Book festival caters to young adults, features Mindy Kaling

Elizabeth Ucles

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It was the event of the year for many book lovers as St. Edward’s University helped host the annual Texas Teen Book Festival.

This celebration connected thousands of teens, parents, teachers and librarians interested in reading and writing to local and award-winning authors.

Writer, actress and comedian from “The Mindy Project” and “The Office,” Mindy Kaling was this year’s special guest, along with 34 featured authors.

For many, the event started as early as 5 a.m. when a line of devoted fans gathered outside of the UFCU Alumni Gym with hopes of being the first to get a wristband for Kaling’s book signing. When the doors opened at 8 a.m., the first 250 people to purchase her featured books, “Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?” and “Why Not Me?” were able to get them signed almost immediately.

After the book signing, Kaling proceeded to present with Sarah Pitre of the Alamo Drafthouse and Forever YA Book Club in the RCC. Their discussion attracted students, teens, teachers and librarians alike to listen to Kaling’s thoughts about her book.

“Being perceptive is most important. You can learn a lot from the people around you,” Kaling said, quoting her parents on success and accomplishing goals at the end of her presentation.

Laini Taylor’s keynote followed Kaling’s discussion along with costume contests and a variety of panels.

One of the panels, titled Can You Keep A Secret?, featured authors such as Maggie Thrash author of “We Know It Was You,” Carrie Jones author of “Flying” and Adriana Mather author of “How To Hang A Witch.”

The first question posed by the facilitator asked authors where they get their writing inspiration from. Mather said she gets the most inspiration when she’s researching. “Truth is stranger than fiction,” said Mather. “The world is full of terrible and amazing people.”

When speaking about the validity of writer’s block, author Carrie Jones expressed strong opinions. Jones said that writer’s block is not real because it functions as a distraction during the creative process. In fact, writer’s block reveals something deeper within the writer.

“It is an insecurity within yourself,” Jones said. “Writer’s block is something that exists in writers who don’t believe in themselves.”

In the midst of the panel and workshop madness, Hilltop Views was able to sit down with author Shaun David Hutchinson to discuss his book and his advice to aspiring authors.

Hutchinson was very open when revealing how personal his newest book “We Are The Ants” is for him. The book tells the story of Henry, a boy abducted by aliens. These extraterrestrial creatures give him 144 days to press a big red button to save the world that will otherwise end. Yet, Henry’s struggles in his personal life make him question whether or not he wants the world to go on in the first place.  

Hutchinson shared that he attempted suicide when he was 19 and as a result, spent a week in the ICU and a few weeks in a psychiatric hospital.  

“In a weird way, I was writing the book I needed when I was 19,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson went on to explain that in the beginning he didn’t understand the audience he was writing the book for; however, he realized that the major point he wanted to relay to his audience is that while it is easy to lack purpose in life, it is still worth living.

“My outlook on life is a lot different than when I was 19,” Hutchinson said. “That’s something that I do like to express to people who are going through depression. I don’t believe in sugarcoating. Life does suck sometimes, but it’s still worth living.”  

Hutchinson was also eager to give three succinct pieces of advice for aspiring authors and writers, with the first being to find the way that you can write.

“However you put those words onto paper and finish a book consistently, do that,” Hutchinson said. “That’s how you get it done.”

The second piece of advice that Hutchinson offered was to read everything. He went on to explain that reading a variety of genres and writing styles helps writers become better.

“There’s something to learn from everything,” Hutchinson said.

The final piece of advice is to ignore all the advice that doesn’t work for you. Hutchinson went on to explain how other authors try to create definitions for how writing is supposed to be based off of what they do.

“There is no such thing as the right way to write,” Hutchinson said. “Except the way that works for you.”

The festival ended with the final keynote by the author of “Crooked Kingdom,” Leigh Bardugo.

Bardugo used her platform as a keynote speaker to speak to the criticism of young adult books. While Bardugo made a comical video of the types of critics who dislike young adult books, she made it very clear that this disdain stems from fear.

“There’s this fear that young adult books are replacing books written for adults,” said Bardugo. “Why are these people so freaked out?”

Bardugo went on the explain the fault in this fear and how books of all kinds can be enjoyed by whoever loves them and learns something from them.

“So, why are all of these critics consistently terrified that young adult readers will abandon every other section of the bookstore?” Bardugo said. “I don’t really think they are. Literary trends come and go and readers know this.”