspired to focus on his own writing and kept telling me "I'll be up there one day". How awesome to have events like this where kids can interact this closely with adults they look up to! A very cool moment for me came during a panel where Siobhan Vivian mentioned that her editor was David Levithan and the kids literally swooned. I'm not lying. It was incredible. The kids were so enthusiastic and excited to be there. Kudos to the organizers of Teen Book Con and the authors who attended for giving back so much to the readers and encouraging them to be more involved in reading and writing.
The night before Teen Book Con, I had the privilege to attend a meetup hosted by several Houston book bloggers. Not only did I meet and interact with some incredibly fabulous bloggers (local and out of town), but I was able to talk with several of the authors attending Teen Book Con, which was a nice surprise. I sat next to Michelle Zink, Trinity Faegen, and Jessica Spotswood. I'd been looking forward to meeting Michelle since a mutual friend had said such nice things about her, but I was thrilled to get to talk to Trinity and Jessica as well. They were so lovely, as were all the other attendees I met. As a writer, it was interesting to listen to the bloggers talk about reviews and review policies. The bloggers I spoke with are genuinely concerned about posting reviews that will hurt the author and try to focus on the positive aspects of the book even if it wasn't for them. All of them clearly have a passion for books, and it made for an enjoyable evening of discussion. Thanks to Cari and Kate for hosting!
This week is the Texas Library Association Conference. I am SO excited since it will be my first library conference, and I don't have to go out of town for it (it travels every year)! So many wonderful authors are heading to Houston to speak at the conference and sign books. I won't be attending the workshops unfortunately, but I will be visiting the exhibits area on Wednesday and Thursday. One of my friends is actually helping coordinate a lot of the stuff going on, and I know it's going to be great. I'm looking forward to connecting with writer, blogger, and librarian friends at the conference. Librarians are so full of awesome. I have several friends who are currently librarians or have their MLS degrees. Despite budget cuts, red tape, hiring freezes, and a million other difficulties, they manage to stay enthusiastic about promoting reading and encouraging kids who want to read and/or write. Librarians have encouraged and helped me from elementary school through law school and beyond. They are truly rock stars.
Saturday the 21st, we celebrate the Two Year Anniversary of the Houston YA/MG writing group. When Mary Lindsey, Iona McAvoy, Rose Garcia Moriarty, and I founded the group, we wanted a casual group who would meet each month to complement what we'd learned in other groups and provide support to each other along our journey to write with the "teen brain" in mind. Along the way, we've met so many fantastic people and had some wonderful speakers. We've seen so many of our friends sign with agents and get book deals, but, more importantly, we've seen our friends grow as writers and become more focused in achieving their goals. Thanks to my co-founders and all the wonderful writers who participate in the meetings and on the message board! Also thanks to Cari and Kate (links above) who will make our 2 Year Anniversary meeting so fantastic as they talk about promoting our books using bloggers and blog tours!
Lastly, without the support of our local bookstores, the Houston literary community wouldn't be nearly as fabulous. While there are many fantastic locals, Blue Willow Bookshop deserves a shout-out for all the support it gives children's book authors. Valerie and the gang host launch events for local authors, handle the book sales at the SCBWI Conference and Teen Book Con, and bring tons of children's author events to Houston. Our community couldn't do it without you.
Are you feeling the love yet? ;-)
If you'll be in town, we'd love to have you at the Houston YA/MG meeting on Saturday the 21st. Details are at the website. If you're headed to TLA, send me an email at jessicacapelle (at) gmail (dot) com and let's meet up! I'll be there Wednesday and Thursday.
Thanks for stopping by!