This post is the story of my day at the Golden Crown Literary Society’s conference in Jantzen Beach, where I met several new people, picked up a new book, and got to listen to Karelia Stetz-Waters speak as part of a panel. I arrived at the Red Lion Hotel about fifteen minutes early to hear Karelia speak, so I walked around the vendor area and picked up a copy of one of her other books, The Admirer. It came with this cute reusable goody bag filled with candy, a rubber duck, promotional postcards and bookmarks, a pen, and even a USB car charger with the Golden Crown logo on it.
I took my swag bag and headed toward the room where the panel was being held, stopping in the ladies’ room. Much to my surprise Karelia was in line right ahead of me, so never having officially met her, I of course introduced myself awkwardly while waiting to get in.
The panel discussion was called “Kids, This Ain’t Your Parents’ YA” and featured panelists JD Glass, D. Jordan, Nell Stark, and Karelia Stetz-Waters, with moderator Andi Marquette. After figuring out the Skype situation for two of the panelists, the discussion was under way. The questions ranged from “What was a YA book that has stayed with you?” to “What is it about dystopian fiction with strong female characters that is so appealing at this point in time?”
Nell: From the many talks I have with my students about books that they are loving right now, the two that keep coming up are The Perks of Being a Wallflower and The Fault in Our Stars. It seems that students today don’t want things sugarcoated, they want real, gritty stories. Is this a new thing?
JD: I don’t think this is a new idea. Look at The Catcher in the Rye or To Kill a Mockingbird. These were groundbreaking books for their time, they were certainly not sugarcoated, and this appealed to people in their time as well.
Karelia:Students today, the Millennials, have grown up being so overprotected by their parents, Generation X, that they really just want a story that doesn’t coddle them.
It seemed like the panelists were mostly in agreement on all points, and each brought their own experiences and insights to every question. The hour went by quickly; there was never a lull when a member of the panel or the audience wasn’t asking a question or expressing a great thought. One of the questions asked that stuck with me was “Why is it that YA/NA books are so popular not just with young people, but those of all ages?” And the answer seems to be shared experience. JD brought up a quote that she heard once, which goes, “If you want to create a good YA book, write a good book, and make the protagonist young.” Karelia shared the fact that studies show that memories are imprinted more between ages sixteen and twenty-four than any other time of life, even the recent past. She thinks that this age is wonderful because young adults are old enough to know what’s wonderful but still young enough to be having first-time experiences. Nell says there is a queerness that comes with puberty that everyone can relate to, and it has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Everyone just feels strange. All of these things are so true, and definitely answer the question perfectly.