YAK Fest connects Keller ISD teens, authors

Posted Monday, Jan. 28, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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KELLER - A love of reading brought together writers, teens, educators and parents for the second annual YAK Fest Jan. 19 at Keller High School.

More than 650 people, triple the number last year, attended the Young Adult Keller Book Festival (YAK Fest, for short). Twenty-two authors of literature for teens were featured in panel discussions, readings and an autograph session with fans. The event, hosted by Keller district librarians, was made possible by a grant from the Hudson Foundation.

"I didn't think talking to authors would be this fun," said Jared Jobe, a sophomore from Duncanville High School. "I thought they would be like normal people, but I was wrong. They're better than us."

Several of the authors said that interacting with teen readers is one of the biggest perks of the job.

"The things they say are completely original and surprising," said Andrea White. White, author of Windows on the World and Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083, writes what she calls "Hi-Sci," a blending of futuristic, fantasy elements with historical fiction.

Right now, White is working on a science fiction story that takes place in the context of the famous battle of the Alamo. A lot of kids are drawn to off-beat, fantasy or paranormal fiction.

"Reading opens so many doors in life," she said. "Getting kids to meet authors is another way to hook kids into reading."

White took part in one of three panel discussions on fantasy fiction: two focused on paranormal literature (one for high school students and another for younger readers) and the third featured vampire fiction.

Rachel Caine, author of The Morganville Vampire Series, said that she loves meeting her fans in person. At a recent book signing, one man took off his shirt to show Caine he had images of the characters from her series tattooed on his back to impress his book-loving fiancée.

Despite the popularity of online games, videos and social networking, reading among teens is on the rise. The most popular books in recent years have been The Hunger Games, Twilight and the Harry Potter series.

Social media can broaden an author's reach, Caine said. Writers can interact with fans they've never met via Twitter, Facebook and authors' websites.

Authors are embracing other media that help teens get excited about reading. Keynote speaker Simone Elkeles, author of Perfect Chemistry and the How to Ruin... series showed segments from a humorous rap video and a slightly steamy book trailer - similar to a movie trailer - that promoted her books.

Elkeles said she didn't like to read as a teen but found out she loved books as a young mom.

She and a half a dozen other authors participated in a panel on realistic fiction and discussed their favorite writing tips.

Lori Aurelia Williams, author of Shayla's Double Brown Baby Blues and Broken China, said, "I write about things I know, things I've experienced. I like to take on tough things because that's the most real."

Some of the authors said they want to inspire teens. Mary Lindsey, author of Shattered Souls, said, "Meeting us lets them know they can become authors, too. I want them to know they can do anything they set their minds to."

Keller High freshman Victoria Gonzalez said, "It was fun. Listening to them actually made me want to create something."

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