Today I had the opportunity to hear Laurie Halse Anderson (award-winning author of Speak and Twisted) speak at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, CA. And let me tell you, if you ever have the opportunity to hear her, you should seize it. She's an amazing speaker. Passionate about her topic (you can tell that she really cares about teens who are in pain), open and enthusiastic with people asking questions, and offering helpful input for people interested in writing.
Laurie talked about her background, and how that led her, eventually, to write Speak. And she talked about how male audience reactions to Speak led her in turn to write Twisted. This part I found particularly fascinating. When she was touring to talk with school kids about Speak (which is about how a sexual assault, about which she doesn't speak, affects a thirteen year old girl), Laurie found that teen boys would come up to her and be genuinely baffled about why the girl in the book was so upset. She learned to be compassionate about these kids, saying that the problem is that they don't have adults who give them face-to-face time, and tell them about the rules for acceptable behavior.
She spent a lot of time after that learning to understand how boys think, and sharing one dark experiences in Twisted. She offered this nugget of experience: "If you feed boys, they will come back to your house and talk to you." Her aim, as much as possible given that she never was a teenage boy, is to have Twisted be viewed as Speak for boys. I haven't read Twisted yet, so I can't speak to her relative success, but I can't wait to read it.
After she had answered many questions about the books, and her writing process, I asked Laurie what she's working on now (she had mentioned being almost finished revising a new novel). She said that after Twisted she needed something a bit less dark (I'm paraphrasing here), and that her next book will be a work of historical fiction set during the Revolutionary War. Her goal is to write historical fiction about the Revolution that's fun. The working title of the book is Chains, and it should be out next spring.
After the talk, Laurie signed books. I gave her one of my Jen Robinson's Book Page bookmarks, and was thrilled when she said "Oh, you're Jen!", and got up and gave me a hug. She said that she likes my blog. How cool is that? She inscribed my book (Twisted) "To Jen, who knows why kids need books. Thank you!" I'm completely star struck. I couldn't talk to her for very long because there was a big line behind me, but I did manage to get a photo. This makes me 2 for 2 for highly gratifying experiences in meeting authors (after meeting Mitali Perkins last month).
So, I reiterate. If you are at all a fan of YA Fiction, and you have the chance to see Laurie talk, you should seize the opportunity. I'll have reviews of Speak (which I read last weekend, and thought was amazing, but need time to digest) and Twisted soon.