Crossroads Conference: My Favorite Speakers (Or: Totally Awesome Lunch Table I'm Still Sure I Imagined)

As I mentioned before, I won a ticket to the Crossroads Writing Conference! (Pause here for that crazy statement to sink in.) Therefore, I spent last weekend having a lot of fun and a lot more secret inner going-crazy that I was meeting a bunch of famous book-deal-and-agent-having writers all in two days. (Also, I spent last weekend not sharing the next episode of my adventures with Rykel. Again, sorry! Working on that... anyway.)

It was my first conference, located about thirty minutes from where I live, and totally awesome. I ate lunch on Saturday using this little $10 voucher thing that came with my ticket, at a little Mexican place that makes ah-maz-ing cheesy beef nachos.

Oh, did I forget to mention - I ate lunch with the best speakers? All of them?!

There's Lauren Morril, the newest star on the young adult book scene... and also the woman who ran the entire conference this year.

Her reading at the Author's Avenue was perfect with the vocal inflections. I might actually like hearing her narrate an audiobook, and I'm a pretty picky listener. She was super nice to little, young me. Her clothing choices were so chic. (Plus she was wearing jeans the first time I saw her. Even though I didn't know who she was until after she changed into something nicer, that definitely helped me relax a bit. Person in charge of conference wearing the one thing internet said not to wear = Okay so maybe I won't screw everything up today.)

Next: Kat Zhang! *cue squeals*

Okay, so I was going to save this for last, but not happening. I met Kat Zhang! I discussed writing with Kat Zhang! I bought her books and had them signed and ate lunch with Kat Zhang!

Yeah, she was basically my entire focus for the conference when I first found out I was going. Maybe because she was the only speaker I'd even heard of before. Maybe because I've been following her personal blog since before her first draft was even completed. Maybe because she's just an awesome writing genius who would totally equate to John Green if John Green wrote dystopian.

Whatever. Kat Zhang, folks.

Then there was the one that surprised me. I had no idea who this guy was, and the conference website forget to post his bio. Humph. But I thought he seemed really cool during the YA discussion panel before lunch, and I knew he was really cool after eating lunch with him. (Yes, I actually ate lunch with everyone mentioned in this post, except Jackson and Carrie. We'll discuss that later. Back to AJ.)

His name is AJ Hartley. He writes about five different genres (I think?) including middle grade fantasy-adventure, and the first book he ever liked was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Doesn't get much better than that.

His entire session on "Writing in Multiple Genres" in a nutshell: "I write in a bunch of genres. You do too? Great, how fun! Your agent will love you *sarcasm* And good luck marketing. Then again, there's always online shopping! Okay, now question and answer time." Obviously, there was more than that, but I boiled it down a bit.

Delilah Dawson was also at lunch. She was pretty and funny, but I didn't really click with her. Maybe because her books *ahem* put the steam into steampunk. Let's say I was not to be found at any of her sessions. Anyway, moving on.

Cat Scully, who I did not get a photo with (sad face), writes YA horror I would probably never read. However, she's a talented artist, and just a funny person who was nice to talk to. If I wasn't saving all my money for books, I would've bought her three collectible bookmarks with art from her friend's book. They looked totally killer.

Has anybody here seen New Girl? I admit, I haven't, but from Pinterest, it looks like my kind of show. The final member of this star-studded lunch table was David Iserson, who does have one young adult novel out, but is mostly stationed in the world of television writing. He wrote New Girl and is now slaving away on the scripts for next season's Mad Men. I may have never seen any of his stuff, but I have most definitely heard of those shows. Very impressive man! (Also, really funny and down to earth, so there's that.)

Finally, there were two people who were not at lunch with us, but who still made my list of favorite speakers. First, we have Carrie Howland. She's a literary agent who basically embodies what I imagined the ladies at Books & Such to be. I mean, she's not a Christian, but it was still pretty cool. Anyway, she's a really nice person and not at all the snarky, intimidating woman I feared.

Very blurry image of Jackson and me. Sorry excuse for a phone camera + bad lighting = not the best of photos.

Last but not least is Jackson Pearce. She writes fairy tale retellings, and I was (almost) as excited to meet her as I was Kat Zhang after reading up on her around the 'net. I went to her session on young adult fiction... that turned out to be about query letters. I was bummed - for about a minute. I spent the next half an hour laughing my head off at all the crazy stuff Jackson would see in query letters when she read the slush pile at an agency.

Good times.


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