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Ten Things I Learned at RT
I spent this past week at the RT Booklovers Convention in Columbus, Ohio, and- as expected- I had an absolute ball. I got to see old friends, met some new ones, added a whole host of books to my To Read list, and dressed up like a faery with very little provocation to do so. My brain is still a little fried post-conference, so I'm resorting to bullet points to convey some of the awesomeness of my RT experience. So without further ado, I give you...

Ten Things I Learned at RT

1. Everyone loves Ally Carter's snickerdoodles (this is not a euphemism. Ally Carter actually baked snickerdoodles and gave them to me on the first day of the conference, and they were appreciated by all). Ally also made puppy chow, which leads me to...

2. Most people don't know what puppy chow is. (FYI: it's a yummy snack made with rice chex, chocolate, peanut butter, and four metric tons of powder sugar). Besides Ally and me, the only two people who'd ever heard of puppy chow were Rachel Vincent (who's also from Oklahoma) and Patrice Michelle (who's also Southern). Who knew?

3. Directly related to numbers one and two: Melissa Marr (one of my conference roommates) does not believe that puppy chow and snickerdoodles make for an adequate breakfast. Obviously, I disagree, but she's tougher than I am and can do this glaring thing with her eyes, so I felt compelled to listen to her, at least some of the time.

4. Holly Black's WHITE CAT (out in stores TODAY) is going to be absolutely, one hundred percent amazing. I listened to Holly talk on several panels, and one of the things she said was that when she starts out writing a book, she knows a bunch of different (and usually completely unrelated) things that she wants to go in it, and then writing the book is the process by which she figures out how everything fits together. Some of the ingredients that went into WHITE CAT are: con-men and cons, a specific fairy tale, waking up on the roof of a dormitory, and curses. If that does not make you want to read the book, I don't think we can be friends anymore.

5. There are many ways to research a book. This came up on one of the YA Urban Fantasy panels I was on- some of the other authors had really great recommendations for folklore resources, but one of the major themes seemed to be that most of the authors on the panel researched in a fairly organic way. Instead of coming up with an idea for a book and then poking around for a specific piece of lore to use, many of them are just huge fans of lore/lit more broadly. They write about the things they love, and as a result, they've actually been researching the topics for YEARS. I mentioned that I tend to research by DOING things (for example, a lot of the pack hierarchy and werewolf behavior in RAISED BY WOLVES came from my hands-on experience working with packs of non-human primates, who have a very similar social structure), at which point Holly chimed in to mention that she actually had a friend lock her in the trunk of a car and drive around, so she could figure out what it would be like.

6. Writers come from all kinds of backgrounds. One night, we were sitting around discussing our former (and in a couple of cases, current) day jobs, and the variety was just astounding.

7. Writing for teens and writing about teens are two very different things. This popped up on a panel I did with Ally Carter and Rachel Vincent on how love looks different at thirteen than thirty, when I asked Rachel to talk a little bit about how writing Kaylee in her Soul Screamers series was different from writing Kaci and Abby, who are teenage characters in her adult Shifter series. The gist of her answer was that it was VERY different, and that either of the series could have been a completely different beast if she'd flipped the narrators. I thought this was really interesting, especially in the context of another topic that kept coming up, both on panels and in conversations with various author friends, which was basically about determining whether or not you're a person who can write YA. The consensus seemed to be that in YA, you're not viewing your teen characters from an adult perspective- you're viewing the entire world from a teen one, and that's not something that everyone can naturally do.

8. Undertakers are, by and large, a very flirty bunch. (Our convention ran simultaneous with an undertaker convention, which means that one night, a guy tried to pick me up with the line "I work with dead people.")

9. If one person thinks you look like you're plotting something, everyone and their dog will decide that maybe you do look a little bit evil. And then, they will ask random strangers if they think you look evil, and the strangers will say, "Well, her face is really innocent, but she has the evil hair." And then Carrie Ryan, Jeaniene Frost, Vicki Pettersson, and various others will spend the rest of the conference assessing how evil you are based on how big your hair gets. Given that Columbus is humid, your hair will get REALLY, REALLY BIG.

10. The more times I go to a specific conference, the easier it is to be a little less shy while I'm there. Authors, booksellers, and readers really are the nicest, friendliest, most awesome people out there, and I feel very lucky to have gotten to know so many of them!

Pictured (clockwise from back left): Holly Black, Jeaniene Frost, Carrie Ryan, Vicki Pettersson, Ally Carter, Patrice Michelle, me, and Melissa Marr. Photo taken from Ally's blog.

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What you call puppy chow I call muddy buddies. I have been eating them since I was in grade school, and I love them very dearly. When my husband wants to be the nicest, he makes them for me (a show of true love, because he doesn't like chocolate. Shocking, I know!)

Yes! Me too! They are yummy whatever you call them!

I am somewhat sad that I already finished off the entire bag that Ally made me... SO YUMMY!

I am relieved to hear that you know this delicious treat, even if it's under another name! Strangely enough, I don't like chocolate either, but Ally adds lots of extra peanut butter into her recipe to dilute the chocolate taste for me...

Yep, they're Muddy Buddies to me as well. Delicious!

Well, it's pretty obvious that you and Melissa have the biggest hair...just sayin' ;)

Strangely enough, NO ONE accused Melissa of having evil hair and/or plotting evil things. Just me. I find this highly suspicious!

People don't know what puppy chow is??? How is that possible!? It's like a...staple.

I now feel as if it is my mission to educate the world about puppy chow. You with me?

When you said puppy chow, at first I thought you meant *literal* puppy chow. Thanks for clarifying so I don't look like an idiot if anyone ever mentions it to me!

Also, I totally agree about the research. Much of what I write has been inspired by the mythology and folklore I love to read about just for fun. Hardly ever do I actually go seek out specific mythologies to suit a story idea. That just seems so...backwards.

I've only recently started reading folklore- a friend has gotten in the habit of sending me neat little tidbits, and I have a feeling I could easily get addicted...

Aw, you all look adorbs. ;) Holly taunted me with how much fun you are having until I entered an unholy pact to make a plan for next year. You with us?

Yes, I am totally with you! Next year is in LA! There shall be dancing! And man-pageants! Nothing says "unholy pact" like dancing and mangeants...

I know the awesomeness as puppy chow! And I'm from up north, so it must not be such a Southern thing. Or maybe it is and I am just a anomaly.


So maybe it's not regional... the mystery of puppy chow continues!

That's a great picture. I have one of you before the signing, if you want it...

I would love the pic! I somehow failed to take a single picture the entire time I was there.

What a great post! I'm sure you looked like you were up to something. Especially in the presence of people who see work with dead people.

I'm in the Northwest, and I call it puppy chow. However, I've also called them muddy buddies too. But dang that stuff is good....I am now determined to go buy some chex to make some. Thanks for the awesome Saturday morning project! ^_^

Ooh, Ally's famous snickerdoodles... :)
I looks like you guys had an awesome time!
Love, Hannah

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