I spent Saturday with one thousand teenagers at the TeenLit Con. The day-long event hosted TEN big-name young adult and graphic novel authors including: Steve Brezenoff, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, , Gayle Forman, Jonathan Friesen, Rebecca Hahn, Patrick Jones, E Lockhart, Matt de la Pena, Pat Schmatz, and Gene Luen Yang.
I’m pleased to report that my interactions with these young people were absolutely delightful! I attended the opening talk, featuring Forman, de la Pena, Lockhart, and Yang, and then helped Addendum Books with their book booth.
The teens were:
1) humorous – they laughed at the funny stuff, uninhibited in their glee.
2) polite – the teens used “please,” “thank you,” appropriate eye contact, good grammar, and no swear words (at least none that I heard).
3) appreciative – they loved the authors, thoroughly and unabashedly. They expressed their enthusiasm with clapping, cheering, crowding into learning sessions, buying books, and waiting in long lines for autographs and photos.
4) resourceful – they figured out their book budgets and weighed their options, trying to determine how to amass funds for their beloved PAPER books.
5) unconstrained by gender stereotypes – boys showed up. That’s right folks. Boys DO read. And they bought books by Forman and Lockhart, books generally marketed to a female audience. Girls bought graphic novels. Both genders purchased books with an opposite gender protagonist. WAY TO GO TEENAGERS! Don’t let the publishing industry determine what you should read.
6) honest – they paid for their books.
7) articulate – they stated their needs clearly. How much is this? What about the tax? Do you have this in paperback?
8) pleasant – the youth were uniformly fun to be around. They smiled, laughed, and interacted with me (a stranger) in a manner that would make their parents proud.
At the end of the day, I was totally exhausted, but filled with optimism. A future full of these teens as they grow and mature is a fine future indeed!