Three words: Sarah. Dessen. Live.

On Friday night, I got the opportunity to hear Sarah Dessen speak at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh as part of the, “Black, White, and Read All Over,” lecture series.

It. Was. Incredible.

For those of you who don’t know, Sarah Dessen is an insanely popular writer of Young Adult books. She writes YA realistic contemporary and basically pioneered the honest, insightful style that is all the rage right now. If somebody were ever to compare Yellow Bike to one of her books, I would be over the moon.

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Back to Friday: I arrived a half hour early, along with most of the crowd. There were about 400 (?) people there- mostly women between the ages of 11 and 60- and they were all carrying bags big enough to hold a book or two. Or seven. There were approximately five men, all dads, happily holding coats and handing out tickets and waiting in the book-signing line.

The Pitt college’s undergrad acapella group, the Pitt Pendulums, distracted the tittering crowd until exactly 7:00, when Siobhan Vivian (author of The List, for all you YA fans out there) introduced the main act: Sarah Dessen.

First, she expressed her thanks and excitement for being invited to Pittsburgh. John Green himself had evidently talked us up, and the very mention of his name made the crowd go bonkers. After that, she pulled out one little typed page, apologized because she hardly ever writes speeches, and then in an honest, sweet fashion, told us why she didn’t bring a power-point or any technology at all: “I’m a writer,” was the effect of her speech, “so words are my tools. I don’t have to show you what I’m talking about, I can tell you and you can imagine it for yourself.”

She really didn’t need powerpoint anyway. The entire audience was hanging on her every word.

She read the first page and a half from her new book, out in June of 2013, called The Moon and More. Then came her favorite part of speaking- Q and A. She gave advice to budding writers, her opinion on the self-publishing explosion, her inspiration for a few of her books, and even how she names her characters. By the end of the speech, four lucky Dessen trivia fans received advanced copies, much to the disappointment of the other 396-ish people.

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To say that she was a rock star would be an understatement. As the talk progressed, it was easy to see that she was so much more than that. She was a mentor and a best friend to these girls. You could audibly hear the murmur of agreement when one girl stood up and said, “Your books got me through high school.”

It was so powerful. It was… just insanely powerful to be surrounded by people who were very different, but united in the fact that one woman’s work had touched their lives.

I left and cried for, like, an hour.

That was something I was not expecting.

I was just totally overwhelmed with so many conflicting feelings- feelings of inadequacy and hope; alone and part of a huge crowd; anonymous and obvious. Desire was the undercurrent.

I just… want people to read my books. I don’t want to be a rock star, I want to be a friend. I want to help people through high school. I want to be authentic and honest. I want to help people see the same old things from a brand new perspective.

So here’s to revision!Β Yellow Bike is on its way. πŸ™‚

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9 thoughts on “Three words: Sarah. Dessen. Live.

  1. sorrygnat says:

    I read you sistah! that’s what came to me after reading your post; sometimes i feel that way reading Poets and Writers, and I used to feel that way going into large libraries, but it’s a little by little, day by day type of deal. You keep chugg’in!

  2. msauret says:

    The lecture series by the Carnegie Library are awesome. Went to a few while a student at Pitt.

    Curious: what did she have to say about self publishing?

    • Laura Lee Anderson says:

      She said that the main pitfall she sees in self publishing is a lack of revision. All of the professionals who go through her books ask for more revisions and although it hurts sometimes, she knows those revisions make the book better. Basically, even if she thinks the book is ready, it may not be ready.
      The experience of seeing her speak was so valuable!

      • msauret says:

        I actually really agree with that statement. I revised about half of the stories before publishing Amidst Traffic.

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