In 2011, Kristin Treviño, who worked in teen services at the Irving Public Library, hosted the library’s first author visit for teenagers. Treviño didn’t know how many teens to expect, nor did she have her hopes set high. So when almost 80 teenagers arrived to hear Stephanie Perkins speak about her young adult novels, she was amazed.
teen festivalSoon, Treviño began hosting more young adult author visits, with one bringing in around 600 teenagers. That’s when Treviño begin to think even bigger. She attended several large teen book festivals, including Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin and TeenBookCon in Houston, and began to wonder, “Why don’t we have something like that here in North Texas?”
In 2015, thanks to the work of Treviño and her colleagues, the Irving Public Library hosted the first North Texas Teen Book Festival. The festival was an immediate success and has grown exponentially since its inception.
In 2015, 3,500 teens and pre-teens came from as far as Arkansas and Oklahoma to attend the festival. In 2016, that number more than doubled. At this year’s festival, which will take place March 4 at the Irving Convention Center, about 80 authors will attend, including Veronica Roth, author of the Divergent trilogy; R.L. Stine, author of the Goosebumps series; and Jason Reynolds, an award-winning author whose novel Ghost was a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2016.
Treviño expects up to 10,000 teens and preteens — and maybe more.
What’s driving the festival’s popularity? Several factors, Treviño says.
“These kids are here for these books,” says Treviño. “When people say teens don’t read, I say that they do.”
Indeed, there’s been a renaissance in young adult literature over the last few years, says Rose Brock, the director of author and publisher relations for the festival. She points out that young adult books, or books written with teenagers in mind, as well as middle grade books, or books written with children ages 8 to 12 in mind, have flourished over the last few years.
“The books that are being published for teens today are so good,” she says.
Treviño also credits librarians and teachers for promoting the festival and providing transportation for teens who want to attend.
But most important, she says teenagers show up in droves because they’re excited to meet the authors of their favorite books.
“There’s something to be said about putting a face with the name on the book,” says Treviño.
Julie Murphy, a New York Times best-selling author who’s participated in the festival since its beginning, agrees.
“When I was a kid, I read books and I enjoyed books, but there wasn’t Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat,” she says. “It didn’t even occur to me that I could possibly meet the person whose name or picture was on the back of that book.”
Now, however, teenagers can interact with authors such as Murphy on social media at any time. These teens can then attend the festival, where they can hear Murphy speak, ask her to sign their books and even chat with her for a few minutes.
“That’s the pull for this festival,” says Murphy.
The festival takes place all day, and there is something for everyone, says Treviño.
One of the more popular activities? Speed dating, where a librarian has around a minute to pitch five books, one of which the teenager gets to take home.
Even the teens who are forced to come to the festival usually wind up finding a book they like during speed dating, says Treviño.
Other popular activities include author panels, in which several authors discuss and answer questions about their books; an audiobook panel, in which narrators and actors teach the art of audiobooks; and book signings, in which readers can interact with their favorite authors and have their books signed.
While many teens come to see the most popular authors, Treviño says they often discover newer, lesser-known authors whom they come to love just as much.
“We have a really well-rounded group of authors,” says Treviño. “Not to sound corny, but there’s literally something for everyone.”
That’s a high calling, given the number of teens and preteens Treviño and Brock expect.
“There’s no telling how many will come,” says Brock. “We’re ready for them!”
Presented by the Dallas Morning News – February 27, 2017