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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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09/22/2008 Archived Entry: "Brooklyn Book Festival 2008"

Brooklyn Book Festival
Attended and Written by Jilly Gee, I-hsiu Lin, and Linda Yau
Photographs by I-hsiu Lin, and Linda Yau

The Brooklyn Book Festival is an annual free event presented by Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, and the Brooklyn Literary Council. The purpose of this event is to celebrate and showcase Brooklyn's literary stars as well, featuring international authors for the enhancement of Brooklyn's continuing contemporary, and historic literary reputation. This event attracts book lovers of all ages and types. The three reporters attending this event had varied experiences, but shared a common goal to present our experiences.

Linda's POV

The venue was held on Sunday, September 14, 2008 at the Brooklyn Borough Hall and Plaza (Brooklyn Supreme Court). Different events were spread out in ten different locations/stages, and they occurred simultaneously, so there was something for everyone in spite of the day’s forecast to be very humid.

I-hsiu's POV

We went to the press desk. We met up with other press members, including a newspaper reporter from Boston. After getting our press badges, we circled the area a few times, getting a feel for the layout of the place. Then Linda and I separated to our first events of the day.

Linda's POV

The first event I attended was The Fourth World, a philosophical discussion that international author’s: Breyten Breytenbach and Pico Iyer had, with New York Public Library's Director of Public Programs, Paul Holdengraber as mediator. The discussion could be broken down into the main idea of surviving in a world and space, with many people, and how the individual copes with adapting in this place and time.

The event was very well spoken, so I was sorry to see it end. Afterwards I started an initial walk around to the exhibitor’s tables. I met Etan Boritzer, whom I recall, was an author to one of the many books that JLHLS has for review. I-hsiu later gave me a picture of this author.

I-hsiu's POV

I went to the Opening which was hosted by Brooklyn Poet Laureate, Ken Siegelman who read some of his poems. The poems read had various moods that spoke of the atmosphere, community or even a single moment that were drawn from being or living in Brooklyn.

The most moving poem read, was also not by the poet laureate, but by an 8 year old boy, who passed away in early September at the Brooklyn Heights. Young Alexander Toulouse was accidentally killed by a postal driver. Siegelman read aloud a poem that Alexander wrote when he was in the first grade. "Nobody likes me. For all my special reasons for example, a board game. To me, there is nothing like a nice board game." The sweet simplicity of the poem as he lists all the he was and liked-dancing, the color blue-reflected the true nature of poetry: prose without rules that reflects the self. "I am the pride of the world, yet I know I can be a problem" *laughter in the audience* "But I'm very useful sometimes."

After the event ended, I walked around a bit before meeting up with Jilly and Linda. Linda gave Jilly her press badge before presenting to us a new collection of books for review courtesy of various publishers and authors. We went around to various tables and spoke with a few authors before our next event at 12pm.

Linda’s POV

The festival was becoming crowded, and the sun was baking already. 12pm was a time spot I had a conflict of interest with. I had gone to attend several interesting events, namely International Influences, where the hosts Adriana Tomline, and John Wray spoke about international influences on their own literary and artistic work. The next event I went to listen to was Words and More Words with Robert and Carol Greenman speaking about the importance of learning and using more words in a masterly way. The following two pictures are images I took from those two events.

At 1pm, with nothing else planned, I started walking around, peering at several more different events as well as exhibitors's tables. I saw Jilly and I-hsiu at their event.

Jilly's POV:

"Witty and Wicked", one of the young adult events at this year's Brooklyn Book Festival, featured Deborah Gregory, best known for her The Cheetah Girls series and Cecily von Ziegesar, best known for her Gossip Girl series.  True to the event's name, Ms. Gregory, decked out in a feline print dress, read aloud a passage from her new book, Catwalk, full of sharp tongued double talk from its characters and Ms. von Zigsar read aloud the first Gossip Girl the famous first blog entry where the mysterious Gossip Girl reports seeing a certain someone back in town.

