The Monday before Thanksgiving, I trekked across the river to Brookline to see David Levithan, Rainbow Rowell, Bill Konigsburg, and Paul Rudnick at the Booksmith. Each author read from one of their books: Rudnick read from Gorgeous, Konigsburg from Openly Straight, Rowell and Levithan from Fangirl (hers) and Two Boys Kissing (his). This might be the first time I’ve seen a pair of authors do a joint reading like this – Levithan made a very funny Levi – and they seemed like they were really having fun (though maybe YA authors just have more fun, in general).
After the readings, they opened up Q&A right away. Here are some snippets:
Levithan, on the 10th anniversary of Boy Meets Boy: “Boy Meets Boy was about creating reality. With Two Boys Kissing I wanted to write something that reflected reality.”
On a reaction to Rowell’s decision to write a novel about college-age characters: “‘College students don’t read.’ I know, be offended, write a letter! ‘Nobody wants to read about college students.’ But I don’t think of writing for one specific audience.” And, she added, readers often want to read about characters a little bit older than themselves (e.g. high school students would be interested in reading about college students).
On the extra pressure Levithan felt for his novel Love is the Higher Law: “You write a bad book, that’s okay. You write a bad book about 9/11, that’s bad.”
Levithan, on writing the character A in Every Day: It was less difficult than he expected; “[When you] take gender out of the equation, sexual orientation doesn’t exist.”
Rowell, on humor in writing: “Funny is subjective.” If a joke she wrote made her laugh, she fought to keep it in the manuscript, even if her agent or editor wasn’t sure about it.
Rowell, on why she chose the physical appearances for Eleanor and Park that she did (chubby and red-headed, and half-Korean, respectively): “You make the decision and you don’t always know where it came from, but it comes from somewhere.” And on attractiveness and attraction: “Attraction happens between two people. That’s it. Two people become attractive to each other.”
Levithan, on making stuff up: “If you’re a writer you make up everything. You’re always being presumptuous.”
On Rowell’s jealousy of the Harry Potter/Internet generation: “Fanfic writers have different rules than published authors.”
Rowell, on writing: “The more you do it, the better you get.”
Levithan, on writing: It’s like the cello. No one expects you to pick up a cello and play a concerto your second time playing. It’s like a muscle you have to develop and strengthen with practice. “Allow yourself to fuck up a lot…Don’t put an expiration date [on your writing], just keep going.”
Someone asked, “What happens when The Lover’s Dictionary Twitter account (@loversdiction) reaches the letter Z?” Levithan said he’s going to wait and see how Sue Grafton (A is for Alibi) handles it, because she’s going to get to the end of the alphabet first. The Twitter account, which he started as a promotion for the book’s release, is now longer than the actual book. He’s currently on the letter G (“Good, adj.: You should choose this so much that it no longer feels like a choice”), and expects to be done in a decade or so. (On losing track of time: “Isn’t 2013 like twelve years from now? No, it’s not.”)
After the Q&A, the authors signed copies of their books. Here’s my new paperback copy of Every Day:
And here’s my new hardcover of Eleanor & Park. The first time I “read” it was the audiobook - and Rebecca Lowman is superb – but I’m looking forward to reading it again in print.
Of course, I already do love them.
The dog, however, is less impressed. Here she is in the background of the title page of Every Day:
She’d be more impressed if she could read, though. (Or if paper tasted more like chicken. But I’m very glad it doesn’t, or none of the books in my house would be safe.)
Anyway…YA books! Read them! Especially these ones.