North TX Teen Book Fest official graphic

North TX Teen Book Fest 2019: Wonder Woman Panel

I had the opportunity to attend the North Texas Teen Book Festival last Saturday March 23 at the Irving Convention Center in Las Colinas, and let me tell you—I think I might just convert into Bookwormlicism.

Authors Tessa Gratton, Vashti Harrison, Zoraida Cordova, Natalie Parker, Lilliam Rivera, and Mari Mancusi at their North Texas Teen Book Fest 2019 panel.
Photo Credit: Jordyn Nguyen/Geek Gals

One of the panels I attended was called “Wonder Woman,” led by Tessa Gratton, Vashti Harrison, Zoraida Cordova, Natalie Parker, Lilliam Rivera, and Mari Mancusi. All Young Adult (YA) authors who have written books with strong and bad-ass female protagonists.

The moderator kicked off the panel by asking the authors when they are writing these female characters, that do they find themselves subtly inserting their own traits into them?

Tessa said:

All the main characters have a part of me. Write what you know is about emotional and relationship knowledge. To write real-seeming people and places, that will ring true to audience.

Natalie said:

The palate you start off with is yourself.

She further mentioned that she gives the main characters a little piece of herself, in order to better understand and assess ways on how the character will overcome situations they encounter—which, I’m no author, but I thought that was a great piece novel-writing advice.

Whereas Mari had a different approach: she writes the better version of herself. From there, she draws from her real-life experiences but gives it a twist by creating a different—more towards a happily-ever-after style ending.

Next, the authors were asked what advice they would give their younger selves and with some of these, I felt it.

Like when Zoraida said to not dye your hair pink AND then bleach it (should be the other way around) at 15.

Just kidding. Her actual piece of advice was:

Everything WILL be okay and to not be afraid speak about things that upset you.

As for Vashti:

She also wants her younger self to know that it’s okay if you don’t have answer to the intense question of “what do you want to do when you grow up?” right away. She wishes kids didn’t feel that kind of pressure nowadays with questions of that nature.

And Mari leaves no room for bullshit as she said:

Writing is an awful job but it’s also the best job at the same time, so continue to work on your craft.

She also kindly reminded us to remember that we’re not going to be good at everything at first; everything is a learning process. She, herself, even forgets it as well as being a perfectionist is one of her traits.

Thanks for the reminder Mari.

The authors also shared their favorite female characters.

This panel was so much fun and thought-provoking. The authors discussed surface-level topics such as their favorite books and where they got their ideas from, to how their different backgrounds had an influence on every minute detail of their writing—from the character to plot. And because they are writers, everything they spoke sounded so beautifully put together and it was so easy to digest. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment.

My favorite part of it all was when Zoraida spoke about when she was younger and she would read all these books, but there were no characters she could remotely relate to—a Latinx girl, Ecuadorian to be exact. So she simply decided she would be the one to do exactly just that, and became an author. Boom! Anybody feeling inspired? Anybody?

So in the future if y’all see a book with my name slapped on it, just know—Miss Zoraida did it to me.

If you guys are interested in books written by these Wonder Women, here’s a list of their latest works:

Featured image credit: North Texas Teen Book Festival

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