Author Visit

The teens in my book club have a lot of thoughts on the books they read. Sometimes they don’t really comment on the books per se, but it leads them to have deeper conversations about life and situations they deal with in their lives.

Gabi TSU

After one session when no one had read the book (it was a John Green book), we were talking about why they didn’t read it (because they couldn’t relate to the topic or characters). So I mentioned Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero. When I read the book the month before, I had recognized situations I knew my teens could relate to. I mentioned maybe reading the book then looking into doing a Skype visit with the author. Needless to say, they LOVED the idea and I set out to figure out how to make it work for them.

Gabi was a book that I knew would resonate with the teens. A lot of them are Latinos and are in situations presented in a book. This is what made me want to have them talk to the author…because she got it. I had never had an author come to a library I worked at, and had no idea how to make it happen. Luckily for me, Isabel could not have been more nice. I had proposed a Skype visit and she countered with an in person visit and offered to do some school visits.

After getting approval from my bosses, the Friends group offered to pay for Isabel’s visit in addition to my regular budget (they are so great!). Since I knew how busy my teens were, I chose to have her visit in May after all their Common Core and AP Testing. The Teen Advisory Group decided against having Isabel in their schools because they said their classmates “didn’t deserve it.”

This ended up being a blessing in disguise as it allowed me to reach out to schools in our county and set up visits for two schools in other parts of our library system. I ended up packing Isabel’s day with a middle school visit, a high school visit, and then a reading and question and answer at my library in the evening.

The day was more amazing that I could have hoped. The middle school held a tea and the kids were either chosen to attend or the result of writing an essay. One of the kids did not believe that Isabel was actually going to their school and sent her an email to ask if it was true! Isabel taught the middle schoolers how to make a Zine.

She had the kids then think about what words they learned because of something. This stems from a part in Gabi, when she lists all the words she had to learn because her father was a meth addict. Isabel walked around, talking to the kids and I did the same. I was blown away by what they pre-teens came up with. I was honored with the little antidotes they shared with me. They were so fun to talk to as I wandered around and I also kept them company while they waited to have their book signed by Isabel.

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We spent the afternoon at a high school in a different city. They also made a Zine, but this time it was based on the “Boys will Be Boys” list in the book (which I love so, so, so much). I mainly hung back and talked to a couple of the kids, but some of the teens were just blown away by having an author visit their little town. And even more because the author was “one of them.” Seeing Isabel in their town and their school as a published author gave them so much joy and hope. It was truly touching to watch this unfold. It was so successful, my contacts at the school asked when the next one was!

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Later that evening, Isabel did a reading, question and answer, and then a signing at my library. It was a really fun event. The teens picked the readings they wanted Isabel to do. Including my favorite Understanding What ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ Really Means.

An author event can seem daunting, but it’s truly a rewarding experience. I had a great time driving Isabel to the schools and getting to talk to her about books, teens and life; it was so amazing. Watching the teens respond to her? I can’t properly put into words what it was like to witness that. This is something I would do again; the rewards are so great.

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