Skip to main content

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


Popular posts from this blog

YA You Need To Read: April 2021

It's already April! School has been super super hectic, and I'm starting my old job as a bookseller again, so I haven't had much time for reading lately (ironic, I know), but I did want to talk about some books coming out in April that I can't wait to read (one day) that might inspire you to pick them up. I particularly can't wait for My Epic Spring Break Up! It's been on my list for a while now (I mean, look at that cover), but I also found some new books that hadn't been on my radar while browsing around the internet that I wanted to bring to your attention.  Let me know in the comments what April books you can't wait for!  Zara Hossain Is Here by Sabina Kahn  April 6th Zara has lived in Corpus Christi, Texas for a while. She's always dealt with the Islamophobia that's rampant in her high school, but when the star football player gets suspended, Zara becomes the target of a racist attack by the rest of the team that puts her and her family'

Once Upon a Quinceañera

Once Upon a Quinceañera   by Monica Gomez-Hera Overview: Carmen hasn't graduated high school, even though it's the summer after senior year. When her senior project fell through, Carmen has to scramble to complete the project over the summer. That means no college (not that she applied) and no future plans beyond becoming a Dream (floating around in a Belle costume at children's parties) with her best friend Waverley. So maybe it's not the summer Carmen wanted, but it's fine. At least until her ex-boyfriend who ruined everything, Mauro, also shows up on the team and then they get assigned to work her nemesis and younger cousin's quinceañera, which becomes the big event of the summer. Nothing ever quite goes to plan for Carmen, does it? Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I enjoyed hanging out with Carmen for a while. She's super witty and cynical in a way that I appreciate. I also loved reading about a character who's just out of high school and doesn't have a

Halsey's I Would Leave Me If I Could Poetry Review

  I Would Leave Me If I Could  by Halsey  I've started this review a couple times and scrapped all of them. I've written hundreds of reviews before, and this is the first time I have absolutely no clue how to review a book. It's not just because it's poetry. And it's not because I don't have thoughts on every single poem. I've read the book twice and scrubbed a million notes around her words and highlighted every poem on my second read through. I have so many favorites, and my heart feels like it's going to burst after finishing each poem. Halsey exceeded every expectation I had set to the high bar of her music. I almost feel like this book is too good for my review to remotely do it justice, so I don't even know where to begin.  This book is extremely vulnerable. Halsey has never held back on telling the ugly truth in her lyrics, but the poetry takes it so much farther. She has space to tell the entire story, fewer constraints than what will fit in

Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi: YA Book Review

  Yolk  by Mary H.K. Choi Overview: Jayne is in fashion school in NYC. Well, she's enrolled. It's debatable how often she actually attends. June has a fancy job in finance, or that's what everyone thinks. But when June gets cancer, the estranged sisters are pulled together because June needs Jayne's identity to get treatment. By pretending to be her sister to get the life-saving procedure, June is forced to come clean and pull Jayne back into her orbit. Though their relationship stays rocky, they're suddenly glued together, forced to admit that their respective glamorous lives are actually filled with roaches and trauma and missteps. Overall: 5+++ This book made me happy cry (that's never happened while reading) and sad cry. Characters: 5 The book is told from Jayne's perspective in an extremely close first person. This book has plot. Things happen in the way that life happens, but it's mostly just characters getting split open and probed for all their w

Writing Morally Gray Characters: A Guest Post by Laurie Devore, Author of A Better Bad Idea

Laurie Devore is stopping by the blog today to talk about her new book from Imprint, A Better Bad Idea , which is out now! This mystery/thriller/romance fusion is Laurie's third book, and it's a new twist on her usual contemporary YA stories. For this guest post, Laurie talks about crafting morally gray characters that your readers will still feel attached to and cheer on. Here's her best writing tips:  I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of what people will do when they’re pushed to their brink. While my new novel, A BETTER BAD IDEA, may seem like a departure in some ways from my previous novels, I actually think their DNA is quite similar. The stakes are higher, but as ever, this book is about girls making unimaginable choices because of their circumstances, whether self-inflicted or not.   I’m constantly thinking about what it means to write morally gray characters, and I think the main takeaway from me is that I’m just much more interested in what people do and w

