Montreal is a city that never sleeps. This city is filled with bright lights and noise from festivals, concerts, new restaurants and fun activities. However, one thing that Montrealers do not get to experience are book festivals…until now!
Montreal’s first young adult (YA) book festival was held in the Jewish Public Library on May 27th, 2018. The day was dedicated to book lovers of all ages who enjoy reading YA books.
The day kicked off with readers getting a goodie bag from the generous committee behind the festival. Each person received a MTL YA Festival tote bag, a program, a pin and a sampler booklet with the first chapters of four YA books. There was also a table filled with books for sale supplied by Babar Books. Needless to say, all the bookworms gravitated towards that general area many times during the day.
For a bookworm, seeing an author is like seeing a celebrity. I will not deny that I was a bit star struck. This event allowed us to interact with the authors as they discussed their writing process and important themes tackled in their books. There were several panels and the hardest part for me was picking which one to attend, as they all seemed so interesting.
Tough Stuff: Islamophobia, Racism, Bullying and more.
The authors speaking in this panel:
Nic Stone – Dear Martin
Samira Ahmed – Love, Hate & Other Filters
Brendan Kiely – The Last True Love Story
Monique Polak – What World is Left
E.K. Johnston – Spindle
When I was a teenager, YA books rarely discussed the “tough stuff”. Islamophobia was non-existent in YA books. I rarely ever read anything on racism or sexual assault. All this has changed over the years as brave authors have stepped forward to share stories that need to be read and that can get conversations started on what many people may find uncomfortable or controversial. Samira Ahmed discussed what it is like to live in a world riddled with Islamophobia. E.K. Johnston discussed rape culture, while Monique Polak discussed domestic abuse. Nic Stone discussed racism and racial profiling. Together, these authors shared their personal experiences and how the writing process can be therapeutic as these stories needed to be shared through their writing. I was truly inspired and captivated by their conversations. These authors had everyone’s undivided attention as they spoke so eloquently about their own emotions as they write about this difficult subject matter.
New on the Scene: Authors with a book or two under their belts talk about breaking into writing.
This panel included:
Nic Stone – Dear Martin
Gloria Chao – American Panda
S.M. Beiko – Scion of the Fox
J.F. Dubeau – A God in the Shed
Looking around the room as the authors were speaking, I noticed many teenagers eagerly listening to the writing advice while taking notes in their notepads. In a world where the new generation is often portrayed as kids who are glued to their screens, it is great to see many who have a genuine love of reading and interest in becoming writers. The advice handed down by these incredible authors was both helpful and realistic. They did not shy away from talking about the struggles of breaking into the writing world and of continuing writing as a career. Most importantly, what they offered was motivation to keep on writing and ways to work around the negative thoughts that can cause writers block or make us give up on our writing.
Keynote Speaker Nic Stone:
Nic Stone, the author of New York Times bestselling novel Dear Martin was one of the authors in the panels and was the keynote speaker of the day. Nic discussed writing about social injustices that needed to be shared with the world. I have never met an author who grabs your attention, makes you laugh and delivers such powerful messages all in one speech. Nic Stone definitely has a gift for words and for giving advice. She explored the ideas of reason, humility, investigative savvy, nuances, optimism and self-care while writing your story. The room was full of smiles, laughter and genuine awe after such a wonderful speech.
Of course no book festival would be complete without a book signing. These authors were so interactive during the signings and spent a good amount of time with each person discussing their book and giving personalized messages to each reader.
Samira Ahmed and I had a wonderful conversation about growing up with barely any brown/muslim characters in the books we read. It is refreshing to finally read more and more YA books with diverse characters. I really appreciated this conversation with such a kind author.
Side note: I believe I have convinced Nic Stone to adopt the Canadian way of saying “Zed”. Ditch the “Zee” folks!
I would like to thank the director of the Children’s Department of the Jewish Public Library and the founder of this year’s Montreal Ya Festival Talya Pardo for putting together such an incredible event with her committee. Thank you for bringing together this community as we shared our love of books together. I hope this is the start to many more book festivals in Montreal.