Malinda Lo: Cindy, can you believe 2011 is over?
Cindy Pon: No, I can’t! It is crazy!
Malinda: I know! Can you believe Diversity in YA is over?
Cindy: Well, that I can. We’d been planning it for so long—it was really great to finally see it all come together. I’m sure I can talk you into doing it again, right? ☺
Malinda:Haha! No comment. You remember when we started thinking about this project, we decided to do it for one year.
Cindy: Yes. You did such a fantastic job on the website too, Malinda!
Malinda: Thank you! It was fun, but a lot of work. So I’ll be glad to take a break from this in 2012.
Cindy: Well, the site will remain online, but we will not be publishing new content in the foreseeable future.
Malinda: Yes, everything we’ve done will stay up here for the next year at least. We’ve done a lot! Can you remember when we first started inviting authors to be part of the tour? Who was the first author you invited?
Cindy: Gene Yang. I ended the email by saying: Please say yes! And he replied, yes! Later he said, how could I say no? You said please say yes! (If only I could get my way in Real Life so easily like this always, ha!)
Malinda: I think that’s how you got a lot of authors to say yes. You asked nicely. ☺
Cindy: Ha! I did! Thank you Gene, for being the very first author to take the leap with us. He was part of our kick off Diversity in YA panel in San Francisco at the public library and we started the tour to a packed house.
Malinda: That event was so great. It was amazing to see a whole room with so many Asian American faces! That was definitely due to our partnership with the Kearny Street Workshop. And it was fun to do the panel with Gene and Jon Yang; I think it might be one of my favorite panels. What other authors do you have fond memories of inviting?
Cindy: Dia Reeves! I’d been a friend of hers online for quite some time. Then I read her debut, Bleeding Violet, and officially became a fan. Dia, however, is notorious for being a bit shy and reluctant to do author events. But of course, I had to ask. And she said yes! It wasn’t until the actual event in Austin that I found out she had flown to be there, and that it was her first official author event. I was gob smacked.
Malinda: I know! I couldn’t believe it! That was when I realized that Texas is really big, because Dia also lives in Texas. I thought she’d just drive!
Cindy: I was so thrilled she came. Dia totally held her own during the panel and afterwards said she had a lot of fun. Let’s do it again some time, Dia? ☺
Malinda: I think one of your favorite invites, though, had to be Francisco X. Stork.
Cindy: Yes! I was reading and being amazed by Francisco Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World, when I happened to flip to the back flap with his brief author bio, which indicated that he lived near the Boston area. We had just decided on locations of the tour, and I somehow knew in my heart that the Diversity in YA tour was something Francisco would want to participate in. He replied within a day to say yes.
Malinda: That was so great. I think that we were both honored and thrilled by the enthusiasm all these authors showed in agreeing to be part of our tour.
Cindy: We literally built the tour one author at a time. With one librarian (thank you San Francisco, Cambridge and Poway!) and one bookseller (thank you BookPeople, Barbara’s Books, Books of Wonder and Yellow Book Road!) at a time. Without all the support, the enthusiasm, and the yeses along the way, this endeavor never could have been.
Malinda: What were some of your favorite moments of the tour?
Cindy: I’ll never forget meeting Nnedi Okorafor for the first time, and having the pleasure of hearing her read from Akata Witch. Then discussing writing and craft with her after our signing. I was so thrilled for her when Who Fears Death won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel this past October. I clapped loud for Nnedi!
Malinda: Nnedi is a formidable woman! I really enjoyed meeting her, too.
Cindy: The Cambridge stop was probably one of my favorites. And meeting Kristin Cashore beforehand was amazing! She was so nice to attend. I think the photo of you, me and Kristin Cashore was one of your happiest smiling ones, Malinda. Hee!
Malinda: That was probably one of my top moments. I was so amazed she came! And you know I’m a huge fan. ☺ The Cambridge stop overall was great.
Cindy: To be on a panel with so many authors whom I considered friends and whose books I loved and writing I admired. While being asked incisive questions by Roger Sutton of The Horn Book.
Malinda: Shout out to Roger Sutton! We also tried to lighten things up by adding these “lightning rounds” of questions at the end of the serious talk, remember? We came up with these silly things like “Jacob or Edward?”
Cindy: Yes! I’ll never forget moderating the panel at the LGBT Center in NYC, and trying to facilitate a fun lightning round where the authors gave one- or two-word answers, but it somehow turned into the “pausing round,” much to my exasperation. (It was pretty hilarious.) Jaqueline Woodson said she had to ask someone who Jacob and Edward were. Haha! (And I vote Jacob, of course.)
Malinda: Yeah, we all were probably thinking: I will never have the chance to edit my response. Hmm. [pause] I really enjoyed the LGBT Center panel, too. It was really fun to get to talk about queer YA with other queer YA authors — that doesn’t happen too often. And the event at Books of Wonder was great, too!
Cindy: Being invited to Jacqueline Woodson’s lovely home after our largest panel in NYC was such a highlight. And chatting with Rita Williams-Garcia, Matt de la Pena and Cheryl Klein (who moderated wonderfully); I felt such camaraderie with my fellow writers and book lovers. And also very relieved after a staggering week of travel that it was all over, but so proud. Our tour schedule was brutal. And it went without a hitch!
Malinda: Yes, New York was the end of our May tour, and I was totally exhausted, too. And then, several months later in October, we did a last event in San Diego! I think that event featured the absolute best question from an audience member on the whole tour. Remember that?
Cindy: Um, highlight of my career as an author! When the most adorable thirteen-year-old boy raised his hand and asked: “What’s a eunuch?” And Holly Black leaned over and whispered: “You so deserve that.” Haha! Then the same boy got Silver Phoenix signed after our talk.
Malinda: That was hilarious. Thank you, Cindy, for organizing so much of the tour and harassing—I mean inviting—all those fabulous authors to join us.
Cindy: Ha! Thank you for being a wonderful friend and co-conspirator through it all. I can’t think of a better person to have tackled this fun and challenging project with! *fuzzy hug*
Malinda: *fuzzy hug? gives in* It’s because you’re such a Virgo! I couldn’t have done it without someone who couldn’t make all those numbered lists.
Cindy: Ha! I don’t know, you’re pretty organized yourself as a Leo. I loved reading all the monthly round ups of diverse books and the guest posts for the website, Malinda. I still remember just choosing a logo and tagline… So when do you think we should do it again? ☺
Malinda: No comment. ☺
Cindy: Never say never! It couldn’t be worse than a fuzzy hug? *grins*
Malinda and Cindy would like to thank all of you book lovers, from all walks of life, for supporting the Diversity in YA tour in 2011. It truly couldn’t have been as much of a success without your help and enthusiasm!