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The NYC Teen Author Festival is back this week and last night Will and I went to our neighborhood Barnes & Noble in Tribeca to check out a panel discussion titled “Inside the Mind of a Teen Boy.” Of course, this was particularly interesting to me since I continue to work on my own YA novel, Neutral Zone, which has teen boys as its main characters.

Author David Levithan (How They Met and Other Stories) put the panel together with a great cross section of authors who write strong teen male voices, including Nick Burd (The Vast Fields of Ordinary, which was just nominated for a Lambda Literary Award for Best LGBT Children’s/Young Adult book), Matt de la Pena (We Were Here), Gordon Korman (Pop), Barry Lyga (The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl), Michael Northrop (Gentleman), Jon Skovron (Struts & Frets) and Jake Wizner (Castration Celebration).

Each author read an excerpt from their work. Hearing eight different guy voices in such rapid succession was  intriguing and educational. All of them were different, of course, but there were certain characteristics that were the same–most of the dialogue had a bit of swagger and self-confidence. The internal voices, however, were much more unsure of what was going on around them, more vulnerable, and to me felt like the more real voice of the character.

I’m glad I went to the panel, it was both inspiring and daunting at the same time. As I revise Neutral Zone, I have to make sure my lead character voice is as strong and clear as those I heard last night. Even when boys are being vulnerable in their internal dialogues, the voice is distinct and if my book is going to work that’s got to be the case. It’s something I’ll watch for as the revising continues.

I picked up a couple books last night, Levithan’s How They Met and Other Stories and Baud’s The Vast Fields of Ordinary and I got them autographed, which was cool. I’ll probably pick up a couple other books over the next few month because some, especially Struts & Frets and Pop, caught my attention.