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First Virtual Book Event: Seeing Jen Yen & Gloria Chao at Blue Willow Books


When I used to live in Houston, I went to a handful of book events at Blue Willow Bookstore. Before their YA events, my grandma used to take me to their American Girl events, which I absolutely adored. In the last few years since I moved to a very small town, I rarely got to attend a book event. Even though bookstores have been putting on virtual book events for almost a year now, I'd never taken advantage of it. I wasn't sure what they would be like, so I simply avoided it. Tuesday night, I was scrolling through Twitter and found out Jen Yen and Gloria Chao would be (virtually) at Blue Willow for Jen's book launch in about an hour, and I impulsively signed up to go, even though more Zoom is never high on my agenda. Gloria is one of my all time favorite YA authors and Jen has one of my most anticipated 2021 YA books that my grandma just happened to get me from Blue Willow. I figured it must be fate.

I wasn't sure what to expect at all, and it was unlike any Zoom session I've ever attended. It was in a webinar format which meant that the presenters were the only people on screen. I was happy to note for the future that I could attend future book events in my PJ's without having to worry if someone was going to judge me for it. It did make me miss getting to see all the other readers at the event and have a personal connection with the authors, but it's plenty understandable why that security and safety measure needs to be in place. Not having to be on camera any more than I already am will probably make me inclined to go to more of these events. And the chat and Q&A feature definitely made sure the audience was still included. 

Gloria and Jen had a great conversation, and Valerie did a great job hosting and reading all of our questions. It was still plenty of fun to watch, and the audience asked really wonderful questions. Since I've written about every book event I've attended in person, I thought I'd talk about the highlights of Jen and Gloria's conversation and answers to the Q&A so you can learn more about A Taste For Love and pick up some great writing advice. If you want to watch this event or any of Blue Willow's past excellent events, they all get posted to their YouTube channel which is awesome and makes author talks far more accessible (click here). 

What I Learned: 

I was surprised to find out that Jen is a doctor as well as being a writer. The only time in her life where writing fell to the back burner was during med school when the choice was writing or sleep. As many of us writers do, she started as a reader looking for escape. I love how she talked about making the jump from reader to writer by saying, Reading books, our mind starts coming up with stories of our own... some of us feel compelled to write those stories down”. 

Jen is a member of the elite group of YA authors who started by writing fan fiction. She posted stories all through high school and college. Fan fictions was a great place for her to learn how to take and incorporate feedback, and it offered plenty of encouragement that kept her writing. Jen also discussed how fan fiction is a great place to start writing because you can start flexing that muscle with clearly defined characters and worlds to experiment with. Even after her writing pause, it was fan fiction that brought her back again. 

From the Q&A:

Advice for Querying Writers

Gloria's website is a treasure trove for writers, I discovered. She has a page devoted to resources for writing, drafting, revising, and querying. This would've been so helpful when I first started querying because it's so hard to find the right resources, and she has them perfectly laid out. Read it here. She also emphasizes the importance of finding a reputable agent, and told writers not to worry if they didn't have industry connections. 

Jen told her unconventional querying story. She got her agent from a different project than A Taste For Love, and the agent she cold-queried referred her to a different agent at the agency because she loved the project, but it wasn't a fit. She emphasized the importance of not getting stuck that there was only one way to find an agent. Community was also a major part of her answer. I completely agree with Jen that writers should reach out to online communities to learn more. 

What Brought The Most Joy When Writing A Taste For Love?

Jen loved writing about food for the story (it's set in a bakery!). She said it was less about the description and more about all the memories and nostalgia food can evoke. She also loved writing the banter. 

What Was It Like Creating The Cover?

Jen got quite a bit of input into her cover to make sure it represented the book properly. She got to ask about the backgrounds of the cover models and help select the final choices. She also gave input about the pastries on the cover and made sure they were Taiwanese pastries, like the ones in the book. Beyond the representation, she let the designers have their choice of fonts and colors. It's always interesting to learn how covers get made because they're such important parts of the book. 

Do You Ever Think About Reprising Characters for Future Books?

Gloria said that she feels like all of her character's storylines are finished and she hadn't really thought about it. She did mention considering basing a story around the origin of the Rent Your 'Rents company in her latest book, Rent a Boyfriend.

Jen hinted that the main couple from her debut will make an appearance in her top secret second book. 

What Are You Working On Next? 

Gloria was recently on deadline for her next book that's mostly a secret. She said it's a love letter to her culture and is the happy book she needed to write during COVID. She also has upcoming short stories in In Love and Game On.

Jen has been staying up late to finish revisions on her next book that is in the same universe as A Taste for Love but is its own contemporary stand alone. Jen is also in upcoming anthology Every Body Shines and already has a short story out in Together Apart, which I also reviewed here.

If you want to pick up a copy of A Taste For Love (I believe you can get a signed one), here's a link to Blue Willow's website here.

More on Gloria's Books:

American Panda Review

Rent a Boyfriend Review


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