Since there are movies based on The Cheetah Girls series and a television series based on Gossip Girl, both Ms. Gregory and Ms. von Ziegesar were able to talk about the experience of having their works brought to life on a screen.  As people who always proclaim the book is better than the movie can attest to, there are major differences between the original works and their film and television counterparts that the original creators have no control over.  Ms. Gregory humorously pointed out that she was named as a consultant in the credits, and was indeed consulted about many things, though rarely, if ever, was her "consulting" actually adhered to.  Ms. von Ziegsar was not even named as a consultant, though she did express concern that the show might not be filmed in genuine New York, to which the response was, "Well, I hope we can get the budget for that."  (Thankfully, they did.)  She also remarked that the Gossip Girl characters in of the latter part of the first season were almost unrecognizable to her, though they do appear to be reverting back to more familiar characters and stories in the second season.

Asked about her own high school life compared to the lives of the characters in her series, Ms. von Ziegsar told the audience she lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, though she did go to school on the Upper East Side.  The students had more grungy looks, rather than the high fasion of Gossip Girl.  When brands were brought into the discussion, it was discovered that the brands (toothpaste, clothing, etc.) are actually added into the stories by the request of publishers.  For Ms. Gregory, however, the brands are in it from the get-go as the brands are more important to her characters as they are in a school for fashionistas and divas.

I-hsiu’s POV
The 12pm event was "Witty and Wicked" with Deborah Gregory (The Cheetah Girls) and Cecily von Ziegesar (Gossip Girl) The event was mediated by Lauren Mechling, (Dream Girl) an editor at the Wall Street Journal. Gregory and Ziegesar are young adult authors whose titles have been transferred to movie and television screens with a level of success.

They spoke on how their writing drew from their own lives. Gregory wrote her stories of glamour and dreams from her own sense of style and love for fashion. An excerpt of her new novel, Catwalk showed a girl in a high school of art and modeling deep in competition with other prima donas of fashion. The language of her novel draws on alliteration, and sounds of the words, rich with a flow of color that doesn't necessarily mean crude curses. Instead of curses, the insults that came from the characters' mouths painted a picture of their adversary in the way they presented themselves in clothing and posture. It was easy to be drawn into a world so easily painted by the words.

Ziegesar read from Gossip Girl who spoke of the privileged life of upper Manhattan teens. Boarding schools, private schools, cliques drew on scandals, popularity, rumors and intrigue. Also heavily reliant on language, the voice of the main character of Gossip Girl (though not as colorful as those in Catwalk) presents an elitist view on everything that occurs. Insults still fly in different ways that truly reflect on the character. Though both authors have stories that reflect on fashion and reputation, the voices of the books are completely different. It is also apparent in the way the authors read aloud: the high tension of competition at school is found in the rapid-paced words Catwalk and the smooth, luxurious sounds of the popular girls in Gossip Girl.

Highlighted Q&A: Gregory = G and Ziegeasar = Z

Q. Childhood and high school years

G: Grew up in "boogie down Bronx" in the foster care system. Her childhood was "horrible but fabulous". Felt that reading and writing was very important since most people around her didn't know how to read. Her first novel at 11 years old was 'L for Love' about scandals in college. Her teacher was "mortified" at it so G. threw out the book in embarrassment. She was a magazine editor first and was inspired to write Cheetah Girls while interviewing Destiny's Child and watching David Cassidy's bio on VH1.

Z: Grew up in Manhattan, Upper West Side in private school. Always wanted to write as a child so she became an editor first. Felt no connection with the books she was editing and didn't feel that 12-14 year old teens (or tweens) would want to read such things. Was asked to think of new book ideas so she wrote about herself and her friends in private school. Later was actually asked to write the books themselves. Wrote what she wanted to read herself. Wanted to write characters that are approachable despite their privileged backgrounds.

Q. Favorite characters in their own stories

Z: Blair. "Bitchiest character" but more complex and acts on impluse.

G: Galeria due to her bossiness and domineering character. Galeria's mother who is similar to G. since she is the "plus-sized diva who has the boutique". Chanel because of her sweetness and Dorinda who is the foster child character in the story with an earnest heart.

Q. Sex in books

G: Teen sex is "painted in a broad stroke" and adult novels are more in-depth. No sex in books for tweens. Though she wants to be more "wicked" in her books, there is pressure from librarians and parents.

Z: Characters in Gossip Girl are 17 years old, seniors in high school. Though 10-11 year olds are reading the books, they were not the intended audience. Suggests to mothers who ask if their children should read the books, Z's response is no...and advises mothers to read the books first. Lots of talk of sex in books and any scenes of acts are focused on the thoughts of the characters. "I mostly stay inside their heads".

