It's not even that I have nothing to talk about: I'm just currently swamped in the very bizarre mixture of do-not-care and so-much-anxiety brought on by my last week of school EVER.* Senioritis is not just for high schoolers, let me tell you. So I'm trying to balance being kind of over the whole homework thing with actually still wanting to do well in my classes because I am the Overachiever Extraordinaire, and on top of that there's the panic of leaving college and I'm-going-to-miss-my-friends-a-lot and I have an apartment! and also a sublet! but not yet a job! so oh dear rent help!
Adulting is fun times, dear readers. Fun. Times.
But that is not what I want to talk to you about today. What I want to talk to you about today was the sheer awesomeness that was last week's New Voices Literary Festival here at IC. It was a pretty hectic couple of days - three readings, half a zillion panels (okay maybe about six but STILL), on and off campus locations and adventuring (I missed the adventuring and I shall be FOREVER SADDENED), ludicrously late breakfasts and therefore conversations with caffeine-starved writers and fellow students, class visits, et cetera et cetera et cetera.
In order to explain the genesis behind New Voices, I shall direct you to this article here (I am quoted in that article and do not sound particularly articulate *facepalm*). Basically, New Voices was an idea forged by Professor Holmes of the English department and Professor Henderson** of the Writing department to be a) a collaboration between the English and Writing departments, since that happens never and b) a supplement for our current Distinguished Visiting Writers series, but with writers who are more up-and-coming.
Enter stage left, me, in about January: over winter break I'd emailed the professor in charge of Distinguished Visiting Writers (DVW). It was a very long and detailed email, and it was about how we had never had a YA writer come to campus and why I thought we ought to fix that. I have a sort of strange dual reputation in the writing department: if you talk to my Editing & Publishing professor or the professor in charge of internships, I am the Queen of Queries; if you talk to ANY of my fiction professors, I am the YA Crusader. So, there I was, crusading about YA, and I was told that the roster for DVW had already been filled, but Eleanor Henderson was doing this thing with the English department, I should ask her what she thinks about that.
So I did, fully expecting to be rejected because the authors had all already been chosen or some such thing, but Eleanor said "that sounds like a great idea."
Fast forward to April, and I'm one of the student guides for the festival, and am standing in our local independent bookstore introducing Sheba Karim, author of Skunk Girl, and Ithaca College's first ever invited YA writer - or indeed genre fiction writer of any sort.
|If I'm the YA Crusader, I think this means I won.|
Sheba was super nice - someone must have told her that I was the resident YA Crusader, because she thanked me for championing the cause and signed my book "maybe I'll introduce you one day!" which made me feel awesome. She's writing some historical fiction right now, so we chatted about that a good deal. Super Shy Caitlin didn't wholly go away, so there are probably a ton of things I should have asked her and didn't, but it was really delightful getting to guide her around for a few days.
The best part about the festival, for me, was that there were eight writers there all at once - eight writers who were really excited to be there and talk to each other and the professors and us undergrads. My favorite part of the festival was the hour or so during lunch on the second day when the couple of guides who'd stuck around were just talking to the authors about whatever - SNL skits, the inevitable kinderhorde in an opera (that moment when the children's chorus comes swarming onstage), writing, reading. All of them were so very lovely. One of the other guides and I were telling Marie-Helene Bertino how we just wanted to be best friends with all of them, and she not only seemed quite pleased at the prospect, but she signed my shiny new copy of her hilarious book of short stories Safe as Houses with "To Caitlin - BFFs."
Writers are completely ludicrous. Robin Ekiss, who referred to herself as the "token poet," (well, I mean, she was) took advantage of her short stature to create a photo study of tall people leaning on her head, and when one of Robin's student guides then tried to take a serious picture with her, novelist/memoirist/blogger Jane Roper leaned in behind them with an excellent growly face.
All of the eight authors (aside from Eleanor, Sheba, Marie, Robin, and Jane, there were Rebecca Makkai, Tim Horvath, and Nathaniel Rich) were really wonderful, and I loved hearing them all read pieces of their work one after the other. It was such a great mix of people, and it really helped show me that yes, there are actual adults who do this thing I want to do. Yes, writers are wonderful human beings. Yes, you can and should do whatever it takes to do this crazy thing that makes you happy.
You should write, and read, and be friends with writers and readers.
The New Voices festival was a really crazy couple of days, especially right smack dab in the middle of my senioritis/overachiever existential crisis, but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. In fact, I have a new life goal:
Publish my novel.
And get invited to the New Voices Literary Festival.
*Unless I decide later to go to grad school. But as of right now this is my last week of classes EVER. *dramatic music*
**P.S. you guys should read Eleanor Henderson's book Ten Thousand Saints. It is awesome. She also read the opening of her work-in-progress at New Voices and I REALLY want to read the rest now.