Last week, I had the honor, and the pleasure, of going back to Williams College, my alma mater, to talk about being a young adult author. I loved my four years at Williams. They were some of the best and hardest and most intense of my life. I forged friendships that have lasted far beyond graduation day; I broke my tailbone playing rugby; I sang and danced and studied (not nearly enough) and argued and just lived, man. I was really *in* my life while at Williams in a way I hadn’t quite been before. Being invited back feels like maybe the love runs both ways.
But what’s cool is not just the mutual love thing. It’s that I was invited back to talk about my current and always love: Writing. When I was at Williams, I never even considered being a writer because it didn’t feel like a “real career.” Investment banking: now that’s a real career! Lawyer? Super real. But writing, that felt a bit like being a philosophy major. (Which I was. But I also majored in Political Economy, which was super serious and real and involved math.) So it was doubly special to be honored for my being this thing I never allowed myself to dream I could be, but somehow managed to let myself become.
What could be better than being invited back to Williams to talk about being a young adult author? Being invited back with awesome fellow young adult author alumni Kristin Cashore, Mary Cotton, Caragh O’Brien, and Tui Sutherland! And being invited there by my mentor and friend Jim Shepard, who is also one of my very favorite authors.
We did a couple events at the college. First up, Mary and Jim moderated a panel between the other four of us. This was my first ever panel—all my other public events have been just me alone with my Keynote, blathering away. How much more fun to get to blather away with all these other awesome, amazing, talented, thoughtful, and wonderfully funny people! We talked about lots of things: what Young Adult literature is anyway; world building; how we got to be where we are today.
Afterwards, Kristin, Caragh, Tui, and I tried to rekindle the ole’ college magic by heading to the snack bar (which is no longer in the rumpled sock of a student center that was there when I attended Williams, but is housed in the modernist fortress that was built on its grave—Baxter, I miss you) for a frost. This will mean nothing to non-Williams people. But how lovely to get to just hang out with these fabulous women! Being an author is a bit lonely. I spend a lot of time with imaginary friends. It was really nice to spend time with real friends.
The next morning, we met with students from a Senior Seminar in Children’s Literature (why didn’t they have this when I went to Williams?!) who gave up their Mountain Day morning to talk with us. The seminar’s professor, Janneke van de Stadt, artfully led our conversation, which was really more Caragh, Kristin, Tui, and me arguing over every question that she asked. It was awesome…hopefully also for the students:)
After that, we four explored Williams’s brand new, all-glass library. Holy bananas, when they built this place, they really invested in myriad different seating options. I mean the library’s great and all, and the glass walls: super fabulous; but the tatami mat desks where I could sit cross-legged while working? Now that’s certainly worth however much tuition is these days!
After that we explored the wonderful and weird exhibits at MassMOCA. I mean, you have to respect a museum that tortures its trees.
Here’s Tui and me contemplating these colorful tubes in the air.
And here’s me contemplating this preserved shrimp.
After filling ourselves to the brim with culture, we headed north to Manchester, VT for an event at the spectacular Northshire Bookstore. Jessica Wood was a wonderful moderator, and we had a fabulous audience that asked some great questions. Thank you to everyone who came out to chat with us!
I feel so blessed to have had such a wonderful first panel/mini-tour experience. I can’t wait to build on it in a few weeks when I join the amazing Rick Yancey and Lindsay Cummings for a panel on Survival at the Texas Book Festival!