Q. Writing habits

G: Writing is a process of going inward. Time intensive process. Don't write every day, usually at night after drawing out the outlines and research for every book and every chapter prior to writing.

Z: Write outlines since she has tight deadlines (2 books per year.) Tends to procrastinate until 2 months before deadline when she starts writing frantically. Used to write more (and at night) prior to having kids. Now, when kids are in school, she writes in her office. (She gets distracted by shopping, Yahoo! News and fashion news.)

I asked a question on which authors or books they read again and again.

Z: Classic fiction. Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton and Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger.

G: Also enjoys F. Scott Fitzgerald, Truman Capote, Lorenzo Carcaterra. If the writer resonates with her, she likes to read it again. Kiss the Girls by James Patterson is one of her favorite books.

The Other Side - Faeries, Elves and Ancient Omens is a panel focusing on the fantasy genre with Gail Carson Levine (Ella Enchanted,) Holly Black (The Spiderwick Chronicles,) and Daniel Kirk (Elf Realm.) The event was moderated by Laura Arnold of publishing company, HarperCollins.

After the introductions were made, Black started reading from The Spiderwick Chronicles and the intro to her newest book, a graphic novel, The Good Neighbors. Levine read an excerpt from Ever and Kirk read from Elf Realm. Unlike the readings from the previous panel, these readings were more subtle with the most action being in Kirk's story of the approach of the elves. As a fan of the fantasy genre, hearing these excerpts was very enjoyable. I enjoyed the slow taste of each of the stories read. My favorite was of course, Levine's reading which stopped at the moment when something is just about to happen.

One of the comments heard was the authors' opinions on magic in fantasy. Most of the authors felt that magic is something that doesn't have to be heavily placed in fantasy stories. Black noted that "Fantasy is the literature of invokes awe." Levine felt that fantasy should use "as little magic as possible". Kirk felt that "magic should be very hard if it you should use it all." It emphasizes that a good fantasy is not about the magic that is involved, but the characters themselves and what happens in the story.

Highlighted Q&A: Levine = L, Black = B and Kirk = K

Q. Favorite books as a child.

L: Heidi, Bambi, Peter Pan, Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and books by Mark Twain. Noted that there weren't alot of fantasy stories in the past.

B: Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. "The stories is very frightening because fairy folklore is very frightening...It was the book that really made me see that fairies were more then just little sparkly girls with wings."

K: "Biggest Dr. Seuss fan". Pulp fiction: Conan the Barbarian by Robert E. Howard, John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, anything by Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft, various magazines (including MAD,) mixed in "a big ol'stew" with tv shows.

Q. About the insects in The Spiderwick Chronicles...

B: Tony DiTerlizzi is a naturalist that likes to go bugging: capturing bugs, taking them home and photographing them. The artwork and idea came from the details of actual insects.

Q. The note from the three kids in The Spiderwick Chronicles...
B: Tony and B. met three kids that believe they have real experiences with fairies. The book is inspired by the three children and the author is willing to "suspend disbelief and go with it."

Q. Real world sites inspirations...

K: The top of the tower of a medieval castle in Glastonbury, England with laylines running underground, evoked "really weird feeling".

B: There are folklore all over the world about fairies or fantasy creatures. It's all about the "limitable spaces...alley that is really a garden, the between times of dusk and dawn..." Anywhere and everywhere can be a "special space".
L: Scenes in Wish takes place in the NY subways, Central Park and various parts of Manhattan. Ella (Ella Enchanted) makes wishes on candle trees which were inspired by the cloisters in upper Manhattan. Read up and did research about ancient Mesopotamia for Ever. In other cases, "I made things up, because in fantasy we're allowed to."

Q. For aspiring writers...

L: "I recommend my book Writing Magic." Thursday afternoons in the summer, L. teaches a free writing workshop near her home in Brewster, NY for kids 10 and up.

B: Write and read about many different things. "Read nonfiction, read in all the genres, read the backs of shampoo bottles..." Notes that this process must be done before the writer can find his/her voice. Revise many times and find a "writing buddy" to help edit and find out "what doesn't make sense".

