This weekend, I had the pleasure and privilege of going to New York Comic Con and attend the Girls Kick Butt: Strong Female Heroines in Young Adult Fantasy. The panel featured some amazing lady writers that I'm sure you're familiar with: Caitlin Kittredge (The Iron Thorn), Tamora Pierce (Mastiff) and Esther Friesner (Sphinx's Queen). The panel, assembled by Random House, addressed the origins of and inspiration behind these authors’ respective fantastical worlds and the strong female protagonists who inhabit them.
But before I get to that part of my day, allow me take you on a journey through the weirdness and awesomeness that was this year's New York Comic Con. (We'll post the full size pics on our Facebook page, so if you want to see them bigger, login to Facebook!)
I am no stranger to Nerdom. In fact, I'm a resident of Nerdom and even vote in their elections. But when I arrived at this year's Comic Con held at the Javit's Center in Manhattan, I was ushered into a world beyond Nerdom -- I was catapulted into Nerd Universe and I loved every minute of it. (For those of you who don't know what Comic Con is, it's an annual event held in San Diego and New York every year where video game, sci-fi, fantasy, comics and anime enthusiasts come out of their hidey holes and gather together for a weekend of geeking out, eating junk food, and not bathing.)
The first thing I noticed when I stepped inside the Javits Center was the smell. A flood of familiar and sometimes unpleasant smells invaded my nose -- popcorn, body odor, face paint, sweat, pizza...it goes on. It was hard to focus on any one thing since my eyes were constantly being forced to dart from person to person (or costume to costume). After a brief moment of "Holy $#%&! Where am I?!" I regained my bearings and made my way through the video game floor, passing by a chorus of dancers presenting Just Dance 3 and a myriad of other video games I had never heard of, and finally found the publishing section.
Bumping into Links, Captain America's, Jedi's and zombies as I went, I found Random House "Row" as I affectionately called it. I was greeted with many familiar faces, Saphira from Eragon, Aoife from The Iron Thorn, Beka Cooper from Mastiff, Luce from Passion, Nefertiti from Sphinx's Queen and many more. There were also some new faces that caught my eye that I was immediately drawn to.
The face that REALLY caught my eye was the pearlescent, white haired girl on the cover Starters by Lissa Price. I snagged myself a copy of the free chapter sample and made a mental note to read it on the way home later. (Spoiler alert: I did read the chapter sampler and I'm so unbelievably obsessed with this book, which comes out in March, that I'm going to write an entire post dedicated to it later this week.)
After scanning the available freebies (and picking up a few), I checked out the other tables in the Random House Row. Stopping by the Del Ray section first, I chatted with the lovely ladies working the table about Dearly, Departed and of course, A Game of Thrones. I was given the chance to have my photo taken with a sword and shield from Game of Thrones, but being the shy girl I am, I opted out.
Next I stopped by the Suvudu table and said hello to the dudes working that table and was sad to see that all of their freebies had been snatched up by fans earlier in the day. (Mental note: Arrive early next year to get all the good stuff!)
The Suvudu guys were really cool and just as I was about to leave their table, Caitlin Kittredge appeared, seemingly out of nowhere! Dressed in a rad Night of the Living Dead t-shirt, she was gracious enough to let me snap a pic of here before her interview with the dudes at the Suvudu table.
I had some time to kill before the Girls Kick Butt panel, so I headed out of Random House Row for a bit and found myself accidentally face to face with the cast of The Avengers which was pretty cool since I'm a Whedon fan myself. Soon though, the crowd gathered and I was pushed out of the way. I did get a chance to sneak over to the other publisher's tables which was fun, mostly because I got to see Kristen Painter author of Blood Rights and Rae Carson author of The Girl of Fire and Thorns signing copies of their books. (Rae Carson is pictured below!)
Before I knew it, my time for wandering the floor and getting lost in a sea of confusing costumes was over and it was time to make my way downstairs to the panel room. On the way, I found myself walking next to Caitlin Kittredge so we got a chance to chat. She was so incredibly sweet and approachable and kept expressing her excitement over being asked to speak on this panel with the legendary Tamora Pierce and Esther Friesner. As we made our way downstairs, we sort of (I'm still trying to figure this one out) got lost from the Random House group we were tagging along with.
Caitlin, in true kick-butt fashion, just shrugged off my growing panic and said "Guess we'll have to figure it out ourselves. Time to prove that girls like us don't need help!" After wandering around the panel floor for a while, we finally figured out where we were supposed to be and made it to the room just in the nick of time!
Caitlin was whisked away to the front of the room and I was lucky enough to find a seat open in the very front row. When I finally had a moment to sit down and catch my breath, I looked around and realized how PACKED the room was. It was completely full, a nice surprise considering that The Avengers panel was happening next door at the same time. But nope, fans had come all this way to see Tamora, Esther and Caitlin speak and they all showed up, in enthusiastic numbers.
Since the panel was focused on female heros in sci-fi, I was surprised to see a lot of guys my age there. By the looks of them and the way their eyes lit up when the authors entered the room, they were just as excited to be there as the girls. After a brief introduction from the moderator Kate Klimo (Publishing Director of Random House Children's Group), the panel began and the authors each took turns answering three questions Kate posed.
I'd go into detail here, but I figured why not just let you watch! Below are the videos I took, and warning- I forgot my tripod and I don't have the steadiest hands so I apologize for the shakiness!
NOTE: I suggest watching them all, but definitely keep an eye out in the second video around 5 minutes....Kate, Esther and Tamora break out into song. No really, I'm not making this up.
(If you're viewing these videos belowin Safari and they don't show up, just refresh the page and they should be there!)
Girls Kick Butt: Part 1
"Who are the literary foremothers of today's kick-ass heroes?"
Girls Kick Butt: Part 2
"Are your heros intrinsically female and if so, in what particular way?"
Girls Kick Butt: Part 3
"Who do you consider your audience to be? What do you imagine male readers get out of your books?"
There you have it folks! I personally found the discussion incredibly interesting and loved the back and forth dynamic Tamora and Esther had. They seemed like they were old pals who just loved egging each other on! I enjoyed Caitlin's answers, but really wish I could have jumped up and moved the poster for her book out of the way but oh well, as long as you can hear her, I guess that's all that matters.
In the end, I had an amazing time and wish I could hang out with the authors every day. They were all so easy going and wonderfully charming. I don't know about you, but after watching this videos, I can't wait to create a kick-ass heroine of my own, one that would be worthy of Tamora, Esther and Caitlin's kick-ass approval.
What did you think of the panel? What are your thoughts on strong, female heroines in today's YA lit? Who are your favorite kick-butt female characters right now and how do you see this trend in YA lit evolving over the next couple of years?