Thursday, September 24, 2009

Our virtual author visit with Melissa Walker

This morning, nine enthralled young women enjoyed a half-hour conversation about writing, books, and youth culture. It was one of those mornings you knew that the students would always remember.

I had purchased Violet on the Runwayfor our library because books about fashion and modelling tend to be popular with students at my school. Crystalby Walter Dean Myers and the Airheadbooks by Meg Cabot are favorites. When I found Violet a smarter-than-average read, well-informed by author Melissa Walker's own experiences in fashion journalism, I suggested it to my teen advisory board. Who doesn't love a book whose "key phrases" include skinny jeans and ballet flats? I had been following Melissa (@melissacwalker) on Twitter and knew she seemed accessible and really pro-teen, so I shot her an email and Melissa kindly agreed to Skype with us. I ordered the last two in the Violet series, and they are being passed around.

Some things of which the chat reminded me:

* Teens really, really DO judge books by their covers. And they are fascinated by that design process, as their questions proved. Melissa was kind enough to send links to blog entries about those, which I know the students will devour.

* Authors are genuinely curious about what teens are into. I actually had no idea one of my students was into Fringe until the chat.

* We don't always share a vocabulary. When Melissa was sharing the awesome-sounding premise for a new project, I asked if there was pressure for authors to write about the supernatural. The students didn't believe that they read about what we termed darker themes, but Vampire Academy books was a unanimous fave, as were many other paranormal books.

* Sometimes, it's the little things that makes you love a book. One girl obviously felt the entire Violet series was elevated because Violet read manga.

Girls are looking forward to Melissa's October 22nd Readergirlz Teen Read Week chat with with Cassandra Clare, whose Mortal Instruments the girls adore. Meanwhile, I actually circulated two rather dusty Christopher Pike books, after Melissa confessed a fondness for his stuff. I'm always trying to push students to read things I loved as a teen.

I wish the crowd had been a little larger, and we had several more students sign up. But two girls reported that, despite their invitations, they weren't allowed to leave class. Some teachers were under the impression that there was standardized testing in the library, but the guidance department has worked with us to accommodate Melissa's call. She was terrific!