Twenty-one authors took part in the second annual Boston Teen Author Festival on Saturday, September 21, at the Cambridge Public Library in Cambridge, Mass. Sixty teens and adults from Boston and surrounding areas, including towns in Maine and Rhode Island, attended the daylong festival. It launched last year at Emerson College, just one day ahead of Hurricane Sandy. This year the weather was significantly better and people like third-grade teacher Rebecca B., from Saco, Maine, looked forward to “a day of books” and meeting author Jo Knowles and reading her new book, Living with Jackie Chan (Candlewick). Gina Damico, author of Rogue (HMH/Graphia) and one of the 2012 debut novelists in the online Apocalypsies group, said that she was there because she likes to support teen festivals.
Both festival founders, Renee Combs, now a YA bookseller at the Strand Bookstore in New York City, and Marisa Finkelstein, an assistant production editor at Hachette Book Group, started BTAF while they were students at Emerson, and the festival continued to draw Emerson students this year. Combs, who had “really, really wanted a festival in Boston,” was determined to keep BTAF going there despite her move to New York City. Two students served as interns and worked with the authors – who are all, by design, from the New England area – on getting out the word on social media. They also helped maintain the Boston connections for the group.
Part of the reason Combs wanted a festival in Boston is because there is no one place to meet YA authors in the city. “There were so many people at Emerson who like YA, but they don’t get as much of a chance to explore it,” said Combs, who contacted Finkelstein, then president of the school’s publishing club, to help get BTAF off the ground. For year two, she and Finkelstein wanted to move the festival off campus, and were pleased to have Cambridge Public Library agree to let them use the auditorium and meeting rooms. Combs ranks the Cambridge and Brookline, Mass., libraries as having the best YA selections in the area.
This year’s fest kicked off with a brief Meet the Authors event in which all 21 writers took the stage to answer questions about their books. Two sets of panels followed: Dear High School, You Suck and Uncover the Mystery ran simultaneously; Surviving the Supernatural and Sassy Leading Ladies followed. The day ended with a book signing handled by Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass.
Combs, who started a blog to review YA titles when she was in high school, remains a staunch fan of the category, as does Finkelstein. The two are already thinking about a third festival for 2014.