September was the one-year anniversary of THE FIX’s release. I celebrated by participating in the Boston Teen Author Festival—an amazing way to round out a productive year of events.
It was the fifth year of BTAF, a festival that has grown exponentially since its start in 2011—so much so, that they expanded to inhabit both the Cambridge Public Library and the high school next door.
I was on a panel called The Journey Toward Mental Health with three authors I truly admire—Kathryn Holmes (HOW IT FEELS TO FLY), Emery Lord (WHEN WE COLLIDED), and Francisco X. Stork (THE MEMORY OF LIGHT).
In the weeks prior, the four of us came up with a bunch of questions that we’d ask each other so that our panel would feel more like “authors in conversation” than a formal panel. And it worked so well. The main reason, I think, was that we were honest—honest about our own mental health, therapy, and medication. I’ve always strongly believed that connecting with characters in books can help us feel less alone in our struggles, no matter our age or issue. But, during our panel, Emery pointed out something that hadn’t occurred to me before—for some teens in the room, it may have been the first time they’d heard adults talking so openly and conversationally about bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, therapy. And that really moved me.
I left Boston with a warm feeling—for the festival organizers, the other authors at the festival, and especially for the young adults who spent a gorgeous sunny Saturday inside talking with us. I left with a renewed sense of the power and beauty that is writing and reading.
For more on Mental Health in YA Lit, check out the #MHYALit Hub at teenlibrariantoolbox.com
Natasha Sinel is the author of THE FIX, which received the Gold Medal for YA Fiction in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs), and was a Finalist for YA Fiction in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. She graduated from Yale University and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she now lives in Westchester, NY with her husband and three sons. You can find her at www.natashasinel.com.