Hightlights From TweensRead – One Moderators View

TweensRead is an annual convention with the goal of connecting authors to their young readers. Throughout the day there are a series of panels offered, each with a set of authors who answer questions from the attendees. This Saturday was the 2016 event.

For the second year in a row I had the opportunity to moderate two panels at the event. The first was Girl Power. I was bit thrown off from my usual moderating style when met with an unexpected surprise. When I went to pick up my information packet for the panel, someone else already had it! My anxiety disorder kicked in and overtook my brain- resulting in me completely forgetting to use a quirky set of facts that I spent hours compiling to introduce the authors. Instead, the authors introduced themselves and thankfully, the panel of amazing women authors rocked and rolled with the bumps.

After introductions, the audience of students from all around the greater Houston area lined up to ask the author’s questions.

Some Highlights:

  • Ursula Vernon was thrilled to share that she was a level 22 PokémonGo trainer.
  • Kate Beasley got lots of laughs when she chose her book Gertie’s Leap to Greatness as her favorite of her books. “It’s my only book!”
  • Lisa Yee has gone from writing American Girl books to Super Hero High books. Her dream costume is Wonder Woman.
  • Monika Schroeder shared that writing varies dramatically with  each project and encouraged kids to just keep writing.
  • Ally Carter was greatly inspired by the TV show Alias and decided to write books that she would want to read.

Shout out of the panel to: Ally Carter!

She whispered to me:

“I think that all of the authors are supposed to read for a couple of minutes.”

to which I brilliantly replied,


Turns out that I missed the all important sentence in the instructions of moderating that the authors were supposed to begin the session with a reading. Thanks to all of the authors on the panel for being gracious and rolling with it.

Sidebar: No one in the audience knew that we had forgotten to do the reading. Like live theater- only we players were aware.

The second panel that I had the opportunity to moderate was the Something for Everyone panel. The audience did a great job of guessing which panelist I was introducing by using goofy facts that I found online.

Especially when I said,

“One of these panelists has a pet umbrella…”

there was a yell of, “Jonathan!”

The audience was full of great questions and kept the panel hopping as they asked about writing techniques, favorite books and when the writing bug hit for each author.

Some Hightlights:

  • Barry Lyga shared that his favorite show is Twin Peaks (that’s mine too!) and that his current book The Secret Sea would make a great movie.
  • Tracey Baptiste loves the book Two Naomis by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and wants us all to read it.
  • Jo Knowles says that See You at Harry’s is her most personal book. It is about, and dedicated to her brother.
  • Dan Gemeinhart was deeply moved by Jason Reynolds book Ghost and by his keynote speech. “He is my favorite writer right now, and after this morning, my favorite person.”

Having just read Gemeinhart’s Some Kind of Courage, I especially enjoyed the opportunity to ask him some questions. The book has characters with a strong regional dialect.

I asked, “Can you hear their voices when you write?”

He replied (and I’m paraphrasing),

“Yes, definitely. I try to picture the actual people who live there saying these words.”

Gemeinhart was born in Frankfurt, which we visited last year. The highlight of our visit was the Stuwwelpeter Museum. He hadn’t been there but is familiar with the book. I didn’t get to ask the rest of the panel so I’m shooting the question out now- Especially to Barry and Jonathan: with the creepy edges to your books, have you read Struwwelpeter?

Shout out of the panel to: Jonathan Auxier. He used his latent A/V club skills to help me with camera equipment when I was in full Annie Hall Olive Oyl from Popeye mode fumbling to set up the camera.

And finally: the Finding Connections panel. For this one I got to just sit back and relax. The panel consisted of Augusta Scattergood, Jennifer Holm,  Jason Reynolds, Kate Beasley and Jo Knowles.

Some Highlights:

  • Augusta Scatrersgood explained that her editor wanted to pull the chapter about Elvis out of the book Glory Be. She fought for it and was able to keep it.
  • Jennifer Holm was asked about her writing process. She used a huge piece of paper to draw out a story arc and explained that when she is working on a new project, she always draws what she wants to write about.
  • Jason Reynolds recommended two great books: Richard Wright’s Black Boy and Kwame Alexander’s Crossover.
  • Kate Beasley said that when she gets stuck writing she thinks of what would be the worst thing that could happen to her character and then she does that.
  • Jo Knowles said that her favorite character that she’s written is a car named Curly.

Three cheers to all involved with Tweens Read for creating this incredible event, and a million thanks to the one and only Blue Willow Bookshop who brings all of these talented authors to Houston.

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