YA You Need To Read: May 2021

May is going to be one of the most amazing months for YA in a while. A giant chunk of my most anticipated TBR list is coming into the world, and I have so many ARCs to get reading and preorders to get excited for. It's perfect timing since my semester wraps up on May 10th. After that, it'll be all books all the time between reading all of these, working at the bookstore, and blogging here! I can't say I'm mad about it.  So that you can connect with all these awesome books and authors, I've linked to the book's pages on their respective author website. Just click their names to find all the buy links and official summaries!  Counting Down With You by Tashie Bhuiyan May 4th Karina has always lived her life by her parents rules. Sure, it's not very exciting, but it keeps her life quite stable. She doesn't have any grand plans for her parents' four week international trip until Ace, one of the students she tutors, presents the opportunity for something

Swimming Lessons By Lili Reinhart Poetry Review

  Swimming Lessons  by Lili Reinhart  Overall: 5 This is the first poetry book I've ever read in its entirety outside of Shel Silverstein, so I've checked off one of my reading goals for the year with this one. I've now read a graphic novel and a book of poetry. I've been anticipating Swimming Lessons  so long that I can't believe it's actually in my hands. I've been a fan of Lili since Riverdale, and I've continued to be a fan of hers even when the show got a bit too ridiculous for me to keep watching every week. I've been excited for the chance to get to see something completely created a controlled by Lili.  I'm not sure what I expected from Swimming Lessons . I think I had almost no idea what it would be like or the topics it would cover. After the first couple poems, I was completely hooked. In the intro, Lili prefaces the collection by noting that poetry has always given her solace in knowing other people felt the same specific emotions tha

It's Kind of a Cheesy Love Story: YA Book Review

  It's Kind of a Cheesy Love Story  by Lauren Morrill Overview: Beck was born in the bathroom of a pizza place. And, of course, that story has defined her for the last sixteen years of her life. She did get free pizza and the promise of a job she isn't sure she wanted out of it. Finally old enough to cash in on that job offer, Beck begrudgingly takes the job, but it turns out the pizza place might have been what was missing from her life. Overall: 3.5 Characters: 3 The characters were interesting enough. Beck is pretty naive, but she has a satisfying arc as she realizes that her school friends have always been kind of shallow. She finds a genuine friend group with the misfits who work at the pizza place. While she's always appreciated Del, the owner, she still begrudged the Pizza Princess title that's followed her around. The essential story is her growing into that title and accepting her whole life and story. Part of that is also realizing her first crush wasn't a

Fear of Missing Out

Fear of Missing Out  by Kate McGovern  Overview: Astrid has a form of brain cancer called astrocytoma that causes a star shaped tumor to form near her brainstem. Though she was in remission, two years later, the cancer comes back, and Astrid becomes convinced that she won't beat the disease. She starts to pursue options that will allow her to have a life in the future, namely, cryopreservation. After essentially freezing her body, she hopes to wake up when there's a cure for her cancer so she can rejoin the world and see some of the milestones she fears missing. On the road trip to tour the Arizona facility, though, Astrid makes other realizations about her life and eventual death that alters how she sees her original plan. Overall: 4  Characters: 4 Astrid is relatable. She has a touch of dry, witty humor that makes her relatable. She loves her friends and family deeply, but she also has a conviction to follow what feels best for her. I appreciated how she always tried t

They Both Die At The End

They Both Die At The End  by Adam Silvera (368 pages) Overview: Mateo and Rufus are both going to die at the end, but I'm guessing you got that from the title. The thing is, Mateo and Rufus don't know each other till the day they are going to die. After getting their calls from Death Cast, the new organization that lets everyone know that they are going to die with a call sometime after midnight. While trying to digest the news, they both turn their attention to the Last Friend app in search of finding another "decker" to spend their final day with. As the boys try to think of ways not to waste their final moments, they start to form a bond they never anticipated. Overall: 4 Characters: 4 I have to applaud Silvera for keeping his (mostly) duel prospective narrative voices so separate. Mateo and Rufus not only have different traits but totally different dialects. Mateo is Puerto Rican, quiet, and totally paranoid with a hyperawareness about safe. Both careful an