K: Need quiet surroundings in order to write. Having too many distractions, even reading too many books will "blow your own creativity right out of the picture."

Q. For L.'s books, there are alot of "re-imagined fairy tales"...

L: Found traditional fairy tales "dissatisfying". Searches for the "mysteries in the fairy tales" and what is incomprehensible. "Love at first sight is often a mystery in fairy tales. For example, ['Sleeping Beauty'], the prince goes through an absolutely wicked hedge to get to a princess and then he kisses her in an age when kisses were really serious. And all he knows about her in that moment is that she is pretty and she doesn't snore. So I wonder why he did that...In 'Snow White' it's worse because when he falls in love with her, he thinks she's dead." Initially didn't like Cinderella and sought to understand why she allowed herself to suffer in the hands of her step family. Thought of the curse of obedience as key to her actions and finally liked her as a character.

Q. K wrote picture books initially and now a novel...

K: Had alot of ideas for stories that are ultimately too large for picture books. Read fantasy stories to his children and wanted to give his ideas "a bigger voice to explore stuff at much more leisurely pace then trying to fit it into a 32 page picture book." Inspired by different folklore while being commissioned to draw for an Icelandic greeting card company. Interested to learn that their Santa Claus was "weird trolls and elves and things that have huge eyes and long legs and they do all these scary things and they steal sausages and drink blood from the cows...and I thought 'Man, this is what kids get to listen to in Christmas in Iceland?...I just thought it was great stuff.' Fan of Grimms Fairy Tales and "the older the version, the darker it is and the more it touches you." Writes stories drawing on different folklore, including Teutonic and Norwegian and not just from the English and Irish. When making things up, "I would start with something that was real, something that I read about...and go from there."

Q. What B incorporated into her stories from other folklores...

B: Rule that fairies couldn't lie. Used Celtic folklore that iron is repellant to fairies, though notes that Scandinavian fairies have an iron wood forest. Sees that different types of metals have effects on fairies around the world which influences her stories depending on which elements of folklore she is drawing upon.

I want to note that Levine really knows how to engage kids into a discussion. As she was giving an intro into Ever, she asked questions of the audience, speaking matter-of-factly and clearly.

There weren't any other panel that we especially wanted to see, so we just sat in on the end of 'Inked In', a panel for graphic novel authors, Ariel Schrag (Awkward Definition) Brian Wood (The New York Four) and Ivan Velez, Jr. (Tales of the Closet). It was interesting to hear that Velez was an Osamu Tezuka fan and recommended a major English manga publishing company, Netcomics.

We also listened to a bit of 'All the World's a Grave' which had various actors read excerpts from the book with the disclaimer that it is "by Shakespeare". Basically, writer John Reed took several of Shakespeare's major plays and puts them all together, line by line. It was fun picking out lines and recognizing them from a certain play at a certain moment. At that moment on the stage, Juliet was speaking with Hamlet. Stage directions were also read aloud.

After going to various tables and speaking with more authors, we decided to call it a day. We went back to the press desk to return our badges and left for home. Needless to say, we were all explicitly tired. But it was an enjoyable first time at a book festival for me.

Linda's POV

There are some pictures taken, some of which are on this page, and some others on the Flickr page here. I made some comments of what the photos are about, under the usage of another online name I use to use - anime_skuld.

I walked around, and as the day was concluding. I spoke with Perry Brass, and Robert W. Cabell, authors for Carnal Sacraments, and The Hair-Raising Adventures of Jayms Blonde.

The day was exhausting, but it was a wonderful time. The next event that Jilly, I-hsiu and I will attend is the New York Anime Festival. So be on the lookout for that!

Replies: 2 comments

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Posted by tvajvvxaq @ 10/05/2008 01:17 PM PST

Really wonderful meeting Linda Yau in Brooklyn during the Brooklyn Book Fair. What a great event—now one of America's truly marvelous literary events. I am so glad that the Lincoln Heights Literary Society exists, and I can't wait to see something about my book Carnal Sacraments in it. You can see me talk about Carnal on UTube by searching for videos by Robert W. Cabell. I llok forward to seeing the ladies from JLHLS on their next trip East.

Posted by Perry Brass @ 10/06/2008 01:36 PM PST

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