Like a room full of friends.
When you think of EpicFest, the family celebration of literacy at ImaginOn attended by thousands each fall probably comes to mind. But there’s another component you may not see unless you’re a teenager – and that’s by design.
For the last few years, EpicFest has included Young Adult Authors programming for teens and fans of young adult literature. Most of the attendees are teens, and in this more intimate setting with authors they know or discover, teens who love to read or want to write (or both) are surprisingly candid and grateful for this VIP Q&A.
EpicFest 2019 featured a writers’ workshop with Tracey Baptiste (Black Enough), followed by a panel discussion with all the YA authors – Elizabeth Eulberg (Past Perfect Life), and co-authors Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal (I’m Not Dying With You Tonight). It felt like a room of friends, some a bit older than the others, sharing experiences. The questions – and responses – were refreshingly honest and reassuring.
The authors told stories of how they got started in writing, many as teens, and how they navigated the long journey to getting published. Author Tracey Baptiste shared that she wrote 26 drafts of her first book before it was picked up. “I almost gave up – but if I’d known at version 26 that 27 would be the one, I’d have felt a lot better! You just have to keep going, because you never know how close you are to the finish line.”
The teens listened closely, and they had a lot of questions. Kimberly Jones told of her challenges with ADHD, and a member of the audience shared that she struggles as well and asked for tips to stay focused. Jones was delighted. “What?! We share a superpower! We think differently, and that’s our secret weapon. I take a lot of breaks and work in short spurts. But whatever works for you is ok.”
They spoke of receiving criticism with courage and honesty, of developing characters by identifying commonalities and differences with themselves, and the source of ideas – Gilly Segal summed it up best, “Write about the idea that won’t let you go.”
Each teen received a copy of one of the evening’s featured books, and the program ended with a reception and mingling between new friends who entered as strangers. Four authors who once dreamed of having their names on the cover of books may have inspired the next generation. An quietly epic outcome for EpicFest.
EpicFest is presented to the community by Wells Fargo, with community partner Read Charlotte, and with additional generous support from corporate citizens and individual sponsors.
EpicFest was created to remember and honor Jim and Elizabeth (Libby) Preston’s passion for reading, and to encourage and instill a love of reading in children.